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Fantasy Hockey: The Monday Mailbag

A regular piece where you folks do all the work. You can send in any fantasy hockey related questions via twitter @fantasyhockeydk. I’ll try to post them on Mondays, unless I sleep in, then it will be Tuesdays, or in the very worst case scenario, we’ll just keep your mail and laugh maniacally.

Where would we be without the mail?

We’d sit quietly in our homes, no way of communicating, no way of interacting with one-another. Can you imagine birthdays without BIRTHDAY CARDS?? Or Christmas without all those envelopes from distant relatives you see once every two decades? What a horrible, horrible world that would be.

Thankfully, we at McKeen’s believe wholeheartedly in the mail, which is why we created a giant, digital mailbag to contain all of your fantasy hockey questions.

Crosby is quoted in the Globe today saying his wrist is great.  But given that Crosby, and this league in general, have habitually not been truthful about injury status, what are we to make of his claims to be good to go?  Wrists are iffy things.  (As an aside, my favourite fantasy baseball website, baseball hq, has or used to have a guy named Dr. HQ, who wasn’t a doctor but claimed to be an expert on injuries.  Might be something for you guys to consider).

In hindsight adding the prefix of “Dr” to an online nickname would have been a terrific idea. Dr. Fantasy, or Dr. Hockey. I can imagine the twitter followers now – it would have been something. Sigh.

For Crosby, and injuries in general, you’re right – players and teams don’t give us much information. And when they do give us information it’s rarely everything and often filled with puzzling innuendo. Saying that, I have found organizations to be a bit more forthcoming in the offseason. There isn’t quite the mystique of the playoffs where every single came is considered so important. It’s not a massive strategic advantage if Crosby misses the first four games or not.

Wrists can linger, most certainly. But so can ankles, groins, hips…etc. Thankfully these teams have the best physiotherapists and doctors (real doctors that is) around, and unlike us they probably have full coverage. Crosby has had an entire offseason to re-hab, which means even if he isn’t 100% I’d be surprised if he was far off. Regardless of your pool’s format, to me at least, he shouldn’t go any later than second.

How many points do you think Valeri Nichushkin will put up this season? Spezza/Seguin dependent if course!

Ha! More like Spezza and Seguin will be dependent on Nichushkin for points.

*checks watch, realizes it isn’t 2022 yet*

My adoration of Nichushkin is well documented (mainly on twitter where half of my tweets are in some way related to the big Russian). But even with that, I don’t expect this year to be mind-blowing on the scoresheet. He has a very small chance of landing on the first power play unit, with guys like Hemsky, Seguin, Benn, and Spezza all above him on Dallas’ depth chart.

Which means he’ll be looking at around 2:00 each night. It’s a positive step, to be sure. But might not be enough for a true ‘break-out’ season. Skating with Spezza at even strength will help significantly, and I expect him to build on a somewhat disappointing shot total last season (128).

With his underlying talent there is always the chance of an explosion, a 60 plus point season where we can say he ‘arrived.’ More likely, however, he crosses the 50 point threshold and starts slowly building a stronger set of peripheral categories.

How likely is it that Kuntitz and/or Dupuis will be off his (Crosby’s) line, and who are the likeliest candidates?

I’m reminded of my favourite quote in fantasy sports: “father time is undefeated, still boasting a perfect record of infinity to zero.” When the season begins both Kunitz and Dupuis will be 35 years old. It’s difficult to envision the Penguins sending out the world’s best player, in the midst of his prime, with two guys (one coming off of a major leg injury) at that stage of their careers.

Kunitz, of course, is a much stronger bet to stay on the first line than Dupuis. He’s the more talented of the two and is a more versatile option than Dupuis. They have a number of possible replacements for Pascal, like Downie and Bennett. I’d expect this situation to change throughout the year, with various combinations getting a shot on that line until something settles in. For now, though, it’s worth sliding Dupuis down your draft board.

Top 5 goalies (not yet established as stars) you'd target in a dynasty league?

This is always a tough one. Not because I don’t like to talk about goalies – I very much do. But man, are they almost impossible to project until we have a decent swath of NHL data to go on.

