Holy mackerel, you are living large if you’ve got Freddie Andersen in your league. Back-to-back shutouts for the Leafs goaltender.
I think that it’s important to point out that Andersen was one of my biggest whiffs of the season. While I was able to scoop him up in one league after his slow start, I didn’t do so until it was quite clear that his slow start was the aberration. And I spent weeks championing still-struggling starters like Connor Hellebuyck and Steve Mason.
Mason, also had a shutout last night. I remain an owner, a believer and a fan. I just think that he’s good and I am going to stick with him. Although perhaps this deserves reconsidering since the Flyers appear committed to keeping Andrew MacDonald around.
Hellebuyck, I am more sour on because of the team ahead of him. They are simply too porous defensively.
Now, the reality that Ondrej Pavelec has given up three goals or more in each of his four starts since being recalled is not necessarily an indication that goaltending is not the problem in Winnipeg. It may just be that Pavelec – he of the career .906 save percentage – is also not the answer. Either way, I think Hellebuyck is a talent but his situation just isn’t good enough for nightly fantasy value. Consider him more of a spot-starter.
Back to Andersen. I was initially high on him once he was acquired from the Ducks but his early struggles, coupled with the reports that he was having difficulty adapting to the style the Leafs wanted him to play had alarm bells sounding for me. Remember that season where Braden Holtby played terribly after some meddling from goalie coach Olaf Kolzig? I’ll never forget it and it helped steer me in the wrong direction. I’ll be much more cautious with jumping to conclusions like that again.
I also have to acknowledge that I didn’t appreciate just how strong this Leaf team was already. We are all used to more gradual improvements but the impact of Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander has been cataclysmic. Every incoming rookie class is going to be different but the strength of this was has definitely raised the bar for future classes. Folks will likely be more willing to ride with rookies going into drafts next year, perhaps to their detriment.
Anyways, I wanted to point out one of my biggest mistakes of the season because it’s an important process to engage in. Embrace your errors. Be humbled by them. Evaluate and then get better.
This morning, about 50 games into the season, the Canucks sit in a playoff spot. Do I think they are good? No. Do I think they’ll ultimately make the playoffs? No. Are they even remotely contenders? Definitely not.
Kudos to them for trying to rebuild on the fly instead of tearing it down. A decade ago, I embraced the tank for the Oilers and I’m only now seeing the payoff.
A full tear down is one way to build a team but it still requires you to get all of the other things right; like signing quality free agents, winning trades, putting players in position to succeed, drafting and developing not just first round talent but later picks as well. All of these other methods of roster building are things any team can do so you needn’t tank.
Tanking also requires timing and luck. You aren’t going to out-tank the Avs/Coyotes at this point and maybe you never could. Even if you could, you still have to pick the right player in a draft that may not have a game-changer. How many tries did it take before the Oilers landed McDavid?
The flip side of the timing coin is that sometimes it takes timing to be a playoff team. This Canucks team in the East is probably hovering around the basement but in a weakened Western Conference they could sneak in. You can only do that if you give yourself a chance by trying to field a competitive roster.
There is a time and a place for tanking. I'm not averse to the strategy, I've just seen the pitfalls of a job done poorly. There are other ways of doing it and if you can, I'd suggest you pursue those routes.
We haven’t given the Canucks enough credit for unearthing a gem in Sven Baertschi. He’s no game-breaker but after scoring a pair of goals last night, Baertschi is contributing at a 20-goal/45-point pace. That’s better than what you’d expect out of the second round pick they traded to get him. Sure, maybe they miss out on someone with higher upside but so far, they’ve come out ahead.
Baertschi has found a home alongside Bo Horvat and has value in deep leagues or as a streamer in shallower leagues. Horvat, by the way, has three points in the last seven games and I’ve dropped him in all of my leagues because the Canucks don’t have many games left to play in this head-to-head week.
Horvat hasn’t yet reached the level where he is undroppable. Maybe next year.
Thomas Vanek ended up missing only the one game due to injury. Look for him to be recharged coming back off the All-Star break.
Tomas Jurco has played in each of the last two games but sparingly. Presumably, the Red Wings are trying to give other teams a look at him to see if they can drum up some interest. I’m not sure what kind of asset he returns at this point.
