Jimmy Howard is on pace to start 75 games for the Red Wings and win just 21 one of them. I don’t think anyone thought Howard would revert back to his 2010-11 form so completely, but the similarities between that abysmal season and this year’s campaign are startling. This isn’t about Howard, though, as he’s been so bad it has opened the door for a once lauded, since (somewhat) forgotten name to reappear on your fantasy radar! Jonas Gustavsson. As recently as 2009 the Monster was touted as the best goalie in the world outside the NHL. Think about that, the best goalie in the world! So what happened? When he arrived in Toronto expectations were high and he responded by posting a decent rookie campaign with 16 Wins, 2.87 GAA, .902 SV% in 42 GP (39 starts), but the wheels quickly came off and after two consecutive disappointing years he was shipped off to the Wings. Was this a case of not living up to the hype? I don’t think so. Rumors have it that the Leafs’ coaching staff tried to eff with his mechanics because they felt his style was too unorthodox for long term success at the NHL level. If true, that could very well be the source of his less than stellar play and likely some injuries as well. This season it appears that the Wings’ coaching staff aren’t repeating the mistakes of others and the Monster is gobbling up pucks left and right. Last season is a throw away due to the lockout, but this year he looks a hell of a lot better than Howard, doesn’t he? The sample size is still small but he looks absolutely fantastic in limited work so far. If Howard continues to struggle and Gustavsson continues to play well it won’t be long before the Wings start giving the Monster more starts. Does he have a chance to take over the starting job outright? No, I don’t think so. Howard has a huge contract and the Wings simply can’t afford to relegate him to a backup. Despite that, he’s absolutely worth adding in deep leagues and well worth keeping a close eye on in standard formats. Here’s what else I saw last night in fantasy hockey:
Cam Ward (1 GA, 35 SV, W) beat Ottawa 4-1 on Sunday and looked great doing it. Ward is a very solid netminder when healthy, but he hasn’t had a good full season since 2010-11. If he can stay healthy he has a chance to post decent peripherals, but the ‘Canes can’t score for squat, so don’t expect many wins healthy or not.
Eric Staal (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG, +2) continues to underperform on the second lowest scoring team in the league. The Canes are so bad that after a quarter of the season is gone they sit at 29th in goals per game, 26th on the PP and 21st on the PK. This is a recipe for blech, If he goes on a tear trade him and get what you can because the ‘Canes blooooow.
Johan Franzen (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +1) keeps chugging along scoring the game winner last night and has eight points in as many games in November. He does most of his scoring on the powerplay with five of those points coming with the man advantage so expect some dry spells. Still, he’ll flirt with 30 goals again and you’d be crazy to ignore that.
Daniel Alfredsson (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG, +1) remains fantasy relevant when he’s healthy. The Wings aren’t what they used to be, but there’s still enough offensive talent in their top-six to make Alffy worth owning. He has 16 points in 20 games played so far with 43 SOG and six points on the PP. That’s worth owning in 14 team leagues.
Justin Faulk (2 A, 1 SOG, +3) is loaded with offensive talent and I want nothing more than to tell you to pick him up, but I can’t. Why? Because the ‘Canes are awful and that severely limits what Faulk can do. He may be the best offensive blueliner in Carolina, but that’s worth about as much as being the nicest guy in prison.
Jordan Staal (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) has only able to reach the 50 point mark just once in his career, his final season with the Penguins. He had some value in Pittsburgh, but he’s essentially worthless in Carolina.
Tuomo Ruutu (1 G, 6 SOG, +1) actually scored another point! Super.
Patrick Dwyer (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) is a guy who hasn’t scored more than 18 points in a single season in his entire career and I wouldn’t note this at all if it wasn’t such a rarity that the Hurricanes score goals, but hey, here’s another one!
Robin Lehner (3 GA, 33 SV) lost to the Hurricanes! Blech, seriously Robin? Don’t get all Craig Andersony on us now! Fear not, it was his second start in as many nights and he beat the Wings 4-2 on Saturday night. He’ll be fine.
Ryan Miller (2 GA, 31 SV) played well again, lost again and now has a record of 4-14-0. It’s hard to watch, folks, and it isn’t going to get any prettier moving forward. Honestly, I’d bench him if I owned him (I don’t) and hope for a trade. Bench Miller, he says? Madness they cry! Let me ask you this; if you didn’t see the name Ryan Miller in front of his season line so far (4-14-0, 3.11, .911), would you even pick him up? Don’t lie, you wouldn’t.
Drew Stafford (1 A, 3 SOG, +1) is another mostly worthless guy. I’m just trying to focus on what happened last night in these daily round up posts and man, not a whole lot happened.
Henrik Zetterberg (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) remains dominant with 16 points in 12 games so far this November. He has 28 points in 25 games and should be in the running for the Hart Trophy by season’s end.
Andrej Sekera (2 SOG, +3) is on pace for 17 goals and 38 points this season. Really? Yep. Can he keep it up? It’s hard to say, he only ever had one good year (2010 – 29 points, +11) and that was more the result of the Sabres’ good season than his own offensive skills. That being said, he’s poised to top his 2011 and 2012 season totals of 12 and 13 points respectively in just 24 games so far. He’s worth a flier in deep leagues while he’s scoring, but he plays in Carolina and has never shown a consistent scoring touch, so temper your expectations.
Niklas Kronwall (1 A, 4 SOG) has points in three straight games, four in his last five, six in his last seven and one really condescending smirk on his ESPN profile.
Darren Helm (1 G, 3 SOG, even) scored his fourth goal in his last five games and is a guy with decent upside. He’s a third line guy, though, and that doesn’t figure to change this season.
Elias Lindholm (1 G, 1 SOG, even) gets compared to Nicklas Backstrom and has tons of upside. With the Canes’ offense in shambles it makes sense that they’d give the kid a go, so they called him up and he scored a goal. Don’t be surprised if he sticks around, but if he struggles the Canes will likely send him back down to avoid tainting their young asset. He’s a must own in keeper leagues, but too raw to be worth an add in standard formats.
Cody Hodgson (1 G, 1 SOG, 2 PIM) is having a solid year and that’s appropriate for a solid player. He’s not great, he’s not super flashy and he isn’t going to dazzle you. He’s a yawnstipating two-way guy on the league’s second worst offense. He reminds me a bit of Bobby Holik with a bit more upside and is worth owning in deep formats.
Jason Spezza (1 G, 1 PT, 3 SOG) scored the loan goal for the Senators losing to the ‘Canes 4-1. He can’t seem to get that +/- in a good place as he sits at minus-nine so far. He’s also seen his scoring dip a bit after a solid start to the season (12 P in 11 GP last month). Still, he’s got Bobby Ryan on his wing and should continue to score unless he gets hurt again. I say that about a lot of guys, I know, but it’s very often true. Hockey’s dangerous, yo!