Welcome once again to “An Expert’s Audit”. This audit will also be posted here as well as on my fantasy hockey blog at www.fantasyhockey.hockeyanalysis.com . During the season I also do weekly reviews of teams for people who email in to me for a look-see. These audits will continue to appear here monthly and if you’re interested in having your keeper team “worked over” then you can begin by emailing Dobber about it.
I consider myself a pretty nice guy … well, I like me anyway. This month though I’ve been emailing back and forth with Ed Forbes and there’s no doubt in my mind that dude’s an exceedingly nice guy. It’s a bit humourous but I came on the scene with his team and started saying stuff like, “how did you end up in this predicament?” and “I can’t believe how much your league must’ve screwed you over here” and Ed took my vitriol with a constant Red Green reminder to keep my head up and my stick on the ice. There’s an old Barenaked Ladies tune called “Grade 9” (sorry about the lame musical reference but I’m just not as cool as other guys) where they start talking about what their nicknames were in Grade 9. There was Four eyes, Fatso, Buckwheat and then the funniest of them all, “they called me Eddie”. Ed must’ve been called Eddie throughout high school, I just can’t see anyone going out of his way to manacle a guy like Ed with any sort of reference that is designed to embarrass or insult. For a while there in public school the nickname for me was Turtleface so let me just say, you’d just prefer someone call you by your given name at moments like that. Anyway, I just want to take this moment to say thanks to Ed for being such a classy sort as I fumbled my way to trying to help him this month.
Ed plays in a man’s league. A dynasty league. A 30-team points league keeper with 24 man rosters. A points league awards a certain number of points for every stat so they’re harder to evaluate but additionally this league throws another curveball at you, they give differing points based on where on your roster you play them. They play 10 forwards, 6 defensemen, 2 goalies (think about that, it’s a 30 team league rostering two goalies each), and they have 2 enforcer roster spots that reward PIMs extra (cool eh?).
Ed started a rebuilding program a couple years back and he’s still rebuilding. He finished 26th last year and was left with the 4th pick in the prospects draft this season (more on that later). To prepare for his Prospect draft he had to leave a handful of names unprotected and he could only lose 2 of the unprotected options while he also drafted in 3 rounds. He then had a week to make sure that his roster was down to the 24-man max. I was thrilled that he’d get a quality option with that 4th pick but in a snake draft it’d be a LOOOOOONG time before his 2nd pick would come along.
Let’s take a look ( * signifies an unprotected player)
F Tomas Fleischmann WAS – remember the show Northern Exposure? That was a cool little show for a while back in the day. Fleischmann was the name of the main character but I always gravitated toward Maggie O’Connell (played by Janine Turner). She had this “beauty mark” by her left eye … but I digress. Tomas Fleischmann really showed up at the end of last season and he’ll get some opportunity again once all the same culprits as last year get injured again this year. I like him for maybe 40 pts if he has a great year.
F * Martin St. Pierre BOS – well, I don’t see any room for him on the depth chart, if he plays C. I wouldn’t hold out much hope for some production this season.
F Brad Boyes STL – nobody will be getting more goals for the Blues than my Boy-eee here for the next half decade. Give him a C who can get him the puck and he’ll spend all game burying it. Yes I like him as a scoring option, can you tell?
F Mikhail Grabovski, TOR – the move to Toronto will really bring his talent to blossom because there’ll be a LOT more room for growth there. As a Leafs fan I’m quite excited about watching this kid take off. He was an elite scoring option in the AHL and with time and opportunity he’ll show his gifts on the big stage.
F Jonathan Cheechoo SJ – one would think that Cheech would be the perfect complement to Big Joe and yet last year … his goal scoring prowess looked to be up in smoke (incidentally it seems like the more talented member of the duo is Chong, think that could be Joe’s nickname?). I still have hope for Cheech, I mean it’s not like they can rely on Roenick to do anything, can they? Lord I hope not.
F * Jeremy Williams TOR – he’ll get some opportunity I suppose but he’s a definite choice to be unprotected. Don’t hold your breath for much contribution.
F Robert Nilsson EDM – I’ve been waiting a long time for this kid to break out. I think he can be a magician with the puck sometimes and one day might be a Datsyuk type. He’ll get opportunity and I think the odds of a 50 pt season this year is better than a 30 pt season.
F Jack Skille CHI – I like him, probably more than I’ve heard some other guys waxing unpoetically. I see him as a top 6 forward, a power forward, and I don’t see many PF types amongst his brethren in Chi-town.
