December 4, 2015

by steve laidlaw on December 4, 2015

Mike Hoffman is real and he is spectacular. So are the Devils, Luongo, and more.

One of the most frequent questions I have been getting asked is: will Pavel Datsyuk turn it around?


We saw a flash last night with a couple of assists. Hopefully this is where he starts to take off.

The gripes are real. Datsyuk’s placement in the lineup has hardly been ideal. That went out the window when the Red Wings lost not one but two forwards early in the first period as Teemu Pulkkinen and Drew Miller were both lost to injury and could miss some serious time.

 With two forwards out the lines got tossed into a blender and what shook out was a ton of time for Datsyuk alongside Dylan Larkin and Henrik Zetterberg. I have no clue if that group will stick but it seems less likely that Datsyuk sticks on some sort of second/third line if the Red Wings are thinned out up front.

Here’s the rub: Datsyuk produced as a second/third line guy with second unit power-play time last season. Heck, he was a point-per-game guy with that deployment. Granted, he at least had Tomas Tatar in his hip pocket last year and he has not been so fortunate this time around but he remains a brilliant player so I have few worries. At least a 0.75-point-per-game pace from here on out, which means about 45 more points, give or take.

Some folks should also be asking about Zetterberg. After a hot start he has really cooled off with just five points in the last 13. Those five came in a four-game stretch in the middle of this overall drought so maybe no one noticed. It has also been nearly a month since he scored a goal. Not for lack of trying however as indicated by his team-high seven SOG last night. Again, no concern here.

It is possible that the Red Wings are entering the territory of having a bunch of 55-65 point guys. Tatar and Gustav Nyquist have really turned it on of late skating on the second line with Riley Sheahan. They are both definitely finishing in that scoring range. Datsyuk will finish just shy but only because he missed the first dozen or so games. Zetterberg will get there for sure. Larkin has quietly stayed at that level with no real signs of cooling off.

Because the Red Wings have enough depth guys like Justin Abdelkader, Sheahan and Pulkkinen who can score a little it helps everyone be able to hit that level but because things are so spread out, maybe no one is able to take it up another notch.

Niklas Kronwall continues to show signs of life. He still isn’t shooting enough but does have 11 SOG in his last six games, which is a huge improvement. Kronwall has two goals and three points in that stretch. Not yet a hot streak but maybe he can salvage things after a cold start.


Another guy that I hear a ton of questions about is Mike Hoffman. Is Hoffman for real?


Like Datsyuk, we saw last night what makes Hoffman legitimate. His release is awesome. I remember last year hearing a quote from Ken Hitchcock about Vladimir Tarasenko’s shot and how to be an elite scorer at this level you need to be able to beat goalies from a distance. Hoffman can score from a distance. He also gets to skate with some really talented playmaking types in Kyle Turris, Mark Stone, Bobby Ryan and of course the guy whose name is engraved on the next dozen or so Norris Trophies, Erik Karlsson.

Stick a shooter like Hoffman among a group of skilled and willing passers like we just listed and you’ve got 40-goal potential. Will he get there? It’ll be a slog but that’s because it’s tough for anyone. Only three guys got there last year. Here is a great stat that shows off Hoffman’s scoring prowess, only four guys have more 5-on-5 goals than him since the start of last season: Rick Nash, Tarasenko, Alexander Ovechkin and Steven Stamkos. That’s some company right there.

Hoffman has NINE goals in the last seven games so probably not the time to try and acquire him. Unless, of course, you are in one of the ridiculous 29% of leagues where Hoffman is still available on the waiver wire.


21 games and counting for Patrick Kane.

Good to see Artemi Panarin back on the board after three games of silence. He is too good to be held quiet for long. Also, with how hot Kane is, keeping Panarin down is virtually impossible. Same goes for Artem Anisimov, who remains an attractive waiver option in the majority of leagues.

Wicked quote here on Panarin from Pavel Bure:

"Panarin reminds me of myself with his size and speed," he said. "He managed to seamlessly integrate into a team that won the Stanley Cup only a few months ago. And not only that, Panarin currently ranks second in scoring on the Blackhawks behind Patrick Kane. He has everything to become a star in this League."

Oh and he is definitely winning the Calder.

By the way, here are last night’s Blackhawks lines:














I know Marian Hossa and Jonathan Toews have not been THAT productive but at least that Ryan Garbutt nonsense is behind us… for now.


Braden Holtby has now won eight in a row. He is dancing very closely with being the best goalie in fantasy. He’s not there yet because Henrik Lundqvist is still kicking but the Carey Price injury opens up the second spot. Mind you, the goalie rankings are ALWAYS in flux. But he is definitely top five and not going anywhere until this iteration of the Capitals turns to dust and they might just be getting started.

Even after scoring a pair, TJ Oshie is only on pace for about 45-50 points. That’s just about par for the course for him.

Haven’t heard from Dmitri Orlov in three games. Probably because he is skating only 13 minutes a night and that goal binge of his was a sweet aberration.


