Ramblings: Canada/Russia, Fleury, Stone (Sept 25)

by Ian Gooding on September 24, 2016

Canada/Russia, Murray/Fleury, Stone, Trouba, plus more…

As hockey fans, when we think of Canada/Russia (aka the Soviet Union), we think of ’72, ’87, and even Piestany. I don’t think Saturday’s game will be one to remember, although it had its moments of excitement. The moment when Russia made it 2-1 in the second period added some drama that maybe we were in for something other than an expected Canadian win.

Canada’s first goal was a bit strange. Russia had only four players on the ice at the moment, even though they weren’t killing a penalty. Sidney Crosby picked the pocket of Dmitry Kulikov in his own zone and buried it behind Sergei Bobrovsky.

Canada continued to dominate the second period, but it was Russia that scored two goals. Sergei Bobrovsky held the Russians in with some timely saves before Brad Marchand tied the game late in the second period.

Canada was finally able to break it open in the third period, which included Marchand’s second goal of the game. Thanks to a late goal by Artemi Panarin, the final score ended up as 5-3 for Canada. They play the winner of Sweden and Europe, who play today (Sunday).

No Pavel Datsyuk for the Russians, but at least you don’t have to worry about his injuries anymore in fantasy. Unless you play in a KHL fantasy league.

I have to be honest that I didn’t get to watch North America a whole ton. But I’m thinking that if the Olympics are shelved and we need to get into the World Cup as a result, Team North America needs to be brought back. They have to be the one real positive to draw from a World Cup that probably ranks somewhere between the World Cup of Soccer and the World Baseball Classic when it comes to fan interest.

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You knew the injuries would be coming in from the World Cup of Hockey, but you just didn’t know who. Matt Murray is one of the unlucky winners, as he will be out three-to-six weeks with a broken hand.

If you were lucky enough to draft Marc-Andre Fleury at a discount, congratulations. This injury all but cements Fleury as the opening night starter for the Pens, as the best case scenario would have Murray only missing training camp. But why rush him back? Maybe Fleury will take the job and run with it, just like Murray last season.

Fleury is currently ranked 129 over at Yahoo, behind goalies like Frederik Andersen, Craig Anderson, Thomas Greiss, and of course Murray. This represents huge value for Fleury if you can nab him here. Obviously we can’t assume that Fleury will start as many games as Andersen or Anderson, as Murray will still factor into the equation this season. But Fleury is the kind of goalie you should target if you want your team to get off to a running start.

Using another comparison, Fleury was sold for less money – significant less money – in my auction league than Semyon Varlamov. Even if Fleury job shares and Varlamov has his job all to himself, I don’t know how you draft Varlamov over Fleury. I compared the two in the Compare-A-Goalie feature and it’s not even close. This is what happens when you chase wins and ignore goals allowed. 

Had I known about Murray’s injury, I definitely would have bid higher on Fleury instead of settling for Steve Mason. Although it’s worth mentioning that Mason has decent value in this league because of his high save totals, which is why I targeted him. The Flyers averaged 30 shots allowed last season, and I don’t see how that’s going to change much.

If Fleury was projected to start around 50 games before the injury, you can probably add about another half-dozen starts to that with the injury news (depending on how long Murray is out, of course). Murray should still start more games than, say, Andrei Vasilevskiy. But to me, there isn’t as much of a projected starts gap between those two as you would think.

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When Dobber recruited me for this site about a year and a half ago, I don’t think there was a player more universally loved on the Forum than Mark Stone, thanks to his second-half goal scoring run. So it is with sadness that I mention that Stone has a concussion and will be sidelined indefinitely.

Matt Puempel took Stone’s spot on his line with Kyle Turris and Mike Hoffman at training camp. Puempel is a former first-round pick who has failed to impress in the NHL (just three points in 26 games), so this could represent his last real opportunity.

If Stone is not ready to start the season, one forward who could also see an uptick in responsibility is Clarke MacArthur, who played just four games last season because of a concussion of his own. Cam Robinson has MacArthur listed as a bounce-back candidate in his Frozen Pool Forensics, explaining why MacArthur could provide great value from his average draft position. 

