Most Valuable Defenseman: Brian Campbell (Florida Panthers)
Sometimes a change of scenery can make all the difference, especially when it comes with a juicy opportunity. When Campbell signed with Chicago, he was charged with quarterbacking their power play, but injuries and the rise of other talented offensive defensemen like Duncan Keith pushed Campbell down in the depth charts. In that time the GM that originally signed him, Dale Tallon, had moved from Chicago to Florida and he was more than willing to acquire Campbell and give him ample power-play ice time with the Panthers. Campbell ranks third among NHL blueliners with an average of 4:35 power-play minutes per contest and he’s rewarded Florida with 31 points in 39 games, including 19 scored with the man advantage.
After two lackluster years with Chicago, Campbell’s stock had dropped considerably in fantasy circles, so much so that even the trade to Florida wasn’t enough for him to put him on most players list of top offensive defensemen. As a result, the man who got 62 points in 2007-08 was available in the 15th round of most drafts. That’s quite the bargain, considering ranks second among NHL defenseman in points.
Least Valuable Defenseman: Mike Green (Washington Capitals)
The fact that Green had just 24 points in 49 games last season didn’t scare off fantasy owners come draft day. He was still, on average, the first defenseman to go in fantasy leagues with the 30th pick overall. Green has been nothing but a headache for fantasy owners this season as groin and ankle problems have limited him to just eight games. The silver lining is that he might return to the Capitals’ lineup this week, so fantasy owners might get some measure of compensation for their patience.
Beyond Green, Drew Doughty deserves a dishonorable mention. Maybe the fact that he skipped training camp as a contract holdout is taking its toll, maybe he’s a victim of the Kings’ anemic offense, maybe he’s struggling to adjust and recapture his sophomore success, but whatever the reason, he has been a huge fantasy disappointment. If I had disqualified players who suffered a significant injury, Doughty would have beaten out Green.
Doughty is tied for 43rd place among defensemen in points with 15 in 34 games, which isn’t much return considering that he was typically selected early in the fourth round. Only Green and Shea Weber – who was doing great before joining the growing list of star players to have suffered a concussion – were typically selected ahead of him. However, like Green, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel for Doughty owners. Doughty enjoyed a five-game point streak from December 19th to 28th and we wouldn’t be surprised if he has a strong second half.
Most Valuable Goaltender: Jimmy Howard (Detroit Red Wings)
Goaltenders tend to be taken early, which isn’t surprising given their significance, so although Howard was typically gone by the start of round five, there were usually over 10 goaltenders selected before him. Howard endured a bit of a sophomore slump last season, but he’s put himself in the discussion for Vezina Trophy finalists with a 23-9-1 record, 1.93 GAA, and .929 save percentage. He’s been very consistent this season, with his monthly GAAs ranging from 1.82 to 2.01 to go along with a .929, .930, and .928 save percentage in each of his first three months. He’s also been a workhorse, starting in 33 of 38 games.
Brian Elliott also deserves recognition for what he’s done. He wasn’t even picked in 97% of fantasy drafts and yet he has 14 wins, a 1.70 GAA, and a .938 save percentage. Ultimately we chose Howard because he’s started in 14 more games and has consequently had a much bigger impact on fantasy teams. Although it didn’t directly factor into my decision, it’s worth noting that Howard and Elliott faced each other twice last week, with Howard and the Red Wings winning both duels.
Least Valuable Goaltender: Ilya Bryzgalov (Philadelphia Flyers)
After a disappointing playoff run last season, the Flyers decided they needed to undergo some major changes and the centerpiece of Philadelphia’s off-season moves was Bryzgalov, who signed a nine-year/$51 million contract. Hopefully the next eight and a half seasons go better than the first half, because so far Bryzgalov has not played as advertised. He’s been solid for stretches of this season, but he’s also been woefully inconsistent.
You never know what you’re going to get when you start Bryzgalov and while that’s frustrating to Flyers fans, fantasy owners who typically took Bryzgalov with the 18th overall pick are also feeling the pain. Only Henrik Lundqvist and Roberto Luongo were typically taken higher and while all three have putting up similar numbers in the wins column, Bryzgalov’s 3.01 GAA and .890 save percentage stick out like sore thumbs.
Most Valuable Player: Joffrey Lupul (Toronto Maple Leafs)
Lupul and Nugent-Hopkins are both great choices for this category, considering how well they’ve done, combined with the fact that they were often free agents at the end of a fantasy draft. If you had the foresight to pick up both of these guys after your draft, then you should take a bow. Ultimately I went with Lupul for the obvious reasons: he beats Nugent-Hopkins in most major categories (goals, assists, plus/minus, and PIM), and he was selected in fewer leagues.
Least Valuable Player: Ilya Bryzgalov (Philadelphia Flyers)
If you picked Crosby or Green, odds are you’ve had to work hard to recover from the blow, but bad goaltending is tough to overcome. Goaltenders have a more direct affect on their fantasy categories than any forward or defenseman, simply because there are typically much less of them on your roster. Beyond that, Bryzgalov was typically picked before Crosby or Green in most fantasy drafts.