Left-field commentary on the perpetually expanding fantasy hockey universe. Published every second Sunday throughout the season. View the RN archive here.
But if you're leading your pool today, it is most likely not a case of business as usual. Sure, your studs are behaving (they better), but it's the unlikely scenarios that are making the difference. After the jump, my top five overachievers so far this year, plus realignment, letters to Souray, Sather's dirty tricks, Boudreau, cheeseburgers, a Montoya Cup update and much much more.
First...the overachiever honor role:
1. Scott Hartnell: 25GP, 11+11=22, +11, 22 PIM, 59 SOG, 7 PP. Scotty's always been a great asset in standard leagues, but top 30 in scoring? Now it's true that on a Jagr-Giroux-your grandmother line, granny would probably score one before succumbing to the speed and full-contact nature of the NHL. But this ain't your grandma, man - this is Scott Freaking Hartnell. On pace for 36+36=72, +36, 92 PIM, 194 SOG and 23 PPP. Hoo-ya.
2. Johan Franzen: Den Mula! 25 GP, 12+13=25, +8, 18 PIM, 72 SOG, 8 PPP. After scoring 25 goals in 39 games in the 08 and 09 playoffs, Franzen missed most of the 2009-10 season before rebounding with a decent 28+27=55 campaign last year. But knowing what this guy is capable of, a 28 goal season was still a disappointment. But if the resulting lowered expectations allowed you to grab him in the mid to late rounds, you are now enjoying the rewards. On pace for 39+43=82, +32, 60 PIM, 234 SOG and 25 PPP.
3. Max Pacioretty: 24 GP, 10+9=19, +3, 16 PIM, 86 SOG, 3 PPP. After tallying only 25 points in his first two seasons combined (86 GP), Patches was off to a nice start last year until Zdeno Chara rudely introduced him to that old bastard Mr. Stanchion. Take an already below-the-radar player and add what looked like a career-ending injury, and Pacioretty was probably a second week waiver pickup for a lucky few of you. Before his suspension he was on pace for 34+31=65, 55 PIM and a luxurious 294 SOG.
4. Ryan Smyth: 27 GP, 12+14=26, +5, 37 PIM, 73 SOG, 4 PPP. Smyth is 35 years old, and in his last four seasons tallied 37, 53, 59 and 47 points while missing a combined 57 games to injury. So no one expected him to shine this brightly in his return to the City of Champions. It would have been enough just to prop up Edmonton's self-esteem by actually REQUESTING a trade to the Oil, but the old coot is also on pace for 36+43=79, +15, 112 PIM, 222 SOG and 12 PPP.
5. Dan Hamhuis: 26 GP, 2+13=15, +6, 20 PIM, 49 SOG, 7 PPP. In his previous seven seasons, Hamhuis has topped 30 points exactly once. Another player who more than likely went undrafted in your league. At 51%, his Yahoo! ownership is now at an all-time high, but possibly still far too low for a guy on pace for 6+41=47, +19, 63 PIM, 154 SOG, and 22 PPP.
There are more like them, of course - feel free to post your favorites in the comments...
The new Score iPhone app is excellent. By far the fastest and slickest app I've found to check box scores - complete with fantasy-friendly player stats, although hits and blocked shots would be a nice addition. From my experience, CBC's HNIC app is a distant second, with the NHL GameCenter app a glitchy third.
I really, really like the NHL's realignment. Intra-conference series for two playoff rounds? The four conference winners playing in the semis? You like rivalries? I like 'em. We all like 'em. "Subject to commissioner Gary Bettman considering time frame implementation". Oh. I hope the timing works for Bettman. The power! This was a done deal weeks ago buddy. Come now.
Please, Sheldon Souray, come back! Where have you gone? I didn't expect to like you as much as I did, but we got along so well and, well, fuck, now it's backfired because you've changed and I'm just sitting around, miserable, missing the old you and wasting my 5th D slot away. Look, if you see Sheldon, TALK to him, tell him everything can be okay again. I'm willing to start over. Please.
