Mats Sundin is averaging better than a point-per-game this season. (Photo by Graig Abel/ NHLI via Getty Images)
Author: The Hockey News
Fantasy Pool Look: Mats Sundin - He wonâ€™t slow down
By: Darryl Dobbs
Mar 7, 2008
That annoying trade deadline thing is over. Now Toronto star Mats Sundin is putting the focus of fantasy junkies where it should be – on his production.
The Leafs captain is on pace for 87 points, which would be his second-highest production in the blue and white uniform and third highest in his career. Actually, considering his career-high 104 points came with the Quebec Nordiques – also blue and white uniforms – you could accurately say it would be his third-highest total in the blue and white.
That’s shocking, considering he turned 37 last month. After all, this is hockey, not baseball. Athletes in this sport actually decline as they approach their late 30s. And if you think it’s the result of a hot start and he’s only slowing down – think again. Sundin has 11 points in five games since the trade deadline and has not been held off the scoresheet in the seven games since announcing he would not waive his no-trade clause.
Keeper-league owners wonder what the future holds for the pending unrestricted free agent and what the best course of action might be.
It’s hard to imagine Sundin retiring after his third-best season, but it’s even more difficult to see the Leafs giving him a well-deserved raise. My fantasy strategy would have been to deal him to a contender at the deadline and leave the hoping and wondering to someone else, but if you happen to have him on your squad, there aren’t a lot of options now.
You can trade him in the off-season and get very little for him, perhaps not even a good draft pick. Or you can keep him and risk losing him for nothing if he retires, versus coming back and giving you another 80 points next year.
Since 80-point players don’t come along every day, it is best to hold tight and hope for a repeat season next year…
Despite his linemates (Alexei Kovalev and Tomas Plekanec) combining for 17 points in the past four games, Montreal’s Andrei Kostitsyn has just three in that span. It’s a weird quirk that happens sometimes, so the sophomore should snap out of it soon…
If you’re waiting for Montreal rearguard (and sometime winger) Mark Streit to slow down, give up already. The talented 30-year-old Swiss player has 10 points in his past eight games and will flirt with 60 this year. He has been pretty consistent all season and I would expect similar things next campaign…
Since the Sharks acquired defenseman Brian Campbell, the stars of the team have been stepping up. In the five games since Campbell joined the team, Jonathan Cheechoo has five points, while Patrick Marleau and Joe Pavelski have six points. Campbell has five points himself over that span…
While Vancouver’s top right winger, Markus Naslund, has no points in seven games and is a minus-3, up-and-coming right winger Ryan Shannon has nine in his past 10 and is a plus-7. Shannon was the subject of last Friday’s FPL…
Florida goaltender Craig Anderson has started three straight games and has won them all. He has allowed just three goals in the last 158 shots faced. The Panthers will continue to ride the hot hand and, for the time being, Anderson makes a great pickup in roto leagues.
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 Monday and Friday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.
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Want more fantasy insider information or to contact The Dobber? Check out dobberhockey.com.
THN is rolling out its 2016-17 Team Previews daily, in reverse order of 2015-16 overall finish, until the start of the season. Today, XXXXXX.
THN's Prediction: 5th in Central, wildcard team
Stanley Cup odds: 29-1
Key additions: Patrik Laine, RW; Shawn Matthias, LW; Brian Strait, D
Key departures: Grant Clitsome, D
-Was Mark Scheifele's breakout for real? The Jets have a superstar No. 1 center on their hands if we accept Scheifele’s performance over the season’s final two months as legit. He ripped off 16 goals and 32 points in 25 games after Bryan Little’s season-ending back injury.
That Scheifele’s performance improved when he was thrust onto the top line, facing tougher defense pairings without Little to insulate him, bodes extremely well. Scheifele also has first-round draft pedigree. It’s hardly a stretch to imagine him as a top-10 scorer in the league as soon as this season.
-Will Patrik Laine take the NHL by storm? It sure seems like Laine will light up opposing goalies as an 18-year-old rookie. His powerful, dynamic sniping game reminds scouts of a young Alex Ovechkin. It’s no guarantee Laine immediately excels and wins the Calder, but would you bet against it? He has an NHL body and was named MVP of the Finnish League playoffs last year, facing grown men every night. He’s ready. He’ll make the Jets’ power play deadly with his wrist shot and one-timer.
