James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Severed hopes

Thursday, February 14, 2013


Look, Erik Karlsson probably isn’t the best player in the NHL. At 22, he’s not the fully formed hockey “product” you’d expect from a guy carrying the No. 1 in the world moniker. He might not even be the best defenseman, at least in reality-over-fantasy terms.

So the Swedish sensation might not be the king of all things hockey. Still, if you move away from Most Valuable Player talk and transition into Most Essential Player - as in, most crucial to his team - then the conversation gets more interesting.

To wander into the poetic realm ever so delicately for a moment, it’s an understatement to say that Erik Karlsson is the “heart” of the Ottawa Senators. If you had to isolate one organ, that’s what he’d be, but I like to think of him as the limbs. He’s responsible for movement, locomotion … even dance. Without his incredible presence, I can’t help but feel like the Sens are in a vegetative state.

(Then again, if you think it’s more like they’re paralyzed, maybe Paul MacLean’s deft coaching could move them into fierce competition like those incredible athletes in “Murderball.”)

Either way, Karlsson defied experts who expected him to regress in all but the most literal way. (“Technically,” they might say before pushing up archaically old bifocals, “he’s not on an 80-point pace …”) He’s firing shots on net at an absurd level; in fact, he leads the league with 63. If anything, it seemed like the 10 points and six goals he generated in the first 13 games were a mere consolation prize. He seemed primed for even more brilliant offense.

… And then Matt Cooke’s skate lacerated all of those hopes, at least for the 2013 season. That dreadful injury almost certainly ended Karlsson’s Norris Trophy defense, and honestly, should prompt the Senators to punt this season altogether.

After all, they’re not just missing their best defenseman. With all apologies to aging wonder Daniel Alfredsson and redemptive forward Kyle Turris, Jason Spezza is the only reasonable argument against Karlsson for Best Senator status - he loses it in most quarters, but still - and he’s out for at least most of the campaign, too.

Oh yeah, in other onerous Ottawa news, Milan Michalek appears to be day-to-day with a lower-body injury of his own. That easily was overshadowed by Karlsson’s injury, but it’s another blow to banged-up group whose playoff chances seem slim at best.

If I was Bryan Murray, I’d start daydreaming about Nathan MacKinnon or Seth Jones right about now. Perhaps the team will be stubborn and trade for a Lubomir Visnovsky or Ryan Whitney, but assuming they stay pat, what’s the impact?

Speaking of being a GM, don’t forget to take a look at Rotoworld’s Super Guide and sign up for a Yahoo league. Just don’t draft Erik Karlsson.

Well, it’s almost entirely bad, but let’s pick through the rubble as best we can anyway.

 

THE OTHERS

Sergei Gonchar - Look, let me be blunt: the Senators lean so heavily on Karlsson that it’s incredibly difficult to forecast the future. Aside from Zdeno Chara and Shea Weber, I can’t think of many teams who lean so much on one defender, and the fantasy fallout is even worse for Karlsson owners. Amazingly, Gonchar has averaged a little more power play time than Karlsson this season (4:26 per game to Karlsson's 4:10). I doubt that will change much, but he’ll likely lose a hefty chunk of assists without Karlsson. Maybe some of that will be offset by just how much they’ll need him to produce (and the fact that he’ll be the go-to triggerman), but even Gonch will suffer. I still think he’s worth owning, yet he doesn’t escape the bleakness.

Craig Anderson - As much as Karlsson’s known for being evolutionary Mike Green - a guy who requires a quick or lengthy derisive remark about his defense before praising his otherworldly scoring skills - the Swede was soaking up almost half a game. Losing his presence could hurt red-hot Anderson, although there’s an interesting alternative: these losses might just force MacLean to ape most of the NHL and go into hyper-passive mode. Anderson was unlikely to maintain his outrageous stats regardless, but it’ll be interesting to see if the domino effect helps him a little more than you might think. Then again, fewer goals means less goal support, and possibly fewer wins … so this is probably a bad thing for Anderson, indeed.

Kyle Turris - They’ll lean on him a lot, but I think he’ll take a step or two back without Karlsson wreaking havoc. Don’t give him up outright, though.

Marc Methot - Not an offensive dynamo, but he saw a lot of ice time (22+ minutes) last night and boasts one of the better pedigrees on a dilapidated defense.

Patrick Wiercioch and Andre Benoit - Two lesser-known defensemen who have been getting the PP time table scraps. Wiercioch is averaging just under two minutes of man advantage time and has four assists in 11 games. Does that make him worth adding? Not really, but maybe radar-worthy. Maybe.

So … yeah, things are bad. Oh, in case you’re wondering, only hold onto a faint hope of keeping Karlsson if you have a lot of IR spots. Anyway, make the jump for more fantasy fun


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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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