Over the course of the next few weeks we’ll take a look back at a few of the articles I churned out at the beginning of the pre-season and evaluate whether or not my prognostications were on the money or completely off base.
Here is my list of players from the Western Conference that you won’t likely find on my fantasy rosters in 2011-12:
Corey Perry – Right Wing - Anaheim
As discussed on the DobberNation radio show last week. It’s not that I don’t want him on my fantasy squad, but it’s just that the price is probably going to be sky-high for him. With his great season last year, you’re probably going to be looking at the 5th to 10th pick in order to snag him. In that range I might consider players with a better proven track record like the Sedins, Pavel Datsyuk, Marty St. Louis or maybe Brad Richards before Perry. A couple of the main reasons for me are: 1) his shooting percentage 17.2 percent last season, career average was 11.3 prior to that. If he reverts back to that it’s going to drop back to 32 goals instead of the 50 he tallied last season. 2) 90 percent of Perry’s PPP occurred when Teemu Selanne was on the ice. Just 19.4 percent of the PPP occurred when Bobby Ryan was on the ice. If Selanne retires, Ryan will assume that PP slot and I don’t know if it’s going to be as efficient of a PP with Ryan on the ice as opposed to Selanne. 3) Perry absolutely ripped up the Eastern Conference last season, while averaging 1.39 points-per-game against his Eastern Conference rivals. The previous two seasons he averaged 1.11 and 0.94. So if those numbers return back to normal, expect a bit of a drop in the point totals. So once again, it’s not that I don’t want him on my team, but last season was kind of like a perfect storm for Perry where everything seemed to come together. I just don’t think that lightning will strike twice.
I covered this in last week’s column. Pretty much on the ball with this one. My initial projection of 32 goals wasn’t too far off of the 37 that he actually tallied. His 0.88 point-per-game average vs the Eastern Conference was a good call as well. Maaaasquito Bite: HIT.
Mikael Backlund – Center - Calgary
Tons of hype from one of the most highly-touted in the past, but most of it has died down since he really isn’t getting much love in Calgary. With Brendan Morrison, Olli Jokinen, Matt Stajan, and possibly Lee Stempniak all in the center mix, there just isn’t going to be enough room for Backlund to garner any sort of significant time in Cowtown. Expect another third/fourth line checking role, where he’s toiling around the 10-12 minutes per game mark and very little production.
Pretty spot on with this prediction, but he did managed to average slightly more ice-time than I expected (15:23). Unfortunately, the end-of-year outcome didn’t change much as he finished with 11 points in an injury-shortened 41-game season. It’s been five years since he’s been drafted and we’re still waiting on the Backlund train to pull up to the station. Maaaasquito Bite: HIT.
Brent Seabrook – Defenseman - Chicago
Similar to the situation with Perry, it’s not that I don’t want Seabrook on my fantasy squad. It’s just that his value is going to be so over-inflated during fantasy drafts that you’re better off passing on him and waiting another rounder or two for a backup plan who would post pretty much the exact same stats. His 48 points last campaign ranked him tied with Shea Weber and Brian Rafalski for 10th overall in that department amongst all blue-liners. Seabrook is more of a defensive two-way, rock solid, hard hitting blue-liner than the offensive gem that he was last season. I’d expect somewhere around the 35-40 point mark than the 45+ that he tallied in 2010-11. I’d definitely keep him up there if your league counts HITs and BS, but if it’s a straight points or standard settings league, then I’d probably pass.
You’ve got to give me props for my original point prediction of 35-40 points compared to his actual production. Maaaasquito Bite: HIT.
Semyon Varlamov – Goalie – Colorado
I’m not a huge fan of Band-Aid boys, especially when they’re playing in one of the most important positions in fantasy hockey. Justin Goldman’s article, back in mid-July, pretty much breaks it all down. The last time I talked to Justin, the Avs still don’t have a full-time goalie coach and he doesn’t quite know if Varly has changed his workout regime over summer, but he’ll have a better idea in about a month’s time when training camp comes along. The thing is, the Avs also brought along a very capable backup in J.S. Giguere, and they also signed a pretty talented youngster in Cedrick Desjardins (who’s also capable of picking up five to 10 starts), so they aren’t exactly hard-pressed in being forced to play Varlamov if he’s truly struggling. Even though the price tag might not be that high for Varly, I still wouldn’t touch that situation with a 10-foot pole.
I don’t know how to properly assess Varly. On one hand, he did post a decent end-of-year stat-line of a 26-24-3 record along with a 2.59 GAA and .913 SP, but if you compare that to his back up, Giguere (15-11-3, 2.27 GAA and .919 SP), Varly wasn’t really a “must own” and high sought after at the draft table. Maaaasquito Bite: PUSH?
I also brought this up on the DobberNation show last week, and I’ll just elaborate on it a little bit more in this column. Both players are shoot-first players, and we’ve seen it being utilized before with the Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen scenario in Calgary where it just didn’t work. Columbus can certainly attempt to give that a try with Carter and Nash, but what they do need is a solid back up plan if things don’t go as planned. There’s bound to be at least one poolie that will over-reach and over-pay for Carter or Nash, simply because they’re banking on the imaginary chemistry to be there. The question is are you willing to take the risk and attempt to out-bid them?
