Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls!

 

*

 

I traded Evgeni Malkin yesterday, in a keeper league no less. The return? Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jonathan Drouin, Antoine Vermette and flotsam.

 

Normally I wouldn’t consider such an offer but context is everything. It just so happens that this is a large (24 teams) salary cap league ($64.3 million cap ceiling this season just like the NHL). We also count just about every stat in the book, which can skew player value.

 

In Malkin’s case, he’s still Malkin. Regardless of the stats we track he is worth the money. Two years ago he was the single best skater to own in this league. Maybe not dollars to donuts the best but in terms of overall production he was on top. Getting the best player in the league is worth the cap hit every time.

 

So why would I consider the move if Malkin is worth the money? I just really like Drouin and RNH.

 

It’s a gamble for sure and I hurt my team this year but I also created a couple of million in cap space for this season because RNH is still on his rookie deal. I can redistribute that salary throughout my roster with a couple of trades and hopefully break even.

 

Long term, I’m operating under the assumption that I can get more out of Drouin and RNH for the combined price of $9.2 million next season than I can from Malkin for the solo price of $9.5 million.

 

Under normal circumstances I’d never move the best player in a deal and certainly not in a package like this. I would also normally consider the value of the roster space(s) lost by receiving multiple players in exchange for one. In this deep salary cap format, you actually flip that notion because instead of forcing yourself to go Stars and Scrubs to fill out your roster, moving a large salary creates the opportunity to distribute salary to multiple positions allowing for better depth players and presumably better balance and more consistent production.

 

In a vacuum, you could accuse me of selling low. Malkin is after all, struggling to start the season. I’d argue that this was a fair price whether Malkin was producing or not but since we’ve broached the subject, why is Malkin struggling to start the season?

 

He has just 10 points in 13 games, which is good enough and it’s early enough that it’s foolish to even consider panicking. My suspicion is that linemates are to blame.

He has been paired up with the intriguing Jussi Jokinen for much of the year with a rotating cast of characters on the right side while James Neal has been out much of the year. Neal is obviously the big loss here. It’s hard to see Malkin doing too much without his partner in crime.

 

As intriguing as Jokinen is he actually hasn’t been that strong of a producer. Take away his hat-trick against Carolina and he’s sitting on just five points in 13 games. In total Jokinen has scored in just five games so far this season. I’m leaning closer to dud than stud with Jokinen.

 

Kris Letang has also been out, which I suspect has slowed the Penguins power play a bit, though it is still clicking at 20.0% for the season, which is a very respectable number even if it doesn’t currently rank very high.

Malkin is also shooting a low 7.2% this season, which is due to regress towards his career average of 12.7% but he’s also shooting less than normal and that’s a continuation of his low shooting from last season.

 

Through last season and this season combined Malkin is firing just 3.2 shots per game versus the 4.52 shots per game he was firing in 2011-12.

 

So what has changed? Well there’s a theory out there that Malkin doesn’t produce nearly as well with Crosby in the lineup than when he is out. I don’t have the exact figures but you can read a couple of takes on this here and here. If anyone has the exact figures, including shots on goal, I think that would make for an excellent little research project.

 

In any case, I don’t think I was selling low here. I wasn’t afraid of Malkin not being a star. I just really liked the return given the circumstances.

 

It is nice to see Malkin go scoreless again on someone else’s roster though!

 

*

 

Boston’s KIL line remains hot. Yes, David Krejci’s seven-game point streak came to an end (just his second scoreless game of the year) but both Jarome Iginla and Milan Lucic got on the board to extend their own scoring streaks to five each.

 

They each skated 20 minutes last night and dare I ask if Boston is starting to develop a true top line? No, I think not. They got the extended burn because the Bruins actually had to play catch up in this one. On most nights the Bruins will continue to roll their lines. I still don’t see anyone on this roster scoring much more than 60 this season but if anyone does it will be Krejci.

 

More silver linings for Boston: Patrice Bergeron snapped a three-game scoreless streak with his first multi-point effort of the season. He is still not scoring at a great rate so your buy low window remains open and may stay open until Loui Eriksson returns. When he does though, I’d expect to see Bergeron take off. I still see him scoring around 60 this year.

