How about the Leafs taking it to the possession monster Los Angeles Kings last night, winning the shot battle 39-23? It’s too bad that Jonathan Bernier didn’t have his best outing of the year against his former team.

 

Bernier has now had clunkers in five of his last six starts, winning just his 48-save effort against Dallas last week.

 

Cody Franson scored the lone goal for the Leafs, his first of the year. It was only a matter of time for Franson, who has serious 10-goal potential but definitely not at his current shot pace of 114. Still, he’s never shot less than 5% in his career (which is great for a defenseman) so even if he continues to shoot at a low rate, he should score a few more as the season wears on.

 

Jake Gardiner picked up an assist on Franson’s marker as he filled in for the suspended Dion Phaneuf on the Leafs power play. It’s a shame Phaneuf can’t be held out longer because I think Gardiner could do some real damage with consistent power play time. Also, considering how miserable this season has been for Phaneuf his trip to the press box made him only marginally less productive for my fantasy squad last night.

 

If you click on Gardiner’s name above you’ll get linked to his FrozenPool player profile, which shows that Gardiner has actually received a very healthy amount of power play time of late, which helps explain his current four-game scoring streak. Perhaps he is indeed worth a short term pickup.

 

David Clarkson was one of the Leafs’ bigger shooters with six SOG last night. He has been rather snake-bitten this year with just two goals so far. He has just one point in his last eight games.

 

And since we are on the subject of the Leafs, here’s an update on my Leafs to miss the playoffs betting:

 

I was able to get a couple of friendly $20 wagers out of a couple of people but I really pushed hard on one of my school buddies. We’ve agreed that the loser hangs this in a prominent place in their household for the next year. Yeah, this shit just got serious.

 

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On the Kings’ side of things, it was disappointing to see Ben Scrivens not get the start against his former team but it’s hard to criticize the decision to go with Martin Jones, who is on fire and did not disappoint making 38 saves for his fourth straight win.

 

Considering the success of both Scrivens and Jones this season, at what point do the Kings consider trading Jonathan Quick? Obviously that’s a decision that they can’t make until the summer because not matter how much confidence they have in their other netminders it would be way too difficult to trade a guy just two years removed from a Conn Smythe in the midst of another run at the Cup.

 

 

I only ask the question because over the past two seasons (roughly 50 starts), Quick has been rather ordinary. It’s true that he was great during the playoffs between these two mediocre half-seasons but save percentages always rise during the playoffs so I wouldn’t necessarily point to those 18 games this past spring as a sign that he is definitely an elite starter.

 

My confidence in Quick has definitely been shaken and the success of Jones and Scrivens definitely plays a role in that. If they can play well for the Kings maybe this is a case where the system matters more than the goalie?

 

Quick still warrants some buy low action, especially in one-year pools where poolies will be less patient and thus more likely to sell low, but I’m no longer including Quick in my ever-evolving top tier of fantasy netminders.

 

Jeff Carter led the Kings offensively with a goal and an assist, just his second multi-point game of the season. Carter is off to a slow start since returning from injury but maybe this is where he really kicks his production up a notch.

 

The good news is that Carter’s production only briefly slowed down Tyler Toffoli who has scored six points in his last five games. Prior to this recent run it was looking like Toffoli was headed back down to the minors but he’s definitely earned an extended stay.

It has really helped Toffoli that the coaching staff has mixed up their lines recently. Check them out, courtesy of FrozenPool:

 

18.13%

EV

23 BROWN,DUSTIN - 28 STOLL,JARRET - 14 WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

16.21%

EV

77 CARTER,JEFF - 74 KING,DWIGHT - 11 KOPITAR,ANZE

12.12%

EV

13 CLIFFORD,KYLE - 10 RICHARDS,MIKE - 73 TOFFOLI,TYLER

8.04%

EV

17 CARCILLO,DANIEL - 24 FRASER,COLIN - 71 NOLAN,JORDAN

 

Toffoli has also found himself on the top power play unit with Carter, Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Drew Doughty.

 

Toffoli is obviously the big winner of this shakeup because while his minutes are still limited he is back to seeing minutes with quality linemates, which will allow him to do what he does best; score.

 

Don’t sleep on the added benefit for Stoll who had a four-game scoring streak snapped last night. Paired with two quality scoring wingers Stoll could get his game back on track making him a nice second-half sleeper in deeper leagues. He still only has 45-point upside but he can still hit that number, which would mean 35 points the rest of the way. That’s a long shot, but it’s doable, which would make him relevant in almost all leagues.

