I want to take an opportunity to introduce myself to those of you unfamiliar with my work in the past. I’ve spent the better part of the past two years writing for DobberBaseball and filling in from time to time on DobberHockey. Dobber has asked me to take care of the Ramblings for a couple of days this week, so I’m excited for the opportunity to share a few of my thoughts.
My wife, Kyla, and I live just outside of Madison, WI. Other somewhat relevant facts about me include the following:
1. I’m a longtime and long-suffering fan of the Minnesota Wild
2. I enjoy running and attending minor league baseball games in my spare time
3. I’m passionate about writing, fantasy sports, premium beer and hip-hop music
4. I can recite the U.S. presidents in order – forward and backward
Alright… I won’t waste any more space writing about myself. Let’s get to the fantasy hockey…
Click here to purchase the 2013-14 DobberHockey Fantasy Guide. Dobber, Angus, Amato, Laidlaw and others really put together some great content this year. Everything you want – from strategy and stats to sleepers and busts – is all in once place.
Speaking of Angus, check out his goodbye column from Thursday. On a personal note – Jeff’s work achieved must-read status in my book shortly after I stumbled upon DobberHockey during the 2009-10 season. His contributions will be missed.
Teemu Selanne signed a one-year deal worth $2 million to remain with the Anaheim Ducks for the 2013-14 campaign. The upcoming season will mark his 21st and final (?) year in the NHL. It will be great to watch one of the great ambassadors of the game give it another go-round.
The Bruins rewarded GM Peter Chiarelli with a four-year contract extension this week. While I think he’ll come to regret trading away potential franchise player/budding offensive superstar Tyler Seguin, Chiarelli should be commended for the roster he has assembled in Boston. Exhibit A is the 2006 NHL Draft, his first with the organization. Boston acquired Tuukka Rask via trade and selected both Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic in that draft. Chiarelli then signed all-world defenseman Zdeno Chara just week later. Those moves set the foundation for six playoff appearances and one Stanley Cup championship over the course of the next seven years.
An annual fantasy hockey resolution of mine is to stop targeting goalies that don’t have a clear path to regular playing time. However, I usually convince myself one guy or another is primed to beat out the competition and shine in an exclusive role. For example, I talked myself into burning an early-round fantasy draft pick on Cory Schneider in one league a year ago. You can imagine the pangs of regret I felt during my almost-daily task of checking to see if Schneider or Roberto Luongo was that evening’s starter in net for Vancouver. However, this year I will (or at least plan to) exercise more patience and self-control during my drafts. My strategy will be to load up on skaters and try to take two or more workhorse starters with later selections.
Here are three I’m targeting (based on expected production and where they are projected to go in drafts):
Antti Niemi – His track record (.917 save percentage in 213 games played) as a successful starter is enough to suggest he’s a viable candidate to finish among the top five at the position this year.
Roberto Luongo – Among best value picks at the position this season, Luongo is being ranked far too low on many draft lists despite being a proven vet with a stranglehold on a starting gig on a very solid team.
Kari Lehtonen – So what if he misses a little time due to injury? He’ll provide more than enough production to justify his draft-day price tag. Check out his stats the past three seasons.
Ilya Bryzgalov – Just kidding.
Niklas Backstrom – Reread what I wrote about Luongo. The same applies here.
Here are four situations I’m avoiding (based on expected production and where they are projected to go in drafts):
James Reimer/Jonathan Bernier – I prefer Reimer to Bernier. However, Toronto GM Dave Nonis didn’t acquire Bernier this past offseason to be a reserve netminder. I really want no part of either guy this year.
Cory Schneider/Martin Brodeur – One’s an all-time great with eroding skills and little left to offer fantasy owners. The other is unproven as a full-time starter. Can Devils coach Peter DeBoer really keep an organizational icon on the bench for extended stretches of time? How will Schneider handle sharing the spotlight with another accomplished veteran after finally leaving Vancouver and Luongo behind? How will Brodeur’s biggest Twitter fan react if Schneider excels in his inaugural season with the Devils? So many unanswerable questions…
Jonas Hiller/Viktor Fasth – The potential timeshare aside, Anaheim’s defense lacks both elite talent and depth at the NHL level. I’ll look elsewhere for a netminder.
Jaroslav Halak/Jake Allen/Brian Elliott – Blues coach Ken Hitchcock will opt to start whoever is playing well at the time. As a fantasy owner, that will make it tough to own any one of these guys.
One player I’ll reach for in drafts this fall is Tyler Seguin. I incorrectly thought his incredible upside would allow for him to really and truly break out a year ago, but I was wrong. Simply stated, he didn’t fit in Boston’s lineup. He wasn’t going to oust two of the game’s best all-around centers – Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci – and earn playing time at the center position in Boston’s top six. That won’t be a problem in Dallas, where Stars coach Lindy Ruff is expected to employ Seguin on the same line as Jamie Benn, who will move over to the wing. This bodes well for the Dallas offense and any fantasy owners lucky enough to have Seguin and Benn in their lineups. Look at any overall draft rankings and see which players are listed around Seguin. Are any of them a better bet to be a first-round selection in 2014-15 drafts?
Two other players I fully expect to take a step forward in terms of statistical production this season: Max Pacioretty and Evander Kane. One or both will end up on a lot of my teams this year.
One player I will avoid at all costs: Mike Ribeiro. He experienced a renaissance as a playmaker in an enviable offensive environment in Washington to being a key cog in a Phoenix lineup short on high-end offensive talent. Furthermore, it will be hard for him to replicate his point-per-game production from a year ago, especially since he’s a career .148 shooter that finished the 2013 campaign with the second-highest shooting percentage of his career (.206). The only season he posted a better shooting percentage was 2007-08, the only other year where Ribeiro was a point-per-game player. Frankly, I’m not paying for last year’s stats from an age-33 player that took his talents to a team with a supporting cast of lesser quality.
In case you missed it, here’s how Selanne announced he was returning for 2013-14: