Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gut Reactions: Southeast Division

1. Washington Capitals

Washington is by far the class of the Southeast, with or without above average goaltending. Having the league's best goal scorer (Alex O) and best goal scoring defenseman (Mike Green) makes the Caps scary ... accounting for two other elite forwards in contract years (Backstrom and Semin) is simply terrifying.

2. Carolina Hurricanes

The Hurricanes are a tough team to figure out. While the team's hard charging style and solid array of forwards make them a fun team to watch when they're at their best ... it's pretty difficult to maintain any kind of consistency when your best defenseman is Joni Pitkanen.

It makes sense, then, that the team's fate rests so heavily upon Cam Ward's shoulders.

While I'm not a huge fan of the 'Canes defense and think they rely too heavily on Ward and Staal, this division is still the worst in the NHL so they'll probably place in second or third merely by not being terrible.

3. Tampa Bay Lightning

While the whirlwind of roster changes leaves the Lightning looking like a bigger mess than the script to another horrible Saw sequel, I must say that I actually found myself mildly impressed by some of the Lightning's additions.

Alex Tanguay is an absolute steal at $2.5 million and while Ohlund's contract seemed excessively long, he's still the best blue liner the Lightning currently employ. He's their best D guy, that is, until Victor Hedman justifies the Bunyan-sque hype that followed him to the NHL.

Naturally, the Lightning also boasts the still slightly underrated Martin St. Louis and the still slightly overrated Vincent Lecavalier but the team's offensive depth is as good as it's been for a while. Along with newly signed Tanguay, Tampa Bay could see the benefits of Steve Stamkos' sophomore season as well as support guys like Ryan Malone.

Are they going to be a powerhouse? Absolutely not, but Tampa Bay could pleasantly surprise some people.

4. Florida Panthers

Well, I'm a fan of Litter Box Cats, David Booth and Tomas Vokoun. That's about all, though.

5. Atlanta Thrashers

Apparently Atlanta thinks that adding a bunch of crappy Russians will appease Ilya Kovalchuk because adding hard working, talented players was not an option. I'm not a big fan of Pavel Kubina or Nik Antropov, to be honest. The Buffalo Sabres couldn't even get rid of Max Afinogenov.

When you consider all of these factors - as well as the team's dicey goaltending situation - it's pretty difficult to provide a sunny forecast for the Thrashers.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Gut Reactions: The Central Division

Sooner or later I'm going to stop finding funny pictures ...

1. Detroit Red Wings

My biggest regret with slacking on these updates is that I didn't get to jump on the "You're Crazy for Counting Out the Red Wings" bandwagon before a ton of people already refuted the annual "this is the year Detroit won't make it" hoopla. Darn.

Naturally it's not good that the Wings replaced Marian Hossa and Jiri Hudler with the likes of Todd effin' Bertuzzi, but few teams can match the Red Wings defense (Lidstrom-Rafalski-Kronwall) and unstoppable winning tradition.

2. Chicago Blackhawks

I haven't been shy about criticizing Chicago's off-season moves, but those mistakes will hurt the team from a longterm perspective more than anything else. Chances are the 'Hawks will move some personnel before next summer, but as is, the team is loaded.

Brodeur is a Fraud has a way of consistently flipping the script on my goalie assumptions and the Contrarian Goaltender did just that with his "No Respect for Huet" piece. While tCG's powers of numerical persuasion cannot change me from anti-Huet to Cristobal-iever (hey-o!), the posts did at least make me hesitate in calling him a true problem.

With scoring depth, solid defense and their three best players entering contract years it is difficult to imagine Chicago having a total meltdown.

3. Columbus Blue Jackets

As a Faceoff dork, CBJ could have been a dream team in the circle if they kept Manny Malholtra. Still, the team is strong down the middle and has that Rick Nash guy people seem to really care about. When you combine an improving fleet of forwards and a good young goalie in Steve Mason with Ken Hitchock's top-notch defensive system, it's tempting to put Columbus above Chicago.

That would be hasty, though, since their ceiling falls considerably if Derick Brassard deals with more injury problems.

4. St. Louis Blues

The Central division is good enough to send four teams to the playoffs (not to say that will happen), so this isn't meant to be a slight to the Blue-notes. The team is jam packed with young forwards and could really see a nice jump with the (hopefully healthy) return of Erik Johnson. Factor in the remote possibility of a Paul Kariya renaissance and it's hard not to be excited about St. Louis.

In fact, the more I talk about this the less comfortable I feel with this prediction. Let's move on.

5. Nashville Predators

Barry Trotz must be an awesome coach, right? No one ever sees much in the Predators, yet they always seem to scrap their way to competitiveness.

Unfortunately, their division isn't "Detroit + awful + awful + awful + Nashville" any longer. You've gotta love Shea Weber, but it just doesn't look like they have the horses to grind out a playoff berth any more.

Gut Reactions: The Atlantic Division

Sadly I only have time to post this edition with the text and this horrific gut. Contextual photo humor will have to wait. Sorry, hockey starved masses!

1. Philadelphia Flyers

While most of the Twitterverse mocked Philly for sending their farm system to Anaheim for Chris Pronger, I cringed for very different reasons. It was almost as if Paul Holmgren heard my claims that the Flyers were going from a bunch of meathead goons to a bunch of Downy soft forwards. Now, the Flyers are big and bad again and Pronger could not be a more fitting – almost archetypal - D guy for that team.

Pronger-Coburn-Timonen is the best defensive trio in the Eastern Conference. With Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and a handful of quality support players, the Flyers shouldn’t struggle to light up the scoreboard, either. As always, though, the Flyers had to build a beautiful house on a foundation of flimsy goaltending.

While I think Ray Emery was good enough to at least be on an NHL roster last year (and Brain Boucher is a solid backup), it is humorous that the team is once again rolling the dice in net.

They’ll get by gloriously in the regular season … but in the playoffs? I have my doubts.

2. Pittsburgh Penguins

The Penguins have a better chance to win the Cup than the Atlantic Division this season.

On its face, that’s a ridiculous statement but the Penguins have been slow starters since the beginning of the Crosby era and I expect that trend to continue. With Max Talbot sidelined for quite a while and a team that must be a little banged up from two straight deep playoff runs, the Penguins might sputter a bit with that big silver chalice-shaped target on their backs.

But don’t bet against them when the games start to matter.

3. New Jersey Devils

Speaking of never betting against someone, how can you doubt the Devils at this point? I’ve been stunned to read all of the Chicken Little talk about New Jersey after they lost not-so-essential players like John Madden and Brian Gionta. Look, they’re both nice players but why would those two land a death blow on a team that somehow remained contenders after losing Scott Niedermayer, Scott Stevens and Brian Rafalski since the salary cap was instituted?

Like some Raid-proof roach infestation, the Devils will continue defy expectations and make it to the playoffs again. And much like their spiritual insect brethren, it won’t be pretty … especially with Jacques Lemaire in charge.

4. New York Rangers

“Boy, if Marian Gaborik could just stay healthy the Rangers would see a huge upgrade.”

“If only Lindsay Lohan could calm down on the crank for a bit, she could be the next great starlet.”

“If only Al Gore could emulate true human emotions, he’d be a hell of a candidate.”

“It’s too bad time machines aren’t real because then Britney Spears could un-ruin her life.”

“If US banks didn’t destroy America …”

Wow, the “if game” really IS fun!

