Ramblings: Weight's Coaching Debut, the Capitals second line and more.
The Midseason Guide was released last weekend, what are you waiting for? Besides the second-half projections, this beauty will also have players on the trade block (and what it means), prospects ready to make the jump for a dozen games down the stretch, the lowdown on undrafted or unsigned free agents (both in college and in Europe) and much more. Last year’s Midseason Guide had Troy Stecher, Drake Caggiula, Nick Lappin, Brandon Tanev, Alexander Radulov and Anton Rodin, to give you a small sample. Imagine getting a heads up on players like that in January instead of finding out about them in April or even July? Order it here
Doug Weight’s tenure coaching the Islanders begins the same way Jack Capuano’s ended, with a Thomas Greiss shutout. That’s a good start. My biggest concern was that the coaching change would derail the improvements that had already taken place over the last month and a half. I cannot speak to the style of play under Weight but the line deployments were very much the same:
The power play units were also similar with Nick Leddy as the lone defensemen alongside Tavares, Strome, Lee and Bailey. Same old song and dance.
We can’t totally read into these lines since Johnny Boychuk and Andrew Ladd are out with injuries. There may be a mandate to get Ladd back into the top-line mix once he’s healthy. I doubt that though. Bailey and Lee have established their fringe fantasy value. I’m not buying either if it costs me anything but I won’t turn them down as waiver pickups.
Strome continues to see fairly strong deployment and continues to not produce. He’s 23 now and in his fourth year in the league. I am reticent to toss around the bust label. Kyle Turris looked like a scrub until he made his way to Ottawa and even then it took him a couple of years to really find himself. It wasn’t until his fifth pro season at the age of 24 that he truly emerged. But at least Turris showed flashes once he got to Ottawa. Has anyone seen flashes from Strome in the past year and a half? I haven’t.
It’s been a long time since Strome’s great sophomore season in which he scored 50 points despite usage that’s worse than he’s seeing now.
The bottom line is that the bust label is apt for most people’s purposes. He is not useful in one-year settings and there’s no reason to draft him next year, unless he starts showing flashes we haven’t seen. In a keeper, he is either dragging you down or is someone else’s problem by now. This is an instant gratification business. I’ll stick it out with a struggling superstar if they’ve established a standard of production and have good underlying metrics. Strome doesn’t qualify.
The only situation to take Strome in fantasy hockey is if you’ve got a keeper league team going nowhere and just need to take some homerun cuts. And even then, you shouldn’t be giving up anything of value to get him.
2017 looks good on Evgeny Kuznetsov! He has scored 13 points in 10 games since New Year’s, including four multi-point games. The Capitals are now firing on all cylinders as they have also gotten big production out of the top line of Ovechkin, Backstrom and TJ Oshie.
There aren’t too many teams whose second line is one I have full belief in but the Capitals are one and that’s because Kuznetsov is a genuine star. He can carry himself and Justin Williams to fantasy relevance, even without top PP minutes. Neither is going to reach his potential with this deployment but they are still relevant. Meanwhile, Marcus Johansson is on line two but plays on the top PP unit so he’s in the clear.
My only concern with Johansson is burnout. He was perhaps the only hot Capital over the first few months of the season and his shooting percentage was through the roof. It’s still at 22.4% and likely regresses further. He’s also been shooting much less with just eight SOG in the past 10 games.
Staple Jake Allen to your bench and don’t let him back until you see signs of life. Allen’s only been used in three of the Blues’ last seven games and he’s been shelled in each of them. Home/Road splits favour using Allen at home, though there’s no chance I’d have used him against Washington with how he’s performed of late.
Your choices are to sell low, dump him for nothing or wait this out. I’d roll with the latter. You could always dump a skater to scoop up an extra goalie while you ride this out.
This isn’t just an Allen problem. The Blues as a whole have played poor hockey of late and have been inconsistent all season. You do have to wonder if changes don’t occur that would drastically alter Allen’s value. There’s a chance that this continues to go south and that the Blues do a bit of selling. Or perhaps they seek a veteran stopgap in goal.
The Blues do not have a goalie at the AHL level really forcing his way in. Their top goalie prospect – Ville Husso – is in his first season in North America and has struggled bouncing between the AHL and ECHL. Their top AHL performer – Pheonix Copley – has one mediocre NHL game under his belt and no pedigree as a prospect.
I’ve got to hand it to Alex Steen. I spent much of the first half sour on him due to his down production following shoulder surgery. He has hit a hot streak since New Year’s with five goals and 12 points in nine games.
