The following articles were authored by SlimCliffy

Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wiring – February 25

The NHL regular season is starting to wind down and with less than one-third of the schedule remaining, the opportunity to solidify your fantasy hockey teams are running out.

 

The reality is that fishing the waiver pool that late in the season are last gasp attempts at trying to stabilize teams. With injuries to names like John Tavares, Mats Zuccarello, and Paul Martin, there are holes to fill on teams. The regular season for head to head leagues is about to come to an end too and that means it’s time to stock the bench for a player run. Any way you look at it, waiver wiring is to replace players or bolster depth, not make a significant difference in roto or points leagues.

 

With the NHL trade deadline just over a week away and rosters being shuffled off the Olympic break, there are names to look at that can help your team down the stretch for various league depths.

 

Forwards

 

Mikael Granlund – Minnesota Wild (ESPN Ownership: 38.2%)

One of the best comb-overs going. (Granlund, F-MIN)

One of the best comb-overs going. (Granlund, F-MIN)

The Winter Olympics were a sort of coming out party for Mikael Granlund as he finished T-3rd in scoring with seven points. Despite the naming of Teemu Selanne as MVP, it was Granlund who was Finland’s most consistent offensive threat.

 

I don’t believe in continuing momentum from a tournament but Granlund gets to go back to centering Zach Parise and Jason Pominville. Those players complement Granlund’s ability to enter the zone efficiently and that’s a good position to succeed.

 

Granlund doesn’t shoot a lot which means he doesn’t score a lot. That can be an issue in roto leagues. One reason for hope is that Granlund’s (-2) rating has a lot of room for improvement: Granlund is a (-5) at five on five without Pominville and (+7) with him. The possession rates improve to acceptable levels as well so I wouldn’t expect a minus rating for him the rest of the season with some power play points, too. A solid bench stash, even more so in points-only leagues.

 

Michael Cammalleri – Calgary Flames (ESPN Ownership: 22%)

Cammalleri has always been one of those players and by one of those players I mean a perennial 20-goal scorer with 30-goal upside and those don’t come by very often. This hasn’t changed much over the last couple years as he’s managed a 0.31 goals/game pace since the start of the 2012-2013 season and that’s a 25-goal pace over an 82-game season.

 

The problem this year for Cammalleri is that he hasn’t been able to stay healthy – he’s only played 41 games this year – and his team is pretty bad: Cammalleri’s (-22) rating is worst on the Flames and seventh-worst in the NHL this year. For a bit of context here, Cammalleri has never been known as a defensive forward but that team certainly isn’t helping matters.

 

Cammalleri is almost certain to be traded from Calgary and because of his expiring contract, he will be sent to a playoff contender. If he finds the right situation, Cammalleri’s penchant for shooting could see him score 8-10 goals for the rest of the season. The time to grab him off the waiver wire is now, not in a week when he finally is traded.

 

Erik Condra – Ottawa Senators (ESPN Ownership: 1%)

This is a name for deep-leaguers but the opportunities for success this late in the season don’t come often and Condra is getting one.

 

This tweet came out from Senators practice earlier today:

 

There was a problem connecting to Twitter.

 

Condra is a player who has spent most of his time in Ottawa’s bottom six but now gets a chance on the top line alongside Kyle Turris and Clarke MacArthur. That’s an optimal spot on that team for any player and gives Condra an opportunity for success offensively. He’s not just a plug-and-play guy for the team, either: Condra leads the Sens in FenwickCloseRelative% and is fifth on the team in his shot generation rate.

 

I wouldn’t expect much, if any, power play time and his peripheral stats are not outstanding. His line mates should prevent a minus rating and he can definitely contribute offensively at even strength. This is a must-add player in any sort of deep league (14+ teams).

 

Defensemen

 

Olli Maatta – Pittsburgh Penguins (ESPN Ownership: 44.2%)

They swear he's legal age to play in the NHL. (Maatta, D-PIT)

They swear he’s legal age to play in the NHL. (Maatta, D-PIT)

Another player who stood out at the Sochi Olympics was rookie defenseman Olli Maatta. He displayed the same characteristics that had made him successful so far this year for the Penguins; vision and patience are hallmarks of his game. Maatta’s ability to generate offense from the blue line with good outlet passes and helping maintain puck possession going into the offensive zone are exactly what a team like Pittsburgh needs.

 

It’s never ideal to have players injured and to profit from it, but this is fantasy sports and there’s no room for emotion (though, best wishes to Kris Letang in particular as he recovers from his stroke). With Letang out and Paul Martin having broken his hand at the Olympics, it’s Maatta’s turn to step up behind Matt Niskanen as the Penguins’ puck mover from the blue line.

 

Maatta can generate shots on goal, will get second power play minutes and should consistently be paired with one of the Penguins’ top two lines. He also had 18 points in 29 games leading to the Olympics so he’s well on his way to becoming a star in the NHL.

 

Andrej Meszaros – Philadelphia Flyers (ESPN Ownership: 3.2%)

Hockey is a game that involves a lot of luck and that luck tends to average itself out over the course of a full season, or at least the next season. That luck can be measured in a lot of different ways, the best way is with PDO. Part of a PDO rating is on-ice shooting percentage, or the rate at which a team scores with a player on the ice. It’s hard for the wide majority of players to sustain high level for more than a season, but luckily we’re only talking about five or six weeks here.

 

On the year, Meszaros leads the Flyers defensemen in on-ice shooting percentage and that’s enabled him to put up 16 points in just 35 games this year. Even if he never became what some thought he was going to be after putting up 39 points as a 20-year-old, he’s still a 30-point defenseman and that’s valuable.

 

This is definitely a depth play in deeper leagues but Meszaros has shown offensive flashes in the past and is more than capable of riding a hot streak for the rest of the season. If he stays afloat in the plus/minus column, his penalty minutes and points can be helpful for stretch runs in fantasy leagues.