5. New York Islanders

Take solace in John Tavares.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Gut Reactions: The Northwest Division

Instead of going team-by-team, let's stick some gut reactions into tidy divisional formats. Then at the end I'll share wild guesses on playoff seeding and maybe a blindfolded dart throw at a Stanley Cup champion. You're WELCOME.

1. Calgary Flames

Appetizers: Getting rid of "Mad" Mike Keenan, having three top-2 defensemen, Jarome effin' Iginla, Olli Jokinen in a contract year, the fact that Kipper couldn't perform much worse than he did last year.

Reach for the TUMS: Not too much beyond Iggy, have you SEEN Olli Jokinen?, Kipper could simply be on a free fall.

Weigh-in: The Flames aren't a perfect hockey team, but they're in the right division. Though each team brings something to the table, none of Calgary's opponents will overload them with scoring talent.

Chips and dip: They employ arguably the best goalie in the NHL, locked up the Cyborg Sedins for the mid-range future, chock full of ruggedness, still sports a splendid defense even without Ohlund.

Band-aid in the pasta: Andrew effin Raycroft, the Vancouver Olympics will make the Canucks have a crazy road schedule, the team has a general lack of monetary motivation, not a ton of high-end offense.

Verdict: As a pure team, I think Vancouver might be the best. However, the schedule is negative and their best players (Sedins + Luongo) are locked up which means they don't have that contract year carrot dangling in front of them.

3. Minnesota Wild

Bread and butter: A nice goaltending tandem, Mikko Koivu, no longer dealing with Jacques Lemaire comb over jokes ... uhhh ....

Bland, flavorless meat loaf: Do you really think they're going to open it up? They lose Gaborik but make sure to give their trainers ample company by signing Martin Havlat.

Check: The NW Division falls off noticeably after Vancouver and Calgary (although this division always seems to revel in scrappy play).

4. Edmonton Oilers

Maple Syrup: Ales Hemsky is a diamond in the rough, young players can make a nice jump, Sheldon Souray slap shots his anger away.

Poorly digested Pecans: The Bulin Wall tends to turn into a dilapidated fence in non-contract years, Edmonton is (apparently) a godforsaken hellhole.

So...: The Oilers could scrap their way into a playoff spot, but my gut feeling is that they'll tease for a few months and then putter their way to a golf course.

5. Colorado Avalanche

Calamari with a squeeze of lemon: Paul Stastny is quite good if arguably overpaid, they're finally sucking it up and rebuilding after settling for mediocrity and nostalgia since the lockout, they're not paying much for mediocre goaltending.

Rocky Mountain oysters: Their blue line is infested with crappy $3-4 million defensemen not named Kyle. The growing pains are going to hurt ... can fans who've been spoiled since Day 1 be counted on when the team isn't competing for a Cup for a few years?

Dessert: Keep your heads up, Avs fans. It's time to yank that band-aid off instead of watching your skin peel back slowly.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

CLS Redraft: Thoughts and Reflections

(Surprise! I'm back from family, work, and lots of general personal busy-ness, and I'm posting on CLS!)

Some of you may remember that last year, there was a really unfortunate incident that ended with a 14 year old who thought he could grow facial hair lifting the Stanley Cup. Scott Niedermayer's playoff beard must've been rolling in its grave to see that. For a variety of reasons, the Detroit Red Wings came up short in a 7-gamer against the Pittsburgh Penguins last year. Fortunately, this summer, James O'Brien gave me a chance to rebuild, retool, and prepare to redeem a team that completely blew it (for various reasons, most forgivably being Nick Lidstrom's testicle) and let a Stanley Cup slip through their fingers. I present to you, the team that will win back the Stanley Cup, the Cycle Like Sedins' redrafted Detroit Red Wings!

Brenden Morrow (A) (3-16, 76) / Brad Richards (8-15, 225) / Jarome Iginla (C) (1-16, 16)
T. J. Oshie (6-23, 173) / Antoine Vermette (9-29, 269) / Steve Bernier (12-23, 353)
Todd Marchant (12-24, 354) / Jarret Stoll (10-16, 286) / Torrey Mitchell (11-30, 330)
Marcel Goc (13-29, 389) / Darren Helm (9-16, 256) / Matt Cooke (13-7, 367)

Aaron Ward (11-22, 322) / Duncan Keith (A) (2-15, 45)
Kent Huskins (14-2, 392) / Alexandre Edler (6-15, 165)
Colin White (14-15 405) / Jonathan Ericsson (6-22, 172)

Pekka Rinne (2-23, 53)
Jaroslav Halak (11-16, 316)

Yes, my entire 20 man starting roster came in the first 14 rounds, ending with Colin White at #405. Early in the draft, as a couple trades starting being made by PHI and EDM, the thought occurred to me that in the late rounds (15-20), all that anyone would have to pick from is the maybes, never-weres, and stupid video game favorites (Dimotrakos!!!) of the NHL. I started trading down in the 4th round, and was able to eventually parlay my picks into all being in the first 14 rounds. After making my 3rd round pick of Morrow, there wasn't too many guys that I didn't feel were significant upgrades over players who would be available 5 rounds later, so I traded down and skipped the draft for a couple rounds, stockpiling mid-round picks. At one point, I think I owned 4 or 5 11th rounders.

My original plan, as detailed at my own mostly inactive blog, was to draft strongly on defense, and build a team more in the mold of the Anaheim Ducks of recent seasons. If Zdeno Chara hadn't gone one pick before me to Columbus, I might've taken him instead of Iginla. In the end, I decided one of the best forwards in the league, a guy who exemplifies everything that is good and wonderful about hockey, certainly deserved to be the centerpiece of my team, and I had to adjust my strategy accordingly. I might have made a mistake in filling up my forwards quickly, and missing out on a couple of better defensemen (Huskins and White are my only significant weaknesses, I feel), but overall, I think it turned out pretty well.

I'm pretty confident that my first line can hang with anyone in the league. Brad Richards may be obscenely overpaid, but he's still a pretty good player, and with Iggy and Morrow on his wings, they're liable to kick your ass and then score on you for good measure. My 2nd line might be a bit weak, particularly Bernier on the right side, but against lower pairings and with solid partners, I think Bernier can do allright. I have a massive hardon for Antoine Vermette, both from video games and from his real life FOW%, and with his speed and two big bodies on either side of him, I think that line could work pretty decently.

What I might be most proud of is my third line. I have 3 C's, all with excellent FOW%, for a 3rd line, and I would have no problem shuffling any of those three into 2nd or 4th line duty as needed. Even my fourth line is pretty sweet, having my personal favorite player, Darren Helm, as well as a fantastic pest with a little bit of skill in Matt Cooke, and a super-cheap Marcel Goc on the left side. In lieu of having a standout defense, as originally planned, I decided it would work just as well to have a big, physical, and defensively responsible set of 12 forwards, and I think I did a pretty good job of filling that mold overall.

On defense, outside of White and Huskins, I think I'm fairly solid. The whole unit isn't elite, but I think its pretty solid, and more than that, that defensive corps can definitely knock you around, and can even score a few goals. One of the hardest things to play against is a team that lets you take the perimeter and the boards, but will flatten you if you take two steps away from them. such teams have been, until 2009, the only kind of team to beat the Red Wings in the playoffs since 2001. Ducks, Flames, Oilers, etc, they were all built on letting you take easy-to-stop perimeter shots, and attempting to decapitate you if you stepped off the boards. I think this defense should do a pretty good job of that.

