After the latest setback in negotiations, I'm starting to think the best way to solve the NHL lockout would be to hold an Academic Decathlon like they did in the movie Billy Madison.
Just hear me out on this. Both sides would submit their best offer and Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr would participate for their respective parties. The winner would get their proposal as the new CBA. If nothing else, it would produce some badly missed levity and entertainment due to the lockout. Could you imagine Bettman and Fehr trying to perform a scene from Hamlet, solve a calculus equation, bake a pie, or play some classical music? That might be better than an NHL season itself.
Oh right…..my column.
Participating in the Dobber Hockey Experts draft a few weeks ago taught me a few key things. First off, never go into a draft with a bunch of hockey writers without a Red Bull close by. Secondly, be prepared to adapt on the fly as most of your plans will be altered quickly since everyone has surely done their homework. Lastly, and most important of all, the players you take late in drafts could make or break your team.
The so called "depth" players on your roster may not be flashy, but if you choose right, can really help your team out in other areas. For instance, many leagues use less sexy categories like hits, blocks, and face-off wins. The late rounds are typically a good time to address those needs. Many times I look to my defense corps for help when it comes to these responsibilities.
There are plenty of defensemen on the second or third pairing on many NHL rosters that can give you a tremendous boost, even though scoring may not be their forte. Here are a few D-men to keep an eye on in the Western Conference.
Francois Beauchemin - Anaheim Ducks
Beauchemin may end up creeping higher on the Ducks depth chart because of a thin blueline, and the fact that Lubomir Visnovsky was shipped to the New York Islanders against his will. And if you've seen Nassau Coliseum lately you might know why he wanted no part of going to Long Island.
Beauchemin, however, led the conference in blocked shots last year with 194. He also put up 154 hits and 139 shots for good measure. He won't give you many points and his plus/minus can be dodgy, but he could be an asset if the aforementioned categories are a part of your league. If Beauchemin keeps this up, you soon may be able to add him to the long list of Toronto Maple Leafs castoffs that went on to play a key role for other teams. A document that now is almost as long as the Declaration of Independence.
Matt Greene - Los Angeles Kings
Greene finished fourth in the conference in 2011-12 with 241 hits. He even added 77 postseason hits helping the Kings to their first Stanley Cup. Greene is also no slouch in the blocked shot department either, and finished last season with a plus-4 rating while nearly averaging a shot on goal per game. With the confidence of a Cup win under his belt, look for Greene to play even more of a role on the squad in 2012-13.
Dan Hamhuis - Vancouver Canucks
The Canucks disappointed in the playoffs, but Hamhuis had a solid campaign. He may not be as under the radar as some of the other defensemen on this list, but Hamhuis led the West with a plus-29 and even put up a respectable 37 points. He also had 140 shots and averaged over a hit and a block per game. In addition to that, Hamhuis notched 11 power play points in 2011-12 and had a run of four straight games where he recorded a point with the man advantage.
Ladislav Smid - Edmonton Oilers
Smid managed to finish last season as a plus-4, which was no easy task considering he played for the Oilers, who started a charity in 2011-12 that gave away goals to needy NHL opponents. He also managed 186 hits and ranked third in the conference with 184 blocks. His shots on goal totals (47) may hurt a bit, but if you can afford to sacrifice there, he may be a solid pickup.
Shane O'Brien - Colorado Avalanche
O'Brien seems to have found a home for himself in Colorado. Last season he put up 105 PIM to go along with 138 hits, and was a key member of the Avalanche blueline. O'Brien finished as a plus-2 and averaged over a block a game in 2011-12. Expect only a few more points than Martin Brodeur might record, but there is value there.
Kyle Quincey - Detroit Red Wings
Quincey is a guy I really targeted in our draft, but Jeff Angus had other ideas. Great minds think alike. He should get plenty of ice-time this year with the departure of Red Wings great Nicklas Lidstrom. Quincey had a nice stat line in 2011-12 of 89 PIM, 94 blocks, and 101 hits. He can also add some versatility in the special teams department. Quincey notched ten of his 26 points on the power play and added two of the shorthanded variety.
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