Some big moves in early July completely changed the face of your fantasy squad. In part two of a four part series, let’s take a further look at where some of these guys fit in with their new teams and, by extension, your fantasy league.
Columbus Blue Jackets
Adding Jiri Novotny and Jan Hejda didn’t exactly rock the hockey world, so the club is making a statement that they intend to build slowly and let the kids develop. So far, the Blue Jackets have not had a whole lot of success with developing their own talent, but with a young new GM in place to give a breath of fresh air to a stale philosophy, this time will be different.
Coach Ken Hitchcock will keep this non-playoff team competitive, while the likes of Rick Nash, plus regular ice time for offensive dynamos Gilbert Brule and Geoff Platt, will put more offense on the board than last season. This is a do or die year for Nikolai Zherdev, who was extremely disappointing last season. He could very well be the subject of the question most asked of me – “How will he do this year?” A lot of people have given up on him after such a big step backward and it is certainly possible that he will fall on his face with another 32-point year and then flee to Russia never to be heard from again. It is also possible that in this his fourth full season (traditionally a breakout year for offensive forwards) he will explode for 75-plus points.
The only advice I can offer he is pretty weak – I would take him on my team if there is a deal to be had. If I can get him cheap, I will do so, but I will not pay what he is worth.
Much like Columbus, the Stars kept things virtually the same as last year. Ladislav Nagy has moved on, but he was only there for 60 days or so. Eric Lindros and Darryl Sydor have also moved on, but they too saw limited games with the team. Dallas signed depth players Todd Fedoruk and Brad Winchester, but they will rely on their defensive coaching philosophy and stellar goaltending to win them games. Dallas has become the new Siberia for fantasy teams. As in – you don’t want your guy traded or signing there.
There are several reasons why the Stars will score a little more this time around, however. One is the fact that captain Brendan Morrow is healthy and ready to play a full season. Secondly, the sophomore slump is behind Jussi Jokinen (who is still an unsigned restricted free agent though). Look for Jokinen to bounce back with 60 points. Finally, youngsters Loui Eriksson and Joel Lundqvist will be a bigger part of things this season. Eriksson could potentially pot 50 or more points this year, while Henrik’s brother Joel recently signed a one-way contract so chances are he will stick.
That doesn’t mean Dallas will be a hotbed of offense…but maybe they’ll have a player that reaches 60 points this time.
Detroit Red Wings
The Red Wings lost Mathieu Schneider so they added Brian Rafalski. They lost Robert Lang and Todd Bertuzzi so they added…um…Dallas Drake.
Things are not as bad as they seem, however. Rafalski is every bit as talented as Schneider, except he is younger and more durable. Detroit also has the kids who are champing at the bit for an opportunity. First of all, there is the most prolific scorer in the NHL when you count goals per minute. Jiri Hudler scored 15 goals despite playing just eight minutes a game. He’ll be a 25-goal scorer this year if he plays even third-line minutes.
The other youngster to watch out for is Igor Grigorenko. At one time he was hailed as the next big thing for Detroit, but his career was derailed by a terrible car accident. While his skating has never fully recovered from the missed season, his skills are certainly back and he could potentially have a 60-point NHL debut.
Edmonton failed to get the promised impact forward that they needed and that has a fantasy impact in so many ways. First of all, make no mistake – Ales Hemsky is one of the best set-up men in the game today. Second of all – he has no elite snipers to set up. That is the difference between a 100-point season and a 70-point year for the Czech.
This does bode well, however, for owners of Rob Schremp and Robert Nilsson. The youngsters now stand a good chance of cracking the lineup and even receiving second-line ice time. Diminutive pivot Andrew Cogliano’s chances also increase.