-Who will be Winnipeg's No. 1 goalie by year's end? Winnipeg still pays Ondrej Pavelec, its third-best goalie, a $3.9-million AAV. The Jets handed No. 2 stopper Michael Hutchinson a two-year extension. Meanwhile, their best netminder, Connor Hellebuyck, may have to start the year in the AHL. Hellebuyck looked like he belonged when the Jets called him up to the NHL last year and really should be starting for them now if they want the best chance to win. But it may take a trade or injury to give him the shot he deserves. Hellebuyck remains a good bet to win the job once and for all by season’s end.
Player projections are based off a three-year version of Game Score (which you can read about here) weighted by recency and repeatability and then translated to its approximate win value (Game Score Value Added or GSVA). Team strength was derived from the combined value of every player’s GSVA on a team. The season was then simulated 10,000 times factoring in team strength, opponent strength and rest.
As is the case every season, the Winnipeg Jets have one very significant problem holding them back from contending, and it’s in net. In previous seasons there weren’t exactly many better options, but this year is different as heir-apparent Connor Hellebuyck has shown he’s ready for NHL duty after a brief stint last season. It’ll be difficult for him to get playing time because of the three goalie’s contract statuses, but it’s pretty clear he’s the best of the three.
These projections are based on all three getting their fair share of games, but the trio’s playing time is by far the hardest to predict of any team. With that in mind, here’s their playoff chances based on a few other games played scenarios.
The results are unsurprising, but they do show that a good team is being held back by Pavelec. With Hellebuyck starting (or with Hutchinson), the team is more likely than not to make the playoffs while the opposite is true with Pavelec starting (or with Hutchinson).
That the team is playoff calibre shouldn’t be a huge surprise given the rest of the roster. The team boasts five first line forwards – a tie with Florida and St. Louis for the league lead – according to this model and it’s possible rookie Patrik Laine (underrated here thanks to a low NHLe from the Finnish league) can jump to that level, too. The bottom six isn’t great which could be an issue.
The defense here is solid led by Dustin Byfuglien who is easily among the league’s best and most under-appreciated D-men. Jacob Trouba is a decent number two D-man with room to improve further. After those two, the core is okay, but nothing special. Tyler Myers has bounced back from those rocky Buffalo years while Tobias Enstrom has declined a fair amount over the last few years. The bottom pair is a question mark as to who actually plays on it, but if it’s Mark Stuart the Jets will take a big hit on the backend.
The Jets aren’t an amazing team, and probably not a contender yet either, but they’re on the cusp of something very good. If they play their best man in goal they have a very real chance at getting back to the playoffs.
Rumor Roundup: Yakupov still on the outs with Oilers, but trade isn't imminent
By: Lyle Richardson
Sep 28, 2016
With their added wing depth, the Oilers can go into the season using Nail Yakupov as trade bait later this season to address a different roster issue.
Earlier in the off-season, there was considerable speculation the Edmonton Oilers would trade right winger Nail Yakupov. Selected first overall by the Oilers in the 2012 NHL draft, the 22-year-old struggled to meet lofty expectations.
It was anticipated Yakupov might be packaged for a defenseman, another struggling young player or a couple of draft picks. With training camps underway and the start of the upcoming season fast approaching, he's still on the Oilers roster.
The Edmonton Journal's David Staples cites TSN's Ryan Rishaug's belief the Oilers will part ways with Yakupov when the right opportunity presents itself. Staples also cites other local media insiders claiming Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli attempted to move Yakupov this summer, noting the young winger is on the outs with coach Todd McLellan.
With promising winger Jesse Puljujarvi standing a good chance to crack the lineup this season, Zack Kassian re-signed to a one-year deal and Kris Versteeg on a professional tryout offer, Chiarelli could have sufficient depth on the wing to replace Yakupov. The Oilers GM wouldn't necessarily have to get another winger back in return, using him instead as trade bait later this season to address a different roster issue.
Yakupov's struggles and his $2.5-million salary-cap hit for 2016-17 hurt his trade value this summer. Over the course of this season, however, a stronger performance in a contract year could make him more attractive to rival clubs.
