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2014 Fantasy Teams to Target (and Teams to Avoid)

by chewy 28. August 2014 06:19

Ready to shake off the summer slumber and get to work on your draft prep yet?  First step: Figure out which teams to target and which teams to avoid.  Let's get to it then. 

 

Teams to Target in 2014:

 

1.       Colorado

The Avalanche surprised most last season, charging down the mountain from the first puck drop to be a dominant force in the West and a fantasy gold rush.  Nobody should be surprised to see that continue in year 2 of the Roy Regime.  From MacKinnon, Duchene, Landeskog and Iginla up front, to Barrie and Johnson on the back end, and throw in a rising O'Reilly, the goals will flow freely in Denver this year.  Get a piece of this action early and often in your draft.

 

2.       Pittsburgh

It seems redundant to list the Penguins as a team to target in fantasy circles.  It has been that way since about 1984.  The new front office may be reforming the image of this squad for better Spring results, but you still can't go wrong with Crosby, Malkin and a host of adequate complimentary wingers to finish those passes.  The addition of Ehrhoff more than offsets the loss of Niskanen on defense, and a full season from Letang could land him back in the Norris party.

 

3.       Philadelphia

The Flyers took their time getting started last season, but finished among the best in the NHL.  I'll avoid grabbing for the obligatory Giroux jokes and say that he remains a top 3 fantasy option, making Voracek and anyone else that finds their way to his line worth drafting.  The fantasy-worthy options stretch into the third line in Philadelphia.

 

4.       San Jose

Who cares about the playoffs, right?  Just keep picking Sharks for their regular season success and you'll be a happy drafter.

 

5.       Los Angeles

The evil-opposite of the Sharks don't care a lick about the regular season.  Nonetheless, with 3 lines of top end offensive talent, including a slew of first and second year speedsters, you should keep the Kings on your radar.  Look for potentially monster seasons from the likes of Kopitar, Carter and Gaborik.  Doughty is due for a big fantasy campaign as well.

 

6.       Chicago

Like LA - The Hawks like to spread it around and get the wins.  Some of their top names will be overrated and overdrafted as they approach the back end of their career.  Don't overreach for anyone on this squad, but if the value is there come draft time, there should be about 10 Chicago players going off the board in your draft.

 

7.       Dallas

My surprise pick for fantasy explosion this season is coming out of Texas.  The top line may be the best in hockey this season.  The Stars have quickly transformed to a to a resurgent powerhouse over the last several seasons.  Don't expect much from the defense crew.

 

8.       Tampa Bay

With two Calder runners-up last season, and strong Calder favorite in Drouin this season, the Bolts are building a fantasy power from youth.  And then there's potential MVP Stamkos.  Hedman continues his slow ascent to the elite on D.

 

9.       Edmonton

This has to be the year Edmonton finally breaks through, right?  They could have 3 forwards in the top 10 by the end of the year.  And 2 more in the top 50.

 

10.   Minnesota

In any other division, Minnesota would be a clear favorite to finish first.  It won't come easy, but they will give the big 3 a run for their money.  Along the way, look for some very solid fantasy options to emerge, including the obvious (Parise, Suter, Pominville, Vanek), and the not so obvious (Grandlund, Niederreiter, Coyle).  If they could ever get a full year's work out of a goalie, one of them may emerge as a top 5 option in net.  All around, this is a solid, rising Wild squad.

 

 

Teams to Avoid:

 

1.       Nashville

The only coach they've ever known has moved on, leaving the team seeking a new identity.  Perhaps that is reason to hope that this team could finally turn a history of sweet defensive prospects into fantasy meaning.  The roster up front gives little hope for 2014 relevancy.

 

2.       New Jersey

When your only viable fantasy option is 42, you have no viable fantasy options.  Even Schneider will struggle to find wins.

 

3.       Phoenix (I mean, Arizona)

Defense first.  If he has a C or W next to his name, look elsewhere.

