October 17, 2015

by steve laidlaw on October 17, 2015

Couture out for a month, Vrbata starting slow, why Byfuglien should remain a jet and more.

Logan Couture has a broken ankle and will miss four to six weeks following surgery. Tomas Hertl stepped into his spot on the second line with Patrick Marleau and Joel Ward combining for the only Shark goal.

The Sharks also called up Nikolai Goldobin and ran him out there on the top line with Joe Thornton and Joe Pavelski. The rookie only received 11:52 in action, with no power play time. Not sure he’s a better option than Joonas Donskoi who was a healthy scratch in this one.

The Sharks opted to go with two defensemen on the top power play in lieu of using a fourth forward to replace Couture. Paul Martin drew the duties but San Jose did not click on their lone opportunity. Still, Martin warrants consideration in fantasy pools given this development.

I need to enlist your help. I’ve yet to witness more than a period of Sharks action this season so I’m wondering how Marleau is doing. I see that he already has three goals and is shooting the puck a ton with 18 SOG in four games but I’m wondering if this is an aberration. His current shooting percentage is double what it was last season but at 16.7% it is also much closer to his career average than it was at 8.2% a year ago.

What I noticed last season was Marleau heading in the Dany Heatley direction, where he was able to sustain high shot totals but the opportunities were coming from farther and farther out leading to a precipitous drop in shooting percentage and production. In essence, it looked like the beginning of the end. As though his body wouldn’t get him to the tough areas needed to score. So my question is, how does he look this season, is he getting in deep or are his long shots simply finding the twine right now?

Marleau may wind up one of the better draft-day bargains if he works his way back into 30-goal range as he appears set to with this strong start.


The nightmare continues for Sergei Bobrovsky owners but I remain optimistic. This is the window to buy low, not the sign of a complete bust.

It’s not just Bobrovsky stinking up the joint either, the Blue Jackets have no played much in the way of defense. Their offense is still generating points, at least their big guns are anyhow. The concern has to be that despite the additions up front, the Blue Jackets simply didn’t do enough to address the blue line. Both David Savard and Jack Johnson went minus-four last night and are a combined minus-15 through five games.

At this point, Ryan Murray may be the only Jacket defenseman worth rostering with any regularity. He once again was the only defenseman on the top power play unit and also managed to go plus-one in the drubbing at the hands of the Leafs.


The Leafs got some big fantasy performances but what stood out for me was the two assists for Morgan Rielly despite getting no power play time. I’m not sure what the deal with that is but perhaps Mike Babcock is moulding he and Matt Hunwick into a shutdown pairing. Not necessarily a good sign despite the two assists.

Nazem Kadri finally got the goal he’s been pressing so hard to get. Through four games Kadri has 21 SOG, a ludicrous total. If he can even sustain 3.0 SOG per game for the full season that would be an impressive feat and would easily establish a new career high. Even if the points aren’t there Kadri is definitely taking strides as a fantasy asset.

Not all good news for the Leafs as Tyler Bozak left after blocking a shot and did not return, keep an eye out for his status. I mentioned this after the Leaf opener, they have a ton of professionals who know how to fill roles. Where the Leafs could really fall off is when injuries occur and suddenly it is young players trying to fill those roles. Not saying a Bozak injury would totally cripple the Leafs but it definitely won’t help at all.


The Carolina Hurricanes found their first win as the top line of Eric Staal, Kris Versteeg and Brock McGinn made some magic happen combining for eight points.

McGinn, making his NHL debut scored a goal and added an assist. You’ve heard me toot his horn before but that was just as a depth rotisserie asset. If he’s getting top line minutes, even in Carolina, that’s a huge deal. Not sure he has value in the average pool yet, though. He’s more of a niche market where if league depth is extremely thin then he could become a steal. All told, McGinn skated 15:11 with no power play or penalty kill time. The lack of power play time is the only thing keeping me from pushing all-in on McGinn.


The Jets, ladies and gentlemen. This team is crazy deep and crazy good. I don’t have much to say fantasy-wise because you know exactly who the top guys are for this team.

Dustin Byfuglien rescued the team from a date with three-on-three madness with an excellent individual effort to take the lead late last night. He’s good for a few of those a season. What a gamer and just a unique and special talent. I don’t like all the trade rumours surrounding him and I don’t really buy them either.

I think that maybe the Jets have listened because you’d be stupid not to but this is also a team in position to contend and they can’t just trade a dynamic player like this when the window for winning is open. He’s a heart-and-soul guy. Trading Byfuglien would be a real dynamic changer for their locker room. Not sure that’s what they need.

Of course, the asset management part of it is where the rumours come from. They don’t want to lose Byfuglien for nothing and he’s a free agent this summer. They also have a ton of depth on right defense so if they moved Byfuglien they could promote from within and simply try and get more out of Jacob Trouba and Tyler Myers.

I’m going the other way, however. Strike while the iron is hot. Having Trouba and Myers means you can lose Byfuglien for nothing and it doesn’t kill you. Having as much prospect depth as the Jets have means you can promote from within and not lose a step.

It’s also not like the Jets have some glaring need that trading Byfuglien would solve. They are deep as hell up front and on the blue line with a good mix of youth and veterans. The only weakness is in goal where I’ve voiced my concerns about Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson plenty. But again, there is an answer in-house in Connor Hellebuyck should the situation really get to that point.

Not a fantasy hockey rant, I know, but it needs to be said. Unless a team is offering the moon for Byfuglien, the move is to keep him and try to win now even if it means losing him this summer for nothing.