For now, anyway, these are the five guys I’m most excited about:

Anton Khudobin – will have a legitimate chance to start 50 games in Carolina.

John Gibson – a bit of a wild card since I don’t expect him to steal the job outright in Anaheim, a nice long-term investment though

Thomas Griess – the stiffest competition Fleury has faced in a back-up in a while. It’s unlikely he takes many starts, but it’s worth a late round chance on your part.

Jake Allen – Hitchcock tends to rotate his tenders, so don’t look for a huge number of games for either Allen or Elliot. Still, they’re a terrific handcuff unit to have playing behind that team.

Alex Stalock – Niemi’s contract situation is making a mess of San Jose’s crease. He wants long-term, Crawford like money, which means the Sharks’ are trying to find out if they can get similar production from the much, MUCH cheaper Stalock.

Which of the two (Duchene or MacKinnon) has the best chance at a breakout season of MORE than a point a game?   Should I take Duchene’s experience and upside over fact MacKinnon is the true future superstar of the two, has put on a bunch of muscle, will get more pp time this year, and of the two centres he will at least in home games presumably get the better match ups.  I realize the loss of Stastny is one of the negative factors to consider here.

I’m guessing this is a one-year league that measures only points, since you’re putting the focus on what will happen in 2014-15 and didn’t mention secondary categories like shots or penalty minutes (quick aside: I hate penalty minutes in fantasy). It’s tricky. Long-term, in dynasty formats, MacKinnon is the superior asset and it’s not really a debate (in my mind at least). Duchene does a lot of thing very well, but he won’t put up points like MacKinnon, who figures to be challenging for Art Ross trophies in the not-too-distant future.

For this year, it’s awfully close. Duchene has rounded into what should be his prime years. He’s a regular threat for 80 points (had 70 in 71 games last year) and should break 30 goals sometime soon. With MacKinnon, there are tell-tale signs of an elite asset in the making. Sure, his 63 points where only 36th in the league, but you have to remember he was skating on the third line and seeing only 14 minutes per game over the first couple months of the year (and was, you know, only 18!). Amazingly, despite being sheltered, he finished with 241 shots, inside the top 25. As a general rule, a player’s shot totals will rise during their first few years in the league (although there are expectations – Landeskog). Assuming MacKinnon continues to develop I could see him with around 30 goals and 50 assists in 2014-15. Which, of course, is almost exactly what we’re expecting from Duchene.

So how would I break the tie? Since we know MacKinnon likely has the higher upside overall AND shoots more frequently, I’d select him. When two assets appear to have similar value always go with the player that COULD outperform your projections. It’s hard to envision Duchene at 85 or 90 points, whereas MacKinnon could quite easily challenge those totals (it’s not likely though, so I don’t want angry mail in April when he’s only at 75!)

How about Weiss in DET, a healthy season and back to his Fla numbers or avoid?

Here is an article I came across explaining that Weiss was never truly healthy in 2013-14.

It’s sort of good news, in that we can give him a partial mulligan on last season’s horrendous results (four points in 26 games, with only 28 shots). However, we’re now looking at a pretty alarming trend for a guy who turns 32 in April. Over the last two years he’s only played in 43 regular season games – or one quarter of the schedule.

Making matters worse for his fantasy prospects is the fact that Detroit has a tonne of talented youngsters in the pipeline. He’s going to have to fight for a top six spot and will be hard pressed to get off the second power play unit.

Now, it’s not all bad. He has a pedigree of 60 point seasons and is carrying around a bloated, $24.5 million dollar contract that runs through 2017-18. Detroit management WANTS him to succeed, because it means they succeed. So he’ll get his opportunities, but I wonder if it will be enough.

If I’m forced to give a guess on his production, it’s probably in the realm of 65 games, 35 points, with so-so peripheral production. There is always the chance for more if he truly is “back” to his old form, but I’ll be taking the wait and see approach before over investing on draft day.


Darren (@fantasyhockeydk) is a writer for McKeen’s. He once proclaimed Nikita Filatov to be the next Pavel Bure – so trust his opinions at your own risk.