Kevin Brown

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Fantasy Nuggets

Monday, December 27, 2010

As always, here is a collection of NHL notes, observations and opinions. Hope you find them both enjoyable and helpful.

Count me among those who aren't buying that the removal of John MacLean and insertion of Jacques Lemaire will have a major impact on the fortunes of the New Jersey Devils. I'll admit I thought the roster was stacked at the start of the year, but it has become clear that the players are the reason this ship is sinking, not the coaching staff. The Zach Parise injury has obviously been a serious blow, but the fact that veterans Jamie Langenbrunner, Patrik Elias, Jason Arnott, Colin White and Martin Brodeur all seem as though they have aged significantly overnight has absolutely killed this team. In hindsight, maybe we should have seen this coming. I'll admit there could be some value derived from buying low on some of these players, but I'm not targeting Devils' players in any of my leagues.

Referring specifically to Brodeur, I don't dispute that he will become a Hall of Famer as soon as he becomes eligible for enshrinement or that he is definitely one of, if not the best goaltender in the history of the NHL. Having said all that, I think his days as an above-average netminder are over. It's been a good run, but the 38 year-old just isn't the same player he once was. If you have him in a fantasy league and some of his value can still be salvaged, I would endorse trading him while you still can.

Has anyone noticed what Matt Duchene is doing with the Avalanche? It will be over a year until the kid is legally allowed to have a post-game beer in the State of Colorado, but he's already scoring at nearly a point-per-game clip. With a roster that also boasts Chris Stewart, Paul Stastny, Kevin Shattenkirk, Ryan O'Reilly and T.J. Galiardi, all under the age of 25 who play alongside 26 year-olds Tomas Fleischmann and David Jones, the Avalanche could be a force in the Western Conference for years to come.

Meanwhile, the player drafted two spots ahead of Duchene in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, John Tavares, hasn't fared nearly as well during the first 100+ games of his career. There's an interesting debate to be had about the quality of the teammates each has been able to work with, but few would argue with the notion that Tavares has at least been a mild disappointment thus far. There are those that will make the inevitable comparisons to Alexandre Daigle, but I'll point to Tavares' performance during the final quarter of his rookie season, as well as the fact that neither Kyle Okposo or Mark Streit has played a single game for the Islanders this season, as my reasons to keep the faith. I think a big second half is in store.

It seems as though a few weeks in the AHL has done Joshua Bailey some good. After tearing up the minors to the tune of 17 points in 11 games, Bailey was recalled by the Islanders and has scored three points in as many games since re-joining the club. He's worth a pickup in deep leagues.

Another player who benefited from an extended turn in the AHL is Canadiens' forward Max Pacioretty. The Habs' first round pick in the 2007 Entry Draft struggled in two separate stints in the NHL before starting out this year with the Hamilton Bulldogs, where he notched 32 points in 27 games before getting called up to the big club. Since joining Montreal, Pacioretty has scored three points in six contests, but the 19 shots on goal he has racked up over that span pique my interest. I think he's worth a shot in deep leagues, especially those of the keeper variety.

I'm downgrading most of the Sabres' top players with the news that Derek Roy will miss the remainder of the season with a torn quadriceps. If you have ever watched the Sabres play, you already know that Roy is the engine that makes their offense go and players like Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford rely on him to distribute the puck to them in scoring areas. Somebody--Tyler Ennis, perhaps--will assume Roy's spot on the top power play unit and could earn an upgrade as a result, but the outlook is definitely not favorable for most on the Sabres' roster, Ryan Miller included.

If I had told you a few years ago to pick up Jimmy Howard in your keeper league while he was toiling in obscurity with the AHL's Grands Rapids, you would be pretty happy with me now, right? Well, I think there are two equally promising situations out there for the taking at the moment:

In Ottawa, neither Brian Elliott nor Pascal Leclaire has shown the ability to maintain a high level of performance for a long stretch of time and neither is signed by the team beyond this season. In my opinion, the Senators are clearly hoping that goaltender-of-the-future Robin Lehner pounces on the opportunity and becomes their starting netminder in training camp next fall. The Swedish keeper is currently preparing to star for his home country in the World Junior Hockey Championships so if you're planning to grab him, I suggest you do it soon while nobody knows his name.

Moving further South, I think it's very likely that youngster Jacob Markstrom will become the main man for the Panthers next season. In fact, with Tomas Vokoun set to become a free agent after the season, it's not inconceivable that Florida could deal him prior to the trade deadline, which would open up a place for Markstrom on the roster this year. In that scenario, Scott Clemmensen would definitely be in the mix for playing time, but there's no question that the long-term job has been earmarked for Markstrom.

When faced with the prospect of trying to gauge whether a player's hot streak represents a new performance level or just an anomaly, I use a simple rule of thumb. The longer the track record for the player in question, the less likely it is that he will deviate significantly from it. For example, Mathieu Garon has established himself as a middling NHL goaltender with a career save percentage of .904 over nine different NHL seasons prior to this one, so his hot streak over the first few months should have been recognized as unsustainable. I'd rather put my faith in a player's performance over the 239 games he played before this year than what he's done during a recent stretch of 17.

Kevin Brown is fantasy hockey writer for Rotoworld. You can find him on Twitter @kbrownroto.
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