Fantasy Squad Review

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

In-depth review and analysis of a reader’s fantasy hockey team

Self evaluation can be a difficult part of life.

I, for instance, have long thought myself to be a decent Basketball player. I’ve held onto that belief despite missing 93% of fade-away jumpers taken on my own driveway. That’s with only an imaginary defender covering me – against an actual human there is a real chance I would go scoreless.

The issue same can often apply to our fantasy hockey teams. Our evaluation of a player can sometimes be swayed by the mere fact that we drafted him. Take Andrew Ladd for example. If you snagged him this season you would be thinking that his 46 points in 48 games last year was indicative of his new role in Winnipeg. He had finally delivered on his 4th overall pedigree and was poised for a 70 point, 230 shot campaign.

Conversely, your fellow poolie who passed on Ladd may remind you that he is 27 years old and has never surpassed 30 goals or 60 points in almost seven seasons. Furthermore, Ladd will be forced to contend with an improving Evander Kane for time on the top line.

I am hoping to help mitigate the inherent difficultly with self evaluation by taking a detailed look at one reader’s squad. Throughout this season I’ll periodically connect with you on twitter and look for a new team to review. My goal is analyze the team from top to bottom, providing input and advice at each position on how you can approach the coming season – of course in keeper leagues I’ll attempt to lay out a 2 to 4 year plan.

Onto today’s team…

League Settings


Teams: 12

Player Categories: G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, SHP, GWG, SOG, FW

Goalie Categories: W, GAA, SV%, SHO

Duration: 1 year league

Centermen


Eric Staal – C

Patrick Sharp – C, LW

Antoine Vermette (C-LW)

Mikhail Grabovski– C

Sean Monahan – C

Building your centers around Eric Staal is always a good way to start. The truncated 2012-13 season was arguably Eric’s best in recent years, ending with 18 goals, 53 points and 152 shots in 48 games. You can pencil him in for around 70 points and 270-300 shots every single year. He’s a top five option at the position.

I like that the manager was able to supplement Staal with Patrick Sharp. Even though the two players fill similar categories it should create an advantage over an opponent’s centers in goals, assists, and shots on goal.  No matter how consistent Sharp is he seems to be underrated in most leagues.

Next we have Calgary’s surprising rookie Sean Monahan. He’s been absolutely incredible to begin the season, with 6 goals through the first 8 games. Normally I would proceed with extreme caution when drafting a rookie teenager in a one year pool, but Monahan may be a special case. Calgary is desperate for offence which means he’ll likely play in a top six role for much of the year. Sean has been receiving well over 2 minutes of power play each game.

The 4th and 5th centerman are where things kind of break down. Vermette has been producing well to start the season; however, he’s broken 60 points only once in his career and has never shot more than 183 times in a season.

Grabovski began the year as the league’s hottest player with a hat trick. Since then he has bounced around the Capitals line up and only has 2 points in the 7 games since that first game.  The major plus with Grabovski is that he plays on such an offensive juggernaut in Washington. He’ll have his opportunities to produce, I just don’t know if the consistency will be there.

Wingers


James Neal – LW, RW

Thomas Vanek – LW,RW

James van Riemsdyk – LW

Jason Pominville – LW

Milan Lucic – LW

Pascal Dupuis – LW,RW

Ryan Malone – LW

Steve Downie – LW, RW

Alexander Burrows – LW,RW

If I could find a way to successfully convey a *slow clap* visually I would – this group of wingers, in a deep league, is astounding. Neal, when healthy, is a top 10 fantasy asset in nearly every format. Vanek and James van Reimsdyk provide ample scoring support as secondary options. Pominville only has 4 goals through 10 games, but he has fired 29 shots and has been enjoying a lot of even strength and power play time alongside Zach Parise.

The winger depth, often a low point on many rosters, remains extremely strong here. Dupuis is capable of a 60 point, 200 shot season with Crosby as his running mate. Lucic, Malone and Downie provide useful penalty minute support while not hurting other categories.

This area may need to be drawn upon to shore up other needs on the roster. Dealing from a position of strength allows you to be a lot more creative in trade negotiations.

Defencemen


Kevin Shattenkirk – D

Alex Gologoski – D

Mike Weber – D

Marek Zidlicky – D

Shattenkrik is one of those late round players that you hope no one else knows about. He finished with 43 points and 178 shots in 2011-12. Although his numbers dipped a bit last year, we can reasonably project him for 40 points and around 160 shots with a positive plus minus.

What I take umbrage with here is not Mr. Shattenkirk, rather the fact that he is far and away the leading  defencemen on this team. Kevin is a nice option as a low end number 2 or high end number 3. If he is your premier guy, as he is in this scenario, you’re exposing yourself to opponents with deep defensive corps.

Gologoski has seen his stock fall tremendously with the arrival of Sergei Gonchar. Even though he is 39 year’s old Gonchar is currently leading the stars in power play ice time at 3:27 a game. Gologoski is only receiving a nearly insignificant 1:46. That doesn’t bode well for a defenceman that derives his fantasy value from assists and power play points.

Granted it is a 12 team league, so at least part of me understands that the pickings are slim at the very end of the draft. This likely explains how Mile Weber (0 points through 9 games) and Marek Zidlicky managed to find a home. Zidlicky, to his credit, has managed 7 assists through 9 games and hasn’t been a determent to the squad.

An important reminder here is that this league doesn’t count hits or blocked shots, two categories strongly correlated with defenceman. This means that all blueliners will need to generate at least a bit of offence to carry any value.

Goaltenders


Marc-Andre Fluery – G

Anti Niemi – G

Evgeni Nabokov – G

There really isn’t much to say here. A fantastic job in drafting both Niemi and Fluery – in a 12 team league this is undoubtedly the best one-two pairing. NHL.com had Niemi as their 2nd ranked goalie heading into the season and Dobber recent anointed Niemi as the top keeper option.

Nabokov may be 38 but he’s playing behind an improved Islanders team. His numbers have been very consistent the last three years – I would expect more of the same, 2.50GAA, .910S% and 25 wins. You could certainly do a lot worse for a 3rd netminder.

Recommendations


Now that we’ve dissected the team the question is what could be done to improve it? I have 3 suggestions below….

1.Try to sell high on Antoine Vermette


Outside of his 65 point outlier in 2009-10 Vermette is generally considered a 45 point, 160 shot player. That is useful in certain formats, but right now he is on pace for 57 points over 82 games. I would send out a couple trade proposals and see if you can’t make a marginal improvement. Players to Target might include Tomas Plekanec, Cody Hodgson, or Kyle Turris.

2.Drop Mike Weber and add a more offensive defenceman from the waiver wire


Even in a 12 team league there is likely a couple of undervalued blueliners that can provide more stats across the board than Weber. Players that may be available in this format include: Justin Faulk, Brent Seabrook, Morgan Reilly, or Ryan Murphy.

3.Leverage the outstanding depth on left wing to land a top two defencemen.


In this league an elite tier defencemen would be considered anyone ranked in the top 20 to 25. With players like Neal, Vanek, JVR, Lucic and Pominville all carrying LW eligibility you can survive a big trade. The type of format to consider would be Vanek and Zidlicky for Shea Weber, or perhaps Pominville for Keith Yandle as a one for one. I would avoid moving James Neal and try to only lose one left winger while improving substantially on Zidlicky. A top defensive pairing of Weber and Shattenkirk would go a long way at this position.

If you are looking for a second set of eyes to look over your team or just want to bounce around some trade ideas you can follow me on twitter @FantasyHockeyDK.


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