 

Zdeno Chara is scoreless in five and has just three points on the year. I’d say but low but this slump is a continuation of his poor scoring last season. More disconcerting is his low shot totals. Sample size is certainly a factor here after just 11 games but consider his shots per game for the last four seasons:

 

2010-11 – 3.26

2011-12 – 2.84

2012-13 – 2.48

2013-14 – 2.18

 

Acknowledging that I am cherry picking the starting point for these numbers with Chara’s career best season for SOG in 2010-11, I’m still not in love with the downward trend in Chara’s shot totals. Something to monitor for sure.

 

*

 

A real nice read on the value of zone entry by Justin Bourne (hat tip to forum member 4horsemen for sharing this one):


I think tracking zone entries would provide value to a team as a whole on the defensive side of the puck, and even more specifically for whichever coach is running the d-corps. If you see from the data that you’re allowing a disproportionate amount of carries into the zone versus dumps, you can make strategic adjustments to force more shoot-ins. (The vast majority of neutral zone strategy on the penalty kill is designed to do just that, while the hope 5-on-5 is to force a decision before the red line — your ultimate goal is to cause a turnover or icing there.)

I’d personally like to see the ratio of dump-ins to carries for our advanced stat contrarians the Toronto Maple Leafs. Is it possible that they are attempting to carry the puck in at a much higher ratio resulting in more turnovers and more possession for their opponents but also resulting in (dare I say it) improved shot quality when they do gain the zone?

 

I’d argue that that is probably not the case but I am willing to consider anything with this team because they continue to defy the numbers/logic.

 

The Leafs were out-shot 86-47 during their trip through Alberta conceding 43 shots in each contest. Granted, subjectively we know the Leafs are more talented than the Flames and Oilers so it should be no surprise that they won both games but given the drastic shot differential I am starting to think they are just trolling us.

 

Well that and the Leafs have really good goaltending. There is no better example of a 1A-1B type scenario than what the Leafs have going for them right now.

 

The question is, can they keep this up? 

 

I personally believe in the goalie tandem as an intelligent strategy for the regular season. The last thing you want is to have an overworked goaltender letting in softies because he just isn’t there mentally or physically. And rolling with a true tandem keeps both guys motivated.

 

The problem is what happens come playoff time. As we saw in Vancouver, a goalie tandem can turn into a goalie controversy, which can lead to a full-blown media circus. And in the media hotbed of Toronto there is no way they escape that kind of frenzy. Maybe one of Reimer or Bernier will play his way out of the job come spring or maybe someone gets hurt and the Leafs are “lucky” enough to have the decision made for them.

 

I believe Bernier is the “number one” when it all shakes out but Reimer is still getting at least 30 starts this year barring an injury.

 

*

 

The only down note for the Leafs last night was Phil Kessel’s four-game point streak came to an end. Still, he sits at 18 points in 14 games and if you haven’t caught on yet, he clearly among the elite players in this league.

 

How elite?

 

I’m saying 40-goal/85-point potential. Yeah, he could go for more but I’m not ready to attach myself to that sort of projection. He is still shooting 18.0% this year, well above his 11.1% career average so there will be some regression coming. And if the whole team has some pullback then that will hurt him further. We are still just a month in, after all.

 

David Clarkson got his first point of the season last night but I’m not overly optimistic about his scoring potential this season. I mean, first off his career high for points is 46 so that tells you right there you aren’t working with a stud.

 

Clarkson is currently skating on the second/third line with Mason Raymond and Dave Bolland, while also seeing second unit power play time. That just doesn’t offer much opportunity for scoring, no matter how hot Raymond is right now.

 

The key is going to be to monitor his shot rate. During his best seasons he’s fired the puck at nearly a three shot per game pace. Right now he’s at nine in four games. 

 

It’s way too small a sample size to determine anything just yet but I’m sure that we can all follow the logic of more shots = more goals. Right now Clarkson is shooting like you’d be lucky to get 15 goals and 30 points out of him so keep an eye out.

 

*

 

Here’s a question for you, do you even check the Flames’ starter when you look at the box scores? I couldn’t care less who is between the pipes for them. This is a real 2A-2B scenario. They both stink.

 

Joe Colborne led all Flames forwards in ice-time last night. His ice time has been all over the map this year dipping as low as 3:58 and as high as last night’s 23:54. He centered Mike Cammalleri and TJ Galiardi and saw plenty of second unit power play time. It’s hard to think he’ll get that kind of ice time again anytime soon if he goes scoreless with such an opportunity.

