Ramblings: Faulk, Carlson, Krug – Defensemen Rounding Into Form (Dec 24)

by steve laidlaw on December 24, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Faulk, Carlson, Krug – Defensemen Rounding Into Form (Dec 24)

Remember when defensemen like Justin Faulk, John Carlson and Torey Krug were struggling? That’s in the past now. Faulk has eight points in his last eight games. Carlson has nine points in his last 10 games. Krug has seven points in his last nine games.

That’s just the way it goes with defensemen not named Karlsson or Burns. They are going to grow through hot and cold streaks. You have to know which guys are worth riding out the cold streaks for and which aren’t. That’s why doing pre-season projections are important. If you know that a Faulk or Carlson is going to score at around a 50-point pace over the full season then you know that there will be at least 30 games where they don’t score a point. A slow start can easily be a part of a 50-point season.

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Anders Lee was initially credited with a power-play goal before it was changed to John Tavares. That would have been his 12th goal in the past 15 games. Instead he sits at 11 but that’s an incredible run. It also highlights that Lee is doing the right thing by getting to the net-front. He has won back his spot on the top power play unit and appears to be a good option for the second half. Lee was also on the top line last night but the Islanders’ lines get changed so much that I don’t put much stock in them.

Ryan Strome has three goals and four points in the last five games. I’m not buying it.

Jaroslav Halak hasn’t made a start since December 13th. I worry he is being phased out entirely.

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The Rangers are regressing into more of a traditional team where the offense comes from only one line. They scored four goals last night, but they all came from the top line of Chris Kreider, Derek Stepan and Mats Zuccarello. That’s the trio I would have expected to lead the team in scoring prior to the season so it makes sense that they would hum now.

Of course, injuries are playing a part as the Rangers are without nearly a full line with Rick Nash and Mika Zibanejad out.

Also, Michael Grabner and Kevin Hayes have finally fallen back to earth. Grabner has just three points in 10 December contests, while Hayes has four in 11. Time to shuffle these two back to the waiver wire.

Another one for the waiver wire: Brady Skjei. He has just three points in 10 games this month and was a healthy scratch last night.

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Charlie Coyle didn’t make my list of top 10 net-front men but is developing into a solid talent at that position. He had an explosive four-point night to give him 12 points in the last 10 games and 27 in 33 overall. Coyle is on pace for a 30-goal/67-point season that I don’t believe he will achieve but that is probably his upside so it can’t be ruled out.

It would be easy to get excited about many a Wild player right now. They are riding a 10-game winning streak. Mikael Granlund has 11 points in the last nine games, Eric Staal has 12 points in the last 10 games, Nino Niederreiter has eight in the last 10, Mikko Koivu has seven in the last five, Jason Zucker has 15 in the last 15, and Matt Dumba has seven in the last 10. That’s a team-wide eruption.

Remember the Rangers example above. Not all of these guys will keep this up. I like Staal, Coyle and Zach Parise the most, though Parise has missed the last two games due to illness. I simply cannot ignore a player shooting three SOG per game and skating top line/top PP minutes. Parise is worth trying to buy.

The Wild going off as they have is a great reminder of what an awesome coach Bruce Boudreau is.

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Kyle Palmieri has nine points in 12 December games. That isn’t an astounding number but it’s a 60-point pace if sustained for a full season. Palmieri stunk for the first two months but he is righting the ship spending a bunch of time on the opposite wing as Taylor Hall. Good spot for him.

The Devils defense corps is so brutal they started experimenting with five-forward power play configurations. And no, this wasn’t just some aberration with the goalie pulled. They used zero defensemen on a couple of different power play shifts but to no avail:

#1           30.8%    HALL,TAYLOR – HENRIQUE,ADAM – PALMIERI,KYLE – ZAJAC,TRAVIS

#2           23.1%    CAMMALLERI,MIKE – HALL,TAYLOR – HENRIQUE,ADAM – PALMIERI,KYLE – PARENTEAU,PA

#3           23.1%    FIDDLER,VERNON – KALININ,SERGEY

#4           23.1%    BENNETT,BEAU – CAMMALLERI,MIKE – HALL,TAYLOR – HENRIQUE,ADAM – ZACHA,PAVEL

 

Damon Severson has been mostly useless for the past month but he did have a three-game scoring streak snapped last night. While I like Severson’s skills, he isn’t dominating the top PP minutes that are available, which is concerning. Still, Severson could score 35 points and it would constitute a breakout.