I had a terrible feeling about the duo heading into this season, but I honestly didn’t think that it was going to be this bad. I just feel bad for those who coughed up second/third round picks in order to snag either of them. Maaaasquito Bite: HIT.
Loui Eriksson – Left Wing – Dallas
Once again, I mentioned Eriksson in last week’s DobberNation radio show. The chemistry between Eriksson and Brad Richards is undeniable. 73.6 percent of Eriksson’s points last campaign occurred with Richards was on the ice and 85.6 percent the season prior. With Richards off to the big apple, I don’t know if Mike Ribeiro will be as good of a replacement. Most pool providers place a strong emphasis on point production from the previous year to determine initial draft positions. Eriksson’s 73 points tied him for 15th overall in that department, which will mean that he will be overvalued by plenty of pool providers heading into the season. So buyers beware.
Whiffed on this one! Year after year I just keep thinking his bubble is going to burst, but he’s proven me wrong for the last four seasons. I still don’t think he’s more than a 75-point player, which will put him in the under-rated and under-appreciated category for next campaign. Maaaasquito Bite: MISS.
Tomas Holmstrom – Left Wing - Detroit
You generally don’t want to discount any Red Wings just because they’re always such a consistent, offensive producing team. Holmstrom has always had that “big name” attachment since he seems like he’s been lining up alongside Pavel Datsyuk and/or Henrik Zetterberg for ever. Last season, the time spent with the two superstars is declining. He spent just 54.6 percent of his overall ice-time alongside Datsyuk and just 58.3 with Zetterberg. The soon-to-be 39-year old is starting to run on fumes as he’s averaging just 39.8 points and 117 SOG during the last four seasons, which probably isn’t even worth a flier during the last few rounds of drafts. Take a pass on the Swedish pest.
Holstrom ended up spending just 32.3 percent of his overall ice-time with Datsyuk and 19.5 percent alongside Zetterberg. As age catches up with Holmstrom, the offensive production is going to plummet. Maaaasquito Bite: HIT.
Ales Hemsky – Right Wing - Edmonton
Half of me don’t want to put his name on the list, but the other half says you just can’t trust a Band-Aid boy. I don’t think someone could have that much bad luck where he’ll miss significant time for a third consecutive season, can they? I mean, he did his right shoulder two seasons ago, and then his left last season. There aren’t any more shoulders left to be injured really… All joking aside, right wingers are generally plentiful at draft that that you don’t really need to risk taking a gamble on the oft-injured Oiler. I’d look for other options instead.
Funnily enough he actually ended up re-injuring his shoulder during the season which really hampered his offensive production this season. With the crop of new kids blossoming in Edmonton, it’s hard to think that Hemsky will play a significant role with the Oilers moving forward. Maaaasquito Bite: HIT.
Dustin Penner – Left Wing – Los Angeles
If you’ve been playing fantasy hockey for a while now, then you’re probably well aware of the boom-or-bust-ness of Penner. When he feels like playing, he could definitely put up the points with the best of them (six points in six games in early March), but when he decides to coast it, he really coasts it (goose egg for the final 12 games to finish the season)! The Kings offense is revamped with Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Dustin Brown, Justin Williams and Simon Gagne, so it doesn’t really matter if Penner produces or not. Limited motivation plus a deep depth chart isn’t exactly a great situation for Penner heading into this season. I’d avoid at all costs.
Pancakes, pancakes! Need I say more? Maaaasquito Bite: HIT.
Niklas Backstrom – Goalie – Minnesota
There is a pretty strong correlation between the quality of a team’s defense and the eventual stats that a goalie may produce. I don’t doubt Backstrom’s goaltending abilities, but what I do question is the defensive corps that going to be playing in front of him. A grouping of Marek Zidlicky, Greg Zanon, Nick Schultz, Clayton Stoner, Mike Lundin, and Marco Scandella isn’t exactly the scariest of defensive groupings in the league. The Wild may have improved on the offensive front with the additions of Dany Heatley and Devin Setoguchi, but they didn’t get much help for Backstrom on the backend.
Backstrom stormed out of the gate in blazing fashion, then all of a sudden the wheels fell off and the lack of defensive depth was exposed for the rest of the season. But given his draft position and the stats that he did produce, it’s hard to argue that there’s anything wrong with that. Maaaasquito Bite: MISS.
Niclas Bergfors – Right Wing – Nashville
Three seasons and four teams isn’t exactly a sure-fire sign to show that a player has what it takes to be a full-time NHLer. Nashville is a difficult place to judge. You have a scenario where they picked up a reclamation project and it turned out absolutely great (Sergei Kostitsyn). Then you have the opposite effect where you have a 0.64 point-per-game player get shafted by averaging a pitiful 11:20 per contest last season (J.P. Dumont). Barry Trotz isn’t exactly a player friendly coach, where he’ll nurture a player’s poor attitude. I just don’t see a lot of reward on gambling on a reclamation project with a high risk of failure.
Bergfors was nowhere to be seen this campaign, and probably won’t be in the NHL in the future. Maaaasquito Bite: HIT.
