November 19, 2015

by steve laidlaw on November 19, 2015

Hamonic trade rumours, the pros and cons of the new All-Star format, player position updates and more.

The slumping Jets found their footing against the visiting Canucks last night getting four goals out of a revamped second line.

Drew Stafford was bumped up alongside Mark Scheifele and Mathieu Perreault. Both Stafford and Scheifele scored a pair apiece. Good news for the few Stafford owners out there, bad news for the more abundant Nikolaj Ehlers owners.

Ehlers was held to just 11:46 skating on the third line. He did manage four shots on-goal but that’s because he is a freak of nature.

Back to Stafford. On top of the two goals, he added an assist and eight SOG. All of this to end an 11-game scoring drought. He looks like a decent waiver option right now as he is a streaky scorer.

Also in Stafford’s favour is the Jets’ dense schedule with five games in eight days starting against the Coyotes on Saturday night. They have three off-night games in there with a Monday-Wednesday-Friday-Saturday schedule next week, which should make it easy to fit him into your lineup.

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Ryan Miller has lost six in a row with three goals or more allowed in each contest. The last five of those came on the road.

Life does not get much easier even with a back-to-back at home scheduled for this weekend as one of the pending opponents is the Blackhawks. Oh and the Canucks head back on the road for four more after this quick weekend at home.

Look for Jacob Markstrom to start grabbing a larger chunk of the action but really it is not looking like a positive to be invested in Canucks goaltending as they are quickly sliding from a playoff spot.

One excuse the Canucks can lean on is mounting injuries. On top of missing Brandon Sutter and Brandon Prust, whose injuries you can read more about in our latest IR Report, the Canucks were also without Radim Vrbata last night.

Vrbata is considered day-to-day though there are not many details out there as of yet. Good time to buy on Vrbata who is shooting just 4.1% on 74 SOG, the latter of which ties him for seventh in the league with Tyler Seguin and Vladimir Tarasenko. Vrbata’s 5on5 on-ice shooting percentage is a ghastly 2.3%, which ranks 581st in the league among players with at least 50 minutes of ice time. #REGRESSION

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To counteract Alexander Ovechkin’s now four-game scoreless drought and in an effort to get him that record goal Barry Trotz has gone back to the old “Ovechkin plays the entire power play” strategy. It failed. Despite over 10 minutes of power-play time and six SOG, Ovechkin continues to search for his 484th goal.

This is hardly worth getting concerned over but it would be lovely for fantasy owners if Ovy continued to see such a great proportion of power-play time. That seems unlikely to continue, however.

Matt Niskanen has four points in the last three games as John Carlson continues on a five-game scoring drought. This is pure market correction and not an actual turning of the tides. Carlson is still #1 in Washington but he is now on pace for a very achievable 58 points. Meanwhile, Niskanen is now running at a 43-point pace, which is also attainable even as a secondary guy.

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Pavel Datsyuk recorded his first point of the season. He has not quite had the desired effect on the slumping Red Wings offense as they have scored eight goals across four games, which is actually a slight decline from where they were at before Datsyuk’s return. This is a small sample yet and we have to him a chance to get up to speed.

The potential of a Datsyuk-Dylan LarkinTomas Tatar line is quite enticing, which is what we saw last night:

23.21%

EV

DATSYUK,PAVEL – LARKIN,DYLAN – TATAR,TOMAS

10.71%

EV

GLENDENING,LUKE – HELM,DARREN – SHEAHAN,RILEY

8.48%

EV

ABDELKADER,JUSTIN – NYQUIST,GUSTAV – ZETTERBERG,HENRIK

 

It is a serious possibility that the Red Wings, like the Penguins are suffering offensively from a serious lack of puck-moving ability on the back end. Though Mike Green is showing some flickering potential in this department with three assists in the past three games.

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Teuvo Teravainen left last night’s contest with an upper-body injury and did not return. The latest is that the injury is not serious and that Teravainen is consider day-to-day.

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Olli Maatta will miss 3-4 weeks with an upper-body injury after a vicious check from Nino Niederreiter the other night. He has had some run of health problems in his young career. Makes you wonder if his offensive progress has been stifled.

