As expected, Nazem Kadri was not at game-day skate for the Leafs and did not play on Thursday night after suffering a concussion on Tuesday. Concussions are very fickle and it’s doubtful we get any sort of timeline on this. Owners will just have to be patient.
Kadri being out of the lineup led to William Nylander centering the third line with Andreas Johnsson and Connor Brown. Johnsson also took Kadri’s spot on the top PP unit. Johnsson, by the way, had 10 shots on goal in Toronto's 3-2 loss to Washington on Tuesday night. In his previous 10 games, he had 7 shots. Let's call this one an anomaly.
A little bit to my surprise, Devante Smith-Pelly made it through waivers and the Caps look like they’ll be able to hang on to him. As I mentioned yesterday, teams love guys with rings and he has one plus a cheap contract. Not to mention San Jose claiming Michael Haley and Nashville actually giving up a draft pick for Cody McLeod, neither player being as good as Smith-Pelly. Though I guess if hockey was predictable, it’d be boring.
With Alex Steen back in the Blues lineup, Robby Fabbri is again on the outside looking in, though he’s still in the lineup skating on the fourth trio. I still have a lot of faith in his talent, but the 2018-19 season is a lost cause for him.
Staying with the Blues, Jaden Schwartz replaced Brayden Schenn on the top line and Robert Thomas took Schwartz’s spot on the second line. This interesting because Schenn’s name has popped up in trade rumours this year, though not as much now that the team is winning. Maybe they’re still looking to move him? The official reasoning from the coach was an upper-body injury but taking what any coach (outside of Tortorella) says at face value at this (or nearly any) time of year isn’t advisable.
The Washington Capitals traded a third-round pick in 2019 and a conditional sixth in 2020 to Los Angeles for Carl Hagelin. Don’t even bother with him.
Brett Howden was in a non-contact jersey at the Rangers’ game-day skate as he continues his recovery from a knee injury. There is still no firm timeline for a return, but this is certainly a step in the right direction. He could have a much bigger role on this team in 4-5 days than he did a month ago.
Jayce Hawryluk was lined up on the second line for Florida on Thursday night with Mike Hoffman moving to the third line. It’s a move we’ve seen a few times this year and with the Panthers believing they’re in the playoff race, this isn’t a matter of simply giving a young guy a bigger role to see what they have, they think he can produce right now. Whether that’s misguided or not, we’ll see.
With the trade deadline quickly approaching, both in the NHL and in fantasy leagues, there’s one notion I want to discuss and that’s the idea of “overpaying.”
At the risk of sounding like a freshman college essay, the general definition of overpaying in the context of (fantasy) sports is paying above market value for an asset. In general, this idea of overpayment is more applicable in auction drafts, like paying $30 for a $20 player or whatever.
The problem with defining overpayment in terms of market value is the market isn’t always correct. It can often be incorrect. Incorrect market pricing is part of how bettors make money, for one thing. It’s also how we find values in fantasy leagues by taking advantage of ADP. Some people are afraid to take a player a few round ahead of their ADP despite the ADP not necessarily being reflective of their current, or potential, fantasy value.
It might sound simplistic but it’s where comparative evaluation is important. If you think Player A and Player B are going to be similar in production for the next six weeks, but Player B costs a top-75 player and a 2nd round pick while Player A available for just for a top-75 player, Player A is the obvious choice. The issue comes with the comparative analysis and being honest with yourself. Being able to de-couple a player being “your guy” from a player being undervalued is critical. If you lie to yourself about which category a player falls, you’re doomed.
With the looming deadline, I thought it’d be worth finding a couple undervalued players to grab right now.
I have never been a fan of Jeff Blashill. His lineup decisions constantly baffle me (the blue line and power play especially), his treatment of talents like Andreas Athanasiou infuriate me, and the way he handles young guys has typically been underwhelming. However, of late, Jonathan Ericsson has been a healthy scratch and that has led to Hronek getting his way into the lineup. Not only into the lineup, but to the top PP unit, and a top PP unit that actually features their top players (Mantha, Larkin, Athansiou, Vanek) rather than the talent being spread across two units. This is wonderful news for Hronek’s fantasy value.
Hronek’s underlying numbers are very good. He leads the Red Wings blue line in both relative shot attempts for and relative shot share. That means Detroit controls more shots with Hronek on the ice than any other defenceman. In limited ice time together, Hronek has dragged Trevor Daley’s numbers to respectability (it’s still a tiny sample, it’s just a sign in the right direction). In a much bigger sample, he’s done the same with the now-scratched Jonathan Ericsson, which is another data point indicating that Hronek is a good defenceman.
