Gates Imbeau and Steve Laidlaw bring back the Prime Cuts Team.

Gates Imbeau and Steve Laidlaw were tasked with keeping Jeff Angus’ Prime Cuts Team alive. Below is the transcript of the decision-making process. Also, check out last year’s team here.

Laidlaw: So Gates, what are we going to do about this Prime Cuts team?

Imbeau: Let’s build the team line by line, banter style. I’m sure there will be a fair share of debates, but that certainly gives our readers more fodder. Nothing wrong with that! Take the lead good sir, state your first line.

My top line starts with Sidney Crosby, the best player in the NHL and if you disagree I might have to put you in a camel clutch. This is the first time in years he's played a full season. It's boring, he's boring but it's the right call.

I've got Phil Kessel playing right wing for me. As I write this he's third in goals and in points, all while playing for that cratering Leafs team.

Left wing is thinner that Matthew McConnaughey in Dallas Buyers Club but since we have to pick someone it's Jamie Benn. I wanted to go Alex Steen here but then I remembered the season didn't end in December. Benn is a beast and has people deluded into thinking Tyler Seguin is actually a better player than Taylor Hall.

Benn - Crosby - Kessel

Who is on your top line, Gates?

No surprises there. What do you expect from this season's cream of the crop Prime Cuts? Sidney Crosby is on route to be the only skater hitting triple digits this season – no argument there. Then, Jamie Benn and Phil Kessel have easily excelled this season at their respective positions.

However, for arguments sake, how can you not take Corey Perry over Kessel? Are you a closet Leafs fan? Let's be honest, Perry easily beats out Kessel - no question. It takes just one look down the stat line to see why Perry is Fantasy hockey’s top right winger.

My Leaf-hater status is well established, which should say something about that Kessel pick. We both know Ryan Getzlaf would be the top center on this team if Crosby weren’t running away with it like Usain Bolt so Perry has had help, lots of it.

Even though Perry is likely the favourable choice, I can get behind the Kessel pick. I will call it a gift to Leafs Nation.

I’m just glad we are in agreement that Alex Ovechkin is NOT on the top line. I know we agreed that plus/minus wouldn’t be much of a factor for us but we have to draw the line somewhere right? I’m drawing it at whatever glacial number Ovechkin finishes with. He’s like 28 and he’s already hockey’s version of a DH – how is that possible?

True story. I had Ovechkin pegged at fifth on my list of top RW. I don't care if he wins another Rocket Richard, the fact that you can be minus-35 given all of those goals is beyond me. Hell, I would take Kyle Okposo as my Top RW Prime Cut before even considering Ovechkin.

So, Gates, who do you have on line two?

Down the middle I have Joe Pavelski. You know you have a great one-two punch when your second line center nets 75-plus points with 40-plus goals and 30-plus points on the power play. This Shark has crushed his career numbers.  Many teams would love to have a player like Pavelski play for them, and for good reason. He is already making waves as the future of the San Jose franchise.

As for the right, give me T.J. Oshie. While maybe not the sexiest choice, Oshie makes a solid case in my books. Yes, shootout goals are not a Fantasy category (unless you partake in the deepest of leagues), but his performance at the Sochi Olympics vs. Russia was hands down one of the most jaw dropping single player effort displayed this year. Oshie’s consistent – and rotisserie friendly – production this season is icing on the cake and could rival any other RW2 entry.

On the left, Max Pacioretty.  His dominant March numbers, especially in goals, takes away the worry of his early season injury. Prorated, his totals would be scary good, but I would still happily take what he has delivered this season.


Max PaciorettyJoe PavelskiT.J. Oshie

Some big reaches, so let’s hear your thoughts.

I guess I’ll start with some good old semantics. Is Pavelski the Sharks’ second line center? I have him down as playing top line wing or third line center but never second line center. Check out his most common linemates:


Line Combination












You’re telling me the 6.8% of the time he spent lined up on the wing with Logan Couture and Patrick Marleau gets him second line center eligibility? Sorry, if we are after “realism” here Pavelski is a first line winger.


TJ Oshie is also a first line guy. He’s spent three quarters of the season glued to David Backes’ hip:


Line Combination












I’ve got no qualms with Pacioretty on the second line. Well, none other than the fact that he’s about third on the list to make my team.

I have to applaud you on building a great first line. Too bad this was supposed to be a second line. I appreciate that sometimes line designations are a bit ambiguous. They just aren’t for Pavelski or Oshie. Care to try again?

