Merry Christmas everyone!


How did you spend your day? I got together with my brother and father to exchange gifts and then watched basketball all day. In fact, I'm watching basketball as I write this. My dad explained to us that the Leafs playing on Christmas Day used to be a tradition. Apparently that stopped in 1972, so that dates him pretty well.


My brother gifted me The Game by Ken Dryden, which was such a genius gift that this marked the second time in the past three years he picked it up for me. Oh well, this time he got me the 30th anniversary edition with a foreword by Bill Simmons. Looks like the local library is getting one book richer.




So you know, I am posting early on Wednesday night so I can get to early and wakeup for the Canada game at the World Juniors.


With that in mind, you absolutely must download (and read) Dobber Prospects front man Brendan Ross’s preview for the 2014 World Juniors. I can’t imagine the time and effort that went into it so please, please, please support the work. It demands your attention.


While you are at it, you can also login to the forums and sign up for our yearly World Juniors pool. It’s free and it’s fun – the two big Fs! More details to be found here. Deadline to enter is puck drop of the first game so depending on when you read this there may still be time!




Matchsticks and Gasoline considers the regression of Sean Monahan:


I'm a big fan of Sean Monahan and yes, I'd much rather see him in the lineup than Blair Jones or Paul Byron or Ben Street but in terms of his development I still believe the Flames did, and continue to, make a mistake with him. Admit it and prepare for next year. Last year when I watched Monahan at all of the Red/White WJ tryouts he was way behind the curve and looked completely out of place. Am I to believe that he went from that to a regular NHL top 6 forward in a year? It's possible but unlikely. I'm not even sure at this point that he's making the Flames a completely better team and certainly not to the point that it's worth him staying in Calgary with Bob Hartley.

There was no doubt in my mind that Monahan would fall off after his hot start. All rookies do. In one-year leagues I wouldn’t even bother with him at this point. The Flames are going to get worse – not better – as the year goes on because pending UFAs like Mike Cammalleri and Lee Stempniak are sure to be on the move. That means Monahan should continue to see minutes but they are unlikely to be all that productive.


It certainly doesn’t help that Monahan spent much of the last game on skating on the fourth line:


Games between 2013-12-23 and 2013-12-23



Line Combination














Life was much better when Monahan was skating alongside Jiri Hudler, who refuses to regress.


Looking at those line combos it’s hard not to like Mikael Backlund in the short term. He’s scored seven points in 11 December games. That’s not fantastic production but it’s a step up for Backlund.




Word is that Dion Phaneuf will sign a contract extension soon.


Phaneuf has had a pretty crappy fantasy season by his standards. His scoring is notably down – he’s on pace for just 28 points, which is how many he scored in 48 games last season. Now sometimes defensemen will simply have bad half-seasons. Because defensemen are working with lower scoring margins they are subject to much more volatility and often are at the mercy of their own team’s abilities to score.


The Leafs are not a terrible offensive team though. They sit 16th in league scoring and boast the league’s fourth best power play. Phaneuf also hasn’t been unlucky. His 9.46% on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five is above league average. The problem instead seems to be that Phaneuf simply hasn’t been nearly as involved offensively as he has in the past.


Phaneuf’s shooting is WAY down. He’s on pace for just 140 shots, which is embarrassingly low for a player who has routinely cleared 200 shots in every season of his career short of ones shortened by injury or lockout. I think this drop has significantly affected Phaneuf’s power play production, where he has no goals and just three points.


It’s hard to complain, the Leafs have great success on the power play so why would he curb his current play? He’s not out to satisfy fantasy owners. He wants to win games. Phaneuf is also rocking a solid plus-11 rating, the first time he’s been a plus-player in his Leafs career.


That feels like a bubble that’s waiting to burst though. He’s PDO sits at 1055, largely thanks to Leafs goaltenders stopping 96% of shots with Phaneuf on the ice. If you are counting on Phaneuf to continue boosting your plus/minus this year, you’d be best to quit while you are ahead.




Glen Sather is reportedly looking to deal a defenseman. It’s no surprise to see Michael Del Zotto on that list. He hasn’t been good for a while now. Del Zotto is basically hockey’s version of a DH, in that he’s really only good on the power play, except he’s not all that good at that either. So he’s a bad DH. Like Adam Dunn a couple of years ago.


I think there is a team out there that could use Del Zotto but you’d also think that that team would probably look something exactly like the Rangers, what with their stockpile of solid stay-at-home types like Marc Staal and Dan Girardi.


Speaking of Girardi – he was mentioned as possibly available as well. It makes some sense too considering he’s an impending UFA. The problem is that with his UFA status there’s only so much a team would offer knowing that he’s a rental. The Rangers probably get the most out of this situation just keeping Girardi and trying to make a run with him. Also, they should try to re-sign him.


