Ramblings: Mayhem in Winnipeg.
Last night’s Jets-Penguins game was MAYHEM and I fully expected it. A buddy of mine went to the game, and I couldn’t have been more excited for him in anticipation. For one, Vegas had set the over/under for this game at 6.5 goals. You almost never see it go above 5.5 but here they were trotting out a line a full goal higher.
Plus, this was a revenge game. The Jets knocked multiple Penguin players out of the lineup, while Evgeni Malkin delivered a controversial high hit to Blake Wheeler. The Penguins called up seldom-used enforcer Tom Sestito just for this matchup and if you were savvy you got him into your lineup for a PIM boost. He most certainly delivered in the most terrible way possible:
Tom Sestito is gonna hear about this one pic.twitter.com/3uQ4nLLQJv— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) March 9, 2017
He’d wind up with five and a game for that hit, plus he had fought Chris Thorburn earlier. Those 20 PIM would likely synch that category up for you had you made the play.
Poor Tobias Enstrom had to leave the game after that hit. This was just his fifth game back after returning from a previous injury.
The Jets went on to lose the game 7-3. They are five points back of St. Louis for the final wild card slot with just 14 games to play and the Blues have THREE games in hand. Now the Jets might be without their third best defenseman. This could cost them their season, not that they had much hope going into last night’s game. You can bet that they’ll be politicking for the book to be thrown at Sestito and it probably will be and perhaps even to have it thrown at the Penguins’ organization.
We all saw this, or something like it, coming. You can make an argument that while Sestito’s decision to clobber Enstrom was his own, the decision to put him in the lineup for retribution is on the Penguins front office and coaching staff.
I know that because of the fantasy angle it seems like I was glorifying Sestito’s actions. I’m surely not. This is a black mark for a league that needs to toe the line of violence. This surely crossed it. I can only guess at the type of punishment that is coming down but that this came on a thin Wednesday schedule, which the NHL has made into something of their showcase night with the “Wednesday Night Rivalry” means that everyone has eyes on this.
The Penguins could feign innocence, having needed an extra forward after Patric Hornqvist was diagnosed with a concussion. They haven’t ruled out Hornqvist making a quick return but we’ll have to monitor this situation.
Between all the fighting a wild, high scoring affair took place, with 11 goals in all. The Vegas line was apparently not bullish enough.
Nick Bonino came into the night with just nine goals on the year, and delivered a hat-trick performance with two of the goals coming on the power play.
It would seem that the arrival of Mark Streit has had a positive influence on the Penguins’ second PP unit. Streit has four points in three games with Pittsburgh, three of them coming on the PP.
Bonino has had a poor season, especially after a dynamite playoff run. I thought he might challenge for 50 points if he continued to click with Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin. It hasn’t happened but Bonino has points in three straight games. You won’t find many Penguins available for waiver pickups but Bonino is available in 97% of all Yahoo leagues. Considering the Penguins have one of the best schedules for fantasy playoffs, he could be worth picking up, but please grab Conor Sheary – available in 56% of Yahoo leagues and a dual eligible winger – first.
Sheary, by the way, has been back for three games and has four points, continuing the roll that he was on pre-injury. Sheary might go for a point-per-game, or close to it, the rest of the way. That’s league-altering potential sitting there for free in over half of all leagues. Good gravy do I ever wish I was in one of those leagues.
Three assists for Chad Ruhwedel in 17:46 of action. That’s the fifth highest ice time total for him this season. I suppose the three-assist outing puts him on the radar but I am no advocating that you scoop him up. Should be better options available, specifically Streit, who is mentioned above.
Evgeni Malkin did many nice things but if you need me to tell you about Malkin your season is already over.
Connor Hellebuyck had been on a nice little run with three consecutive quality starts. On the whole he had been playing better since the All-Star break with a 2.52 GAA and a 0.918 SV% in 12 appearances going into last night. But then the game happened and his numbers over that stretch fell to 2.84 GAA and 0.907 SV%, which are almost identical to his numbers for the year. And if Enstrom misses time, well that won’t help either.
