Ramblings: Keeper Forwards, The Hip

by Ian Gooding on August 20, 2016

Evaluating keeper forwards, the Tragically Hip, plus more…

This isn’t something many of you probably did this week, but I made a fantasy hockey trade a few days ago in my deep keeper league. I’m going all in again this season in this league because I’m the three-time champion, so there’s no time to rebuild. I dealt Daniel Sprong, who is likely to miss the entire season even though he’s a prospect that I like nevertheless, for Cody Ceci, who I can see having a mini-breakout.

I didn’t have many criticisms of the sleeper selections in the Dobber Fantasy Guide. But one player that I might add to the list is Ceci. The 15th overall pick in 2012 has the tools and appears to be on a trajectory to crack the 30-point mark in 2015-16.

A negative toward Ceci’s fantasy value was the Senators’ unexpected acquisition of Dion Phaneuf last season. So instead of sharing top-unit duties with Erik Karlsson, Ceci could potentially lose four or five power-play points (by my estimate). Still, there’s a lot to like about the Senators’ scoring, since they’ve been a top-10 team scoring-wise over the last two seasons, and that should rub off on Ceci.

A projection of 35 points seems realistic for Ceci, although his keeper owners might wonder what could be if the internal cap-driven Senators can somehow deal Phaneuf if they fall out of contention. But if new coach Guy Boucher and associate coach Marc Crawford can make strides in curbing the number of shots allowed (league-high 32.8 shots allowed/game in 2015-16), the Senators could very well be a playoff team in the Eastern Conference.

Also keep in mind (and something that was lost on me as I was making the deal) that Ceci is an RFA and is as of yet unsigned. Yet aside from Ryan O’Reilly, I can’t think of many unsigned RFAs that have missed regular-season games these last few years. (By the way, “holdout” may not be the correct word, since that term refers to players under contract who decide to sit out.) Many teams still have yet to sign at least one RFA, and we still have just under two months before the regular season starts.

The previous thought leads me into thinking that with the recent Sean Monahan signing, which RFAs still have yet to be signed? The following players are unsigned RFAs, although this is not a complete list.

Rickard Rakell

Hampus Lindholm

Tobias Rieder

Johnny Gaudreau

Valeri Nichushkin

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Last weekend I described a keeper league decision that I would be facing. I didn’t cover all of the players involved in my decision, so I’ll take a closer look into the remaining forwards that I at least mentioned I was considering, which are David Backes, Zach Parise, Derick Brassard, and Robby Fabbri. You can read my original piece here, but to summarize this league allows me to keep four players only and has numerous scoring categories.

David Backes

Backes’ scoring numbers are lower than a forward that would normally be kept in this league. In fact, his projected point total might be the lowest among forwards of this group. But Backes’ true value comes from his ability to provide solid peripherals, particularly for a forward, in the categories of hits and blocked shots. This league doesn’t count penalty minutes, but he would also stuff that category. A reasonable facsimile to Backes would be Scott Hartnell. But while Hartnell often exceeds his projected point total, Backes often fails to reach his.

If you think about it, would you rather keep a player projected for 50 points and great peripherals like Backes, or 65 points and virtually no penalty minutes, hits, or blocked shots like Phil Kessel? I usually make scoring a priority on my teams, since it’s usually harder to find on a waiver wire than penalty minutes, hits, and blocked shots. This is a deep enough league where I can stick a Matt Martin or a Kris Russell in as my final winger or defenseman. In addition, other categories (plus/minus, power-play points, shots on goal) are all related to some degree to scoring. But feel free to discuss if you perceive this from a different angle.  

For more on the fantasy impact of Backes shipping up to Boston, check out our Fantasy Take from July 1.

Zach Parise

Is Parise officially on the downside of his career? Parise appeared to reach his peak during the 2008-09 season, when he scored 94 points (45 G, 49 A). But since then his scoring has fallen off to around 0.8 points per game after the lockout to 0.75 points per game last season.

Injuries have also taken a toll on Parise. After playing the full 48-game season in lockout-shortened 2012-13, Parise has missed 35 games – an average of nearly 12 games per season. Although he’s not Kris Letang or Marian Gaborik on the Band-Aid Boy organizational chart, Parise is still listed as a “trainee.” So we should probably budget for Parise to miss around ten games again until we see otherwise. At last year’s points-per-game pace, that would yield a 54-point season. Not terrible, but not exactly elite.

Derick Brassard

It’s difficult to predict where Brassard will fit in with the Senators. This is a team that doesn’t have a true number one center. Yet the Sens already have a center with similar numbers in Kyle Turris, along with another lower-upside center in Jean-Gabriel Pageau who had sustained success with one of the Sens’ top snipers (Mark Stone) last season.

The number of comments in my Fantasy Take article on the Brassard trade showed the amount of debate about Brassard’s eventual role with the Senators. (Either that, or an indication that my rushed observations were pure hogwash.) Upon further review, Brassard is probably the best bet to be the Sens’ first-line center. But like Backes in Boston, the worst-case scenario is that Brassard is centering the third line. That probably won’t happen, but there’s a slight chance that it could. But a coach rolling with three scoring lines isn’t always the worst thing in the world for the third liners. After all, it worked for Kessel.

Robby Fabbri

Fabbri might have the most upside of any of the forwards listed above. But in a keep four format, you’re better off keeping players that are in their prime as opposed to players that are still a year or two away. And Fabbri has played only one season. But that’s not to say that Fabbri won’t be valuable to fantasy teams this season. Fabbri is ranked 115 by NHL.com, but he was surprisingly missed by the ESPN.com top 250. Hmmm… someone you want to target in the late rounds if you’re in an ESPN league?

Like the rest of these guys, Fabbri could easily score in the 50 to 60-point range. I know we shouldn’t base fantasy value entirely on playoff performance, but his 15 points in 20 playoff games should increase his fantasy value. I would think that the departures of Backes and Troy Brouwer should allow Fabbri to move into a top-6 role. Even more so to start the season with Alexander Steen expected to miss the first month or two because of offseason shoulder surgery.

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Finally, as we in Canada like to say, sorry. This last bit is not hockey-related (sort of).

It’s the night of the Tragically Hip’s (possible) final concert in their hometown of Kingston, ON, since lead singer Gord Downie is battling terminal brain cancer. If you’re Canadian (or even if you’re not) hopefully you had a chance to see these guys live, or at least appreciate what the band means to Canada. Many from Canada have a Hip story. Here’s a funny one from Ben Scrivens.
 


My concert list isn’t nearly as long as my sporting event list, but at least I can say that I’ve seen the Hip live. It was the summer of 1995, when they were organizing the Another Roadside Attraction concert series. I saw them at UBC (University of British Columbia) along with Blues Traveler, Ziggy Marley, Spirit of the West, and Matthew Sweet. I know there were at least one or two more bands, but I can’t remember who. At the time, I didn’t know I would be seeing that many great bands and be going to a concert that I would never forget. But the quality of music at this concert was top notch and worth the $40 I spent, which was a small fortune for a starving student in the mid-90s.

So a fitting end to these Ramblings would be something hockey related. From what I believe is their best album, Fully Completely, here’s 50 Mission Cap. You know, the song about Bill Barilko disappearing… the song that they played to open their show tonight!
 


 

… and one more: Fireworks. But listen only if you give a (bleep) about hockey.
 


 

Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.