One problem is that even if he maintains PP1 status, he might not crack the 20-minute mark per game with any regularity. That’s fine, though. Guys like him can still have fantasy value (just think of Will Butcher and Mikhail Sergachev from last year), though he’d be more valuable in points-only leagues.
Acquiring Hronek is a big gamble because Blashill’s moods change with the wind and he might be back in the press box a week from now. It’s a gamble worth taking given his current usage, though, in 12-team leagues or larger.
It seems very likely that Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Hayes are both gone at the deadline. With Brett Howden on the mend, it seems he’s a likely candidate to take over for Hayes as the second line centre. Who replaces Zuccarello on the top line, though, is more uncertain.
Buchnevich has often found himself in the dog house, be it under the current coaching regime or Alain Vigneault. However, he’s been consistently lining up on the second line with Hayes of late and has responded with four points in his last four games.
Anyone who reads my Ramblings with regularity knows I think that Buchnevich hasn’t been given a fair shake and his consistency issues are overblown. My thoughts on this issue can be summarized as such:
would you believe me if I told you that the duo of Kreider and Zibanejad have been worse defensively over the last 2 1/2 seasons when they *don't* have Buch on their line than when they do? https://t.co/SjyTb3zZhP
— Michael Clifford (@SlimCliffy) January 29, 2019
It seems very plausible that if Zucc is traded, Buch takes his spot on the top line. It could go to someone like Jesper Fast I suppose but this team needs to see what it has in its young players post-deadline. It makes all the sense in the world for Buchnevich to join the top line and he can probably be had for a bag of peanuts. The time to acquire him would be right now and not after the deadline. If next Tuesday comes and then we find out Buchnevich is skating with Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad, it’ll be too late. Though, to be fair, if Kreider is traded as well, I’m not sure Buchnevich will amount to much. That adds to the gamble here.
In anticipation of the trade deadline, Ottawa sat all three of Matt Duchene, Mark Stone, and Ryan Dzingel. I know it’s the prudent move for the organization but I’d hate to have bought a ticket in hopes of seeing Ottawa’s top players. They should give more notice than 30 minutes prior to puck drop.
In a predictable result, New Jersey shutout Ottawa 4-0. Cory Schneider registered his first shutout since November of 2017 and has now won three consecutive games. It’s far too early to say he’s back to the old Cory Schneider, but if he is, his performance over the next six weeks could swing a lot of fantasy leagues.
The reason you hold players out is so they don’t get injured, like Rangers defenceman Adam McQuaid. He left in the first period and did not return. It wasn’t clear what the injury was, though the team would say he was held out afterwards for precautionary reasons.
Victor Hedman returned to the Tampa Bay lineup Thursday night after missing their last game. It’s a sigh of relief for himself, the team, and the fans.
Justin Williams had two goals and one assist in Carolina’s 4-3 win over Florida. Nino Niederreiter had a goal and an assist, giving him 15 points in 15 games in a Hurricanes uniform. He also now has as many goals (9) with Carolina as he did with Minnesota this season in 46 games. With each passing day, that trade is looking like more and more of a home run. Once Jordan Staal returns, this team should be feared in the East.
Brendan Gallagher marked his first career hat trick in Montreal’s 5-1 win over Philadelphia. That makes 26 goals for him on the season, five away from his career-best 31 last year. He’s such a good across-the-board fantasy contributor, averaging over 1.5 hits/3.5 shots per game with a good plus/minus.
With two first-period assists in Thursday night’s game against Pittsburgh, Brent Burns tied his career-high with 55 helpers. The single-season high by any defenceman post-2005 lockout is Erik Karlsson with 66 in 2015-16. That mark is well within reach with a quarter of the season left. Burns would add a goal late in the game for the three-point night.
Aleksander Barkov continued his torrid pace on Thursday night with a goal and an assist in Florida’s 3-2 win over Carolina. That gives him nine points in three games and has 15 points in 11 games since the All-Star Break. It appears the Panthers are making another late push, but it’s a wonder if it’s too little, too late yet again.
Jamie Benn scored a pair of goals in Dallas’s 5-2 win over St. Louis, the first multi-goal game for him since October 6th. He had four such games last year, including two hat tricks, and eight such games in his 41-goal season back in 2015-16. He does enough across the board that he’s still been very good in multi-category leagues but the drop in scoring for a power forward about to turn 30 years old is a bit concerning.