This does not bode well for the Penguins turning their scoring woes around although perhaps it lights a fire under Jim Rutherford to add help sooner rather than later.

For all the Derrick Pouliot owners out there I am sorry to say that all the beat reporters are saying that he will not be called up to fill in for this injury. Too bad, as Pouliot is lighting up the AHL ranks and is the exact sort of puck-moving defenseman that the Penguins are reportedly shopping for to help kick-start their offense. At least, he fits the mould on paper.

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Some major position eligibility changes in the Yahoo! database were made yesterday with Larkin, Eric Staal, Leo Komarov and Sam Bennett all gaining LW eligibility, while Leon Draisaitl, Boone Jenner, Joe Pavelski, Patrick Sharp and Tyler Ennis gained RW elibility.

The big ones here are Larkin, Staal, Bennett, Draisaitl and Jenner as they all move from center-only to boasting wing eligibility, which could push some from the waiver wire onto regular rosters.

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Huge rumour out there surrounding a trade request made by Travis Hamonic before the season began. The scuttlebutt is that Hamonic has requested a trade to Western Canada to be closer to home. This is a rare situation where the teams in Vancouver, Calgary and especially Edmonton and Winnipeg find themselves in this position. Typically, you see them on the other end of trade requests, either from players wishing to leave or as destinations where players simply will not go.

It is interesting that this news got out. Since the request was made before the season began why did it take so long to get out and what is the motivation for getting the news out there now? Is it simply a case where the rumours had been circling but no source could be tracked to confirm the story until now or is someone letting this out in an effort to expedite the process?

It is hard to imagine the Islanders getting a return that helps them now, especially since what they basically want in return is a Hamonic replacement.

The most interesting suggestion I have heard was the possibility of a Dustin Byfuglien for Hamonic swap. Given that Hamonic is from Manitoba you have to assume that Winnipeg is his most preferred destination and given Byfuglien’s contract situation, the Jets may want to play the long game. Of course, do the Islanders really want Byfuglien, an upcoming UFA, even if it helps them in the short term?

That Hamonic is so young, and so good and on such a favourable contract makes this brutal for the Islanders. No one is going to give up a similar asset. Lateral moves are just so rare in the NHL and considering these teams know the Islanders are backed up somewhat against the wall here they have to be smelling blood.

Another interesting upcoming free agent option from Western Canada: the Oilers’ Justin Schultz. At least he is younger and is headed for restricted free agency. He is also much less proven.

One thing to wonder about is whether or not the Islanders consider going with a big shakeup. If they cannot get a defenseman on a good contract in exchange for Hamonic, might they instead get a forward? And if they get a forward on a good deal, would they consider then moving Kyle Okposo (an upcoming UFA) for a defenseman on an expiring deal?

To some extent it shuffles the deck chairs. And it certainly changes the dynamic in the locker room given what a prominent leader Okposo has been for the past several seasons. Shuffling the deck chairs may be the only way to stay ahead of the game in terms of contract status for the players on their team. Surely, they do not want to add another pending free agent to a group that already includes important players like Okposo and Frans Nielsen.

If the Islanders do end up acquiring a forward rather than a defenseman that does not bode well for Ryan Strome. There is also some notion that Ryan Pulock, the promising offensive defenseman, would make his way up to the big club but it is worth considering that it was Adam Pelech and not Pulock who received a recent call-up as the Islanders were negotiating some injuries. Nothing is guaranteed here.

The biggest question with Hamonic, does the team that acquires him give him more than the 53 seconds of power-play time he has averaged per game this season? He does not necessarily deserve more time. He is an excellent stay-at-home type but he did score 33 points in 71 games with just 1:11 in power-play time per game last season. There is legitimate potential here. I liken Hamonic to a young Seabrook. In the right circumstances there could be fireworks.

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The NHL has solidified their plan for the 2016 All-Star, which involves a 3on3 tournament, with each division boasting a team. You can check out the full list of changes here but I will provide some of my own thoughts:

The elimination of the Fantasy Draft – one of the few successful changes the NHL has made to the All-Star event over the years – stinks. So many hilarious moments came out of it and it was made all the more hilarious by the fact that I would tune in to watch the draft but not the actual event they were drafting for.