I know that Shayne Gostisbehere is struggling but I don’t think he’s at risk of losing his spot on the Flyers’ top power play unit. Mark Streit looms as an option who has played the role before but he isn’t nearly as dynamic as Gostisbehere.
Streit has two points in five games since returning from injury, both coming on the power play but he’s better served as a facilitator to puck movement on the second unit.
Besides, the PP isn’t the problem for Philly. They are clicking at a solid 21.6%, good for ninth in the league. Gostisbehere has a solid 12 PPP. Any unit featuring Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and Wayne Simmonds is going to fare well.
I suppose Ivan Provorov is also a threat but they are using him as their shutdown defenseman and also to prop up MacDonald, the human scarecrow.
I don’t believe in the rookie wall, but if it exists, could you kindly peel Jimmy Vesey off of it? Vesey’s gone scoreless in the past 10 games. Not necessarily his fault as he’s seen over 13 minutes of ice time in only three of those games. The power play time has been hit or miss as well. He did see some top unit PP time last night but failed to cash.
This decline in minutes was bound to happen once the Rangers got healthy. For one thing, Pavel Buchnevich is a better player/prospect, and of course Rick Nash and Mika Zibanejad are ahead on the depth chart as well.
Matt Nieto had himself a night firing seven SOG, including one that found twine for his second goal in eight games with the Avalanche. He’s getting time with Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog, which would be a better opportunity if the Avalanche weren’t such a disaster.
It would also help if Nieto were getting power play time. He saw 21 seconds of man-advantage time last night, which is 21 seconds more than he had seen since joining the Avalanche. This is Nieto’s best opportunity for fantasy relevance. He needs to jump on it the way Baertschi has in Vancouver.
Ducks prospect Kalle Kossila made his NHL debut last night. He achieved a small bit of fame scoring this highlight reel goal in the AHL a couple of weeks back:
Kossila is a prospect to get on your radar. He put up big numbers in four years of US college hockey and has 27 points in 33 games in the AHL this season.
Kossila skated only 6:54 last night so we shouldn’t consider him a must-have at this point but keep him in mind.
Evgeni Malkin will miss tonight’s game and this weekend’s All-Star festivities. I don’t have Malkin in any leagues but if I did, I wouldn’t want him participating in any exhibitions. Unfortunately, it required an actual injury to get us here so I suppose this is a catch 22. It remains to be seen if this is a serious injury but it doesn’t sound too bad:
Malkin will be evaluated after the break. Patric Hornqvist is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.— Sam Werner (@SWernerPG) January 25, 2017
There is more opportunity available for the likes of Jake Guentzel to grab meaningful minutes with these injuries but he was playing with Malkin so this will ultimately hurt him if Malkin misses extended time.
Boston's Brad Marchand will have a hearing tomorrow for a dangerous trip on Detroit's Niklas Kronwall.— NHL Player Safety (@NHLPlayerSafety) January 25, 2017
Given his history, I’d suggest a suspension is coming. Interesting that Marchand is facing discipline but Matthew Tkachuk is not for a similar act on Monday night.
This is the type of player that Marchand is so if you have him on your fantasy roster you have to be able to stomach the odd suspension.
As always, some gems in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:
24. Argue all you want about plus-minus and whether it is a legitimate marker of a player’s ability, but there’s no questioning some believe in it. One is Johnny Gaudreau, who has never been a minus player over a full season. (Oldest results I could find dated back to 2010–11 with USHL Dubuque.) He’s at minus-17 this season and it bothers him — a ton. I think the Flames are trying to convince him to say, “Let’s work on it game-by-game, rather than getting overwhelmed by the big picture,” but it’s weighing on him.
Plus/minus is no longer a stat that I care about. We have better metrics for assessing value. As for it’s role as a fantasy category, I literally don’t project it at all. I just punt it and focus on building the best roster for the other scoring categories and let whatever happens in plus/minus come out in the wash. But NHL players do care, and I wonder if we’ll ever get to the point where they don’t.
Some great content from Dobber Prospects for you to check out:
The January prospect mailbag, answering a wide range of prospect questions.
The 2017 NHL Entry Draft fantasy rankings, which should help you if you are already thinking about your drafts this summer.
The latest episode of Dobber Prospects Radio, discussing that 2017 fantasy draft rankings list.
Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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