M.A. Vlasic – Defenseman – San Jose
Despite averaging close to 21 minutes and nearly one minute of PP time per contest last campaign, Vlasic gave his owners a whopping 18 points in 80 contests. The thing that really intrigues me is that he did have an offensive edge. During his final season in juniors with the Remparts he tallied a ridiculous 102 points in 89 contests including playoffs. But none of that has translated to the NHL level as he maintains just a 0.28 point-per-game pace in San Jose. With Brent Burns entering the fray with the Sharks, Vlasic’s fantasy value is essentially zilch heading into this campaign. You won’t find him on my fantasy radar in 2011-12.
His production rate was pretty much in line with my original numbers during the pre-season. Vlasic is just not a quality fantasy player. Maaaasquito Bite: HIT.
Blues Forward Corps. – St. Louis
As mentioned on the Dobber Nation radio show, I just don’t trust that any of the Blues’ players are really going to have that spectacular of a season this year. They boast one of the deepest lineups in the league, with 10 forwards that have at least hit the 40-point plateau within the last two seasons. What’s probably going to happen is that the ice-time is going to be shared (fairly equally), amongst the forwards where everyone will pretty much average 14 minutes a game on even strength, then a select few will have a roulette-style turn at the power-play. I would not be completely surprised to see the top-six forwards score right around the 50-55 point mark, and then four more at the 40-45 point clip. If you’re happy with that type of production then definitely roll the dice with one of the Blues at the draft table, but if you’re expecting point-per-game (80 point production) then I’d be wary.
It’s always difficult trying to paint an entire forward corps with the same brush, but I was pretty close with my pre-season predictions in terms of actual numbers. Offense-by-committee teams are just not conducive for fantasy hockey. Maaaasquito Bite: HIT
Keith Ballard – Defenseman - Vancouver
The Nucks essentially have five, quality defenseman in the mix for PP ice-time, but only enough roster spots for four. You would have to think that Alex Edler should have first dibs then Sami Salo (if he can stay healthy), and the cavalry should be Kevin Bieksa and Dan Hamhuis, which leaves Ballard out in the cold. In 65 contests last campaign, he averaged just 15:54 overall and 0:12 on the PP per contest. The departure of Ehrhoff should help a little bit, but I don’t think it’ll be enough to really propel him into fantasy worthiness.
Pretty spot on with this one. What I don’t get is why did the Canucks sign Ballard to a six-year contract worth $4.2 mil each season just to play him 15 mins a game? Surely that’s got to be one of the biggest mismanagement of funds in the league. Maaaasquito Bite: HIT
Stay Away From These Murky Goaltending Situations:
I’m going to go out on a limb on this one and pick a tandem out of left field. Generally speaking Detroit goalies are always going to be over-valued at the draft table because of the situation that they play in. Last campaign, Howard was on average drafted right after the “big four” of Ryan Miller, Roberto Luongo, Martin Broduer and Henrik Lundqvist, which he then rewarded owners with a 2.79 GAA (36th amongst all eligible goalies), and .908 save percentage (33rd amongst the same cohort). If you went with a safer pick like Ilya Bryzgalov, Pekka Rinne or M.A. Fleury you would have been much better off. The last time that Conklin suited up for the flying wheels, he posted a 25-11-2 record with a respectable 2.51 GAA and .909 save percentage, so I wouldn’t be surprised that if Howard struggles, Conks gets a fair crack at the number one gig.
Whiffed on this one. Howard ended up being a great own as he finished the season as the sixth ranked goaltender in Yahoo! leagues. Conks was nowhere to be seen Maaaasquito Bite: MISS
Mike Smith/Jason LaBarbera - Phoenix
Dave Tippet’s defensive scheme will certainly help out these two journeymen goalies, but with that said both of them are still at the end of the day “journeymen” goalies. If they were any good, you would think that they would have secured a number one gig somewhere by now. The Yotes offensive isn’t going to steal them very many games, which means that Smith and LaBarbera will need to steal them on their own. You might have more confidence in Smith or LaBarbera, but I certainly don’t.
I’m never going to doubt a Dave Tippet coached team ever again. Smith certainly proved many poolies wrong and rewarded those who were willing to gamble on him at the draft table. Maaaasquito Bite: MISS
The Bulin wall is coming off the worst season of his career a 10-32-4 record with a 3.40 GAA and .890 save percentage isn’t exactly the going to beam confidence into the eyes of fantasy poolies. Dubnyk showed a few glimpses of being a number one goalie in the NHL, but he needs a much better defensive corps in front of him in order to really put up numbers that would help out a fantasy team. I certainly wouldn’t head into the season with an expectation of owning either of these two goalies.
The Bulin wall absolutely crumbled if you judge it by end-of-year stats. Dubnyk turned out to be a great saviour if you managed to snag him in your pools late in the season. Keep an eye on Khabibulin, heading into this year, as a “contract year” Khabibulin is an absolute fantasy monster if history decides to repeat itself. Maaaasquito Bite: PUSH
So overall similar to last week, as I finished with an 11-4-2 record which puts me at 23-10-11 for the three pre-season columns.
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