So the NHL Network is replaying every game from last year’s playoffs. Why you ask? They’re lazy. It’s lazy programming. It’s the equivalent of a sports talk show host doing nothing but 4 hours of listener call ins. Is anyone outside of Boston interested in watching their team fail miserably in the playoffs? I didn’t think so… In real world hockey news, Chris Drury retired after finding out no GM is dumb enough to pay him millions of dollars to play a game anymore, Jonas Hiller is good to go after a months long bout with vertigo, and Sid the kid is still having a hard time dealing with that pesky thing known as natural light. Now, onto the rankings:
20. Eric Staal – C (Car): The best Staal in the bathroom (and the NHL). Some people say his brother Jordan might be better because he plays “defense”, I say who cares? This is fantasy hockey and all we care about is putting biscuits in the basket. Once upon a time, Eric put together one of those magical 100 point seasons but since then he’s kind of settled into a Point-Per-Game guy. His plus/minus’s have been on the wrong side of zero most years, but I feel like he has some decent linemates this season – and it starts with reigning Calder Trophy (R.O.Y.) winner Jeff Skinner.
19. Henrik Zetterberg – C (Det): I always find myself undervaluing the Z-Man in drafts and I’m not exactly sure why. I think part of its that Red Wing players in general, going back to the late 90’s, seem to get little credit for being great individual players. It’s just assumed that they have great players because they’re always good… Why do I need to know the name of the burger flipper at In ‘n Out? All that matters is, it’s In ‘n Out. The burger is gonna kick ass no matter who’s making it.
18. Patrick Kane – RW (Chi): The Kane-iac has only been of legal drinking age for 22 months, but his liver is already in worse shape than Artie Lange’s. Despite his affinity for Grandpa’s cough medicine Kane has easily lived up to the hype as a #1 overall draft pick. He’s only notched 30 goals once so far in his short career, but the assists come in bunches and youth is on his side. It’s possible he’s still getting better too, now if he could just go on “Celebrity Rehab” I’d feel a lot more confident about drafting him.
17. Pavel Datsyuk – C/LW (Det): Sure his last name may be what my wife and I tell our 9 month old daughter when she tries to lick the kitchen floor, but that aside Datsyuk is a solid producer in fantasy hockey. He’s slowed down the last 2 seasons, going from over a point-per-game to just under, but the skills are still there and he’s not completely over the hill at age 33. I doubt he ever has another 90+ point season, but it’s not unthinkable.
16. Tim Thomas – G (Bos): Next to Ilya Kovalchuk lil’ Timmy was the hardest guy for me to rank. He pretty much won me my league last year, but now heading into his age 73 season I’m worried there’s no longer enough tread on the tires. Do I think he has another MVP caliber season in his back pocket? I don’t know, I’m not a psychic. But what I do know is that he’s A) old, B) has a bad hip C) will lose at least 25 starts to Tuuka Rask and D) won’t be on any of my teams this year.
15. Ryan Miller – G (Buf): Miller Time as he’s called (is it possible to be a professional athlete with the last name Miller and NOT have Miller Time as your nickname?) falls into what I call the Greg Maddux athlete hall of fame. If you didn’t know who he was and you had to guess what he did for a living, and all you saw was a picture of him with his shirt off, it’d take you 100 guesses to get to professional athlete. Despite his less than stellar physique, I like Miller a lot. Just don’t go gettin fooled into thinking he can repeat his 2009-2010 season. He won’t. Draft him expecting a repeat of last year and you’ll be fine.
14. Ryan Kesler – C (Van): The best American born player in the NHL right now gets overshadowed in Vancouver by the Sedin twins, but he’s a legitimately great player. If Defense counted in fantasy, I could make a case for taking Kesler #1 overall. Of course it doesn’t, so he’s not. But after last year he doesn’t need defense to count to still be a Top 15 player. The term “stepping it up” really annoys me, but it’s the perfect term to use for his last 2 seasons. He set career highs in almost every category in 2009-2010, and then did the same in 2010-2011. And as an added bonus, he’s started every one of the Canucks last 240 games.
13. Ryan Getzlaf – C (Ana): The last guy in the Ryan division, big Sexy Getzy is the definition of a front-line Center. With his size, speed, puck handling and passing ability he’s Brian Burke’s wet dream on skates. He averages over a point-per-game (mostly assists) but he is more than capable of scoring on his own when he has to. The problem is he tends to take plays off when he’s disinterested (ala Rick Nash) and he’s missed 16 games each of the last 2 seasons due to various ailments. But when Getz is on, he’s the kind of player that can single handedly carry a fantasy team.
12. Jonathan Toews – C (Chi): As long as he’s not hanging out after games with ol’ Patty Kane too much I predict big things for Jonathan “Head, shoulders, knees and” Toews (I know it’s pronounced Taves, but why? It’s tough enough trying to say French Canadian, Kommie or Eurotrash names, why do you have to make my life more difficult? Same goes for you Dustin Byfuglien!). A-n-y-w-a-y, Jonny T is barely 23 and getting better with every game. Outside of his (lack of) time spent in the box there really isn’t anything he can’t do. And if “leadership” was a fantasy category, he’d be going 1st overall (at least according to Don Cherry and every Chicago sports media outlet).
11. Roberto Luongo – G (Van): Okay first off just let me say that I LOVE CANADA. Any country that has Hockey as their national sport is somewhere I want to live. But seriously Canada, we get it. Luongo won you an Olympic gold medal. Sofa King What… It’s time for him to win the CUP.