 

Kris Russell has been stepping into major minutes with Mark Giordano out. He skated 29 minutes last night with over eight on the power play. He has four points in four games since Giordano went down and is looking like a decent short-term pickup.

 

Matt Stajan managed a goal last night and has points in three straight since returning from injury. He got zero power play minutes but considering how Colborne squandered all of his maybe Stajan is due for a bump in ice time, which would go a long way to helping him sustain some level of productivity.

 

*

 

Don’t look now but someone under the age of 35 actually scored for the Red Wings. Yes, Tomas Tatar drew into the lineup for his fifth game of the season (and fourth game in a row) scoring his first goal of the season.

 

Hopefully that goal earns him some more playing time as he is only seeing a little over 12 minutes per game. He is getting second unit power play time though, so it’s not like Tatar isn’t getting his chances.

 

Brendan Smith also got on the board for his first point of the season, an assist, but he isn’t ready to be a regular producer yet. At 24 he is getting a little long in the tooth for a prospect but you have to remember that it takes some defensemen a long time to figure it out.

 

Another example is Jakub Kindl, now 26. He has just two points on the season and obviously isn’t ready to be a big time producer on the back end either.

 

Maybe we all just overthought the whole, future with Lidstrom thing. The reality is Niklas Kronwall is now the guy on the Red Wings defense and why that wasn’t the obvious solution before is beyond me. After all, he already had a 50-point season to his name. Kronwall is certainly set to do that again. With an assist last night he is up to eight points in 11 games and the only thing that can slow him down is injury.

 

An interesting note with Kronwall is that with Lidstrom gone he has started to take a lot of the physical elements out of his game. He landed only 42 hits in 48 games last year and is below a hit per game again this season. As great as the boost in his points has been, that has been balanced out in rotisserie leagues by a loss of hits.

 

It’s probably just a minor blip but after hot starts both Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg have just one point in their last four games. I’m not overly concerned but this may just be reminder to those hoping for elite seasons from these two that they are older and can’t do it every night the way they used to.

 

Also, Detroit is oddly not very good at scoring this season, which is a continuation of last year’s struggles. They currently sit 23rd in the league at 2.23 goals per game. 

 

I’d normally argue small sample size but last year they were 20th at 2.54 goals per game. Clearly they are missing Lidstrom even with Kronwall stepping up his game.

 

Gustav Nyquist can’t get here soon enough.

 

*

 

Alex Burrows has been back for two games now and is skating on the second line with Mike Santorelli and Chris Higgins. That line was on for both Detroit goals last night but Burrows fired six SOG if you are into silver linings.

 

Tortorella continues to ride his super-charged top line with the Sedins and Ryan Kesler. They each skated over 24 minutes apiece leading all Canucks skaters, including defensemen, in ice time. 

 

That’s impressive. I don’t think even Alain Vigneault did that with all his line matching shenanigans.

 

Really, all this tells us is that the Canucks don’t have the depth necessary to compete on a nightly basis without riding their stars. 

 

I wonder how long it will be before Kesler gets hurt? And how much gas will the Sedins have in the tank for the second half, especially with the Olympic Games added in?

 

*

 

That was a much needed come-from-behind victory for the Kings last night. 

 

You can debate the merits of a hot start to a season but as far as I am concerned the points count the same at the start of the year as they do at the end and going into tonight the Kings were sitting fifth in the Pacific Division.

 

With Colorado looking damn near unbeatable and Minnesota’s advanced metric dominance it is starting to look like each division is only going to get four playoff spots. So do you want to risk being the team in fifth hoping for one of those wild card slots?

 

The win pulled Los Angeles into a tie with Phoenix for fourth and they sit just four points back of San Jose for the top spot. 

 

Yes it’s too early to fret about this too much but every point is going to matter, so it’s great to steal one from a divisional opponent, especially after dropping one in Phoenix the night before.

 

*

 

Anze Kopitar played hero for the Kings scoring the OT winner and adding an assist on the tying goal. This was his fourth multi-point effort of the year, which is more than his three single-point games. So far the points are coming in single-game bunches but the end result has been productivity.