HARTNELL RESCINDS TRADE REQUEST
Leading up to last season's NHL trade deadline, Columbus Blue Jackets left winger Scott Hartnell was the subject of considerable trade speculation. It was believed the Jackets hoped to move the 34-year-old and his $4.75-million annual cap hit in a cost-cutting deal.
Earlier this summer, Hartnell agreed to waive his no-movement clause and provided Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen a list of acceptable trade destinations. However, he's now changed his mind. Aaron Portzline of the Columbus Dispatch reports Hartnell rescinded his trade request.
After two months without any news of a possible move, Hartnell said he didn't want uncertainty hanging over him during the upcoming season. He also said he still believes he can be a contributor for the Jackets.
While his cap hit remains on the Jackets' books, it won't cause any significant issues for them heading into 2016-17. They freed up some cap room by buying out Fedor Tyutin and Jarret Boll in June. With all their players under contract for this season, they have $3.8 million in cap space.
It'll be interesting to see how things play out for Hartnell and the Jackets over the course of the season. Should they fall out of playoff contention again by the deadline, maybe Kekalainen revisits moving the veteran winger.
SEIDENBERG DRAWING ATTENTION
Defenseman Dennis Seidenberg's performance for Team Europe in the World Cup of Hockey is garnering favorable reviews. An unrestricted free agent after the Boston Bruins bought out his contract in June, the 35-year-old blueliner is drawing the attention of clubs seeking experienced defensive depth.
Last week, the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch reported the Senators “kicked the tires” on Seidenberg and fellow UFA blueliner Kris Russell. On Monday, TSN's Darren Dreger took to Twitter reporting the Ottawa Senators were among “a handful of teams” with interest in Seidenberg.
Dreger believes the first team to make the rearguard a competitive offer will get him. If not the Senators, one of them could be the New Jersey Devils. They still have a hole to fill on defense since trading away Adam Larsson to the Edmonton Oilers for left winger Taylor Hall. The Vancouver Canucks and Toronto Maple Leafs could also come calling.
Rumor Roundup appears regularly only on thehockeynews.com. Lyle Richardson has been an NHL commentator since 1998 on his website, spectorshockey.net, and is a contributing writer for Eishockey News and The Guardian (P.E.I.).
Sobotka won’t return to Blues to start season, but only because of KHL contract issue
By: Jared Clinton
Sep 28, 2016
Getting out of his KHL deal wasn’t as easy as Vladimir Sobotka would have hoped, and after months of trying, it appears Sobotka is stuck playing for Avangard Omsk for one more season.
Vladimir Sobotka has flirted with a return to the St. Louis Blues in each of the past two off-seasons after leaving the organization for the KHL in 2014-15, and while he sounded confident he would be returning to the NHL in time for the 2016-17, it seems as though difficulties in getting out of his deal with Avangard Omsk will keep Sobotka in Russia for one more season.
In a statement, Avangard president Vladimir Shalaev said that the “memorandum of mutual respect of contracts KHL and the NHL has not been cancelled,” and that rumors Sobotka would be returning to St. Louis were exactly that — rumors.
“The situation with Sobotka developed exactly as we expected,” Shalaev said. “In the summer, we talked about the fact that Vladimir is our team’s player because he has a valid contract with Avangard for another year.”
The situation is a lot more murky than Sobotka, 29, simply having a deal with Omsk, though.
Throughout the off-season, indications have been that Sobotka has planned on returning to the Blues and honoring the one-year, $2.725-million contract that he was awarded in arbitration before leaving the NHL for the KHL. However, as the summer wore on and Sobotka attempted to get his official release from his deal, news came that triggering his opt-out clause wasn’t as easy as he had hoped.
In mid-September, while Sobotka was suiting up for the Czech Republic at the World Cup of Hockey, he told ESPN’s Joe McDonald that talks with the KHL had been ongoing for five months and Sobotka was still without his release.
"We're still talking and we'll see what's going to happen during the World Cup," Sobotka told McDonald. "After that, I think we're going to be smarter. It's been going on for five months and I've had enough of it. It's my agent's job to to keep talking and we'll see."