If there is a significant weakness here, its probably in goal, which should be nothing new to the Detroit Red Wings. I'm not entirely sold on Rinne (if I'd had the original pick that EDM used to draft him, I'd have gone with Vokoun or Hiller), as I'd like to see a bigger sample size, but I don't think its unreasonable to think that at worst, he's about a league-average goalie. Because I don't entirely trust him, I decided it best to have a capable backup, and for that I chose Jaroslav Halak, because he's shown the ability to play like a #1 before, though he's lacked consistency. With help from a good defense, maybe he could gain that consistency. Again, at worst, he's probably league average, and behind this team, I think league average could definitely be pushed up a couple points, a la Nicklas Backstrom.

In building this team, one of the things that quickly became apparent was that some people were attempting to build unrealistic teams full of fragile snipers that could never get the puck for themselves, the kind of teams that work in a video game, but not so much in real life. To me, one of the most fun parts of this entire redraft was not just trying to draft the best player each pick from a "score as many goals as you can" standpoint, but from trying to build an honest-to-goodness functional NHL team. I might not win any of the competitive aspects of this redraft, but to me, that's ok, because I truly believe that this team, as constructed, could do very very well in the NHL. Hopefully, they do that well in the CLS-NHL as well.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Coming Soon ...

... The 2009-10 season. Rut roh.

A look at the next couple weeks ahead (perhaps ... at least I hope so):

  • If things work out well, I should have a daily feature (but that might be a big if to get everyone coordinated) that will (hopefully) bring a fresh-ish take on "link dumps"/headline type posts. Hopefully.

  • I'm going to finish up my season previews ("Gut Reactions") although I'm going to change the format from team-by-team to division-by-division. This may be the only thing I can truly guarantee.

  • Finally, I hope to involve the team bloggers in a spirited but brief little feature to preview the NHL season in true CLS fashion.

Not sure if all three of the above plans will come to fruition, but it never hurts to try. Stay tuned kiddos.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

CLS Re-Draft: Round 16


16-1 (451) - Florida Panthers - Toni Lydman
16-2 (452) - Colorado Avalanche - Dan Ellis
16-3 (453) - Chicago Blackhawks - Justin Abdelkader (Acquired from Montreal)
16-4 (454) - Anaheim Ducks - John Mitchell
16-5 (455) - Buffalo Sabres - Brent Johnson
16-6 (456) - Boston Bruins - Petteri Nokelainen
16-7 (457) - Ottawa Senators - Brian Boucher
16-8 (458) - San Jose Sharks - Jimmy Howard
16-9 (459) - Toronto Maple Leafs - John Madden
16-10 (460) - New Jersey Devils - Richard Park
16-11 (461) - Colorado Avalanche (Acquired from New York Rangers): Cody McLeod
16-12 (462) - Carolina Hurricanes - Derek Boogaard
16-13 (463) - Minnesota North Stars - Erik Ersberg
16-14 (464) - Boston Bruins (Acquired from Los Angeles, via Edmonton) - Stephane Yelle
16-15 (465) - Toronto Maple Leafs (Acquired from Detroit, via Edmonton): Sergei Kostitsyn

Symbolic of Radek Bonk being gobbled up by the KHL???

16-16 (466) - Philadelphia Flyers (Acquired from Columbus): Cory Murphy
16-17 (467) - Washington Capitals: Fredrik Modin
16-18 (468) - Pittsburgh Penguins: Jarkko Ruutu
16-19 (469) - Phoenix Coyotes: Radek Bonk
16-20 (470) - St. Louis Blues: Tom Kostopoulos
16-21 (471) - Atlanta Thrashers: Mike Comrie
16-22 (472) - Nashville Predators: Cal O'Reilly
16-23 (473) - New York Rangers (Acquired from Colorado Avalanche, via Edmonton): Karlis Skrastins
16-24 (474) - St. Louis Blues (Acquired from Philadelphia): Anssi Salmela
16-25 (475) - New York Islanders: Mathieu Schneider
16-26 (476) - Chicago Blackhawks: Matt Bradley
16-27 (477) - Dallas Stars: Bryce Salvador
16-28 (478) - Tampa Bay Lightning: Brad Lukowich
16-29 (479) - Vancouver Canucks: Travis Moen
16-30 (480) - Calgary Flames: Bruno Gervais

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Aimless whining about NHL '10

Look, there's plenty to like about NHL '10. EA Sports added some nice features and the game feels (generally) more authentic than ever. In fact, despite my misgivings I'll probably play a few games tonight.

Still, there are some serious issues that make me glad that I didn't end up spending a full $60 on the game (since I was able to trade in games at Gamestop). In some ways, the series takes one step forward and two step backwards. Here's a random collection of thoughts.

  • The post-whistle shtick is really obnoxious, especially online. It would be interesting if the rough stuff truly carried over during the game or wasn't something that happened after every whistle. Instead, all it does is needlessly slow the game down to a screeching halt.
(And when you consider the game's nearly constant slowdown aka frame rate drops, every slowdown is another tablespoon of salt in your wounds)

Besides, it was more fun just to mindlessly bash people after the whistle. Hopefully EA patches this in the update so online games stop feeling longer than a game of Madden.
  • Many people had issues with an unintentional penalty that often happened in NHL '09. Sometimes you would receive an interference call because the game assumed you were going for a hit when you were actually attempting a one-timer.
Yet, they replaced that unintentional penalty flaw with a different unintentional penalty flaw. Now, if you don't pin someone against the boards at the right time the game thinks you want to start a fight since both actions share the same button.

In that case, the other person may not choose to fight (giving them a powerplay) or you might get an instigator penalty (giving them a powerplay). Couldn't EA commit the "start a fight" motion to the select button to avoid confusion and unintended penalties? Bah.
  • The neutral zone passing in this game (and much of the quick passes "into space") can be downright horrific at times. I tried to make reasonable breakout passes and they would speed senselessly to an icing violation frequently.
Generally, EA's solution to people scoring a lot of one-timer goals was to force passes into the most inane spots. I've tried to pass diagonally down and right and the game would force the past off the boards ... which was diagonally up and to the left. The exact opposite of my input.

Few things bother me more than a game "fixing" design flaws by making controls less intuitive and reliable.
  • Is it too much to ask for icon passing or being able to switch to the exact player you want? Sometimes I feel most comfortable playing defense with a forward, but the game assumes that I want to go for checks constantly and therefore only allows me to use a defenseman at crucial times.
This forces me into situations of potential domestic violence, but thankfully there is no wife or dog around to feel the sting of my fits.

I can often realte to Sleek's duck when it comes to unintended penalties in NHL '10

  • The teammate AI could still use some work. If the game is going to hang you out to dry by curbing much of the passing accuracy, then it hurts that much more when a player skates far out of your zone when you're under durress. That can be VERY frustrating.

But, on the bright side:
  • Despite the unintended penalties, I think the board play is pretty fun. It allows you to stage a much more effective forecheck and also gives you a little more time to set up a cycle game. (Shocking that I'd find that appealing, right?)
  • It seems like EA's done a solid job of cutting down on some of the more insufferable glitches from '09. I stopped playing online a while with the last update, since the game devolved into an exploit war.

Good game, but after two quantam leaps from 07 to 08 to 09, this year's game lacks a "wow" factor and has some serious drawbacks. Hopefully the game will get a serious repair, because right now I will probably not play it online very often (although I'm more likely to play the EASHL than standard team vs. team games).

