Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny of the Colorado Avalanche celebrate after defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 7-5 on Dec. 13. (Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images)
No team has more goals in the NHL than the Colorado Avalanche. Whatever coach Joe Sacco feeds these kids, I’ll take a helping. It doesn’t seem to matter how many injuries the team sustains, who gets called up or who the team acquires, the Avalanche will score a ton. The problem (and for the Avs, it’s a good one to have) is – if everyone is healthy, who fits where?
Let’s summarize their problems and solutions over the past 15 months:
Problem (September, 2009): need some more bodies.
Solution: Matt Duchene and Ryan O’Reilly make the team after Kyle Quincey is acquired in July. All three become fantasy favorites at one time or another.
Problem (throughout 2009-10): Injuries riddle the lineup at one time or another.
Solution: T.J. Galiardi and Brandon Yip prove to be a solid NHLers.
Problem (throughout 2009-10): Wojtek Wolski does not bring it on a consistent basis.
Solution: Trade him for Peter Mueller and Kevin Porter. The latter has been a solid cog on the checking line and he has subbed in admirably on a scoring line when needed. Mueller’s impact was that of a superstar – if only the two concussions didn’t cut that short. Which brings us to...
Problem (late 2010): Mueller, Galiardi, Chris Stewart, Quincey and Hejduk are all injured.
Solution: Recall Kevin Shattenkirk and acquire Tomas Fleischmann. Bringing up Shattenkirk turned out to be a home run swing. Landing Fleischmann has made it “back-to-back jacks,” as TSN’s Darren Dutchyshen likes to say.
Everything Sacco touches when it comes to players between the ages of 21 and 26 turns to gold. But poolies are left wondering – what happens when the five above players return and how should we prepare? Let me take a stab at it.
I’ll look at these players in the order I feel Sacco leans on them on the power play.
1. Paul Stastny - The star of the team missed Friday’s game with a stiff neck, but his spot is not in danger and it doesn’t seem to matter who his linemates are, he’s getting you a point per game.
2. Shattenkirk - He has been everything projected of him and more. He’s also reached that high level several years earlier than expected. He is the top power play defenseman on this team, regardless of John-Michael Liles’ numbers. The return of Quincey won’t impact Shattenkirk one iota. His current pace is for 63 points, which is high. Count on 45, though, even with the 11 missed games.
3. Liles - Breaking out in a big way, but he’ll slow down. Not because of young Shattenkirk, but because, a) he often slows in the second half and, b) his current pace is just too crazy.
4. Stewart - Not back for at least another month, but he will pick up where he left off.
5. Hejduk - He’ll be dogged by injuries throughout the season. That’s always the way it is with him. But when he plays, his talented teammates will see to it that he hovers close to a point per game.
6. Mueller - I doubt we’ll see him play before mid-February. But when he does, he’ll be leading the secondary power play unit from the blueline. And when you see this unit, you’ll think it could be the top unit on many NHL teams. Read on...
7. Fleischmann - 'Flash' is one of several players who would suffer slightly from the return of key players. Lately he’s playing like an 85-point player. But when the others return, he’ll slip to scoring at a 70-point rate.
8. Duchene - The 19-year-old will be Colorado’s best player in three years. But now Sacco has the luxury of bringing him along slowly. Still, Duchene’s part of the top six – with ‘Flash’ and Mueller on his wings.
9. David Jones - He is having a solid year and on a 30-goal pace. He squeaks onto the second PP unit, but is out of the top-six. But that’s assuming the Avs find full health, something you should not assume when it comes to both Hejduk and Mueller. Jones’ numbers should be status quo.
10. Quincey - The Avs will mostly rotate Shattenkirk, Liles and Mueller on the blueline, but Quincey will see some time there as well, especially with Mueller on the shelf. With this kind of talent around him, Quincey’s horrible numbers are bound to turn around, but he probably won’t get 30 points.
11. Yip - He’ll be on the second power play unit until Mueller returns - then he’ll be out. When that happens, his numbers will plummet, so be wary.
12. Galiardi - He’ll probably see less time on the power play than Yip and the same statement goes: His numbers will plummet when the injured players start filing back.
13. Greg Mauldin - A current and future third-liner, Mauldin is adding valuable depth scoring with zero power play time. He’ll slow down when the adrenalin wears off, but that will have nothing to do with players returning. Enjoy the ride while it lasts.
14. Porter, Matt Hunwick - These two players should not be owned in fantasy leagues right now, let alone later, though Porter brings excellent intangibles that are valuable in the real hockey world.
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.
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