One potential issue could be that in order for Sobotka to come back to the NHL, he needs to buy himself out of his contract. Fox Sports Midwest’s Darren Pang, a broadcaster for the Blues, reported that Sobotka getting out of his deal could require him to pay two-thirds of his alleged $4-million salary for the upcoming season. That would mean Sobotka is on the hook for $2.64 million, essentially meaning his NHL return would see him playing for little more than $100,000.
Regardless of the issues, though, it appears Sobotka’s saga is over for another summer, and will be until at least the end of the KHL campaign. He’s heading back to Avangard, and the Blues will have to wait a while to see him suit up in St. Louis.
Down Goes Brown: Five times a team avenged a round robin loss at the World Cup
By: Sean McIndoe
Sep 21, 2016
The history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped, so don't worry just yet. Unless you're Team USA.
We're two games into the round robin portion of the World Cup, and we've already seen a handful of upsets, with favorites like Russia and the United States already tasting defeat, and in the case of the Americans, already being eliminated. With one game to go and some of the four playoff spots still up for grabs, fans around the world are no doubt panicking over the games their teams let get away.
But while the round robin is obviously important – you have to make the playoffs to win the whole thing – it's worth remembering that the results of individual games don't necessarily tell us much as much as we might think about what will happen in the playoff rounds.
In fact, the history of the World and Canada Cup tournament is filled with surprising round robin results that ended up getting flipped down the line. So in an effort to calm some nerves, here are five times that overreacting to a round robin result would have steered you wrong once the eliminations games began.
1976: Czechoslovakia 1 – Canada 0
In the first ever round robin game in Canada Cup history, Canada made a statement by crushing Finland 11-2. They went on the beat Sweden and the U.S., and they closed out the round with a win over their arch-rivals from the Soviet Union, winning those three games by a combined score of 11-3.
But in between, they dropped a surprising decision to Czechoslovakia. Vladimir Dzurilla outduelled Rogie Vachon at the Montreal Forum, turning aside all 29 shots he faced in a 1-0 win. The game was an instant classic, described at the time as one of the best ever played.
The two teams finished at the top of round robin standings, setting up a best-of-three final. But there was no repeat of Dzurilla's heroics – Team Canada blitzed him for four goals in the first period of the opening game, sending him to the bench and paving the way for a lopsided 6-0 win. Game 2 was more entertaining, with Canada jumping out to a 2-0 lead just three minutes in before a Czechoslovakian comeback set the stage for Darryl Sittler's tournament winner in overtime.
1981: Canada 7 – Soviet Union 3
By 1981, the Soviet Union was coming off a relatively rough stretch of international play. They'd won their usual Olympic gold in 1972 and 1976, but been upset by Team USA's Miracle on Ice squad in 1980, lost the 1972 Summit Series, and failed to even make the final of the 1976 Canada Cup.
When they met Canada in 1981 in the final game of the round robin, both teams were undefeated and battling for first place. The game was tied at 2-2 heading into the third, but Canada erupted for five straight goals in what ended up being a 7-3 laugher. Even with star goaltender Vladislav Tretiak sitting out due to illness, the result was an embarrassing one for the Soviets.
Both teams won their semifinal game to advance to a one-game winner-take-all final in Montreal. With Tretiak back in goal, most fans expected a closer game. Instead, they got an even bigger blowout. But this time, it was the Soviets who ran up the score, earning an 8-1 win and handing Canada what still stands to this day as its most embarrassing international loss.
1984: Soviet Union 6 – Canada 3
Three years after their impressive win, the Soviets looked even more dominant through the round robin portion of the 1984 tournament. Heading into a final game showdown against a struggling Team Canada, they were sporting a 4-0-0 record and looking to wrap up the tournament's top seed. They went on to smother their rivals in an impressive 6-3 win, finishing the round robin with a perfect record and dropping Canada down to fourth place.
That set up another meeting between the two nations in the tournament semi-final, held just three days later in Calgary. After being held to just 17 shots in the round robin, Canada exploded for 41 in the rematch. But Soviet goaltender Vladimir Myshkin stood on his head, and had his team in position to win with a 2-1 lead late in regulation. It took a late goal by Doug Wilson to set up overtime, where Paul Coffey's lunging breakup of a Soviet 2-on-1 set the stage of Mike Bossy's sudden death winner.
