Summer is here Â– time to run down next season's fantasy outlook, team-by-team. This week's edition features three teams with completely new looks.
Team Outlook Â– When GM Mike Keenan dealt away franchise goaltender Roberto Luongo, he made the unspoken statement that the Panthers, as a team, will play a more defensive style. They will play with more grit, but it will be defense first. This style is more tailored to the coaching methods of Jacques Martin. No more hanging the goalie out to dry, because Auld will not keep you in the game as much as Luongo did Â– and former Maple Leaf Ed Belfour (if the team chooses to sign him) represents a 41-year-old gamble as well.
The Panthers have the right mix of youth, grit, and leadership, and their top two lines are fairly impressive. With Bertuzzi likely playing on a line with Gary Roberts and Olli Jokinen, and the second line likely consisting of sophomore Rostislav Olesz, Stephen Weiss, and Nathan Horton, they pack a decent one-two punch. If any of those players falter, there is no shortage of guys with good scoring ability (Joe Nieuwendyk, Martin Gelinas) or potential (Vaclav Nedorost, Juraj Kolnik, Anthony Stewart) ready to take their place. They're likely not a playoff team yet, though.
Team Fantasy Grade: C-
Team Outlook Â– To quote a line I heard on The Simpsons Â– Â“Out with the old, and in with the nucleus.Â” The rebuilding is in full swing as they let older players (Demitra, Roenick) walk, and bring in O'Sullivan to join a young core that includes Alexander Frolov, Mike Cammalleri, Dustin Brown, and Kopitar Â– with much more coming down the pipeline. The Blake signing throws the Â‘rebuilding' theory off a little, but he's a fan favorite who will keep bums in the seats while, at the same time, help keep the team in the playoff hunt.
New coach Marc Crawford will let loose on the reigns this year, and you will see a lot more goals as a result. This team has two solid scoring lines (with either Kopitar or O'Sullivan centering the second one), and two upper-tier power play quarterbacks in Blake and Lubomir Visnovsky. Their goaltending isn't the strongest, but a healthy Cloutier could pay fantasy dividends.
Team Fantasy Grade: B
Team Outlook Â– The Wild began last season with a bit of offensive flair, but they could not keep up with their early torrid pace and fell out of the playoff race by March. The acquisitions of Demitra, Parrish, and Johnsson are clearly moves to ensure a mid-season slip doesn't happen again. That said, Jacques Lemaire is a defense-first coach, and unless he's dismissed early in the year, the Wild's offense may sputter beyond their first line of Demitra, Marian Gaborik and Brian Rolston.
Parrish and Pierre-Marc Bouchard can provide secondary scoring, and the Wild has some high-end talent in its farm system, but as far as poolies are concerned, Lemaire has to go before this team can really be considered viable. The production of each player on the roster would increase by 10 per cent with a more offense-minded coach. That includes Rolston, who is already coming off a dream season that saw him tally 79 points.
Team Fantasy Grade: C+ (but an A- with a new coach)
Next week: Montreal, Nashville, and New Jersey.
Darryl Dobbs' Fantasy Hockey 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 Wednesday afternoon. Also, get the top 250 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN's Fantasy section.
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