 

4.       Buffalo

Nothing to see here.  Move along.

 

5.       Florida

The Panthers seem content to throw silly money at average players, just to meet the salary floor.  Many of these guys could do well if paired with elite talent; however, given their location, they will see their totals dive down.  A handful of promising youngsters give a slight glimmer of hope on the horizon.

 

 

 

 

 

For the Record - 2014 Playoff Predictions

by chewy 16. April 2014 05:26

Just a few hours before the puck drops on the most compelling contest in all of sports.  This year, at long last, we have a fixed bracket, making things much easier on those of us obsessed with fantasy contests.  Be sure to get in on the action at NHL.com with your bracket selections.  Here are mine:

 

 

 

Cup Finals:  St. Louis Blues over Boston Bruins.

Despite entering the playoffs on a 6-game losing streak, my faith in St. Louis has not wavered from the start of the season when I projected them to hoist their first ever Cup.  If they can get healthy, no other team can roll 4 lines up front and 3 pair on defense like the Blues.  I was torn over the Boston/Pittsburgh selection, but goaltending has to favor the Bruins.

 

MVP: Alex Steen.  Steen finally emerged as an NHL star this season, leading his squad in goals and assists, despite missing several weeks of action.  He will be clutch.

 

EASTERN CONFERENCE

 

Pittsburgh / Columbus

Fleury will be fine in this one.  Which is all anyone needs to hear.  A Pittsburgh loss would rival the '93 Islander upset.

Penguins in 5.

 

Boston / Detroit

Just keeping the playoff streak alive should satisfy Wings fans.  They certainly won't like what they get in Round 1, as they will be completely outclassed by the Bruins.

Bruins in a clean sweep

 

Tampa Bay / Montreal

Coin flip on this one.  Let the goaltending decide it.  With Bishop uncertain and Price in top form…

Canadiens in 6.

 

NY Rangers / Philadelphia

Another coin toss.  The Rangers just seem pieced together wrong, while the Flyers have the 2nd best player in the league on their side.

Flyers in 7.

 

 

WESTERN CONFERENCE

 

Colorado / Minnesota

If you're looking for an upset in Round 1, it has to be here.  The Wild are better built for the playoffs than Roy's surprising Avs squad.  If only the Wild had healthy goaltending, they could have challenged St. Louis to come out of the West.

Wild in 6.

 

St. Louis / Chicago

Tough road for the Hawks to repeat in the West.  Toughest fight comes first, which they will lose.

Blues in 5.

 

Anaheim / Dallas

Biggest no-brainer on this side of the bracket.  Ducks should roll here.

Ducks in 5.

 

San Jose / LA

Wish I didn't have to stay past midnight for the next two weeks, but I can't miss what should be the best series of round 1.  When the teams are even, look to the net.  It doesn't get better than Jonathan Quick.

Kings in 6.

 

 

Top 10 Fantasy Goalie Rankings for 2013-14

by Chewbacca 4. September 2013 19:01

The goalie position continues to be the hardest by far to predict with certainty.   I can only recommend two names to be sure winners worthy of a first round pick.  After that, you have a collections of very good options that are almost interchangeable parts.  Because of that, if you miss out on Lundqvist or Rask, I recommend waiting until the goalie run is over and picking the 8th or 9th goalie off the board, as there shouldn't be much drop off from the 3rd best option.

 

 

TIER 1

 

1. Henrik Lundqvist

While he fell just shy of another Vezina nod last season, you simply cannot get more in terms of reliability than Hank. I suspect that the coaching change will have an overall positive effect on his fantasy numbers. He should see significantly more shots this season, which means more saves. And the shots that Torts dictated be blocked out front tended to be the easier saves for a goalie. Logically, you should see a higher save percentage, more saves, and overall total domination for Lundqvist as this year's top goalie pick.