If you have NHL '09 and a tight budget, I'd say wait a bit or just rent NHL '10. I'm sure EA will smooth over some of the rough edges, but right now I'm frustrated with the game as often as I am delighted.

Still, I'm glad I have it and probably will feel better about it once I get used to the tweaks and changes. What are your thoughts on the game so far? Do you share my frustrations? Are there some problems I haven't discovered or failed to mention? Or should I just rub some dirt on it and enjoy the game for what it is?

Feel free to share your thoughts on NHL '10 in the comments.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

CLS Fantasy Guide Part 5: Questions to ask yourself, the universe

I came here in peace, seeking gold and slaves. But you have treated me like an intruder. Maybe it is not me who is the intruder but you.

Now that most of the "heavy lifting" is done, let's finish the main posts (I'll probably put together an all-in-one post to make it easier to navigate the information) with a more philosophical, open-ended piece. The Things You Should Ask Yourself

1. Which positions are emphasized and deemphasized in this draft?

The answer to this question is not always the same.

But there are some general rules.

For instance, Centers are the "Joe Montanas" of hockey. They're the blond haired, blue eyed poster children whom everyone wishes they could be. As such, the pivot spot is pretty much constantly overloaded with top-notch talent.

In leagues where all forwards are classified as simply "F" (instead of positions like C, LW, RW) that won't matter. But in the Yahoo! leagues and many others, it pays off to draft equally talented wingers early in drafts because those ranks tend to dry up mighty quickly.

It gets really interesting when you throw in D and goalies, however...

2. Goalies: overrated or a precious resource?

Ideally, you can end up with an elite goalie without having to expend a highly valuable top 2-3 round pick.

But if you're not so lucky, you have to ask yourself: "Settle for rapidly declining goaltenders just to get someone or live dangerously?" My general rule with biting the bullet on goalies: if there isn't a great forward or D around and there's a goalie you really want is available then go ahead.*

3. How important are defensemen?

When you consider that a hockey team dresses 6 defensemen to two goalies, it's surprising that there might be even less elite defensive players from a fantays perspective.

Mike Green? The Drew Brees of fantasy hockey in that he could, conceivably, be a first round pick. Nicklas Lidstrom, Sergei Gonchar, Andrei Markov, Zdeno Chara, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer, Dan Boyle, Dion Phaneuf and a handful of others can make a difference.

So it's all about how many D spots there are in your league. **

Ultimately, though, it's more important to make strong forward and goalie decisions.

4. Was that guy a fluke? Wasn't that guy a star just last year?

Obviously a full season cannot necessarily be a complete mirage, but when you're making crucial picks it's better to stick with guys who can keep producing big numbers. Am I saying that Steve Mason, Pekka Rinne and a host of other splashy young players will be busts next season? Not necessarily.

But it's probably wise to go with stable, un-sexy picks instead. Evgeni Nabokov is more likely to be worth a high pick, even if he's not going to blow you away or make you look brilliant for choosing him.

It's also important to remember how injuries can affect numbers. Brenden Morrow and Paul Stastny should have much better seasons, but you probably already knew that. However, what you might forget is that with their renewed playing time, another player has to suffer.

So don't be surprised if Loui Ericcson and James Neal fail to break through further than last season. It's because their captain is back.

5. Injuries matter

Marian Hossa could miss up to 30 games. Marian Gaborik is made of paper mache. Kari Lehtonen is affectionately known as "Splodey-Groin" (or took up the torch from Peter Forsberg).

In general, it doesn't pay to make big injury risks.

6. Finally, go with your gut

This is still your team and don't forget that even the best experts (and idiots like me) are human beings and have our own prejudices. If a ranking doesn't add up or you think Guy #30 could have a much bigger year than Guy #10, then so be it.

All this hogwash is just for fun. Might as well put your own stamp on it.

* Really though, keep in mind the fact that there really are only so many special goalies. As a general rule, always go for a guy who has a track record of success, a good team in front of him and - if possible -a crummy backup.

** For instance, I felt pressured to draft more D in the ESPN league because there were 5 D spots (to 9 forward and 2 goalies) and PPG, PIM and Average Time on Ice were categories that made a good offensive D more valuable.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Roll your eyes: It's my fantasy team(s)!

No one cares about other people's fantasy hockey teams, but since I'm writing up these fantasy hockey guides I figure it makes sense to air my dirty drafting laundry.

For the record, I plan on having three fantasy hockey teams. To some that is excessive, but drafting is fun. So we'll see if I can limit myself to three. (Sad, I know.)

Team 1: ESPN league

Skater Categories: G, A, PPG, +/-, SOG, PIM, Average Time on Ice
Goalie Categories: W, SV% and GAA

Goalie importance: 30% of stat categories, so not excessive
Defense importance: 5 D spots, ATOI make defense slightly more important than usual
Winger vs. C importance: Not that much since it uses "F" instead of C,LW,RW ... unfortunately I didn't realize that was the case (d'oh!)

Scattered Thoughts: Being used to Yahoo!, the ESPN draft format felt a little clunky to me. I think it's easier to navigate Yahoo's system and set real-time lists of people you can keep an eye on (making it simpler to keep track of your sleepers). It also kind of bugged me that ESPN's stat categories seemed less flexible. (no FW, no extra points category, PPG instead of PPP? Hmph.)

That's not to say ESPN's format is terrible, I simply prefer Yahoo at this point.

ANYWAY, here's my team. I picked #6 in a 10-team draft, so that means I was in basically the same general middle area each round.

1. Zach Parise
2. Dany Heatley
3. Mike Richards (panic pick ... was devestated that Ilya Kovalchuk almost made it back to me in the third. Fuck!)
4. Henrik Lundqvist
5. Alex Semin
6. Mark Streit
7. Duncan "Yo Yo" Keith
8. Daniel Alfredsson
9. Teemu Selanne
10. Shane Doan
11. Niklas Kronwall
12. Daniel Briere
13. Marty Turco
14. Ales Hemsky
15. Brian Rolston
16. Steve Ott
17. Alex Frolov
18. J-S Giguere
19. Shane O'Brien
20. Brad Richards
21. Ilya Bryzgalov
22. M.E. Vlasic

Feelings about my team: For some reason, I always pick poorly in the first round. Maybe it's a panic situation or maybe I'm better at finding value later in a draft.

I don't think Parise's the fourth best player in the league, but he just seems to do a lot well. He takes a shit load of shots (3rd in the NHL last year), scores a lot of goals and should maintain a nice plus/minus. The real jewel, I'd say, is Dany Heatley. Although it was a toss-up between Heater and Kovalchuk and I wonder if the combination of negative public sentiment and low ESPN ranking might have allowed me to grab Heatley in the third round if I instead would have nabbed Kovie.

Meh, either way, I was pondering Heatley in the first round so it's still a nice move.

Vlasic was a great last pick in my opinion, since he might get some of the PP time vacating San Jose since Ehr-head is gone. There are certain situational picks (Briere, Frolov, Hemsky, Brad RICHards, Kronwall and Doan) where it almost appeared as if I had no choice but to select them.

Pretty happy with my goaltending overall, because Lundqvist is steady and I expect Marty Turco to have a respectable bounce back year. Giguere is the wild card both in fantasy hockey and ... the other fantasy hockey league so my hope is that Sleek's impressions are just of a guy having a bad day a few weeks before any of this matters, not clarification that there is a fork sticking out of Giggy's back.

