December 5, 2014

by steve laidlaw

Brodeur stumbles, Hornqvist injured, Byfuglien back on D and more...




It just keeps piling up for the Penguins. Patric Hornqvist was drilled by Ryan Stanton (I won’t talk about if it was clean or not, you can be your own judge. Hornqvist left the game and did not return. It sure looks like a concussion to me as Hornqvist and Stanton bumped noggins but no details were released.


Either way, with Hornqvist out Steve Downie was jumped onto the top line and top power play. I like Downie and all but this is desperation time. Pittsburgh was shutout, which gives them just one goal in their last 120 minutes.


Eddie Lack and the Canucks deserve some credit for blanking the Penguins but at this point their lack of depth is laughable. They have to make a move even if it’s a throwaway deal like what the Ducks pulled getting Eric Brewer from the Lightning.




Brewer, by the way, broke his foot the other night, which foils the Ducks plans. They slapped another Band-Aid on the situation trading Jesse Blacker for Colby Robak. I won’t call these guys failed prospects because they are still so young but I don’t think either guy has come along as expected of them as second round draft choices.


There’s little fantasy impact beyond the short-term damage to Freddie Andersen’s stats but that’s more because of the injuries to Ben Lovejoy and Francois Beauchemin than the Band-Aids used to fill the void.




I told you earlier this week that Aleksander Barkov might be headed towards a healthy scratch. He has missed the last two games due to a swollen hand, not the coach’s decision. That changes the optics but Barkov owners have to hope that the effect is the same and that a couple of games off light a fire under his butt.


Not that expectations are high for Barkov. We all know the Panthers can barely score. I think we’d just like a repeat of last year’s 36-point pace. What he’s done so far isn’t inspiring anything but doubt. The good news is that it also makes him a great trade target. Four points through 19 games and currently injured? That’s not rock bottom but it is close.


Instead, it is Nick Bjugstad doing what many were hopeful that Barkov might though it’s not entirely surprising given Bjugstad is farther along the developmental path is building off of a superior rookie season. Bjugstad, after a recent cold spell, went off for three points last night, including his ninth and 10th goals of the season.


I’ve liked everything that I’ve seen from Bjugstad so far. I especially like how willing he is to shoot the puck. He looks very much like Jeff Carter with his large size, right-handed shot, and heavy release.


Bjugstad is up to 65 SOG this season, landing an average of 2.71 SOG per game. He still has a ways to go to reach Carter-esque levels of SOG production but it’s a great improvement for the sophomore.


I figure his scoring (currently on pace for 51 points) will drop off a bit, particularly the goals. Even after factoring in the SOG spike, he’s still shooting 15.4% thus far, which is much too high. He’ll never produce a ton so long as he has to drag along Tomas Fleischmann and Jonathan Huberdeau (two points each last night) but there is hope for the future. Bjugstad will continue to improve, Huberdeau should as well and they’ll inject more talent via the draft.




Standing ovation for Sergei Bobrovsky. That performance last night was something else. After going up 3-0 the Blue Jackets were put under siege by the Panthers. Bobrovsky couldn’t keep them from tying it up at 3-3 but he did hold them off long enough to force a shootout. This as his team was outshot 55-20. He then stopped all four shooters in the skills competition for a well-earned victory.


It should be mentioned that the goals Bobrovsky did give up weren’t of a very strong quality but considering the sheer volume that he faced we’ll forgive Bobrovsky his lapses.


Not so much for Roberto Luongo who made a speedy return from injury to start last night. 17 saves on 20 shots in a shootout loss? That’s not a vintage Lou performance. He’s been better much of this season. Look for more of that Lou than the one we saw early in last night’s game.




Evgeny Kuznetsov was a healthy scratch for the Capitals last night. It was probably time for one of these as the rookie has really struggled. Dobber tends to point out that you can expect a hot streak from a young guy when he returns from a scratching. I don’t want to speak for him but that’s usually been the advice.


That game was a dud for fantasy purposes anyhow, unless you were a Braden Holtby owner. There were only three points handed out to Capital players across their two goals and none of them were fantasy relevant.


