The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
by Ian Gooding on 09/22/11 at 10:00 AM ET
The players that I’ve listed as busts aren’t necessarily players you shouldn’t draft (okay, but some of them are). These players are mainly the type that are on the downside of their career, or are players that won’t perform at the level at which they are likely to be drafted this season. Injuries are a risk that any NHL player faces, but fantasy hockey veterans will know by now that some players seem to spend more time on IR than on active rosters (sadly, I forgot to include Rick DiPietro on my list). Whatever the reason, these are players that you should exercise caution before drafting this season.
Ryan Smyth, LW, EDM
If you live in Canada, you may have by now seen the ad on TSN promoting Smyth’s return to Edmonton. If not, then you probably remember the tearful press conference in 2007 following his trade to the Islanders in which he said that his heart would always be in Edmonton. Four years later, he has finally reunited with his heart, but what fantasy owners will really want to know is, will he score? In his four full seasons since leaving Edmonton, Smyth has not scored more than 26 goals and has battled significant injury in two of those seasons. Normally it would make little sense for a rebuilding team to acquire a 35-year-old on the downside of his career. But as it stands, expect Smyth to take on a mentorship role with the young Oilers similar to the one that Trevor Linden took on with the Sedins in Vancouver. What that means is that Smyth’s most significant contributions will probably not be in the statistical categories.
Simon Gagne, LW, LA
Interesting stat line: Gagne equaled his totals in goals (17), assists (23) and points (40) in each of the last two seasons. The downside is that he played in five more games in 2010-11 than in 2009-10 (63 games to 58 games). He joins a Kings squad that is projected to climb up the Western Conference ladder this season with lots of scoring, but the team he left (the Lightning) also had no problem scoring. Because of numerous injuries (concussion, groin, neck), Gagne has also missed at least 19 games in three of his last four seasons. The decline in scoring plus the injuries equal a recipe for a bust.
Jason Spezza, C, OTT
Daniel Alfredsson, RW, OTT
Sergei Gonchar, D, OTT
Which team do you think will finish dead last in the NHL this season? There’s a good chance that it could be the Ottawa Senators, who appear to be as thin as any NHL team this season. Alfredsson and Gonchar were both minus players last season, producing numbers well below their career averages. Both veterans appear to be on the decline and are probably best served as late-round picks in fantasy drafts. As for Spezza, he has continued to post point-per-game numbers, but his biggest concern seems to be his inability to stay healthy for a full season (68, 67, 76, 82, 60, 62 games played over the last six seasons). Can you name any of Spezza’s linemates other than Alfredsson? The Senators better hope that Craig Anderson can make 100 saves per game or that Nikita Filatov is the real deal; otherwise, it will be a long season.
Tim Connolly, C, TOR
Is Connolly the best that the Leafs can do in order to find a center for Phil Kessel? Connolly has playmaking ability and could connect with Kessel, but he’s been difficult to rely upon in fantasy leagues over the years because he has the durability of fine china. If you believe all the hype from the Centre of the Universe, then you’ll know that Nazem Kadri is the true first-line center that the Leafs have been trying to find for Kessel. The Leafs have a little more scoring than in years past with the emergence of Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, and Clarke MacArthur, but Leaf centers haven’t been able to rack up the points in recent seasons. With Kadri, Grabovski , Tyler Bozak, and new acquisition Matthew Lombardi all listed as centers, Connolly might find it a little more difficult to secure top-6 icetime than he bargained for.
Scott Gomez, C, MON
If the Habs could pull a Wade Redden on Gomez and his contract, do you think they would? Maybe they will. If you measure Gomez’s contribution last season purely in goals, each of his seven goals cost the Habs just over $1 million. Of course, he’s more of an assists guy, but $7.3 million should be able to purchase a lot more than 38 points over a whole season. Perhaps Gomez will bounce back to some degree this season. But with the center position being the deepest one in fantasy hockey, I’m not going to be the one to test that theory.