Canada went on to sweep Sweden in the final to claim the tournament. It marked the third straight time that the eventual Canada Cup champion had avenged a round robin loss on the way to their title.
1987: Czechoslovakia 4 – Canada 4; Sweden 5 – Soviet Union 3
The 1987 Canada Cup marked the first time that the eventual champion went undefeated through the round robin. That would be Canada, who beat the Soviets in a three-game classic punctuated by Mario Lemieux's historic winner.
But while Canada didn't have any losses to avenge on their way to the title, they weren't perfect in the round robin. And the first blemish came in their opening game, when a rusty Canadian squad blew a third period lead on their way to a 4-4 tie with Czechoslovakia. That was a disappointing result against a team that had gone 0-4-1 in the previous tournament, and raised questions as to whether Canada could defend their crown. Meanwhile, the tournament's other favorite had a disappointing opening of their own, as the Soviets gave up three goals in the first eight minutes while dropping a 5-3 decisions to Sweden.
Both powerhouses recovered well, with each winning three straight before facing each other in the round robin finale and skating to a 3-3 draw. That set up a pair of semifinal rematches, with Canada facing Czechoslovakia and the Soviets drawing Sweden.
This time, the favorites took care of business. Canada started slowly but pumped home four straight goals to take a 5-3 final, while the Soviets jumped out to an early 3-0 lead before eliminating Sweden by a 4-2 score. That set the stage for a final that still stands as perhaps the best international hockey series ever played.
As a side note, the Czechoslovakian goaltender for both of those games against Canada was a 22-year-old kid that most North Americans had never heard of. He eventually made it to the NHL three years later, and turned out to be pretty good. He even got some revenge against Canada at an international tournament over a decade later.
2004: Russia 3 – USA 1; Sweden 4 – Czech Republic 3
Canada didn't have to avenge any round robin losses on their way to the 1991 title, and the United States likewise was a perfect 3-0-0 under the new World Cup format before winning it all in 1996. Canada repeated that feat in 2004, making it four straight Canada/World Cups that have been won by a team that didn't suffer a loss during the round robin. Yes, that's right – it's now been 32 years and counting since a team lost a round robin game and still managed to win this tournament. Wait, this is supposed to be about giving teams that lost in the round robin hope. Forget everything I just mentioned.
But we can still find a couple of revenge games in the 2004 round robin, thanks to that year's, um, interesting format. The tournament featured eight teams, and the playoff round featured… eight teams. Yes, everyone made the playoffs in 2004, with the round robin settling the seeding and nothing else.
That format actually gave us a few interesting moments, like top-seeded Finland needing a goal in the dying minutes to edge winless Germany 2-1. And it also set up a pair of interesting rematches. In the round robin, the defending champion Team USA had dropped its first two games, to Canada and Russia. In the latter game, they fell 3-1 while being outshot 45-21. The 0-2 start didn't hurt their playoff hopes, because of the whole "everyone makes it" thing, but it certainly put a dent in their confidence.
Meanwhile, the Czechs dropped their opener 4-0 to Finland, then fell behind by the same score to Sweden. They came back to at least make that game a respectable 4-3 final, but other than running up the score on Germany in the finale, they didn't come out of the round robin with much room for optimism.
But in the opening round, both teams got a chance at payback, and both took it. The Czechs looked like a different team, shelling Mikael Tellqvist and Team Sweden in a 6-1 win. The Russia/Team USA rematch was a closer affair, with both teams going back and forth, but the Americans held on for a 5-3 win.
Both teams went on to lose in the semifinal, although the U.S. blew a late lead against Finland and the Czechs took Canada to overtime. Canada beat Finland in the one-game final, the year-long NHL lockout began the next day, and the World Cup hasn't been seen since. Twelve years later, we're finally getting another look at the tournament, and another chance to see a tough round robin loss avenged in the playoffs.
At least, that's what teams like Russia, Finland and North America are hoping.
Sean McIndoe has been writing about the NHL since 2008, most recently for ESPN and Grantland. He spends most of his time making jokes on twitter, where you may know him as @downgoesbrown. He appears weekly on TheHockeyNews.com.