It should be mentioned that Alexander Semin scored his first goal of the season and first point in the last three weeks. It’s been a dreadful first quarter for Semin but I think he picks up some steam. No doubt his play has been lackadaisical but he’s also been somewhat unlucky due to an on-ice shooting percentage of just 6.82%. That’s not terrible though so we can’t simply ascribe all of his troubles to mere bad luck.


What really makes Semin tough to assess (and it is the same story for Thomas Vanek) is that his game is so effortless that it becomes difficult to ignore how it looks like he isn’t trying when he isn’t producing but you have to remember, he looks like that all of the time.


One thing that is concerning is how little Semin has been used on the power play. He is skating just 1:50 per game and while it has frequently come with the big guns in Eric Staal and Jeff Skinner, he is too often left off the power play altogether, especially recently. You can argue that power play time has to be earned and fair enough but you are paying this guy $7 million a year for a reason. If he isn’t skating on the power play that’s a massive waste of capital.


A lot of people will blame Semin’s struggles on complacency ever since he got that fat contract. All criticisms are fair when Semin is performing this poorly but I don’t think it’s as simple as the contract affecting his mindset.


I do think that the coaching change in Carolina has something to do with these struggles. Bill Peters is trying to establish accountability. Benching a big-money guy can certainly send that message. And maybe Peters just isn’t a fan of Semin at all. You could certainly make that argument based on his deployment of Semin this season.


That would be my number one concern with Semin – that the coach simply doesn’t want to give him the time. No one is trading for him with that contract attached so it’s up to Semin to make it work under Peters or he’ll fade into irrelevancy.


One thing I don’t see is a complete and utter shyness to Semin’s game like you’d see from fallen stars like Martin Havlat after injuries stole the best of his game. That’s what gives me the most hope for Semin going forward. I don’t think the skills have eroded, which means he could be a really cheap get for a second-half run.




Stephen Weiss, I throw my hands up in bewilderment. I thought this guy was cooked. And to be fair, he still might be but it isn’t stopping him from producing big numbers. Give him another three points to take him up to nine in just seven games. That’s more than he produced in the last two seasons combined (though he only played 43 games in that span).


What’s crazy is just how little Weiss is being used. I mean, they are truly insulating him. First, Weiss is playing strictly wing rather than the more demanding duties of center. That makes sense given the depth that Detroit has up the middle and also to help make Weiss as comfortable as possible coming back.


He is skating mere third line duties, with second unit power play time. There is no doubt in my mind that this dries up eventually. But enjoy the ride while you can.


Also, it should be mentioned that this is a great human story. Weiss will certainly have some votes cast his way for comeback player of the year if he continues to suit up for the Red Wings. I’m glad he was able to persevere and return from two disheartening seasons of injuries.


One guy who I have more time for is Tomas Tatar. Two points last night brings him to 16 in his last 17. I wasn’t buying it when his scoring stretch initially started but now that Justin Abdelkader is hurt, the minutes have spiked, particularly those with Pavel Datsyuk who can help buoy everyone he plays with so long as he secures his own health, which is questionable.


Tatar and Datsyuk only skate on the second power play unit, which should limit them some but it hasn’t yet.




Trevor Daley refuses to die. It may have been over a month since his last power-play point but Daley managed one last night while scoring some time on the top power play unit as the Stars attempted to go with two defensemen rather than just John Klingberg.


It probably won’t last and certainly Daley is basically just clinging to last vestiges of hope before he vanishes from relevance completely but that point does get him to 13 in 26 games, which is a 41-point pace. I think he closes out much closer to the way the last 16 games have gone though (just four points in that span.)


What was most interesting to me was that Daley went minus-one in the game to drop him into a tie for second worst plus/minus in the league behind only Jack Johnson (tough year for him) at minus-18. That got me thinking about the reverse Jeff Schultz All-Stars. The guys who are productive assets but their plus/minus is so dreadful that it minimizes their impact.


Looking strictly at defensemen, check out the worst (best?) “reverse-Schultz” seasons of all time


Some pretty hilarious fantasy seasons in there, including an appearance from the immortal Zarley Zalapski. Would you name this award after anyone on that list? I’m not too keen on sticking with the “reverse-Schultz” moniker.


Sadly, I am extremely tempted to name this one after the aforementioned Johnson because the only time he ever scored 40 points in a season he also went a career worst minus-21 and because he leads the pack once again this season.