I’m still a huge fan, Hellebuyck has elite potential. Perhaps we’ll see it next season. Winnipeg is ripe for a coaching change and there are some good options out there. With a little tinkering to that young roster, perhaps some injury luck (as they have been one of the most banged up teams all season), the Jets could have themselves a winner.
For the rest of the year, I’m not sure you can trust Hellebuyck. He has a propensity for getting blown up. There are worse options but one misstep and your week is derailed. I’d consider Hellebuyck a desperation play.
Jacob Trouba continues to be productive with points in three of the last four games. He has slowed down a little, with seven points in 14 games since the All-Star break but a 40-point pace is just fine, especially when Trouba is producing in all the peripheral categories.
With all respect to Dustin Byfuglien, who is a wrecking ball on skates, and an extremely productive one, Trouba is the best defenseman on the Jets. He’s a fantasy asset waiting to pop on a new team. We don’t know the full extent of Trouba’s trade demands from earlier this year but if he really just wanted to be dealt somewhere that he could play on the right side then a Morgan Rielly for Trouba swap has huge potential. Until Trouba is elsewhere he’ll remain only a secondary play, which is a shame.
The Senators were without Kyle Turris and could be without him for the next week due to a finger injury:
Turris may not play in any of the 3 games on this trip according to Boucher.— Dean Brown (@PxPOttawa) March 8, 2017
That’s poor timing for fantasy owners but hopefully he can get right as this injury has been nagging for a couple of weeks.
The Sens went with seven defensemen with Turris out and it seems to have worked. They got three goals from the blueline including Fredrik Claesson’s first career NHL goal. Suddenly Claesson has seven points in the last nine games despite averaging 10 minutes a night. Don’t pick him up.
They also got goals from Chris Wideman and Cody Ceci on defense.
Viktor Stalberg somehow saw the most PP time among Sens forwards and rewarded the gambit with a goal and an assist.
Stalberg had only scored one goal in the two months before Carolina played Ottawa on February 24th but he scored a goal in that game and found himself traded to Ottawa just a few days later. Now he’s got two goals in four games for the Senators. What a ridiculous ride.
Huge game for Jason Spezza with a goal, an assist and seven SOG. He continues to see time alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, although partway through this one Benn was split off onto another line. At the end of the day, Spezza has four goals and seven points on a five-game scoring streak that is looking awfully well-timed. Spezza’s ownership is only at 62% in Yahoo leagues so he might be lingering on the wire in your league.
The Petr Mrazek rollercoaster ride is going to throw a lot of people off his scent for next season, which could make him a sleeper, but that’s a year away. In the meantime, I would steer clear of Detroit goaltending but if you must, taking a shot at Howard seems like the best bet, even after nearly two months off. Howard did play well in his AHL conditioning stint.
Niklas Kronwall scored his first goal of the season but is cooked. If you need a Red Wing defenseman, Mike Green is your best bet. He has scored at a 40-point pace but won’t get there having missed 11 games to injury already. Green also has just four points in 14 games since the All-Star break. With Thomas Vanek gone and the Detroit PP stinking, it’s worth considering that there are no Detroit defensemen worth owning.
Drew Stafford has three points and 12 SOG in three games with the Bruins. He is clicking on the second line with David Krejci and David Pastrnak, giving Boston the kind of secondary scoring they have lacked all season. Stafford’s always been inconsistent but this is a good opportunity, especially with Krejci picking up steam. Krejci has 15 points in 16 games since the All-Star break, once again proving that it’s never too late for proven veterans.
Tuukka Rask’s numbers since New Year’s are pretty terrible but since Claude Julien was fired he has picked things up with a 6-3-0 record, a 2.00 GAA and a 0.925 SV%. With the Bruins battling for their playoff lives, you can bet the Bruins will have the pedal to the metal making Rask potentially one of the best options come fantasy playoffs.
