Ramblings: Cam Ward retires; more bold predictions – August 29

by Michael Clifford on August 29, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Cam Ward retires; more bold predictions – August 29

 

It was announced on Wednesday that Cam Ward will be retiring from the NHL. The 35-year old netminder signed with Chicago last year but with the signing of Robin Lehner and the emergence of Collin Delia, not to mention Corey Crawford having a year left, it didn’t seem like a return was possible. It has been many years since Ward has had a good season, so it makes sense that now is the time for him to hang up the skates.

Ward retires with a Conn Smythe Trophy and Stanley Cup from 2006, over 700 games played, and millions of dollars in the bank. Not bad.

Ward was a punching bag in recent seasons but he was really good earlier in his career. That was a long time ago, though – pre-lockout – and he was just never the same goalie after.

Regardless of his performance of late, he always seemed like a good NHL citizen and very much respected by his peers. He had a long career and reached the pinnacle of the sport. All in all, a very good NHL tenure. Best of luck to Mr. Ward and his family in the next phase of their lives.

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Be sure to head to the Dobber Shop to grab your copy of the 2019-20 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide!

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It was made official a couple days ago, but Jesse Puljujärvi is indeed heading to Finland for the 2019-20 season. He has an out clause that would allow him to return to the NHL but barring a trade, I don’t see that happening.

Yesterday, Cam dug deeper on the ramifications for the forwards in Edmonton, so I recommend reading what he had to say.

This topic has been discussed by myself, and others, for months (years?) now, so there’s not much point in digging deeper. Just thought I’d throw this out there:

 

 

Of course, 400 minutes of ice time doesn’t mean anything definitively, but it should point us in the right direction. The Oilers did well – very well – with Pulju and McDavid on the ice together, even without Draisaitl. And yet, both Todd McLellan and Ken Hitchcock refused to leave Pulju on the top line. You mean to tell me he didn’t look good playing on the fourth line with the likes of Jujhar Khaira and Colby Cave? I’m shocked. Stunned, really.

Like I said, I’m sure the Oilers will find a winger for McDavid eventually. It’s a shame they didn’t make use of the one who helped McDavid put up shot/goal differentials to the level he has with Draisaitl. Alas.

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A couple days ago, I went through some bold predictions among forwards in fantasy this year. Today, we’ll go through the defencemen.

 

Shayne Gostisbehere Finishes As A Top-10 Defenceman In All Formats

I know I’ve written about him this summer but it’s worth reviewing quickly.

Gostisbehere has been in the NHL for four years. Over those four years, here are his 82-game paces: 12.7 goals, 39.1 assists, 51.8 points, 208.1 shots, 25.5 PPP, 102.8 blocks, 46.8 hits. While the hits+blocked shots aren’t great, everything else is.

At this point, I don’t think Ivan Provorov is a huge threat to take over PP1 from Ghost. The threat would probably come from Travis Sanheim but it’s hard not seeing Ghost at least having the PPQB role to start the year. Assuming the Flyers power play doesn’t fall on its face, he should hold that spot most of the season. He would probably have to exceed his production paces to make up the blocked shots and hits to make up the value in multi-cat leagues, but not many defencemen are capable of 60-point seasons, and Gositsbehere is certainly one of them.

 

Shea Theodore Breaks 50 Points

One thing Vegas has often done is split their PP units and the PPTOI. In 2017-18, they had three defencemen (Brad Hunt, Colin Miller, and Shea Theodore) finish within 10 seconds of each other in PPTOI per game. In 2018-19, in aggregate, those same three defencemen finished within 25 seconds of each other in PPTOI per game. But down the stretch, post-trade deadline, Theodore had nearly 45 seconds more PPTOI per game than any other regular Vegas defenceman, and in the playoffs, that number was about 35 seconds, with most of the minutes going to he or Miller.

Hunt was traded in January, Miller was traded in the off-season, and Schmidt was never a priority for the ice time with the man advantage late in the year. The bulk of the PP minutes should go to Theodore this year. I don’t think it’ll be an extreme split like Washington or Dallas with John Carlson and John Klingberg, but I also think the days of Theodore playing just two minutes a game on the power play are long gone.

I wrote about Theodore during the season and not much has changed since. I think he’s one of the best-kept secrets in the NHL right now. The guy is on the cusp of being an elite defenceman and he should start getting ice time commensurate with that level of play. He is absolutely one of my favourite targets in fantasy this year.