It’s possible that Sather is trying the old “foot in the door” technique by dangling a bigger name to get talks started and then diverting his attention to a hard pitch on Del Zotto. It’s a technique you should definitely try in your trade talks in fantasy leagues.




Check out this gushing review of the genius of the Sedins and how Tortorella has increased their usage this year.


The biggest takeaways:


Their ice time is way up and they are on pace to set career highs in Hits and Blocked Shots.


They are by no means strong contributors in these categories but they are slightly less one-dimensional for those of you playing in multi-category pools.




SBNation’s Fantasy Hockey Scouts takes a look at some waiver wire pickups for Week 12:

Derek Roy - StL - C - 30% owned with 8+19=27

Roy has become a consistent producer after his sluggish start to the season. He’s managed 13 points in his last 12 games, although his peripherals aren’t anything to brag to your mom about (+3, 22PIMs, a puny 6 hits, and 65 shots on goal). Like I said, though, his game has improved over the last while and could be a good add in many leagues.



Mile High Hockey has some fun breaking down a goal against the Oilers from last week.




Ed Duhatshek takes a look at the rise of the backups this year:

Teams will ask – fairly – are all the L.A. goalies just a product of the Kings’ system? The answer is no, not entirely. Scrivens and Jones have actually been better, on balance, than Quick, who was having just an okay season (10-5, 2.35 GAA, .905 save percentage) before he got hurt. The Kings have lost just twice in regulation since Quick’s injury Nov. 12, a monumental achievement and a testament to their relentlessly solid defensive play.



Ryan Kennedy with an in depth profile on Seth Jones:

On the ice, the Predators have given Jones the chance to succeed. His mucho minutes have come in all situations and he partnered with Weber before settling in on a second pairing with Klein. Not only does that balance out Nashville’s blueline, but those relationships continue off the ice.



Justin Bourne breaks down the 10 Worst Defensive Mistakes of 2013.




Puck Daddy takes a look at some stunning mid-season numbers:


The shorthanded save percentage of Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators, the lowest for any goalie that’s faced at least 90 shots from an opposing power play. He’s given up 25 power-play goals in 25 games.

That’s a juicy stat for the #FantasyArsonist.




Colby Cash theorizes that goalies can’t save themselves:

Goalies who will ultimately be very good almost always prove it pretty early in their careers. But the converse is obviously not true: many goalies who make an impact at a young age are out of the NHL, or headed that way, by the time they are 30. (Anybody remember Jim Carey, Net Detective? He’s two years younger than Martin Brodeur! Still!) Analyzing goaltenders is difficult for subtle statistical reasons, but it is important to think clearly about the subject. With the Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics approaching, Canadian fans have been alerted to our country’s relative weakness at the position—partly because some young prospects Didn’t Improve.

I have a few issues with this story. First and foremost, he references some studies and stat charts but doesn’t provide links or visuals to actually demonstrate that what he is referencing is true. We are just supposed to take his word for it. Sorry, this is 2013 – soon to be 2014! – take my word for it doesn’t cut it.


I also think that this notion is too simplistic. It ignores outliers and the reality is that NHL players are already outliers. We shouldn’t expect everyone to follow a similar script. There are a number of reasons why a goaltender could get to the NHL and succeed or fail. Things like conditioning, coaching, etc.


I look at guys who struggled early in their career like Kari Lehtonen and Mike Smith who didn’t peak until later for reasons just like I mentioned.


One thing he points out is that goaltenders apparently peak between ages 21 and 23 before declining.


How many goalies are even NHL starters at that age? Is he using minor league stats? Because that I could understand. But if he’s using NHL stats then what he’s looking at is the very limited number of goalies who actually get to the league early.


Interesting read nonetheless, I just need real proof because what I’ve seen is that good goaltenders come in all shapes, sizes, ages, races, creeds, nationalities, etc.


I personally believe that there are 100 or so goaltenders out there who could make a run as a starter in the NHL if given the opportunity – and with some good coaching, luck etc. – because years of watching new goalies step up and become fantasy darlings have conditioned me to expect this as the norm.




Hopefully you’ve survived the hockey dry spell. Enjoy the World Juniors and the rest of your holidays!




You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.

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Axeman33 said:

... Merry Christmas MD26!

I remember reading The Game many years ago (I'm no spring chicken myself) and I picked it up a couple years ago and gave it another read. Great book, even if you own a few copies.

Good luck in the WJC pool. Not enough luck to beat me, but I guess we will see!
December 26, 2013
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