 

2. Tuukka Rask

If anyone can challenge Lundqvist for the top spot on the goalie list, it's Rask. He had to wait patiently for his opportunity as Boston's #1, but has proven to be worth the wait. His dominance in the regular season even carried through the playoffs. With Boston promising to be one of the most dominant teams this season, he is assured of large helping of Wins. Expect 40, perhaps even 50. Can't go wrong with Rask.

 

 

 

TIER 2

 

3. Sergei Bobrovsky

After a revelation of a season, all eyes will be on Bobrovsky to see if he can repeat the magic. The Jackets are clearly on rise and will rely on Sergei to keep them moving that way. There is no reason to doubt he will be a solid contributor once again fantasy wise, but expecting another Vezina may be overshooting. He is certainly a safe #1 option in net.

 

4. Jimmy Howard

Howard has been a reliable fantasy option for four years now. He stepped it up a notch last season, arguably carrying them into the playoffs. The Wings have committing to him for the long haul, so he won't have contract issues on his mind. Detroit's young defensive crew is coming together nicely and ought to provide enough support for Howard to make it 5 straight seasons as a solid fantasy keeper.

 

5. Jonathan Quick

Simply put, Quick tanked last season. He showed no signs of the man who dominated the position for the prior two years. That changed in the playoffs, as he returned to form and carried the team for 2 rounds. That run brings hope to fantasy owners looking for a top notch goalie that may be underrated at this year's draft. He didn't even crack the top 20 in fantasy points by the end of last season. Look for a rapid return to the top 5 this year.

 

6. Corey Crawford

If it's wins that you crave, consider holding out for Crawford as your #1 in net. The Hawks will surely deliver plenty in the W column again in 2013-14, and this time, assuming he stays healthy, Crawford won't have to share the net with Emery. Khabibulin will fill in only when Crawford needs a breather. His numbers last year were among the best in the league. He just needs more starts to rank with the elite.

 

 

7. Antti Niemi

According to my charts, Antti Niemi provided more fantasy points than any other player in the league. (I'll pause while you absorb that thought). (thought you might need more time...) Much of this came in the first 3 weeks of the season when San Jose seemingly couldn't lose a game. He finished the season strong as well, piling up 24 wins in 43 games. While I don't expect the Sharks to be as good this time around, he is the undisputed #1 in net for San Jose. He will again get his fair share of wins and will remain a viable #1 option. Just don't expect a repeat as the top fantasy man.

 

 

8. Craig Anderson

Statistically, Anderson was the best goalie in the league last season, by far. His 1.69 GAA and .941 save percentage were silly good. He just needed to stay healthy a little longer. He didn't show a sign of weakness all season until the 2nd round of the playoffs, where the Pens made him look human. A full season in good health will show whether or not he is for real as a #1 option.

 


9. Pekka Rinne

Rinne, along with the entire Nashville team, took a big step backwards last season. Maybe they missed Suter that much. Despite the slip, Rinne remains the epitome of the word "workhorse". He will continue to own the pipes for 85% of the action in Nashville, which means wins should continue to pile up. Look for a bounce back in other categories, with a Preds team that just has to be better this season.

 

 

10. Marc-Andre Fleury

You'll need to focus hard, but try and forget what happened in last year's playoffs. And the playoffs the year before that. Focus. In the regular season (which is what we care about in fantasy town), Fleury has been a very good option. The Pens (for some unknown reason) insist on standing behind him as their #1, despite having a far more stable option in Vokoun at the ready. As long as that vote of confidence remains from the man behind the bench, Fleury will carry significant fantasy value. The Pens promise to rack up the wins again this year, and the Flower is the default option to gather those Ws. Because of his post-season struggles, you will probably see Fleury slide deep come draft time, making him a potential sleeper win.

 

 

 

To see the rest of my top 50 goalie rankings, visit:  http://www.landsharkhockey.com/LS/tools/DraftRankings.aspx.  You can also customize your own list there.

