James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Will top players stay scary?

Monday, October 31, 2011


Monsters with a purpose

 

A lot of people have mixed feelings about penalty minutes as a “positive” stat in fantasy, and with good reason. After all, there are few things more awkward than pumping your fist when Todd Bertuzzi takes a bonehead obstruction penalty, right?

 

Still, the beauty of PIMs is that they test your decision-making mettle. Can you find a guy who gets in the penalty box but also does something when he’s on the ice? Will you show off your savvy by just “punting” the category altogether?

 

Here are some of the best guys who pile up PIMs but can actually play a little. (Note: you already know about guys like Zdeno Chara, so this list focuses on players who might be a bit more “marginal.”)

 

Chris Neil - points: 5; PIM: 46; shots: 28

Steve Downie: pts - 2; PIM - 42;

Brandon Dubinsky: pts - 3; PIM - 41

David Clarkson: pts - 3; PIM - 30

Brad Marchand: pts - 4; PIM - 29

Sheldon Souray: pts - 8; PIM - 27

Steve Ott: pts - 8; 25

 

This is just a short list of a very satisfying group of players who will make you happy in fantasy leagues even if they don’t score a point. Neil, Souray, Clarkson and Ott are especially interesting to watch because they’re playing under new coaches. They’re taking a lot of shots and generally justifying their existences on traditionally high-finesse lines.

 

Keep an eye on Downie, as well. His low SOG total (8) implies either ill health or low confidence, but he’s one of those rare guys who gets a ton of PIMs but can legitimately flirt with 20+ goals and 60+ points. Downie might be an excellent “buy low” candidate in a PIM league right now, so snatch him up if a fellow owner already lost patience with him.


Are the top 5 goalies for real?

 

Stat nerds hate the win stat for goalies because it attributes team successes to that individual, but the bottom line is that it’s a big deal to fantasy owners. Here’s a look at the top 5 goalies so far, according to the most common stats of W, GAA, save percentage and shutouts – ordered by wins first.

 

Kari Lehtonen: 8-1-0; 1.75 GAA; .947 save percentage and 0 shutouts (287 saves in 9 games)

Marc-Andre Fleury: 7-2-0; 1.86 GAA; .934 save percentage and 1 SO (239 saves in 9 games)

Jonathan Quick: 6-1-2; 1.52 GAA; .947 save percentage and 3 SOs (248 saves in 9 games)

Tomas Vokoun: 6-1-0; 2.15 GAA; .932 save percentage and 1 SO (218 saves in 8 games)

Nikolai Khabibulin: 5-0-2; 1.12 GAA; .960 save percentage and 1 SO (191 saves in 7 games)

(Pekka Rinne leads the “just outside the top 5”pack and will likely supplant one of these goalies.)

 

Generally speaking, Fleury, Quick and Vokoun should stay in the picture as high-end fantasy netminders. They have the talent, track records, team support and should get the starts to dominate more often than not. Lehtonen and Khabibulin are bigger wild cards, though. Here’s the most important consideration, however: both have shown talent before, even if one is in his prime (Lehtonen) while the other was believed to be past his due date (Khabibulin).

 

The number one shared concern for both goalies is the teams in front of them.

 

The Stars’ defense is operating under a newfound “bend but don’t break philosophy” that will allow a high volume of shots but (if things go to plan) very few quality chances. That’s great from a game-to-game standpoint, but considering Lehtonen’s expected workload and injury history, that strategy might bring out your inner worry wart.

 

“The Bulin Wall” has had it pretty easy so far, as the Oilers have only allowed about 27.3 shots per game in his starts while giving him solid goal support. It’s still too small of a sample to trust that Edmonton’s defense really is better than it looks on paper, though. Unlike clear number one Lehtonen, Khabibulin also faces a surprisingly strong backup in Devan Dubnyk, who could usurp the elder netminder if he stumbles.

 

Again, Lehtonen and Khabibulin are looking great, have shown the talent before and their teams are surprisingly solid early on. Still, those two goalies are the riskiest bets in the top 5 so far.


SUSPENSIONS AND DISBELIEF

 

There was a time when Dan Carcillo’s mammoth PIM numbers made him go very early in drafts, but even his fantasy use his waning. He was suspended for 2 games … Wojtek Wolski won’t sit out any games for his hit, but he’s been hovering around healthy scratch status early this season anyway … Andy Sutton could face a 6+ game suspension. If that depresses you from a fantasy standpoint, then your league is too big … Speaking of defenseman of marginal fantasy value, Francois Beauchemin probably won’t miss any time for his check on Mike Fisher.


INJURY SNIPES

 

Tyler Seguin’s supposedly injury prone hips were a big (and odd) story this weekend, but he’s not dealing with current issues. Even keeper league owners probably shouldn’t break a sweat over that bit … Concussion or not, it sounds like Fisher’s going to miss some time after that hard hit … Simon Gagne being injured his hardly news, but the fact that it’s being called a “middle-body injury” is quirky enough to raise a few eyebrows … Jordan Staal is day-to-day with an injury, and no, he’s not suffering from peer pressure to get injured in Pittsburgh … Danny Briere’s dealing with an upper-body issue, which is a bummer. On the bright side, he probably won’t torment often-tormented Buffalo fans because of that ailment … Daniel Alfredsson is day-to-day with what might be a head injury suffered from that Wolski elbow …  John Tortorella called Mike Rupp’s knee “cranky,” which doesn’t really seem like an appropriate adjective to describe a body part unless you’re discussing someone’s stomach after a late night trip to Taco Bell. (Click here for the full injury list.)



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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than two years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien



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