Friday, 3 October 2014

NHL: Yahoo Fantasy Draft Strategy!

Hey folks; I decided to run through a few yahoo mock drafts today with my NHL fantasy team.  With my draft style, it looks like the classic Center, goalie, goalie, center strategy is going to be my best bet.  I have tried variations of this style which includes:

C, G, C, G  

Any of these styles is great, and is often dependent on your opponents and the position you are selecting in.  We have 8 guys, and a lot of them are going to be tempted by the big name forwards right off the hop.  With that in mind, I will probably take a shot at Tuuka Rask right off the bat.  Ideally, I like to choose in the middle somewhere so I can pick up Getzlaf in the first round, and then grab a solid goalie in round two.  I have scouted my opponents well and I believe that I will be able to go for a center first, and still get a solid second goalie in round 4.  I was looking to do something like this.

1. Getzlaf
2. Rask or Quick
3. Pavelski or Seguin
4. Corey Crawford or Ben Bishop

I believe this strategy will give me the best shot at winning.  However, I have been doing some research and if you are weak at drafting in the later rounds, I would suggest going for a goalie in round 2 and then another goalie in round 5.  You can likely pick up Marc- Andre Fleury or Anti Niemmi in rounds 5-6.  Do not wait any longer than that though, as you may be stuck with a goalie from a weaker team like Vancouver or Nashville.  Both teams have solid tenders, but they will not be fantasy studs this year.  When drafting defenseman, be attentive for alternative options.  Many forwards will get you more points, and good defenseman can be found late in the draft.  For example: Girardi is 308 and Seabrook is somewhere around 160.  Do your research and load up on forwards and goaltenders ASAP.  If the defense are going quickly, try to pick up some guys who get big minutes on good teams.  Often guys like Paul Martin, Dan Hamhuis, and Chris Phillips are overlooked simply because they are not "big name" guys.  These guys will get a lot of playing time, and generally put up solid numbers every year.  Big name Defenseman like Doughty and Weber only put up about 20 points more than an average D-man.  Be cautious when seeking those highly sought after D.  Be smart, do your homework and you should be on your way to a solid season.

Ehrhoff - Pittsburgh
Nichushkin - Anaheim
Palat - Tampa Bay

Friday, 26 September 2014

NHL: San Jose Sharks

The San Jose Sharks come into the 2014-15 season with a nearly identical roster from last year.  Despite the lack of movement this off season, the team has a lot of questions still left unanswered.  For starters, who is going to be captain this year?  With big Joe Thorton losing his captaincy this off season, the team is currently left without a leader.  I have come to the conclusion that  Joe Pavelski is the best bet to take over as captain.  He is a great skater and plays a dangerous two way game.  He has exploded offensively recently, picking up 41 goals last season.  If Pavelski does not take over the reigns, it seems like Logan Couture is the only other viable option.  Couture is only 25, but has already shown his maturity and leadership on this dynamic Shark roster.  Whether it be Pavelski or Couture wearing the "C"; it will not matter.  The team is beginning to turn the pages into a new era of hockey in San Jose.  Given the aging core of the team, it looks as if they want to start fresh.  Veterans like Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau will still be around, but their appears to be a change of the guard in San Jose.

I believe the Sharks will possess great depth at all forward positions, but they simply do not have all the pieces in place to pull out a championship.  For starters, the Sharks goal tending has been mediocre at best for nearly 10 seasons.  Sure, every year or two they will have some consistency; However, I do not believe that Antti Niemi is good enough to compete with the best.  He is a solid goalie, but the West is a nearly impossible conference to dominate with average goaltending.

The Sharks defense is not as deep as they would like either.  They do have two outstanding guys in Brent Burns and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.  This is assuming the coaching staff plays Burns as a defenseman this season.  He has been bouncing from wing to defense for some time now.  After this top pair, the back end really drops off for the Sharks.  Losing Dan Boyle this off season could prove to be the demise for the Sharks back end.  Without Boyle, they have nobody who can quarter back the Power-play.  The experience and poise he brought to the team is not something that will be easily replaced.

When everything is said and done, the Sharks will probably have a great regular season record.  However, playoffs are a different story..  Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau have a bad reputation in the playoffs, and their time to change that perspective is limited.  I expect a huge effort, but it will be tough for them to stay consistent in the meat grinder which is the Western conference.

NHL: Power Rankings

Hey everyone.  This is my list for power rankings entering this season.  I know nearly everyone will disagree somewhat, but I am sticking by these picks!

