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Crease concerns

Antti Niemi could end up as the No. 1 in Chicago. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Antti Niemi could end up as the No. 1 in Chicago. (Photo by John Russell/NHLI via Getty Images)

Eric Belanger is a top-scorer and Craig Anderson and Ilya Bryzgalov are the top goalies, while the likes of Alex Tanguay and David Booth struggle. Is this Bizarro World? Dobber will set you straight – let’s get to some letters!

Hey Dobber, I am in a 12-team keeper league and picked up Semyon Varlamov early in the draft under the assumption he would get the starts over Jose Theodore and that he would be a strong goalie on a strong team for the future. Given his poor play thus far and the Caps’ sieve-like defense, should I drop him in favor of another good young goalie on another strong team in Antti Niemi or should I give Varlamov more time?
Branden, Westbrook, Maine


This letter just missed the deadline for consideration in the Oct. 13 mailbag, so it is a week old. But it’s the perfect example of how a week of being patient can make all the difference. Since then, Theodore has been injured and Varlamov has gone 2-0-0 with a 1.14 GAA and a .949 SP. Remember, folks – it’s early. Very, very, very, early.

I'm in a deep Yahoo league and am looking to pick a decent option for a third goaltender. Currently I have Roberto Luongo, Niklas Backstrom and Martin Biron. I’m thinking of dropping Biron; the Islanders look like they will be struggling again this year and can't really count on him...especially with Dwayne Roloson sharing time with him. We use wins, losses, GAA, SP and shutouts as our goalie stats. Of the following, who would be my best option to replace: Antti Niemi, Jon Quick, Dan Ellis, Craig Anderson or Ondrej Pavelec? I’m leaning towards Niemi at the moment; Chicago is a powerful team this year and I think he will really challenge Cristobal Huet. What would you do in this situation?

Steven, Calgary


Normally I would say Anderson because I’m a big fan and I think he’ll get 70 starts this year. However, given that you have two good starters already, I would say swing for the fences and take Niemi. There will be weeks where he starts every game and will be perfect to replace Backstrom when times are tough (like now, for example). When Niemi starts, chances are he will get a ‘W.’

I have Cristobal Huet in my pool and am worried he may lose his starting job in the future. What is expected to happen with Washington's goaltending situation? Are either of those goalies or possibly Craig Anderson or Jon Quick, better options? Also, I have Claude Giroux, Peter Mueller, Stephen Weiss and Pierre-Marc Bouchard (injured) all lacking thus far. Would picking up an injured Marian Hossa or Phil Kessel (in anticipation of future gains) or possibly Mikael Samuelsson, Jordan Staal, Tomas Plekanec, Ryan Malone, Ales Kotalik or Mike Comrie (the best of the thin crop of available forwards) serve me better? My pool is 12F, 4D, 2G (15 teams)
Tony, Vancouver


I’m assuming your league does not have an injured reserve system, otherwise I would have to wonder why Hossa and Kessel are available. By all means, grab each of them and drop Mueller and Bouchard. As for Huet and Niemi – I get the impression Niemi will slowly steal that job away, but for the most part the team will go with the hot hand. I would switch out Huet for Varlamov. Nothing is settled in Washington or Chicago, but I am confident enough in where I think things are going.

Hi Dobber, I'm in a keeper league with 12 teams and 18 players per team (goals 10 pts., assists seven pts., PIM one pt.). I have Pierre-Marc Bouchard on my roster as my last forward and his concussion-like symptoms are starting to concern me. I'm looking to drop him and replace him with one of the available players in our league and a few names jump out at me. Vinny Prospal, Kristian Huselius, Rene Bourque, Wojtek Wolski, Brandon Dubinsky and James Neal are some of the available players. Who do you think will be the most consistent fantasy producer of these players and who would you replace Bouchard with?
Savas, Huntsville, Ont.


Those are some good names available and I would happily interchange any of them for Bouchard at this point. At the bottom of my list, however, would be Wolski (lack of proven consistency and lack of PIM) and Bourque (injury prone). Any of the other four would be great additions. Neal is probably your worst bet for numbers this season and Prospal is your worst bet for anything beyond this year. Just from the process of elimination I would go with Dubinsky. He looks fantastic playing with Marian Gaborik and he is still only 23.

Is Denis Grebeshkov for real? I have him in a keeper format where we dress five D-men (weekly swaps) and a few GMs have been asking around about him. Is this a sell-high point for him? Or is 60 points attainable throughout his career?
Peter, Taiwan


Grebeshkov is for real. He is a very talented offensive blueliner on an Edmonton team that is chock full of them. I think 60 points is probably pushing it, but I do believe he will fall in that 45-55 range more often than not. Sell high? It would depend on the offer – everyone’s for sale, as far as I’m concerned, unless the name Crosby, Malkin or Ovechkin is involved.

Hey Dobber. There is tons of information out there on the big-name rookies for us keeper league poolies, but there are a few rookies having a good start to the season that I cannot find a lot of info on: Ryan O'Reilly (COL), Jason Demers (S.J.), Peter Regin (OTT) and Davis Drewiske (L.A.). Would any of these guys be worth taking a flier on if I had an extra spot on my keeper team? Love all your fantasy insight!
Nelson, Fort St. John, B.C.


Sure, Nelson. O’Reilly is a player who I had pegged to be a two-way checker on the third line. I figured in a few years he would carve himself a niche as one of the best third-line pivots in the league with consistent 45-50 point production. However, he pulled a Patrice Bergeron and made the team as an 18-year-old and what’s more, he’s scoring. With this kind of impact, I wonder if he can be a second-line forward by the time he’s 21, but I wouldn’t expect more than 40 points this year.

Demers is the blueliner who I figured would make the Sharks as a No. 5 or 6 guy. He has offensive upside and I cautiously put him down for about 30 points this season. At this point, however, it appears he will be closer to 40 points (thereby completely replacing the lost offense from Christian Ehrhoff who was traded in the off-season). Demers is the real deal and out of the four on your list I would take him.

Regin is making great strides. He had a huge camp in Ottawa, but has his work cut out for him to crack their top six. Like O’Reilly, Regin’s upside is somewhat limited, but he is showing he can’t be underrated and I’ll probably have to re-evaluate things if this continues. He doesn’t boast O’Reilly’s defensive skill, but Regin’s offensive touch is much better than I thought so far.

Drewiske will probably be a 20-point, 100-PIM defenseman and shouldn’t be considered for your team in most leagues.

Note regarding the Fantasy Mailbag – it is important to indicate whether or not your league is a keeper league or a one-year league. Also note whether the league is “points only,” “standard roto league,” or if there are any uncommon rules that are important to know. This will help in advising you on the right course of action.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Mailbag will appear every Wednesday throughout the season. To send the Dobber your question, click HERE.

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