Sami Vatanen (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Will the Ducks' flying Finn slow down? Does Marty Brodeur have fantasy value? Matt Larkin tackles these questions plus many more in the THN mailbag.
So you're mired in the basement of your hockey pool standings. Your dad, your boss and your friggin' 10-year-old niece ridicule you endlessly. Don't take your ball and go home. Fight back.
I'm here to (hopefully) help. I've collected your excellent Twitter questions over the last few days, and I'll answer as many as I can below. You're welcome for the good advice / Sorry for the bad advice.
TheTorontoTruculent (@TOTruculent) asks...
I just traded Vatanen for OEL based on OEL's pedigree/likelihood Vatanen's early-season rates aren't sustainable. Agree?
Answer: I partially agree. The part about Oliver Ekman-Larsson's pedigree is bang on. He's a do-it-all Clydesdale of a defenseman with an extremely bright future. That said, he's no lock to outproduce Sami Vatanen the rest of the season. Yes, Vatanen is playing a bit over his head, but he hasn't come out of nowhere. He has been groomed as the Ducks' power play quarterback for a few years now. In THN Future Watch 2013, our scouting panel rated Vatanen the No. 24 prospect in the game. This isn't "where did Vatanen come from?" It's "Ah, Vatanen has arrived." Long-term, I like OEL better. But in a non-keeper format and especially a points-only format, Vatanen is the superior play for 2014-15. He has far more talent surrounding him in Anaheim than OEL does in Arizona. The Ducks really need him, too, considering how many D-men they've lost to injury, illness or trade.
Aaron M. Knox (@aknox42) asks...
Is Jaden Schwartz underrated and/or forgotton on the STL Line?
Answer: Y-E-S. Schwartz is a bulldog of a player, extremely valuable to the Blues. There's a reason they drafted him 14th overall in 2011 and took Vladimir Tarasenko, his linemate, two picks later. Schwartz is tenacious for his size and a strong playmaker with a good hockey I.Q. Tarasenko obviously has the much higher ceiling, but Schwartz is indeed underrated. He should score in the 60- to 70-point range for years to come.
Warren (@klein5079) asks...
Will Ben Bishop of my Tampa Bay Lightning maintain his recent performance? Or will this prove to be an anomaly?
Answer: This question would've made more sense a year ago, when Bishop was mid-breakout season. Following it up with more strong play so far in 2014-15 only confirms what we thought we knew: Bishop is an emerging stud in goal. He swallows pucks up in that 6-foot-7 frame of his. Tampa GM Steve Yzerman knew what he was doing when he traded Cory Conacher for Bishop. It would be nice to see him get through a full season healthy, however, especially with a future star on the farm in Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Steve (@bamf) asks...
It's my 2nd year playing in a league and the 2nd year I only drafted American players. Am I dumb? 3rd last year, 2nd this year.
Answer: It really depends on your roster and when you drafted your players. Did you pass on Sidney Crosby to take Phil Kessel first overall? If so, then yes, you're dumb. Sorry Steve. But if you picked late in the first round and went, say, Kessel-Patrick-Kane-Jonathan Quick, you're an American patriot and a genius.
Josh Graham (@JGraham_18) asks...
Buy low goalie options in keeper leagues? Wait on J. Gibson still?
Answer: When you say "wait," I assume that means you own John Gibson. In that case, yes, I'd wait. He's Anaheim's goalie of the future, and his injury doesn't change that. Frederik Andersen is a viable starter, but Gibson is the long-term bet. He's the best goalie prospect in the game. And note that Andersen's numbers regressed heavily from October (7-1-0, 1.60 goals-against average, .941 save percentage) to November (3-3-4, 3.00 GAA, .895 SP). He's left the door open for Gibson to take over, whether it's this season or next.
Big Wheel (@BigxWheel) asks...
Why does my goaltending suck so bad?
Answer: You really need to give Mike Smith a night off.
