Kaberle's Nine LivesTuesday, December 13, 2011
I began my last piece singing the praises of Sidney Crosby after his triumphant return to hockey against the New York Islanders. On the heels of reports indicating Crosby will be sidelined for an indefinite period of time due to a suspected relapse of his concussion issues, I’d like to send a virtual Get Well card to Sid on behalf of the entire hockey community. The league simply isn’t the same without number 87 on the ice.
The trade of Tomas Kaberle to the Canadiens can only be viewed as a positive for the underachieving blueliner and his fantasy owners. Always a deft passer, Kaberle will get the opportunity to quarterback the Habs’ top power play unit and I think a respectable point total should be expected. More importantly, the addition of a savvy puck-handler could be a boost to a number of the Canadiens’ sagging offensive talents, such as P.K. Subban and Michael Cammalleri.
I have what some might call an unhealthy obsession with fantasy properties who routinely amass points and penalty minutes. As of the time of this writing, only three players have racked up more than 10 points and 50 penalty minutes so far this year: Steve Ott, Brandon Dubinsky and David Clarkson. In addition to that trio, each of Brad Marchand, Chris Stewart and Ryane Clowe is knocking on the door. The reason I’m so fond of these types of players is their reliability from season-to-season. I’d much prefer owning Corey Perry than Anze Kopitar, despite the Kings’ forward’s current lead in scoring.
Those looking for an under-the-radar option on the blue line would be wise to consider Milan Jurcina. After being given an opportunity to play on the power play regularly for the first time in his career, the Czech rearguard has recorded two goals and two assists in his past six games with three of those points coming with the man advantage. He has fired 19 shots over that span and has been given the premium ice time many believed would be assigned to Andrew MacDonald and Travis Hamonic. Jurcina is not the greatest option in shallow leagues, but you could certainly do worse in deeper formats.
The recent success of Ray Emery makes the Chicago goaltending situation somewhat murky, so rather than break out my crystal ball to predict whether he or Corey Crawford will garner the majority of starts the rest of the way, my suggestion for speculators would be to add whichever of the netminders might be available in your league. The Blackhawks are loaded with offensive talent so either goaltender could earn a fair number of wins if given the opportunity to play, even if they don’t post the greatest statistics in the process.
As was the case in his breakout 2010-11 campaign, Dustin Byfuglien leads all NHL defensemen in shots on goal by a considerable margin, making him one of the more reliable fantasy commodities on the back end. After leading the next closest rearguard by 83 shots last season en route to a 20 goal, 53 point campaign, he’s currently 18 shots clear of the field, despite playing the bulk of the season without partner Tobias Enstrom.
If you’re the owner of a struggling Anaheim forward, you may want to consider benching him for certain road games and the reason for this is simple: the Ducks are severely lacking secondary scoring, making it easy for home teams to match up their best defensive units when they control the last line change. The trio of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan have combined for 41 points in their 16 home games this season, good for 2.56 points per game, but they have only registered 21 points in 13 away contests, or 1.62 points per game.
I suppose it’s time for me to eat some crow, as the announcement that Nikita Filatov will finish out the year in the KHL makes it unlikely he’ll ever reach stardom in North America. I have touted Filatov as a player to target for a couple of seasons, foolishly believing the massive talent would eventually find a way to see daylight. We all swing and miss once in a while, I guess.
Since being united last month, the trio of Marian Gaborik, Artem Anisimov and Derek Stepan have been dynamite for the Rangers. While many believed Brad Richards would be the playmaker Gaborik needed to rediscover his high-scoring ways, he appears rejuvenated alongside two other forwards whose first instinct is to pass the puck. Meanwhile, Richards has found chemistry with captain Ryan Callahan and enjoyed a seven-game point streak before it was snapped in a win over Buffalo on Saturday. It took some time to adjust, but the Blueshirts appear to have their forward lines straightened out and clicking on all cylinders.
I’ve been very impressed by the ability of James Neal to produce despite the absence of Sidney Crosby for nearly the entire season. He has established a great rapport with Evgeni Malkin and has proven that his stretch of six points in 20 contests with the Penguins last season was an aberration. Whether or not Crosby returns to the ice in the near future, Neal is surrounded by talent in Western Pennsylvania and his league-leading shot total of 125 is evidence that he’s unlikely to slow down anytime soon. Finally, I’d like to offer congratulations to my friend and fantasy hockey co-owner Marco and his wife Karina on the birth of their first child. I’m hoping he’ll be able to use the time he spends awake in the middle of the night to find a cure for what’s ailing our fantasy squad.