Looking for the perfect sleeper pick? Me too, and I think I have it. I just need to narrow it down. Yahoo! has Peter Mueller and Tomas Fleischmann ranked excruciatingly low at 321 and 403 respectively. But here’s the question, which one do you pick? It is entirely possible that you just hold out until the last possible moment and grab whichever one happens to drop to you but if you are fortunate (or unfortunate enough) to have to make a choice you will have to narrow it down. That is why this week’s Cage Match is Mueller vs. Fleischmann for the Golden Pillow Award. Oh and please excuse the EMTs, our lawyers (yeah we have lawyers) told us we couldn’t do this Cage Match without them.


The first thing I do when reviewing a sleeper is ask myself why this player is so under the radar. I know it is rather tempting to analyze that player’s upside but really in identifying that player as a sleeper you have acknowledged his upside and before falling in love with it you should first give yourself perspective by analyzing the risks. It is like doing work before play but, you know, valuable. So with that in mind why are Mueller and Fleischmann so grotesquely underrated coming into this season. The answer is pretty easy. Mueller missed the entirety of last season with a concussion while Fleischmann went down for the season at the midway point when he was diagnosed with multiple clots in his lungs. On top of their respective injuries both Mueller and Fleischmann also have yet to break out so they are essentially double sleepers. They need to both stay healthy and break out. So the downside is obvious; if you draft one of these guys you could be picking a lemon. And don’t pretend like you can just make lemonade. No one likes lemonade. Give me a break.


The first aspect of their sleeper-ness is injuries, which means I’m going to have to throw on lab coat and play doctor. To be honest, I do not like the injury situation with either of these guys. It is basically like choosing whether you would rather lose a hand or a foot. There is no right answer but everyone can probably come up with one. My answer is that the only thing scarier than multiple concussions is congenital diseases. My rationale is that a clotting issue like Fleischmann’s (may not be congenital but suffice to say he is stuck with it) is that it can take him out of commission without him ever having stepped on the ice. That is like 21 hours more, every single day, that he is at risk of hurting himself. Meanwhile, Mueller’s concussions are essentially only a problem if he gets bonked on the head.


Fleischmann himself actually has a different opinion. He believes that his condition is one that he not only has under control but is also a much better injury to have than a concussion. In making this statement he referenced Crosby but he could have just as easily have said Mueller. In essence Fleischmann is telling you to pick him but of course Fleischmann would also probably tell you to take him because he is going to be a star. You taking his word on this? Me neither.


The most troubling thing that I found regarding Fleischmann’s injury is in fact something that I could not find at all, a diagnosis. I am, of course, not talking about his clots. It is not like I completely forgot everything I typed in the last two paragraphs. No, what I cannot pin down is the actual cause of his clots. It could be any number of congenital or acquired problems. It could be acute or chronic. We, and more importantly his doctors, just do not know. That means he is going to be receiving blanket treatments and general preventative measures. They have no clue if he is going to continue to be healthy or not.


What I know is that NHL teams play 41 road games a season meaning over 50 plane trips every year, some of which will be quite lengthy. For anyone with clotting disorders flying is a serious risk. I also know that hockey is a physical sport and players get injured to the point of needing surgery, which I am sure you guessed is another risk factor for clotters.


I am very concerned about Fleischmann’s future as an NHL player but I guess the bright side is that there is nothing about his condition that will prevent him from playing at 100%, well that is until he gets another clot. Mueller on the other hand has likely been altered by his injuries. Concussions change the brain both physically and chemically. He could end up being a completely different player. We just do not know. Worse than that still, he may develop the fear, which would prevent him from going all out. So like I said, there is a perfectly reasonable rationale for preferring blood clots to concussions but I am still wagering on the man with the concussions and it is probably because if/when he receives that devastating blow, I will know it when I see it and so will everyone else. That means that Mueller and doctors can take direct preventative steps to avoiding another concussion. This is not to say I think we can prevent all concussions but I still feel more comfortable with the enemy I know than the enemy I don’t.


