Ramblings: Mike Smith Stands on His Head, Crawford Out, Patience With Carlson

by steve laidlaw on December 4, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Mike Smith Stands on His Head, Crawford Out, Patience With Carlson

Mike Smith's outstanding performance, Crawford out, what to do with Carlson and more.


Off the hop we need to discuss how the Blue Jackets turned the Coyotes’ arena into a shooting gallery landing 60 shots on goal. SIXTY!!!! 60. The Blue Jackets have been straight punking teams this year. It was nearly a month ago to the day that they dumped the Canadiens 10-0. Now this barrage.

Poor Mike Smith hung in there to make 58 saves and get the Coyotes to the shootout, where they finally succumbed. Smith sounded utterly broken in his post-game interview and understandably so. He put on the best display from a goaltender that we’ve seen since Ben Scrivens’ 59-save shutout of the Sharks a couple of years back, and yet he still lost. We are only a quarter of the way into what is going to be a long season for the Coyotes.


Alright, who let the golf cart onto the ice?

In all seriousness, this is a tough blow for a team already struggling. This does open up some room for Patrick Wiercioch to grab a bigger offensive role. Wiercioch has flashed offensive talent in the past.

Rocco Grimaldi skated with Matt Duchene and Mikhail Grigorenko but skated only 8:09 in the game. He got three SOG in the limited action, which I suppose is a positive but he really needs to score to have any chance of sticking around. Guys like Grimaldi don’t get much rope.

It’s also worth noting that Grimaldi was traded away by the same team that decided to sign similar guys like Jonathan Marchessault and Colton Sceviour, as well as claim Seth Griffith on waivers. That’s no guarantee that Grimaldi is a bust, teams make mistakes all the time but the computer boys in Florida brought in a bunch of similar assets while showing Grimaldi the door.


Speaking of the Panthers, I am still waiting for their supposed power play adjustments. So far, it looks like the same disappointing display. Another 0-fer.

It’s also worth mentioning that Marchessault was dropped from the top line in favour of Denis Malgin for parts of the game yesterday. Marchessault skated just 13 minutes as he saw his three-game scoring streak come to a close. It’s hard to see the Panthers shafting their most productive offensive player for very long but keep an eye on this.


I know people are concerned about John Carlson’s slow start but I am not. He had recently lost his spot on the top PP unit to Matt Niskanen, but this happens for a few games here and there but it always reverts back because Carlson is just better. There are some who believe Niskanen is the better defenseman but there’s little sense in debating that. What’s important for our fantasy leagues is which one is the better fantasy asset, and I have no doubt that it’s Carlson.

Low and behold, Carlson was back on the top PP unit yesterday and he notched an assist on the lone Capitals goal. He also had six SOG. We are still waiting for his first goal of the season but it will come in due time.

Jakub Vrana was held scoreless in his second game but skated almost 19 minutes including three minutes on the second PP unit. Can’t say he isn’t getting a fair shake.


Chris Kunitz made his return to the Penguin lineup last night skating with Evgeni Malkin and Phil Kessel. Kunitz is a secondary scorer at this point so not much fantasy impact but his return could spell the end for Jake Guentzel, who has been scratched in two straight.

The good news for Guentzel; the Penguins are extremely injury prone. Only a matter of time before he gets another crack.


Great streak-breaking performance by Ben Bishop stopping 34 of 35 shots for a shootout victory, his first in over two weeks. It was also his first start with less than three goals allowed in that same span. Of course, he hasn’t been starting much because of the play of Andrei Vasilevskiy.

It will be extremely interesting to see if Vasilevskiy goes today against the Hurricanes, or if they opt to reward Bishop with another start, knowing that they don’t play again until Thursday.

The schedule for Tampa Bay is rather thin next week so consider dumping some of their depth performers after tomorrow’s game. Even Ondrej Palat might warrant dropping for a player with more games. The Lightning actually play just two games in the nine-day stretch from December 5-13.


