Ramblings: CBA Ratified, Top Frozen Tools Search Rielly, Playoff Pool Picks (July 11)
It's now officially official. The NHL and NHLPA have voted to accept the new CBA and the return-to-play plan. Barring a massive COVID-19 outbreak either in the bubble or nearby, we will witness playoff hockey in less than a month. Training camps will open on Monday, with teams travelling to the hub cities on July 26. After months of virtually nothing to talk about, the stretch from August onward could be very jam-packed with hockey news both on and off the ice. Weekday daytime hockey may not be ideal, but it's better than what we've had the past few months.
Here is the schedule of critical dates and the qualifying games.
Any opt outs have to be submitted by 5 p.m. ET on Monday. I don't think there will be a ton of players that will go this route, even though just over 20 percent of players voted against the full CBA and RTP package. However, with possible positive coronavirus cases and changing family situations, I'm not sure that all players will feel comfortable with having such a quick deadline.
Speaking of which, it looks like we have our first opt-out player. According to the Calgary Flames website, Travis Hamonic has informed the Flames he will opt out due to family reasons. In a statement, Hamonic attributed his daughter's battle last year with respiratory virus. For that reason, I can wholeheartedly respect Hamonic's decision here.
Here are the top Frozen Tools searches for the past week:
C'mon folks, we need some new names up here! I believe I've profiled all of these players in previous weeks as top searches. Having said that, there is one new player on this list – someone who is also on the Top 100 Roto Rankings list.
In one of the more surprising trades during the 2019 offseason, the Leafs acquired Tyson Barrie from the Avalanche (Fantasy Take here), giving them two defenseman that could run the first-unit power play. As you may have expected, the production for both defensemen declined significantly (by at least 0.2 PTS/GP). Neither blueliner could grab a firm hold of the PP1 job, effectively eating into the other's value. To add injury to insult, Rielly missed two months with a foot injury, with his season ending at just 27 points in 47 games. He was a 72-point defenseman the season before.
The good news for Rielly keeper owners is that Barrie is a UFA after the season, and the cap-strapped Leafs probably won't be in a position to fit him in. When we write that Fantasy Take piece of Barrie signing with Team Other Than The Leafs, Rielly might be at the top of the list of Players This Helps. This by itself is one reason that Rielly is a great buy-low candidate in a keeper league owner that was frustrated with the lack of production last season.
Another reason to buy low are some advanced stats metrics that show that Rielly was the victim of some serious bad luck as well. With just three goals in 2019-20 after scoring 20 the season before, Rielly's shooting percentage dipped from 9.0% to 2.4%. The 9.0% would be much higher than normal, as Rielly shouldn't be counted on to score 20 goals. Ten goals might be a more reasonable target, but that goal total has nowhere to go but up. In addition, his IPP of 38% was quite low relative to the 50-52% he had reached the previous two seasons.
Rielly is currently at #69 on the Top 100 Roto Rankings. That might be a bit high, given his production from last season. Yet considering that he had fallen from #34 from September and that he's a great bounce-back candidate, I'm fine with leaving him at around that spot noting the injuries, unlucky advanced stats, and possible Barrie departure.
As I mentioned last week, I'm currently participating in a playoff draft over on the Forum. You can track the picks on this page. It's a 24-round draft involving 10 teams, which are allowed to pick one player from each of the 24 remaining teams in the Stanley Cup chase. I'll pick up from where I left off in describing my picks, which I discussed in the Saturday and Sunday Ramblings last week.
I'll try not to just describe the pick itself, but perhaps other players on the same team and other picks made in the round (particularly players I had my eye on).
Round 1 – Leon Draisaitl (see Saturday Ramblings)
Round 2 – Mark Stone (see Sunday Ramblings)
Round 3 – Artemi Panarin (see Sunday Ramblings)
Round 4 – Vladimir Tarasenko (see Sunday Ramblings)
Round 5 – Stars Goalies
I received a "good pick" from another league member shortly after I made the pick, so it must have been okay! My feeling is if the Stars are going to advance in the playoffs, they'll do so with a bunch of low-scoring games. The Stars finished the season with the second-lowest goals-against average (2.52 GAA) but with the 26th-ranked offense (2.58 GF/GP). They finished the season with a goal differential of a very average +3, which was the lowest among the eight teams with play-in round byes.
Notice that I didn't say that the goalie would be Ben Bishop. Since the Stars begin with three round-robin games, we might see some Anton Khudobin to start. That's why in leagues like this, it's great to have the complete package.