Player Profile – Ryan Getzlaf

The case of Ryan Getzlaf is interesting in this sense: he’s one of very few players who can put up elite point totals every year without a lot of goal scoring. Here’s what I mean.

 

  • From 2007-2013, there were 99 players in the NHL that played at least 5000 5v5 minutes. Getzlaf finished 91st among these 99 players in goals/60 minutes. That puts him behind players like Steve Ott and Dainius Zubrus. Of course, his assists totals are so elite (8th out of 99) that he ranks 38th in points/60 minutes on this list.
  • Despite a solid 5v5 total, Getzlaf makes his hay on the power play: there were 90 players over that same time frame that had 1000 minutes on a 5v4 power play. Of those 90 players, Getzlaf was fifth in points/60 minutes, ahead of guys like Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin. That’s a bit ridiculous.
  • These numbers, plus his great season so far this year, have helped Getzlaf be only one of 11 players with at least 480 points since 2007 and he actually has a better points/game rate than Joe Thornton and Daniel Sedin over that stretch.

 

In short,

Best hairline in hockey. (Getzlaf, C-ANA)

Best hairline in hockey. (Getzlaf, C-ANA)

for several years now, Getzlaf has been pretty good at 5v5 and elite on the power play. This has helped cement him as one of the top players in the NHL.

 

There are two common criticisms of Getzlaf that have pretty big fantasy implications:

 

  • He doesn’t score often enough.
  • He has Corey Perry finishing his passes which inflates his point totals.

 

Let’s start with the goals.

 

It may shock some people but in full NHL seasons (i.e. excluding the lockout-shortened season), Getzlaf has as many 20 goal seasons as not. In fact, if you pro-rate each of his seasons to an 82-game pace, the only season where Getzlaf wouldn’t have cracked 20 goals is 2011-2012, which was his worst season in the NHL since his rookie year of 2005-2006, posting 11 goals and 57 points in 82 games.

 

Despite the reputation, Getzlaf is an established 20 goal scorer. That might not seem impressive, but since 2007, Getzlaf is at 0.30 goals/game which puts him 42nd among players with at least 400 games played and there’s 130 of them. He’s not going to post elite goal scoring totals, but he’s not the black hole he’s made out to be sometimes.

 

Also, it should be noted that Getzlaf realizes that the best use of his talents is probably making other people around him better and that helps the team more than his goal scoring. He can score when he wants to: in the four seasons where he’s averaged at least 2.4 shots/game, he’s scored at least 24 goals. In every other season, it’s under 20 goals.

 

Of course, “making players better” can be a bit subjective. If it weren’t for this list of course. That link is Getzlaf’s Without/With you numbers from 2007-2012. The names he’s played the most with – by that I mean at least 900 minutes – include Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, Francois Beauchemin, Scott Niedermayer, Chris Kunitz, Lubomir Visnovsky, Toni Lydman, Cam Fowler.

 

The only teammate on that list of Getzlaf’s who had both their CorsiFor% and GoalsFor% drop when not playing with Getzlaf was Beauchemin, and his CorsiFor% dropped over five percent while his GoalsFor% rate remained constant. Getzlaf’s GoalsFor% without Beauchemin skyrocketed from 44% to 58.1%.

 

To a man, every one of Getzlaf’s teammates have been much better with him than without him. He can score goals, sure, but he doesn’t need to. And the numbers are there to prove it.

 

So maybe when he’s not with some of those teammates, he’s just riding the shooting of Corey Perry, right?

 

This is certainly possible. From 2008-2013, Getzlaf and Perry were pretty much as bad without each other as the other player was. So while it’s fair to say that Getzlaf wouldn’t have as much success were it not for Corey Perry, it’s also fair to say the same about Perry with regards to Getzlaf. Of course, there is a small sample size to worry about as over the course of that time, Getzlaf essentially only played about a half season’s worth of five on five time away from Perry.

 

That’s not a terrible thing either. These are two guys who have developed an incredible level of chemistry together through several years of hockey together.

 

It should be noted that back in 2007-2008, Getzlaf went on a hot streak away from Perry so if you go back another year, the evidence tips in Getzlaf’s favor even more. Given, that is eight years ago now.

 

The ability for Getzlaf to play away from Perry shouldn’t even factor in to this, though. These guys are both signed for a lot of money past the year 2020.

 

The last concern is the age. Getzlaf is turning 29 in the spring and his foot speed could start slowing down. One thing that works in his favor is that Lockout II fell in line with his rookie year so he really only has about seven and a half full seasons of NHL play under his belt. There’s not much reason to think both he and Perry can’t be elite for a few more years.

 

In all, Getzlaf might be an elite NHLer but he’ll never be a truly elite fantasy roto option. He scores enough but not a lot – he still hasn’t had more than 30 goals in a season, though he can get there this year – and he doesn’t take a ton of shots. In points-only leagues though, this guy should be considered a top 15 forward for years to come.

Player Profile – Brent Burns

Brent Burns is an interesting case as a player because you essentially have to cut his career in two distinct and very unequal sections: his first 540 games of his career and his last 57.

 

Burns was drafted in the first round (20th overall) back in 2003 by the Minnesota Wild and up to that point of his minor and junior hockey career, Burns was a forward. That included a 40-point season with the Brampton Battalion of the OHL as a 17-year old.

 

Once he made his way to the NHL, Burns was converted to a defenseman for Minnesota and there he stayed for his seven-year tenure with them. He was pretty good at it, too, as from 2005-2011 he put up a point/game pace of 0.46, good for nearly 38 points in an 82-game campaign. Considering he was playing for a very conservative Wild team for most of that time, it was impressive.

 

There were also the international accolades that started to pile up as Burns played for Canada’s World Junior team in 2004 and played for Canada’s World Championship team in 2008, 2010 and 2011. He was also an Olympic orientation camp invitee in 2010.