Let me see how your second line would shake out.

My second line is as follows:

Marleau – Dubinsky – Jagr

My Shark, Patrick Marleau, has a legit claim to the second line moniker and he carries it well. He’s still a beautiful skater well into his 30’s and continues to produce at a high rate. Excluding the sham of a lockout shortened season he has five straight 30-goal seasons at a stage in his career where he should be slowing down.

Dubinsky is a bit of a reach here up the middle considering his scoring has really tailed off since the Olympics but scoring isn’t really why you roster Dubinsky. He is a rotisserie dreamboat filling up any category your league might count. He also gives the Blue Jackets their workmanlike identity, which is something the folks in Ohio can relate to.

Jagr is my ambiguous choice for the right wing slot. You can certainly argue that whatever line Jagr is on is the Devils’ best line. I just have a tough time accepting that a line with Dainius Zubrus is really tops on an NHL roster. And no, the recent addition of Tuomo Ruutu to that line doesn’t help matters.


Line Combination












Plus, you cannot knock Jagr’s hustle. He just finished up the sixth best age 40+ season in league history tying Mark Messier. Legend.

You put up a good argument on old man Jagr, but in my opinion, he is clearly the Devils top line right winger. The point on Zubrus is moot when you consider that, say Carolina, deploys Jiri Tlustly on their top line. Both Zubrus and Tlustly had similar offensive outputs this season – but that is the issue with middle/bottom tier teams.

Where do you draw the line? We can’t just pick Evgeni Malkin and Patrick Kane, even though they are both technically on their team’s second units. Regardless, if Oshie doesn’t make the cut, I would say Jagr should miss the cut as well.

I wouldn’t take either of those bums anyway but fair enough on Jagr. Who makes the cut then?

I think Wayne Simmonds is a good candidate for this position. He cracked 60 points and scored 15 power-play goals – not too shabby. While Simmonds is particularly effective in deeper leagues, he has exceeded expectations this season.

Simmonds was my backup plan for Jagr so no arguments there.

As for Dubinsky, does that mean we are in agreement that Ryan Johansen is the number one center in Columbus? I would be fine with either of the two Blue Jackets here. Though, what about Patrice Bergeron? Arguably the best faceoff guy in the league to compliment his two-way flaire.

Yeah, Johansen is the Blue Jackets’ top center. You could argue he’s not but that situation is fluid. I love Bergeron’s game and he makes a good fit for the team but I can’t get past the rotisserie impact Dubinsky has had this year. Plus, Bergeron basically took the first half of the season off. I know he came out of last year’s playoffs like a man pulled from a car wreck but you can’t forget how absent he was for two months.

Alright, we can stick to Dubinsky. I just hope this one doesn’t come back to haunt us.

Finally, Marleau is a nice alternative to Pacioretty. Honestly, I somehow left Marleau off my consideration list, though I blame that oversight on my San Jose lineup mix up.

I am fine with Marleau, but out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on Jaden Schwartz making the team?

I’m glad we are in agreement on Marleau. Schwartz was in the mix but I’d have taken Pacioretty ahead of him considering their similar numbers despite the latter missing time to start the season. Plus, Pacioretty resuscitated David Desharnais, which should be worth bonus points.

But Pacioretty wasn’t even my number two. I had Gabriel Landeskog lined up for that spot. He has quietly cracked the top-30 in scoring and broke the 60-point mark for the first time in his career while adding his usual boost in hits and other rotisserie categories. He did everything that Simmonds had on the right side just without anyone talking about it.

Marleau – Dubinsky - Simmonds

You prepared to roll with that or do you still have some fight for Bergeron?

Bergeron vs. Dubinsky is a wash of needs vs. wants. Each excelled in different categories this season.  Bergeron was more offensive, solid in plus/minus and the best in FOW while Dubinsky posted all around good stats with a kicker in PIMs and Hits. I will not argue what appears to be a coin toss in regards to the flavor of categories. Even though I favor Bergeron, Dubinsky should be highlighted. Rest assured though, if we were building a real team, Bergeron would be our guy. That is good enough for me.

Bergeron has an argument to knock off Crosby if this was a real life team, he’s that good but for fantasy let’s go Dubinsky.

Done deal. Care to take a crack at the third line?

My third line is as follows:

Mats ZuccarelloAntoine VermetteNathan MacKinnon

I don’t think there’s much to debate with Zuccarello. He has helped to turn two of the biggest draft busts of the past decade (Derick Brassard and Benoit Pouliot) into what has arguably been the Rangers’ most effective line.