While I was unable to get champion PIM man/general knucklehead Daniel Carcillo, it's my hope that Steve Ott and Shane "No Relation" O'Brien can make my fake team competitive in affecting their real-life teams negatively.*

* - I kind of like PIM as a fantasy hockey stat, but it IS fucked up to root for a guy to make a dumb mistake. Then again, someone has to root for Todd Bertuzzi, right?

Anyway, I feel like my team will win by quantity over quality. By goals, PPG, +/- perhaps, SOG and being reasonably competitive in the other categories from week-to-week.

Thoughts? Think I'm a fraud? (Don't worry, this won't be on the front page very long ...)

CLS Fantasy Guide Part 4: Contract Years

Kovalchuk will be able to afford even better kilts once he gets another contract

Although it is not the #1 factor in selecting a player, my general rule is: when in doubt, draft a guy who will go into the season with the undeniable motivation of filthy, sweaty gobs of money. With that in mind, here is a list of THE MOST NOTABLE players whose contracts will expire after this season.


Ilya Kovalchuk
Marc Savard
Nicklas Lidstrom
Evgeni Nabokov
Sergei Gonchar
Patrick Marleau
Marty Turco
Alex Frolov
Alex Tanguay
Paul Kariya
Vyacheslav Kozlov
Ray Whitney
Olli Jokinen
(and more)


Nicklas Backstrom (Forward)
Patrick Kane
Jonathan Toews
Alex Semin
Bobby Ryan
Cam Ward
Carey Price
Ryan Kesler
Peter Mueller
Erik Johnson
Duncan Keith
Braydon Coburn
Devin Setoguchi
Kris Letang
Matt Niskanen
James Neal
Blake Wheeler

Saturday, September 12, 2009

San Jose joins Chicago in the "Now or Never Club"

The bleak salary cap future for San Jose and Chicago ... without an anti-semite to save them

Should FTF go from "Fear the Fin" to "Fuck the Future"?

It's tough to avoid that question with San Jose's bold trade of Dany Heatley and a 5th rounder for Jonathan Cheechoo, Milan Michalek and a 2nd-rounder. Certainly, it's a smarter cap-based move than shipping Patrick Marleau to Ottawa because Patty M's cap hit will dissolve after next season. Yet it begs the question: why exactly do the Sharks feel like the doomsday clock is approaching zero already?

Ever since the San Jose Sharks reached The Next Level after the Joe Thornton trade, the team kept getting older and older. The team seems to keep producing young talent, only to ship them out in favor of guys who - while often superior - are getting a little longer in the tooth.

Steve Bernier, Matt Carle, Michalek and many others have been shuttled out to make room for Rob Blake, Dan Boyle and other expensive veterans. Again, it hasn't always been the wrong move but old over new is a trend that ultimately caught up with the Colorado Avalanche and might (evenutally? maybe?) catch up with Detroit.

Going forward, the Sharks have three extremely big contracts: Thornton ($7.2 million per year through 2010-11); Heatley ($7.5 million through 2013-14) and Dan Boyle (with his satanic $6.66 million through 2013-14). Now - don't get me wrong - I'd rather shell out about $21 million for Heatley-Thornton-Boyle instead of wasting almost $13 million on the Cristobal Huet-Brian Campbell shit sandwich.

After all, Heatley is absolutely the real deal. Anyone who thinks he will be a "bust" is allowing their (understandably negative) feelings get in the way of the fact that Heatley is absolutely one of the top five goal scorers in the league. He could genuinely flirt with joining Alex Ovechkin in the ultra-rare 60 Goal Club.

But what will become of San Jose's depth?

Devin Setoguchi could be in line for a really nice raise if he puts up another feisty, 30-plus goal season. Joe Pavelski faces one more season in which he'll be an underpaid gem, then he could see some really nice green. Even big contract guys like Evgeni Nabokov and Marleau will either need to be re-signed or replaced by comparable talent.

That being said, this trade makes Heatley an absolute top-10 fantasy hockey talent and re-establishes Jumbo Joe as a great guy to snag if you cannot get one of the Big Three.

It also will make San Jose one of the teams I'll watch the most closely once the season starts. (Ah, the glories of Center Ice)

More than anything else, it's going to be interesting as hell. Will the Sharks prosper from pushing all their chips to the middle of the table? Or will some bad metaphor gangsters break their knee caps after this Shaky Chemistry Gamble fails profoundly?

I can't wait to find out.

CLS Re-Draft: The 15th Round

Fernandez waits patiently for a job ...

15-1 (421) - Calgary Flames - Patrick Eaves
15-2 (422) - Vancouver Canucks - Ladislav Smid
15-3 (423) - Tampa Bay Lightning - Blake Comeau
15-4 (424) - Dallas Stars - Andrew Ference
15-5 (425) - Chicago Blackhawks - Chris Butler
15-6 (426) - New York Islanders - Nick Boynton
15-7 (427) - St. Louis Blues - Sean Bergenheim (Acquired from Philadelphia)
15-8 (428) - Dallas Stars - Jason Chimera (Acquired from Edmonton)
15-9 (429) - Nashville Predators - Josh Bailey
15-10 (430) - Atlanta Thrashers - Daniel Carcillo
15-11 (431) - St. Louis Blues - Eric Belanger
15-12 (432) - Phoenix Coyotes - Manny Fernandez
15-13 (433) - Pittsburgh Penguins - Michael Leighton
15-14 (434) - Washington Capitals - Jeff Schultz
15-15 (435) - Columbus Blue Jackets - B. J. Crombeen

15-16 (436) - Dallas Stars - Jason LaBarbera (Acquired from Detroit, via Edmonton)
15-17 (437) - Los Angeles Kings - David Legwand
15-18 (438) - Toronto Maple Leafs - Nicklas Grossman (Acquired from Minnesota)
15-19 (439) - Carolina Hurricanes - Rafi Torres
15-20 (440) - New York Rangers - Artem Anisimov
15-21 (441) - New Jersey Devils - Steve Downie
15-22 (442) - Toronto Maple Leafs - Alex Auld
15-23 (443) - San Jose Sharks - Paul Gaustad
15-24 (444) - Ottawa Senators - Ryan Shannon
15-25 (445) - Boston Bruins - Boris Valabik
15-26 (446) - Philadelphia Flyers - Scott Gomez (Acquired from Buffalo)
15-27 (447) - Anaheim Ducks - Steve Staios
15-28 (448) - Chicago Blackhawks - Mathieu Garon (Acquired from Montreal)
15-29 (449) - Colorado Avalanche - Kurt Sauer
15-30 (450) - Florida Panthers - Mike Rupp

Thursday, September 10, 2009

CapsChick of a View from the Cheap Seats shares her Earliest Hockey Memories

Logo by Gray from Couch Tarts

(A View from the Cheap Seats is in the stunning brigade of great Washington Capitals blogs and is rapidly becoming one of our favorites. How can you fault anyone after reading all of her great questionnaires (even if she was gullible enough to invite me). Hopefully Caps Chick doesn't make a point to do TOO many of those great features or CLS might go out of business.

If ... this was a business, that is.)

My dad moved to the Washington, DC area in 1974, the same year the Capitals came into existence. A Boston Bruins fan from his days in New England, he went to the very first preseason game ever held in the nation's capital - and bought season tickets right then and there, beginning a love and a passion for the team that has spanned decades.