2013-14 NHL Power Rankings (Summer Edition)

by Chewbacca 9. August 2013 07:16

Before we dive deep into the player projections for the upcoming fantasy hockey season, it helps to get grounded in the real world.  That is, how should you expect the NHL teams to fare this year, particularly in the new division alignment.  It's a whole new world, as the focus shifts squarely on the divisions, so we'll break things down that way.  I'll spare you the analysis and jump right to the projections:

 

Metropolitan

 

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

2. New York Islanders

3. Philadelphia Flyers

4. Columbus Blue Jackets

------------------------------

5. New York Rangers

6. Washington Capitals

7. Carolina Hurricanes

8. New Jersey Devils

 

 

Atlantic

 

1. Boston Bruins

2. Toronto Maple Leafs

3. Ottawa Senators

4. Detroit Redwings

------------------------------

5. Montreal Canadiens

6. Buffalo Sabres

7. Tampa Bay Lightning

8. Florida Panthers

 

 

Central

 

1. Chicago Blackhawks

2. St. Louis Blues

3. Minnesota Wild

4. Dallas Stars

------------------------------

5. Nashville Predators

6. Winnepeg Jets

7. Colorado Avalanche

 

 

Pacific

 

1. L.A. Kings

2. Anaheim Ducks

3. San Jose Sharks

4. Edmonton Oilers

------------------------------

5. Vancouver Canucks

6. Calgary Flames

7. Phoenix Coyotes

 

 

Now for that brief analysis that I owe you.

 

Going Up

Several teams are clearly on their way up, should things play out the way I've prognosticated. 

 

Islanders -- Goal scoring continues to rise, as this team takes on the persona of it's captain.  While they'll need to lock things down a little more on defense to find success in the playoffs, they are poised for a bump in the regular season standings and should be a solid squad to target from a fantasy hockey perspective.

 

Flyers -- This team got off to a horrible start last season, and nearly recovered in time to make the playoffs.  Given a full 82-game schedule, it's a fair bet that they would have qualified.  I expect a significant recovery in 2013.

 

Stars -- Dallas had a pretty good off-season, at least on paper.  They shed some aging veterans for some speedy talent up front.  They're poised for a return to relevance.

 

Oilers -- If not this season, then when?  At some point this talent has to come together. 

 

 

Going Down

 

Canucks -- This have not gone swimmingly for the Canucks in recent memory.  Too many distractions and no good vibes.   They can no longer prey on a weak division.  The playoff streak ends this year.

 

Canadiens -- Despite winning their division, the warts started to show as the season wore on.  This team is too small and not deep enough to compete with the top tier in the Atlantic.

 

Rangers -- It's just not coming together for the Blue Shirts.  A new face behind the bench may rejuvenate this offense, but it may take more than one season to see it all come together.  Somebody has to be edged out.

 

Capitals -- All this team did was get worse since the season ended.  Despite bringing Ovechkin and Green back from the dead, Washington doesn't have enough complementary parts to qualify in their division.

 

 

Overall Power Rankings

1. Pittsburgh Penguins

2. Boston Bruins

3. Chicago Blackhawks

4. LA Kings

5. Anaheim Ducks

6. St. Louis Blues

7. Toronto Maple Leafs

8. New York Islanders

9. Philadelphia Flyers

10. Columbus Blue Jackets

11. San Jose Sharks

12. Ottawa Senators

13. Detroit Redwings

14. New York Rangers

15. Minnesota Wild

16. Edmonton Oilers

17. Washington Capitals

18. Vancouver Canucks

19. Montreal Canadiens

20. Carolina Hurricanes

21. Dallas Stars

22. Nashville Predators

23. Buffalo Sabres

24. Winnepeg Jets

25. Tampa Bay Lightning

26. Colorado Avalanche

27. Calgary Flames

28. Phoenix Coyotes

29. Florida Panthers

30. New Jersey Devils

Revisiting the 2013 Forecast

by chewy 23. April 2013 13:29

As the season draws to a close and we prepare for the playoff run, it's time to take a step back and revisit this year's pre-season predictions to see how well the Crystal Ball performed in the shortened season.  Clearly, it was a mixed bag.  If you want the whole thing, here's the Original Post: http://www.landsharkhockey.com/post/2013/01/21/NHL-2013-Preseason-Predictions.aspx

 

 

 

TEAMS ON THE MOVE

We tried to predict teams that would move up and down.  We possibly nailed it on the Down part.  Failed miserably on the up…

 

GOING UP:

 

Buffalo Sabres - Truly thought they were on the right track.  This team needs to start playing with some passion in the first half of the seasons.

