October 20, 2015

by steve laidlaw

Recapping the Sharks-Rangers contest, Hedman returning, a potential coaching change in Anaheim and more...

Last night was probably not one for hockey fans with just one NHL contest on the books. Instead, we had a Canadian Federal Election, a Blue Jays playoff game, Monday Night Football and the release of the new Star Wars trailer. Honestly, I was glad for the light schedule but I did make sure to catch most of that game lone NHL game since I promised to give the Sharks a closer look. Exciting day for Canadians but I’ll leave those other subjects for specialists in those fields. Let’s talk hockey…


Shutout victory for Antti Raanta in his Ranger debut. I’ve not been much of a fan of Raanta. He’s a decent backup, which it should be mentioned still makes him easily one of the 100 best in his profession in the whole world but I’m not worried about him stealing a starting job and when there’s another backup kicking around I’m going to favour that backup. But he’s found himself in some great situations skating on top teams, stacked on defense and as long as he keeps grabbing backup jobs like that he’ll have value.

The Rangers really outplayed the Sharks. The line of Chris Kreider-Derick Brassard-Jesper Fast was particularly dangerous, creating a couple of goals and generating a bunch more chances. They simply had speed that the Sharks couldn’t handle.

Check out the Rangers’ latest line combos:














Those lines would seemingly be a win for Oscar Lindberg but that third line just isn’t getting enough ice time to be too relevant. Instead, it’s Kevin Hayes who is losing by skating on the third line when he had a real shot at top-six minutes and a breakout fantasy season. It’s starting to look like he is a better fit playing shorter minutes.


The Sharks are starting to get awfully banged up. Already without Logan Couture and Joonas Donskoi San Jose has also been missing Paul Martin for the past couple of games. Maybe it’s just fatigue at the end of a long road trip but the Sharks sure looked like they were lacking punch without these guys.

In particular, the Sharks’ power play looked clueless. They are 0/5 with the man advantage since Couture went down. Martin was in line to replace Couture on the top unit but now with both down the Sharks tried Chris Tierney. It just didn’t work. I can see them struggling to find wins if their vaunted power play isn’t clicking. And if it isn’t, that hurts everyone, including Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, Brent Burns and Patrick Marleau, the latter who is off to a scorching start.

For the record, those four names I just listed all generated good chances only to be thwarted by Raanta, they just didn’t generate enough of them.

Rookie Nikolai Goldobin started off on the top line but was soon replaced by Matt Nieto. Perhaps a name to look at coming off the waiver wire.

While we’re talking Sharks, here’s an interesting little profile on Martin from USA Hockey.

And while we’re at it, Martin Jones is starting to get some national media attention, including this profile from Pierre LeBrun. It feels like the hype is a little much for this guy. Were the Sharks really just a goaltender away last season? I’m not so sure. I’m thinking the upside for Jones is in that Jaroslav Halak/Freddie Andersen range just outside the top-10 for goaltenders, which is still good and probably means the Sharks are a playoff team again.


Some good news on the injury front as it appears Victor Hedman may be ready to suit up for tonight.


Given the light Monday slate, it’s time to bring back the Jeff Schultz Memorial Trophy power rankings! As a refresher, the “Schultz” is a made-up trophy handed to the defenseman with the highest plus/minus rating who fails to reach 30 points to commemorate that one season when Schultz was fantasy relevant only because of his plus/minus. First, let’s give last year’s champion, Niklas Hjalmarsson, his victory lap. What an excellent season, capped off with a Stanley Cup. Now the rankings:

1. Mark Stuart – Plus-Six

If, like me, you think the Jets have a shot at winning the Central then this run from Stuart may just hold up. And if you’re in a league scoring hits and blocked shots, well then a great run of plus/minus would turn Stuart into a fantasy dreamboat.

T2. Justin Braun – Plus-Five

He could definitely hang on if the Sharks are for real but if I’m grabbing anyone off the Sharks for plus/minus it’s Braun’s defense partner and former “Schultz” winner Marc-Edouard Vlasic or perhaps even Paul Martin.

T2. Jacob Trouba – Plus-Five

Remember that this is a one-year award. No points for production in 2019 or whenever Trouba actually breaks out. With Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers and Tobias Enstrom in tow the wait for Trouba will be some time. The good news, if he’s producing quality plus/minus figures that can help assuage the wait.