It looks like a win-and-you’re-in situation for Calgary as the Flames went back to Karri Ramo after Jonas Hiller lost to the Blues on Tuesday night. Ramo had a nice game last night but couldn’t get the win. Advantage Hiller.

I really need to point out the disturbing trend that Dennis Wideman and Kris Russell are skating more minutes than Mark Giordano and Dougie Hamilton. It’s carrying over to the power play too. Russell and Wideman went a combined minus-six last night, while Giordano and Hamilton went a combined plus-two. Go figure.


The St. Louis Blues lineup could be in flux after last night’s game. Paul Stastny blocked a shot in the second and went off. He briefly returned in the third before leaving the game for good. No update on his status as of yet, but David Backes did jump into a fair amount of top line minutes in that third period.

Whether or not Backes hangs onto those top minutes is up for questioning as Jori Lehtera has well-established chemistry with Vladimir Tarasenko. Backes has been struggling from a points perspective, skating as the third line center. He does have a spot as the net-front presence on the top power play unit but even that hasn’t proven fruitful so far.

It’s only a matter of time for Backes but you have to wonder with the slower start if maybe he’s headed for a serious drop into the 40’s instead of a slight drop to the low 50’s.


Speaking of struggling vets, Radim Vrbata remains scoreless for Vancouver through five games. He does have 19 SOG though so he’s clearly making the effort. I’m not panicking about Vrbata if I’m an owner. The shots are there so the goals will come. They won’t come at last year’s rate because he isn’t getting the even-strength minutes with the Sedins. Those are instead going to Brandon Sutter (a goal and two assists last night). Vrbata is still on the top power play unit and gets plenty of chances to uncork one-timers.

I’m still betting on 10 goals and 20 points from Vrbata on the power play. It’s just a question of what else he produces. I have a tough time seeing less than 50 total for Vrbata.

Of course, Alex Edler skates on the same top power play unit and he’s the evidence that skating with the Sedins while up a man isn’t enough on its own for fantasy relevance. Edler rebounded to the tune of 31 points last season, which had value in plenty of leagues but far from all of them, and certainly it wasn’t what it was like in 2011-12 when Edler was an elite fantasy defenseman.

Fun fact, of Edler’s 261 career points, 125 of them have come on the power play, nearly half. Edler might only be relevant because of all those power play minutes. Maybe the Canucks should find someone better.


I know that it looks bad on the Ducks getting shutout by Retto Berra and the Avalanche but I swear they looked good doing it. Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf are just so snake-bitten right now. The chances are absolutely there for them, they just aren’t cashing in. I have literally no worries about those two.

The Ducks lost Simon Despres in this one after taking a leaping shoulder to the head from Tyson Barrie. Looks like a brain injury for Despres but we’ll just have to wait and see. I realize Despres doesn’t have much value in fantasy pools outside of the deep multi-cat ones but he’s also a solid defenseman who helps keep the team playing well even when they aren’t cashing in. His absence has a domino effect. In particular, who’d have thunk that Freddie Andersen would still be looking for his first win of the season at this point?

Should also mention that Barrie may receive supplemental discipline here just because it was a head shot. Wait and see.


Speaking of Barrie, TSN’s Travis Yost has a nice piece imploring Patrick Roy and the rest of the Avs organization to get him some help.


It took the madness of three-on-three overtime but the Kings finally got a win. They deserved this one too, after dominating the Wild for most all of regulation. They whiffed on a ton of chances but Darcy Kuemper also played pretty well for the Wild stopping 35 of 37 shots.

I don’t think we should rule out the possibility of Kuemper stealing the starting gig back from Devan Dubnyk this season. It’s less farfetched a notion than was the idea of Dubnyk becoming an elite starter at this point last year. The only problem is Dubnyk has the contract and despite way worse numbers, has three wins on the season to Kuemper’s none. So if a change is coming it won’t be soon.


Back to the Kings. They finally got a power-play marker, this one out of Tyler Toffoli skating on the second power play unit still. I don’t know what Toffoli has to do to get top unit minutes. He’s their best goal scorer, you’d think that would have value on the power play. He could be a 70-point guy with proper deployment.


Victor Hedman won’t be able to go today against the Sabres. The suspicion is that he may have a concussion. He’s supposedly feeling better but you never know when those symptoms will pop up when it comes to brain injuries.

The Lightning called up Slater Koekkoek to fill in and he’ll almost certainly see action with Nikita Nesterov suspended two games.

It’s likely that Koekkoek will see limited action on the third pairing but we shall see. The Lightning have some decent options in Jason Garrison and Matt Carle to grab Hedman’s power play time.


Steve Mason is back with the Flyers after leaving for personal reasons. He’ll likely get the next start on Tuesday but maybe the rope is a little bit shorter after Michal Neuvirth’s back-to-back shutouts.


Another domino has fallen for 2016 free agency as Tomas Plekanec signed a two-year extension with the Canadiens. It’ll pay him $6 million annually for two more years. Check out the full details courtesy of our pals at Cap Friendly.

Pretty good deal for the Canadiens as they don’t commit too many years to an aging player but they lock Plekanec up while he’s still useful and avoid going to free agency. The also avoided any no-trade clause not that that’s necessarily a huge asset given the short duration of the extension.

Remember to compare what Plekanec gets when compared to some other number one centermen hitting unrestricted status this summer. Is he better than any of Anze Kopitar, Steven Stamkos, David Backes or Eric Staal?

If I had to rank him he’s either number three or four on that list but it looks like his deal will be the most affordable of the bunch.


In his latest for Sportsnet, Dobber opens up the mailbag and answers your fantasy hockey questions.


As always, some tasty digs in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts.


Thanks for reading! You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.