 

After a trade to San Jose, Burns played the point for most of his stay there to date. The problem was that San Jose had a glut of pretty good defensemen from Dan Boyle and Marc-Edouard Vlasic to Jason Demers and Justin Braun. The opportunity was ripe for Burns to be moved back up front and what he’s done as a fantasy commodity since has been remarkable:

 

From 2007-2013, Burns played 350 games as a defenseman and managed 173 points or just shy of consistent 40-point seasons.

 

From 2013-now, Burns has played 57 games as a forward and managed 46 points, or a pace that would see him put up 66 points in an 82-game season.

 

Not only has his point rate shot up, but his goal/game rate would put him at 33 goals in a full 82-game season.

 

The Analytics

Burns and his centreman Joe Thornton have formed a pretty formidable duo, along with whoever lines up with them (most recently it’s been Joe Pavelski). Here are what their possession numbers with and without each other have looked like since the start of the lockout-shortened season (all as of January 8th and disparities in ice time are due to Burns’ injuries, which I’ll get into later):

 

  5v5 Goals For 5v5 Goals Against Plus/Minus at 5v5
Burns + Thornton (620.5 minutes)

38

21

+17 (+1 every 36:30)
Burns w/o Thornton (192 minutes)

10

9

+1 (+1 every 192 minutes)
Thornton w/o Burns (610 minutes)

25

24

+1 (+1 every 610 minutes)

 

One problem with this is that Burns hasn’t played a lot of hockey; he’s only played in 66 of San Jose’s last 94 games. This is something that has plagued him for a long time now, as he has concussion issues going back to his days with Minnesota. He did play at least 72 games in five of seven seasons from 2005-2012, but he had that concussion issue in Minnesota and hasn’t stayed healthy over the last year. It’s an ongoing concern for sure.

 

With that said, even if you discount the small sample of Burns when playing away from Thornton, look at the massive disparity in 5v5 plus/minus for Thornton when he’s playing with Burns and when he’s not. It’s not just goals, either: Thornton’s CorsiFor% with Burns last year was 57.6% and without him it was 51.7%. It’s an even bigger dropoff this year when Burns has been out of the lineup 62.1% – 51.9%. Of note is that Burns’ drops off considerably without Thornton as well (though, again, the sample for this year is just over 60 minutes, not nearly enough to judge). It would seem they need each other to maximize their own games, and that’s not such a bad thing: Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have similar drop-offs when not playing with each other yet they are one of the most feared duos in the NHL when playing together.

 

Premier Power Forward

When the topic of power forwards in the NHL comes up, the name usually at the top of the list is Milan Lucic. Other names that get considered are the aforementioned Perry (though less so because of how prolific a scorer he is), Ryan Kesler, and David Backes. Here’s what separates Burns from the rest of the power forwards in the NHL: he doesn’t fight.

 

Burns has zero fights since converting to a forward and in terms of fantasy hockey, this isn’t a good thing. At times as a defenseman, Burns was nearly a penalty minute per game played, putting up 80 in 2007-2008 and 98 in 2010-2011. In reality though, not fighting is probably the best thing for him. With the concussion issues he’s had in the past, and from what’s happened to someone like George Parros this year, he doesn’t need to get punched in the head to prove his worth. He can still come close to 40 PIM seasons, but the 80+ PIM seasons are a thing of the past.

 

What he’s lost in PIM value, he’s gained in points/game, goals/game and shots/game. Speaking of shots/game, Burns set a career high in shots per game last year at 2.7 and is going to shatter that this year in all likelihood as he’s sitting at 3.61. It’s a shame injuries have derailed him this year or else he would have pushed for 30 goals (and he still can if he goes on a tear).

 

No, it’s not fighting that makes Burns a premier power forward. It’s goals like this when he can tear down the wing using his speed and shot:

 

 

Goals like this where he goes to the dirty areas to be in a prime position to score (and having Joe Thornton as your centre doesn’t hurt):

 

 

And goals like this where he can find soft areas in the defense (watch him lose the opposing middle man and then #25 Brad Staubitz) to use his shot to his advantage:

 

 

If you ever are up late at night and get the chance to watch San Jose with Burns in the lineup, I strongly encourage you to watch the game. Watch Burns chase down loose pucks, using his size (he’s 6’5”, 230 lbs) and speed to create the space necessary for himself, Thornton and whoever their line mate is to make plays. There’s a reason why in their 620+ minutes at five on five together over the last couple of seasons that they’re outscoring their opponents nearly 2:1 and it’s not all Thornton. As long as Burns stays on that line and is healthy, he’s a top 40 (ish) forward in fantasy hockey – Thornton, Marleau, Couture and Pavelski on the team means he’ll struggle for high power play minutes – and one of the premier power forwards in the NHL.

 

***as always, thanks to Hockey Reference, Hockey Analysis and Behind The Net for their resources. 

Finland Topples Canada 5-1; Advance to WJHC Finals

The gold medal drought for Canada at the World Juniors will continue as they were unable to come back against a strong team from Finland, losing 5-1 today in Malmo, Sweden at the U20 World Junior Hockey Championships.

 

Canada, as had been the theme for the tournament, got off to a slow start, but both teams were guilty of that. The stories of the first period were the two goalies, Zach Fucale and Juuse Saros, making stellar saves when they had to. Oh, and Minnesota defenseman Matt Dumba took another bad penalty. This is not a recording.

 

The second period was when the action really took off.

 

A dump-in by Finland on the rush resulted in a weird bounce off the boards that landed right on the stick of Joni Nikko, and the puck found its way to the back of the net to make it 1-0. There was really nothing Canada or Fucale could have done about that one; it was a bad bounce that just happens sometimes.

 

For whatever reason, Canadian coach Brent Sutter keeps putting Anthony Mantha on the right side on their 1-3-1 power play, which essentially has him play half the power play as a right defenseman. This is a gross misuse of his skill set, which is better served down low off the net, or directly in front. Not surprisingly, no Canada goals came off the power play in the first two periods.

 

The second Finnish goal came on the power play, when a high-tip set play resulted in a rebound off of Fucale’s pads and was buried in behind him by Arturri Lehkonen. Lehkonen was down low, but Finnish forward Saku Maenalanen was the one who was left alone for the high-tip, which was Scott Laughton’s man on the penalty kill.