Mueller is also young enough that I do not believe, even after multiple concussions, he has been severely damaged for the long term. It is not like he has an NFL lineman’s concussion record. He has had a few but has since taken enough time off to be confident of a full recovery. Maybe in 20 years I will find out differently but from what I understand right now the biggest issue with concussions is not taking the proper time to rehab them. After a year off I am confident in Mueller.


Did I sway you? I hope not. That’s where this next part comes in.


Now that we have done the work of assessing the injury concerns we now get to have some fun with optimism. Just how high could your sleeper go if everything goes as planned?


Neither Mueller nor Fleischmann are reliable NHL scorers. They both have a single 50+ point year in their past and have shown brief flashes of so much more (ironically both with Colorado) but none has proven themselves that you could lean on that historical production so instead we need to make a huge leap and start discussing potential.


Considering pure talent and potential I like Mueller. First of all he is younger so there is more growth potential available. Secondly, he has better pedigree as a former top 10 pick (2006). Finally he simply has more tools. Mueller had real star potential, whereas Fleischmann has always been a skilled complimentary piece that you would play with stars. Mueller has a size and strength advantage as well as possessing better hands, vision and creativity. Fleischmann is a solid enough player but you do not see him creating offense for himself or for teammates the way Mueller can. So on potential alone Mueller is the way to go but there is one further wrinkle: opportunity.


Napoleon once said that, “Ability is of little account without opportunity,” and of course it is so. How often have we poolies seen talent fall by the wayside due to lack of opportunity? Too often, but the good news is both Mueller and Fleischmann have so much opportunity it is smacking them in the face (metaphorically of course, fear not Mueller owners).


Once again of course I prefer Mueller’s opportunity. His Avalanche are simply a much better squad than Fleischmann’s Panthers. Consider potential linemates. Mueller has the luxury of lining up beside either Paul Stastny or Matt Duchene at even strength while likely playing alongside both (and Milan Hejduk) on the top power play unit. Fleischmann’s best case scenario lands him on the Panthers top line with Stephen Weiss and David Booth, which is not even a likely scenario. Personally, I have Fleischmann pegged for second line center duties, although he will more than likely bounce around and see many different linemates. The point being, Fleischmann doesn’t have anyone near the talents of a Matt Duchene or Paul Stastny to play with, let alone both.


Taking it one step further, look at the success of both teams last season. Last season the Avalanche scored 30 more goals than the Panthers did and had a much more successful power play. The Avalanche had the 11th best power play in the league last season, while the Panthers had the league’s worst power play. While Fleischmann and all the other overpaid mediocre talents signed by Florida this summer should help improve their standing, there is still no way the Panthers can match the Avalanche’s firepower.


So what can you expect this season and moving into the future? I do expect Mueller to start slow this season. After a year away from hockey, rust will be an abundant factor. However, I think by the end of the season you will be glad to have taken Mueller. I have Mueller pegged for a 20 goal, 55 point season with sleeper upside of 30 goals and 70 points. I see Fleischmann coming in with 20 goals and 45 points with a sleeper upside of 30 goals and 60 points. The opportunity to play with better players just seals the point difference.


Looking beyond the simple point projections Mueller also looks like the smarter bet. PIM is a wash as neither one produces much in that category. Mueller playing on the better team and with better Assist totals should post better +/- and PPP numbers as well. SOG should favour Mueller also. He has a career average of 2.09 SOG per game, while Fleischmann has a career average of 1.70 SOG per game. In light of those SOG figures goals should surprisingly be a wash. This can be explained by Fleischmann’s remarkably high career shooting percentage (13.1%) and Mueller’s tendency towards playmaking.


