Dobber's THN column yesterday can be found here.
Laidlaw checking in here. Dobber has been gracious enough to give me a shot at the ramblings tonight so bear with me as I muddle through this first time. And send your hate-mail to @DobberHockey as he’s still responsible for this.
Tragic news out of Boston. Sports and tragedy of this magnitude rarely cross paths so for a sports fanatic like myself this was something of a rude awakening. When was the last time something like this happened, Atlanta in ’96? I was eight years old so that wasn’t much of a memory for me. Needless to say I was badly affected by this news and I carry a heavy heart for the victims and their families.
For obvious reasons the Bruins-Senators game scheduled for Monday night was postponed as was tonight’s Celtics-Pacers game.
The Oilers fired GM Steve Tambellini and replaced him with former head coach Craig MacTavish. Dobber gave you his take on the move but as a fan of the Oilers (though not a resident of Edmonton) I cannot resist providing you with my take.
The big thing for me is that despite how ineffectual Tambellini was in building a team around the youngsters in Edmonton there's still no question that he put a solid core in place. You could certainly question if that makes him a good GM seeing as just about anyone can draft well with the sort of picks the Oilers have had in recent years but the never the less the core is in place and I take issue with anyone who argues that the Oilers "ruined" their youngsters by bringing them up in this losing environment. Some prospects cannot fail. It's clear that Taylor Hall can't. Jordan Eberle probably can't. Even through his struggles it doesn't seem like even Sam Gagner can. Hell even Magnus Paajarvi is showing signs. Timid Tambo and the Oilers simply wasted the cheap years of those players' entry level deals by continuing to suck for the entirity of them. But again that's wasting not ruining. Big distinction.
So MacTavish comes in promising bold, aggressive moves. I don't know if it will bear good results or even better results but you can imagine the process will at least be different. Dobber speculated that Sam Gagner could be the first domino but would MacTavish dare to get bolder? It’s probably too early to speculate but I can’t help myself.
I really wonder whether or not MacTavish would have the stones to get rid of the old guard in Edmonton (the guys he once coached) like Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Ryan Smyth.
I also wonder if MacT and Lowe dip back into their old bag of tricks and pull out some more offer sheet magic. The UFA market this summer is barren but the RFA market is a goldmine. If I were MacT, I would start playing love games with the Blues and Jets the way that San Jose did with Chicago a few summers back when they made multiple offers at the Blackhawks’ many free agents.
The Blues have Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Patrick Berglund, Chris Stewart, Ian Cole, Chris Russell and Jake Allen all as RFAs. Acknowledging that no one has more cap space than the Blues do you could still conceive a world where multiple offer sheets eventually land the Oilers with a piece they need.
It’s a similar story for the Jets with Blake Wheeler, Zach Bogosian, Bryan Little and Alex Burmistrov all RFAs this summer. Save for perhaps Little, Allen and Cole all of those RFAs would improve the Oilers team immediately without any redundancy. And those are just the RFAs from two teams. So like I said, offer sheet love games. I am simultaneously titillated by the possibilities and infuriated that such a small move in this clown car of a front office can incite such a reaction in me.
The Devils were blanked for the second straight game on Monday and the third time since Ilya Kovalchuk went down with a shoulder injury. Kovalchuk has not travelled with the team and at this point you have to wonder if the Devils won’t shut him down for the rest of the year. With six games remaining they haven’t technically been eliminated but they pretty much have.
The take away here is that the Devils have been miserable without Kovalchuk (0-6-4), particularly offensively where they have scored just 1.6 goals per game. So if you haven’t bailed on all of your Devils yet you had better do so soon because they turned into pumpkins a while ago – and yes that includes Patrick Elias and David Clarkson.
James Reimer was the goaltender who shut out the Devils with a heroic effort. The Leafs were outshot 32-13 and the Devils had a number of great chances but that was just a case of Reimer being in the zone against a completely snake-bitten opponent.
