The Bruins' sleeper potential, some surprise top scorers for the calendar year, and the weekly Q+A.
Happy New Year everyone!
I have been looking at some of the top scorers from the 2016 calendar year. Some of the biggest oddities:
1. Artemi Panarin – fourth in the league with 79 points in 80 games. He’s a superstar.
2. Mikael Backlund – tied for 55th in the league with 55 points in 83 games. Great possession numbers for him as well. He’s churned out the kind of production we all hope Sean Couturier might one day. Sneaky good fantasy option.
4. Derek Stepan – scored 68 points in 81 games. I know he can’t stay healthy for a full season but is that what it would look like if he could?
I just put some cash on the Bruins to win the East at 14/1.
By no means do I think that they are the favourites. Half of the Metro Division might be better than them, and that’s without mentioning the sleeping giant that is the Lightning or the continued excellence of the Canadiens.
I do think that those odds are damn good for a team that leads the league in Corsi For%. Corsi isn’t the be-all/end-all but it has historically been a good thing to be a strong possession team.
I can envision a scenario where the Bruins go on an incredible run through the second half. They have elite goaltending from Tuukka Rask. They have a slumping superstar due to go off in Patrice Bergeron. David Krejci also has not lived up to potential. They have some cap space to work with to bolster the squad for the stretch run. They just got Frank Vatrano back from injury, which could help them with their depth scoring and perhaps Matt Beleskey will find his touch when he returns.
The Bruins are a .500 club with a minus-one goal differential but their possession numbers are suggestive of a much better team. A return to expect scoring levels for Bergeron and Krejci should get these scoring closer to the rate of a genuine contender. I see value in this bandwagon.
There is a similar bet to be made with the Nashville Predators at 16/1 to win the West. Not good enough odds for a team still not in a playoff spot, if you ask me. There’s also the Pekka Rinne sized question mark in goal that remains unanswered.
Rinne’s contract will do wonders to keep him in the crease as the #1 and I think this team is good enough to win games with him providing slightly below average goaltending. They haven’t scored consistently enough to do so but that could easily come. Just as the Bruins have their struggling stars, the Predators have Ryan Johansen and Filip Forsberg capable of scoring at elite levels.
Juuse Saros looms as an option to replace Rinne should the Preds continue to sit on the outside looking in but I think it’ll be a long time before they consider him a full time option, no matter how well he performs.
Steve Mason was pulled due to a hand injury. Could be trouble for the Flyers if he misses extended time. Anthony Stolarz has some talent and could run with the gig but I don’t view him as a long term threat.
Travis Konecny was a healthy scratch.
Jaroslav Halak was placed on waivers yesterday but I can’t imagine he gets claimed by anyone. He has another year left on his deal at $4.5M per. Even if he was on an expiring deal, teams would have trouble making room for him. Even a needy team like the Kings don’t have space for an expensive expiring deal. Plus, his numbers this season are terrible so it begs the question if there is even demand for him.
I don’t know what the Islanders’ plan is here. Perhaps they know he’ll clear waivers and they are trying to send him down to find his game in the AHL where he can’t hurt them. Not that I put this all on Halak. The Islanders have been brutal for much of the season. They have played better recently, so it was Halak who took the blame after getting shredded by the Wild the other night.
Or this is just a wakeup call for him. We know that the relationship between Halak and the team is strained after he requested a trade earlier in the season. Getting called out by the coach following a loss cannot help matters.
Whatever the case, Thomas Greiss appears primed to take the reigns of the suddenly not completely terrible Islanders. It’s tough to say he doesn’t deserve it having put together a .925 save percentage last season, and following up with a .922 save percentage this season. He also has a winning record and has given the Islanders a chance in many games.
I’ve been in talks to help improve my goaltending trio of Halak, Connor Hellebuyck and Steve Mason. One of the goalies being dangled before me is Pekka Rinne but I have been reticent to pull the trigger. I’d have to give up some real forward talent to make the move (guys like Kyle Okposo, Mike Hoffman and even Jakub Voracek have been discussed) and I am not convinced that Rinne represents a real upgrade over Halak.
Perhaps that says more about Rinne than Halak because even after news of this waiving I wouldn’t make the move.