 

Canada’s Jonathan Drouin would reply for Canada about five minutes later to make cut the lead in half. Could pressure by Anthony Mantha forced a turnover onto Curtis Lazar’s stick. The resulting rebound landed on Drouin’s stick, and we had a game on our hands.

 

Finland would score four minutes later to get their two goal lead back following what was probably the save of the tournament by Fucale, as he dove to his left and sprawled out for a glove save. The problem was the Canadians didn’t clear the puck and Buffalo draft pick Rasmus Ristolainen roofed it over Fucale just seconds later.

 

One last note about the second period: Jonathan Drouin should learn to keep his hands down. When you receive a head-checking penalty, as he did twice this tournament, it’s a two minute minor and a 10-minute misconduct. He can’t be in the penalty box for 20% of a semi-final game. When you follow through with your hands on a hit, it’s the easiest call in the world for a referee to make. He didn’t learn the first time around, maybe he learned the second time around.

 

The third period didn’t bring a whole lot. There weren’t many shots, and the Finns extended their lead late in the game on a penalty shot before adding an empty-netter to make it 5-1.

 

Full marks to Finland and their coaching staff in this game. They took their share of penalties, but for the most part, they weren’t the undisciplined kind like Canada’s Drouin and Petan took (the latter for yapping at the referee). They got the lead and played absolute lock-down defense. Canada couldn’t string together more than three passes and when they tried to be individuals about it, the Finns congregated to the puck and the danger was cleared.

 

Hopefully this is a wake-up call for Canada. Not the players, there is nothing wrong with Canadian hockey itself and the programs are still producing elite hockey talents. The selection processes are terribly flawed. Guys like Darnell Nurse, Max Domi and Hunter Shinkaruk – who were all first round picks in the NHL Entry Draft last year, mind you – were told to stay home for this version of Team Canada. Well, you saw the results. With Drouin and Petan in the box, they may as well have just fast forwarded the clock 12 minutes because no one else was going to score a goal. There’s no sense in taking “safe” hockey players if you keep finding yourself down in hockey games, which Canada did every single game this tournament including the game against Germany, a team who could be relegated from the fucking tournament.

 

You want to keep “playing it safe”? Fine, then you’ll keep losing hockey games because you can’t score, and you’ll keep going down early in games because you’re relying on one line to score while holding your breath that the other three don’t get scored on. This was an embarrassing tournament, and none of that is on the players, it’s all on the coaching staff. This isn’t isolated, either, you only need to read this piece from ESPN’s Scott Burnside about how Team USA’s selection committee for their Olympic roster were using their actual dreams as evidence to take/not take players. It’s insanity.

 

Canada will face Team Russia tomorrow in the bronze medal game, while the Finns have a date with their neighbours from Sweden.

Fantasy Hockey Waiver Wiring – January 3, 2014

It’s been a while since I’ve done one of these, and naturally, there is a lot that has changed from team to team when discussing line combinations, injuries, roster moves and so on.

 

Without blabbing, here are some guys to look at if you need to fill some voids (for rotisserie leagues, unless otherwise noted), listed by ownership rates (for different depths of leagues).

 

Under 50% owned on ESPN

 

Nick Bonino (F-ANA)

Awwwwww. (Bonino, F-ANA)

Awwwwww. (Bonino, F-ANA)

Despite putting up a goal and an assist in his last time out, Bonino’s ownership rates have plummeted because of the five game pointless streak before that. There are some things you need to know about Mr. Bonino.

 

Firstly, his underlying numbers are a little high, but pretty much in line with his career. That means at five on five, this is about what to expect from Bonino; about one even strength point every three games. That’s it.

 

What’s nice about Bonino is that he’s been put on the top power play unit in Anaheim alongside Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, what was formerly known as Dustin Penner Place. While the Ducks’ PP hasn’t been exactly stallar, 12 of Bonino’s 27 points on the year have come on the power play. So if you need help in that department, this is your help.

 

Kris Versteeg (F-CHI)

For whatever reason, he’s still out there in over half of the leagues available. Check to make sure he’s not there in yours.

 

Versteeg is cemented on the second line with Patrick Kane and he also gets his fair share of ice time on the second power play unit with Marian Hossa and Brandon Saad. You want guys with skill that are in positions to succeed, and Versteeg fits that bill to a tee.

 

 

Since coming over to Chicago, Versteeg has 16 points in 24 games and has gone (+7) over that stretch. He doesn’t stuff the peripheral stats, but you can always find other players to fill those, it’s harder to find the point producers, and Versteeg is one of those.

 

Jacob Trouba (D-WPG)

The rookie defenseman was out for a month earlier in the season after taking a dangerous header into the boards, but he’s quietly had a Calder Trophy nomination-worthy season.

 

Trouba has put up 12 points in 26 games this year, dangerously close to that half point/game mark that is elusive for teenage defenseman. Now, most of his points come at even strength, but that’s not such a bad thing: Trouba has a (+2) rating this year, thanks to his usage against easier competition. Coach Claude Noel is sheltering his young defenseman properly, and Trouba is flourishing because of it.

 

He won’t rack peripheral stats, but he’s currently riding a four-game point streak and has played over 20 minutes in five straight games.

 

Under 10% owned on ESPN

 

Jannik Hansen (F-VAN)

It’d be nice to have highly skilled players in a place to succeed. Sometimes, it’s a good career move to just learn how to play with good players i.e. “what can I do to help?”

 

Jannik Hansen has been playing on the top line in Vancouver with the Sedin twins for a while now, which makes it surprising his ownership rates are so low. It’s not like Hansen is inept offensively – he did have 39 points in 2011-2012 – he just isn’t known for high-level skill. It doesn’t seem to matter, though.

 

Hansen has five goals in his last 10 games (zero assists) and he’s starting to take 2-3 shots per game, which is a good sign. He’s also gone (+6) over those 10 games, a testament to how much fun it is to play with the Sedin twins.