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If you have Frank Vatrano as a deep sleeper, he is expected to miss the next three months because he will be undergoing foot surgery. Vatrano has little left to prove in the AHL, as he scored 36 goals in just 36 games in 2015-16. That’s goals, not points. He only managed eight goals and three assists in 39 games with the Bruins last season, but he was set to make the club on a full-time basis this coming season.

Vatrano’s injury could help Peter Mueller’s cause for making the club on a PTO. Or maybe a youngster like Danton Heinen could find his way onto the team.

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Oh yes, I almost forgot about this one. Cody Eakin is expected to be sidelined six weeks with a knee injury, according to the Dallas News. Tyler Seguin and Radek Faksa are already sidelined with injuries from the World Cup, so the Stars’ roster depth will be tested early. Mike Heika mentioned that Mattias Janmark and Patrick Eaves could move to center. The Stars are also dealing with the unexpected departure of Valeri Nichushkin

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… and some news that broke during the Canada/Russia game…
 


Since Trouba is without a contract, this isn’t a complete shocker. But don’t automatically assume that this is all about money like perhaps we’ve been led to believe.
 


Right-handed-shooting defensemen can come at a premium on the trade market. The Canucks, for instance, had issues finding right-handed defensemen several years ago and were forced to retain Kevin Bieksa when they wanted to trade him. Almost two-thirds (64 percent) of NHL players shoot left (ESPN Insider), so the Jets have a unique problem. Dustin Byfuglien and Tyler Myers also both shoot right, which has been a significant obstacle for Trouba during his time with the Jets. 

We’ve seen Jonathan Drouin and Travis Hamonic rescind trade requests during the past year, so this could simply be Negotiations 101 rather than a trade request that must be followed through. But at the end of the day Trouba simply may be a better fit on another team.

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During this Ramblings and this Ramblings, I discussed a keeper team that I needed to make a decision on which four players I would keep. I had no doubt in my mind that I would be keeping Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Drew Doughty because of all they offer in this roto league. I also decided to keep Phil Kessel because of his goal scoring and shot total. But I was undecided on my fourth player. At the time I chose Tyler Johnson.

But guess what? I changed my mind. Yeah, I’m allowed to do that. I doubted Tuukka Rask’s ability to be anything more than a league-average goalie. But I caved in and decided to keep him, and it wasn’t necessarily because I had a change of heart. I actually had my doubts as to whether I could make the live draft start time and as a result miss the inevitable “goalie run.” But as it turns out, I was able to get the day off work (I’m not just a fantasy hockey writer, you know).

So September 14 was the keeper deadline. On September 17, the random draft order was generated. Guess who picks first? Moi! Yeah! I never pick first overall in randomly generated drafts, so I’m thrilled. So I get a couple days to decide which player I want to pick first overall, since the players who were not kept are now listed on the waiver wire. Here’s who I believe are the best of the bunch:

Goalies: Ben Bishop, Jonathan Quick, Jake Allen, Matt Murray, Marc-Andre Fleury

Players: Dustin Byfuglien, Sean Monahan, Aleksander Barkov, Max Pacioretty, Joe Thornton, Auston Matthews, Patrik Laine

My initial impulse here is to pick one of the top two picks from the draft – Matthews or Laine. After all, I believe last year’s first overall pick was Connor McDavid. But Bishop and Quick are too stellar to pass up. My goaltending would be set. I often believe in picking the best player available, regardless of position.

As much as Matthews and Laine should be stars, they aren’t at the same level as McDavid. Since I’d have to wait until the end of the second round for my next pick, I’d be left out in the cold as far as elite scorers go, since both options won’t provide me with elite scoring (at least not this season.) So I won’t try to wrap my head around the Matthews/Laine debate right now.

I’d love to have either Bishop or Quick on my team. But I’ll probably go with Bishop. Throughout his career, he’s always had something to prove, since he never seemed to get a fair shot in both St. Louis and Ottawa. Now he’s looking at the possibility of being a free agent after the season because of the expansion draft. He’ll be motivated again.

Bishop will probably play in fewer games than Quick because Bishop has a better backup (Vasilevskiy), but I’d project Bishop for slightly better ratios. In addition, I have a feeling that the Kings will fall in the standings a little, affecting Quick’s win totals. The Kings didn’t seem to improve in the offseason while other Pacific Division rivals did. But that fall will likely be a slow decay rather than a plummet down the standings, which shouldn’t affect Quick’s value a whole lot short term.

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Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.