 

This shakeup hurts Justin Williams and Dustin Brown though because Stoll simply isn’t Kopitar. This might make Brown waiver wire fodder in shallower leagues, including my own, where I own him. Obviously, he’s a must own if you count Hits, but in leagues without that stat, Brown’s miserable season doesn’t look to be improving any time soon.

 

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The Blackhawks spanked the Flyers last night as their former netminder, Ray Emery, made his return to town. They ventilated him for six goals on 18 shots before he was finally, mercifully, pulled early in the third period. So much for Steve Mason’s day off.

 

There were a couple of silver linings for the Flyers in this one:

 

Kimmo Timonen notched an assist and has four points in his last four games.

 

Jakub Voracek scored a goal in his second straight game but remains a solid buy low.

 

And that’s pretty much it.

 

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So Patrick Kane has made the leap right? He’s not just a star, he’s a super-duper star on pace for his first 100-point season. I am very intrigued to see if he gets there. I took some flack a couple years back when I said I preferred Kane to Claude Giroux. Doesn’t look so silly now does it?

 

Of course, I’m also the idiot who pegged Kane for regression in this year’s pre-season guide so take that for what you will.

 

Interesting stat – Patrick Sharp now sits second in the NHL in SOG, that’s some great rotisserie value. With eight points in the last three games Sharp is also up near a point-per-game too in what is rounding out as quite the bounce back season.

 

Kris Versteeg now has six points in his last five games as he finally makes good on that sleeper status I gave him coming into this season. All it took was a trade!

 

Brandon Saad also has six points over that same stretch.

 

Antti Raanta continues to produce with Corey Crawford on the shelf. Frankly, I think they should keep him there. It’s actually too bad you can’t use compliance buyouts on contracts signed after the new CBA because Crawford looks like a candidate. I say that not just because Crawford has been mediocre since signing his monster extension but also because Chicago is just a year and a half away from doomsday (when Kane and Jonathan Toews hit unrestricted free agency). That’s going to be like Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in Anaheim but magnified by a lot.

 

Of course, Chicago probably extends those two well ahead of time but Crawford’s contract doesn’t make that easy.

 

*

 

Speaking of Getzlaf and Perry, those two were at it again last night combining for the game-winner in a tight one over Minnesota.

 

Cam Fowler was held off the board despite some big minutes. He still has six points over his last six games and remains a solid option you’ll find available in 41% of Yahoo! leagues.

 

Nick Bonino’s three-game scoring streak came to a close last night but he has 11 points over his last 11 games thanks in large part to a key role on the Ducks top power play unit. Bonino is still over-producing with a shooting percentage of 14.8% but even with regression factored in he is a really solid depth option. His current pace is for 57 points so even with some pull back he could still net you 50 points, which would be great considering this will be his first full NHL season.

 

Jonas Hiller was solid between the pipes and has now won three straight and more importantly has played solidly in seven of his last eight as he builds towards mid-season form. If you are at all a believer in split stats you should know that Hiller has historically gotten off to slow starts with mediocre October and November numbers and then becoming an above-average goalie the rest of the way.

 

Not saying that is what is happening here but it does follow the narrative.

 

*

 

Jason Pominville scored the lone goal for Minnesota as he continues to score goals at ridiculous rates for the Wild. His overall scoring pace is rather disappointing though (on pace for 53 points) leaving one to wonder if he will kick it up another notch if his assists pick up to their usual rate. I think Pominville stays on something like his current pace but the goals will start to be replaced by assists as we move forward so if your league rewards goal scoring now is the time to sell high.

 

Ryan Suter got an assist on the goal, his first point in nine games, allowing his fantasy owners to breathe a sigh of relief.

 

Whatever charade the Wild were trying to pull sticking Dany Heatley’s corpse on the top line, well that’s over with now. He staggered his way around the ice for just 9:43 on the fourth line with no power play time last night.

 

Oh and Charlie Coyle is the best.

 

*

 

Jeff Cowen was suspended two games for a hit to the head of Zemgus Girgensons.

 

Richard Panik was also suspended two games for a hit to the head of Karl Alzner.

 

*

 

Enlightening read on the Sabres shuffling their lines earlier this week:


Sabres interim coach Ted Nolan switched up the lines at practice Monday and moved Girgensons up with center Tyler Ennis and left wing Matt Moulson. Girgensons knows that he’s going to have to keep going to the blue paint while playing a hard-nosed style in order to have continued success.

That’s some really good company for Girgensons who has four points in his last five games. He could be worth a pickup in the short term.

 

I don’t feel great about Girgensons upside, he looks to me more like a third-line checker but who knows. He certainly has enough talent to be more than that, it’s just a matter of getting the right opportunity.