All that being said, the Oil did manage to bring on board Sheldon Souray and Dick Tarnstrom. They also signed Denis Grebeshkov, acquired in the Marc-Andre Bergeron deal in the spring. Throw in the fact that they landed Joni Pitkanen in a trade and what you have is an over-abundance of offensive rearguards. The media has made no secret of the fact that GM Kevin Lowe is having a hard time wooing free agents to come to Edmonton. It would seem that, for now, his only option of bringing a first-line talent on board is via trade. With Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid also capable of taking on more responsibility, this team has six rearguards with offensive skill. That’s two or three too many so do not rule out a trade possibility here.
If nothing happens, the youngsters will get a shot up front, while Gilbert will remain in the minors. Grebeshkov could end up there as well. Stay tuned…
In adding Brett McLean, Richard Zednik and Radek Dvorak, the team could be hurting the chances of a young player taking the next step.
None of these free agents will see 55 points this season. Other than Zednik, it is doubtful they will even see 45 points. Yet, they will be playing 15 minutes a game and forcing down the ice time of the likes of Rostislav Olesz, who is ready to take the next step but will not be at least another year before he does so.
The addition of Cory Murphy, however, was a good one. The offensive rearguard the Finnish League last season and he also did not look out of place against NHL competition at the Worlds in May. It is entirely possible that he will post more points than any of the other three newcomers. His arrival eliminated Ruslan Salei’s chances of a repeat offensive year and it hurts Mike Van Ryn’s chances of bouncing back with significant point totals after his successful wrist surgery. Murphy will steal their power-play time.
Tomas Vokoun puts an elite netminder between the pipes again and should shift the philosophy to a defensive one. As such, do not expect any Panther -with the exception of the blossoming Nathan Horton, the improving Stephen Weiss and the adapting Ville Peltonen - to improve upon last season’s point totals. Given Vokoun’s history of injury, however, Craig Anderson makes a great depth goalie pickup, as he could potentially play a pile of games and will be off everyone’s radar.
Los Angeles Kings
Second only to Philadelphia in terms of the team which made the most additions. With Ladislav Nagy, Michal Handzus and Kyle Calder on board up front, along with rearguards Brad Stuart and Tom Preissing on the back end, the Kings boast the depth and line-after-line scoring potential that they haven’t seen since the Wayne Gretzky days.
Consider – their impressive youngsters are still improving. With a line 1A and 1B such as Alexander Frolov- Anze Kopitar-Dustin Brown followed by Nagy-Hanzus-Michael Cammalleri, how can this team’s offense possibly decline? With Calder and Patrick O’Sullivan also in the mix, the team will get you with any one of three lines. The new acquisitions will hurt O’Sullivan owners, but help the rest. O’Sullivan was just getting his NHL feet under him when he suddenly finds himself pushed down the depth chart. He’ll be another year away from showing his true stuff as a result.
In Lubomir Visnovsky, Rob Blake, Stuart, rookie Jack Johnson, Preissing and Jaroslav Modry, the Kings have one of the better one-to-six groups in the NHL. The main (only?) weakness is between the pipes. Dan Cloutier has never been an elite goaltender. He has been a capable goaltender. He has been an injured goaltender (often). But never an elite one. Here’s a betting tip for you when looking at Kings’ games: bet the “over”.
Essentially, their biggest coup of the summer was hanging onto surprise star goaltender Nicklas Backstrom. He and youngster Josh Harding will make a formidable one-two punch this season.
The Wild replaced the loss of Todd White with the signing of Eric Belanger. Let’s call that one a wash, so what you will be seeing next season is the same team as last season. Minnesota was a top three team in this league from January forward, so this is not a bad thing. However, from an offensive standpoint this team was 18th last season, so fantasy poolies will not like owning a large amount of Minnesota players.
One piece of good news – star winger Marian Gaborik stayed in America this summer so the team could monitor and strengthen his groin. Usually, he heads back to Slovakia, but with his groin problems of the last two seasons, the team convinced him to stay. Are 80 games finally in the cards for Gaborik? If so, than perhaps 100 points are, as well.