T4. Colton Parayko – Plus-Four

T4.  Kyle Quincey – Plus-Four

T4. Alex Petrovic – Plus-Four

T4. Klas Dahlbeck – Plus-Four

I suppose this is where it gets silly talking “Schultz” rankings already. A bunch of young defensemen on this list who you can only presume will fall off by the end of the year. Oh, and Quincey, who has slotted into a sizeable role with Danny DeKeyser missing the first few games.


This weekend I made my Sirius XM debut talking fantasy hockey with Todd Lewis on the Hockey Unfiltered show. You can find me there each Sunday at around 12:45 pm EST. The full show starts at 11:00 am.


Our old friend Thomas Drance argues that Radim Vrbata’s luck should change soon:

Vrbata’s luck is going to change sooner or later, but the underlying numbers would suggest that linemate chemistry is a big part of this equation too. Maybe if he stops bouncing around the lineup, the bounces will come.

I’m of the same mind. Vrbata is still on the top power play unit so he isn’t getting totally shut off from the Sedins. He’s good for 25 goals and 50 points based on his current deployment but that could inch up with some lineup shuffling.


It sounds like Randy Carlyle is in line to return to the Ducks if they keep struggling to start the season. And I can totally see a change coming too. The Ducks had one of the best records in the league last season but were outrageous in one-goal games. In the end, they barely outscored their opponents, barely controlled more than half the shot attempts and had dreadful special teams. Beyond narrowly making the Cup final didn’t really look like a completely dominant club. It’s one of the reasons I picked the Flames to win the Pacific Division. Oops!

Is it possible that this entire division just stinks? It’s too early to be conclusive about anything but a lot of the same issues are cropping up for Anaheim. They haven’t yet scored on the power play, they are getting outscored by their opponents and they are barely controlling more than half of their shot attempts.

This should still be a playoff team. They have established superstars and are deep with young talent and don’t have any glaring weakness beyond special teams. Bring in a coach to fix up a power play that has no excuse for not clicking at league-average levels and this team would boast dominant scoring ratios in line with their top finish from last year.


Bob Hartley says that he’s tired of the musical chairs in goal and that one guy has to step up. That’s a pretty hilarious sentiment from the guy who keeps flipping the music back on. I mean, if Hartley wants someone to step up yanking them back and forth until someone wins isn’t the approach. Pick a guy and ride with him. At least then everyone knows where they stand and it isn’t this results-based nonsense in a sport where the margins are far too thin for a “win-and-you’re-in” approach.


Curious about goalies to start or sit this week? Ian Gooding has you covered with his latest for Sportsnet.


Grantland’s Katie Baker with a deep and optimistic look at the rebuild taking place in Buffalo.


Ken Hitchcock talks about the Blues’ goaltending situation:

“Goaltending has been the story of the year for us,” Hitchcock said. “Jake walked into two hornets’ nests. That’s the challenge that these guys have to meet. That’s been the story so far at the start of the year here. But Brian has played awfully well.”

Basically the status quo. He seems to be leaving the door open for Jake Allen to push his way back into the conversation and rightfully so, goaltending is so inconsistent that it wouldn’t take much for Allen to take over even if Brian Elliott has had the better results so far.


Grantland’s Charles P. Pierce has a pretty hilarious take on the whole Daily Fantasy Sports scandal.

My take on the whole deal is that of course “insider trading” or “cheating” or whatever you want to call it took place because that’s the nature of the beast. It’s no different than a manager in a fantasy league streaming players through his lineup because there is no rule limiting the number of moves (s)he can make. Or perhaps the apt example is one of the fantasy league commissioner gone rogue who makes off with the league funds never to be heard from again. That’s why we have tools like “League Safe” to safeguard against such things. So absolutely this industry requires regulation, especially as more and more sites keep popping up to provide Daily Fantasy contests.

If you somehow missed it, Yahoo! is now in the Daily Fantasy business. They only have a banner constantly alerting you to join their latest contest on the top of every page of your league site. The constant overload of advertisements, coupled with the complete lack of oversight is getting a little much. It’s feeling a bit like a stroll through Hamsterdam.

The one thing I shudder to think is that fantasy sports goes the way of the online poker industry getting brandished illegal. Haven’t these governing bodies learned anything from prohibition and other shambles? You take something that people love to do and invest a ton of money into and make it illegal they aren’t going to stop. You are simply losing control of where the money goes and empowering the people willing to run counter to those laws, ultimately ends up being some serious criminals. But I don’t want to fall too far down the rabbit hole here. Suffice it to say I don’t think we should be seeing the end of Daily Fantasy Sports though it may be headed that way.


Thanks for reading! You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw.


Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.