 

One illuminating tidbit from that article was the fact that Nolan was Girgensons coach on the Latvian national team. I always like when player and coach have history together. If Nolan gets to stay beyond this year he could offer a real boost to Girgensons long term chances.

 

*

 

The Hockey Writers gives us Five USA Players to look for at the World Juniors:


Jon Gillies has the daunting task of filling the goaltending void left by John Gibson and his remarkable performance at last year’s World Juniors. However, Gillies also has the benefit of being a part of last year’s squad. The experience should prove to be invaluable.

The Calgary Flames are high on their third-round pick from the 2012 draft. Gillies is currently leading the way for Providence College, transforming them into a National Title contender and currently hold a goals-against average south of two. He’s a big goaltender who likes to come out and challenge the shooter and does a good job of playing the angles.

Hopefully you have started to scoop up guys headed to the World Juniors in your keeper league pools. The stage doesn’t get any greater than this for players that young and this is an opportunity to generate some real hype with which you can sell high.

 

This is a ploy Jeff Angus talked about every year in this space and I’m going to continue the tradition. It’s just smart strategy. Sometimes you can even stumble onto a prospect so good you don’t even want to trade them like I did with PK Subban a half-dozen years ago.

 

Gillies is one I’m so high on that I wouldn’t sell him unless a real bounty came along. He looks like he’s the future in Calgary. Keep in mind that – as with all goalie prospects – that future could be a year away, or it could be five.

 

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Check out Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:


26. One of the changes Benn made was spending more time in Texas during the summer. Asked if there was anyone he was trying to emulate, Benn thought for a second before choosing Ryan Getzlaf of the Ducks. According to extraskater.com, Getzlaf and Benn rank 1-2 in the NHL in even-strength points per 60 minutes. Benn's teammate Tyler Seguin, by the way, is third.

And if Dallas could ever figure out their league-worst power play who knows how prolific those two Stars could be. Keep in mind though that Benn and Seguin are also among the league leaders in five-on-five on-ice shooting percentage, which indicates they’ve had a fair amount of luck on their side too.

 

*

 

Not for the faint of heart – this is what happens when you take a skate to the face.

 

*

 

Checkout regression in action for Dustin Penner:

 

 

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You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw


Write comment
Comments (11)add comment

Daydream Nation said:

Daydream Nation
... Crawford's contract is not going affect Chicago's chances to sign Toews and Kane. With the cap going up, the Hawks will be able to pay them 9-10 million per. Oduya will be coming off the books and will be replaced with Leddy while a youngster takes the 3rd pairing spot. Plus, Bickell can always be moved if needbe. As long as Crawford is the starting goalie, his contract will not be a major problem.
December 12, 2013
Votes: +0

rob2kx said:

rob2kx
... You have a small typo up there. Says the "loser" hangs up the picture of Joffrey Lupul. Should read "winner," no?
December 12, 2013
Votes: +1

SavageGardener said:

SavageGardener
Horton's effect on Dubinsky and Johansen Would you (or anyone else) have a take on how Nathan Horton's upcoming return to CBJ's lineup will affect Dubinsky and Johansen? I'd love to hear you weigh in on that question!
December 12, 2013
Votes: +1

metaldude26 said:

metaldude26
... smack - I was speaking from a purely fantasy angle on Phaneuf. I drafted him high and have not enjoyed the mediocre points and significant drop in SOG. More of a frustration vent than anything.

als_revenge - Jared Cowen, D'Oh!

AZ - like I said, there's no way they could trade Quick right now. That would be an off-season decision and if you look at where they are cap-wise you have to figure that what happens is they promote Jones and let Scrivens walk as a UFA. But if they can get Scrivens to re-up for like three years on the cheap then you are looking at a situation where they could seriously consider moving Quick. And it has to be a balancing act because if Quick isn't legit then the longer you expose him the less you'll be able to get in return.

As for Crawford, well let's look at your comparison of goalies to NFL kickers and MLB pitchers. I actually would consider goalies closer to NFL quarterbacks because you really cannot win without a good one. The difference is supply and demand. In football you might find 10-15 guys who actually play the position at a high level at any given time. In hockey, I tend to feel there are upwards of 100 goaltenders roaming the earth capable of performing at a high level and that's because most of the great advances in hockey over the last 20 years have been with regard to goaltending in terms of equipment, athleticism and coaching.

Now, there are some teams that simply cannot find a goalie - is that because the talent doesn't exist or are they doing a poor job of coaching that position? I feel it has more to do with the latter than the former. And I actually think that Philly is a great example of why spending on goaltending IS foolish. They were on quite the run until they blew things up in order to spend big on Ilya Bryzgalov and then they allowed him to become his own sideshow.

