Left wing is arguably the most difficult position to fill in the game of fantasy hockey. I have experimented with all the different strategies to deal with the scarcity at the left wing position. Name a strategy, and I guarantee I have tried it. The conclusion I've come to is that no strategy is foolproof. The only way scratch out the best left wingers (and best team for that matter) is to make very smart decisions when stuck between two players. The position is too scarce to waste a pick. That brings me to this week's cage match.


Thomas Vanek vs. Michael Cammalleri


I hate both of these guys in fantasy. I just feel like I’m trying to grasp a phantom with these two. I am totally haunted by their past production. They’ve roped me in in years past by seducing me with some huge seasons but for the most part have been quite disappointing.


For both injuries have been the main reason for the disappointments but I think the bar was simply set too high. Both Vanek (27) and Cammalleri (28) are old enough that barring a Sedin-like eruption we’ve seen the best they are capable of so at least part of this cage match will be decided in the past. What each player has done in their respective top season represents to me their individual upside. Ironically, both players had their career season in 2006-07 so let’s see who had the better season.


Goals    Assists    Plus/Minus    PPP     PIM     SOG

Vanek 2006-07               43          41            +47              20        40       237

Cammalleri 2006-07       34          46             +5               37        48      299


Vanek has the higher upside in Goals for sure and Plus/Minus, probably. That  Plus/Minus total is so outrageous I want to write it off. Yes, I suppose it’s his upside but Vanek could play another 200 years and never be that high in the black. That said, he’s definitely better in the Plus/Minus category, just not THAT much better.


Cammalleri on the other hand has a much higher upside in both PPP and SOG.  Assists and PIM are close enough to call it a wash. So on pure upside this cage match is tied across the board and maybe you make your choice based on specific needs or maybe you look at something beyond upside.


We often fall victim to “what have you done for me lately?” type thinking but in this scenario it’s actually a very logical argument. Cammalleri’s stint in Montreal has not been kind to him. He’s averaged just 66 games played and 48.5 points over the last two seasons. Cammalleri has missed more games in the last two seasons (32) than Vanek has in his entire career (23).


Vanek has been the clear option for those asking “What have you done for me lately?” He struggled with injuries for a couple of years but bounced back this season. Over the last two seasons he has averaged 75.5 games and 63 points. Those averages are, in fact, not far off his career averages, so he is clearly the more dependable option.


Vanek is very secure in his place in Buffalo thanks to the hefty offer sheet the Sabres matched to retain him. So long as he remains in Buffalo I believe we can trust him to hang in and around his recent averages. Cammalleri on the other hand has yet to prove he can even stay healthy in Montreal.


Cammalleri too is fairly locked in to his NHL team thanks to a hefty deal. What he hasn’t shown is the ability to produce at even a remotely consistent level. He’s been both a Windex Wonder and a Band-Aid Boy rolled into one. I don’t trust there’s enough offense in Montreal for Cammalleri to return to his point per game ways.


It seems like I’m siding with “what have you done for me lately?” type thinking and I don’t always do so but given that owning these two has been more arduous than hunting Mobey Dick I’ll take whatever immediate results I can get. I mean, if you are going to chase a white whale you should probably go down the path that maybe lands you a few swordfish instead of just a handful of tuna. And let me be clear, Cammalleri has definitely been a handful of rancid tuna  in Montreal.


Thomas Vanek takes this week’s cage match in a knockout. It seems Cammalleri just didn’t have the endurance to hang in the bout. While Vanek may never be that superstar left wing we were led to believe he could be, he is an excellent choice when considering Tier 2 left wingers. Whether playing in a points only or 6 x 4 rotisserie league, I would undoubtedly take Vanek over Cammalleri and I hope you do too.