 

Erik Cernak Is A Top-25 Defenceman In Multi-Cat Leagues

Tampa Bay added some depth on the right side with the signing of Kevin Shattenkirk, but the fact remains most of their talent is on the left side. We’ve heard rumblings this summer that one of the left-shot guys (probably either McDonagh or Sergachev) will make the move to the right, but that still leaves Cernak as easily the best right-shot defenceman on the team. With that should come more minutes at even strength and maybe even short-handed.

Right now, Cernak isn’t much more than a defensive stalwart. That is to say, he’s much better defensively than he is offensively at this point in time. He’s still just 22 years old and he’s only played roughly three-quarters of an NHL season, but he had a great rookie effort. As long as his play doesn’t regress, he should be locked into the top-4 in Tampa Bay this year.

In a full 82-game season, Cernak could easily post 150 shots, 60 penalty minutes, 100 blocked shots, and 200 hits (he had 58 PIMs and 198 hits in 58 games last year, for reference). He probably isn’t a 40-point defenceman or anything but 25-30 points is well within reach given his likely even strength ice time deployment, and that, combined with his heavy multi-cat offerings, will make him very valuable. Those in cap leagues should pay extra attention.

 

Sam Girard Ends Up With More Points Than Cale Makar

I’ve written about this extensively over the summer, so I won’t go over it again. There’s no going back now.

 

Aaron Ekblad Is A Top-15 Defenceman In Multi-Cat Leagues

Time flies doesn’t it? This will be Aaron Ekblad’s sixth season in the NHL. It really feels like he was just drafted a couple years ago. Anyway.

Did you know: over the last five seasons, there are six defencemen with at least four seasons of 10 goals, 20 assists, 30 PIMs, and two shots per game, and those defencemen are Brent Burns, Dougie Hamilton, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Mark Giordano, Victor Hedman, and Ekblad. Between staying mostly healthy and playing consistent minutes, Ekblad has been able to put up solid fantasy campaign after solid fantasy campaign, to the tune of being consistent to the level of some of the best defencemen alive (though, obviously, to a lesser degree than guys like Hedman and Burns).

I do think Ekblad has been overrated in general over the last few years but is now really starting to come into his own. There are measures, like Goals Above Replacement from Evolving Hockey, which show consistent improvement over the last few years, culminating in a great 2018-19 effort. Now, like Cernak, I think Ekblad is much better defensively than he is offensively, and also like Cernak, he won’t get the prime PP minutes. But, again like Cernak, he’ll be relied upon heavily at even strength on teams deep with scoring threats and on the penalty kill to help boost those real-time stats.

Across the industry – ESPN, CBS, Yahoo – Ekblad is going as the 30th defenceman off the board or later, which means he can be had as a third or fourth defenceman. That seems like fine value to me. There is significant upside here even if he doesn’t post a 50-point season just because of what he brings across the board.

 

Mathew Dumba Finishes Among The Top-3 Defencemen In the West in Multi-Cat Leagues

When you think of d-men in the Western Conference, there are some definite heavyweights. Just consider names like Burns, Karlsson, Josi, Klingberg, Ekman-Larsson, Gustafsson, Pietrangelo, Byfuglien, Giordano, Doughty, and Theodore. While I don’t have Dumba ranked among the top-3, I do think he’s in line for a great fantasy campaign.

Dumba’s 2018-19 season was cut short due to a pec injury so I wanted to go over his 82-game paces from the last three years in aggregate. They are 16.0 goals, 29.8 assists, 52.2 PIM, 172.6 shots, 15.5 PPP, 126 hits, 97.5 blocks. If he can do that, he’ll have an elite fantasy season in multi-cat leagues.

The real issue is how the power-play minutes will be divided. Until his injury last year, Dumba was essentially part of a three-headed monster on the blue line with Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon. However, Dumba’s PPTOI per game has increased every year for four years while Suter’s has declined in that span and Spurgeon’s has remained relatively consistent. I hope that is a good indication for 2019-20.

Regardless, Dumba should have a good fantasy season this year, it’s just a matter of how good. If he can keep gobbling up more PPTOI, getting over 50 points with great multi-cat totals is very possible. That would make for a great fantasy season.