Obviously there was more foul with the Flyers that caused them to blow things up but that doesn't change the fact that they have not been the same since. If they stick with the status quo maybe they get the Vezina season Bob just posted and work their way to another long playoff run.

Furthermore, the Kings would never have been able to afford to bring in Carter and Richards whom Philly had to expunge to fit Bryzgalov without their own cheap goalie tandem in Quick and Bernier. They don't win the Cup without Quick's heroics but they also don't get that chance without Carter and Richards.

So where does that leave Crawford? Not elite, that's for sure. Nothing about him, whether you look at the numbers or the eye test or what have you, screams elite. That makes him a game-manager quarterback in an environment overflowing with similar talent. So my point is that they overpaid significantly for the security blanket of known mediocrity. This is not me saying Crawford isn't good enough. My point is that mediocre is good enough and you can find that elsewhere for cheaper.

And just to make sure this is clear. You absolutely aren't winning a Cup without above average goaltending in the playoffs. But as we've seen from countless goalies mediocre talent can get hot for 20+ games and be elite. That's what I mean when I say there are like 100 guys out there who could be starters. Lots of goalies have the talent to get in a zone for that short of a stretch. We see it every single year.

That type of performance does not warrant Crawford's contract.

And yes, Rodgort, Crawford is among the best goalies if you count wins only. If I'm not mistaken he is still the league leader despite his recent injury. Sorry for your Quick luck. I too bought in this year. Not impressed.
December 12, 2013
Votes: +1

Rodgort said:

Rodgort
... Crawford is great in fantasy hockey if you count wins ONLY. But if you add GAA and SV% he is mediocre at best.

Quick has burnt me 2 years in a row in a yahoo pool I am in, I keep picking him high... who knows why. But I think that the excellent play of Scrivens and Jones may push him a bit as maybe his 10 year contract kind of got to his head and he let his game slip. Hopefully watching them gets him to kick it up a notch and be better than his .905sv%
December 12, 2013
Votes: +0

Havanablast21 said:

Havanablast21
... Great Ramblings man. But I have to agree with Agent zero...Crawford is underrated and so is the notion that top notch goaltending is over rated in playoff success.
December 12, 2013
Votes: +0

agentzero said:

agentzero
ramblings Forgot to add that your ramblings are always very comprehensive and I appreciate their contents every time. Integral part of my morning routine and to the development of my fantasy hockey IQ.
December 12, 2013
Votes: +1

agentzero said:

agentzero
Quick et al. I realize Scrivens and Jones have been lights out recently (and really lights-out since the Kings are getting outshot bad recently... but this is largely unsustainable and I would bet the Kings really want their no. 1 goalie back asap. There is no way they consider trading Quick, a proven commodity, at a moment where the sample size for these 2 goalies is so small. They are nowhere close to thinking about this IMO.. Interesting thought, but I don't think they ever go there. Jones or Scrivens would get moved way before Quick..

I also happen to believe Crawford is a very good and underrated goalie. Simply beause the Hawks are a good team, it doesn't mean you can cheap out on a goalie (see lessons learned by Philadelphia Flyers). What do goalies have to do to earn their contracts and respect? I have no idea where this notion came from that if your team is lights out, you can pay peanuts for a tier 3 goalie and get away with Stanley Cups... But if your team sucks, then you need a lights out goalie and have to pay him gazillions and that's ok.. Osgood with the Wings is not a good example. He was never as mediocre as people made him out to be. Terrible hockey myth. And the Wings did win Cups with Hasek... and the Devils with Brodeur.. and the Avs with Roy.. and those were all very good teams.. with generational-level talent goalies.. The Kings need Quick to win a Cup. The Hawks needed Crawford and the Bruins needed Thomas... and every team that wins a Cup has solid goaltending.. Many teams that don't have it, lose more often than not.

Kickers in football.. Pitchers in baseball... goalies in hockey... When they are outstanding, it's taken for granted. When they are anything less, they are seen as expendable... I don't get it.
December 12, 2013
Votes: +2

als_revenge said:

als_revenge
... Jeff Cowen? Who's that? smilies/smiley.gif

Nice ramblings, enjoyed reading them.
December 12, 2013
Votes: +0

smack said:

smack
BTW Ramblings were great, Steve. Thanks for them!
December 12, 2013
Votes: +0

smack said:

smack
Phaneuf Miserable season????? He's been the Leafs best dman by far. Maybe not points wise but he's been a rock there and had his best year easily then he's arrived. Found that as a weird statement. Agree that Gardiner could tear it up with more minutes but saying Phaneuf has had a miserable year was a bad choice of words.
December 12, 2013
Votes: +0
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