1. Los Angeles Kings:  The Kings have proven to be a team that can turn it on down the stretch.  They are one of the deepest teams up front.  Youngsters Toffoli and Pearson are creating some great chemistry with Jeff Carter, which makes all 3 of the Kings' top lines extremely dangerous.  Very few teams have the luxury of this depth.  Combine that with Johnathan Quick, and stellar defense; You have a team built for success.

2. Boston Bruins:  The Bruins are quite possibly the best defensive team in the league.  They always bring great centerman, and physical defense to the table.  Tuuka Rask will put up great numbers once again playing behind the likes of Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Zdeno Chara.   These guys will be crucial to the teams' overall success.  Don't forget about newcomers Rielly Smith and Carol Soderberg, though.  Both these guys will be looking to follow up last year with another great season.  With these two in the mix, the Bruins will have a very deep roster.

3. Anaheim Ducks:  The Ducks are looking a little better than last year.  I believe adding Kesler will help round out the offence a little more.  Now the team can hopefully lighten the load for Getzlaf and Perry.  With the added depth, expect the teams youngsters to improve drastically.  With Cam Fowler, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Ryan Kesler; the team has four very dangerous players in the prime of their careers.  If they can find security in goal, they will put up some great numbers this season.

4. St. Louis Blues:  The Blues have been my pick to win a cup for the past several years.  They have  depth in every position that can grind the opposition down.  If the pieces fall into place offensively, the Blues will be very dangerous.  Vladamir Tarasenko started to look dangerous offensively late last season, and Jaden Schwartz is still showing signs of development.  Adding Stasny will only boost the team up in the standings.  I guess it does not hurt to have Shattenkirk, Pietrangelo and Bouwmeester on the back end either.

5. Colorado Avalanche: The Avalanche really turned it on down the stretch last season.  They did not have the success they wanted in the post season, but we have to remember that the entire team is still very young.  Matt Duchene, Nathan Mckinnon and Gabriel Landeskog are still developing.  To have this kind of success so soon is startling, and they will continue to improve.  Adding Jarome Iginla should help the young forwards develop quicker.

6. Pittsburgh Penguins:  The Penguins are a big question mark for me when it comes to the playoffs.  Crosby and Fleury are so inconsistent in big games.  On top of that, Crosby and Malkin have reported injuries entering pre-season. To mane thins worse, Letang is coming off of a serious stroke from last season.  The talent is there, but the team will have to face a lot of adversity if they want to succeed.

7. Chicago Blackhawks: The Hawks are still one of the powerhouses in the West, but they do lack some depth compared to the other Western teams.  Don't get me wrong, they are a very deep and skilled team.  However, the conference is strong and the Blackhawks are no longer the top dogs in the West.  Key pieces like Toews and Kane will ensure the teams stays competitive for years to come.

8. New York Rangers:  The Rangers made it clear that they are a competitor in this league last season.  They battled hard all playoff long, and Henrik Lundqvist proved that he is an elite goaltender once again.  They still have key pieces in place, including King Henry, Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh.  Losing Brad Richards to the Blackhawks could prove to be an issue later on this season if they cannot keep up offensively.

9. San Jose Sharks:  The Sharks are one of those teams that always seem to be in the mix.  They usually tear up the regular season, but flounder come playoff time.  I rate them in the top ten because the roster is very similar to last season, and I believe that Pavelski and Couture are ready to take on control of the team.  Guys like Joe Thorton and Patrick Marleau will still be there as well, which adds some serious depth for the Sharks offense.

10. Tampa Bay:  The Lightning are not an overly dangerous team apart from a few select players.  However, they do have Stamkos who is quite possibly the best scorer in the league.  He should be healthy to start the season and will likely start potting goals right off the hop.  They have some depth as well, with the likes of Ondrej Palat, Valterri Flippula.  I expect Ben Bishop to be steady in goal again this year, and he is the main reason why I am comfortable putting Tampa in my top ten.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

NHL: Reemergence of Two Way Forwards

It has been a long time since the era of the tough guy.  However, the two way game has never been more important than in the modern day NHL.  Offense and point production will always be huge, but advanced statistics have shown us the benefit of having stellar two way players.  All the elite rosters around the league have a few guys on the team who are willing to bring it defensively.  I have created a short list of all the greatest two way forwards from around the league.

Patrice Bergeron: The "second line" center for the Bruins tops my charts on this list.  Last season, he held the title for most face-off wins.  Most of these draws are on shifts where he is expected to shut down the oppositions top line.  Sure, Boston has a good defense core; However, Bergeron rarely gets the chance to play a purely offensive style.  Even while shutting down the opposition, he managed to put up 62 points last season.  He was also second in the league with a plus / minus rating of +38, only beat out by teammate David Krejci.

