James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Dose: Downie's back in Philly

Friday, November 01, 2013

Earlier this week, the Buffalo Sabres and New York Islanders delighted us with a Thomas Vanek and Matt Moulson (plus picks) trade. The results of that swap will be worth monitoring for the rest of the season, as both face uncertain futures in contract years.


The Colorado Avalanche and Philadelphia Flyers provided another trade to tie a knot around this week, although the deal is more perplexing (though certainly just as appreciated, as it allows the mind to drift away from the strange Semyon Varlamov saga) and less fun from a fantasy-perspective, at least for both sides.


In case you missed it, the Avs sent Steve Downie back to the team that drafted him and arguably sculpted him in the Philadelphia Flyers for Maxime Talbot.


My confused initial reaction to the trade probably captures how much fantasy can color one’s opinion, as this trade seems pretty one-sided from that regard. Obviously, reality is far more complicated, though.


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To be more specific, Downie presents a lot more fantasy value than Talbot in most years, provided he’s healthy (which is far from a year-to-year guarantee) or not suspended (ditto).


His 2013-14 season stats tell a decent part of the story, as he's collecting nice points (seven in 11 games played) getting rambunctious penalty minutes (36) and respectable shots on goal (26). His career numbers are even more enticing: 56 goals, 145 points, 696 PIM in 285 games.


Of course, the catch is that Downie's value could dip in Philadelphia, as it all comes down to how he's utilized. It's hard to imagine it getting much better than his former situation in Colorado, as he added snarl to the top line of Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene. The only way he's not taking a hit potential-wise is if he slides into, say, Michael Raffl's current spot with Claude Giroux (who's been rolling with Vincent Lecavalier quite a bit lately). One could foresee Downie also replacing Scott Hartnell on the second line, which isn’t nearly as enticing fantasy-wise.


Downie has plenty of motivation to keep producing because he's in a contract year. It's hard for me to imagine the Flyers affording him this summer with all their monetary concerns, but you never know with Philly.


Overall, it's an interesting move. No doubt about it, the Flyers are missing something, but an agitator who delivers questionable hits - albeit while also providing underrated offensive zip - isn't quite what many of us were calling for. Then again, Talbot was buried on the fourth line and maybe the mere threat of more trades - confirmation that players, not just management, are on notice - could wake up some of the Flyers' sleepier roster players.


At just 49 percent owned, Downie's worth having, even if I believe there's a risk that his ceiling could be lower unless he's skating with Giroux. He should get robust PIM as long as he can stay on the ice, if nothing else.




For me, the Colorado Avalanche’s takeaway from the deal is all-reality. (It’s even possible that they simply needed to distract fans from the ugly Varlamov situation.)


It’s been my feeling that Maxime Talbot’s best production years have come largely from the environments he’s been in.


He scored 19 goals for the Flyers in 2011-12, but that was a time when playing in the Flyers' system seemed to give most forwards a huge boost. He's never had more than those 34 points from 2011-12, usually coming in at the 20+ point range with minimal shots. The one fantasy perk Talbot has is that he's a steady (if unspectacular) PIM generator, as he tends to clock 50-60 in a full season.


All pessimism aside, Talbot's likely to be slightly more relevant fantasy-wise, possibly getting minutes with a talented Avs forward or two after receiving lowly assignments with Philly. Just probably not relevant enough even to watch list.


Again, the Avs' greatest benefits from this trade come off the fantasy sheets. Talbot is a good-to-excellent penalty killer whose contract is very palatable ($1.75 million per year through 2015-16). It's odd that his deal seems remarkably reasonable now, as many were left howling by it when he signed with Philly in the summer of 2011.


Talbot is owned in a mere one percent of Yahoo leagues, and it’s hard for me to demand that to change. Of course, linemate factors could make him more appealing, though I find it hard to fathom him making an impact anywhere but the deepest leagues.


If there were fantasy points for hilariously bad commercial acting, he’d be a first-round pick, though.




So, a lot of information flew around on Thursday, but I’ll spare you the bizarre bits involving people hatching far-fetched Olympic conspiracy theories (beyond saying: seriously that’s some BIZARRE stuff).


When you keep it to pure hockey impacts, the updates seemed mixed between “wait and see” and he could possibly play for at least the next while, depending. On the not-so positive side, the Russian netminder will deal with unprecedented scrutiny (for him) and maybe some condemnation from fans who err toward the “guilty before proven innocent” side if he does suit up and play. It would take an impressive amount of focus for Varlamov to tune all of this out and continue putting up impressive numbers, especially with the situation still fresh in the hockey world’s minds. He is in a contract year, too, so there’s a lot on the line … now it’s difficult not to wonder if his NHL future is in jeopardy.


Bottom line: the Avalanche haven’t recalled another goalie and Varlamov has been permitted to travel, so it’s not even out of the realm of possibilities for him to play tonight (Friday vs. Dallas).


I’d probably hang onto him at this point, though I understand those who are so uncomfortable about what he might have done that they’d rather just part ways with the netminder. Either way, it’s definitely a situation to monitor.


After the jump: game notes.


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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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