We’re in a lighter part of the schedule right now because teams are starting to get their mandatory five-day breaks. As a result there were only two games on Wednesday, three games tonight, and five games on Friday. This lighter schedule isn’t just a one week occurrence as the NHL will naturally need time to cycle through all 31 teams as they each get their bye weeks.
This all makes situational pickups more worthwhile given that it widens the gap between how much certain players are playing in any given week. The best way to stay atop of that is with Michael Finewax’s The Week Ahead, which is published every Friday afternoon and goes over the upcoming schedule for every team in the league. So if you haven’t regularly read that column in the past, now is a particularly good time to start.
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While there wasn’t much in the way of games yesterday, there were two major events. The first is that the full All-Star Game rosters have been announced and the second was Anthony Duclair trade.
Starting with the All-Star Game selections first, there were certainly some noteworthy surprises and snubs. Probably the player that stood out to me as the least deserving of the honor is Carey Price and I say that while acknowledging that he is one of the best goaltenders of this generation. However, if the All-Star Game is meant to reward players that are having a great season, then Price’s 13-14-2 record, 2.89 GAA, and .911 save percentage in 29 starts stands out like a sore thumb. Ultimately, I have to assume that he’s there simply because Montreal needed a representative and given that there wasn’t an obvious choice on the team, the player with the most name recognition was given the invite.
At the same time, I’m very happy to see Blake Wheeler get his first All-Star Game selection. He’s been one of the NHL’s most underrated players for a while now. In fact, if you look at the league’s scoring leaders dating back to the 2013 campaign, Wheeler ranks ninth with 139 goals and 375 points in 417 contests. This has been a particularly good season for him so far as he has 14 goals and 52 points in 44 games, so it would have been especially glaring if he was once again held off the list. Fortunately that wasn’t the case.
There were some notable snubs though. In fact, I could go on quite a while about players that were deserving of a selection that weren’t included, but I’ll limit myself to three names: Jakub Voracek, John Carlson, and Vladimir Tarasenko.
Voracek has at least gotten an All-Star nod before, but he’s certainly deserving of the honor this season given the he leads the NHL with 43 assists and is tied for sixth place in the NHL with 51 points. The NHL ultimately decided to award the Flyers with only one representative and the player picked was Claude Giroux. Certainly Giroux is worthy of the selection, but the Flyers had more than one great option this season and it’s a shame to see Voracek left off the list.
Carlson is an even bigger surprise. With 34 points in 43 games and an average of 26:17 minutes per contest, he should be in the conversation for the Norris Trophy even if he’s probably the frontrunner in that regard, so to see him left off the All-Star Game roster entirely is very unfortunate. Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he was "supremely disappointed" by the snub, per Washington Post writer Isabelle Khurshudyan. The silver lining is that at least Carlson will get a breather, which is particularly noteworthy given his workload.
Finally, I have to raise an eyebrow at Tarasenko being kept off the list after being a part of the last three All-Star teams. He’s certainly having a good enough season with 19 goals and 44 points in 46 contests. It’s likely that the decision ultimately came down to Tarasenko and teammate Brayden Schenn, who has 17 goals and 44 points in 46 contests. Tarasenko’s the better player, but this will be Schenn’s first All-Star appearance, so I have to wonder if that was a consideration.
Moving past the All-Star Game talk, let’s look at the big trade on Thursday, which involved the Chicago Blackhawks acquiring Anthony Duclair and Adam Clendening from the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for Richard Panik and Laurent Dauphin.
Of course, the centerpiece of that trade is Duclair. The 22-year-old forward has a lot of upside and we got a taste of that in 2015-16 when he scored 20 goals and 44 points in 81 games as a rookie. Unfortunately, he regressed to 15 points in 58 contests last season and has nine goals and 15 points in 33 games in 2017-18.
A recent report suggested that Duclair had requested a trade, but Coyotes GM John Chayka had some interesting comments after the trade, the most notable of which is that Arizona has been looking to trade Duclair for years.
"It’s gone back for a few years now," Chayka said, per AZCentral, "where the team wasn’t particularly happy with the player and the player wasn’t particularly happy with the team."
As for why the Coyotes and player wanted to part ways for so long, Chayka said that “there's some things that I think should stay behind closed doors."
So that adds a little extra intrigue to the whole thing, but regardless it certainly seems like a fresh start was needed. It will be interesting to see where Duclair fits into the lineup and we won’t need to wait long for an answer as he’s expected to make his Blackhawks debut on Friday. If you’re in a standard league, I’d recommend taking a wait-and-see approach to this situation rather than picking up Duclair immediately as I have my doubts that Duclair will be a significant offensive contributor in the short-term. However, I do think this was a good trade for Chicago to make given that the risk here is rather minimal.
Panik is the main player going the other way. The 26-year-old had 22 goals and 44 points in 82 games last season, but has regressed to six goals and 16 points in 37 contests thus far. The Coyotes are hoping that Panik can turn his season around, but even if he does, his appeal in fantasy leagues is limited. Panik is at best a solid secondary scorer, not a potential offensive leader like Duclair might someday be.
The other two players in the trade are minor leaguers that aren’t particularly noteworthy. It’s a little bit interesting because it is two players that are returning to the team that originally drafted them as Dauphin was taken by the Coyotes in the second round of the 2013 NHL Entry Draft while Clendening was selected by Chicago in the second round of the 2011 draft. Beyond that little bit of fun trivia though, there’s nothing you really need to know about these two as neither is likely to be a factor this season and while Dauphin does have some untapped potential, it’s entirely possible that neither will ever be noteworthy NHLers.