When Jason Spezza signed with the Stars in the off-season it seemed like a perfect fit. The Stars already had two superstars anchoring their top line and they needed someone to take over the second line and make it a respectable unit. Beyond that, the Stars were looking for the last piece that would help tie together what looked like the most dangerous power play unit in the league after he signed. The situation looked even brighter for Spezza after the club added Ales Hemsky, a guy who Spazz clicked with Spazz in a big way in Ottawa late last season and, again, it seemed like a perfect fit. The Stars now had the core of a second line and two more key top power play pieces to help catapult them to the next level, perhaps even good enough to make a cup run in 2015. Naturally fantasy owners pounced on Spezza early in drafts looking for a big season on a high octane offense, usually somewhere in the the third, fourth or fifth rounds, but the first half of the 2015 season has been a disaster for Spezza who posted a dismal line of 6/21/27/-8 in 38 games so far and it doesn’t look like the second half is going to be any better.
The most troubling number that Spezza has produced that shows us he is truly lost out there is a percentage, 70.3% to be exact. That’s the number of Spazz’s points are scored when Tyler Seguin is on the ice with him. Are you kidding me? This is a guy who was a point per game player all those years in Ottawa and he could produce if you put a potato and a Molson on his wings, now he scores 19 of his paltry 27 points when Seguin is on the ice and squat else? Worse, they’re mostly assists! No goals! Ugh. That would be fine, wait, no it wouldn’t. It would never be fine, but it wouldn’t suck as much if Spazz stayed on top line with Seguin and Jamie Benn and kept cranking away with helpers and likey a far better plus/minus, but that hasn’t been the case. So far he’s spent most of his time on the second line skating with the totally useless Hemsky and his paltry 13 points in 39 games so far, and Erik Cole and his 18 points in 37 games, though Cole has been hot of late posting seven points (3 G, 4 A) over his last five games with five of those points (3 G, 2 A) coming in his last two games. That’s another thing. Spezza has just two assists over that same span. So not only is he not scoring without Seguin on the ice, he’s managing to barely get on the board when his up jumped bottom six line mates are scoring. That’s terrible, he’s terrible and there’s no reason to keep suffering if you own him.
The bottom line is Spezza has joined Matt Duchene amongst the ranks of first half fantasy busts that show little signs of improving for a second half run. If Spezza finds his way back to the top line with Benn and Seguin he could salvage his bleh season, but that doesn’t appear to be in the cards so you should feel free to drop him if there’s something better on the wire. Obviously that advice is only good for those in redraft leagues, because owners stuck in deep pools where there are no viable options to replace him available on the wire have no choice but to stick it out. Yeah, I’m one of those. No, I’m not happy about it and I doubt I’ll ever draft Spezza again. I recommend you avoid making the same mistake in the future as well. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
Michael Hutchinson, G (L, 34 SV, 3 GA, .919%) – Despite taking the loss in this one it wasn’t really Hutch’s fault and it shouldn’t jeopardize his position as the Jets’ starter. Oh, I didn’t mention that he’s basically established himself as the number goalie for the Jets? Well there you have it, folks! Hutch has taken six of the last seven starts for the Jets winning four of his last six posting very solid numbers while doing it. Overall his season line sits at a beautiful 10-4-2/1.88/.936% in 15 starts and 17 games, but you can expect his GAA to rise and his SV% to drop as he gets more starts under his belt. Either way, Hutch is a must own in all leagues.
Antti Niemi, G (W, 17 SV, 2 GA, .895%) – Niemi takes the victory in this one but he didn’t have to do much work for it pushing away 17 of 19 shots the Jets fired his way. Alex Stalock should be in net tonight for the Sharks but even if he shuts down the Wild completely I doubt Niemi’s position will be in jeopardy in any way. Honestly, I think Niemi could look like hot garbage for two weeks and if put up one solid start over that span it would be enough to convince the Sharks brass that he’s their guy. Meh.
