The Blackhawks have a lot of firepower, but will their defense and goaltending stand up? (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
This is the 10th off-season for Fantasy Pool Look and for the 10th summer in a row I’ll provide an outlook for each team. I’ll have my fantasy hockey goggles on, of course. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically, but switch starting points each year. I began with Winnipeg and will work my way to Anaheim. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com. Time to take a look at the Hurricanes and Blackhawks.
Gone – Andrew Brunette, Brendan Morrison, Cristobal Huet, Sami Lepisto, Sean O'Donnell
Incoming – Sheldon Brookbank, Michal Rozsival
Ready for full time – The Blackhawks didn't add a lot of bodies this off-season because, let's face it, they had too many bodies to begin with. A team that sticks Rostislav Olesz in the minors, Brendan Morrison in the press box and Michael Frolik on the third line – all this even though Daniel Carcillo was on injured reserve – is one hell of a deep team up front. Despite that, Andrew Shaw has managed to carve a roster spot for himself after an excellent rookie campaign.
Brandon Saad made a huge splash in training camp a year ago and is certain to stick. While more development couldn't hurt, he’s ready to show that he can compete as a second-liner in the big league. He’s worth drafting late and keeping on your bench for a week to see what happens.
Brandon Pirri is also knocking on the door. The versatile forward reminds me of Kris Versteeg from a few years ago, right down to his situation and odds of sticking. Although he’s not nearly as feisty as Versteeg, his chances of staying will come down to a decision at the end of training camp. In Versteeg's case, the coach and GM saying "you made the team" resulted in a Calder Trophy finalist-type season. They could have just as easily said "go down, work hard and we'll bring you back up in a couple of months." It would have changed everything. Consider Pirri in that same boat. He’s not worth drafting, but definitely worth watching closely.
Jimmy Hayes made a splash early in his call-up last year, but with Saad on the cusp and Carcillo healthy, he could find himself back and forth between the NHL and the American League, making him too risky to consider drafting.
Dylan Olsen, a 2009 first-rounder (28th overall), is an aggressive defender with some potential in terms of hits, blocked shots and penalty minutes, though offensively his upside is limited to 20 points at best. He played 28 games last year and could make the club as a depth player to start.
With Ray Emery always on "injury watch" until his serious hip problems are forgotten, and with Corey Crawford’s inconsistency last season, it’s worth keeping an eye on the situation in net. Carter Hutton is a capable goalie who will be called on a couple of months into the season if things don't start well for Chicago.
Fantasy Outlook – Chicago is a great organization to build a fantasy team around, if only there weren't so many questions. With so many capable offensive players – both on the roster and in the system – it’s hard to peg who will come out on top. Your guy, be it Viktor Stalberg or Andrew Shaw, Brandon Saad or Michael Frolik, could get you 50 points or 10. And the high-end players are mostly coming off concussion issues (Marian Hossa, Jonathan Toews) or tough seasons (Patrick Kane). Thank goodness for Patrick Sharp.
On defense, things are more certain - if only that were so between the pipes. Regardless, this is a strong team with a deep pipeline of tantalizing prospects. Were it not for the uncertainty in net, this would be an 'A' team easily. Fantasy Grade: B (last year was B)
Gone – Derek Joslin, Bryan Allen, Brandon Sutter, Jaroslav Spacek
Incoming – Alexander Semin, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Joe Corvo, Jordan Staal
Ready for full time – The signing of Alexander Semin puts the competition for jobs up front in the spotlight. It will be fierce. Drayson Bowman, Zac Dalpe, Zach Boychuk and Jeremy Welsh will be vying for just one third-line spot, though perhaps a job could be won as a depth forward as well. For the latter to happen, someone will need to play Andreas Nodl or Anthony Stewart out of a job.
Give the edge to Bowman for one of the spots. He showed enough of a scoring touch late last season to contribute 13 points from the third line. He may be a worthwhile left winger pickup during the reserve/bench rounds, depending on how deep your league is.
Dalpe is best served with a full season in the AHL. His confidence took a hit when expectations on him were high a year ago and he failed to deliver right away. So Boychuk and Welsh will battle it out for the final spot. Neither should be drafted in one-year leagues, but be quick with the trigger finger when it comes to the waiver wire and the winner of this battle.
Ryan Murphy made the team to start last year, but the 19-year-old defenseman couldn't get into the lineup due to the numbers game. That numbers game hasn't gotten any easier, either. There’s little use in having Murphy on the team as a No. 7 guy and the first six spots are pretty secure now that Corvo is back.
Fantasy Outlook - A slightly below average team of fantasy-worthy players with a slightly below average pipeline of fantasy-worthy prospects made huge strides this off-season. Adding Semin and Staal to the lineup instantly stacks their top-six and keeps prospects in their system for another year, thereby improving both areas. Fantasy Grade: B (last year was B-)
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.
Want more fantasy insider information or to contact The Dobber? Check out dobberhockey.com or follow him on Twitter at @DobberHockey.