So you could say that being a Caps fan - or at least a hockey fan - wasn't so much a choice as it was a birthright. I was indoctrinated right from the womb, really. There's even a story that my mother would attend games while pregnant with me and I would proceed to kick to "Let's Go Caps!"...I only kind of believe it.

(Editor's Note: Somehow that's not the first female blogger who relayed this story/anecdote as Wrap Around Curl also seemed to make this reference. Is it wrong to feel a little jealous about these puck based childhoods?)

That baby's not just kicking, it's making a kick save!

So my upbringing was a rather unique one, entirely Caps-centric in a city of Redskins fans - but it was ingrained in me from such a young age that it becomes hard to pick out just one memory that defines hockey's place in my life. It's really more of a collage of sights and sounds and events that turned me into the obsessive nutjob I'm proud to be today.

I remember my sister and I getting little replica jersey t-shirts from the Junior Fan Club and proudly wearing them as often as I could, begging to wear them to school and to bed and then wondering why they weren't clean when I got to go to games. We had a pile of pom-poms in a basket in our basement, souvenirs of past playoff series that would occasionally make cameos in whatever make believe dress-up games we would be involved in on any given day; the number of times I pranced around with white plastic hair is too high to count. On the wall was a growth poster featuring a very young, very large Scott Stevens in full uniform and on skates. I remember gazing up at it and thinking he was a giant, an impression that was probably not helped by the fact that the poster was hung about a foot off the ground. Yet because of that poster Stevens was probably one of the first players I recognized just by looking at his face - and one of my earliest favorites for that exact reason.

Then there was the arena. Back then it was the Capital Centre, a place that often felt like a second home because of how much time we spent there and how comfortable it felt no matter how big and loud and potentially scary it could be (especially when Penguins fans were in town...ahem).

It had the strange, scooped-out roof that in my mind looked like it had been crushed by a giant rear end and the parking lots named after patriotic symbols like 'Stars and Stripes' and 'Eagle'. There was the huge video screen in the middle of the arena, the first of its kind, and smaller computerized screens in the corner with funny little cartoons that acted out penalties or implored the crowd to cheer. The concourse smelled like popcorn and cotton candy and cigarette smoke - of course this was back in the days when you were allowed to smoke in arenas. And the building was always filled with noise of some kind or another, whether it was the organ or the cheering of the crowd or the wandering trumpeter who appeared in different sections throughout the game.

Back then I didn't really understand the concept of "other teams" the way I do today. I knew I hated the Penguins, Flyers, Rangers, Devils and Islanders, but aside from a few select faces of evil (Lemieux, Hextall, Ulf Samuelsson, etc.) I couldn't have named players even on those teams - and outside of the Patrick Division, forget it. Hockey was very personal to me. I honestly believed that when I went to a game or watched it on TV the Caps couldn't possibly lose; if I cheered loud enough they would score. And when they got knocked out of the playoffs, as seemed to be their tradition, hockey ceased to exist until fall. I don't even remember actually watching the Stanley Cup being awarded until the Rangers won it in 1994.

But I knew my boys. I knew guys like Miller, Ridley, Johansson, Langway and Hunter, knew their numbers and their on-ice personalities. And really that's probably the strongest memory of them all - the players I grew up with, the ones who taught me to love the game and the Caps, and the ones I still idolize to this day.

Well...that or the hatred of the Penguins. It's a toss-up.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

CLS Fantasy Guide, Part 3: Category Kings

I get the feeling one of Burrows' or Backes' seasons was too good to be true.

Many leagues have specific, largely predictable categories that tend to be dominated by the same general group of players. In fact, some players are only useful IF those categories are included. The following list is meant to give you a quick guide to guys who can help you win certain categories.

Power Forwards (Great PIM with very good points) Note: Guys like Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry are elite power forwards. This is for the slightly less obvious set. [Slightly]

Brenden Morrow: almost too good for this list, but don't forget him.
David Backes
Alex Burrows
Scott Hartnell
Milan Lucic: Just don't get too sucked in by the Looch buzz. He's good but not Cam Neely just yet.
Steve Ott
Sean Avery
Chris Kunitz (a little lower on the PIM scale but Crosby potentially could give a really nice points boost)
Bill Guerin
Todd Bertuzzi: Not a fan of the guy, but he does tend to put up nice PIM and the occasional assist. Worth a look until they start charting defensive acumen.
Tuomo Ruutu

PIM only

Daniel Carcillo: Kind of a dope, but now is the PIM leader two years in a row.
Shane O'Brien
David Clarkson
Chris Neil
Jared Boll

Beasts in the faceoff circle (based on total wins, percentages, likeliness of continued success)

Rod Brind'Amour
Shawn Horcoff
Mikko Koivu
Manny Malholtra: would get even more if he took more faceoffs
Henrik Zetterberg: the thing that makes Henrik Z especially interesting is that you can get FW from a winger spot with him
Antoine Vermette
Joe Thornton

Hank Zetterberg gets points, SOG, FW, a good plus/minus AND typically is a LW/C. Awesome!

Guys who could be highly ranked next year with just a slight improvement in FO%

Jonathan Toews
Sidney Crosby
Jeff Carter
Mike Richards
Eric Staal
Jason Spezza

Highly probable SOG leaders

Alex Ovechkin (528 last season, 150 more than Eric Staal!!!): If SOG are a category in your league, Ovie's a no-brainer for No. 1 ... but that's another topic entirely.

Eric Staal (372 in 08-09; 310 in 07-08)

Zach Parise (364 in 08-09): experienced nearly 100 more SOG in the last year, could shoot even more next year.

Henrik Zetterberg: a perennial SOG source

[consult last year's top lists for some of the more obvious choices]

Unexpected SOG

Jason Blake: borderline useless with SOG

Dion Phaneuf: more than 250 SOG for the past two seasons

Patrick O'Sullivan: perhaps his meaty SOG totals might actually turn into points next year.

Mike Green: his offensive output is unmatched and he missed 14 GP.

Olli Jokinen: high SOG totals and he will play a full contract year with Jarome Iginla. Not bad.

Brian Rolston: Nearly 300 SOG in 2007-08. Could be poised for an improvement, even if it is only really in the SOG category.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

CLS Re-Draft:Round 14

Zherdev corners the market on the adjectives "enigmatic" and "mercurial"


14-1 (391) - Florida Panthers - Nik Zherdev
14-2 (392) - Detroit Red Wings - Kent Huskins (Acquired from Colorado)
14-3 (393) - Montreal Canadiens - Christopher Higgins
14-4 (394) - Anaheim Ducks - Kris Draper
14-5 (395) - Philadelphia Flyers - Ryan Parent (Acquired from Buffalo)
14-6 (396) - Boston Bruins - Eric Fehr
14-7 (397) - Ottawa Senators - Kris Russell
14-8 (398) - San Jose Sharks - Pierre Marc Bouchard
14-9 (399) - Minnesota North Stars (Acquired from Toronto) - Josh Gorges
14-10 (400) - New Jersey Devils - Stephane Veilleux
14-11 (401) - New York Rangers - Freddie Sjostrom
14-12 (402) - Carolina Hurricanes - Andrew Alberts
14-13 (403) - Minnesota North Stars - Joel Ward
14-14 (404) - Los Angeles Kings - Wayne Simmonds

Jordin Tootoo's lady? Not fair.