F * Vyacheslav Trukhno EDM – I’d much rather you not have left this guy unprotected, there’s some upside but it’s probably at least a year away.
F Igor Makarov CHI – pt/game upside is written all over him and he’ll be in training camp with the big club this fall. He’s probably a year away but he could surprise and show up now.
D Alexandre Picard TB – I think the upside is pretty huge and the opportunity for PP time is wide open for defensemen in the Bay.
D Braydon Coburn PHI – Y’think Atlanta would like him back? 36 pts in his first year full time in the league shows some mighty nice promise for some mighty nice stats down the road.
D Tom Gilbert EDM – I think we’re going to see a bit of a breakout for Gilbert this year.
D Chris Campoli NYI – who else they got? I see some nice stats for a few years for him too.
D Dan Hamhuis NAS – he’ll provide top 2 minutes and be a nice complement to Shea Weber on the point for the Preds.
D * Anton Volchenkov OTT – shutdown D who’s invaluable in real hockey but not so much in fantasy.
E * Brendon Bell OTT – doesn’t play and doesn’t contribute much when he does play.
E Ryan Callahan NYR – I’m just not much of a believer in this guy. I suppose that there’s a lot more opportunity on the Rangers with all the movement they’ve had. He projects for 3rd line duty and I figure that’s where he belongs for a long time.
G Karri Ramo TB – the time will come that he’s the starter for an NHL team, but it won’t be this year.
G Semen Varlamov WAS – he won’t even be a backup until 2010-11 and eventually he’ll have to fight Michal Neuvirth for who’ll be the “man”.
Res Michal Neuvirth WAS – smart that you have them both. Eventually your goaltending will be the best part of your team, right now it’s your worst part though.
Res Jan Mursak DET – Dobber reports that the Wings think he’ll be a solid 2nd or 3rd line option for them. Who are we to argue? 80 pt upside would be wonderful, but you’ll have to be patient.
Res * Devyn Dubnyk – hyped Oiler goalie who’s fallen and he can’t get up. Apparently he’s a large lad but he should be large somewhere else. I considered going with “who? No really, who?” but then thought the better of it.
Your D corps is your obvious strength on this team and eventually your goalies are going to be elite level. Your forwards … need some work. I’ll advise that you work on your forward corps, maybe see if you can get your mitts on a scoring goon to put into your enforcer slot. If you can get a goalie that’ll help you before either Varlamov or Neuvirth are ready to contribute to an NHL team then absolutely do that, not an easy prospect though.
Ed had the 4th pick in the draft so my first reaction was that it would be nice to get Nikita Filatov there. After seeing your team and how strong your D was already then it became imperative for you to go after Filatov at 4. I first suggested you try to trade up and you indicated that you had tried already and weren’t successful. You seemed confident that he was going to be there at 4 anyway so our strategy quickly became one of prayer and hoping that our guy wouldn’t be gone when the time came. Stamkos went 1st (naturally) and then Doughty and Bogosian at 2 and 3. I had a gleeful reaction to the fact that Filatov went to Ed at 4.
Fantasy hockey is not like real hockey. As an example let’s look at Luke Schenn, taken by the Leafs this year in the NHL draft. He’ll prove to be a shutdown D for the Leafs down the road but you don’t want him on your fantasy team, he won’t help your squad except perhaps in PIMs (and maybe +/- in a few years). In terms of fantasy hockey Filatov was the 2nd best option on the board. His ceiling is as high as Stamkos’ in my opinion and I don’t believe that any contributions by either Doughty or Bogosian will be significant enough for at least a couple years. The only thing to worry about with Filatov is the “Russian angle” but he doesn’t project as a KHL guy, he’s indicated he wants to come to North America and be a NHL’er. I was a bit nervous for Ed in that area but not enough to advise him to pass up on this opportunity. Dobber compares Filatov’s talent and draft spot to Jaromir Jagr’s in 1990 and I actually think that Filatov can be even better than jaguar (I have no reason to throw this in here other than the fact that Jags are COOL).
Ed’s 2nd and 3rd round picks didn’t occur until 54th and 64th overall. We had already decided that we’d concentrate on forwards and goaltenders in this prospect draft but in reality there was only one goaltender I would’ve considered drafting; Chet Pickard, and he went at 17th overall. Ed got Cal O’Reilly (Dobber prospect ranking 96) at 54 and Mathieu Perreault (Dobber prospect ranking 107) at 64. Both picks are on the smallish side but there’s pt/game potential in both too.
