Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Ian Gooding on 08/26/11 at 10:00 AM ET
If you think that determining who the top goalie will be for fantasy teams this season is tough, wait until you attempt to sift through the number of defensemen who have been at or near the top of the scoring race the past couple seasons. I attempted to narrow down this list to five defensemen, but I had waaaay too difficult a time with that. Plus I’d be subjecting myself to far too much criticism from the masses! (By the way, I love the comments… keep ‘em coming.)
The point that I want to make is this: Don’t draft a defenseman in the first couple rounds of your draft, unless your league awards extra points for goals and assists from d-men – I happen to play in one such league. However, I have noticed that a very high number of top fantasy teams (aside from my own, of course) hold one or more of the league’s top-scoring defensemen for that particular season. In other words, drafting top-producing defensemen matters if you want to win your fantasy league.
Who will be the top-scoring defenseman this season? Remember that the top fantasy defenseman doesn’t have to be the top scorer, as categories such as penalty minutes and plus/minus (and in some leagues, hits and blocked shots) also factor into the equation. So without further ado, here is my lengthy list – ten possibilities for you to mull over.
Viz makes it onto the list simply because he was the league’s top-scoring defenseman last season (69 points). He had cracked 60 points once before (2005-06), but he had cracked 50 points only one other time, perhaps because he has experienced his share of injuries. Don’t expect him to duplicate last season’s total, so I don’t think he’ll be your top fantasy defenseman by the end of the season.
Just when you think Lidstrom is on the out and out, he pulls another 60-point season out of his hat. Lidstrom would normally be considered a sure thing, but he is now 41 years old, and age even crept up on the well-conditioned Chris Chelios. Still, Lidstrom should have another solid year quarterbacking the Detroit offense, even if he regresses to, say, 50 points. That’s still a lot better than just about everyone at the position.
Chara may be the top defenseman in the eyes of NHL writers, yet he is well down the list in NHL scoring among defensemen (back-to-back 44-point seasons). Yet he makes his way onto this list because of plus/minus (+33), penalty minutes (88), and hits (153). I’d like to see a little more offense before I proclaim him to be the top fantasy defenseman, but he is a solid blueline anchor for any fantasy team.
Which Mike Green will show up this season? The one who ripped up the league for 76 points in 2009-10, or the one who was held to a measly 24 points last season because of injuries? Those who drafted Green in the first round last season will no doubt swear that they will never draft him again. But he could provide solid value if he manages to fall all the way to the middle rounds. Another 70-point season might be a reach, though.
After what seemed like a massive Stanley Cup hangover last season, the Hawks will be back in full force in 2011-12. After an extremely slow start, Keith managed to turn it on in the second half and salvage a 45-point season. We saw Keith score 69 points in his 2009-10 Norris Trophy season, so he has the stuff to be on this list. Realistically, Keith may only be a 50-point guy while he otherwise provides solid D.
Keep an eye on Doughty’s contract status, as he still remains unsigned as of this writing. However, both Doughty and the Kings believe that a deal should be signed before training camp. After a 59-point breakout season in 2009-10, Doughty was held to just 40 points in 2010-11, not really getting back on track following an early-season concussion. Don’t forget that Doughty is only 21 years old and with his amazing wheels, he could lead NHL defensemen in scoring in the very near future.
At one point during the second half of the season, Yandle was the leading scorer among NHL defenseman. He eventually had to settle for third with 59 points, solidifying himself as a top scoring option for defensemen. Expect him to continue to score, but his lack of defensive skills plus the departure of Ilya Bryzgalov could mean that his plus/minus could take a serious hit this season.
Boyle is consistently a leading scorer among defensemen, with 50+ points in five of his last six seasons. The Sharks should have no trouble scoring again this season, so Boyle is a strong bet to reach the 50-point mark of eliteness again. The undrafted Boyle is as consistent an option as you’ll find on this list, so what you see is what you’ll probably get.
Following the first half, Big Buff was easily the top fantasy defenseman on teams. He slumped to a large degree during the second half and ended up with 53 points, fourth among defensemen. His 20 goals and 347 shots on goal led NHL defensemen last season, so those who drafted him in the late rounds or plucked him off the waiver wire received one of the top value players of the season. He will be a big part of a Jets team that will probably struggle in its first season in the Peg.
Weber was a finalist for the Norris Trophy last season and will be the highest paid defenseman in the NHL this season, which will no doubt boost his fantasy ranking. Although Weber is deservedly one of the top defensemen in the league, he has produced only one 50-point season in his career. Don’t be surprised if he leads the toothless Predators in scoring while failing to reach the 50-point mark once again.
Since figuring out who will be the top fantasy d-man will be like shooting darts on a board, I’ll ask you: Who do you think will be the top fantasy d-man this season?
Comments? Compliments? Criticism? Complaints? Please weigh in with your comments, and follow me on Twitter. You can also email me at gooding74 “at” shaw “dot” ca with your fantasy hockey question for a future mailbag article.
Filed in: Fantasy Hockey and Gaming, thegoods13, | KK Hockey | Permalink
Tags: dan+boyle, defensemen, drew+doughty, duncan+keith, dustin+byfuglien, fantasy+hockey, keith+yandle, lubomir+visnovsky, mike+green, nicklas+lidstrom, shea+weber, zdeno+chara
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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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