James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Dose: Calling for Backups

Monday, December 02, 2013


If you shot a professional sports coach with “Kill Bill”-style truth serum, most of them would probably admit that there’s something more satisfying about pushing a bad team to be good or a good team to be great instead of just being the “bus driver” for a juggernaut of a squad.

 

At least, that’s how I believe I would perceive things if I were either a GM or a coach. Making something out of nothing seems to evoke a survival instinct that dates back to the days when supermarkets couldn’t do our hunting for us.

 

The rewards and challenges that come from making something cohesive out of a ragtag group can be one of fantasy hockey’s more enjoyable experiences.

 

One gift that’s been unusually rewarding to this season is the shocking success of many backups throughout the NHL.

 

In fact, a couple weeks ago, someone asked me if it’s “The Year of the Backup.” I’m not sure I’d say that decisively - just last season, Ray Emery was a huge bargain before the postseason and Tomas Vokoun carried the Penguins during the playoffs - but it’s a trend that warrants notice.

 

At this point, you might want a little help finding the number one No. 2’s. Consider this Dose something of a makeshift cheat sheet.

 

Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a $2,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday's NHL games. It's just $10 to join and first prize is $550. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.

 

For everything NHL, check out Rotoworld's Player News and follow @Rotoworld_ HK+@cyclelikesedins on Twitter.

 

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

 

Very important note: This list isn’t in any specific order. It IS meant to be a reference for guys you’d have a reasonable chance of grabbing, so that’s why Josh Harding and others aren’t here. Conversely, Cam Talbot’s not here because I find it hard to fathom Henrik Lundqvist losing many starts. You can compare him to an Andersen or Giguere if you feel antsy and want to add him, though.

 

Frederik Andersen (18 percent): 7-1-0 record, .939 save percentage, 1.70 GAA

Situation: Platoon with Jonas Hiller, Viktor Fasth is on the mend.

Background: Andersen is a big Dane who has seen time in both the AHL and NHL this season. He’s putting up great numbers, but considering his significant competition, he’s best for people who add/drop frequently and pay attention to hockey news daily. Nothing wrong with giving him an audition.

Contract: Recently extended

 

Jean-Sebastien Giguere (43 percent) 6-0-0, .949, 1.62

Situation: Semyon Varlamov’s clear backup.

Background: Giguere might be best if you’re the type who enjoys a revolve door in your third or even fourth goaltender spot, possibly changing things even more than once per week. He only played in four games in November and three in December, so it’s hard to ask him to do more. He is motivated and you never know with Varlamov’s legal situation, either, though …

Contract: In a contract year.

 

Jonas Gustavsson (16 percent) 7-0-1, .929, 2.15

Situation: Outplaying and backing up starter Jimmy Howard.

Background: After being a flavor-of-the-month import, injuries, inconsistently and maybe just playing for the Maple Leafs tarnished “The Monster.” His second season in Detroit stands as a make-or-break year, and he’s making out so nicely that people might just break out in hives observing Detroit’s stubbornness when it comes to sticking with Howard. We’ll see if the Red Wings finally embrace the situation at hand in December, though.

Contract: In a contract year.

 

Devan Dubnyk (37 percent) 7-11-1, .893. 3.24

Situation: In a strange purgatory as Ilya Bryzgalov seemingly snatched the starting job before suffering an upper-body injury of unclear severity on Sunday.

Background: Dubnyk has a lot to prove and hasn’t done that often this season, although he’s been much better since the Bryzgalov signing lit a fire under him (4-1-0 with a non-decision in his last six games). The Oilers defense is paltry and Bryzgalov could easily dominate the starts if this is a minor injury. If it’s significant, this is likely to be a sink or swim month for DD.

Contract: In a contract year.

 

Ben Scrivens (68 percent) 6-2-4, .944, 1.52

Situation: Carrying the mail for at least a month while Jonathan Quick is hurt. Then a backup again, though possibly with a potentially healthier role.

Background: Largely ignored in Toronto despite putting up nice AHL numbers and solid NHL ones. Has an often-amazing Twitter feed. I’m filling this with nonsense because I’ve been singing his praises relentlessly and don’t want to be TOO much of a broken record. Still, the refrain: he’s probably taken in your league, anyway, but must be mentioned in case he isn’t. If he isn’t, grab him. No excuses.

Contract: In a contract year.

 

Marek Mazanec (26 percent) 5-4-1, .932, 2.00

Situation: Stole the temp starting job from Carter Hutton, could get a long look depending upon Pekka Rinne’s upcoming (or just secretive?) MRI.

Background: Sure, he’s as unproven as it gets - he’s still wearing his AHL mask, and why not? - he’s playing behind a competent if unpredictable Predators team. Might fall down a rung or two if Shea Weber is out for a substantial period. Not a brief option, especially if you value system over perceived skill.

Contract: Dirt cheap through 2014-15.

 

Cory Schneider (58 percent) 4-5-3, .927, 1.72

Situation: In a weird platoon with Martin Brodeur.

Background: If you believe the the Devils are the main reason Brodeur’s name is next to so many records  - i.e. you think he’s lucky - then the Devils have one of the most resounding odd couples in net, fortune-wise. Schneider is putting up far superior numbers individually, yet Brodeur put together enough wins here and there that you can’t even blame Pete DeBoer for giving the icon an equal share.

 

No doubt about it, Schneider is frustrating. But he still has some buy-low potential. Still, odd stuff.

Contract: $4 million cap hit through 2014-15.

 

Robin Lehner (28 percent) 4-5-2, .933, 2.44

Situation: 1B to Craig Anderson’s 1A (seemingly)

Background: Lehner is finally getting some consecutive starts/a near-equal share with Anderson, so naturally he’s starting to lose (and he even lost ugly on Sunday). The Senators organization has high hopes for him, but this team is in a downward spiral and probably feels more comfortable with Anderson for now. Lehner is intriguing, but his fantasy value presents a tough nut to crack.

Contract: In a contract year.

 

James Reimer (62 percent) 6-3-1, .931, 2.58

Situation: 1B to Jonathan Bernier’s 1A

Background: Reimer’s another hard-luck guy, easily scapegoated while the organization bungles here and there. It turns out that the Maple Leafs seemed to stumble into a fantastic goalie situation, though it’s hard to imagine Reimer and Bernier keeping this up. I think of Reimer as a poor man’s Schneider (despite being owned in more leagues), as you’ll deal with some frustrations regarding who’s playing. I also think that Toronto is going to hit the wall soon enough, which might force Reimer and Bernie’s numbers to plummet.

 

Again, he’s just a tough guy to get a bead on.

Contract: In a contract year.

 

INJURIES (full list)

 

Tyler Seguin missed Dallas’ shootout loss to Edmonton Sunday with concussion-like symptoms and is considered day-to-day. Be on the lookout for updates, as he is off to a great start of his run with the Stars … Zach Parise only missed one game instead of two-to-three weeks with that bruised foot … The Devils placed Adam Larsson on the IR … Evander Kane is battling a lower-body injury and might sit out Monday’s game … Again, more might be known about Bryzgalov’s status as today goes on.



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.
Email :James O'Brien



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