The goals feel like a mirage. He fired only 12 SOG in those nine games, which is a continuation of the lack of shooting he has demonstrated all season. He’s on pace for just 106 SOG after being a 200-shot guy as late as 2015. There’s definitely something wrong here. Steen still has effectiveness but goal-scoring is not one of them, despite the recent flourish. If he starts shooting more, then we can talk.
Brendan Perlini has surpassed Duclair as the second most intriguing winger after Max Domi. Perlini is seeing top unit PP usage and has five goals and six points in the last nine games. That’s superstar production on this Coyote team.
The Blue Jackets have gone 3/28 on the power play since their winning streak was snapped. Now, they’ve played the Hurricanes and their soul-sucking penalty kill twice in that stretch so we shouldn’t read too much into this.
Their top performers have notably struggled in this stretch. Alexander Wennberg has just two points in eight games. Nick Foligno has scored just three. Cam Atkinson has treaded water with five. Brandon Saad and Zach Werenski have but one apiece.
I’m not ready to kill the Blue Jackets for an eight-game cold run. Instead, consider this a good chunk of the regression that they were due. I’d expect their top guns to be productive down the stretch, just not elite-level productive.
Oh my goodness, this stretch pass by Erik Karlsson is why he’s a first rounder in fantasy:
That pass. That bury.— Ottawa Senators (@Senators) January 20, 2017
This goal is the reason that gifs loop. pic.twitter.com/mR5zLulaSI
Juuse Saros was staring down a shutout until the final four minutes against the Flames. Then he allowed three goals in three minutes to make it a game. This is his first blemish at the NHL level. There will be more, especially if he starts to chip away at Pekka Rinne’s hold over the starting gig. I believe in Saros’ talent but I’m very much a “next year” kind of guy because of the politics of Rinne’s massive deal. Also, Rinne has been fine this year.
James Neal ended a seven-game scoring drought with a goal. He had an injury mixed in there as well so perhaps that doesn’t count as a slump but it had been a month since his last goal. Fantasy owners felt the pain however you cut it.
Amazingly, Neal is on pace for 30 goals but just 43 points. Also, he is on this goal-scoring pace despite just two power-play goals on the season. Neal is a tremendous weapon on the power-play but they are too inconsistent about using him there. Neal’s PP scoring has gone in the tank since being dealt to Nashville and it’s not just because he isn’t sharing the ice with Malkin and Crosby.
Filip Forsberg still isn’t producing up to snuff but he’s scored nine goals in the past 15 games.
Sam Bennett was a healthy scratch last night. I’d be more optimistic about this sparking his game if there was room for him to produce in the Flame lineup. Matthew Tkachuk is producing how the biggest Bennett optimists were projecting. Bennett’s now stuck in a third-line role. They had been pairing him with Johnny Gaudreau and Alex Chiasson but that wasn’t working for anyone.
Gaudreau had scored just three points in the previous 10 games before notching an assist on Sean Monahan’s goal last night. Good to see those two reunited at even strength. Monahan, meanwhile, has goals in four straight games.
UPDATE: Tyson Barrie will not play tonight due to a lower-body injury.— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) January 20, 2017
This is unfortunate timing as Barrie had been on a roll with 10 points in his last 10 games despite the Avalanche’s sour play otherwise. It doesn’t seem that he will miss much time.
Unfortunately, Barrie’s absence meant a season high 28:16 for Francois Beauchemin.
I don’t know if this is related to the trade rumours or not but Gabriel Landeskog has seen more top unit PP usage of late. He has five goals and seven points in the last 10 games.
Meanwhile, Jarome Iginla saw only four seconds of PP time last night. If he isn’t being used as a PP specialist I don’t know why you are even bothering with him in the lineup at all. Then again, even with PP time Iginla is no longer fantasy relevant.
The Ducks rolled out a four-forward look on their top PP unit, which we haven’t seen much of this season. Sami Vatanen continues to be the odd man out whenever shuffling with the top unit takes place. This time, it was Corey Perry snagging his minutes.
Perry continues to be a hard luck case – a 14% career shooter converting on just 6.1% of his shots. He is a prime buy low candidate.
Jonathan Drouin has 23 points in 23 games since December 1. With dangles like these you can understand why:
Drouin goal pic.twitter.com/mBR52u1SPY— GIF Grand Maester (@myregularface) January 20, 2017
Last night isn’t a great example of this but scoring has not been the issue for the Lightning. They have produced goals at the same rate as last season. Drouin’s emergence continues to help patch over the loss of Steven Stamkos, as has Nikita Kucherov’s superstar play.
Thanks for reading! Follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.
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