Vermette has cooled off a bit but he has won essentially all of the faceoffs in the state of Arizona and is providing some consistent depth-scoring for a Coyotes team still in the hunt.

You can argue that MacKinnon is not a third line guy. He hasn’t played there since the first half of the season but he’s been a lineup chameleon playing up and down the roster. He’s lived up to the hype and had a fantastic rookie season so I want to pay that off.


Line Combination












I really wanted to find a way to get Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson in here but they spent over half the season skating on the top line with Martin St. Louis. Can’t justify fitting them in.

Vermette has been dynamite and fantasy gold (in a depth role) this season. Trend seekers may shy away from Vermette going into next year, but his upswing year deserves a spot on this list. I also had Palat ranked pretty high for the third line wing. I even tempted to give Clarke MacArthur a nod, but they both played extensively in the top six of their respective teams. Zuccarello is a fine choice. No argument there.

Though since the invitation was given, I will argue Mackinnon's place on the third line (given the line combinations above) and switch him out for a true bottom-six right winger in Tommy Wingels. Yes, he slowed down, but when Wingels wasn’t chipping in offensively, he was grinding out opponents. Of the 15 goals he scored, seven were game-winners and two were shorthanded. I think if we are going for realism, Wingels makes a solid case here.

As a side note, I also wanted to give Reilly Smith a shout out, but having played 60%-plus of the season with Bergeron, that automatically disqualified him for a third line entry.

As the great American poet Jim Steinman said, Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad. Still, I can’t believe you are taking the Calder to-be off the table. Can we sub MacKinnon in for Simmonds on line two if you are going to be so stingy?

I can probably get behind Wingels but something about his post-Olympic performance has me sour on him. That said, I can’t really think of any more consistent options that count as guaran-damn-teed bottom six players. The glut of Andrew Shaw, Scottie Upshall, Joel Ward, Nino Niederreiter and Craig Smith leaves a lot to be desired.

I would not oppose switching out Simmonds for MacKinnon on the second line. For the purpose of this series, MacKinnon may be more favourable anyway. Let’s revisit later.

That said, forget the likes of those third line bottom feeders mentioned in your rebuttal. I am not that stingy... if you don’t want Wingels, I understand. His worth may be slightly inflated by those 200-plus hits and roto-specific stats (GWG, SHP). However, I have another potential replacement which we can possibly agree upon; Troy BrouwerAside from also having 200 hits, Brouwer has posted career highs in goals (25), points, power play points and shots on goal – all of which makes for a solid third line Prime Cut. One look at his rotating line mates will show that he is a fluid choice for this position.

Wait, so you are just abandoning Wingels pick? You flip-flop more than a politician!

I’m not on board with Brouwer at all.

Flip flopping? These are negotiations on building a quality team! I am not abandoning the Wingels pick by any means. In a deep dynasty league, he was probably more valuable to his owners than MacKinnon was this season. Though, like mentioned above, his worth may be swayed by extended categories that may not fully gel with the requirements of this series - that is why I suggested Brouwer. His contributions this season have reflected a better offensive output than Wingels, which may be more in line with what we are going after. I like, and stand, by both picks. Simply giving you true third line alternatives.

Well I need me a sexy name. This is the Prime Cuts Team but I’m treating it like the Fantasy Hockey Pinup Allstars. Wingels and Brouwer aren’t getting me all hot and bothered. Even if third liners that do so are few and far between I am still holding out for the sexy option.

Considering how uninspiring our right wing options appear to be let’s consider our oversight of placing Zuccarello on the left side. He has played there and can do so effectively but much of his season has been spent on the right. I only forced Zuccarello to the left so I could get MacKinnon on. If moving Zuccarello to the right opens up new players for discussion, why not do it?

I am putting Brad Marchand up for that spot. I know he’s technically in the top six, skating beside Bergeron and all, but he sees no power play time, is a pesky penalty killer (tied for the league lead in shorthanded goals) and has one of the most punchable faces in the league. Not all of that is fantasy relevant, and yet, it kind of is. Clearing 50 points without power play time? Impressive. And that punchable face keeps him active in the PIM department. I’ve got the hots for this pick. You going to talk me out of it?

Damn... all it took was switching Zuccarello to the right wing? I like it. Same with the Marchand selection, I dig that pick. Stamp of approval. Let’s move on.




The team so far:


Benn – Crosby – Kessel

Marleau – Dubinsky – Simmonds

Marchand – Vermette - Zuccarello

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