Mo (@21_mo_money) asks...
I have Elliott as one of my goalies. Do I take a chance and drop him for Brodeur?
Answer: If this is a straight Brian Elliott-to-Martin-Brodeur comparison, sure, go ahead and drop Elliott for Brodeur. The very fact St. Louis signed Brodeur tells us Elliott's lower-body injury is a long-term problem. If the Blues have replaced Elliott with a Hall-of-Famer, you may as well, too. That said, I'd temper my expectations. Brodeur should be rusty, he struggled mightily last season and this is Jake Allen's show now. If I'm an Elliott owner, I'm scouring my waiver wire for higher-upside options with better chances to steal No. 1 duty. Michael Hutchinson, anyone?
Matt Ross (mRodrums) asks...
What are your thoughts on Granlund in Minn so far? Based on team and play so far, where is he headed? Steal pick @ this point?
Answer: Don't give up on Granlund. He's a special talent. He was my No. 1 sleeper pick for the 2014-15 season, and...aaaARRRGH! (shoves papers off desk). Who am I kidding? I'm a FAKE. I'M A PHONEY! I dropped Granlund in one my leagues three weeks ago. We can't blame his slow start on goals and shooting percentage, as the latter has actually climbed for him this season. It's his assists that have completely dried up. And it's not about a lack of chances. Minnesota is the No. 1 Corsi Close team in the NHL, as per puckalytics.com, and Granlund is among the individual leaders. It's more a matter of Granlund's supporting cast – linemate Jason Pominville or potential future linemates like Thomas Vanek – correcting their shooting percentages. in theory, the Wild have been unlucky so far, so Granlund should boom later this season. Excuse me while I race to pick him back up in my league.
Olsonic (@BruinsScience) asks...
Thoughts on blockbuster of a young talent in a keeper league? I'm moving Hertl, Stalock, Teravainen for Nichushkin, Pearson. Context: I'm trading for balance. I'm over-stocked at left wing (Drouin/Gaudreau/Landeskog/Hertl), only two RW (Seguin/Kessel).
Answer: That's a mover and shaker of a deal, for sure. My first thought is: how weak are you at right wing, really? You're not deep, but you have Phil Kessel and apparently Seguin still qualifies at right wing in your league, too. You're stacked. To me, you're surrendering too much in that deal. Tanner Pearson is a handy player, especially in real life, but there's a reason he was passed over completely in two (!) NHL drafts before cracking the first round in 2012. He doesn't have the pure talent ceiling of Hertl and Teravainen. I get that you want to deal from a surplus, and that's smart, but you should ensure you get a proper talent return – unless your league forces you to start half a dozen right wingers. In that case, I get it.
Harold P (@howie379) asks...
Do you think T.J. Oshie snaps out of it? Also, do you see Matt Niskanen as a reliable starter every week?
Answer: T.J. Oshie will snap out of it, but I'm not sure if he will soon. It's been a Murphy's Law kind of year for him. He missed seven games because of a concussion. He was back for just a couple weeks before taking a dangerous head shot from Minnesota's Marco Scandella. On a personal level, his father, Timothy, is battling Alzheimer's disease, so there's no telling how that emotional pain affects T.J.'s focus. Lastly, after a couple seasons on the Blues' featured scoring line (with David Backes and David Perron, and with Backes and Alexander Steen last year), Oshie isn't the offensive centerpiece right now. Tarasenko, Schwartz and Jori Lehtera rule the roost. Oshie is talented enough and young enough that he'll undoubtedly bounce back, but 2014-15 shapes up as just a down year for him.
As for Niskanen, nope, he's not a fantasy hockey starter to me. I was bearish on him from the moment he left Pittsburgh. His monster 2013-14 campaign came late enough that it stood out as a fluke, not a breakout.
Thanks for the questions, everyone! If I didn't include yours, I apologize. Only so much time and space. Feel free to hound me on Twitter. Good luck in your pools!
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin