As many regular visitors to fantasyhockey.com know by now, I like to cover various topics in my blog “The Goods.” Since we’re immersed with the All-Star break theme right now, I thought I’d use the break to take stock of the various fantasy teams that I have. For single-season leagues, that means using the standstill to check my roster for positional or statistical needs; for example, I have made two trades within 24 hours in one of my leagues. (If you’re wondering, I traded Ilya Kovalchuk and Dwayne Roloson for Anze Kopitar in one deal, while trading Rene Bourque for Wojtek Wolski in another). For keeper leagues, that means assessing rosters for potential keepers during the offseason. Since we receive many keeper questions in our Forums, I thought I’d provide some necessary analysis for those keepers out there.
NEW MUST KEEPS (I may be copying from Steven Ives’ article, but I’m certain I had these names typed out before he did)
Jeff Skinner, C/RW, CAR
How is it that seventh overall pick Skinner is outproducing both the first overall pick (Taylor Hall) and the second overall pick (Tyler Seguin) from this year’s draft? Skinner’s trajectory the past few seasons has been steep (51 points in his first OHL season, 90 points in his second), and he was lucky enough to join a team in an offensive-minded division that didn’t have too many forwards who were set in their roles at the start of the season. If Taylor and Tyler are automatic keeper names, then Skinner should be mentioned in that group as well. And oh yeah, Skinner will become the youngest player ever to play in an All-Star Game. Expect him to have a great time in front of his home fans in Raleigh, NC.
Logan Couture, C, SJ
Not only is Couture keeper material, but he could also be considered as the Sharks’ MVP thus far. Why? His 22 goals currently leads his team – a team that includes Patrick Marleau, Dany Heatley, and Joe Thornton. In addition, he is also a plus player (+11) on a team riddled with minus players (Marleau is a -19; Thornton and Joe Pavelski, -14; Dan Boyle, -10). The Sharks might be considered at least a mild disappointment, but Couture has to be considered the biggest bright spot on the team. Considering the offensive weapons around Couture, he should have a fine career ahead of him. Hopefully he won’t turn into the next Jonathan Cheechoo.
Ryan Kesler, C, VAN
I’m only feeding Steven Ives’ mancrush on his favorite American hockey player, but I’m going to provide my two cents worth on RK17. As a Canucks fan, I will say no, Kesler should not be ranked ahead of Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos for the Hart Trophy this season. The same thinking applies in fantasy leagues, where I believe Crosby and Stamkos are in a league of their own as first-tier centers. However, I believe that Kesler should now be included in that second tier of fantasy centers, now that he is tied for third in the NHL with 27 goals and is providing solid peripheral stats. In fact, let’s perform a little Player A/Player B comparison, a technique that seems to be popular at other fantasy sports sites:
Player A (2009-10): 25 G, 50 A, 75 PTS, +1, 104 PIM, 214 SOG
Player B (2009-10): 31 G, 31 A, 62 PTS, +14, 79 PIM, 237 SOG
I’d say that the two players look about even, but consider that Player A is Kesler and Player B is Mike Richards, a fellow center that many of you would keep in a heartbeat. Kesler and Richards each have 47 points this season, although Kesler has ten more goals than Richards. Hopefully I’ve stated my case for Kesler as a legitimate keeper now.
Kris Letang, D, PIT
I took over a fantasy team in the offseason that included Letang, who I considered to be an afterthought at the time. I felt that I needed to bolster my defense, so I signed Dan Boyle and Sergei Gonchar. Letang seems to be the classic example of the post-hype sleeper, as he posted three unspectacular seasons in Pittsburgh before his breakout effort this season. As long as Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are significant cogs in the Penguins’ attack, Letang will accumulate points by osmosis. As I mentioned in the Forums a couple weeks ago, I’d rather own Letang than Mike Green or Drew Doughty in single-season formats right now.
Keith Yandle, D, PHX
Guess who the leader in scoring among defensemen is at the All-Star break with 44 points? Dustin Byfuglien? No, Buff has been held without a point in his previous ten games (although he will no doubt merit some keeper consideration). It’s Yandle, who some pundits wondered why he had been selected to the ASG. But it seems fairly obvious to me, if you’re the leading scorer among defensemen at the All-Star break. In keeper formats, I wouldn’t yet rank Yandle ahead of Norris Trophy finalists Duncan Keith, Drew Doughty, and Mike Green, all who have slumped this season. But Yandle himself will receive Norris Trophy consideration if he keeps up this pace, which would automatically earn him serious keeper consideration.