 

It’s also worth mentioning that Kopitar is shooting the puck again. After firing just over two shots per game last season he is now up over three shots per game this season and while he only has two goals so far you know the scoring will come if he keeps shooting. His shooting percentage sits at 4.7%, less than half his career 11.7% mark.

 

Drew Doughty also notched two points and I’m telling you, you’ve got to buy low. He’s sitting at just seven points in 14 games on the year but has six in his last six and is lapping up power play time like thirsty mutt.

 

Dustin Brown has spent the past few games off of the top line and now sits in third-line purgatory with Jarret Stoll and either Dan Carcillo or Trevor Lewis. Not good. 

 

Brown did manage an assist last night but he has been struggling enough as is shooting just 5.6% on the year. The last thing he needs is weaker linemates. He has also been demoted to the second power play unit but this may just be a temporary thing. I know I bought low on him earlier this week so I’m optimistic.

 

Jonathan Quick got the win but produced another stinker. His numbers this year through 13 games are eerily reminiscent of his middling play last year. Quick did turn it on during the playoffs last year but as a fantasy owner I can hardly afford to wait that long. The good news is that at least he is still winning games.

 

*

 

Joe Thornton has slowed down with Brent Burns out of the lineup. In five games he has just two points. Correlation does not automatically equal causation but I’m willing to make that leap here. Burns is a game-changing beast. He cannot come back soon enough.

 

Marty Havlat made his season debut last night skating on the third line with Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels and saw second unit power play time.

 

I was going to say that Havlat was skating for the first time in two years but his ghost did manage to suit up for 40 games last season. I wonder how many Caspers Havlat is good for this year.

 

*

 

Semyon Varlamov has been arrested on assault charges… WTF!?!?!

 

I won’t get into the questions of morality or guilt/innocence. There simply isn’t enough information available to do so. I do think that regardless of the answers to those question is that Varlamov will likely still get to start this season. I’m far from an expert but the legal system does tend to be quite slow in dealing with these cases.

 

I mean, will they look to prosecute right away? Will there be delays while they build their case? Will there be further delays with appeals? Who knows.

 

All I can say is that I cannot see how he continues his brilliant start to the season even if he is allowed to play. 

 

Adrian Dater wrote a piece about how a similar situation played out for Patrick Roy while he was playing for Colorado and he managed to still win the Cup and Conn Smythe that season. If Varlamov does get the chance to play out the season, he will at least have Roy in his corner for guidance. But Varlamov is not Roy and I seriously question whether he has the mental fortitude to overcome this amount of adversity.

 

I’m pretty sure we were all waiting for the other shoe to drop with this Avs team. Fair or not, this is going to be a fork in the road for their season. Do they fall off the tracks or keep chugging along?

 

*

 

From Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:


If Alex Steen keeps up his torrid shooting percentage, his 35.5 per cent accuracy would be the third-highest ever behind Pat LaFontaine's 37.1 in 1983-84 and Andy Brickley's 35.7 in 1991-92. (Credit to Arctic Ice Hockey for the tip.) Steen is getting attention for his goals, but he's a force everywhere on the ice. He's also a UFA-to-be. The Blues did talk to him last summer, but he chose to wait and concentrate on the season.

 

That’s looking like a good gamble by Steen so far.

 

*

 

Pascal Dupuis nonchalantly pulling out his own teeth on the bench (mute if you are McGuire-phobic):

 

 

*

 

You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.


Write comment
Comments (15)add comment

yougo said:

yougo
... @TeamFoster4

I have been having the same issue also for a week maybe.

It's a pain smilies/angry.gifsmilies/angry.gif
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
Re: Kessel I probably wasn't clear about this. Kessel has upside for more than my potential listed. So that was actually more of a projection. I just like to call it potential because I think people are often too optimistic with their upside projections when the reality is those are long shots to occur. I say 40-goals and 85-points with a great deal of confidence. If I wanted to say he gets more I'd be going out on a limb.
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

His Dudeness said:

His Dudeness
Kessel Kessel put up 37 goals and 82 points in his last full season, and more than a point per game last season, so your "40-goal/85-point potential" is really conservative.
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

agentzero said:

agentzero
Not a US citizen As Rodgort points out: Also I read that he is not a US citizen.