Oh my goodness… Bad Michel Therrien has made an appearance. From what circle of hell did he unearth these line combinations?














So Devante Smith-Pelly owners, it was a good ride, wasn’t it?

Tomas Plekanec owners, sorry for your luck.

At least David Desharnais has been reunited with Max Pacioretty, which could make for a productive little run. Pacioretty did have NINE shots last night.


When I saw that Eddie Lack was starting for the Hurricanes I just knew it was going to be a good day for the Devils offense. I flooded my daily fantasy lineups with the New Jersey top line of Mike Cammalleri, Adam Henrique and Lee Stempniak. Huge dividends were paid.

Instinctively, no one wants to give these guys much credit but how can you knock what is working? Cammalleri is a proven threat, with an 80-point season under his belt. He flopped for the Devils last year because that team was a disaster with 18 different co-coaches behind the bench and a GM on his way out the door. New coach. New GM. New team. New situation.

Will Cammalleri score 80 again? Unlikely but I won’t be shocked if he reaches 65-70 for the first time since his last 80-point season. Is it so hard to believe that he, Adam Henrique and Lee Stempniak could be this year’s “pop-up” line? It happens all the time. I still remember when Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and Clarke MacArthur had that random season for the Leafs. It didn’t pay to be too skeptical then. And it isn’t right now.

That puts Henrique in contention for a 60-point season and Stempniak in the running for a 55-point one. Crazier things have happened.

Also, let’s start taking John Moore a little bit seriously. Is he the biggest name on the New Jersey blue line? No. But he’s the guy getting the minutes right now. Sure, we all know Adam Larsson, but guess what, he’s a shutdown guy.

Eric Gelinas? He’s a nobody who we happen to know because once upon a time some coach decided to give him the power-play minutes that Moore now occupies. Does that make him better at the job?

Damon Severson? Same deal. We wouldn’t know him if he didn’t have a brief run of competence last year.

Does this mean Moore is a someone? No, not necessarily. But at one point he was drafted as a first-rounder. So he was thought of as a someone at some point and is getting that treatment right now. Five points in the last four games, while receiving top PP time. It doesn’t have to make sense. Nothing about this Devils team was anticipated. If you have a need or some space, take a flyer on Moore. Maybe you’ll hit on a sneakily productive option.

Travis Zajac was lost to injury and the word is that he won’t play tonight. Not sure how serious his injury is.


Back to Eddie Lack. Poor guy. Remember when he was good? I have a feeling he will pop up somewhere in a couple of years and have a run to remember. Seems to be the going trend these days.

For instance: James Reimer.


Reimer returned for the Leafs and picked up right where he left off allowing just one goal to the Minnesota Wild. Here comes another extended run of starts.


The Jason Pominville goal-scoring streak is dead before it even really began. Just two games. Still, it’s a start.

More concerningly, Mikko Koivu is now four games without a point after being held off the board just twice previously. I suppose he was bound to slow down eventually. Still a great option with 60-point possibilities.

You hear a lot of talk about how deep the Wild blueline is. If that’s the case, then why is Ryan Suter once again leading the league in ice time with over 28 minutes skated per game? I get that he is awesome and probably has a future as an ironman runner or something but holy crap, they are putting a lot of miles on a guy they have signed for longer than the average mortgage.

Suter’s scoring pace is absurd. His individual point percentage (the rate at which a player gets points on any goals scored while he is on the ice) is 57%, which is on the high side for defensemen but not out of range of some of the other elite puck-movers in the league. For instance, Karlsson and John Klingberg are at 59% and 60%, respectively.

Of course, Suter’s IPP was just 37% last year. That can be somewhat explained away by the fact that the Wild power play has taken off this season. Suter is a huge part of that eruption as the lone defenseman on the top PP unit. It isn’t that audacious that Suter is on pace for 27 PPP as he has hit 25 once before.

Still, the average Suter season sees him scoring 25-30 points at even strength. Add in another 25-30 PPP and he is maxing out in the 50-60 range. This 70-point pace won’t continue. But 50 would be a career high so let’s not scoff and immediately jump to sell high because it all depends on what you can pull in return.


By the way, by IPP, the greatest over-performers on defense are Brent Burns and Kris Letang recording points on a quarter of all the goals scored while they are on the ice. That won’t continue. At least Letang can hope that the Pittsburgh offense gets sparked to even league-average levels to help him escape some regression. I am not sure what Burns is hoping for as the Sharks boast a top-10 offense. But let’s maybe not go there, Wookies have been known to rip people’s arms out of their sockets when they lose.


Rob Vollman has a great read on how Jaromir Jagr’s scoring defies precedent. Definitely worth your time.

Hands up if you are loving the under-the-radar numbers from Roberto Luongo! Panthers get outshot 33-16? No problem, Lou has it covered. I would love to call Luongo’s play elite but somehow a 2.24 goals-against average and .928 save percentage doesn’t even crack the top 10 if you don’t have a winning record to back it up.

