Rambling about the Ducks, Yotes, Bruins, Sabres and more …
Great. Nothing controversial happened last week that I can take a contrarian stance on. Well there goes half a Ramblings right there. So now we’re in the dregs of the fantasy hockey season – the eight weeks of dead zone. The World Cup should shorten that to seven weeks, so there’s that.
This is my problem every July. I’m working my ass off (in a good way – totally enjoying it) on a Fantasy Guide that I have four weeks to write or edit from start to finish. And I also write my team-by-team outlooks before August if I can. So I’m quite immersed in the hockey world. But when it comes time to write Ramblings on top of that, I struggle to find topics. I want to save the juicy tidbits I find for the Guide. So you find that the slightest little NHL transaction gets analyzed to death. Have you heard enough of Jonathan Bernier yet?
Speaking of Bernier, every year it’s like clockwork. I finish my full analysis and write up of the Anaheim Ducks for the Guide. Then they make a big roster move that forces a re-write. One year it’s Dany Heatley. The next year it’s Chris Stewart. This year it’s Bernier. I think going forward I’ll start with Arizona and then circle back to Anaheim later.
Well, here’s what I learned from writing the Fantasy Guide so far:
This team is going to surprise with just how bad they are. Goaltending is fine. Defense is excellent and very deep. Forwards are average at best. And I don’t think the new coach will save them. Randy Carlyle will get wins however he can, but it won’t be through possession play. And Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are probably done with 75-point seasons. If Rickard Rakell or Jakob Silfverberg don’t break out this year offensively, then they won’t make the playoffs.I'm calling it now.
Speaking of Silfverberg, the new coach means new opportunity. Here is a guy who is a stud possession player. A very underrated player defensively. But he was only used defensively last season. Zero power-play time. So a new coach could change that. Then we’d see what we have. He was a near 60-point guy in the second half.
Well, we all figure this team will suck next year and after looking over things closely – I think we figured right. Yes, the Coyotes are on the right track. Lots in the pipeline and you can tell that they will be focusing on possession when it comes to their veteran core players and role players. But this won’t be their year.
I do, however, think the pendulum has swung too far the other way on Mike Smith. Yes, we all want to stay away from him and we all think very little of him. But we went too far. Dial it back a bit. I now consider him a ‘buy low’ because of his overly bad rep.
While I think the Bruins actually improve slightly for the season ahead, I don’t like their long-term outlook. Bruins’ fans may be looking at a slight rebuild in three or four years. So enjoy the next two or three years of barely making the playoffs (or missing them). Nothing much to say that you probably weren’t thinking already with this team. I didn’t learn anything new, though I did gain even more respect for the youngster Frank Vatrano. I think he could be a 30-goal, 50-point player. One of those snipers who won’t pad his point totals with assists.
The opposite of Anaheim. Deep at forward, shallow on defense, questionable goaltending. The Sabres are on the right track – great up front with lots of potential, good on them for taking a chance on Jimmy Vesey. Yes, it failed (or will fail), but it’s the right idea. Four of their 10 draft picks were defensemen and I think Dmitri Kulikov was a fine acquisition. Add two more defensemen and hope Robin Lehner stays healthy and they’ll be on their way. If Lehner gets hurt – again – then his contract is up next summer so the Sabres can hit the reset button on that position if they so choose. I think you’re going to see a lot more goals in the season ahead as their talented forwards just increased from four to six (Kyle Okposo, Tyler Ennis) and that will have a domino effect on the rest of the lineup (such as playing with a lead occasionally instead of, well, never).
On a side note, I like Tyler Ennis as a ‘buy low’ pick. Just as with Smith (above, Arizona), the pendulum of anger and disdain has swung too far the other way when it comes to Ennis.
And that’s as far as I got so far. Buffalo.
The full team-by-team outlook articles will start rolling in a few days and will run through the end of August.
Karri Ramo should fire his agent. How he’s still left standing after the music has stopped, while inferior goalies such as Michael Hutchinson find a home and an NHL contract, is beyond me. There are 60 goaltending jobs and to be honest there are probably 75 or 80 goalies who are good enough to get one. So if you already have your foot in the door you need to wedge it open, not meekly allow it to close behind you. After his first five games, which stunk, Ramo posted a 2.37 GAA and a 0.916 SV% in 32 games. To me that’s worthy of an NHL job, at least as a backup. It’s the agent’s job to know the market and know that his doors will all close early in July. Now I think we’ll find him in the KHL next year.
Some blog entries covering the prospect camps that I’ll share rather than just rehash:
Dallas camp here.
Patrik Elias is in the Czech Republic now, still recovering and rehabbing his knee. If he returns, it will be with the Devils. And he wants to return. So the question is – will his knee let him? A decision that won’t be made until September.
Phil Kessel played the last couple of rounds of his near-MVP-type performance in the playoffs with a hand injury. He underwent surgery on it Friday. He’ll be healthy by September, but now at least he has an excuse to turn down Brian Burke when Burke comes crawling to him to ask him to replace an injured player.
If you have anything you want me to discuss on Wednesday in those Ramblings, just note them in the comments.
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- Ramblings: Colin White signs long-term; Jaskin to the KHL; positional battles - August 22