What do you think? Is it worth pursuing another ridiculous award for statistical anomalies?


I like the idea because we have several early candidates for the “reverse-Schultz” with Johnson, Daley, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Justin Faulk all in double-digits for points and minus-rating with Erik Karlsson, Alex Pietrangelo and Brent Burns all threatening.




It is safe to say that Martin Brodeur’s debut did not go as planned stopping just 20 of 24 shots against the Nashville Predators. I didn’t watch the game but the first couple of goals sure looked soft.


We’ll cut Brodeur some slack as Nashville is a good team and the Blues were playing in a back-to-back situation on the road. This went about as expected for Brodeur though, as he hasn’t held a save percentage above .910 in five years. Why would he start now?


Brodeur should get you some wins though. So if you made the investment this result shouldn’t be enough to chase you away on its own. The fact that Brodeur is not a long-term solution (by long-term I mean the full remainder of the regular season) could very well be a reason to look elsewhere though.




Huge night for Dustin Brown with a couple of goals and an assist. That gives him eight points in his last eight games. That’s probably cheating a bit with a selective starting point that helps disguise some inconsistent production over a very short span but considering Brown had scored just two points through his previous 18 games this season, I think selectivity is warranted.


That whole third line with Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams has been much more productive these past few weeks. It seems like they are getting back on the pace we’d expect for all of them, which is to finish in that 35-45 range.


Marian Gaborik was questionable to travel to Arizona but did join the team. Unfortunately he was kept out anyhow. He hasn’t played since November 26 but expects to play soon.


Martin Jones also hadn’t played since November 26 but did go last night and recorded his second straight shutout. Whenever this guy leaves Los Angeles he is going to be a coveted fantasy asset. His numbers in a small sample size are out of this world.




Semyon Varlamov returned for Colorado but I think Varlamov and his fantasy owners might have preferred if he stayed out. This just has not been a good season for Varlamov and the Avalanche and I don’t see how it turns around.


Alex Tanguay scored an absolute beauty in a losing effort:





Ouch, we learned yesterday that the Winnipeg Jets will be without Zach Bogosian for 4-6 weeks and that Tobias Enstrom will also miss the rest of December. Both are out with injuries.


From that article, it is expected that the Jets will move Dustin Byfuglien back on defense as a short-term solution and perhaps permanently. He’d already been on a hot streak but I wonder if this is more positive or negative given that he had finally started to find some traction at forward. I’m going to be positive on this front and say that Byfuglien benefits if only because he’ll be happier to be skating more minutes and back on defense where he prefers to play.


You can also disregard what I said yesterday about Jacob Trouba. Enstrom being out means that Trouba gets another month as a top-two defenseman. Technically, that was always the case but with Byfuglien playing defense on the power play and at four-on-four, Trouba was more of a secondary guy offensively. Now it’s going to be him and Byfuglien all night long. Seriously, these two will be challenging Ryan Suter for most minutes played over the next month.


There’s also a chance that Paul Postma receives a boost but I think he continues to see secondary power play time as Trouba and Byfuglien are ahead of him.


This should help Michael Frolik some as he’ll have first crack at the top-six minutes vacated by Byfuglien. This team really struggles to score though so I’m not sure promotions really help anyone become more relevant than they were before.


Sticking with Trouba. There was a question in yesterday’s ramblings about whether to Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Trouba in a keeper league at season’s end.


First of all, this decision need not be made now. This goes for all limited keeper league scenarios. If you have all season to make a decision then wait all season. The more information you have the better equipped you are.


Secondly, OEL is far more proven so he is currently the front-runner. Both have similar upside so I’m inclined to take the established commodity, especially one that doesn’t have near the in-house competition that Trouba has in Winnipeg.


But again, you have all year. Don’t make up your mind right now.




I mentioned Suter earlier. He has been confirmed to have the mumps. That means he probably misses a game or two more so a short-term boost is available for Jared Spurgeon though the schedule is lined up more favourably for Suter owners. The Wild only play one more game this week (tonight) and aren’t up again until Tuesday so maybe he just misses the one game tonight.




Daniel Alfredsson has officially retired. Great player in his time and had injuries not caught up to him, he’d still be a productive fantasy asset today.




You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.


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