Brent Burns, D (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – The Bearded Wonder has points in three straight with four points (1 G, 3 A) over that span. That puts Burnsy second overall in points for defenseman with 31, just four back of the two-way tied Mark Giordano and Kevin Shattenkirk who have 35 each. I have to say, the defensive scoring leaders at this point in the season are not what I would have guessed, in fact, it isn’t because in the preseason I predicted the lay of the land and I was close, but spot on. When the season started would you have pegged John Carlson as fourth overall in scoring among defenseman? How about Sami Vatanen occupying seventh place on that list just one point behind P.K. Subban and Erik Karlsson who are tied at 27 points a piece, good for fifth place? No? Me either. I love this game.
Andrew Ladd, LW (1 G, 2 SOG, -2) – Talk about on fire, Ladd has really lit it up lately and has seven points (4 G, 3 A) over his last five games. In 13 games last month he put up 13 points (6 G, 7 A) and has steadily increased his production month to month since the season started. Ladd is capable of scoring 30 goals this season, a feat he’s flirted with twice in his career postin 28 goals in 82 games for back in 2010-11 and 28 in 2011-12, but I think he’s probably hit his ceiling and he’ll cool sooner than later. If you own Ladd and you’re trying to make a deal consider moving him while his value is this high, it’s probably not going to be this high again this season.
Melker Karlsson, RW (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Since getting the call Melky has been fantastic posting seven points (3 G, 4 A) in 11 games this season with eight PIM, 17 SOG and a plus-three rating. That’s impressive for the undersized third line winger who isn’t exactly a blue chip prospect, but put up solid enough numbers in the Swedish Elite League to earn himself an NHL contract. His spot on big ice was opened when when Matt Nieto, LW (3 SOG) went down with an ankle injury a month ago and he’ll remain there while Jumbo Joe Thorton is on IR for the next week or so. Nieto is healthy now and Jumbo Joe shouldn’t be out too long, so when Joe is activated it may be Karlsson who is the odd man out and sent packing to the minors again, but given how well he’s gelled with fellow rookie Barclay Woodrow, LW (Zip, Zilch, Nada) and James Sheppard, LW (2 SOG, +1), the Sharks actually have a solid third line that the Sharks shouldn’t break up. If anything, they may slot Nieto in with Karlsson and see what happens, though the Sharks bottom six has been so bad this season they may not want to fix what isn’t broken. Melky is worth adding in deep leagues but best left on the wire in redrafts for now.
Blake Wheeler, RW (1 A, 1 SOG, -1) – Earlier this season peeps were down on Wheels and looking to drop him for pennies on the dollar, I advised against it and his current six game point streak is one of the big reason’s why. I knew it’d come, it was only a matter of time, and after a rough start that saw him post just 16 points in his first 25 games he’s rebounded nicely with 14 points in his last 15 games. That puts him on pace for around 25 goals and 65 points by season’s end and I figure he hits both marks. Never sleep on Wheels; he gets it done.
Joe Pavelski, C (2 A, 2 SOG, +2) – Pavs is rolling with five points (3 G, 2 A) in his last three games and six points in his last five. He’s on pace for around 40 goals, but I think his slightly inflated shooting percentage (14.6%) is going to come down and he’s going to fall just short of hitting the 40 goal mark. Still, he’s a top 20 skater this year and the league’s best goal scorer over the last 12 months. I’d buy that for a dollar (or two)!
Logan Couture, C (2 A, 1 SOG, +2) – Like I said in the Karlsson blurb, the bottom six is a mess for the Sharks but the top six? So jacked. Couture added two assists and like Pavelski, he’s rolling this season as well on pace for 70 points and 30 goals, both marks I fully expect him to hit by season’s end.
Alexandre Burrows, RW – Burrows returns to his old home on a line with the Sedins after putting up, uh, a decent four game stretch late last month. That’s about all that I can say about Burrows who should benefit greatly from the move if he can make it stick. Radim Vrbata is the odd man out getting bumped to the second line with Chris Higgins and Nick Bonino who are both mired in long, sad, soul crushing scoring droughts. That doesn’t bode well for Vrbata, but it does give Burrows a boost. He’s worth streaming in keeper leagues while he’s on that line, but don’t expect it to last long unless they gel fast and Burrows starts putting the biscuit in the basket in a hurry and often.