Who are the DobberHockey writers? You read their articles every day, now it is time to go behind the scenes. Throughout the summer, each writer will be put in the spotlight. They will share a little bit about themselves, their columns and some upcoming predictions. Next up is Chris Wassel.
Name: Chris Wassel
Favorite Song? Runnin With the Devil - Van Halen
Album? And Justice For All - Metallica
PS3 or Xbox? Xbox
First Fantasy League? 1987.
First round pick?
Mario Lemieux. The first thing people ask is 1987? The second thing they question is how did you score the league as far as points? Back then, we used a very simple scoring system that consisted of points for goals, assists, shots, and power play points. For goaltending categories, we used wins, save percentage, and shutouts only. The times were much easier then and in some ways, maybe it was better.
What is your earliest hockey memory?
October of 1982, New Jersey defeated the New York Rangers at home for their first franchise home win. Granted, the Devils were simply an awful team but for one night at least, this fan felt on top of the world.
“And the championship to New Jersey”. The New Jersey Devils winning their first Stanley Cup and being there to see it. It is a priceless moment when your team is on top of the hockey world. Clearly, New Jersey did not really know how to celebrate and that made for a series of great times that could never be replaced. There were players actually having beers in the downstairs bar 45 minutes after the Cup was won. Tom Chorske was spotted by my brother and I. Naturally we bought him a drink and the rest was history. What we walked into was literally a maze of press, players, family, and god knows what. It was an honor to drink from Lord Stanley’s Cup and celebrate with the entire team, family and friends. New Jersey had the most prized trophy in sports and no one could ever take that away.
As the author of Between The Lines, which upcoming line combinations should have poolies drooling?
Some will say to look at how Edmonton sets up their top line but the brother combination of Eric Staal and Jordan Staal seems to catch my eye first. It almost does not matter who the third person is on that line because of the obvious instant chemistry. Add in the simple face that Jordan Staal is going to finally get the “all phases” time he needs, expect his overall numbers to go up in almost every category. Another one to keep an eye on is to see if Adam Henrique pairs at some point with Ilya Kovalchuk. There are a few that will argue that at times Zach Parise was kind of the weak link on that line while Henrique and Kovalchuk had the strength and speed to keep opponents honest. Keep in mind that Kovalchuk and Travis Zajac also have a good bit of chemistry. Also wherever Evander Kane ends up, that first line is going to be quite productive (even if it is still Winnipeg).
If the season does get started on time, please keep an eye out on the potential for a Jamie Benn-Loui Eriksson-Jaromir Jagr combination. The “Jagr Effect“ buoyed Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers to a big season while helping Scott Hartnell to a career high in goals. Either way, if you add in Ray Whitney to the first power play unit, one has the makings of fantasy gold, even from a couple 40 year olds. This sounds crazy, doesn‘t it? Though Jagr‘s ice time will be kept to around 15:00 a night, his influence will be felt on a team that will need the extra offensive pop.
Lastly, will the New York Rangers put Brad Richards together with Rick Nash and Marian Gaborik? Will John Tortorella roll the dice come November or December when Gaborik returns (shoulder surgery). It is an interesting question that does not have a clear answer as of this time. Therefore, keep an eye on it.
On the flipside, which lineups should fantasy managers avoid?
This is where it gets contentious. Minnesota comes to mind as Zach Parise is going to have the weight of “The State Of Hockey” on his shoulders. Who will be paired with him? Obviously, Mikko Koivu will be his center but will Minnesota gamble and put Mikael Granlund on his wing? The problem is Dany Heatley may be too slow to handle this line. If Heatley starts on this line, it may have an early negative impact for fantasy owners.
It would still be wise to stay away from anything related to Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf for now at least. This is not because they won’t produce. It is more the fact that they will not hit what we may be accustomed to at least early on in the year. Will the Teemu Selanne/Bobby Ryan “platoon” continue or not. That may be something to keep a look out for.
Finally and this may be a little callous but whatever Phoenix puts together for a first line is going to be a work in progress to say the least. Without Ray Whitney there, Phoenix is going to feel the void. Yes, Steve Sullivan is a nice pickup but he is no Whitney. Do not delude yourselves fantasy owners. Now add in if Shane Doan goes elsewhere and you have the recipe for total fantasy disaster in Phoenix or at least a significant drop off.
Aside from DobberHockey, you run a weekly podcast, care to discuss? How is that going for you?
This is going to be a massive undertaking. While the radio show arm of The Program is ending, there will be a new show that will be a step up even from what we have done before. So while one chapter closes on Sunday Night, a new one will open up just two weeks later with the debut of THW Live. It will be a bastion to all ends of the hockey spectrum, including fantasy hockey of course. Four plus years of doing a true labor of love is a hard thing to bury but listeners will be pleasantly surprised by what comes next. Call it the next step if you will.
How did writing and reporting hockey become part of your daily routine?
Actually, it was a move to California not too long after the lockout where writing and reporting became a part of daily life. It was nice to be able to learn from the likes of Helene Elliott and Jonathan Moncrief, who is sadly no longer with us. Listening to Puck Podcast was also a huge inspiration and impetus to make writing more than just a passing fancy.
Which aspect of the business do you enjoy the most? Any big upcoming plans?
It is obvious I enjoy the radio side of the business more than any. The access I have been able to obtain has been immensely helpful in getting news out there to the greatest amount of listeners and people. I will also be doing regular spots on Sirius/XM during their fantasy hockey shows. Besides I will be writing for enough places, including DobberHockey, so one never knows where I will be next.
When you first log on, what are your go-to sites? Reads?
Honestly I keep it basic. I am off to Spectors Hockey first and foremost. Lyle dissects the daily scene and rumors like no one else. Then I do a little light reading over at Kukla’s Korner. Finally I round it up with Puck Daddy for the right mix of humor and serious.
What is your favorite hobby / pastime away from the keyboard?
I definitely have never passed up a good fishing hole. It is not a secret. The tough part is sneaking my favorite ciders with me. They are ones of the alcoholic persuasion. I also enjoy a fine game of horseshoes and some mini golf as well.
How will you pass the time should there be a lockout?
It will be a bit tough at first. However, with so many hockey leagues beside the NHL, there are viable fantasy options on the docket. Imagine a “Fantasy AHL” or even a “Fantasy KHL” for just a second. No one really knows how long a lockout would last but the near certainty of one resonates throughout the hockey world at the moment. Time will really fly by and that is something to keep in mind for the players and the owners.
And if there isn’t a lockout, who will be the biggest surprise in 2012-13? Player? Team?
There is always that player out of nowhere. I am thinking to look out for Peter Mueller in Florida. Mueller will play in an environment where he can be somewhat protected and given a freedom to do what he does best and that is score. Yes this is a gamble given his concussion and injury history but surprises are always risks. As for team, the New Jersey Devils may just be the biggest surprise. Again, several publications are ready to throw dirt on their graves but few teams battle adversity harder than New Jersey. With ownership and financial issues appearing to fade, the on ice product can not be focused on. They will be more active than usual via trade at the deadline. Also consider the Carolina Hurricanes. It is not just their additions but their coaching that may just turn the Southeast Division a bit upside down if there is no lockout of course.