Ramblings: Games Resume Saturday, Tarasenko Injury and What It Means (Aug 29)

Ian Gooding

2020-08-29

As you likely already know, the NHL had postponed all its games on Friday, the second consecutive day it had done so. Games will resume today (Saturday) starting bright and early at noon ET (9 a.m. where I live), when the Bruins and Lightning will face off.

To make up for the lost time, teams will need to play more back-to-backs than originally anticipated. Don't be surprised to see some backup goalies, especially if the first game of the B2B goes to OT. For example, both the Philadelphia/NY Islanders series and the Vegas/Vancouver series play Game 3 on Saturday and Game 4 on Sunday, with the start time moved ahead only one hour on Sunday. That means we might get to see Marc-Andre Fleury after all. On the other hand, the 2+ day break might mean that teams are more comfortable with giving the starter both sides of the back-to-back.

As much as I like to have actual hockey games or at least hockey news to write about, the NHL needed to follow the NBA's lead on recognizing the systemic racism issue that plagues our society. Even if that decision took more time to make than it should have.

The NHL could not rightfully form the Hockey Diversity Alliance, and then simply ignore the events of this week. If that happened, the HDA would look like nothing more than lip service. If the goal of the protest is to promote dialogue about the Jacob Blake shooting and race relations in general, then the NHL and its players have succeeded – whether you agree with the two-day pause or not. By many accounts, this break served as a learning opportunity for many in the hockey community who had not experienced racial issues firsthand. Whether these protests lead to any real change remains to be seen, but it's better than sweeping the issue under the carpet.

If you're questioning why a sport like hockey even needs to get involved here, consider the following excerpt from Michael Russo's article in The Athletic last month on Matt Dumba.

As a young hockey player, Dumba recalls being subjected to racism from others. He even heard ignorant things uttered by friends who may not have known any better because, as Dumba has said many times in the past, "they were young and dumb."

"There were so many times as a little kid that I saw my own family, my mom, myself, leave the rink in tears," Dumba said from his home in Calgary on Tuesday. "You're sitting in the car talking about what happened and seeing all the pain it caused. Just having the conversation of, 'Hey, you have to have tougher skin. You have to be able to take the high road on this. They are only saying that because you're playing so well.'

"When I think back about that, that's a conversation that white parents don't have to have with their kids nor should parents of color. That's what I want to eliminate. I grew up feeling that I had to protect my parents from that as well because I didn't want to see my mom cry. I'd bottle that up inside. It would fuel me to maybe play my hardest and work my hardest. Can you imagine that love for the game if you never had to fight with being discriminated against or feeling like you don't belong?

"That's what I want to promote for the youth because I think there's a generation of hockey players that can exceed all of our expectations and really change the game."

Assuming this kind of behavior still exists today, then do all people really feel like hockey is for everyone?

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Many of you regularly check out Rick Roos' column Roos Let Loose, where he covers a series of different articles each month. One is the popular Fantasy Hockey Mailbag. He was looking for some more questions recently, so Dobber placed a call on his Twitter for more questions. Because Rick now has a surplus of questions for his next column, I'll take one of them on myself, since it is specifically relates to the Top 100 Roto Rankings.

What do we do with Vladimir Tarasenko moving forward? Is he still a top 100 player or does his shoulder injury and potential to miss a chunk next season impact his value?

Tarasenko keeper owners received the bad news earlier this week that the winger will undergo shoulder surgery and miss at least five months. Using that timeline, we're looking at a late January return at the very earliest. That puts his availability to begin the 2020-21 season (whenever that starts) in serious doubt, with the possibility that he misses the first month or two of the season. As a result, I will be removing Tarasenko from the Top 100 Roto Rankings the next time they are published. He should be a top-100 player when healthy, but because of the injury he has to be at least knocked down the rankings. Should his timeline be accelerated, I'll revisit his status.

Long term, it's also worth mentioning that this is Tarasenko's third surgery on the same shoulder in just over two years. The worst-case scenario is, of course, that he is forced to retire. After that (and a more likely scenario) is that he's simply not the same player once he returns. To get the shoulder right, Tank could also be looking at considerable time beyond the initial five months for rehabilitation, which could put him out of action for the entire 2020-21 season. Him returning at 100 percent for the start of the season doesn't seem possible here.  

If I'm moving Tarasenko out of the top 100, I will need to make room for another player. Some names I have been considering for a while include Tomas Hertl, Rasmus Dahlin, Nikolaj Ehlers, Brock Boeser, and Jakub Vrana. Do you have any other suggestions? State a good case for a player or two in the comments and I might take you up on the advice. Remember that I'd like these rankings to be interactive so that they are as accurate as they can be. I may also show my decision-making process in a future Ramblings.

To go beyond the question, fantasy owners looking to get a leg up might be wondering which Blues might benefit from Tarasenko's absence. As far as Blues that will continue to benefit, we can start with David Perron with top-line duties and power-play time. During the Blues' first-series with the Canucks, one forward that I saw more often than I thought I would was Zach Sanford. Over a full season, Sanford would have reached 40 points, with his most frequent even-strength linemates being Perron and Ryan O'Reilly.

It remains to be seen whether Sanford's spot on the O'Reilly/Perron line continues, as both Robert Thomas and Jordan Kyrou will be knocking on the door for a more expanded role. Thomas in particular has the potential for a serious breakout, as he was on a 50-point pace with mainly bottom-6 even-strength linemates. It might take a move to the wing to make that happen, but his 2.6 PTS/60 suggest that he should be in the top 6 in some way, shape, or form. (By comparison, Sanford was 2.3 PTS/60.)

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Earlier this week, Cam Robinson provided a comprehensive breakdown of the fantasy impact of the Kasperi Kapanen trade. I don't really have much to add to it, except to say that you might want to wait a bit before adding lots of Kapanen stock. There's still lots of offseason to go before we know what the 2020-21 Pittsburgh Penguins will look like.

As it stands now, the trade will help Kapanen's value. However, the Penguins might not be done, as they will likely be trading either Matt Murray or Tristan Jarry. They might be better off acquiring a defenseman (ideally, to replace Jack Johnson) than a forward, but it appears that GM Jim Rutherford is intent on loading up in any possible way for at least one more run with the Crosby/Malkin core. Trying to upgrade Nick Bjugstad or Jared McCann are other possibilities that may happen this offseason.

While we're on the subject of the Penguins, depth defenseman Chad Ruhwedel agreed to terms on a one-year, $750,000 contract on Friday.

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According to the Detroit Free Press, Filip Hronek is being loaned to a team in the Czech Republic. Recent draft picks Filip Zadina and Moritz Seider have also been loaned out to European teams. These loans seem to makes sense, as the Red Wings haven't played in quite some time and won't be playing for a while yet. The only downside is a risk of injury that would spill into the NHL season, but these young players can't sit idle for this long without playing somewhere.  

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Talk to you tomorrow. For more fantasy hockey discussion, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

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LINE COMBOS

  Frequency STL Players
13.7% RYAN O'REILLY DAVID PERRON JADEN SCHWARTZ
13.4% IVAN BARBASHEV SAMMY BLAIS OSKAR SUNDQVIST
11.8% ZACH SANFORD BRAYDEN SCHENN ROBERT THOMAS

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