That last point is important. Few people actually cared for the All-Star Game and I am certain that the ratings bore this out. If the NHL wants to cling to this idea of some kind of mid-season showcase then adjustments were definitely required.

Does it have to be 3on3 though? People love 3on3. I love 3on3, though mostly because I abhor the shootout and it is the lesser of two evils. I applaud the move as an experiment because, again, I was not tuning in otherwise and I will definitely at least have to check it out this year. I just worry that it might be too much of a good thing – or rather too much of an okay thing that people really only like so much because it means no shootouts. I suppose the question is: do people really find the 5on5 All-Star event so boring that the 3on3 version is palatable?

My answer is that that is not actually the right question because people will watch five minutes worth of 3on3 at the end of the game because in a small dose it is exciting and decides a game with actual stakes and involves players playing their hardest and also offers the potential of fantasy points for players. The All-Star 3on3 will offer none of those.

Not even a $1 million prize is enough to get the players to really get after it. Maybe if it was $1 million per player but with 11 players per team, the risk of injury is likely not worth the less than $100,000 being offered up per individual. This will remain very much an exhibition, which is fine but may still fall short.

There is one positive to this format, it has eliminated the crazy fan-vote scenarios we saw in the past where teams would wind up with loaded ballots and the starting lineup would inevitably have just about every starter off one or two teams. Instead, the fan ballot will simply elect one player from each division. There is still potential to load up from one or two teams but it will not be as excessive.

There is no real explanation in these changes for why they eliminated the Fantasy Draft. With one player voted in per team, and the remaining 40 players being selected by the NHL, couldn’t those four voted in act as team captains and draft the remainder of their respective teams? And since there is money on the line would that not act as some enticement for them to take the process somewhat seriously? There are likely public perception reasons why the NHL scrapped the draft, even if it was the most entertaining event. It is the only explanation that makes sense.

Instead, we are stuck with these divisional rosters that have to boast one player off of each team. Nevermind the reality of the divisional imbalance that technically gives the Western teams an advantage as they can better load up off of their stacked rosters.

In any case, here are some quickly assembled rosters that I would like to see but also fit the outlined rules:

Pacific:

Taylor Hall

Connor McDavid

Sedin Twins

Jeff Carter

Johnny Gaudreau

Drew Doughty

Oliver Ekman-Larsson

Brent Burns

Freddie Andersen

Central:

Patrick Kane

Vladimir Tarasenko

Tyler Seguin

Jamie Benn

Nathan MacKinnon

Zach Parise

Duncan Keith

John Klingberg

Dustin Byfuglien

Pekka Rinne

Atlantic:

David Krejci

Jack Eichel

Max Pacioretty

Steven Stamkos

Nick Bjugstad

Gustav Nyquist

Erik Karlsson

PK Subban

Morgan Rielly

Carey Price

Metro:

Evgeni Malkin

Alexander Ovechkin

John Tavares

Claude Giroux

Mike Cammalleri

Ryan Johansen

John Carlson

Justin Faulk

Keith Yandle

Henrik Lundqvist

Fitting a rep off of every team was easily the toughest part of the exercise. For instance, in the Metro, do you give the goalie spot to Cory Schneider at the expense of Lundqvist just to squeeze a bigger name into the forward slots? Or how about the fact that Marc-Andre Fleury is the only one playing like an All-Star for Pittsburgh? Is there even a worthy All-Star on the Blue Jackets right now? What about the Hurricanes?

Another issue that I ran into was running out of lineup spots for the Central division. They could field two teams in this tournament using the rules from above and have no real issues. No really, take a look.

Central II:

Jonathan Toews

Artemi Panarin

Matt Duchene

Jason Spezza

Blake Wheeler

James Neal

Kevin Shattenkirk

Roman Josi

Ryan Suter

Corey Crawford

Undoubtedly that lineup is not as good as Central I but it is also arguably better than the Metro squad. Once again, the Central is just unfairly loaded.

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One more All-Star Game thought: since the NHL has squashed the Fantasy Draft, perhaps the way to glean enjoyment from this event is to have your own draft with your friends. Tossing this out there as a loose invite to the Dobber writing staff.

What do you think about the new format?

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Read my latest Waiver Wednesday column for some intriguing options widely available in fantasy leagues.

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