So I lost Kari Lehtonen in two different pools. With nothing on the wire and starts needed, I made that call a fantasy GM never wants to make: "Raycroft? You're in tomorrow". Well, it's not all bad - 3 GP, 2 wins, 2.69, .918, against, well, um, Colorado, Ottawa and the Isles. Up next? San Jose and Los Angeles. Something tells me I'm headed for a bloodbath. The Stars have been proving everyone wrong all year - we're about to find out exactly how much of that was due to Lehtonen's supernatural talent.
"The coincident minor penalty application changed back and forth during my 30 year NHL career. When the Edmonton Oilers were dominating during the early 1980's, their power-play could often be a game breaker with the likes of Gretzky, Messier, Kurri, Anderson, Coffey and so on.
Being the intelligent coach that he was and hockey man that he is, Glen Sather recognized that near the end of regulation time in close or tied games his best weapon (beyond a power-play) would be to open up the ice for his young guns by creating a four-on-four situation.
At times like this an Oiler player would engage an opponent (usually in a scrum after the whistle) and a face-wash would result in a push or punch back and forth that escalated to minor penalties being assessed to a player from each team. While "Slats" never said thank you for making this call his lack of protest and usual grin was a signal that the rules were working to his team's advantage."
Dale Hunter, Kirk Muller and Bruce Boudreau. Three ex-players with new coaching jobs. Lean back, relax, and travel back in time with me to the 1991-92 season, Boudreau's last year of pro hockey, and you'll see three fairly similar bottom lines, although Hunter obviously gooned it up a bit more than the others:
Hunter: 28+50=78, 205 PIM
Muller: 36+41=77, 86 PIM
Boudreau: 34+50=84, 100 PIM
Hunter and Muller made the playoffs with the Caps and Habs respectively. while Boudreau began to explore more deeply Indiana's cheeseburger culture as a player/coach for the powerhouse Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL. Draw what you will from all of that. I'm just delivering the facts.
It's been about a month since my last Montoya Cup update. So sorry to keep you waiting. First, a quick recap of the rules. We start with Cam's Montoya predictions vs. mine:
Cam: 10GP, 3 wins, 3.19 gaa & .899 sv%.
jsuites: 60GP, 30 wins, 2.39 gaa & .921 sv%
Average: 35GP, 16.5 wins, 2.79 gaa, .910 sv%
Simple scoring system: in each of the four categories, each GM (haha) gets one point if he finishes on his side of the average. In the event of a tie, Al Montoya himself will make the final decision (commish rule, because he'll choose me).
If Cam loses, he will have to purchase a piece of Montoya merchandise - could be anything, but it has to be Al Montoya-branded. Cam will then pose with said piece of merchandise for a series of not less than ten photos. The resulting photos will be posted on FHS. Cam will then incur all shipping costs to send his Montoya memorabilia to jsuites.
If jsuites loses, he will have to purchase a piece of Montoya merchandise, and destroy it by a method of Cam's choosing. Cam's chosen method can't cost more than the shipping costs he would have incurred if jsuites had won. The Montoya memorabilia destruction will be documented by jsuites - on a video of reasonable quality not less than 2 minutes in length - and the resulting footage will be posted on FHS.
At 12 GP so far, A-Mo will need to appear in 24 of the Isles' remaining 58 games for me to take the win in the GP category. With only four wins on the year, I need 13 more of them from Montoya to take the wins category. With Nabokov currently convalescing in the East wing of DiPietro Memorial Hospital, Montoya is set for a string of starts, which will no doubt put a strain on his sparkling 2.17 and .931 peripherals. Wait, I'll say it again: his 2.17 and .931 peripherals. Cam, you can just get me this for Christmas if you wanna get it over with.
And here's a little something from Montoya to all of you, at this most festive time of year.
See you in two weeks. Cheers!