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John said:

did i get hosed I traded Vanek straight up for James Neal in my keeper league about a week before Neal got traded to Pitt. I was so psyched when the trade went down but then Vanek went on a nice run the rest of the season and Neal couldn't buy a goal. I am hopeful that neal will have better success playing with either Crosby or malkin in the years to come. Anyone think that was a bad move?
April 30, 2011
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Rino Chiuso said:

good stuff Excellent idea for an article! How about Kaberle Vs. Corvo?
April 29, 2011
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JW said:

maya has the knife
... I think the main problem I have here is that your argument is centered around statistics Cammalleri put up with a team he no longer plays for (Los Angeles). A more accurate argument would be made using statistics from the past 2 seasons. Project Cammalleri's past 2 seasons with Montreal over a full 82 game season against Vanek's past 2 in Buffalo and the results are pretty clear:

Vanek projected GP-G-A-P from 2008-09-10
82-32-36-68, 25 PPP, 228 SOG

Cammalleri projected GP-G-A-P from 2008-09-10
82-28-32-60, 22 PPP, 255 SOG

So Vanek has averaged more projected G, A, P and PPP over the past 2 seasons. As you said, Cammalleri being in Montreal has diminished his fantasy value a bit; however I think your argument became flawed when you chose to base comparisons on statistics from 06/07. Still like the articles and concept though, keep it up.
April 28, 2011
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steve laidlaw said:

... @Hugo and Nancy - Admittedly this was not my best work. I'm glad you follow my stuff and got what you could from this article. That is much appreciated. Anyways, expect a much more diligent effort next time out.
April 27, 2011
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Ettlio said:

I like it. Great article!
April 27, 2011 | url
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Nancy Fiddlepants said:

Not bad This is a great topic.
The introduction is very good. It has an excellent hook regarding left wingers.
Too much time is spent on a comparison from four seasons ago. Focus on the present.

A couple notes (only because you have the potential to be a great hockey writer):
*There is nothing wrong with short sentences.
*Commas have their place.
*Arduous is an excellent word.
*Moby Dick is a classic.
April 27, 2011
Votes: +0

Nate said:

correction correction : if cammalleri played for Buffalo
April 27, 2011
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Nate said:

Swap Ironically, I think that if Vanek played for Montreal and Cammalleri played for Montreal they would both produce at a higher pace. But I think Camma might outedge Vanek with better linemates.
April 27, 2011
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studley49 said:

... I don't know about this one: if Vanek played all of his games like he does half of the season, I'd say Vanek in a heartbeat, but then we wouldn't even have this discussion. In real-life terms, though, today I'm willing to take the gamble on Cammalleri's health over Vanek's tantalizing potential.

- If you ignore Cammalleri's first two seasons, where he played under half a season each, he's scored at a 0.826 points/game pace for his career: slightly better than Vanek's 0.823 career points/game.

- In their career years, as mentioned, Vanek, the "goal-scorer", was hitting the net 2.89 times/game while Cammy was at a much more impressive 3.69. For their careers, Vanek is 2.80/game while Cammalleri is 3.37/game: a difference of 40-50 SOGs over a season.

- Vanek's +47 is definitely an anomaly and not the trend: you take out that year and he's a career -6, which is still better than Cammalleri's numbers. But come on, if you're building your team around who's going to give you a couple more plus points then I guess Vanek may be your guy - even if they're a grand total of 2 points apart since Cammalleri's move to Montreal.

- I'd even say Cammalleri, when healthy and playing his normal ways, has more trade value than Vanek. Obviously, Vanek in a hot-streak is going to command far more than Cammalleri would at his best, but there always seems to be someone around that's willing to gamble on Cammalleri playing in Montreal rather than taking a Buffalo player. Not saying that's a great way to evaluate players on, but it's nice to have fluid assets (especially in a keeper).
April 27, 2011
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Hugo Twigg said:

A little bit disapointed I never miss your articles Steve. I have subscribe to the RSS feed of your blog and I like pretty much everything you right either it's basketball or hockey-related. But I am a little bit disapointed (sp?)(blame the frenchy-in-me) with this one. I think you left allot of meat around the bone. This could have been a really interesting cage match. The analysis has very little depth. You compare number and come to easy conclusion.

''Both Vanek (27) and Cammalleri (2smilies/cool.gif are old enough that barring a Sedin-like eruption we’ve seen the best they are capable''

I couldn't disagree more with you. Selanne just had a PPG season at 40. With the new NHL skilled player like Cammy and Vanek will thrill for a long time barring any injuries. Looking at both of these players line-mates could have given us a couple of answers why they are performing the way they are. Per example, Vanek took off when Roy got injured showing that he doesn't seem to need support from a legitimate #1 center to produce but what if with the new ownership the Sabres give a truckload of money to Richards, will that impact Vanek?

I don't know, I might be off-base here but this is the most disappointing article I have read of you in the last couple of month!
April 27, 2011
Votes: +0
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