Elliotte Friedman’s weekly 30 Thoughts column on the CBC website is the best read in hockey. Friedman is insightful, articulate, knowledgeable, fair, and most importantly, interesting. He has sources and contacts in the hockey world that most could only dream of. Most importantly, has an ability which is rare in this day and age - providing a balanced and reasonable opinion on the league, the players, and all 30 of the clubs.
Each week I will post my own observations (I couldn’t completely steal Friedman’s idea so I’ll pick a number other than 30) with a heavy emphasis on the fantasy side of hockey, of course. Prospects, goalies, sleepers, busts, it will all be covered each week.
1. I absolutely love it when players step up their performance after signing a big contract extension. Dallas defenseman Trevor Daley signed a massive six-year pact a few weeks ago, to the surprise of many. For a team with ownership issues, to lock up an above average (but not great) defenseman to a career contract came as a bit of a surprise. Not to mention the fact that their best player, Brad Richards, is an impending free agent.
Since signing the contract, Daley has been on a tear. He has three goals and three assists in seven games, along with 12 shots on goal and almost 25 minutes of ice time per game. The most important part is the fact that Dallas is 6-0-1 over that stretch. Daley has always been a bit of a question mark from a fantasy hockey standpoint. He skates very well and moves the puck with great efficiency, but he doesn’t produce much offensively. With a new contract and a growing role with a good team, don’t be surprised to see him set career highs this season.
2. Four of David Clarkson’s eight goals have come in the last six games (as of January 16th). The scrappy winger was the victim of an early season numbers game in New Jersey, but he is starting to see some more time in offensive situations thanks to the trade of Jamie Langenbrunner to Dallas. Clarkson is second on the team in shots on goal, only one behind Ilya Kovalchuk. He’s lining up on the fourth line with Rod Pelley and Tom Sestito right now, but he’ll find his way into a scoring role either this season or next.
Clarkson scored 17 goals in a full season back in 2008-09, and he scored 11 in only 46 games last year. He’s on pace for another season with more than 150 PIM. If he can keep his recent goal production up, a 20-goal season isn’t completely out of the cards.
3. Skilled players who lack heart/desire/intensity are the ultimate teases. They usually end up getting traded, and then people renew their optimism in the player and hope that a change in scenery will be the catalyst for change. It never is. Two recent examples are Nathan Horton and Wojtek Wolski. Both players have the size and skill to be dominant NHL forwards, but they simply don’t bring the effort on a nightly basis that is required from top end players. Horton in Boston seemed like a lock for 35 or 40 goals.
Horton has scored four goals since November 15th, and he’s on pace for only 22. Wolski has had goalless streaks of 10 games, eight games, and eight games respectively this season. Take a shot with Wolski in a one-year league as his production will improve in a better situation, but don’t have your judgment on these types of players clouded by their skill sets.
4. There are rumors out of Chicago that Brent Seabrook is being shopped. On the surface this news may seem a bit shocking, but the Blackhawks could fetch a lot in return for a player who has struggled with consistency for much of his career. Chicago needs defensemen so Seabrook would probably only get moved for another defenseman or two. The fact that he is slated to become a free agent (restricted) this summer is probably what set off the speculation in the first place.
Seabrook’s fantasy value probably wouldn’t change all that much – he has a huge shot but won’t ever be an elite point-producer. He has value in leagues that record stats like PIM, hits, and blocked shots.
5. John Tavares has been on a tear ever since getting in a fight. Sidney Crosby’s scoring streak started after he dropped the mitts with Matt Niskanen, and Tavares has 10 goals since fighting Atlanta rookie Alexander Burmistrov back in December. He could break 40 goals if he keeps this pace up. The return of Kyle Okposo (weeks, not months) will definitely help as well. For those GM’s who have been patient with Tavares, stick with it. He’s going to be a consistent 50-goal scorer in this league very soon.
6. It took Columbus 45 games to get a power play goal from a defenseman (Grant Clitsome last week). Absolutely atrocious, and it highlights why they have struggled so much. A common theme among all basement dwellers across the league is a lack of mobility and offensive skill on the back end. I touched on this point a few weeks ago. The Blue Jackets don’t have a perfect team, but with their forwards they should be a lot better than they are.
7. Vancouver has recalled winger Sergei Shirokov. The Russian has been tearing up the AHL as of late, scoring 10 goals in his past 12 games. Both Mason Raymond and Jeff Tambellini have struggled to find the score sheet lately, and Ryan Kesler’s production has declined because of it. Look for Shirokov to get a look on the second line as well as on the second power play unit.
8. After being healthy scratched for six games, New Jersey rookie Matthias Tedenby responded by scoring a terrific goal on Monday against the Islanders. The diminutive winger plays with a lot of jam (much like teammate Zach Parise). He’ll have a roster spot next season regardless of what happens with Parise. The Devils need to get younger and faster, and Tedenby covers both of those.
Jacques Lemaire hasn’t warmed up to him yet, so don’t expect him to produce much down the stretch (unless the Devils trade away a couple of forwards at the deadline).
9. Mats Zuccarello has looked pretty good in his limited action so far at the NHL level. I got to see him live a few times during the Olympics last year in Vancouver, and I (like most others) quickly became a fan. He was unafraid of going into the corners or the net, and even comically battled against Zdeno Chara on more than a few occasions. You can’t teach heart or skill. Unfortunately, you can’t teach size either, but it doesn’t matter as much anymore. Look for Zuccarello to earn a regular top six spot with the Rangers within the next year.
10. Dobber tweeted this yesterday – is Cam Ward struggling (14 goals against in his past three games), or is he injured? My response – playing behind defensemen like Joe Corvo is worse than any injury. The Hurricanes simply don’t have a very good defense. Ward is hung out to dry on most nights. He’s a talented goalie, but he is not in a great situation right now.
11. It took only four months, but I finally saw some return for the summer blockbuster trade I made (acquiring Zdeno Chara and Martin Brodeur for Steven Stamkos). Chara had three goals and filled every single category (seven shots on goal, two power play points, plus-2, two PIM), while Brodeur had a strong game for the win. The trade has backfired in a huge way, but at the time I was looking to upgrade my goaltending and defense in a league that heavily values both. I’m in fifth out of 12 so all isn’t lost yet…
12. One player who I see being dealt at the deadline is San Jose winger Ryane Clowe. He has 75-point upside in the right situation (San Jose isn’t a bad one, but he plays more of a secondary role than he would on a number of other teams). The Sharks need a defenseman and Clowe is probably their most marketable asset (I don’t see them giving up on Devin Setoguchi yet).
13. Shane Doan needs to start writing for DobberHockey. A very relevant quote from December of 2009 – “"I've told every one of my friends to take Yandle in their hockey fantasy pool," captain Shane Doan said. “He has that innate ability to know when to jump and when not to and you can't teach it.” Not bad, Shane…
14. Justin Bourne’s five best defensemen through the half-way mark: 1) Nick Lidstrom, 2) Keith Yandle, 3) Kris Letang, 4) Tobias Enstrom, 5) Dustin Byfuglien. I can’t disagree with any. Some honourable mentions: Alex Edler, Toni Lydman, Ryan Suter, Ryan Whitney (before the injury), and Jack Johnson.
15. Dobber has discussed starting up a list of players who score in spurts (streaky and inconsistent). Who would you name? What title would you give them? Check out how the Band-Aid Boy list is organized.