As keeper league hockey pools increase in number each year, fantasy junkies become more active in the off-season as they prepare their team for the coming year. Rebuild? Retool? Tweak? Whatever your intentions, it helps to get all the information you can about your players.
Throughout the off-season, FPL will look at a pair of teams each week and give you the fantasy lowdown. Bucking the trend of past years, we will review alphabetically – in reverse. Just to be different.
(This, and all of Dobber's articles, can also be found at The Hockey News, ESPN.com and MSN.ca)
St. Louis Blues
Potential UFA’s – Radek Dvorak, Vladimir Orszagh, Ville Nieminen, Peter Sejna, Glen Metropolit
Potential RFA’s – Barret Jackman, Jeff Woywitka, Curtis Sanford, Jason Bacashihua, Lee Stempniak
Looking to Add - Since they have a bit of breathing room under the cap, the Blues will likely add a first-line winger to the mix this summer. Otherwise, the team seems to be set with three solid goaltenders and five of the best defensive defensemen in the NHL in Jackman, Eric Brewer, Jay McKee, Christian Backman and Erik Johnson.
Ready for full-time - Besides EJ, who is a lock to make the team and will be a Calder Trophy candidate, the Blues do not have any youngsters ready to make the jump. Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie will likely be poised to step in in 2008-09.
Fantasy Outlook - Another team to stay away from in fantasy pools. The Blues haven’t had a 60-point player since before the lockout and that doesn’t look like it’s going to change. Under coach Andy Murray, the St. Louis game will revolve around defense. This means go snag goaltender Manny Legace right now, but steer clear of Blues forwards unless you’re looking for a depth guy. Incidentally, Legace went 18-5-2 under Murray from mid-December to the end of February.
Fantasy Grade: C (last year was D- )
San Jose Sharks
Potential UFA’s – Mark Smith, Bill Guerin, Scott Hannan, Craig Rivet
Potential RFA’s – Rob Davison
Looking to Add - The Sharks are desperately searching for some leadership to get them over the playoff hump. While they may not get one of their main targets (Chris Drury), they will be looking for someone of that ilk. This team has done a great job of building from within, so don’t expect any significant additions other than a leader.
Ready for full-time - Joe Pavelski and Steve Bernier took turns being a healthy scratch in the playoffs. Both players spent time in the American League last season, but this time around they will be full-time NHLers. Aside from that, look for the Sharks to trade goaltender Vesa Toskala in the summer and give rookie Thomas Greiss the backup role. Both Greiss and Dimitri Patzold are solid netminding prospects who are ready to take the next step. Either one could play as many as 30 games this season, so expect them to compete for the backup job in training camp.
Fantasy Outlook - The prospect cupboards are getting pretty bare, as most of their key youngsters have already made it onto the roster. Lots of youth, lots of offensive skill and a one-two punch in Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau make this team one of the better squads to build your keeper league team around. They are also defensively sound and their goaltenders are also great fantasy assets – even Greiss and Patzold.
Fantasy Grade: A- (last year was A-)