We finally have our Barkov update:
FLA puts Barkov on IR. Tom Rowe indicated 2-3 weeks last night— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) December 30, 2016
Patrick Sharp is set to return to the Stars’ lineup tonight. This is huge for the Stars, although it remains to be seen what exactly Sharp has to offer at this point. I am not convinced that he is fantasy relevant. Depending on power play deployment, I might still prefer Patrick Eaves.
@SteveLaidlaw What's the best thing to do with a full IR (Varly Stammer Heuberdeau) and Letang, Faulk and Kuch hurt?— Bryce Schmode (@schmode_bryce) December 30, 2016
This is one I have a lot of experience with! In various pools I have Alex Galchenyuk, Justin Faulk, Kris Letang, Taylor Hall, Rick Nash, Craig Anderson, Ben Bishop and David Backes crowding my injured/inactive list.
I deal with this sort of problem the way I deal with most things in fantasy, I create bins. It’s why I create tiers of talent for use in drafting or trading.
All too often I’ll be asked about a trade that’s essentially a sideways move. For instance, a recent question asked about Mitch Marner vs. William Nylander. In my mind, those two are in the same tier with a similar projection. What I really want to say in response to this is: it doesn’t matter. I might slightly favour one of the two but that favouring is probably going to have less impact on who scores more points than random puck luck will over the course of 82 games.
Rounding back to the question of what to do with an overloaded injured reserve. The solution is to create two bins: Replaceable Players and Irreplaceable Players.
In my opinion, Letang, Faulk and Nikita Kucherov (now healthy) are all irreplaceable. You can’t dump these guys and piece together similar production off the waiver wire.
I’ll hear arguments for Faulk falling into the replaceable tier but before his recent injury he was turning the corner and you simply do not find defensemen who shoot the puck as much as Faulk available on the waiver wire. Shot volume is why I have him in my top-20 defensemen and one of the few at that position I wouldn’t drop.
Steven Stamkos would also be in the irreplaceable tier, if I expected him back this season. I am not convinced he’ll return before the playoffs. In a desperate moment I would give him the axe. This is an exception, however. Normally you’d treat him as irreplaceable.
Varlamov and Huberdeau strike me as replaceable. Again, I could hear arguments to the contrary but the point is to figure out who goes into what bin before the situation comes up so you can quickly make a decision to dump a player and keep your lineup humming at full efficiency. Hell, sometimes an injury can be a blessing in disguise that finally gets you to give up on a struggling guy like Varlamov.
@SteveLaidlaw Evander Kane buy low?— Craig William (@theCraigWilliam) December 30, 2016
You want to try and buy low on a player with seven goals and eight points in his last 10 games? This strikes me as the opposite. Kane is firmly in the land of streamers for me. I’ll use him when (like now) he is hot and dump him when he is not. I do not give up trade assets for streamers. He’ll likely be on the waiver wire in a month.
If by chance, this question was more relating to keeper league value, my suggestion is to let someone else overrate him.
@SteveLaidlaw Hi. Keeper league, would you move Ovi for Murray/Rask + Kessel and if so, which G? SV% biggest need. Thx & Happy NY!— Richard Press (@rpress99) December 30, 2016
As always, scoring specifics are required.
@SteveLaidlaw G, A, +/-, PIM, SOG, STPts; W, GAA, SV%. Have a comf lead in Gs and ok in Ws. Need SV% & A. Thx!— Richard Press (@rpress99) December 30, 2016
Appreciating that you may have a lead in goals, I have a rule about not trading Alex Ovechkin in leagues that score SOG. Even if his shot rate has declined due to a decrease in ice time, I think there’s a decent chance this reverses course in the second half. Sure, the Caps are extremely likely to make the playoffs but they are in a Wild Card slot right now, and well back of the Rangers for third in the division. If they want to move up, they’ll have to start pressing the issue.
@SteveLaidlaw Kessels point pace for the rest of the season? Can he keep this up?— The Spartan's Post (@SpartansPost) December 30, 2016
I don’t see why not. Kessel is tied with Vladimir Tarasenko for seventh in points in the 2016 calendar year with 74 in 82 games. Nothing about his underlying numbers scream unsustainability. He has basically been this player since the Penguins canned Mike Johnston.
Thanks for reading! Follow me @SteveLaidlaw.
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