 

If you need a low-end replacement who scores goals (and who doesn’t need those), Hansen is your guy for now.

 

Dougie Hamilton (D-BOS)

Looks clunky, but he's good. (Hamilton, D-BOS)

Looks clunky, but he’s good. (Hamilton, D-BOS)

Hamilton returned to action last night after missing over three weeks with injury. He wasn’t exactly eased in either, as he had nearly 18 minutes of ice time, playing mostly with Zdeno Chara, and added an assist on the game-winning goal in overtime. Not a bad return.

 

Hamilton will be used on the second power play pairing in Boston with forward Reilly Smith as his partner, which is both good and bad: it’s great to get power play time as a rookie, though with a forward as his partner, I hope he doesn’t try to cover up defensively all the time.

 

It might be worrisome to play with Chara, as that means Hamilton is a rookie defenseman playing against top line competition, but the rest of his teammates are enough to make up the difference. Hamilton won’t do anything special, but he’s serviceable in the short term.

 

Under 1% owned on ESPN

 

Rich Peverley (F-DAL)

We were told Peverley was fighting the flu this morning, so he may not be immediately available for their game tomorrow night against Detroit. That said, Peverley has put up 18 points in 39 games this year, which is fine for a third line player like him.

 

Where Peverley’s upside comes from is that he’s shooting just 5.9% this year, while his career average is 9.9%. His problem had been that he’s not gotten one single power play point yet this year, even though he’s averaging well over two minutes per game on the power play. Dallas, as a team, is shooting under 6% on the power play with him on the ice, the lowest of any regular Dallas forward. Both those numbers should rebound, even a little bit, in the second half.

 

To boot, Peverley gets sporadic penalty kill time, so if your league counts short-handed points, there’s an outside chance for one or two of those the rest of the season.

 

John-Michael Liles (D-CAR)

On the day of the Winter Classic, Liles found out that he had been traded from Toronto to Carolina, and that’s a very good thing for his fantasy prospects.

 

The knock on Liles isn’t that he’s a bad defenseman, it’s that he’s not worth his nearly $4M cap hit. In his first game for Carolina, Liles only had 15:45 of ice time but was moved back and forth between the top and secondary power play units. If that holds constant, it’s hard not to like a guy playing on the power play with names like Staal, Skinner, Semin and Faulk.

 

Liles won’t put up great peripherals, so this is probably a better points-only league play, but he’ll have the opportunity to rack points where he wasn’t before.

 

(s/t to Hockey’s Future for the pictures)

Canada Punches Ticket to Semis with 4-1 Win Over Swiss

Canada won their quarter-final matchup today, defeating Switzerland 4-1 at the 2014 World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden.

He was this excited to score against Germany. (Mantha, F-CAN) - credit to National Post

He was this excited to score against Germany. (Mantha, F-CAN) – credit to National Post

They move on to the semi-finals where they will face the team from Finland, which overcame a 3-1 deficit to the Czech Republic to win 5-3.

 

In years previous, the winner of each division at the World Juniors would get an automatic bye into the semi-finals. That changed this year as the top four teams from each division would make it into the quarter-finals.

 

Canada seemed to have a game plan in today’s game to swarm the puck two and three players at a time, making sure the Swiss players felt pressure every single time they touched the puck. That included Connor McDavid, who despite not racking up points has learned to play a more responsible game over the course of the tournament. A few games ago, it wouldn’t be uncommon to see him make one or two turnovers per shift, now he seems to cause one turnover per shift. He was left off the score sheet but it was the game I was most impressed with him overall.

 

There were a couple of instances in the first period where Canada goalie Zach Fucale seemed to be fighting the puck with his glove. If you recall, it was a shot that tipped off his glove that caused a 3-2 game against the United States. He dropped one puck in the first, and simply belly-flopped onto a rebound instead of covering it with his glove as well. I don’t know if he’s trying new equipment or if this has consistently been an ongoing problem, but teams are probably going to start picking up on this and it could be a big problem moving forward.

 

Canada’s opening goal was created by Scott Laughton, the Canadian captain. After a face-off win, he scooped up the loose puck, circled the net, tried to jam a wrap-around and then Griffin Reinhart put away the rebound. Laughton has kind of been the unsung hero for Canada, as he’s probably been their most consistent forward on the team not named Mantha or Drouin.

 

The second period brought some nerves for Canada and their fans alike, as they were playing well defensively but weren’t creating much offensively for most of the period. Many of their opportunities were one-and-done chances, so they’ll need better puck support in the semi-finals and then hopefully the finals if they expect to score goals. You can’t keep hoping for odd-man rushes and great individual efforts.

 

Canada’s second goal came on an Anthony Mantha penalty shot as he was brought down on a breakaway. It was a pretty head-fake followed by the use of his very long reach to get the puck around the pad on his backhand.

 

Switzerland’s Nico Dunner scored on a downward deflection with :01 left on the clock in the second period to make it a 2-1 game. It appeared it may have been a high stick but it was called a goal on the ice and there wasn’t much in the way of replay to show otherwise.

 

Canada’s Curtis Lazar, who is emerging as this year’s Jordan Eberle it seems, scored less than five minutes into the third period to make it 3-1 Canada, and they would cruise the rest of the way to a 4-1 win.

 

A couple things of note:

  • Canadian defenseman and Minnesota Wild draft pick Matt Dumba appeared to be injured when he crashed into the boards after being tripped by a Swiss player. Dumba went to the room but played the third period, where he wasn’t very effective and even took a pretty weak penalty with under seven minutes left and still in a 3-1 game. He’s definitely not been one of Canada’s best defensemen this tournament, and should be considered a third pairing defenseman for them at this point.
  • Fucale did a good job in the third period gobbling up rebounds, preventing second chances for Switzerland. Basically, all you can ask for your goalie is to make the first save, and he did a much better job in the third period than he did in the first 40 minutes.