Lou at least starts all the time to make up for the barely losing record (yes overtime/shootout losses are still losses.) He is also bringing tremendous reliability to the table. Of his 21 appearances he has given us a quality start (a .910 save percentage or better) in 14 of them, a 66.7% success rate. That’s the type of consistency that wins leagues.

If you are strong in goal you should try dangling one of your big name options for Luongo plus an upgrade elsewhere. You can’t do it without that being a serious strength. Something like having Holtby and Pekka Rinne or Jonathan Quick and Henrik Lundqvist. If you have that, however. You might really improve your squad betting on Lou. He’s proven capable.


Maybe that Rinne option isn’t a great example. His save percentage has dipped to *gasp* .909. Not a typo, ladies and gentlemen. That is sure to regress but it’s troubling all the same. You probably aren’t getting Lou AND an upgrade given his current production.

Remember when James Neal was cruising along at a 40-goal pace? Well he has just one goal in the last eight games and has seen his shooting percentage fall right back to his career average of 12.3%. Funny how that works out sometimes. By the way, great piece in the Player’s Tribune from Neal on what you don’t know about being a sniper:

One thing to notice is that I’m a left-handed shot playing the right wing here. That might seem like a small thing, but it’s actually a huge deal. I started my career as a left winger, so I was always receiving passes with the puck outside my body, away from the net. If you’re a playmaker, you might prefer this. I didn’t know how big of a difference this made until I got traded to Pittsburgh. Dan Bylsma walked in the first day and asked, “Hey, do you think you could play right wing?”

I’m like, “Uh, well I’ve never played it before, so I’m not sure?”

He says, “Okay great, you’re playing right wing.”

Once I got used to it, I really elevated my game, because whenever I shot the puck on my forehand, the release point was closer to the net. I was a threat at all times, especially on one-timers. I ended up scoring 40 goals the next season. So whenever a guy switches wings, it has a lot of implications for how he plays. (Thanks, Dan. You were one of the best teachers I’ve ever had.)

Endless fodder here. Is it any surprise how many of the elite goal-scorers in the league are guys playing on their off-wing. Mark that down for any time you hear about a guy getting shifted to the off-wing. Could be a spike in goals coming.


Valeri Nichushkin, come on down! You’re the next contestant on the Stars’ top line!














Sparks flew for Nichushkin, skating on the top line last night. He had a goal and an assist and all of his bodacious skills were on display. The size, the speed, the power, the finesse, the vision, OMG. It’s drool-worthy, especially when you think about him teaming up with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn long term.

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Consistency is still a huge issue for Nichushkin. There is a reason he only has three goals and nine points on the year. It’s the same reason he so frequently gets buried skating an average of just 13:16 a night.

He is also only 20 and coming off of injury.

Nichushkin has points in three straight and given the tasty top-line deployment he warrants a pickup in one-year leagues. Of course, in keepers, he is already stashed away under lock and key and for good reason.


No Jake Virtanen for the Canucks. Sounds like he is week-to-week with a hip pointer. That would probably remove all chances of him suiting up for Canada at the World Juniors.


It appears that Jori Lehtera is getting bumped up to the top line for tonight’s game but not at the center position. Instead he will play wing, which Ken Hitchcock says will get him driving the net more frequently. Lehtera might make for a nice short-term pick up.

Alexander Steen shuffles down in the lineup though it is extremely unlikely he loses any power-play time. This could work out for David Backes owners if Steen winds up on his line.


It appears that Steve Moses is headed back to the KHL. So much for that experiment. I was always on team Viktor Arvidsson anyhow.


Hardly any relevance here but I like the feel good story anyhow: Manny Malhotra has signed a tryout contract with Columbus’ AHL affiliate.


TSN’s Travis Yost with an analytical argument why trading Ryan Nugent-Hopkins is a bad idea:

Even if Nugent-Hopkins is a ‘soft’ player – who cares? He’s been in the league for years and has never looked overwhelmed. And if he was truly soft, it would show in his numbers. He wouldn’t dominate the play. He wouldn’t win any puck battles. His scoring would be limited and the chances and shots other great centres suppress with their physicality and tenacity would bleed in the opposition’s favor whenever he was on the ice.

That’s never happened.

Let’s spin this in a fantasy direction. My only concern with the Nuge from a fantasy perspective is that if he stays in Edmonton, how are the lines all going to shake out at the end of the day? Is there room to get Nuge, Eberle, Hall, Yakupov, Draisaitl and McDavid all onto one power play? A little simple math tells you that such a task is plainly impossible unless they yank the goalie.

Nuge has avoided losing power-play time even as the Oilers continue to add tremendous young forward talent but at a certain point we know that McDavid is going to be the top dog and that Draisaitl is probably an excellent fit as a net-front guy and that Hall is the only one of all these guys who has proven capable of transcending these circumstances to put up point-per-game numbers. Given that, maybe Nuge starts tumbling down the depth chart before he ever has a real breakout season.


Dobber takes a look at some studs and duds.


Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.