Growing up, the Avalanche were always my second favorite team. My grandpa was a huge Peter Forsberg fan and it didn't interfere with my Sabres since they were in the Western Conference. I've always kept a close eye on them even though my rooting interests are now firmly with the Sabres and "Team Whoever I Bet In Game X." Anyways, Gabriel Landeskog has been a personal favorite of mine in this new Avalanche era. He became the youngest captain in the league when it wasn't cool to make your young top pick a captain. Landeskog won the Calder and led the Avs on a massive warpath to a shocking #1 seed in 2013-14. When I started at Razzball, things looked on the up for Landeskog at 23 years old. Then, like the rest of the Avalanche organization, Landeskog struggled mightily. Thankfully for all of us fantasy owners, he's back. Landeskog had the best game of his career on Saturday scoring a hat trick and two assists with five shots against the Lightning. Sure, the Avs lost, but it doesn't change his stat line for us! The Kog now has 13+11 in 28 games with a strong plus-minus and solid PIM plus shots. In fact, I'd be surprised if the penalty minutes don't jump soon. It's amazing that Landeskog just turned 25 so he's not even in his prime yet. Look for him to be a top 100 player for the rest of the season and for at least the next few years. Let's take a look at what else happened over the weekend:
Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? You somehow made the fantasy playoffs, even though your goaltending is suspect. For this playoff edition of the Goalie Report, I’m going to do away with the regular format and go right ahead and list who’s worth an add, who to avoid, and a few desperation plays – if that’s how you roll. These guys might be available in 12-team leagues, but anything deeper and who are we kidding? You’re likely stuck with what you’ve got, and if you’re lucky, one or more of the desperation plays will work out for you.
Welcome to Assume the Position, a new weekly feature that will focus on one specific player position each week. On a personal note, I love a good, deep league, the kind in which it's actually helpful to know who the backup goalie is in Buffalo. We'll be wading deep into the player pool on most weeks, so dynasty and deep redraft league owners, take note. We’ll start things off with a look at the goaltenders, breaking them up into four tiers, with comments on each. Below, goalies denoted in parentheses are the clear backup, while teammates that are hyphenated play in a more balanced timeshare. Rating goalies by the numbers alone is tricky business. We’ll revisit the chart throughout the season and hopefully give you a leg (pad?) up on the competition that goes beyond the numbers.
The New York Rangers have one of the most potent offenses in the NHL this season. Lead by NHL goals leader and all around beast Rick Nash, LW (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, +3) they’re fourth in the league potting three goals per game and lately they’re finding offense from all corners of their top nine. The latest Broadway Blue to find his stride is the hulking Kevin Hayes, RW (1 G, 2 A, 3 SOG) who extended his point streak to four games with a huge three-point performance last night against the Avs. The goal he scored was an end-to-end beauty just minutes after a nifty little pass that allowed Dan Boyle, D (1 G, 1 SOG, +4) to roll in all alone on Semyon Varlamov, G (L, 25 SV, 5 GA, .833%) who was deked out of his pads for the first goal of the game. This isn’t the first time Hayes has impressed over the last month or so and he’s starting to show fantasy owners why he was such a coveted commodity coming out college a few years ago, and why he should be on your short keeper list this season.