 

It appears Canada/Finland and Russia/Sweden will be your final four, and the games take place on Saturday.

Canada Rallies to Beat Slovakia at World Junior Championships

Canada was able to overcome a 3-1 second period deficit to Slovakia today at the World U-20 Junior Championships 5-3. It wasn’t easy, and Canada should consider themselves fortunate to have gotten this win.

 

It started right off the bat when Jonathan Drouin, Canada’s top offensive player and Tampa Bay draft pick, took a two minute minor for a head-check, which carries an additional 10 minute misconduct with it. Drouin essentially leaped with both arms directly at the Slovakian defenseman’s head. It was a dumb penalty to take so early, and it resulted in an early power play goal for Slovakia’s David Griger. It was quite the power play to watch, too; the Slovaks were efficient with their puck movement and it got Canada’s penalty killers chasing at times.

 

Slovakia would score twice in the second period, once again on the power play, and it didn’t look good for Canada. By my count, at the halfway point of the game, Canada had given up three separate 2-on-1s against and two breakaways. Slovakia wasn’t generating much sustained offense against Canada, but the Canadians were giving away premium chances time after time. The mistakes were numerous; bobbles at the blue line, not getting pucks deep and so on. In all, the Slovaks hit two posts and a crossbar in this game, so even though Canada ended up with a 48-22 shot advantage at the end of the game, the game could have easily been 4-1 or 5-1 for Slovakia in the second period.

 

The second half of the second period and then the third period brought a lot of line juggling. Scott Laughton was finally taken off the fourth line and put with Bo Horvat and Connor McDavid while Drouin, after being benched for parts of the first period after that dumb penalty, was seemingly double-shifted.

 

Anthony Mantha was probably Canada’s best offensive player, but his usage was becoming a bit of a worry. After a pinpoint pass from the corner on Canada’s first goal to set up Curtis Lazar on the power play, Mantha scored the second goal by using his huge frame to screen the goalie on a shot from the blue line and he put the puck away for his fourth goal of the tournament. For the rest of the game, coach Brent Sutter for some reason put Mantha on the point for their power plays. Sutter seems like a smart guy, but Mantha already had one goal and one assist on the power play in that very game by using his size and skill down low. Why the hell would you put him on the point?

 

Aside from the mistakes, the biggest takeaway of this game was the emotion showed by Drouin, and not in a good way. Undeniably, he’s probably the most skilled player at this tournament. However, that early penalty was a poor one to take and at one point in the game he was yapping incessantly at the linesman about a puck that hit the roof (thus rendering the play dead). He was lucky not to be given another penalty at that point, and he would do well to keep quiet about plays like this. This is a long tournament and the referees don’t forget.

 

It was a better effort from Canada than against the Czech Republic but the issues are still there: over-pursuing on the penalty kill, turnovers at the blue lines, not adjusting to international refereeing and not backing up defensemen in the offensive zone led to many more scoring chances than the Slovaks should have ever had.

 

Zach Fucale looked good in net for Canada, which is to say that he didn’t allow any soft goals. In a tournament format like this, you need your goalie to make the first save consistently, and Jake Paterson wasn’t doing that. It doesn’t appear Fucale will give away games, which is all you can really ask for from your goaltenders.

 

If Canada doesn’t quickly learn to play a bit safer with the puck (without sacrificing their offensive creativity), they are in for a rough ride tomorrow against rival United States. This game is a big game, not to determine who moves on, but the winner will likely not have to play one of Sweden or Russia before the semi-finals.

2014 World Junior Recap: Canada vs. Czech Republic

It should be noted most of these (all of these) recaps will be centred on Canada. It’s hard enough keeping up with everything in the NHL all day, it’s harder if you’re watching Finland vs. Germany juniors player each other.

 

Technology limits what I can show you (still working on getting a new laptop, etc.) but there are probably three things to take away from the 5-4 shootout loss Canada suffered at the hands of the Czech Republic this afternoon:

 

  1. This is tournament hockey. What I mean by that is anything can happen in this type of format. Czech goalie Marek Langhamer only faced 29 shots, but quite a few of them were high-quality chances and he was a big reason this Czech team was able to prevent Canada from ever taking a lead in this game.
  2. It doesn’t take much to end up with the puck in the back of your net. There were two goals scored off of faceoffs by the Czechs, both were defensive lapses by Team Canada. The first, Canada’s Bo Horvat just let his opposing centre walk around him on a faceoff in the Canadian zone and the puck was in the back of the net moments later. The second was on a penalty kill, but Curtis Lazar – who was the weakside forward – just pretty much backed out of the slot after the faceoff, leaving his made wide open to bury the puck. These lapses in a tournament hockey format will mean the difference between winning and losing.
  3. With players of this age, the coach becomes that much more important. In the overtime period – and someone correct me if I have this wrong – but future first overall pick Connor McDavid and Canada’s best forward Jonathan Drouin combined for one shift. This game is surely a “lesson game” for Canada, and the benching of McDavid and sporadic use of Drouin were part of the lesson the coach was trying to teach the player, but it’ll be interesting to see if this continues in future games.

 

A few notes on the players themselves:

  • It’s tough to put a game on the goaltender, and Canada goalie Jake Paterson was far from the only culprit, but he just did not look comfortable all game long. From his wild leg kicks that permitted the first goal to slide under his pad, to sliding into his net twice during the shootout rather than using the posts as anchors, he never seemed technically or mentally sound in net. Again, this is just observational stuff, but he looked to be fighting the puck most of the game. It wouldn’t be surprising if Zach Fucale gets the start in the next contest against Slovakia.
  • Aaron Ekblad was his usual stalwart self on defense for Canada, however Adam Pelech seemed to get stronger as the game went on. He was making better decisions with the puck and was one of the top defensemen by the end of the game.
  • Scott Laughton continues to impress. I had heard comparisons to Mike Richards of the LA Kings before, and I’m starting to see it. I think Laughton has a bit more offense in him, but you can see the great two-way game he already possesses. There’s a reason he’s wearing the “C” for the Canadian squad.

