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:
If you were asked “Which is the best line in hockey right now?” what would you say? The Kessel/Bozak/JVR line in Toronto? How about the Perry/Getzlaf/Penner line in Anaheim? You might even venture a really far out guess throwing the surging Nash/Kreider/Stepan line out there for the Rangers. Well, none of the above is the answer here folks, because the TVO line on Long Island has been dominating the league for the past month. John Tavares (3 A, 4 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) leads the league in scoring since December 17th and decided that his lead wasn’t quite big enough, so he added three helpers after scoring goals in back-to-back games prior to last night. That gives him 25 points in his last 17 games. Kyle Okposo (2 A, 3 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) now has 22 points in his last 17 games and is now tied for second in the league in scoring since Dec. 17th with Thomas Vanek (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, even) who clearly loves playing with Okie and Tavares, and who wouldn’t? He has 23 points in his last 17 games and holy hell is this line good or what? I know I have a history of bashing the Isles for not giving Tavares enough talent to work with, but he sure has it now. Unfortunately that hasn’t changed the fact that the Isles have a horrible defense and suspect goaltending, so despite the fact that the TVO line is scoring in buckets, it hasn’t been enough. Obviously all three of these guys are taken in your league and if they’re not, you’re in a really horrible league. The only player since Dec. 17th in the top 4 in scoring that isn’t an Islander is Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds with his own 22 points over that span, and there’s a guy worth adding and is likely still available, so add him where you can. Did I just start a feature about three guys and end up recommending you add someone completely different? You betcha! Just trying to keep you readers on your toes. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Matt Nieto (1 G, 5 SOG, +1) was drafted in the second round with the 47th pick in the 2011 draft but he could have gone much higher if it wasn’t for his defensive shortcomings that many scouts thought would limit his value at the NHL level. Fast-forward a few good seasons in the AHL and Nieto has proven that not only can he play defense, but that he can learn and adapt quickly on the big stage. So far this season he’s only posted 11 points in 38 games and that’s pretty bleh, even for a rookie. He’s young, but he’s also extremely streaky because his game is very north to south right now, so if he gets off course from his favorite scoring hotspots he can lose a handle on the game and make mistakes. Most of those mistakes are made in some poor decision-making when passing the puck if he’s out of his comfort zone, but on the other side of that coin he’s shown flashes of brilliance moving the puck at high speed, and this kid definitely flies. Once he settles in and starts making better choices with the puck his slick skating, playmaking ability and high energy will combine to make him a formidable offensive force for the Sharks and possibly an heir apparent for the aging but still effective Joe Thornton. Nieto will have to bulk up a bit to carry Thunder Joe’s mantle into the future, but he has all the tools to do the job. Is he worth much yet? No and I wouldn’t own him anywhere, but he does have five points in his last nine games. The Sharks project him to be a top-six guy and he wasn’t supposed to be getting NHL ice time yet, so just the fact that he’s logged 38 games so far this season is a good sign. Even better, he’s only now starting to produce offensively and he hasn’t been sent down yet, which means he’s doing a lot right that has nothing to do with putting the puck in the net. That’s a great sign, so keep an eye on him for seasons ahead as he could develop into one of the best playmakers in the game. Anyway, here’s what else I saw on the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
Chris Kreider (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +1) was having a fairly quiet rookie campaign until recently, but the quiet is fading quickly behind a wall of cheers from Rangers faithful as he settles in on the top line for the Rangers with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. Kreider burst onto the scene immediately following his senior season with Boston College, diving head first into 2011-12 playoffs scoring a handful of key goals for his team early on, finishing with 6 points (5 G, 1 A) in 18 playoff games that season. There’s one hell of a way to start your career and get some experience, eh? No pressure! He had a rough year in the lockout shortened season and he didn’t start the year with the Rangers in 2013 because of it. Regardless, it didn't take him long to get called back up this season when the Rangers started out flatter than the funny pages and were desperate for some scoring. Well, they found some in the 22 year old as he continues to have a Calder worthy season and he's currently on pace for 51 points in 75 games and currently sits at plus-11, ten points higher than any other Ranger with Carl Hagelin coming in second with a plus-one. He’s a big (6’3” 240lbs) fast skating prototypical power forward with incredible hands, vision, a great slapper and a nasty wrister. He can can hit hard, and does so often, plays both ways and, well, frankly the kid can do it all. While there’s bound to be ups and downs given his age and the fact that the Rangers are so awful offensively, he’s so good he remains an absolute must own in every keeper league and at this point it's probably wise to own him everywhere because his upside in the second half is huge. Despite that he’s owned in just 38% of Yahoo! Leagues? Come on, really? What the eff is wrong with Yahoo managers?! The 73% ownership mark in ESPN leagues sounds more in line with what he’s done and capable of so if he’s available in your league and you need a scoring boost, pick him up already! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
The L.A. Kings’ goalie situation seemed set in stone going into the season with the elite Jon Quick holding down the crease, but when he went down earlier this year Ben Scrivens took the opportunity and ran with it posting a beautiful line of 7-2-4, 1.56 GAA, .943 SV% in 15 games played (12 starts) so far. Scrivens eventually needed a breather so Martin Jones got the call a few days ago and after putting up back-to-back shutouts in his first two starts he’s slated to take the crease again tonight for the third straight game. There was a lot of talk about how Scrivens’ stellar play might unseat Quick when he returns and I scoffed at that notion then and I scoff now. Scoff! Who is Martin Jones? He’s a young, big, quick tender that doesn’t give up many rebounds and is actually pretty talented overall, so this isn’t a fluke, per se. You know what, or more to the point, who he’s not, though? Jon Quick. You know who Scrivens isn’t? Jon Quick. Lots of back up goalies, both young and old, tend to come on hot when they get their opportunity, but like young hitters in baseball who explode out of the gate only to slump hard once pitchers adjust to his weaknesses, young netminders often see a similar dip, or are simply relegated to backup duties once the starter returns from injury. I told you to sell high on Scrivens and I’m holding to that more than ever now. If Jones can so easily unseat Scrivens, what do you think will happen when Quick returns? The Kings aren’t fools, they’re Stanley Cup contenders again and Quick is the guy who will lead them there when healthy. Sell high on Scrivens while you’ll still get good value back, add Jones if you want for now but expect to drop him, and maybe try to buy low on Quick while you’re at it! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey yesterday:
Backup goaltenders are among the most important players to track over the course of the season if you want a real chance at winning your league. Like closers in fantasy baseball or running backs in fantasy football, goalie turnover can be rather high due to injuries, poor performance or trades, so knowing whom to own before they get their shot is key. What’s more, the idea of the “no. 1” goaltender doesn’t mean what it used to in terms of games started. In the past, 70-75 games for a starter was not unheard if your team is lucky enough to have a Tuukka Rask or Corey Crawford between the pipes, but these days it’s much smarter to limit even the elites to around 60 games started. Even with a guy who can start 70ish games, it does more harm than good to roll your starter out that many games during the regular season leaving him too exhausted to perform up to snuff in the playoffs, when it matters most. The need for teams to strike a good balance between riding their work horses in net and giving them a break leaves open a wealth of opportunity for fantasy owners to exploit.