James Neal

A piece where we look at 10 things from the wonderful world of fantasy hockey. If you’re a James Neal owner you may want to stop here and come back next week, when the wound isn’t so fresh.

James Neal lands in Nashville – may have to leave his “Real Deal” nickname in Pennsylvania

I wasn’t there, but I’m guessing they were partying in the streets of Nashville well into the wee hours of Friday night. Sure, Patric Hornqvist is a good player – he’s not James Neal. Twitter has been overflowing with heartbroken fantasy owners who thought they had entered the offeseason with a 26 year old, former 40 goal, 300 shot man as the cornerstone of their offence. Instead, they are left to wonder what exactly Neal will be as a Predator. The folks over at Penbrugh took an interesting look at how playing in Nashville impacts a player’s numbers. He’s leaving a situation in which he took virtually every even strength and powerplay shift with Evgeni Malkin for what, Mike Fisher? Colin Wilson? Pittsburgh had the 5th best offence, compared to 19th in Nashville. No matter what way you slice it this was essentially the worst case scenario. If you know of a panicked Neal owner in your pool, now may be a good time to send a text with “so man, what about Pominville plus?”

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Trying to predict Ryan Kesler’s future

Hard to believe he posted 40 goals as recently as 2010-11. Age is a fickle thing, and Kesler turns 30 in August. The move to Anaheim should provide an opportunity to produce at strong, but not elite levels. It’s very similar to the team Vancouver was a few years ago – two top offensive options driving the majority of scoring. If he can land a consistent spot alongside Perry and Getzlaf on the powerplay then there is a real chance he can break 20 goals and 50 points again. Last year he showed a renewed interest in shooting the puck (239, 2nd highest total of his career), which bodes well for 2014-15. There may be some added buzz around Kesler in your league as a result of all this pre-draft media attention – it may be worth exploring a trade.

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A complex mathematical equation to determine Patric Hornqvist’s value

Used to be a Nashville Predator + now plays with Crosby and Malkin = you know what to do

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Free agency gets even more interesting - Christian Ehrhoff Buyout

Ehrhoff is becoming the latest player to find himself in the middle of a battle between traditional sports writers and the blogging community. There are some that point to his previous two seasons in Buffalo as an indication of decline. There is a great piece over at Canucks’ Army, showing that he may in fact be a Norris calibre blueliner. For me, if he ends up on one of the top 10 or 15 offensive teams there is a real chance he returns to 50 points like we saw in 2010-11. He’s an uber skilled guy that’s capable of playing top pairing minutes and quarterbacking a powerplay. His peripheral categories have seemed low in recent years, saddled with a brutal plus minus in Buffalo and unable to shoot as much as he did in Vancouver. But he’s shown in the past that 180+ shots is achievable, which would put him among the top 15 for defenceman. He’ll be a nice target as your number two guy on draft day. 

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The ageless one

News is floating around that Vancouver may take a run at landing 36 year old Jarome Iginla. All three are a bit past their prime, but with a new coaching staff in place I’d love to see what Iginla and the Sedins could do over 82 games together. In the right situation he’ll once again be a threat for 30 goals and 30 assists, just make sure to slide him back a couple spots on your draft board -  it’s not 2011 any more.

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Spezza's bad luck

There seems to be a prevailing notion that Spezza is poor defensively. While I’ll concede he isn’t “elite”, the numbers don’t paint the picture of someone who is abysmal. Last year he had a respectable Corsi For percentage of 52.3%, right in line with Ottawa’s overall number. Where he struggled was when it came to his Goals For percentage – when Spezza was on the ice Ottawa only scored 42.1% of the goals. The difference can be explained in large part by a horribly low PDO total (97.3), generally a proxy for “puck luck.” When we compare his PDO to that of Kyle Turris (103.6) we see a massive difference. Many have been quick to anoint Turris as the team’s new number one center, something that would worry me long-term. All of this is a long-winded way of saying Spezza is due for a bounce-back season in 2014-15. If he can land on fertile fantasy ground like St.Louis, and grow old with someone like Taranseko on his wing, than he may return to 25 goals, 75 points, and north of 200 shots. It’s a great time to buy-low on Jason.

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Niskanen and why secondary assists should scare you

We know from existing research that secondary assists are relatively unpredictable in hockey. There is a terrific post over at Broad Street Hockey explaining the details. What this means is that if a player posts gaudy offensive totals on the strength of many secondary assists, then you should probably anticipate regression in the coming year – enter Matt Niskanen. He ended 2013-14 with 26 secondary assists, the fourth highest total of any defencemen. There will be those predicting another step forward and close to 50 points – I won’t be one of them. He’ll have to work hard to break 40, especially if he lands on a significantly lower scoring squad via free agency.

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He’s old, but not THAT old – what to expect from Cammalleri

In free agency there always seems to be a tonne of value once you get past the BIG names. Cammalleri isn’t getting much hoopla this time around. Maybe it’s because he’s 32 years old, or has struggled with injuries and a bit of inconsistency the past few seasons. Whatever the case, he’s still a spectacular talent when it comes to piling up biscuits in the proverbial basket (now I’m getting hungry). His 26 goals in 63 games translates to a pro-rated 34 goals over a full season. Yes, he’s approaching an age when goal scorers generally decline sharply, but he should be a reasonable bet for around 25. If he can land on a contender where his plus minus stabilizes than I could foresee a return to 25-30-55 and 200 or more shots.

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Brodeur

It’s a name that has been synonymous with fantasy dominance the past two decades, but at 42 years old it’s probably time to forget about Brodeur in your pool. Speculation is that he may sign with Boston, which should in theory be a boon to his value. However, if the last four seasons are any indication (save percentage of .903, .908, .901, .901), he may no longer be fantasy relevant.

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Optimus Reim heading north?

With rumours that Winnipeg is interested in bringing in the soon-to-be former Maple Leaf we can all rejoice as Ondrej Pavelec’s reign as “starter you NEVER want to have on your fantasy team” comes to an inglorious end.  

 

Darren Kennedy is a contributor for McKeen’s and Dobber Hockey. You can find him on twitter at @fantasyhockeydk. 

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