Suspension Risks, More on my 2018-19 Predictions
It’s hard to believe, but we will have real NHL games to watch tonight! And not just of the preseason variety. I have to admit that from now until April, it gets much easier for me to write the Ramblings because something’s always happening. All I have to do is briefly describe what happened, and elaborate on what it means for fantasy owners. Time is no longer standing still. Things will be happening on your fantasy roster.
Don’t you hate it when you drop a player and make plans to pick them up in a few days, only to see another owner pick up that player off waivers? This happened to the Leafs not once, but twice on Tuesday. With both Curtis McElhinney (Carolina) and Calvin Pickard (Philadelphia) claimed off waivers, the Leafs’ organizational goaltending depth took a significant hit. But at least we now know that Garret Sparks will be Frederik Andersen’s backup. Sparks has earned the right to play in the NHL, posting a sparkling 1.79 GAA and .936 SV% in the AHL last season. Andersen owners in deeper leagues should consider adding Sparks as a handcuff option.
McElhinney came available at the right time for the Hurricanes, as they learned that Scott Darling will be sidelined for at least a couple weeks. Petr Mrazek will be the man between the pipes for the Canes, although you’ll want to add him at your own risk. Mrazek’s ratios have hung around 3.00 GAA and .900 SV% over the past two seasons. I could see McElhinney taking a couple spot starts while Darling is out, as the Canes play a back-to-back in each of their first two weeks.
Someone asked me today whether I think Sam Gagner will return to the NHL. I think he will, and it could still happen this season. The Canucks could bring him up, but they’ve loaned him to the Toronto Marlies not only to be closer to his family but also because there will be more eyeballs on him for a potential trade. I don’t think the Canucks would get much for him, but a team might consider him as an injury replacement, needs serious help on its power play, or is simply loading up for the playoffs.
From Dobber’s lowdown on Gagner in last season’s Fantasy Guide, upon Gagner signing with the Canucks:
“The Oilers, Flyers and Coyotes couldn’t make it work but the Blue Jackets could. Needless to say, I don’t have a lot of faith that this arrangement will continue to work out.”
The arrangement that Dobber referred to was heavy power-play usage and limited even-strength minutes for Gagner (17 power-play points and 32 even-strength points in 2016-17 with Columbus). Personally, I think the emergence of Brock Boeser and to a lesser extent the acquisition of Thomas Vanek later that offseason cut into the opportunity that Gagner probably thought he would receive when he signed with the Canucks last summer. But now that we know the Gagner signing didn’t work in Vancouver, that’s now four out of five teams that couldn’t get the most out of his talents.
Rick Roos has made his 15 Fearless Forecasts for the 2018-19 season! Do you think any of them will come true? Make sure you take the time to vote in the 15 Fearless Forecasts poll. We know you won't agree with every one of them, because after all, they are fearless.
Tom Wilson will have his hearing with the NHL today for his blindside check to the head of Oskar Sundqvist. I won’t get into the countless reasons that this was an foolish decision by Wilson, but because he was offered an in-person hearing, the suspension could be at least six games. Given that Wilson is a repeat offender who was handed a three-game suspension during the playoffs, this suspension has a chance of reaching double-digits in terms of games (does that count as a fearless forecast?) Remember that three-game suspensions in the playoffs are equivalent to five or six regular-season games. That might not be an exact number, but you get the idea.
Using Fantasy Hockey Geek rankings for a league that counts penalty minutes, I have Wilson ranked at #73. Last season I discussed the idea of a suspension deduction in the number of projected games for Brad Marchand, and it definitely looks like we need to do the same with Wilson here. Wilson will rack up the penalty minutes (187 PIM in 2017-18, 2nd in NHL), but it appears that his penalty minutes and offensive totals could already take a hit with this suspension looming. Add in the possibility of another reckless act (as in he doesn’t learn from this latest suspension) and further games are lost.
Speaking of Marchand, I own him in multiple leagues, with one of those leagues counting PIM. That doesn’t shake my lingering fear of another suspension, which could very well be longer than the last one. Unlike Wilson, this is a first-round pick that we’re talking about here. I realize that getting under opponents’ skins is all part of Marchand’s shtick, but he has evolved into one of the league’s top scorers. His 1.25 P/GP was behind only Connor McDavid, Nathan MacKinnon, and Evgeni Malkin last season. I don’t need him to turn into a Lady Byng candidate all of a sudden. But a season without slewfoots and smooches and other shenanigans would be swell.
Sleeper: Antti Raanta
I see that at least a couple of others were in agreement with this pick here. I’ve been banging the drum on Raanta all summer, particularly back on July 18. He’s being drafted well outside the top 100 in Yahoo leagues; and quite frankly, he should not be. If your rationale for not drafting him is “he plays for the Coyotes,” then you’ll want to read what I wrote, which will tell you how long he has been impressive in both the GAA and SV% categories. It may surprise you.
Probable Bust: Josh Bailey
Those of you in an auction league with me (I know there’s one or two of you out there!) will wonder why I’m listing Bailey on here when I actually placed bids on him. Not huge bids, because it’s all about value. If you can draft Bailey cheap (as in the late rounds) then I wouldn’t have a problem with it. But hopefully you’re smarter than the guy who uses last year’s scoring totals to pick players for his hockey pool. It goes without saying what will happen to Bailey’s point totals without John Tavares. I’d expect about a 20-point drop from the 71 points he recorded last season. His second-half split (21 points in 37 games) also foreshadow a decline.
Dark Horse: Artturi Lehkonen
While Raanta is a sleeper in all leagues for me, Lehkonen is more of a late-round option in deeper leagues. Lehkonen was already looking at potential improvement when I wrote about him during Bubble Keeper Week. But then Max Pacioretty was traded and Shea Weber was injured, which increased the probability that Lehkonen would be added to the first-unit power play, at least early on.
Midseason Callup: Eeli Tolvanen
If Tolvanen didn’t play for a deep Predators’ squad, he would be a Calder Trophy favorite. But since he does, he’ll be starting the season in the AHL. Once he lights up the AHL, the Preds will realize that they can’t rightfully keep him down any longer. Icetime might still be a concern once he is recalled, but he has way too much talent to pass up on, especially in keeper leagues. I personally enjoyed watching him score in the KHL last season.
Bounceback: Matt Murray
I had to pick a goalie for this one, given the number of higher-level starters (Murray, Carey Price, Braden Holtby, Cam Talbot) that struggled last season. I settled on Murray, who didn’t have the deep playoff run that Holtby had to resuscitate his value. I picked Murray because when combining his two Stanley Cup rings with his career stats prior to last season (2.32 GAA, .925 SV%), his struggles last season could be viewed as more of a one-off. Injuries remain a concern, but remember that he is still only 24 years of age.
I’ll add to my predictions in listing my projected standings (teams not listed will obviously miss the playoffs):
Atlantic: Tampa Bay, Toronto, Boston
Metropolitan: Washington, Pittsburgh, Columbus
Wild card: Philadelphia, Florida
Central: Winnipeg, Nashville, St. Louis
Pacific: San Jose, Vegas, Los Angeles
Wild Card: Calgary, Colorado (really debating whether to put Edmonton in a wild card, though)
For more fantasy hockey information, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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