14-15 (405) - Detroit Red Wings - Colin White
14-16 (406) - Columbus Blue Jackets - Daniel Paille
14-17 (407) - Montreal Canadiens (Acquired from Washington): Pascal LeClaire
14-18 (408) - Pittsburgh Penguins: Milan Jurcina
14-19 (409) - Phoenix Coyotes: Marty Reasoner
14-20 (410) - St. Louis Blues: Tomas Plekanec
14-21 (411) - Atlanta Thrashers: Jordin Tootoo
14-22 (412) - Nashville Predators: Petr Sykora
14-23 (413) - Toronto Maple Leafs (Acquired from Edmonton): Mike Grier
14-24 (414) - St. Louis Blues (Acquired from Philadelphia): Roman Hamrlik
14-25 (415) - New York Islanders: Brendan Shanahan
14-26 (416) - Montreal Canadiens (Acquired from Chicago): Rostislav Klesla
14-27 (417) - Dallas Stars: Jeff Halpern
14-28 (418) - Tampa Bay Lightning: Andrej Meszaros
14-29 (419) - Vancouver Canucks: Evgeny Artyukhin
14-30 (420) - Calgary Flames: Dustin Boyd

Gut Reactions: Vancouver Canucks

Being that I'm still trying to come up with an interesting concept for our "real" season previews, I thought it would be important to start getting into game shape for the season. So on a semi-daily basis, I'll roll out these unsolicited opinions on various NHL teams.

Keep in mind that these are assessments made without painstaking research and are not meant to be "official" predictions. Whatever that means, anyway...

The Vancouver Canucks' hopes are hitched to three workhorses for the forseeable future. For at least the next 5 years, Vancouver goes as Roberto Luongo and the Sedins go. Whatever you may say about the crazy lifetime contracts being thrown around, there are worse players to have locked up for the remainder of their best days than Bobby Lou.

So, the good news is that the Canucks locked up their best players for fairly reasonable cap hits.

The bad news is that the 2010 Olympics are going to completely screw them over.

In last year's BoC bubble updates, my main theory was that the main thing non-elite teams was the difficulty of their remaining schedules. Well, by that train of thought, it's very difficult for me to justify the idea of the Canucks winning their division.

On the bright side, though, I find it hard to imagine Vancouver missing the playoffs entirely. This team is considerably stronger than Edmonton, Minnesota and Colorado even with the handicap of their fairly insane road schedule.

Photoshop by Katchop

The Canucks won't be blowing many teams out, as even their best forwards (Sedins, Kesler, Burrows) tend to get their points by grinding other teams to dust.

Even after losing heart-and-soul D Matt Ohlund to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Canucks have one of the deepest groups of blueliners in the NHL. It doesn't get much better than Kevin Bieska - Sami Salo - Wille Mitchell -Alex Edler - Mathieu Schneider - Christian Ehrhoff - Shane O'Brien. It wouldn't be surprising if one of those seven ended up in a salary dump, but either way that's a versatile bunch.

And, of course, the Canucks feature arguably the world's greatest goaltender in Luongo. To make him look even more world class, they brought in Andrew Raycroft, a guy who inexplicably remains in the NHL while guys likeManny Fernandez wait in UFA limbo. If Luongo is injured again next season, it's pretty hard to imagine the Canucks opting for Raycroft over their solid prospect Corey Schneider.

Overall, there's a lot to like about the Canucks but a rough schedule will derail Vancouver's division title hopes.

Lightly researched, impulsive prediction: #2 in the Northwest Division, #5 in the Western Conference

Monday, September 7, 2009

The CLS Fantasy Hockey Guide Part 2: Goalies

Please note: These are based on general categories and aren't by any means scientific. They're also subject to change

Fantasy Goalies
Quick note: The value of a goalie will depend largely on how many goalie categories there are. If goalie categories are close to half of your league stats, it's almost impossible to reach. At the same time, there isn't much that differentiates good goalies from mediocre goalies once you get past the elites.


1. Roberto Luongo
Arguably the most talented goalie in the league, Luongo is in his prime. He doesn't face ANY threat from his backup, so if he stays healthy (which is a slight worry) he could see 65-70 GP.

2. Martin Brodeur
His injury plagued 2009-10 season sincerely worries me. That being said, it's rare to find a goalie as consistent who can bring you quantity in starts as well as quantity in stats.

3. Henrik Lundqvist
King Hank is a rock in net, but I don't like the changes the Rangers have made to their team. He's still one of those guys who's worth an early pick, for sure.

4. Tim Thomas
It looks like Tim Thomas will finally get his due as an elite goaltender this year. After a dominant Vezina season, Thomas is truly entrenched in Boston.

5. Miikka Kiprusoff
Kipper's gotten some heat over the years and with good reason: he might bring quantity but the quality hasn't always been there. However, with his workload (and therefore, win opportunities) and a defense that now includes Jay Bouwmeester, Kipper could be good enough to be the #1 fantasy goalie this season.

6. Evgeni Nabokov
While I think Nabby is an overrated goalie in reality, he still plays for one of the best teams in the league and should see a ton of GP. Don't forget that he's in a contract year, either.

7. Niklas Backstrom
With a $6 million cap hit, Backstrom has to be the guy in Minnesota. For years I've hesitated to draft a Minnesota goalie because they haven't had a clear starter. Even though Josh Harding is a damn good goalie, Backstrom should see big GP and should still play behind a good D even with Jacques Lemaire in NJ.

Solid workhorse guys

8. Ryan Miller
The jury seems to be out on Miller, but I think he's a true franchise goalie. As Miller goes, so does Buffalo. He's a talented goalie in a bad division. That's a solid recipe for success.

9. Cam Ward
Ward's career is on a steady climb. He tends to put up some nice numbers. I'm not crazy about their defense, though.

10. Steve Mason
It won't be a simple "sophomore slump" if Mason declines because his numbers are fudged a bit by an unrealistically quick start. I would feel pretty good about selecting a guy who's a clear No. 1 in Ken Hitchock's excellent defensive system.

11. Marc-Andre Fleury
He's had major injuries two years in a row. Some of the goals he allows are just maddening. Yet, if he plays a full season he could threaten the 40 win mark. And he has Gary Busey teeth. Not bad.

Risky but interesting

12. Marty Turco
Turco is, admittedly, a pretty big risk considering how awful his 2008-09 season was. That being said, he's playing behind a Stars team with stunning forward depth and even with an improved backup (Alex Auld) he has every opportunity to have a stellar contract year.

13. Cristobal Huet
I don't like Huet, personally, but he's in a great situation in Chicago. The team has great offensive and defensive depth and talent, which could very well improve substantially next season. If Huet sucks next year, he cannot blame anyone but himself.

14. Jonas Hiller
Hiller wowed the hockey world last year by usurping Giguere and leading the Ducks to a shocking opening series win over the San Jose Sharks, but there are some worries too. He's only done it for one season. He's losing vaunted goalie coach Francois Allaire. Giguere could get the starting job back. The Ducks sacrificed a two-headed defensive monster by trading Pronger and are now a team that should be far more offensive minded.

Yet, all that being said, it's hard not to like Jonas Hiller.

15. Ray Emery
Few players will see the wild range in rankings as much as Ray Emery. The crazy bug eater was booted out of goalie-poor Ottawa for reasons we may never fully understand and no NHL team was willing to gamble on him that summer. That being said, Emery has shown flashes of brilliance and will play on a loaded Flyers team which features (in my opinion) the best trio of defensemen in the Eastern Conference. Not bad for a guy who had to play in Russia last season.

