The Offseason Fantasy Hockey Outlook - Winnipeg Jets and Ottawa Senators
It's time for the 12th annual offseason look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. Every year I run through the teams alphabetically – but switch starting points each year. This year I'm doing something different. I'm reviewing the teams in reverse order of regular season finish. And…wow. This column puts us 10 teams in and I'll have already covered six of the seven Canadian teams. That just ain't right.
Note: This was written on June 10, 2014 for The Hockey News. I can't find it in their archivers so I thougth I would post it here for reference only. The final part of the "offseason outlook" series will be posted shortly.
Final three teams to come later tonight.
Pending UFAs – Olli Jokinen, Devin Setoguchi, Chris Thorburn, Adam Pardy, Al Montoya, Zach Redmond
Pending RFAs - Eric O'Dell, Michael Hutchinson, Patrice Cormier, Keaton Ellerby, Michael Frolik, Matt Halischuk, James Wright
Looking to add – Since Jokinen and Setoguchi are on the way out (probably), the Jets would ideally love to upgrade those two spots in terms of offense. They also need a backup goaltender if they don't re-sign Montoya.
Winnipeg also may have, arguably, too much skill on the back end (is that even possible?) and not enough toughness and grit. Especially if they move Dustin Byfuglien up to the wing again. So size and toughness on defense will probably also be in the cards.
Ready for full-time – Goaltender Michael Hutchinson had a breakthrough season in the ECHL and the American League and he even had a strong showing in the NHL. At 24, he's probably ready for backup duties. However, this was one year of greatness after several years of below-mediocrity and there are several really strong, proven backups available on the free agent market. So his odds are slim.
Another goalie, Edward Pasquale, also had a strong AHL season - and he's homegrown talent, which often gets preference over free agent signees like Hutchinson. If the Jets don't bring back Montoya or a free agent, it's possible that Pasquale gets the nod.
A long shot, but a good one, is future stud Josh Morrissey. He boasts all the upside of a Jacob Trouba, but would have to climb over a couple of veterans (albeit depth ones) to get on the team. And he's probably best served by another year of development. That said, Trouba made it so that the team had no choice but to keep him. Morrissey could certainly do the same. And if so, he would be one to watch in fantasy hockey.
Fantasy Outlook: The Jets were 15th in goals scored in 2013-14, they were 15th in 2012-13…and in 2011-12 the Jets were 14th. You can probably make a reasonable prediction as to where they will finish in 2014-15, but I get the feeling that things will improve slightly. Mark Scheifele was just starting show that he's now a star in this league when he went down with injury. Trouba is also going to take a big step forward. Assuming they can upgrade Jokinen and Setoguchi, this could be a Top 13 or Top 12 team in terms of offense. Goaltending is still an Achilles heel and the pipeline isn't as flush as it used to be. Fantasy Grade: C+ (last year was B-)
Pending UFAs – Ales Hemsky, Milan Michalek, Matt Kassian, Joe Corvo, Jim O'Brien
Pending RFAs - Stephane Da Costa, Robin Lehner, Mike Hoffman
Looking to add – Ottawa could use another winger or two, but otherwise as far as skaters are concerned, this team could very well just go with what they got and build from within. At least, from a free-agent-market standpoint. From a trade standpoint, that's another matter. If the rumors come to fruition and Jason Spezza is traded, it's a completely different scenario obviously.
Last season, the goaltending was suspect. But my belief is that Craig Anderson follows up a bad year with a good one. He's done that for five or six years now (go ahead, look it up) and I consider him a "buy low" candidate in keeper leagues.
Ready for full-time – Mark Stone showed down the stretch that he is ready for NHL duty full time. Durability has been an issue since he turned pro, as he played in just 110 games the last two seasons combined. But he's dominated offensively at the American League level for Binghamton, and more than held his own in the Ottawa lineup. He'll make the team as part of the third line and don't be surprised if he's worked his way up the depth chart by Christmas.
Mike Hoffman is coming off of a season in which he scored 67 points in 51 games for Binghamton. Clearly there is nothing more for him there. Despite the big points in the AHL and QMJHL, Hoffman projects as a third-line checker with some scoring pop. Then again, I remember pundits saying the same thing about Patrick Sharp once upon a time. Just tuck Hoffman away in the back of your mind and in a couple of years you could very well be gunning for him on the waiver wire.
J-G Pageau has already shown that he can play at the NHL level, but the numbers game kept him in the AHL last season. It could very well keep him there again this campaign, although a Spezza trade would certainly open things up. However, Pageau is in a tough spot in that Curtis Lazar is a season away from making the jump - at most.
Lazar's path to the NHL could be a short one if the team moves Spezza. Considered one of the best prospects in hockey for not only his offensive pop, but his two-way ability, Lazar will get a long look in training camp. There is nothing for him to learn in junior hockey so the Sens will have a tough decision to make regardless. He is too young to quality for the AHL.
Mark Borowiecki is a tough, physical defenseman who finally has a one-way NHL contract for the coming season. He should make the team as a result and he is a dark horse for 150 penalty minutes.
Fantasy Outlook – The Sens were 21st in total offense last season and 26th the year prior. The future is pretty bright with the likes of Stone, Lazar, Matt Puempel and others on the way, not to mention the tremendous progress of future stud defenseman Cody Ceci. There were several players who had 'off' years in 2013-14 so there is every reason to believe that things will be better. Fantasy Grade: B (last year was B)
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