Scott Darling was forced into action as Corey Crawford had to undergo an emergency appendectomy. You may not have been able to plug Darling in yesterday but he will almost certainly start again today for the Blackhawks. We’ve seen Darling run with the starting gig in the past but he hasn’t been great this season and got lit up yesterday.

Crawford is expected to miss 2-3 weeks. Someone will surely scoop Darling in your league but I don’t know that it should be you. Crawford has easily been the Blackhawks’ MVP this season. They will seriously miss his presence. I’m dubious of Darling’s value even if he has gone on hot runs in the past.


Starting to look like one of those lost years for Patrick Sharp:


Lengthy interview with Trevor Linden that is worth your time, he discusses Troy Stecher a bunch. As I’ve mentioned before, I think Stecher is awesome, very Torey Krug-esque. I just don’t think the Canucks have nearly enough offense for Stecher to be relevant in most leagues. Definitely worth considering in keepers.


Darnell Nurse will be out long term with a foot injury. No direct fantasy relevance, but this makes a thin Oilers defense even thinner, which won’t help their depth scorers or Cam Talbot all that much.


The Predators claimed Reid Boucher off waivers yesterday. I have a hard time figuring out how they will use him outside of a fourth-line role, even with James Neal sidelined for the next little while. That Boucher couldn’t find a way to stick in the Devils’ lineup probably isn’t a good sign either. He showed flashes of brilliance last season but just hasn’t had it this time around.

It doesn’t help Boucher that the Preds recently brought Kevin Fiala back up and had Fiala put on a great display with a pair of goals and seven SOG.

Viktor Arvidsson was the best player on a line with Filip Forsberg and Ryan Johansen yesterday. I like Arvidsson, he is very much like Brendan Gallagher as a player, but that shouldn’t be happening.



Now for the Q+A:

The easiest way to tackle this is to look at the top performers who are underowned in leagues. There are a few really good examples:

Alexander Wennberg (51% owned)

Charlie Coyle (45% owned)

Nikolaj Ehlers (66% owned)

Eric Staal (47% owned)

Ondrej Palat (39% owned)

Damon Severson (37% owned)

Kyle Turris (35% owned)

Mikko Rantanen (7% owned)

Martin Hanzal (7% owned)


But the single most undervalued played is Rickard Rakell (37% owned). He is essentially having the same sort of breakout season as David Pastrnak, only he missed the first couple of weeks so his overall point total is a bit down.

Rakell is an awesome player, emerging in his third season after a couple of solid seasons where he showed flashes of potential. He is skating with the big guns (Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry) on the Ducks’ top line and is not only converting chances, but he is also generating loads of shot opportunities. He’s averaging nearly three SOG per game and, despite missing nine games, is still on pace for over 200 SOG.

Rakell’s shooting percentage is way up but even if it regresses to his career average, at his current shot rate he’ll finish with around 30 goals. Both Perry and Getzlaf have seen their shooting percentages fall well below their career averages. As defenses adjust to take away Rakell’s time and space, more space will open for Getzlaf and Perry to convert chances.

Rakell is only seeing second unit power play time, but that’s the same fate that Pastrnak faces in Boston. I like both of these young talents but folks are sleeping on one of them.


Matt Duchene is fine but I’d rather have Patrice Bergeron.


I have questions about how much Alex Steen has left in the tank but you are certainly getting the better set for this season with Dustin Byfuglien and Steen. And they’ll probably be the better pair for next season too. After that I’d rather have Dougie Hamilton and Sam Reinhart. All depends on your timeline.


A couple of studs here. The real question might be, where your team needs a boost because this is pretty close. Ultimately, I think Weber’s going to slow down, while Perry is going to pick up steam in he second half so I’d rather have Perry. Can’t go wrong with either one though.


60/40 split with Halak having the advantage, not that it’s worth much considering the disaster that is the Islanders. Also, Greiss is getting dealt to a contender – maybe San Jose – before the trade deadline.



Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.