It was a rough weekend for defenseman in the NHL and a rougher one for the poor saps that own the newly fallen. The biggest blow due to injury fell from the heavens like Mjölnir and smashed me right in the face when my sun and stars Victor Hedman broke his finger while trying to block a shot. He’s out 4-6 weeks after successful surgery to fix his mangled digit. Now where can I go to get successful surgery on my broken heart? Nowhere?! What a world. I guess I’ll just have to pine away and gaze longingly at his stat line over the last week plus and wonder what could have been had he not tried to block a slap shot with his damn hand. The Rangers lost Dan Boyle to a similar injury and it makes me wonder, why the hell are these guys trying to block shots with their hands? Have they not seen the fastest shot competition? Do they not know they’re trying to use their hands to stop a frozen piece of vulcanized rubber flying at nearly 100mph in their direction? I’m all about sacrificing the body for the good of the team and some of us totally need those blocks, but come on! Suffice it to say there is no replacing Hedman but Anton Stralman is reportedly moving to the Bolts’ top powerplay unit with Jason Garrison slated to get time on the second unit, so the value of both jumps a bit with this news. Unfortch for fantasy owners broken fingers (and hearts!) weren’t the only issue that plagued some of fantasy hockey’s defenseman since last week. Slava Voynov was suspended indefinitely today due to a domestic violence incident that apparently left the victim hospitalized. I won’t joke about this because there is nothing funny about it. I also don’t know the details of the situation, but what I have read says that whoever he attacked (assuming he did) was rushed to the hospital and the extend of their injuries was such that the hospital staff called the cops on Voynov. This doesn’t sound good at all, but details are scant right now so if you can afford to, I’d try to hold off on dropping him until we get a clearer idea of how long he could be out. That being said, since this is non-hockey related absence he won’t be eligible for IR or IR+, so if you can’t afford to have a deadweight defenseman clogging up your bench, drop Slava and add whomever you can to fill the void. Luckily his season started somewhat slowly so the void isn’t that big. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
Heading into this season all eyes were on rookie Evgeny Kuznetsov (1 A, 1 SOG) of the Caps and why not? The big Russian seems to have all the tools he needs to be an offensive powerhouse in the NHL. He showed some serious chops in his time with the KHL, but we all know that has to be taken with a grain of salt. Still, I fully expect he’ll break the 40-point mark this season, however, Kuz isn’t the only rookie worth knowing about in D.C. this year. Lost in all that Kuz hype is a dynamic Swede on the verge of a breakout and his name is Andre Burakovsky (1 G, 2 SOG, +1). I blame myself for not mentioning him earlier, I should have, but he slipped my mind so I’ll do it now. Well I already did it. In fact I’m in the middle of the mention at this very moment, and so are you! Trippy, man. I digress, Burakovsky is an offensively gifted pivot in the mold of Henrik Zetterberg, who coach Barry Trotz compared the kid to just the other day. The comparison might seem pretty lofty, but when you break down the kid’s bona fides it starts to seem pretty accurate. Last season Burakovsky lit the OHL up in his first go at North American hockey scoring a gaudy 87 points in 57 games for the Erie Otters. He followed that up by posting seven points in seven games in the World Junior Classic-20 division and then 14 points in 14 games in the U20 (all) International Juniors. Damn, that’s sexy. Do I sense a new mancrush coming on? Mayhaps! There’s plenty of room in my hockey heart for another and this young man is a leading candidate. He’s a strong skater with a remarkably high hockey IQ that will serve him well as he adjusts this season. Couple that with a sick wrister and the top six minutes he’s going to be getting and what does it all add up to? Me adding him in every keeper league, that’s for sure. He’s worth owning in standard leagues while he’s scoring too, and with five points in five games so far he’s doing just that. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Patience is a virtue, that’s what they always said. Who are they? They don’t matter. What matters is the idea. As I’ve grown and aged like a fine wine I’ve discovered that patience is indeed a virtue. It doesn’t really matter what aspect of life you want to touch on, being patient is going to help you get where you want to go, and get what you want to get. So what do you need to achieve fantasy hockey glory? Say it with me now class, patience! Yes ladies, you need to relax and be patient. Every season some guys start slow. Every season some guys start hot. Every season the guys who started hot but had no business doing so, by and large, slow down or just stop scoring. Every season the guys who started slow but had no business doing so, by and large, start scoring. I’m fielding a lot of questions about whether or not to trade Nathan MacKinnon away for pennies on the dollar. Brock Nelson seems to be the guy everyone is willing to add and they don’t care who they drop to get him and Valeri Nishushkin is actually getting dropped after just two games. Two games, people. Are you kidding? Nelson has no track record, Nishushkin is playing sick and MacKinnon? You want to call what MacKinnon is doing a slow start already? You cray! If you want to throw away your fantasy season before it starts make those knee jerk moves now. If you want to win, sit tight and wait at least a few more games to see how the cookie crumbles. And for the record, no don’t trade MacKinnon. No, don’t drop Nuke for whatever wire fodder had a decent two game start and no, Nelson isn’t going to be the next big thing. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