 

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the incident at the end of the second period. And by incident, I mean Czech Republic’s Michal Plutnar laid out a referee, and it appears to be intentional.

 

Anyway, Plutnar only received a two minute penalty for the play, and I have never seen a play like that in my life. This is a multiple game suspension waiting to happen, and it’s unreal that he wasn’t immediately ejected from the game. It’s believed the linesman didn’t think it was intentional, but it’s hard to see how it’s not.

 

Canada sits with a win and shootout loss now but it doesn’t matter because they are almost certain to qualify for the quarter-finals, a new format from years previous where division winners got a bye to the semi finals. Their next game is against the aforementioned Slovaks on Monday morning.

 

(stick-tap to Josh Gold-Smith and the Score for the GIF)

A Few Words on Tom Wilson and Brayden Schenn

A lot of what we do in everyday life comes from our own personal experience.images In an age where just about any question can be answered and tutorial found with a few keystrokes, it’s pretty easy to forget how we learned anything in the first place.

 

As kids, we learned things as they are taught to us by those in your environment. Everything from reading to baiting a fish hook is a skill that was passed to us, and honed through practice.

 

Sports are no exception to this. People may be born with a disposition for athletics, but you’re not going anywhere until someone puts a football, baseball, basketball or hockey stick into your hands, and you work at your craft for thousands of hours.

 

I was fortunate to play hockey for most of my life to date, and was able to learn a lot of things along the way about how the game of hockey is played. More importantly, I was able to differentiate the manner in which different players play the game. One thing I learned was that there’s a lot of gray area in hockey.

 

I can distinctly remember one high school game (which reminds me, it’s 10 years since that season………………………..) where a player of ours took a header into the boards when a player from the opposing team had barely touched him. It was a yard sale at its finest, and it got us a late man advantage we needed in this tie game. The ensuing four-minute power play resulted in two goals for us, and we would end up winning the game by three (it was the finals of a tournament, too).

 

What I learned, more confirmed, about hockey that day was that it was perfectly acceptable, if not encouraged, to do whatever it took to win a hockey game, even if it meant deceiving the referee about an injury. It wasn’t surprising by any stretch, I can think of at least one instance where I had done so myself. But conversations in more recent years with friends of mine who achieved much higher levels of hockey than I ever did, and continue to do so as coaches, are well aware that results are what matter, and power plays do just that.

 

Fast forward to last night.

 

In a 2-2 hockey game late in the second period between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Washington Capitals, Washington rookie forward Tom Wilson took a run at Philadelphia’s Brayden Schenn, which then sent Schenn flying into the boards headfirst.

 

 

 

At first glance, the hit (0:04) looks really bad. Schenn is in the “danger zone” if you will, which is anywhere from 3-5 feet away from the boards at the time of the collision. When you are hit in that are into the boards, your ability to protect yourself is minimal. Wilson knows this, every hockey player does.

 

The backside camera angle, which starts at 0:55, is even worse. We see Tom Wilson come into the zone, coast for several feet, then take three very quick strides to explode into Schenn, which sends him flying into the boards (that last stride is a half-push with his left foot, but is a stride nonetheless). Despite it being shoulder on shoulder, Schenn was trying to reverse himself at the time and Wilson had no ability to prevent the hit at that point. Wilson’s charge made him unable to react to the play in front of him to avoid injury, which is reckless hockey. Wilson will probably be suspended for this, and rightfully so. A good three to five game suspension would get his name on the record and make him be a little more cautious about what he does to other people.

 

Besides the slew of suspensions that we’ve seen recently, what also worries me is the possibility of faking injuries for the sake of getting a necessary power play. This was a tie hockey game, a divisional game, between two teams that will likely fight for playoff spots. Watch the reaction of Schenn through the whole sequence after the hit:

 

  • At 1:01, Schenn gets to his feet fairly quickly, and looks at the referee who’s in the corner who did not have his hand raised to call a penalty.
  • At 1:03, he turns and takes two strides towards the middle of the ice with his head up. He can see the referee skating in from the neutral zone who did have his hand up to call a penalty.
  • At 1:04, he takes a header into the ice, twice, and then tries to skate off.

 

Earlier today, these tweets came out:

 

 

 

Luckily, indeed. That was an incredibly reckless play on Wilson’s part, and Schenn was lucky not to be injured.

 

Is it not plausible though, given what we can see on the video and the quotes from today, that Schenn was embellishing his movements on the ice following the hit?

 

This would fall very much in line from what I’ve learned through the years, and from what we see on the ice. In fact, later that night, Shawn Horcoff was called for a (phantom) high-stick in the Dallas/Colorado matchup. It was a 2-2 game in the third period, and Horcoff gave a shove to Colorado defenseman Tyson Barrie with his stick, and it looks like the blade of Horcoff’s stick bounces off Barrie’s right shoulder. It resulted in a power play, which Colorado was unable to convert. They’re still looking for the man behind the grassy knoll, though.

 

Faking a penalty is one thing, faking an injury is another, and that line gets blurry real quick. My personal experience tells me hockey players do it, my eyes watching video tells me no different. If Schenn was truly unable to skate at this point in time, then this is all moot and my apologies. But it looked like he was trying to get a five minute power play for his team in a tie hockey game. This game is about results, not process. Not how you got your wins, but how many wins you have. There are millions of dollars at stake, and an immense amount of pressure and pride to go with it.

 

This presents a dilemma to Brendan Shanahan, who hands down the sentences on punishments for the Department of Player Safety. Schenn came out and said he had no concussion, which is great news. It’s also good news for Tom Wilson, because the NHL levies suspensions with part of their basis being the injury suffered. Agree with it or not (I do, with shades of gray, as most hockey is), the injury plays a factor. Would Wilson have only gotten two minutes for charging instead of the five minute match penalty had Schenn not dove into the ice, twice? Maybe, maybe not. We’ll never know.

 

The Flyers would win the game on the back of those two power play goals, a big regulation win against a divisional opponent.