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The tide has become unsettled in Calgary. No longer is Chad Johnson owning that #1 spot. He’s lost three straight, allowing four goals in each of them. Meanwhile, Brian Elliott has won two in a row, having allowed just three goals total. Of course, those wins came against Vancouver and Arizona. Last night’s game required he face only 14 SOG. I don’t think we can say he’s reclaiming his spot just yet. But he isn’t squandering this opportunity either.

Mark Giordano scored a pair of goals, which is a good sign for the struggling top defender but he continues to be used in more of a secondary role, at least in terms of power play usage.

Instead, it is TJ Brodie who is seeing the top PP minutes. Brodie has four points in the past five games but just does not strike me as the same type of talent as Giordano. Brodie is a fine puck-mover but Giordano is on another level. You do not mess with success, however, and the current PP configurations with Brodie on PP1 and Giordano with Dougie Hamilton on PP2 are working, much to the chagrin of Giordano owners.

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Jeff Carter is on some kind of goal-scoring tear. He has 14 goals in his last 17 games. Don’t fall too in love with his scoring, he has established himself firmly as a 60-point guy. He might crank it up to 65 points with this scoring rush, the likes of which we haven’t seen from Carter since his Philly days but I doubt we see much more than that.

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Jason Spezza has nine points in 11 games this month. The Stars have been forced to use him with Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn a bit too much. Also, his shot rate remains low with just 22 SOG in this months’ games (a 160-SOG pace). Still, the scoring is showing signs of coming around.

Meanwhile, Jiri Hudler has been a total dud so far. There’s still a chance he and Spezza can help give the Stars another functional scoring line but confidence is dwindling.

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Kevin Labanc scored a pair of goals, including the overtime winner. He has a nose for the net and has fit well with Logan Couture. However, the Sharks just are not producing much depth scoring. Unless we are talking about a super-deep league, I have no interest in any Shark not skating on the top PP unit. And it’s been the same five guys for seemingly forever. San Jose is a good team but not necessarily an entertaining one to discuss.

 

There goes Varlamov’s groin again. Calvin Pickard pitched a great game stopping 38 of 39 shots for the win. The talent is there but is the team good enough?

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Not much fantasy relevance but Tyler Pitlick is done for the year with a torn ACL.

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Steve Downie has spent the last 48 hours completing the Festivus tradition of the airing of grievances on his Twitter feed. You really ought to check it out.

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Now for the Q+A:

Jonathan Drouin has point-per-game upside. Whether he gets there or not is another story but he’s only 21, in just his third professional season. Lots of room for growth on top of the flashes of brilliance we have already seen.

Sell high? Well this is circumstantial. I believe every player has a price. Whether you should sell depends on what you can get in return. It would have to be a damn good return. Of course, we also have to consider what situation your team is in. Rebuilding? Contending? On the verge? With how well Drouin is playing and the incredible affinity that managers have for young scorers, I would suggest you might be able to pull in a couple of established veterans for Drouin that could help you win in the next couple of seasons.

 

The scoring categories matter a little bit. For instance, a league scoring FOW and SOG might have me leaning towards Toews. For pure scoring I’d rather have Kuznetsov and it isn’t close.

 

It doesn’t appear that the Wings have much faith in Petr Mrazek right now, seeing as Jimmy Howard is out for 4-6 weeks and they decided to start Jared Coreau instead. You can understand why, as Mrazek has not played well but the whole team stinks. I’m not sure I’d put it all at Mrazek’s feet.

At some point Mrazek is going to have a run of relevance. At which point, we’ll ride him and see how long it lasts. Drop Mrazek if you have some holes to fill. Bench him if you don’t.

 

I would prefer Teravainen. His role is purely offensive, whereas Nugent-Hopkins is being used as a shutdown guy. The outlook for both is similar with both skating second line, second power-play minutes but I am betting Teravainen and rookie Sebastian Aho continue to improve as the season wears on. Don’t expect a big gap between the two, however.

 

I’d lean towards Rakell. I think both are 60-point guys but the Ducks do much less spreading of the offense than the Rangers do.

 

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Merry Christmas everyone! Thanks for reading. Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.