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How much does a player’s position factor into whether to retain him in a keeper league? Should a premium be placed on keeping a defenseman? How about goalies?

One reader is facing those very dilemmas as he prepares for his upcoming season.

Hi Ian,

Saw you started up the fantasy segment again. Here’s my dilemma:

I’ve been in a league with my friends for a while and last year we started a head-to-head keeper league that plays a regular season and ‘playoffs’ near the end of the NHL regular season. Last year, I came in third in the ‘regular’ season and first after the playoffs.

I need to pick FIVE of these ten players as keepers, and I was assuming I’d need to keep two goalies:  Nicklas Backstrom, Anze Kopitar, Marian Hossa, Thomas Vanek, Kris Letang, Lubomir Visnovsky, Keith Yandle, Brent Burns, Jimmy Howard, Carey Price.

My first thought was Howard, Price, Backstrom, Kopitar, and Letang, but now I’ve been second guessing myself for a few reasons:

1. Who is the BEST overall D-man there? Visnovsky got the most points, but is that sustainable? Likely not. Letang and Yandle are both good, young defensemen who can see a lot of power-play time.

2. While I think Yandle is a better overall player than Letang, I think the return of Sidney Crosby could really boost Letang’s stats, like he did at the beginning of the season where he was outscoring Visnovsky. Is that enough to bank on? Is it worth it for the long run?

3. Do I even need to keep two goalies? I picked up Price pretty late last year, because everyone expected him to do badly (thanks, pre-season!) and he turned out to be my best goalie. I could take a gamble on a similarly-positioned player and keep one less goalie? Or should I make sure I have two good goalies locked down because a whack of stats for the week are based on only 2-3 players?

4. Should I keep a winger instead of a D? The idea has kind of struck me, but every time I think to myself it’s easier to get a good winger than a good D, or at least easier to get a point-producing winger than a point-producing D.

Let me know what you think!

Rob



Hi Rob,

I’ll answer each question you provided, then I’ll provide an overall assessment at the end.

1. Visnovsky was the highest point-producing defenseman last season, but there’s no way that he’ll match his total of 68 points. He did score 67 points in 2005-06 with LA, but he has only one other 50-point season under his belt during a ten-year career. He is also 35 years old, while your other three defensemen are significantly younger. My choice for a defenseman would be Letang for the reason listed in number 2.

2. Yes, I agree that the return of Crosby and Evgeni Malkin could boost Letang’s stats. It’s no coincidence that Tanger was held to just nine points in his last 32 games, the length of time in which both Crosby and Malkin were out of the lineup. Before that, Letang had posted 41 points in his first 50 games of the season. While I like the upside and all-around game of Yandle, Letang has more significant offensive weapons surrounding him. Letang has a chance to be the top-scoring defenseman during the 2011-12 season.

3. If there’s one goalie that you should consider not hanging onto, it’s Howard. A glance of the stats shows that Howard had just one more win (38 to 37) than Price, while Price was significantly better in the other three goaltending categories (GAA, SV%, SO). By no means does that assure that Price will be a better goalie than Howard this season, yet Howard’s success could be more of a product of the Detroit system. Howard will no doubt rack up the wins, but I’m not nearly as sold on his ratios. Keeping Price could level out your ratios, although the decision to keep two goalies could depend on which goalies are left unprotected. For now, I would hang onto both goalies, given that both will be scooped up in the early rounds of non-keeper leagues.

4. Hossa and Vanek are both capable of scoring 30+ goals over a full season. They both provide scoring at winger positions that usually offer less scoring depth than center, although you’re right in mentioning that there are fewer scoring options on defense than on the wing. Using that logic, deciding not to keep one of your centers could be another possibility.

The choice is yours, but the players I would choose to keep are Backstrom, Kopitar, Hossa, Howard, and Price. Backstrom is a former 100-point scorer who could very well near that total again if he and Alex Ovechkin return to their old ways. Mike Richards’ presence in LA means that teams may spread out their top defensive options against the Kings, which could mean that Kopitar is in for an even bigger year. I would give a slight edge to Hossa over Vanek in that Hossa’s reduced point totals have been due to injury, while his career numbers have been more consistent. I explained the need to keep two goalies earlier, which leads to why I would not retain Letang. Prior to 2010-11, Letang had never scored more than 33 points in three previous seasons. Given that you would be letting go of four quality defensemen, you could target Letang (or the best of who is remaining) with your first pick in the draft.

Listing out all the possibilities here helped me answer this question. As well, planning who you will keep now will also help you plan your strategy for the draft. Good luck with your draft!

Ian

Email your fantasy hockey questions to gooding74 “at” shaw.ca.

 

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  Tags: fantasy+hockey

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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