James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Tempting the Hockey Gods

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

As someone who’s spent years studying, observing, enjoying (and sometimes enduring) the NHL on a league-wide level rather than just flapping a foam finger for one set of sweaters, it’s almost inevitable for some viewpoints and prejudices to evaporate.


Depending upon your mileage, you might begin to realize that losing in the playoffs often isn’t about a star player “choking”; sometimes it’s about luck and the caliber of your teammates/opponents. Don’t get me wrong, a phrase like “clutch” is too delicious just to totally throw away; now I mainly use these terms for everyday life instead of to question an athlete’s manhood. Example: my wife picking up iced coffee was definitely “clutch.”


There are a ton of really dopey (or almost reasonable) assumptions I no longer make, yet that doesn’t mean that I’ve dropped every theory I once held dear. If you’ve been following the Hockey Daily Dose with even intermittent interest, you may notice that I fixate on contract years in a way that parallels Edmonton Oilers head coach Dallas Eakinsobsession with “hockey gods.”


Then again, some long-held beliefs make more sense than others; believing in contract year motivation is like “following the money.” I can’t make the same kind of defense for my illogical fear of the jinx.


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Much like any semi-adult who clings to a silly, wildly unscientific theory, I realize that fearing the jinx doesn’t make sense. Talking smack doesn’t cause you to lose something you otherwise would have won; getting out-played (or out-lucked or out-other-stuff’d) does. Still, you will rarely find me counting unhatched chickens.


So, while I praise Lars Eller for feeding the Oilers a little bulletin board material by saying that their structure sometimes resembles that of a “junior team,” a reptilian part of my brain believes he made that comment a day or two early. Why feed your opponents even a morsel of extra motivation when you can slam them the same way just 48 hours later, when you’re virtually assured not to see them again until 2014-15? (Barring a wildly unlikely Habs-Oilers 2014 Stanley Cup Final.)


I’m glad he said it, though, because it added a lot of spice to Tuesday’s proceedings.


Anyway, we can let the hockey gods sort that out. In the meantime, let’s get to some game summaries.




-- I made some pretty strong overtures for people to hang with Devan Dubnyk, and it seems like the hockey gods are finally giving him some love, as he's won two games in a row and has a point in three of four (2-1-1). His overall numbers aren't great, but they should even out, though he'll definitely have some rough nights. Still, he's been steady with nice individual numbers since his sophomore season in 2010-11, so as long as he gets support beyond what you'd expect from a QMJHL/OHL/WHL team,* he should be a useful third goalie/OK second one. He's only owned in 43 percent of leagues right now.


-- Speaking of guys who are coming around, Tomas Plekanec (62 percent) has five points in his last five games after recording one assist in his first four. There's no reason he should be on waiver wires in most formats, as he does a little of everything, usually with 60-70 point potential.


-- It's easy to be disappointed with Carey Price until you look at his .932 save percentage.


-- Mark Arcobello continues to blow my mind. He has 10 assists and zero goals in 10 games on 22 SOG, with five points in his last four games. He ranks sixth among Oilers forwards with 17:34 ice time per night, including 2:06 on the PP. He's getting 2.2 hits per game. I can't guarantee that he'll be a fixture on your roster for long - Sam Gagner’s likely to gobble up many of his minutes and opportunities whenever he comes back - but if you're hurting, it's hard to argue with a guy who has a point-per-game and a nice role (he also somehow has a +4 rating). He's available in 85 percent of leagues ... consider this sort of a perplexed recommendation; you never know, he could be the next Martin St. Louis or at least Cory Conacher. Then again, with Taylor Hall out about a month, maybe those worries aren't as serious.


-- It's nice to see Ryan Nugent-Hopkins heat up, as he has two goals and three assists in his past two contests after a goose egg in three games.


-- Ryan Dadoun provides some more Oilers insight here.




-- After having little puck luck to start the season, Phil Kessel was on fire last night, with an impressive hat trick. James van Riemsdyk + Kessel might just be the most dangerous duo for the U.S. Team in Sochi come February.


-- I'm not crazy about Mathieu Perreault's ice time (14:24 per game), although a big chunk of his reps come on the PP (2:45). I wouldn't give him an enthusiastic thumbs up, yet the talent and production (nine points in nine games) make a compelling argument for at least an audition if you’re leaning his way.


-- I've griped a bit about the headaches that come with Jonas Hiller vs. Viktor Fasth, but Hiller hadn't technically lost yet this season until last night. It’s not about either one being a “bad” goalie … I’ve been impressed by Hiller since he helped the Ducks upset the Sharks in the playoffs many moons ago.


-- Hard to see the Leafs goalie situation as a true platoon, as Jonathan Bernier is clearly in the lead and is the organization's preference.




-- Could this be budding power forward Kyle Okposo's long-awaited breakthrough season? I don't know, but he's been red-hot, with four two-point games in his last five contests. Still, it's Tuesday's statline that adds to the confusion: great production (two assists) and time on ice (20:40) yet zero shots on goal and nary a penalty minute. It's resounding to look at his career-high 249 SOG in 80 GP from 2009-10 because he seems pretty gun-shy (101 SOG in 48 GP last season, 17 in nine GP in 2013-14). Those misgivings shouldn't stop you from adding him, but when I see a hot player with low SOG and weak peripherals, I get a little queasy.


-- Presenting Okposo's polar opposite: average/small, speedy winger Chris Higgins. He has a ridiculous (for his visibility level) 43 SOG in 11 GP, just one shot shy of four per game. His production is finally matching his efforts this season. While it hasn't happened since his early days with Montreal, it's worth remembering that Higgins had three consecutive 22+ goal seasons there. I wouldn't be shocked if he matches his career-high of 27 tallies if his role stays the same.


-- John Tavares reached his 300th NHL regular season game. The career outlook is splendid: 116 goals, 144 assists for 260 points. Don't blame him for that -40 rating, either.


After the jump: more players who are sorely under-owned in fantasy leagues.


* - I kid, I kid.


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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 four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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