Kevin Brown

In The Crease

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Nuggets of Fantasy Wisdom

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


What you'll find below is a collection of notes, observations and opinions I'd like to pass along to you, the fine readers, about the NHL.

He may be a responsible player defensively and one of the better faceoff men in the league, but Patrice Bergeron just isn't the same player that he was prior to suffering a serious head injury in 2007. After breaking the 70-point barrier twice before reaching the age of 22, many were projecting further improvement when he entered his peak years, but Bergeron hasn't fulfilled those expectations. Now in his age 25 season, he plays a different style than he did when he entered the league and the chances of him re-developing into an offensive star appear slim.

After witnessing the ease with which Alex Burrows finished off a passing play orchestrated by Daniel and Henrik Sedin in Sunday's game against Edmonton, I feel comfortable making two predictions. First, as long as Burrows continues to line up alongside the Sedins, I expect him to be a significant asset in fantasy leagues. His numbers in limited action so far this season aren't exactly earth-shattering, but consider that an opportunity to buy while the price is affordable. Secondly, if Burrows gets removed from the Canucks top line at some point in the future, whomever gets that role is worth an immediate pickup in your league. Honestly, these guys could turn Colton Orr into a 20-goal scorer.


Speaking of the Sedins, I'm beginning to think the general perception of them as "The Sedin Twins" rather than individual talents prevents them from garnering the level of national attention their play deserves. A strong argument can be made that both are among the top five players in the NHL. Having said that, in fantasy leagues that favor goals over assists, Daniel is clearly the better option of the two.

Jonas Hiller is one of the league's top goaltenders, but playing behind this current Anaheim team is far from an ideal situation for him. Entering Monday's action, Hiller had faced 902 shots on goal, which is nearly 100 more shots than the number faced by any other goaltender in the league. His .917 save percentage is impressive, but it comes with a 2.78 GAA, which is damaging for his fantasy owners. The lack of defensive support from his teammates will ultimately hold him back from being a top-tier fantasy option.

Keeping with goaltenders, the dilemma the Flyers are facing with the imminent return of Michael Leighton could have a major impact on fantasy leagues. Philadelphia is arguably the deepest team in the NHL from a talent standpoint and I believe that any of these three goaltenders would be valuable if given regular playing time. Sergei Bobrovsky appears to have the inside track for the moment, but I would advise against dropping any of these netminders due to their immense upside potential.

If you have ever seen Ryan Getzlaf play, you would probably agree that if he ever dedicated himself to shooting the puck more often, he could easily become a 35-40 goal scorer. Fantasy owners shouldn't be tempted by this. Getzlaf has always been blessed with a rocket for a shot and a great pair of hands, but he has always preferred to be the one setting up plays rather than finishing them off. His career high in goals is just 25 and unless he dramatically alters his style I think he'll be hard-pressed to top 30. Judging by how effective he is as a playmaker, there's no reason to think anyone wants him to change what he's doing.

From where I'm sitting, the Chicago goaltending situation appears as if it's headed for a repeat of last season, with Corey Crawford playing the part of Antti Niemi and Marty Turco in the Cristobal Huet role.

For all the talk about P.K. Subban's difficulties while he adjusts to life in the NHL, some of his scoring troubles can be attributed to simple bad luck. With 72 shots on goal (he is seventh in the league amongst defensemen), it's startling that Subban has found the back of the net only once. Mathematically speaking, this should be viewed as an anomaly. In other words, now would be a great time to buy low.

David Booth stands out as another greatly undervalued commodity for a variety of reasons. His 6.0% shooting percentage is unusually low for a forward and the Panthers' power play as a whole has been historically bad this season. These trends can't continue for the entire season and I think Booth will be the biggest beneficiary once the Panthers eventually get their act together.

It's not uncommon for young players to be sent to the minor leagues after initially struggling with the NHL game, only to re-discover their scoring touch and return to the big leagues with new-found confidence. I bring this up as a way of cautioning those of you in keeper leagues not to lose track of players like Joshua Bailey and Nikita Filatov after their recent demotions. Both were first round picks in the NHL for a reason and Bailey, in particular, has recorded 12 points in eight games with the Islanders' AHL affiliate, making him a candidate for recall in the near future.

Who is currently wearing number three for the Maple Leafs and what has he done with the real Dion Phaneuf? I wish I had seen more of Phaneuf's games during his first few seasons in the league because I find it incredible that the player currently patrolling the blue line for Toronto could ever have put up the numbers he did in Calgary. That aside, I actually think Phaneuf makes for a decent low-risk gamble in fantasy leagues right now. He still has a torpedo slapshot, which should help him score a few goals and he'll accumulate penalty minutes at close to a 100 PIM pace. If you can acquire him for a song I would definitely signoff.

Finally, now's the time for me to fess up. Prior to the season, I claimed that Ville Leino was a prime candidate to disappoint his fantasy owners, citing an abnormally high shooting percentage during last year's playoff scoring streak. To my surprise, he has delivered an impressive performance thus far and has benefited greatly from lining up with Scott Hartnell and Daniel Briere on the Flyers' most consistent unit. Philadelphia has been one of the league's best teams and Leino has certainly been a big part of that success. There's no reason to think that will change anytime soon.





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