Long term, the incentive for taking Mueller is even greater. In the perfect situation Mueller could hit 80 points, whereas Fleischmann is limited to more like 70. Plus there is an age difference to consider as well. Mueller is 23 and will not only get a few more chances if he falters in Colorado but also offers a longer service record. Fleischmann is 27 years old and runs the risk of flopping and playing out the remainder of his contract in the minors and then disappearing forever. The point is Mueller has more potential and beyond injury is probably safe of being run out of the league in the next three years.


All of this adds up to a resounding victory for Mueller. I am more than willing to point out that a lot of assumptions needed to be made in order to get to this answer. It is a gamble. Mueller may be hoisting the Golden Pillow in my eyes but let me make one final suggestion: If you were unmoved or unconvinced by this article, towards whom did you lean towards when you first read the title? That should tell you all you need to know about which one to take.


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2Evils said:

... I'll try to keep my yammering short & sweet. Nicely written article, and fun to read - I enjoyed the blend of humour and analysis. Amusingly, I came upon the Mueller/Fleischmann question last week in my keeper draft...

Can't say I scoped it to the level you did, but my 5min judgement went to Mueller as well. Better team, better upside if I'm lucky, and the injuries can be a wash.
(not to mention that I'm not above holding a grudge against a guy named after a brand of margarine !! Alright, kinda just kidding. )
September 15, 2011
Votes: -1

derek said:

Piece Well written piece. I would much rather have Mueller for the future but in a one year league then I dont know.

September 14, 2011
Votes: -1

steve laidlaw said:

. Thanks Rattus. I thought I did mention that this has been an ongoing issue for Fleischmann but it's possible I just thought it and skipped over it. To me the fact that he's had clots multiple times is the key because anyone could conceivably get a random clot. To get multiple clots, multiple times suggests an underlying problem so that's what I was getting at. Thank you for confirming this with your expert testimony. The only sad part is you had to go and discredit yourself by saying you liked lemonade. No jury in the world would believe you after that.
September 14, 2011
Votes: +0

rattus said:

rattus rattus
... Steve,

Oddly enough, I am a doctor ("physician", to the pompous).
And, oddly enough, I've also have lately been thinking of these two.

I thought your analysis was bang on.
You only missed telling us that this was Flash's second episode with clots.
Not good.

So I too would go with the head case.


September 14, 2011
Votes: +0

steve laidlaw said:

. Studley, don't lie to us, you know you don't like lemonade. As for the point of the article, you have to remember that these are sleepers we are talking about here. I am certain there are many folks who don't have one or both of these two on their draft lists so it serves as both a reminder and a guide to making this risky decision. Also, if you bought Dobber's Guide this year (and you should) you would be lead to a different conclusion than what you've seen here. So yeah, I think there was merit to this article.

Thanks Norris, I'd want to know a bit more about your league settings to determine where to put Mueller. I mean, how many forwards vs. defense vs. goalies and do you distinguish between LW and other forward positions or is it just straight forwards? Just to take a shot in the dark I would recommend snagging him as late as possible because 180 really is not that deep. I would be looking at taking Mueller after the surefire LW have been plucked. You also have to consider in draft dynamics. Draft strategies must be flexible so I'd be uncomfortable putting a number on where to take Mueller but I would have him on a short list along with guys like Evander Kane, Matt Moulson, James Neal, etc. You probably have more confidence in those three but Mueller could easily yield you similar production only hopefully a lot cheaper.

Ryan, I hear what you are saying but DVT was only his acute condition not the underlying problem. I want to know specifically what it is that is causing these clots. Is it some sort of deficiency, a genetic condition or something else? That's what I haven't heard narrowed down and leaves me quite skeptical about what sort of treatment he is receiving. I know they put him on blood thinners last year but surely he can't be on those and still playing, the risk of internal bleeding would be too great. Same goes for if he is taking an anti-clotting agent. Hockey is a body contact game so he is going to face his fair share of bruises. I'd hate to see this lead to further issues. Now given what UW has said (and I thank you for that UW) you can certainly bump up your confidence regarding Fleischmann. I've also read that Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen dealt with Crohn's Disease when he played so clearly the Panthers are a good franchise for Fleischmann to be playing for but I am never-the-less concerned. Until I know exactly what Fleischmann has and whether or not they are treating it specifically I will be uneasy about him.