That could be trouble... Though another Russian national who wasn't a US Citizen did jail time in the US (meaning, conviction of a criminal offense) without being deported. He was also a goalie... (Khabibulin).

I think this gets played out in peace bond/probation territory... Unless he actually hit someone..
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

Spec7ral said:

Spec7ral
... +1 Agent Zero, gonna hold off my Varlamov trade for a day or two!
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

TeamFoster4 said:

TeamFoster4
Issues with links on homepage On the right hand side of the home page sits the Fantasy Hockey Forum box. Whenever I click on one of the 4 forum posts that are displayed, the site takes me to the Forum homepage and not the story I clicked on. Am I the only one this happens to? Thanks.
October 31, 2013
Votes: +1

Rodgort said:

Rodgort
Varly Also I read that he is not a US citizen, so he only has a green card so to speak. Which could mean deportation if found guilty from what I read looking around the internet
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

hawkdog said:

hawkdog
Kronwall Great Ramblings this moring!

I kinda thought it was pretty obvious Kronwall would be the guy to replace Lidstrom, I took a lot of heat in a trade that involved Kronwall and Pronger a while back..................................
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

Lancione said:

messierforlife
2A/2B Awesome! lol Agreed Steve! Brutal crease monkeys in Calg.
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
... Bluejays, but Bozak and Kessel have chemistry!
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
... Thanks for the breakdown, AZ! I guess we'll no more as details surface.
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

bluejays said:

bluejays
... Is there anyway that Kadri will stick on the big line when Bozak returns? I am hoping so, because they are fun to watch.
October 31, 2013
Votes: +0

agentzero said:

agentzero
Varly and criminal charges I mean, will they look to prosecute right away? Will there be delays while they build their case? Will there be further delays with appeals? Who knows.

All I can say is that I cannot see how he continues his brilliant start to the season even if he is allowed to play.

But Varlamov is not Roy and I seriously question whether he has the mental fortitude to overcome this amount of adversity.



Courts are always back-logged so yes, there are lengthy delays for hearings other than first appearances.. Plea deals speed things up and by the sounds of the information I have seen in the news so far, this involves kidnapping and domestic violence charges which mean: family law dispute. Believe it or not, something as simple as "no I am not bringing you the kids this weekend!" + shouting it at an ex-spouse who is on your doorstep is enough to rack up the charges laid against Varly. Patrick Roy had been arraigned on charges for pushing a door off its hinges, not actually hitting anyone and scaring his spouse (much like he did the glass between he and Boudreau, in fact almost exactly)... They always read worse than the incidents actually are..

Unless we have a zealot prosecutor and unless there was an actual physical attack (which would surprise me), this should be a quick plea deal for something like a recognizance or peace bond or at worse, a probation. If it doesn't involve him actually getting a criminal record, this stuff is kept pretty low-key and there are lengthy delays between appearances and meetings.

In family law disputes, these types of domestic matters are so run of the mill, so it wouldn't surprise me if it was blown out of proportion. Kidnapping charges doesn't always mean he boarded a container ship in the Arabian gulf with an AK-47 and took the captain hostage in a life boat. It can be as simple as missing a drop off of the kids at your ex-spouse's house or taking them to your grandma's house out of town without notifying the ex-spouse or getting her consent...

I place my bets on Varly being fine. Unless he actually did hit someone and took his kids to another state, lived under an alias and we never heard from him again.
October 31, 2013
Votes: +2

darkhelmet23 said:

darkhelmet23
... Sorry to be the one to make the connection here, but hey.... maybe putting up ridiculous goalie stats goes hand in hand with a little domestic violence.

http://www.nytimes.com/2000/10/23/sports/nhl-roy-is-charged-with-domestic-violence.html
October 31, 2013
Votes: -1

Pengwin7 said:

Pengwin7
Trade You lost this trade.
Nuge ain't worth anything close to his future contract number... and is borderline awful contract if you count "every stat in the book".
By the time Drouin hits year #4, MSL might even be retired and Stamkos might have signed his next UFA somewhere else.
Vermette is actually producing well right now, but what's the likelihood of that when Nuge/Drouin finally hit their primes.

You pretty much punted two seasons of fantasy hockey (this season & next season) on making this trade.

But... the rest of the rambling was solid. Thumbs up for that.
October 31, 2013
Votes: +4
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