Tom Collins tees up the Top 10 fantasy hockey stories for 2015-16
After a long summer, we are just two short days away from the start of NHL hockey and, more importantly, our fantasy seasons.
Most drafts are in the books. It's now a matter of waiting to see if you'll be panicking or laughing a month from now.
There are plenty of storylines going into this year which affect fantasy hockey. Fantasy GMs need to stay on top of these issues to make sure there is no surprise with any of your squads.
Here are the top 10 fantasy stories leading into the 2015-16 season.
10. When will injured players make their debut?
There are a few fantasy-relevant players that are starting the year on the injured reserve instead of on the ice. Jordan Eberle hurt his shoulder and is probably out until November. Pavel Datsyuk and may be out until November because of his ankle. Nicklas Backstrom isn't taking contact in practice and is missing at least the first four games. Zach Bogosian was finally fantasy relevant again and he's out week to week. It could be a rough start for a lot of fantasy squads out there.
9. Can Carey Price repeat last year's success?
Price had the best fantasy season of any goalie ever last season. He was first in goals against average, save percentage and wins, and second in shutouts. He's the first goalie selected in most drafts, going seventh overall in both Yahoo and ESPN pools. Without a dependable backup, Price will start plenty of games. He should be able to pile up the wins on a good Habs team. But it remains to be seen what happens with his GAA and save percentage.
8. Will anyone crack 90 points?
No player reached the 90-point mark in 2014-15. Heck, only five players reached 80. Crosby had 104 points the season before that, but the next closest point-getter had 87 points. Only three players had 90 points in 2011-12. Scoring is going down. The 3-on-3 overtime may help offset that somewhat but the coaching, systems and goalies are all better now. Injuries are also playing a factor. Crosby probably would have gotten to 90 points this year if he had played all 82 games, for example.
7. Will anyone score 50 goals?
Scoring 50 goals may be the hardest thing to do in the NHL these days. Alexander Ovechkin is the only player in the last three years to get 50 goals. And only another four players have hit 40 goals in that time span. Many poolies may be predicting more 50 goal scorers this year (Phil Kessel being the top candidate), but the odds of even one player reaching that mark seems to be very low.
6. Lehtonen vs Niemi
Dallas is the best team without a true number one goaltender, despite spending $10.4 million on their two netminders. Kari Lehtonen still managed 34 wins last year despite having a 2.94 GAA and a .903 save percentage. Playing behind the league's second best offence will do that. But Antti Niemi is a better goalie. There will be a fight for the top spot, with the winner gets a prime goaltending slot in your fantasy lineup.
5. What goalie will come out of nowhere to surprise us?
There's always a goalie or two that pop up that surprise us completely. They're usually a late fantasy draft pick or even undrafted. Last season it was Devan Dubnyk and Cam Talbot. The year before it was Semyon Varlamov. So who has the best chance this year? Some of the smart money would be on Jacob Markstrom. He had two wins and a 1.01 GAA in four preseason games. And he's the best option in Vancouver. He could usurp Ryan Miller at some point this campaign.
4. Which coach will be fired?
An NHL coach being fired can have a great influence on your fantasy squad. Look how bad the Toronto Maple Leafs were last year once Randy Carlyle was fired and replaced by Peter Horachek. On the flip side, look how much better the Sens were once Dave Cameron replaced Paul MacLean. There are a couple of coaches that are on the hot seat this year: Claude Julien and Ken Hitchcock. Any type of a slow start could mean the end of the line for those two. Whoever replaces them will have a huge impact on your lineup.
3. Will players behave themselves?
The NHL is not as bad as the NFL but there has to be some cause for concern. Imagine last October owning Patrick Kane, Slava Voynov, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll. The NHL and its teams seem to be willing to make an example of players in today's society. They're also swimming in uncharted waters. The NHL is making up the rules as they go. What happens the next time a player gets in trouble with the law? Will he be suspended right away? Will public pressure weigh on the player and impact his season?
2. How will 3 on 3 affect players?
There's already been much discussion on the forum about the 3-on-3. The top six players on a team will probably see an increase in goals and points. One neglected aspect is the impact 3-on-3 will have on goalies. A goalie who loses in the shootout doesn't see an impact on his goals against average or save percentage. But more goals scored in overtime means a higher GAA and a lower save percentage. It could also mean less wins for guys who are great in shootout. Sergei Bobrovsky was 7-1 in the shootout last year. Imagine this scenario: In those eight games, Columbus wins four and loses four in 3-on-3 overtime instead of going to the shooutout, with the average goal scored one minute into overtime. Bobrovsky's record switches from 30-17-3 with a 2.69 GAA to 26-17-7 with a 2.79 GAA. That's not even including a decrease in save percentage for Bobrovsky.
1. How good is Connor McDavid?
Poolies have been salivating over McDavid for quite a while. He's chosen first overall in many keeper leagues. People are willing to trade Evgeni Malkin plus for him. In early August, one thread on the forum was Lundqvist, Max Pacioretty and a first for McDavid, and one responder saying that was a lower price than what they've seen McDavid go for. But what can we expect from the saviour? If McDavid gets 70 points, is that disappointing? Only five rookies have cracked 70 points since 2004-05,and only one rookie hit the 40-goal plateau. McDavid is on a team with a lot of offensive players, so the sky is the limit when you add his talent. But in a league where it's tough to get 90 points, expectations need to be tempered a little bit.
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