As mentioned, there wasn’t much offense provided by the Leafs but Phil Kessel did manage to extend his goal streak to four games and his point streak to five. I hope you haven’t had to face him in your pool recently. Unfortunately, I’m up against him this week.
I’d also like to give props to Cody Franson and Leo Komarov for leading the hit parade. They had nine and eight hits in the game respectively.
Tough loss for Dallas in Chicago as the Stars missed out on a chance to pull even with the Red Wings for eighth spot in the West with just six games remaining. Of course, you could hardly expect the Stars to win that one as so few teams have solved the Blackhawks this season and with Kari Lehtonen still out they really lost their puncher’s chance.
Jamie Benn did score his first two goals of April in the 5-2 loss. Benn is an interesting case because for years he’s been intriguingly productive despite minimal ice time and his on-ice game passes the “eye test” by leaps and bounds. Now that he is getting the ice time (19:42 minutes per game with 3:26 on the power play) he should be breaking out as a star but with just 29 points through 35 games this season Benn is not exactly beating down the door to get into that elite class the way that say Claude Giroux did when he became “the Man” in Philadelphia last season.
Marian Hossa led the way for Chicago with a goal and two assists. Injuries are limiting the amount that Hossa can play but he has been quietly productive whenever he has gotten into the lineup. Don’t forget about this guy, even three years from now when you suspect he might be completely broken down. He’s got the hockey IQ to be productive like other old men Teemu Selanne and Patrick Elias. He does need to keep his body from disintegrating though.
Rookie Brandon Saad got on the board with an assist breaking his three-game scoreless drought. He isn’t a driver of offense the way stars like Hossa, Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are but Saad is an excellent complimentary player who can play with such stars. Those guys have immense fantasy value. See Scott Hartnell and Chris Kunitz for examples.
Hey everyone, Ryan Kesler still exists! Kudos to all of you who hung onto him all season long or perhaps even had the foresight to buy low. Kesler scored two goals against the Predators on Monday and now has scored points in every game since returning this month (albeit just four games played so far) and is up to 11 points in 11 games in his super-abbreviated 2013 season. His return has helped get the Sedins producing as Daniel Sedin has scored four points in his last three while Henrik Sedin has scored five points in those same three games.
Luongo was stellar for the Canucks as well stopping 36 of 38 for his ninth win of the season. He continues to prove that teams need two goalies to succeed. The Canucks are starting to run away from Minnesota with the Northwest Division.
On the flip side, Nashville appears to be in full tank mode. Here’s a list of their scratches: Mike Fisher, Gabriel Bourque, Paul Gaustad, Patrick Hornqvist, Kevin Klein and Brandon Yip. Not all of those can really be injury related. But hey, on the bright side, Bobby Butler scored and for no other reason than to remind you that he still exists.
This should pretty well spell the end for your season Pekka Rinne-owners. He’s been uneven as is but now Nashville isn’t even trying and the key to their game is all effort. On the plus side, buy low on Rinne next season? I plan on trying - all of his stats are good save the win/loss ratio.
Carey Price got chased for the second straight game giving up six goals on 29 shots in the Canadiens’ 7-3 loss to the Flyers. It’s probably nothing to get concerned about for Habs fans or Price owners but it’s still terrible timing with fantasy playoffs in full swing.
Of course, even in a drubbing PK Subban managed to pull out a strong performance with two assists. At this point you’ve just got to shake your head. Did I mention I’m facing him this week as well?
Max Pacioretty also had a good night for the Habs with a goal and an assist giving him his 13th two-point game this season. I’d have to wager that Pacioretty is one of the most productive but least predictable players in the league. Along with those 13 two-pointers Pacioretty has had just eight one-point efforts and 17 goose eggs and yet he has somehow scored nearly a point per game (34 points in 38 games). If you could somehow envision the games where Pacioretty was bringing the donuts you could easily turn that roster slot into a hybrid player better than Crosby himself.