As for Mueller and concussions I must disagree about your statements. Are concussions untreatable. Basically yes but like any other injury it requires time to heal. The big thing is that with the brain you need a lot more time to heal and even the most minor of blemishes are felt because the body is essentially an extension of the brain. With proper time off a player is no more likely to receive a concussion than he was before that concussion. The reason we see players with multiple concussions receiving more than there fair share can be attributed to many factors. The first relates to that time off. Until now most players never took the appropriate amount of time off to rehab their concussions and that compounds the problem if they receive another one before the original one is healed. On top of that having received a concussion before will increase the impacts of another concussion. It does not increase the odds but will increase the severity. Finally, a big factor in concussions is susceptibility. Some people are more susceptible to concussions than others. Having had concussions previously does not make you more susceptible but it does hint that you have always been more susceptible to them than others. Things like neck strength, skull shape, prior brain chemistry, willingness to engage in physical contact are all factors in determining susceptibility to concussions. It is entirely possible that Mueller was just built to sustain concussions but the fact that he has in the past does not make it more likely to happen in the future. After all, he still needs to get bonked on the head for it to happen. Hopefully that better explains my view of the injuries.
September 14, 2011
Votes: +0

ultrawhiteness said:

Vokoun one thing i read this summer was a some quote attributed to Dale Tallon... something about how Tomas Vokoun has the same condition and so Flordia's medical and training staff are well versed in how to deal with it.

sorry, no time to google it but it might make for a worthwhile post script.
September 14, 2011
Votes: +0

Ryan Lenethen said:

thrombosis I know when I heard about Fleischmann's issues, the first thing I thought about was thrombosis, which is what it most certainly was. I knew this because at the type a best friend inexplicably (well he was overweight) got DVT, or Deep Vein Thrombosis. At the time I was worried so I did a bit of research. While dangerous if undetected or untreated, once detected and treated it seems to have pretty good and stable outcomes. You have to go on drugs, but it fixes it. I don't know if it is congenital, I don't think I read any evidence to suggest it is, but it could be some are simple more susceptible to it. Lifestyle seems to have an effect, but presumably Fleischmann is in better shape and healthier than your average guy anyway. There has also been a link drawn to simply sitting too long, usually on a plane or train, so much so that DVT is called "Traveller's Thrombosis". In any rate, its better to catch it before the clots migrate to your lungs, but at least they caught it before it killed him. However if that is what it is, and he is being treated for it, he is likely in OK shape.

Mueller however on the other hand has something that is essentially untreatable, and each successive one increases the possibility for more, in a game that pretty much has a high probability of that happening.

Anyway based on health issues alone I think I would go Fleischmann as the safer pick. However I like Mueller as I think he has more upside... assuming he plays long enough to ever get to realize it.
September 14, 2011
Votes: +0

norrisdivision said:

... A nice read. How far would you move Mueller up in the draft though? My league is about 180 players deep.
September 14, 2011
Votes: -1

studley49 said:

I like lemonade... Based on the title and first paragraph of this article I thought this was going to be a back-and-forth affair much like those cage matches seen during the 90s (think Undertaker vs. Kane). Instead though I found the read to be more of a lop-sided UFC fight: think GSP (Mueller) vs. me (Fleischmann) in the octagon.

Don't get me wrong - I agree with everything you've said in the article; however, are Mueller and Fleischmann even worth comparing in the "who would you take?" context aside from their recent long-term bouts with health? If both players are at the same level of health I can't think of a single case where a GM would take Flash first.
September 14, 2011
Votes: +0

steve laidlaw said:

I hope y'all liked this... ...I had to pry myself away from NHL 12 to get it done. Suffice to say it wasn't easy.
September 14, 2011
Votes: +2
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