Ramblings: Toews, Johansen, Buchnevich, Hertl (Jan 29)

by Ian Gooding on January 29, 2017

Mailbag: Toews, Johansen, Buchnevich, Hertl, and more…

Are you watching the All-Star Game tomorrow? Like many, I had slowly soured on the All-Star Game and its various format changes through the years. For the long-time fan, there doesn’t seem to be any way to make the game a must-watch.

But I’ll tell you who is excited about an All-Star Game… kids. I can remember the thrill of watching my first All-Star Game with Wayne Gretzky and his friends skating in those orange Campbell Conference jerseys. My seven-year-old son is thrilled to pieces that Bo Horvat is at the All-Star Game representing the Canucks. He watched much of the skills competition with a ton of interest.

So if you look past the celebrity gatherings and the corporate schmoozefests, maybe the All-Star Game is for the children. Think about it: you want new fans to be interested in your product, and the All-Star Game helps promote that. It would be a shame if the younger generation didn’t share the same level of interest in hockey as previous generations, particularly when Pokemon cards are a hotter commodity than hockey cards at many elementary schools.

The four-line challenge was an interesting add to the skills competition. I think it’s the kind of even that viewers will be bored with, until something like this happens. Mike Smith is no stranger to handling the puck, so if any goalie can do this, it’s him.

And here’s 6-year-old Ryker Kesler experiencing something that most grownups don’t get to experience… scoring on an NHL goalie.

On to the mailbag questions for today. Thanks again for your submissions, and I hope my answers are of some help to you.

Devan Dubnyk has been more impressive than any of us could have expected. At the All-Star break, he’s first in save percentage (.936) and goals-against average (1.88), and second in wins (27). So can he keep it up in the second half, or is he a sell-high candidate?

We’ve seen this kind of run from Dubnyk before, as he posted a similar .936 SV% and 1.78 GAA in his first 39 games with the Wild two seasons ago. So we are beyond the point of writing him off as a fluke. It would be fair to ask for a number one center in return, but I’m not sure you really should unless your situation at center is dire.

Matt Murray has proven himself as a solid number one goalie and is recently removed from a Stanley Cup win. Marc-Andre Fleury is a necessary handcuff to Murray given that Murray has battled various injuries this season. But let’s say you trade Dubnyk and Murray goes down to injury again. Your goaltending is left in the hands of someone who has struggled mightily to a 3.23 GAA and .904 SV% and is at risk of being traded at the deadline to a team inferior to the Penguins.

Given your situation, you’d be better off hanging onto Dubnyk.

As a Ryan Johansen owner in one league, I’m with you – just shoot the puck! Unfortunately, Johansen fancies himself as more of a playmaker, according to this article from The Tennessean. Johansen’s 36 points in 49 games projects to 60 points, which is okay but not great if compared to his preseason projection. But he is projected to score just 13 goals, which further devalues him fantasy-wise with goals more rare than assists.

I think the answer to your question depends on who his linemates are. Snipers like James Neal and Filip Forsberg might be good for Johansen’s assist total, but not his goal total. So in the Preds’ current system, he appears to be fitting in as the playmaker rather than the goal scorer. Players can change and evolve throughout their career, but it appears that Johansen is trending toward a Joe Thornton or Henrik Sedin type of player. Not a bad player to own, but one whose point totals will be rather assist-heavy. So that 200 shots total could be a reach.

For more on Johansen’s lack of shots, this article from Rory Boylen of Sportsnet is a good read.

If you remove the time missed due to injury, Buchnevich is scoring at a 0.82 points/game pace (14 points in 17 games). That’s a number that puts him ahead of the aforementioned Johansen and even universally-owned players Claude Giroux and Blake Wheeler.

Yet alarm bells go off when you go to the Dobber player profile of Pavel Buchnevich. He’s shooting at a rate of 21.4 percent, which is a number that is high for just about anyone. That doesn’t mean you should jump off, but it’s just simply something to be aware of as you project him for the rest of the season. Dobber’s Midseason Guide projects him to 28 points in his last 40 games. I might push that down a little to about 25 in 40.

The Rangers are a deep team when it comes to scoring, and the only expiring contracts coming off the books are RFAs (Mika Zibanejad is the most notable name). So Buchnevich will need to battle for his minutes again, although he has been fortunate enough to line up with Zibanejad and Rick Nash the majority of the time. I might change this after I see a larger sample size, but I think 50-55 points is a fair estimate for Buchnevich next season.

Jonathan Toews should be at or near the top of your list of players you’d want if you’re starting an NHL franchise, but he’s way down the list when it comes to fantasy rankings. Someone in my league is trying to trade him (with a bad auction contract, to boot) with little to no luck. He even went to the point of writing me an email asking me if I’d like to take Toews off his hands for my playoff push.

As goofy as this will sound, you may want to target the following types of owners in your league: 1) Blackhawks fans, who may pay a premium, or 2) Someone new to fantasy hockey who hasn’t quite clued in that he’s a much better real-life player than fantasy player. Otherwise, you’ll unfortunately have to take a discount.

To give you an example, this particular Toews owner (who has played fantasy hockey for many years) offered to throw in Mike Hoffman (good auction contract) while taking on Patrick Sharp (bad auction contract) from me. That’s not the entire deal, of course, as he’s also looking for at least two solid prospects in his rebuild in our keeper league. So what you could do is sweeten the pot by offering something else from an area of strength in your team in return for at least one player who would address a significant weakness on your team.

If you have to keep Toews, he’s not chopped liver (or a bucket of acid) for your fantasy team. But he’s never a player to reach for, as the Fantasy Hockey Geek told us earlier this year.

Funny thing: I was thinking the exact same thing last season, shipping a sliding Eric Staal out for Tomas Hertl right before my league’s trade deadline. Any linemate of the two Joes deserves to be on fantasy teams, even if his season total (9 points in 18 games) is modest and his recent total (one point in his last eight games) doesn’t scream “add me.”

You’ll want to give Hertl a mulligan, though, as he recently returned to the lineup after missing over two months with a knee sprain. We know how strong the Sharks were during the second half last season, and Hertl was at his most effective after January 1 last season (31 points in 46 games).

You should absolutely be trying to acquire Hertl on the cheap right now. He’s available in less than 40 percent of Yahoo leagues.

The best way to answer this question is to say that it depends on a lot of things. Do you have enough pieces that you could make a trade to improve your goaltending without weakening your scoring too much? What kind of player would you be giving up with a draft pick? I’m thinking that the Sergei Bobrovsky owner and the Martin Jones owner are probably going to want one of your top 2-3 scorers or an equivalent draft pick in return, unless you throw in one of your other goalies.

Matt Murray has been very effective (if not injury-prone) this season, so I’ll focus on the other two goalies.

Henrik Lundqvist is not the Lundqvist of old anymore, but he has turned things around to some degree lately (no more than two goals allowed in each of his last four games). He could be a piece to dangle in a possible Bobrovsky/Jones deal, as the other owner might be willing to pay for a name brand.

The latest report has Jonathan Quick returning to the Kings’ lineup no earlier than March, so in the meantime it’s the surprisingly effective Peter Budaj for you. Since his fantasy value takes a major hit once Quick returns, Budaj’s trade value won’t be that high. But he could continue to post solid numbers for your team anyway while he is in a solid situation. The Kings have given up just 25.8 shots on goal this season, the lowest total in the league.

I’d put some feelers out on a trade that works for you. But if the asking price appears too high or the other owner doesn’t seem engaged in making a deal, sticking it out with what you have might not be the worst thing if Murray can stay healthy, Lundqvist can rebound, and the Kings’ goaltending situation remains stable.


Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.