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NHL: Week 6 – Enigma Edition

Note*** A full NHL schedule breakdown by week is available here on a Google doc.

The document isn't restricted to the current week. The entire season breakdown is there along with various other breakdowns that are described in detail here.


Every NHL season has its share of enigmatic (A.K.A. frustrating) players.  When considering what to do with these puzzling assets, fantasy owners participating in keeper formats are faced with an interesting (A.K.A. crucial) dilemma.   Will things keep trending downward?  Is the player actually entering the backside of his career or does he still have an upside; and if he does, is the context favorable to his ‘finding his game’ again?

The way these questions are answered and the resulting actions taken can make or break the long term outlook of your franchise.  With this in mind let’s examine a few of this year’s crop of enigmas, looking for the right answers.  For now, we cover the Eastern Conference.; we’ll look at the West in next week’s installment.

Brad Richards (C) and Marian Gaborik (RW) – NYR: The Manhattan duo has failed to click on a regular basis since Richards’ arrival last year as a free agent.  Richards is an elite playmaker and Gaborik an elite sniper, so what’s the problem?  We’re seeing a repeat of the same miscalculation this season with the Richards-Nash pairing.  The problem is that Nash, like Gaborik, has learned to love handling the puck.  That makes their game incompatible with Richards’, a set-up man his entire career.  Now 32, the crafty centerman has either lost a step or is displaying frustration from not being able to play his style of game.  Nash was playing well before the injury.  Gaborik does have 7 goals and a shots-per-game ratio near his career average, so we wouldn’t worry too much in his case, despite last Saturday’s benching episode.  But Richards had his the worst PPG season since his first two (2000-01 and 2001-02) a year ago and is on pace for his worst by far as we speak.  The Tortorella-Richards marriage isn’t producing the same magic this time around and we simply don’t see the former point-a-game lock ever reaching those heights again.

Cam Ward (G) – CAR: Hard to believe Ward is an 8-year veteran.  Still only 28, the Cup champ from his rookie year of 2005-06 is a highly competitive goalie who has battled consistency issues his whole career.  When we look at his recent numbers however, we realize that he is generally steady year-to-year: .916, .916, .923 and .915 SP respectively the last four seasons.  His bad spells come within a specific season, but his fighting spirit unfailingly has him back on his A-game eventually.  Carolina has never been able to ice anything more than an average D core in front of Ward, which makes those numbers even more impressive and explains the yearly roller-coaster ride.  He’s been spelled by back-up Dan Ellis lately and the Canes’ D is injury plagued, but we like the mid to long-term outlook in Carolina once the team learns to play the Kirk Muller way.  Bench Ward for now, but don’t give up on him.

Tyler Myers (D) – BUF: This 6’ 8”, 227 lbs behemoth stunned everyone as a rookie in 2009-10, drawing Chara-type praise with 48 pts and a +13 rating.  He regressed a bit in his sophomore year, but not dramatically.  Since then however, his game has taken an alarming nose-dive.  Many of the Sabres’ defensive warts have been masked by the excellence of Ryan Miller’s goaltending during the past few seasons.  The current blueline unit is rather soft and lacks cohesion, but Miller is still there and he did regain his old form in last season’s second half.  At 23, it is way too soon to say Myers’ rookie season was merely a mirage, but based on what we’ve seen from him (and the Sabres) since then, we do believe it probably was a career year.  No more Chara comparisons please!

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