16. Chris Osgood
As Osgood loves to remind everyone in his smarmy way, he often hits the Snooze Button during the regular season. Without a decent backup since Ty Conklin left for St. Louis, perhaps Osgood can take advantage of his ridiculously loaded team and with 30-plus by default.

17. Pekka Rinne
While Steve Mason received all the Calder trophy hype, Rinne generated a nearly identical campaign in Nashville. The problem is that Rinne is on a weak team in a division that keeps getting tougher (and let's not forget the seemingly annual tradition of a Predators backup usurping the starter).

The Granny Panties Division
aka not-so-sexy goalies

18. Tomas Vokoun
Mired in Nashville/Florida obscurity, Vokoun has quietly been a top-1o goalie for years now. Yet aside from sheer saves and save percentage, Vokoun isn't placed in a great situation to put up good numbers this year. That doesn't mean he's an all-around bad choice, though, especially as a second goalie. If only he could play on a decent team for once ...

19. Chris Mason
Steady but unspectacular, Mason helped the Blues make the playoffs before they seemed ready last season. You have to worry if he's a true starter with Ty Conklin in town, but he's an OK pick as long as you don't reach for him.


20. Jon Quick
The Kings play a nice defensive system and Quick seems to have a semi-strong hold on the starting job. Still, meh.

21. Ilya Bryzgalov
Solid goalie in a terrible nightmare of a situation. Stay away from any Phoenix Coyotes not named Shane Doan.

22. Kari Lehtonen
We're officially getting into the "do you really want this guy?" area of the goalie ranks. While Lehtonen is a genuine talent, he is a legitimate injury concern and plays on a consistently inferior Thrashers team. Meh.

23. Nikolai Khabibulin
It's pretty clear to me that the Bulin Wall is only built in contract years. Of course, at his age, it's understandable if the bricks start to fall.

The "Check Back Laters"
unranked for a reason

Mike Smith
Is he healthy?

Simeon Varlamov (and, I guess, Jose Theodore)
Is it wrong to wonder if Varlamov is ready for a full-time goalie job? Is it wrong to wonder if Theodore had a two-year deal with the devil when he won the Hart trophy?

Carey Price/Jaroslav Halak
Price could be a semi-decent pick, but many believe that Halak is the better goalie. Or at least deserves a near-even split. I wouldn't want to invest in that mess in Montreal, either way.

Vesa Toskala/Jonas "The Monster" Gustavson
This actually could be a slightly underrated pairing. The Leafs loaded up on defense this off-season and also acquired goaltending guru Francois Allaire. Don't be surprised if the Toronto starter ends up being a solid mid-season pickup.

Dwayne Roloson/Martin Biron
These guys are not much better than 1Bs in the league and they're playing on a team that is probably satisfied with watching John Tavares (and, later, some lottery balls) this season. Stay away.

Craig Anderson/Peter Budaj
Anderson's a solid goalie, but the Avalanche suffer from a severe lack of talent. Don't do it.

Pascal Leclaire/Brian Elliot
Is it even worth having one of these guys as your third goalie? My instinct is to say "no," unless Ottawa finds a way to translate the awkward Heatley energy into wins.

Clear Backups worth a gander (or FA pickup later on)

Ty Conklin
Will probably go too quickly to be a sleeper pick.

Scott Clemmensen
Not sold on him overall, but he could get some starts.

Josh Harding
One of the best backups in the NHL

Alex Auld
Probably not worth drafting, but keep an eye on him if Turco falters.

Dan Ellis
Another decent backup, though his fantasy value is questionable.

Brent Johnson
Could be worth a pickup in free agency since MAF's injury is a perennial occurrence.

Brian Boucher
If Emery's bug eating tendencies cause problems, Boucher could play behind the Pronger-Timonen-Coburn trio.

Manny Fernandez
If a team signs him, Fernandez could still have a little juice left.

Manny Legace
There are worse goalies out there.

The CLS Fantasy Hockey Guide Part 1: links to live by

Expect this bad boy to be updated regularly with tips, tricks and suggestions throughout the next few weeks. Feel free to suggest Web sites via comments or e-mail (

My Favorites

Chris Nichols ('s fantasy hockey expert): Nichols does two things that sets him apart from run-of-the-mill fantasy hockey experts. He does daily updates on every regular season game played so you can follow up-to-the minute line situations (just don't be TOO reactionary) and he also answers ultra specific team questions if you e-mail him at the appropriate times. He's my number one source for fantasy hockey.

Dobber Hockey: this site is new to me, but damn if it isn't awesome. While I find their daily columns hit-or-miss, it's the knick knacks of the site itself that blow me away. You can compare 7 players side-by-side with their "Compare Player" feature, rank up to 250 players in a wide variety of custom stats and use the site in a dizzying array of different ways.

Perhaps the #1 way to waste your time overpreparing for fantasy hockey this year.

Goalie Post: Once the season starts, Goalie Post is arguably the second most important site to visit (behind the host of your fantasy hockey league). It was astoundingly accurate during the 2008-09 season, so here's to hoping they are as dead-on this year.

The key source to clarify which goalies are starting.

Tristan Cockroft's Fantasy Forecaster: This link will obviously need to be updated once the regular season starts, but Cockroft's weekly fantasy forecasts were a late season goldmine. They include teams that are facing weak schedules that week, how many games each team plays and other valuable advice.

Especially recommended for rotiserrie leagues, but either way it's a great source of information.

Top Player Lists of varying quality's positional rankings:

Diamonds in the Rough (good stuff: European transfers, guys who aren't under contract, coaching changes, etc. Sometimes a little TOO comprehensive though because a lot of those "Impact" Rookies don't look like they'll be pros.)

Last update: Labor Day

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jesse from Open Ice Hockey shares his Earliest Hockey Memories

Fantastic logo by Gray of Couch Tarts fame.

Admittedly, I had never heard about Open Ice Hockey until Jesse e-mailed me last week. From what I can tell, it is a fairly new site that is currently running season previews. Feel free to take a stroll around Open Ice Hockey and enjoy Jesse's charming hockey memory. Good luck with the site/blog, Jesse!

For as long as I can remember, I have been a Maple Leafs fan. As a kid growing up in Northern Ontario, it was kind of forced upon me. Every year, my parents always got two sets of tickets to Maple Leaf Gardens, one set against the glass in the gold section, and one set of center ice reds.

It was the 1992 season, and I was sitting with my dad against the glass at the Gardens during the Leafs warmup. At the time, my heroes on the team were similar to other fans, as they boasted the likes of Gilmour, Clark, and Potvin. This day was a bit different however, as a lesser known player, Mike Krushelnyski, didn't know that he would change a kids life with a small little gesture.

As the players were skating around, I was banging on the glass and yelling out all of the players names as they went by. When Mike went by, I couldn't pronounce his name, and I guess he heard because he tapped on the glass with his stick as he went by. I asked my dad how to pronounce it, and when he came by the next time, I yelled it out properly. Once again, he must have heard, because he winked at me when he skated by, went and picked up a puck, and threw it over the glass to me.

When I told my mom what had happened, she told me that I should write him a letter thanking him for what he did. Little did I know then that it was a general letter that was sent back from the Leafs, but included was a signed photo of Krushelnyski. I got the picture framed and it still sits in my room to this day with the puck that he threw me.