But this game was all about the Flyers power play finally waking up. Scott Hartnell nabbed himself a hat trick in just 12 minutes of ice time.
Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux each had three points apiece also. I’ve got to fess up on Voracek. I wasn’t a believer. I just didn’t think he could shoot well enough. He’s shooting 16.8% this season and has tied his career high for goals with 18 and has 42 points through 42 games. Of course, he’s a nice regression candidate to pick on what with this season only being half of a real one but still, I’ve been proven wrong once again!
As much as I wish it was the Oilers still in this spot I am loving every bit of this Columbus Blue Jackets playoff push. After their overtime victory they have pulled into a tie with the Detroit Red Wings for eighth spot in the West. At various times this year in my articles I’ve toyed around with the idea that the Blue Jackets really could make a playoff run and that it could even be at the expense of the Lidstrom-less Detroit Red Wings so that makes me happy to have done some solid prognostication but what’s really great is that this Blue Jackets franchise has been kicked around enough. They deserve a payoff – a shot at the big time. They remind me a lot of Mike McDermott’s final run at Teddy KGB’s where he shows up battered and bruised playing with borrowed money in a hostile environment but as John Malkovich says in the film they keep:
“Hanging around. Hanging around. Kid’s got alligator blood. Can’t get rid of him.”
They are just in there like a dirty shirt and won’t go away. Columbus has five games left, four of which are on the road in tough environments so the odds are still long but I am all over their bandwagon.
For Colorado the only thing I really want to note of fantasy relevance is that JS Giguere started his fifth straight game, which means curtains for anyone holding onto hope that Varlamov might give them a couple decent starts down the stretch
Quite the run for Calgary prospect Ben Hanowksi – he goes from throw-in in the Iginla trade to captain in the Frozen Four to making his NHL debut for Calgary and scoring a goal. But you probably shouldn’t read too much into that as it’s basically spaghetti time for Calgary.
I am more intrigued by the assist and five SOG fired by Mikael Backlund in 18 minutes of ice time. Last week I labelled him a nice post-hype sleeper to look at as he shows us some flashes down the stretch.
Joey MacDonald has started three straight for the Flames so you have to wonder if this is it for Miikka Kiprusoff. The Flames will surely give him one more start at home as a farewell event but my guess is that Kipper wants the summer to decide if he’s done for good so we won’t know for sure any time soon.
Back to back two point efforts for Jason Pominville has me wondering if he’s starting to get comfortable in Minnesota but with so little time left it’s probably irrelevant to you anyhow. What is important is that he gets comfortable in time for next season where I suspect he gets back to the 70-point plateau.
Jared Spurgeon played over 21 minutes for Minnesota but went scoreless and was minus-2 on the night. He has been ice cold with just one point in April. I don’t understand how he can keep getting such big minutes as an undersized defenseman when he isn’t producing. I guess he earned himself some rope with a huge 10-point month of March though.
Massive shutout victory for Antti Niemi and the San Jose Sharks over the Phoenix Coyotes to keep them four points up on ninth (and eighth) and in firm playoff standing. Without Niemi the Sharks could easily be floundering down where Phoenix now is and wondering how it all went wrong. But the Sharks do have Niemi whose stellar season continues with his fourth shutout. I hope you’ve got him in your pool!
Anyone else intrigued by this Matt Irwin character? He scored his sixth goal of the season on Monday while firing seven SOG. Just a reminder, he’s a defenseman. I smell some Jason Garrison happenings here as Irwin is already pretty old (25) but showed some solid numbers in his past two years of AHL hockey. File him away somewhere in the back of your mind.
Mike Smith failed to suit up for the Coyotes much to my (and other fantasy owners’) chagrin. Jason Labarbera got the start and was solid stopping 37 of 41 shots.
Martin Hanzal was held pointless but did manage to record 10 hits, which is a nice bonus for you multi-category poolers.