James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Hockey Dose: Grab Grabovski

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

We’re only one game into the 2013-14 season, and it’s already time to interrupt your regularly scheduled programming to tell you to add someone. Like, now.


Follow these instructions:


1. Open a new tab or window.

2. Visit your Yahoo league page and click “Players.”

3. Add Mikhail Grabovski if he’s still available in your league(s).

4. Go back to reading the Daily Dose.


Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a one-day $4,000 Fantasy Hockey league tonight (Wednesday). It's just $2 to join and first prize is $600. Starts at 7:30pm ET. Here's the link.


Is your team up one Belorussian yet? (Folds arms, taps feet.)


Also don’t forget, for everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News and follow @Rotoworld_ HK + @cyclelikesedins on Twitter.


Oh, and there’s still plenty of time to join a Yahoo! Hockey Pool, so get on that.




Oh, you need a little push? OK, let me present an argument in case Grabovski’s hat trick + assist (including three power-play points) night isn’t sufficient. (Note: I mentioned Grabovski as a sleeper on Tuesday, but I understand if you missed it.)


The best span of time to judge Grabovski is from 2008-09 through last season, which gives us a five-year sample. In that time, Grabovski scored 20+ goals on three occasions and crossed the 50-point barrier twice, falling just short with 48 in 08-09, and he made up for that with a whopping 92 PIM.


(Grabovski generally gets a respectable amount of time in the box, with 245 PIM in 367 regular season games.)


Don’t get me wrong, Grabovski absolutely got lucky on Tuesday. His hat trick came on four shots, so the bounces clearly went his way. There will be lulls, especially if he gets good-but-not-massive ice time (17:13 TOI last night).


Still, time on ice is actually another positive to consider.


He received 3:29 PP TOI yesterday, dwarfing his 1:42 average from 2012-13.* The same caveats about his hat trick apply here - the Capitals won’t receive six man advantages every night - but it’s still a promising sign that Grabovski will get a much better chance to earn valuable points this season than he did with Randy Carlyle frowning at him.


Grabovski also has contract year motivation, which is the delicious icing on the top of a compelling fantasy hockey sundae. (More on that - contract years, not ice cream - soon.)


* - He averaged about two minutes per game of PP time in 2011-12 (mostly Ron Wilson, some Carlyle) and three per contest in 2010-11, the last time he played a full season with a coach who appreciates his game. It’s probably safe to pencil him in for about 2:30 most nights.




He fell short of 20 goals in 2009-10 and last season, but those campaigns were limited by injuries and then a work stoppage. He scored 35 points in 59 contests (.59 points per game) in 08-09 and 16 in 48 games (a point every three games, basically) last season, when he was clearly in Carlyle's doghouse.


So, really, he’s only had one true “off-year” … and man, is he getting punished for it in certain venues. Which is great news for those who are bargain-hunting.




Still not convinced? Sadly, you might not have a ton of time to sit on the fence (although league activity can vary wildly).


Grabovski’s only owned in 29 percent of Yahoo fantasy leagues as of this writing, but that could change throughout Hump Day; do you really want to lose out on a quality mid-tier center because your opponents made the jump while they were bored at work?


OK, now that I’ve browbeaten you into grabbing Grabovski, let’s get into Wednesday’s expected Kessel talk.




Most sportswriters and sports fans have their little obsessions. Beyond pumping out cringe-inducing pun nicknames, mine is the contract year phenomenon. It is the greatest tie-breaker for me; I’m more willing to believe that a player can hit a hot streak (see: Joel Ward scoring on 25 percent of his shots in the 2011 playoffs) or that a fragile player can mysteriously break the 70-game mark when millions are on the line.


Fortunately for fans but unfortunately for fantasy owners, teams are becoming more adept at wrapping up their core players before they can maximize their earning potential. (Note: you should root against an extension for Henrik Lundqvist if he’s on your team.)


So, my first thoughts weren’t “that’s a lot of money for Phil Kessel” or “what does Dion Phaneuf/Tyler Seguin think?” Instead, they were something along the lines of “that knocked an unknowable amount of goals off of his totals this season.”




Honestly, asking if Kessel is really worth $8 million per year seems like a fruitless exercise or at least work for braver souls. All the subjective factors swirling around (ranging from your tolerance for anyone making that much money to how much you’re impacted by goofy photos like these) make it tough for many to treat the 26-year-old objectively.


Instead of that thornier issue, let’s ask a more important question in fantasy terms, anyway: is he really one of the best scoring forwards in the NHL? I’d say absolutely.


First, let’s see where Kessel falls in the ranks of goalscoring from 2008-09 through last season, which for him is a sample size of 352 games:


1. Alex Ovechkin - 208 goals

2. Steve Stamkos - 208 goals

3. Patrick Marleau - 166 goals

4. Ilya Kovalchuk (sheds tear) - 163 goals

5. Jeff Carter - 162 goals

6. Corey Perry - 161 goals

7. Jarome Iginla - 156 goals

8. Rick Nash - 156 goals

9. Kessel - 155 goals


Kessel is the last guy in the 150’s, besting the likes of Thomas Vanek (146), Eric Staal (144), Daniel Sedin (143), Jonathan Toews (143) and Sidney Crosby (139). Obviously, injuries hurt the totals for guys like Crosby, but it's worth noting that Kessel's spent big chunks of his career without an elite playmaker feeding him perfect passes.


It’s pretty clear that Ovechkin and Stamkos - and probably a healthy Crosby - are on a whole other plane sniping-wise, but after that, Kessel ranks among the best of the rest.


He's not milking a lot of luck, either; his career shooting percentage is 10.9 and he's never shot better than 15.5 percent in his career. His 1,698 shots in 505 career regular season games easily clocks in at more than three per contest, which is catnip for fantasy owners.




He’s still in the mix when you broaden the discussion to points, too. While his 313 points from 08-09 to 12-13 “only” places him 24th overall, he’s getting better at pairing assists with all that sniping.


During his last three seasons with Toronto, Kessel scored 198 points, the eighth-best total in the NHL. If anything, we probably should’ve seen a big raise coming.




While a contract year would’ve been a nice sweetener, Kessel should be fine this season and for quite some time. He’s still young, after all.


The one area where you might want to try to “sell high” might be keeper leagues, although probably not this season. Gabe Desjardins’ research hints that Kessel might very well be approaching the end of his prime, so maybe think about it when he’s getting a little closer to 30.


Beyond that caveat, there’s little reason for negativity regarding the American-born winger. He even had a nice assist on Tuesday.


After the jump: Players to watch and injury bits.


continue story »
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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