Big changes are coming to the NHL bye week, and unfortunately the change is not that it has been scrapped entirely:
Bettman confirms new bye week configuration: all teams on bye over a two week period, half the league one week, other half other the week— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) March 8, 2017
This will be helpful for fantasy purposes. Instead of the haphazard bye week minefield we had to navigate this season, the process will be streamlined. Most fantasy providers allow you the flexibility to combine the weeks pre- and post-All-Star into one matchup and will likely do the same.
Now, I kind of enjoyed the wrinkle that the haphazard bye week provided. I spent probably too much time early in the season building my rosters so I wouldn’t have a one-week crash because too many players sat out. I certainly spent a ton of time manoeuvering on the waiver wire to optimize my lineups over that two-month stretch. I also made a little bit of cash betting against teams coming off the bye.
All that nuance is out the door! Two weeks of byes, all streamlined. Fair enough. There is an argument to keep these weeks separate in H2H leagues but I think that because it’s half the league on break that you’d be affecting things too much.
For instance, if I took care to balance my roster evenly so that I didn’t dive bomb in either week only to go up against an opponent who loaded up for each week then I could wind up 0-2 and not because my team is bad. Because the H2H schedule is imbalanced, and because so many players are out at once, the wrinkle of the bye week becomes a crack. So just combine the two weeks and be done with it.
The more important 2017-18 scheduling decision is the one surrounding Olympic participation. We still don’t have a firm answer on what is going to happen here but it is looking less and less likely that the NHL will participate. But we know that Alexander Ovechkin has declared his intent to play and that he has the blessing of Capitals owner Ted Leonsis to leave even if the NHL does not go on hiatus.
Let’s say the NHL does not outright agree to go to the 2018 Olympics, any player who joins Ovechkin in going anyway is going to lose a ton of fantasy value and cause nightmares for fantasy owners.
Other news trickling out of the NHL GM meetings:
The NHL also discussed with GMs whether or not they would reveal each team's protected list ahead of expansion draft. GMs said No. (con't)— Pierre LeBrun (@Real_ESPNLeBrun) March 8, 2017
You can understand where the GMs are coming from but this stance is just obtuse. You have an entertainment product and part of the entertainment is fans being able to immerse and engage in the roster-building process. This, just like the NHL’s insistence that fans don’t care to know salary cap information, is outright disrespectful to fans.
It was the NHL who implemented the draft, the salary cap and the expansion draft. These have become the most important factors in roster construction. Any fan looking to immerse themselves needs to know information about this stuff. Intentionally withholding that information is cutting down on potential engagement and discussion.
Is there worry about hurting players’ feelings? Sure, but teams are going to be doing that anyway. It’s not like they aren’t having conversations with players about the fact they will be exposed in the draft already. They certainly wouldn’t want those players to be blind-sided if picked. Looking at the flip side, do you think that guys like Jordan Tootoo or Michal Neuvirth are upset to have signed contract extensions guaranteeing them money for next season with the implicit reality that they will be exposed in the expansion draft? Of course not. More importantly, if you drive up fan engagement then you are going to be able to extract more dollars to drive up revenues across the league. Players and owners win when fans become more engaged.
The NHL really should make the expansion draft a televised event. Sure, it would be boring, just like the trade deadline and the draft lottery are mostly boring. Hell, even the draft itself would be uneventful if not for the breaking trades. Bill Burr has an entertaining bit on how stupid the exercise of watching drafts can be (warning NSFW):
Accepting the reality that indeed the outcomes will eventually be revealed, and that the process may not be that entertaining, people still tune in! And because people will tune in, the NHL has an opportunity to make a few more bucks. Everyone wins! But no, they are going to drive their heads into the sand, keep making rule changes that no one cares about, and continue to withhold important information from fans as though we are all children despite the reality that they created the environment where this information became necessary for informed fandom.
Check out my latest for Puck Daddy, with tips to help you get ready for the fantasy playoffs.
Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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