Happy Valentine’s Day! I’d suggest you spend the day with your one true love but with the NHL (and thus fantasy hockey) on hiatus you’ll have to settle for your domestic partner.
As I indicated in yesterday’s ramblings, I spent yesterday on the road coaching basketball. We left at 6:30 am and returned at 12:30 am. I’m wiped.
Luckily, I was able to find some downtime to not only catch half of the Canada-Norway match but to also put together today’s ramblings. Unfortunately, that downtime was courtesy of my squad’s narrow loss in the semi-final. Oh well, you can’t win ‘em all.
I know that the natural reaction to Canada’s underwhelming performance against Norway is to panic but these early struggles are a part of the process. Also, to panic would be to underestimate the Norwegian talent. They don’t have many NHLers but they have plenty of talented professionals who, if nothing else, know how to slow the game down.
I’m sure you saw the defensive shell Norway was frequently falling back into. At times they collapsed all five guys to the front of the net. It looked like the kind of wall you see teams use in soccer.
Norway played tough and Canada is still getting their sea legs. Not panicking.
I didn’t catch any of the other games so I can’t weigh in with much. I did see that Tuukka Rask allowed four goals on 20 shots in Finland’s blowout of Austria. Can’t say that’s Gold stealing form.
Three of those goals were scored by Michael Grabner whose hat-trick has left the New York Islanders wondering where he has been all year.
Huge blow to the Swedish effort as Henrik Zetterberg has been sent home with a herniated disc. Well that didn’t take long. The Red Wings playoff hopes take a huge hit with this news. As does the fantasy value of Gustav Nyquist who has been running alongside Zetterberg. Jimmy Howard takes a hit as the Red Wings' starter as the whole team will suffer from Zetterberg’s diminished presence.
Apparently they won’t know the extent of the injury until he gets back to Detroit but I’m going to go ahead and assume that even if he can return to play in short order that he’ll be diminished the rest of the way.
Now to address some of your questions from yesterday…
The Lightning have created a very good problem for themselves having these two step up while Stamkos was on the shelf. It leaves a number of different possibilities open, which would have their own unique consequences.
The Lightning could elect to keep Palat, Johnson and Martin St. Louis together, which would leave Stamkos to center a line with Alex Killorn and Teddy Purcell as the most likely candidates. Valtteri Filppula would be left with the third line and the likes of say Nikita Kucherov and Ryan Malone.
Filppula loses in that scenario.
Stamkos could replace Johnson on the top line, relegating Johnson to what would probably wind up being the third line. He loses in that scenario, while Filppula retains some value and Palat retains a lot.
St. Louis, Stamkos and Killorn could be reunited on the Lightning top line, leaving BOTH Palat and Johnson out in the cold.
The power play dynamics are also important here. While Stamkos was out the Lightning alternated Filppula and Palat on the top unit with St. Louis, Purcell and Johnson as mainstays. One of two things happens here. Stamkos takes the Filppula/Palat spot or he takes Purcell’s spot. I’d bet on it being the former leaving Palat AND Filppula to pick up second unit scraps.
BUT I also expect that Stamkos’ return results in some pullback for the Lightning. I don’t think they’ll be as successful with him for the first bit as they were without. When a team loses a star they can kind of band together and rally behind their fallen man. Everyone steps up to help carry the load. Then he comes back and everyone expects things to get easier. They have to adapt back to lesser roles. It shifts the dynamic.
As for the long term that’s anyone’s guess. You also have to factor Jonathan Drouin into the mix with anything beyond this season and the unknown retirement/falloff from St. Louis remains uncertain. In any keeper league those are my top three Lightning forwards. Nothing Palat and Johnson have done changes matters for me. That means secondary scoring, which maxes out at 50-60 points. They could get there though if Tampa Bay makes the leap to powerhouse.
How long before Ty Rattie gets to the show?
That question would be better directed to our prospect guru, Brendan Ross, but I’ll give it a swing all the same because I’ve made a point of devaluing Rattie in keeper leagues because I don’t expect to see him all that soon.
For one, smaller guys tend to take a while. For another, the Blues are loaded on the main roster and in the pipeline. Finally, he hasn’t exactly been devastating in his transition to pro hockey. His AHL numbers – 18 goals, 29 points in 47 games – are adequate but don’t demand a promotion.
The Blues are sitting on several of players whose contracts end after this season so there could be some serious turnover but I’d wager they find a way to re-sign their three RFAs Vladimir Sobotka, Patrick Berglund and Jaden Schwartz. Meanwhile UFAs Brenden Morrow and Derek Roy are bit veterans easily replaced in free agency or by say the promotion of Magnus Paajarvi from the press box and Dmitri Jaskin from riding the bus.
So when do we see Rattie? I can picture him taking Jaskin’s bus riding spot next season, which means a few cups of coffee. How he develops will determine whether we see him full time in 2015-16 or 2016-17. I’m leaning towards the former because at that point the Blues will be looking for cheap talent with Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Chris Stewart (or whoever replaces him) are all due extensions by then.
What’s up with David Rundblad?
That’s another question better fit for Rossy but, again, I’ll take a crack.
I think what is up with Rundblad is he landed in the wrong spot. You know what the Phoenix Coyotes don’t need? Offensive defensemen. Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson have that on lockdown for the next half-dozen years.
Rundblad is slowly gaining some traction in Phoenix though. He has proven too advanced for the AHL. His AHL numbers last season – 39 points in 50 games – were devastating. But he hasn’t been able to lock down a regular shift spending much time in the press box. He’s received a few cups of coffee as a result and appears to be the next guy in line but Brandon Gormley and Connor Murphy are breathing down his neck, offering more upside as all-around players.
Rundblad may end up as trade bait as the Coyotes make a playoff push but they also have to value Rundblad’s potential to step up in case of injury, which could cripple him in no-man’s land.
I’d really hate to see him wind up kind of like Ryan Ellis in Nashville where there are just too many other options ahead of him for him to be a serious fantasy option but barring an injury or a trade Rundblad looks to be stuck in limbo with no daylight ahead. I’m not all that convinced he has it to be an NHL regular either but I’m loathe to write him off.
For those of you interested in fancy stats and projections, feast your eyes on this.
Katie Baker reviews the Canada-USA Women’s hockey blood-feud.
Apparently NFL star JJ Watt has some hockey skills.
You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.