James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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MVP - Most Valuable Pest

Friday, March 02, 2012

In a way, Thursday night resembled Scott Hartnell’s bushy mane. Sure, it was knotty and messy, but at the same time it had a lot going on and was actually quite affable overall.


With that in mind, it only makes sense to start with this year’s MVP (most valuable pest): Hartnell himself - even if he was the Philadelphia Flyers' biggest newsmaker last night. These two made bigger-reaching headlines, so let's make sure you know about them first:


  • James van Riemsdyk broke his foot blocking a shot and reports indicate that he could miss six to eight weeks. Even if it's just a month, it's hard to imagine him having much fantasy value unless he pulls a Jimmy Howard-like speedy return.
  • Jaromir Jagr broke his tie with Joe Sakic for eighth place all-time in points scoring thanks to a one-goal, one-assist night. Jagr now has 1,643 points in his storied career, placing him 80 points behind his former teammate Mario Lemieux for seventh place in NHL history.


So yeah, it was pretty easy for Hartnell to fade into the background of both the fantasy (JVR’s injury) and real-life (Jagr making history) storylines, but I think this Daily Dose marks a good time to celebrate a season so good that some might argue that he’s the absolute most valuable forward in fantasy.


Naturally, Hartnell’s doing his usual Sideshow Bob routine, which is resulting in more-or-less the same robust penalty minutes (109 PIM in 63 games played).



It’s his point production that’s making things so special, though, as he set a new career-high with 31 goals. (Hartnell hit the 30-goal mark in 2008-09 and never scored more than 25 in any other season up until now.) It’s not like Hartnell is just scoring goals and going to the box, either, as he also has 28 assists to give him a surprising 59 points in those 63 contests.


He's also a point away from tying his career-high in total points with 60 (also set in 08-09), blew away his previous career mark of power-play goals of 10 with 15 and should eclipse last season's shots on goal totals in his next game or two. (Hartnell fired 177 SOG last season; he already has 176 this year.) By the end of 2011-12, Hartnell could very well have 70-80 points and maybe even 40 goals.



The most interesting question revolves around whether or not Hartnell can match these efforts again. Perhaps most directly, it’s reasonable to wonder: where should he be drafted as the 2012-13 season begins?*


My advice is to pencil him in for production that falls somewhere in between this career year and his previous averages. It’s unfair to discount Hartnell’s work just because it was unexpected, but a lot of his success has come because he seized an opportunity on a line with Claude Giroux and Jaromir Jagr.


Even beyond fortuitous linemate assignments, Hartnell’s getting a lot of bounces in his direction. The number that stands out to me almost as much as his 31 goals is 17.6 (his shooting percentage). Hartnell’s career average is 11.4 percent so you’d be wise to lower your expectations for his points totals for next season.


In fact, I’d be a little weary about buying him too high altogether, unless you want to get creative and shoot for peripheral stats (goalie categories, PIM, SOG, etc.) instead of focusing on more obvious point totals.


* - Assuming that the NHL and NHLPA don’t make an ENORMOUS AND HORRIFYING MISTAKE by locking out, of course.



Mike Smith was honored for his great recent work by being named the first star for the month of February and promptly lost a tough game to the Calgary Flames. That ended a rather incredible 11-game winning streak for the Phoenix Coyotes goalie.


It makes me wonder if he “passed the torch” to Ryan Miller, who’s absolutely on fire right now. He followed up Wednesday’s 43-save shutout of the Anaheim Ducks with a 39-save goose egg of the San Jose Sharks. He’s been red-hot since Jan. 24 (10-2-3) so anyone who’s been patient with him must be feeling really good. (Kind of like Eric Staal owners, who are enjoying a 10-game points streak and must generally be quite glad that Kirk Muller is in charge in Carolina.)



After tough Februarys for both forwards, Tyler Seguin and David Krejci teamed up for a big start to March in the Bruins’ 4-3 OT win against the New Jersey Devils. Krejci’s hat trick already tops the two points he had in February while Seguin’s goal matches his tallies in that month. (Seguin also had an assist.) Don’t be surprised if Boston starts to pick up its play with the important games cranking up again … The Winnipeg Jets pounded the Florida Panthers 7-0. I hate to say it for ecstatic Winnipeg fans, but the Panthers are still in a better position to win the Southeast Division while the Washington Capitals have a better chance to take a playoff spot. In fact, you might want to “sell high” on Jets with their home streak set to end on Monday. Even if the roll is almost over, it’s pretty cool that the Jets are making a go of it anyway … Roberto Luongo solidified Vancouver’s status as the No. 1 team in the West with a win against the Blues while the Rangers keep their distance in the East … Steve Mason actually looked like an NHL goalie with a 33-save shutout of Colorado … It looks like Ray Emery will start for Chicago tonight … Marian Gaborik hit the 30-goal mark for the seventh time in his career. I have to admit I’m surprised he’s done it so many times since it seems like he’s never healthy enough to hit such quantities.



No suspension for Eric Nystrom for that hit on Kris Letang, which the Penguins aren’t elaborating upon at this time … Niklas Backstrom needed help to leave the ice in last night’s contest, possibly giving Josh Harding a chance to prove his value … Nicklas Lidstrom looks like he’ll miss this weekend’s games with his ankle injury … There’s no timetable for Craig Anderson’s return … Henrik Tallinder’s blood clot situation is still murky … Brenden Morrow is skating again, which is more good news for a Stars team that’s starting to look awfully promising … Todd McLellan missed another day with his rare (but less rare than in most seasons) coach injury. (Click here for the full injury list.)

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