Andrei Markov, D, MON
Markov has played only 52 games over the past two seasons, including just seven games last season. He has undergone two major reconstructions of his ACL, and reports suggest that he may not even be ready to start this season. The Canadiens believed that Markov had recovered well enough to sign a three-year deal, so I’m not about to conclude that his career is over. However, he may not be quite the sleeper that some fantasy owners are projecting him to be. There is lots of upside, considering that he scored 64 points back in 2008-09. However, I’d rather let another owner take a chance, considering that Markov is being drafted far too early in some leagues.
Sheldon Souray, D, DAL
Has any player had a more nightmarish past couple seasons than Souray? Following a bitter divorce with the Edmonton Oilers (following a bitter divorce with former Baywatch model Anjelica Bridges), Souray will be looking to start his NHL career over in Dallas. He is only three years removed from a 53-point season with the Oilers, but his past two seasons haven’t exactly demonstrated the kind of numbers you want from a fantasy defenseman. Souray posted 13 points and a (-19) in a 37-game injury-riddled season in 2009-10, following that with a so-so 19 points in 40 games with Hershey of the AHL last season. Souray could be exactly what the Stars have needed for a while if the hand and shoulder injuries are fully healed and he can still unload that slapshot. But he’s a late-round gamble at best in fantasy leagues, given his recent lack of production and inability to stay healthy.
Chris Pronger, D, PHI
Injuries, age, and declining production seem to be the criteria for a bust, with Pronger filling the bill for all of the above. Pronger has undergone four surgeries in just over 12 months (back, hand, foot, knee), so to say he is broken down after years of wear and tear is an understatement. Restricted to just 50 games last season, the long drink of water was held to just 25 points (4g-21a). Pronger may be one of the most disliked players in hockey, but you have to admit that he has helped fantasy teams over the years. However, his name will probably earn him a higher average draft ranking than he probably deserves at this stage in his career.
Jose Theodore, G, FLA
Did you know that Theodore is penciled in to be the Panthers’ starting goalie this season? Following a fair season as the Wild’s backup (15-11-3, 2.71 GAA), Theodore was one of many veterans signed by a Panthers team that was scrambling to hit the cap floor. Even though the Panthers look a lot better now than they did before July 1, I’m not buying the fact that they’re a playoff team. In addition, Theodore has posted a goals-against average below 2.50 only once since the lockout. Don’t be surprised if Scott Clemmensen takes over as the Panthers’ starting goalie at some point this season, although I’d stay away from any Panthers goalie if at all possible.
Semyon Varlamov, G, COL
JS Giguere, G, COL
The Avs will sport a new look in goal this season, as Giguere and Semyon Varlamov will work between the pipes. Varlamov will likely serve as the starting goalie for a team that has been torture on goalies for the past few seasons, with Giguere likely serving as his mentor and backup. Giguere is well past his best before date, so there’s absolutely no need to draft him. Despite the recent acquisitions of Erik Johnson and Jan Hejda, the Avs’ defense seems to have some serious concerns. I have a difficult time believing that the Avs’ league-worst 3.45 GAA is all on the goalies they employed last season (Craig Anderson, Brian Elliott, Peter Budaj). As a result, Varlamov’s fantasy value did not improve with the trade to Colorado, even though he may be in for more starts than he received in Washington.
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Tags: andrei+markov, busts, chris+pronger, daniel+alfredsson, fantasy+hockey, jason+spezza, jose+theodore, js+giguere, ryan+smyth, scott+gomez, semyon+varlamov, sergei+gonchar, sheldon+souray, simon+gagne, simon+gagne, the+goods, tim+connolly
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About The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
My name is Ian Gooding, and this is The Goods on Fantasy Hockey. Given my ability to understand numbers, write sentences, and follow hockey, it’s not a surprise to those who know me that I became a fantasy hockey writer. I started writing about fantasy hockey in 2006 for fantasyhockey.com and became the site’s content editor in 2007. Looking to expand my audience, I joined Kukla’s Korner in the summer of 2011 to create the site’s first fantasy hockey blog.
A few times each week, I’ll provide an article called “Pick Six” where I will write about six players that should either be in your fantasy team’s starting lineup or bench for the upcoming game. As well, I’ll provide the fantasy takes on important hockey developments. You can also email me your questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow me on Twitter.