 

Injuries are beginning to mount in the NHL and it has a problem on its hands. Shanahan can’t hand out the suspensions fast enough and player after player is hitting the IR. Wilson deserves what is coming to him from Department of Player Safety, that there is no doubt. It would be nice if the players would realize how serious the issues at hand are, and didn’t try to make matters worse on the ice. But we have to realize, again, this is about winning hockey games and power plays help do just that.

 

If high school players are willing to fake an injury for the sake of winning a hockey game, I don’t think it’s above NHL players to do the same, given the stakes.

Player Profile – Jeff Skinner

I thought right about now would be a good time to do a player profile on Jeff Skinner.

bahahahahaha (Skinner, C/RW-CAR)

bahahahahaha (Skinner, C/RW-CAR)

On the season to date, Skinner has 12 goals and 21 points in 23 games and is on a hot streak that has seen him put up eight goals in his last seven games.

 

It’s easy to forget that Skinner just turned 21 years old in the Spring of 2013, and is now in his fourth season in the NHL. It’s also easy to forget the draft year he was taken.

 

The Carolina Hurricanes selected Skinner with the seventh overall selection in the 2010 draft, and what a first round that was. If you look at the top 20 players taken, you see names like Hall, Seguin, Johansen, Niederreiter, Granlund, Fowler, Schwartz and Tarasenko. What you might not remember is this: In the 2010-2011 season, when these guys were all rookies, Jeff Skinner led them all in points with 63. That included, at the time, a 21-year old rookie named Logan Couture, who finished second with 56 points.

 

This wasn’t an out-of-nowhere performance. Skinner was a 50-goal scorer in his Age 17-18 season (draft year) in the Ontario Hockey League, which is why he was a top 10 pick.

 

That rookie season did produce something we just don’t see a lot of anymore, in fact, almost ever: Skinner is the only 18-year old rookie from 2007-2012 to put up a 60+ point season. The only 18-year old rookie. Yes, that includes Steven Stamkos. That includes John Tavares, too, even as a 19-year old. In fact, the only 19-year old to do it over that stretch was Patrick Kane.

 

In other words, this is a highly-skilled, highly-productive player that isn’t close to his prime yet and is performing very well compared to his peers. How well, you ask?

 

There was a lot of debate going into the 2010 NHL Draft of Taylor (Hall) vs. Tyler (Seguin). Should we add Jeff Skiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnnnnneeerrrrrrrrr in there too? Here are the points/game comparisons over the years:

 

2010-2011

2011-2012

2013

2013-2014

Taylor Hall

.65

.87

1.11

1.00

Tyler Seguin

.30

.83

.67

1.07

Jeff Skinner

.77

.69

.57

.91

 

 

What we see here is Taylor Hall has started to perform the best consistently, but that the gap between the three has closed considerably from whence they came in the league. In their rookie year, Skinner had 41 more points than Seguin. This year, if things hold constant, that gap will be a high of Hall at 88 points and a low of Skinner at 75 points, or a difference of 13 points between these three young stars.

 

Usage

Of course, all the point totals aren’t created equally. Here’s how they did it, separately:

 

Skinner

2010-2011

2011-2012 2013

2013-2014

PP TOI/Game

3:10

3:21 2:47

3:02

1st/2nd Unit PP?

2nd

1st 1st

1st

Quality of Competition

0.244 (3rd line comp)

0.120 (3rd line comp) 0.797 (1st line comp)

0.270 (3rd line comp)

 

Hall

2010-2011

2011-2012 2013

2013-2014

PP TOI/Game

2:43

3:03 3:14

3:40

1st/2nd Unit PP?

1st

1st 1st

1st

Quality of Competition

0.461 (1st line comp)

0.858 (2nd line comp) 0.585 (1st line comp)

0.368 (2nd line comp)

 

Seguin

2010-2011

2011-2012 2013

2013-2014

PP TOI/Game

1:21

2:27 2:11

3:38

1st/2nd Unit PP?

2nd

1st 1st

1st

Quality of Competition

-0.406 (4th line comp)

0.389 (2nd line comp) 0.665 (2nd line comp)

1.042 (1st line comp)

 

A few things of note here:

  • Quality of Competition cannot be equally applied between players across different seasons. Last year, for example, Hall would have only played against Western Conference opponents while Seguin and Skinner only against the East. That’s why, for example, you see Seguin with a higher QoC in 2013 than Hall, yet he was facing second line competition. These are all relative to their teammates, not to other players.
  • The overall power play time is a bit deceiving. Edmonton, over the years, has drawn more penalties than Boston, which is why Hall has such a high power play TOI through his seasons.

 

What this all does tell us though is that Skinner, although he’s been buried on the depth chart at times, has still produced like a first line player, even though in many instances he’s been on the second or third line. And that while, for example, Taylor Hall got nearly 40% of his points via the power play in 2011-2012, Skinner has never exceeded 30% in this regard until this season (and he’s only played 23 games, so that sample size is still too small to make a determination).

 

If Skinner ever starts to see the massive amounts of power play time that Hall does – and you’ll notice he has less power play time this year per game than either of his first two years – then he’ll be close to a point per game player, probably more like a 70 point-player, like he’d be on pace for this year if he hadn’t been injured.

 

When it comes down to it, Skinner is truly one of the gifted young players in the game. There have been 15 players under the age of 25 to amass 200 games played and at least 0.70 points/game since 2010, and Skinner is on the list next to Milan Lucic and Bobby Ryan. In fact, Skinner’s point/game pace of 0.72 would put him at about three points fewer than Matt Duchene over a similar amount of games, and Duchene is a year of development ahead of Skinner.

 

His problem has been staying healthy, but if he can do that, Jeff Skinner will be an elite point producer in the NHL for many, many years to come. His hands around the net and his vision to find his teammates in the offensive zone are just superior to most players. Don’t believe me? Watch (and he’s just 21, remember).

 

 

He’s pretty, pretty good.