Marian Hossa: Hossa has found a home playing with some great talent in Chicago.  His style is based purely around puck possession.  He has phenomenal hands, which he uses to create turnovers and take away shooting lines from the opposition.  When he has the puck, he turns into a nightmare for defenders.  He puts the defender on his back and literally skates around looking for openings.  He draws a lot of penalties and allows his teammates to find open spaces.  This big Slovakian winger put up 30 goals, 30 assists and finished the regular season as a +28 skater.  His two way game is unmatched, and I believe he is crucial to the success of any team he plays on.

Pavel Datsyuk: Datsyuk is quite possibly the most dangerous player on this list simply because he has the smoothest set of hands in the league today.  His career is packed with highlight reel goals which most NHL players can only dream about.  He has been a cornerstone on the Red Wings for many years, and has had a lot of success with the team.  He has won the Selke and Lady Byng awards multiple times.  He also had his name engraved on Stanley's cup twice, in 2002 and 2008 with his fellow Red Wing teammates.  His offence has been tailing off the last couple years with age and lack of surrounding talent. He is still nearly a point per game guy, but I am anticipating that these numbers will further tail off this upcoming season.  I anticipate 50-60 points from the future Hall of Famer, and at least a couple highlight reel moves to add to his portfolio.

David Backes: Backes is the captain of the Blues, and has made quite the name for himself in his last few seasons.  I chose him for this list because he plays a very well rounded style.  However, what sets him apart is his "old school" hockey mentality.  He is an extremely competitive player who never quits, even when the whistle blows.  It is not uncommon for him to engage players during and after plays.  He is a hit machine, and drops the gloves fairly frequently.  When he is not engaged in the extracurricular, he is usually grinding down opponents and taking away space for opposing forwards.  He takes the bulk of the Blues' important draws, and is one of the best penalty killing centers around.  Offensively, he is no slouch either.  He put up 57 points, and finished the regular season as a +14 skater.  I expect him to maintain these stats and help the team make a more successful playoff push this season.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

NHL: Top Duo's

In the last couple seasons, I have been noticing that many teams have some extremely dynamic duo's.  I am looking for many of these guys to make a splash in this upcoming season.

Crosby and Kunitz:   This duo has been dominant throughout the past several years.  Crosby is probably the most dominant offensive player in the game; hands down.  He has won countless awards, and is considered the best by many of his peers.  Kunitz has found a home playing on the wing with Sid.  Kunitz is definitely a great complimentary player who even found his way onto team Canada this year, playing alongside Crosby.  The one flaw with this duo is the simple fact that Crosby dominates the stat category.  Kunitz is often criticized for not matching Crosby's point production.  Last year alone, Crosby put up nearly 40 more points than Kunitz while playing on the same line.  Regardless, the two will not likely be split apart anytime soon and should once again be a dangerous duo come regular season.

Toews and Kane: These two guys have become the face of the Chicago Blackhawks.  The two young forwards have just re-signed with the team for 10+ million dollars per season.  These deals are long term and it appears that Chicago will keep these guys as the team's core.  Captain; Johnathan Toews is just 26 and has already won every possible team accolade in the sport, including a Stanley Cup, an Olympic gold as well as a World Junior Gold.  His partner in crime; Patrick Kane, has made a reputation for his flashy moves and ability to come up huge when the game is on the line.  They scored only 69 and 68 points a piece last season, but they have already won Stanley's Cup twice in their short careers'.  The success of the team is one of the main reasons why these two shine so brightly.  They have led the team into the elite of the West, and they should carry the Hawks to another strong season.

Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry: This Anaheim duo is looking to challenge for top duo once again this season.  They both have averaged roughly a point per game for the last several seasons and will once again look to break 80 points a piece.  These two guys play a much different style than many on this list.  They both like to play physical and are known for being gritty.  Getzlaf beat Perry by 5 points last season, but many consider Perry to be the stronger offensive threat.  Many fantasy owners are considering Perry the best multi-category forward available this year.  I am expecting these guys to carry the team once again this year.  However, this year they might be a little stronger all around as the Ducks seem to be surrounding them with a somewhat decent roster.  

Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin:  This duo is a relatively new superpower in the West.  Nonetheless, they have literally carried the teams entire offence.  Last season, they both scored over 30 goals.The next highest goal total for another Star player was 17.  Without them, I believe that Dallas would be living the the basement of the West.  The pair combined for 161 games, and 163 points last season.  I expect them both top exceed 80 and have a strong year all around.  Young line mate Valeri Nichushkin seeems to be developing very well for his age.  The kid is a monstrous winger and will help open up space with Jamie Benn.  I know we are talking about duo's, but up until lately, the pair have not had anybody to play with.  This should only help them prosper as a line.  