 

Carolina Panthers - Seems like every season, they miss the playoffs by a point or two.  At least they should have a decent draft position this time around to show for their troubles.

 

Edmonton Oilers - Biggest shocker of all.  When is this team going to win?

 

 

GOING DOWN:

 

Detroit Redwings - Fared much better than I expected with the franchise retiring last year.  Still, looking like the streak will end this spring.

 

New Jersey Devils - My prediction of "No chance this team makes the playoffs." looked silly after the first month of games, but this team came down to earth when Brodeur was injured.

 

 

 

FINAL STANDINGS (by points)

 

Not even close...

 

Starting in the East:

 

1. Pittsburgh *

2. New York Rangers

3. Buffalo Sabres *

4. Boston Bruins

5. Carolina Hurricanes *

6. Philadelphia Flyers

7. Toronto Maple Leafs

8. Tampa Bay Lightning

--------------------------

9. Washington Capitals

10. Florida Panthers

11. Ottawa Senators

12. Montreal Canadiens

13. New York Islanders

14. Winnepeg Jets

15. New Jersey Devils

 

Besides nailing Pittsburgh to finish first (big stretch there), the only other right predictions:

"Yes, once again, it looks like the "winner" from the Southeast Division will unjustly claim 3rd seed"

"The Leafs will end their playoff absence, while the Caps will be on the outside this time around. (TBD on that last one) "

 

 

Now, on to the West:

 

A little better.  Way off on Columbus.  Hands up if you saw that turn around coming.  Also missed the boat on the Ducks.

 

1. St. Louis Blues *

2. LA Kings *

3. Nashville Predators

4. Edmonton Oilers *

5. Vancouver Canucks

6. Chicago Blackhawks

7. Phoenix Coyotes

8. San Jose Sharks

--------------------------

9. Dallas Stars

10. Detroit Redwings

11. Minnesota Wild

12. Colorado Avalanche

13. Anaheim Ducks

14. Calgary Flames

15. Columbus Blue Jackets

 

 

 

 

THE HARDWARE

 

Mixed bag on these calls:

 

MVP / Art Ross

Crosby.  End. Of. Discussion.

Still think he's got this in the bag.

 

Rocket Richard

Despite a handful of worthy competitors, Stamkos will be holding on to this one for a few years.

Still has a shot to prove me right.

 

Norris

Shea Weber will claim his first of many this year.  Expect some votes for Letang and Karlsson.

Shea misses Ryan.  Who knew? 

 

Vezina

The committee always seems to be a year behind in naming the winner here.  Jonathan Quick gets his due in 2013.

No idea who's going to claim the Vezina at this point, but it's not going to be Quick.

 

Presidents Trophy

The Blues will be so good defensively, they'll win this with a week to go in the season.

Did I say the Blues?  I meant that other Central Division team.

 

Stanley Cup

Last year, I predicted a California / Pennsylvania matchup in this space.  I was right on one end. 

My vague, cloudy crystal ball shows me the winner this time will emerge from either PA or NY state and will take on a team from the Central Division.  {pause while I crumble up papers.  Place them in the hat…}… and the gutsy prediction is:

 

OK.  Let's pretend like I stopped there, and a Penguin / Hawks 1992 repeat isn't out of the question...

 

 

The Buffalo Sabres will claim their first Cup over the St. Louis Blues.

 

Ouch. See where being bold gets you.

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