Volchenkov was claimed by another team in the draft and Dubnyk was later waived so that you could get your roster down to 24 men. Volchenkov is a quality hockey player for an NHL team but he wasn’t a big loss for your squad, his best contribution was in +/- anyway.
Aaron Voros – I suggest you add him if you can. You’ll need a viable enforcer type for your lineup and he’s a better fit there than anyone on your roster. I’d roster him ahead of Williams or Bell.
Simon Gamache – he might contribute and the Leafs are going a lot younger. Then again, he might only contribute as well as he has in the handful of games he’s seen the ice over the last several seasons.
Jeff Hamilton – for a while last season he held down a spot amongst the starting 5 on the PP for the Canes. Overall last year 16 of his 24 total pts were scored on the PP.
Gary Roberts – well, he has a job and he’s getting paid well. He’ll contribute but it’d be short term.
Curtis Sanford – God forbid anything happens to Bobby Lou but at least Sanford’s in the league and if he got more starts he might actually get some wins.
So Now What?
Your D is strong. Everything else is not. Now that doesn’t mean that it’ll stay that way, in fact I see your goaltending as being stellar in a few years when your D will solidify your position in the league. If you catch a couple breaks, maybe make a keen trade to help your forwards then you’ll be sitting that much prettier.
I did suggest some trades you could pursue.
Toronto – this guy is your league champ actually (why can’t this sort of thing happen in the real world?) and he had Brian Elliott sitting on his reserve. I first suggested you ask about the price tag for Elliott knowing that he’ll be the Sens guy in a couple years and thinking the price might be reasonable for a team who’s looking to repeat this season. My thinking was that one of your lower end defensemen might be enough to pry Elliott away from him. It turned out that Toronto wanted a gold mine for Elliott and that was just plain unreasonable at this time.
Edmonton – Edmonton approached you about a trade and he had Teddy Purcell sitting near the bottom of his roster. I figure that Purcell is primed for a big year coming up and within a couple seasons he’ll be ready to help carry the offense of whatever team in your league gets to roster him. I was hoping that an eventual offer involving Fleischmann and a prospect like Makarov for Purcell and a pick might get something done here but it turned out that Edmonton had no interest in trading Purcell at this time.
Ottawa – Ottawa has Andrej Pavelec on his roster and I thought it’d be ideal to get him. My thinking is that Kari Lehtonen seems to fall apart at some time during every season and that’ll open the door for Pav who has the talent to steal the job and skate away with it. I thought that an offer of Gilbert and a prospect may be enough to get Pavelec and a prospect back. Ottawa wasn’t interested in moving Pavelec at all and nothing further happened.
Buffalo – Buffalo has Chris Neil on the block in this league and I fully admit that Neil is one of my fave options for a PIMs and pts ratio. Ed admitted he wasn’t terribly interested in trying to deal for a goon though so we didn’t really pursue this discussion much. If you want to revisit it Ed then it’d probably cost you a bit more than what we had discussed it would probably take. That’s all I’m saying about this because I suspect a bunch of guys in your league are also reading this right now.
Your D is strong and I’d resist the urge to change that up too quickly. Your forwards are young but there’s a handful of guys that are in line to be elite or superstars. Adding Nikita Filatov to your young crop of forwards is huge and your other draft picks have some really nice offensive upside. Your goaltending … is still a couple years away. I will point out again that Aaron Voros sits as a FA in your league and I honestly see him as a viable middleweight PIMs option that you don’t have on your squad. I can see as many as 12 goals and 200 PIMs if he gets full time duty with the Rangers this year.
I love your D. They’re young, they skate and they contribute across the board. I don’t think that Brendan Bell has much value but he’ll get a bit more opportunity in Ottawa this year so maybe he really breaks out. Every other D is rock solid on your squad, particularly for being so young. I think they’ll all learn together and you might just end up with the best starting 6 in the league in a couple years.
Your goalies are VERY young, but they’re promising. Eventually I believe that both Ramo and Varlamov are going to give you a solid 1-2 punch in net, unfortunately it’s going to be a long wait and you’ll be collecting top 5 draft picks for the next several seasons. DO NOT TRADE A 1ST ROUND PICK FOR ANY OF THE NEXT SEVERAL SEASONS! It’s those picks that eventually salvage your forwards in this league. The time is going to come that you have elite offensive options out the Wazoo (check out the album cover on Frank Zappa’s Wazoo), an enviable defensive structure and elite goaltending behind you.
Well Eddie, if you’re patient you’ll be league champion. It won’t be soon but I could definitely see it happening someday.