Henrik and Daniel Sedin: These guys are an often overlooked of late.  They seemed to have hit their prime during the 2010-11 seasons, and just kind of faded from that point,  In that season, Daniel put up 104 points, and Henrik racked up 94.  Plain and simple, when Vancouver is rolling, these guys are rolling.  This was the same year that the Canucks had some depth down the lineup.  Kesler was scoring, and the Canucks Defense was dominant.  For the first time in three years, the Canucks are coming into a season looking great.  They have added some pieces, and the Sedins should see a lot more opportunities for good match-ups.  With new management and proper coaching, the two should see limited minutes, but in prime situations.  I can honestly say that I am expecting 70+ points each from these guys.  I believe that the Canucks will shock the West this year and make a push for the top 6 in the Conference.  

Missed the Cut:

Richards and Carter

Datsyuk and Zetterberg

Saturday, 20 September 2014

NHL Cheerleaders

For years, the NHL has been the only major North American sports league without cheer-leading at the games.  This of course, was due to the fact that cheerleaders tend to wear very little clothing and hockey rinks are generally freezing cold.  However, in modern day hockey many NHL franchises have introduced cheerleaders into the stadium.  They are paid promoters for the team, and act very similarly to any other type of cheerleader, minus the daredevil stunts.  The league has even gone as far as to introduce attractive female ice attendants, known to many fans as " puck bunnies."

For the most part, it seems as if the idea has caught on in many non-traditional hockey markets.  This is an obvious effort to copy the success of   NFL and MLB teams in these areas.  Teams based in Southern states, as well as California have jumped onto the cheer-leading bandwagon, and the girls can be seen at literally every game.  

Despite obvious equality issues with this behavior, many teams have found that this technique is successful.  Almost every team around has female ice attendants who will clean/repair the ice during brief intermissions of the game.  These girls draw a lot of attention, and are fan favorites for many of the intoxicated male fans.  They are a also a great distraction when the home team is struggling.  As the years progress, I believe that many of the more hesitant teams will jump on boards.  Entertainment during intermissions is a huge issue on hockey, as certain teams still struggle to bring fans into the stadium.  Non-traditional hockey markets are becoming very similar to the MLB, as they look for creative new ways to keep fans entertained while the game is delayed.  All in all, it seems to be an idea that continues to grow and flourish around the league.  I look forward to seeing what teams come up with this upcoming season.  

Please comment below with your opinion!!

Friday, 19 September 2014

NHL Fantasy: Early Injuries

Penguins:  With the season starting in under a month, the Penguins are really just looking to keep injuries to a minimum.  Reports say that both Crosby and Malkin will be taking precautionary measures this pre-season to prevent any long term injuries.  From what I have heard, they have been training together at a very extreme pace for most of the summer.  Coming into pre-season, the team has decided to give them both a break to ensure that they are ready for the regular season.  As of right now, there's nothing to worry about with these guys.  I would not consider them any less valuable on a fantasy league team.  This however, does not apply to youngster Olli Maata.  He is coming off of shoulder surgery in late July and has just started to practice with light contact.  To edge on the side of caution, the team will likely have him sidelined to start the season.  If you have other options, try to avoid this guy in your draft.

Goalies:  J-Quick is coming off of wrist surgery, but is expected to be ready for the regular season.  If the recovery is prolonged, I may take a look into skipping him for Rask or another top goalie.  Honestly though, I would not worry too much unless something drastic delays his recovery.  If he misses any time, it will only be a few games.

                 Josh Harding of the Minesota Wild finds himself stuck on the injury boat to start the season.  He broke his foot apparently kicking a wall.  I have not read into this matter much, but it seems as if he will miss a good chunk of time to start the year.  In my books, he is pretty much done as far as fantasy goalies are concerned.  His value just plummeted, and don't expect him to return to top form any time this year.

            Ben Bishop is coming off of a seemingly minor surgery on his elbow/forearm.  Various reports have been released, and the general consensus is that he will likely not be completely recovered for the start of the season.  This is a guy I would keep an eye on.  If healthy, I would give him serious considerations for a top goalie.  He easily makes the top ten list for my fantasy goaltenders.

Daniel Alfredsson:  Alfie looks like he may be retiring earlier than we expected.  He strained his back just two days ago, and he has not released any information to the media quite yet.  Reports say that he was not attending many activities during this seasons training camp.  From what I can tell, he will likely be hanging up the skates soon.  I would avoid him this season and possibly go with a young gun if you really want a good Red Wing forward.  Thomas Tatar and Gustav Nyquist might be good players to draft late if given the chance.  Tatar will likely be rounding out line 2, and Nyquist is basically just a wild card at this point.  Regardless, both have talent to put up 40+ points if given enough playing time.