Round 6 – Blake Wheeler
There was a rush on Jets in Round 6. Kyle Connor preceded my Wheeler pick, and Patrik Laine was picked shortly after. Mark Scheifele was the first Jets player chosen back in Round 4. I debated between Connor and Wheeler, and in the end, I was going to go with Wheeler and his point totals, since assists receive the same number of league points than goals. Connor being selected two picks earlier by Tom Collins of the Top 10 Lists fame made the Wheeler pick a slam dunk for me, of course.
These guys had picked only one Flame at this point (Johnny Gaudreau), so the Jets might be the favored team according to this group. The Hamonic news might push the Jets further as a favorite.
Round 7 – Capitals Goalies
I'd made six picks at this point and only one of them was from the Eastern Conference (Panarin). It wouldn't surprise me if the majority of these league members are from the Eastern time zone, while I may also be showing my West Coast bias here. I had to look for a top 4 Eastern team at this point. Based on the scoring system, the only Capital that might get me as many points as the big guns is whoever the goalie is. That will probably be Braden Holtby, who didn't have his best season. That may explain why Bruins and Lightning goalies were picked four rounds earlier.
Round 8 – Dougie Hamilton
To be honest, I'd been thinking about picking Hamilton for a few rounds. The reason I hadn't made the pick sooner was that the Hurricanes face the Rangers in the play-in round, and I already selected Artemi Panarin in Round 3. I might have been better off to save my Canes pick until later, but I felt like Hamilton was falling too far and I was taking the best player available. Now based on the sunk cost theory, I just have to hope either the Hurricanes or Rangers go on a long playoff run. That will be tough to do in the East.
Round 9 – Quinn Hughes
I haven't drafted a forward in the last three picks or four of the last five picks. Hughes plays like a fourth forward or a rover, so I guess I get the next best thing. The Canucks seem to be favored in their series against the Wild, although I wouldn't consider any team a huge favorite in a play-in series after this layoff. Other than that, I thought he was simply the best player available. And that he's fun to watch.
Speaking of the Canucks, you may have caught this little nugget from earlier today.
Round 10 – Bryan Rust
Instead of a typical writeup, here's the poem I wrote when I made the pick, since I think it best summarizes my mindset. I don't think I've written a poem since elementary school.
With my pick I select Bryan Rust
And hope like hell he’s not a bust
And a reply I received:
He'll be Rusty, but he'll be trusty.
I'll leave it there, but for context you can check out what I wrote about Rust in a recent Ramblings.
Round 11 – Ondrej Palat
If I don't pick a Lightning player soon, I might end up with someone like Barclay Goodrow or Erik Cernak. Quality players, but not what you need if you're trying to pick up points. Speaking of which, I should probably look into adding a Bruins player sometime soon. Otherwise, I'll have to choose between a 40-something-year-old Zdeno Chara and Anders Bjork. Palat finished the season on a line with Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point, so he might be a sneaky late-round add if you're looking to load up on Lightning.
Round 12 – Charlie Coyle
I found my Bruins player. Coyle had a decent playoffs last season (16 points in 24 games), so I'm okay with this pick if the Bruins make another long playoff run. It wasn't my first choice, though. For a team with a play-in round bye, Flyers goalies had fallen quite a bit. Unfortunately, Tom Collins selected them two picks before mine. He must have read the Ramblings by Mike Clifford that day, where Cliffy suggested that you shouldn't sleep too much on the Flyers. So if you ask me, the Flyers goalie pick was the best pick of the round. I know I'll have to pick a Flyer at some point as well. I have a few in mind.
Round 13 – Kevin Hayes
I decided on a Flyer for the next round. As well, I continue to pursue complimentary scorers on play-in round bye teams, where it came down to a decision between Hayes and James van Riemsdyk. In the end, I think Hayes is the better play, as he should get the minutes necessary to justify some points, and he regularly played alongside Flyers leading scorer Travis Konecny.
Round 14 – Pierre-Luc Dubois
Sorry, Leafs fans. My pick of Dubois combined with no Leafs on this roster means that I have to pull for Columbus to win. There have been eight Leafs picked at this point, yet the only other Blue Jacket chosen by now is Oliver Bjorkstrand (again, Tom Collins with the astute picks). Toronto bias? It must have been a good pick, as the guy after me said he had Dubois queued up. I liked Dubois here because he was the only Blue Jacket to come close to Bjorkstrand in terms of points per game. Otherwise, it probably would have been one of the defensemen (Seth Jones or Zach Werenski) or the goalies later on.
I'll have more picks tomorrow.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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