Corey Crawford, G, CHI
I know I keep saying this, but Crawford is this year’s version of Antti Niemi. Actually, Crawford might have more keeper value than Niemi, considering that Crawford could be the Hawks’ starting goalie for many years to come. In his first full season, Crawford has posted impressive numbers (16-10-2, 2.19 GAA, .919 SV%, 2 SO) in swiping the starting goalie job away from Marty Turco. Conversely, the fact that Turco has failed to deliver on his one-year contract means that this season may be his last in a significant NHL role.
Sergei Bobrovsky, G, PHI
If Michael Leighton hadn’t been injured to start the season, then I probably wouldn’t be writing this. No one knew much about the 22-year-old Russian keeper at the start of the season, but he has made the most of his golden opportunity (21-6-3, 2.42 GAA, .920 SV%). Let’s face it: neither Leighton nor Brian Boucher is part of the Flyers’ long-term plans, meaning Bob should man the nets for a team that should be a contender for years to come. Fantasy owners who grabbed him out of desperation at the start of the season now have themselves a diamond in the rough.
NO LONGER MUST KEEPS (but once were)
Marc Savard, C, BOS
Savard was a risky enough proposition for keeper leagues at the end of last season, but it’s fair to say that he is officially damaged goods after he suffered his second concussion. In fact, Joe Haggerty of CSNNE.com has a compelling argument for Savard calling it a career. Don’t be surprised if Savard does not play another game this season while he re-evaluates his situation. At 33 years old, Savard is no spring chicken anymore (not that I am claiming to be one myself), although it’s possible that you may own keepers who are older. The Bruins are already deep up the middle and were attempting to trade Savard during the last offseason, so we may be looking at an Eric Lindros-like halt to Savard’s career.
Daniel Alfredsson, RW, OTT
Senators GM Bryan Murray recently went on record in saying that Alfredsson would remain a Senator for the rest of his career. Maybe Alfie won’t be a major item in the inevitable fire sale in Ottawa, but he shouldn’t be a cornerstone of your keeper team going forward. In 50 games, Alfredsson has just 28 points and a (-12), which is disappointing for a player who cracked 100 points after the lockout. Alfredsson is clearly a player on the decline, which may be partially due to playing for a team that has played without a clear plan the past few seasons.
Andrei Markov, D, MON
Talk about bad timing: Markov suffered a season-ending injury while on the final year of his contract. In his recent prime, Markov was a top-5 fantasy defender whose power-play point totals were impossible to replace. It is not known what the Habs plan to do with Markov in the offseason, but it’s possible that he could be this generation’s version of Bobby Orr in a Blackhawks uniform: a high-scoring defenseman with a bad knee looking totally out of place with a different team. I’m not taking my own advice and will be protecting Markov in a league where I can keep 15 players, but I wouldn’t be doing so in a league with, say, five keepers.
Nicklas Lidstrom, D, DET
This recommendation certainly isn’t performance-based, since Lidstrom is third in scoring among defenseman with 42 points. However, Lidstrom is on a one-year contract and is no sure bet to sign another contract in the offseason. If your keeper team is out of the race, you need to sell Lidstrom as a rental to a team in contention and reap the benefits of a younger player. If this season is any indication, Lidstrom looks like he could play for another five seasons, but keep in mind that he has little else to accomplish on his bucket list.
Sergei Gonchar, D, OTT
I pursued Gonchar with some force in one of my keeper leagues, and in hindsight, I wish I hadn’t. The Penguins must have known that Gonchar had already seen his best days, as his first season in Ottawa has been a disaster (50 games, 21 points, -17). If Gonchar becomes one of the first players to go as part of the Sens’ rebuilding plan, then his fantasy value will be sure to increase. However, he should no longer be worth retaining in keeper leagues if he is still property of the Senators in the offseason.
Martin Brodeur, G, NJ
Brodeur could prove me wrong and play lights-out goaltending through the remainder of the season. But if the first three months are any indication, we could be witnessing the inevitable decline of arguably this generation’s greatest goalie. At 38 years old, Brodeur has only one year left on his contract, meaning that the Devils could attempt to phase him out as early as next season. If he chooses to play elsewhere beyond that, he could be brought on as a mentor to a younger starter on another team. You can hang onto Brodeur if you are in a 15-player keeper format and your goal is to win it all next season. However, I would not retain him if you have fewer keepers and your team is in rebuild mode.
And a bonus entry…
Peter Forsberg, C, COL?
Don’t even think about it. He’s maybe worth a flier in single-season formats IF he signs with Colorado. But please don’t ask me if he’s worth retaining in keeper formats. You may as well buy stock in Enron if you plan to make Forsberg a building block of your keeper team.
Tagged: Evander Kane, Corey Perry, Chris Stewart, Kevin Shattenkirk, Paul Stastny, Matt Duchene, Erik Karlsson, Tobias Enstrom, Alex Goligoski, Oliver Ekman-Larsson
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