Goalies can be notoriously difficult to rank and project for accurately. I give each starter projections but I might not bother trying to predict what kind of numbers a backup is going to offer unless I have reason to believe that they're going to play enough to be worth owning. Most of the time, backups aren't, but there have been some gems in the understudy group in recent years. Cam Talbot's stellar work behind Henrik Lundqvist last year helped ease the pain of the wounds Jimmy Howard's 2014 campaign left me. Damnit, Howie! At any rate, Chad Johnson filling in for Tuukka Rask showed similar value. For the most part, though, backups are backups and largely worthless without a starter getting injured. Then we have the always wonderful goalie committees. Is there anything worse than goalie by committee? Yes, yes there is, but for the purposes of this post, no, no there is not. The Hurricanes look to provide a buttload of frustration for anyone willing to draft their way into that sad state of affairs again in 2015 with Anton Khudobin set for a bit of a regression and Cam Ward being, well, Cam Ward. On the flip side the duos of Brian Elliot and Jake Allen in St. Louis and Frederik Andersen and stud rookie John Gibson where if either guy is asked to go 60 starts their season would end up bleh, but limit them to around 40 starts a piece and they stay healthy and rested, the numbers stay sexy, and you stay happy with a cheap no. 2 tender. Anyhooze, lets get to the meat o' the matter, Razzball's 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Goalie Rankings:
And so it goes and so we goes! I've already covered our top 10, top 20 and top 50 for 2015, so with 30 days left before the first puck drops here's the next 50 to round out the top 100 for our 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Rankings: 51) Jordan Eberle – has quietly established himself as one of the most consistent options on the right side in fantasy or otherwise. He’s only missed six games over the last three seasons, scored more than 30 goals once, nearly hit the mark again last year with 28 and so long as he stays on the Nuge/Hall line, he’s going to put up another solid 30 goal year. His plus/minus drops him out of the top 50 by a smidge, but just a tiny smidge. 2015 Projections: 30 G, 41 A, 71 PTS 52) Ryan Johansen – is capable of being a top 25 player but his contract concerns have me, well, concerned. He’s missing camp and that’s not good for team chemistry or his conditioning. Yeah, I’m sure he’s taking care of his conditioning on his own, but it’s just not the same. I’d have ranked him much higher if he was signed a while ago, but with just over a month left before the season all reports are that he isn’t close to signing a deal. His projections will get adjusted if he misses games due to the contract dispute, but if he starts the year and gets a chance to play 82 games, he’s going to take another step forward this season. 2015 Projections: 30 G, 42 A, 72 PTS
Apparently all the free agents got together and decided that today was the day to sign a deal. Also, everyone had to sign with a central division team. Or demand a trade to a central division team. If I'm a fan of the Wings, Blue Jackets or any other team lucky enough to have escaped the west, I'm counting my lucky starts tonight because baby, the central is loaded. Normally I’m used to hearing news about a big contract here, a big name move there, but since the draft there have been tons of moves that sent ripples through the fantasy hockey world like so many pebbles being tossed into a still pond. Zen! Anyway, it goes without saying then (though I’ll say it) that y’all need to know who went where and for what and why. When? Yesterday! Today? Who’s on first?! The biggest non-contract move so far has to be Jason Spezza and Ludwig Karlsson going to Dallas for Alex Chaisson, Nick Paul, Alex Guptill, a 2015 second round pick and a bag o’ pucks. Couple that with Ales Hemsky inking a 3-year, $12M deal with the Stars today and they might have found a recipe for success in the west! When I initially found out about this deal I saw it as “Spezza/Karlsson traded to Dallas” and my damn jaw dropped. Come to find out its some guy named Ludwig. Really? People are actually named Ludwig? That’s too bad. Anyway, these moves should make the Stars an offensive powerhouse and I’d say Spezza (if he can stay healthy) and Hemsky (if he can stay healthy) get a decent boost in value for next season. Kari Lehtonen (if he can stay healthy) might be a goalie to target in 2015 now, too. I’m sensing a theme here. Huh, anyway, here are the rest of the big moves that matter so far this offseason…