It might seem like the NHL season just started, but with teams having played nearly 50 games, the playoffs will be here sooner than we expect. Those of you planning to make a comeback and climb up the standings in your league, had better make a move quickly. Here’s some insight I hope will help.
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The Colorado Avalanche seem to have been seeking a blueliner to quarterback their power play all season and while each of Erik Johnson and Andre Benoit have received cracks at the job, Tyson Barrie seems to have pulled ahead of both of them, at least in my view. A cursory look at each player’s raw point totals doesn’t necessarily reveal this:
Johnson: 46 GP, 7G-13A-20P (0.43 ppg)
Benoit: 45GP, 2-16-18 (0.40 ppg)
Barrie: 29GP, 5-8-13 (0.45 ppg)
When we look a little deeper, we uncover that Barrie has been on the ice for about 58 percent of the Avalanche power-play minutes in the games he has dressed for, which is the highest rate on the entire team. Johnson has skated in 52 percent of the team’s power-play time on ice, while Benoit has been on for about 50 percent. Additionally, no Colorado defenseman starts a greater percentage of his shifts in the offensive zone than Barrie’s 41.4 percent, which indicates that coach Patrick Roy understands his player’s strengths and deploys him accordingly. Yahoo gamers seem to be getting this one wrong, as Johnson is owned in 46 percent of leagues as compared to 25 percent for Barrie. Those numbers should be reversed if you ask me.
My theory that goaltending is more about a netminder’s supporting cast than the general public believes will surely be put to the test after the trades that occurred on Wednesday. As if moving from sunny Southern California to frigid Edmonton in January weren’t enough, Ben Scrivens underwent the most significant downgrade a goalie can imagine by turning in his Kings’ jersey for the Oilers’ blue and orange. You’ll recall that Scrivens was excellent in limited action earlier this season, posting a 1.97 GAA and a .931 save percentage in 19 appearances, but if that was the main reason Edmonton was interested in acquiring him, I can’t help but think they’ve been had. That the Kings were able to sell-high, on who was probably the third-best goalie on their roster, makes me think they could turn this type of pumping-and-dumping scheme into a regular practice. Similar to how certain baseball teams have made a habit of selling off closers to teams enamored with their shiny save totals, Los Angeles is one of the few teams in the NHL whose team defense is such that they could turn nearly any netminder into a star over a short period of time. The fact the Oilers, in a season where the playoffs are a mere pipe dream, actually paid a price to “upgrade” from Devan Dubnyk to Scrivens, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent this summer, makes my soul weep. For his part, Dubnyk may not be joining the best defensive club in the league, but anywhere is better than Northern Alberta at this juncture. For what it’s worth, I’d rather own him than Scrivens for the rest of this season.
The arrival of Paul Maurice in Winnipeg figures to present some interesting developments, as is often the case when a new bench boss takes over a team. For one, is Dustin Byfuglien a forward or a defenseman? I own Byfuglien in two leagues where he can keep his d-man eligibility all season. But what about next season? Additionally, Evander Kane was a fixture on the team’s second power-play unit under Claude Noel, lower on the totem pole than Blake Wheeler, Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd. Once he returns from a hand injury that currently has him sidelined, will Maurice give him an opportunity to skate with the top group? If so, I think Kane’s value increases significantly from where it is now.
Bargain Bin Finds
The price is always right when you’re sifting through the bargain bin. As usual, the players listed below are owned in fewer than 20-percent of Yahoo leagues.
Ondrej Palat (10 percent) – A slow start to the season masks the damage this 21-year-old has been doing of late. Despite the fact he’s in the midst of a three-game pointless streak, Palat has registered 15 points in 21 games since December 1st after he managed only seven in his first 26. His plus-15 rating is a nice little bonus, too.
Ryane Clowe (10 percent) – Look, I know it’s hard to trust Clowe after he scored only three goals in 40 games last season and then started this year with just two points in 11 contests, but bear with me. The injury sustained by Patrik Elias has come with a silver lining for the Devils, as it has created an opportunity for the former Shark. Clowe has notched seven points during his current five-game scoring streak and has been his usual rugged self in terms of amassing penalty minutes, a big factor for whose playing in rotisserie formats.
Jake Gardiner (7 percent) – I cannot recommend Gardiner enough right now. I understand that most of what you’re buying into with this Brian Campbell clone is potential, but coach Randy Carlyle seems to have stopped trying to contain the gifted skater and has rewarded him with a spot on the team’s top power play unit. His numbers haven’t totally come around so it will allow those of you in redraft leagues to add him to your watchlist. Under no circumstances should he be available in a keeper format.