Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com Correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy defensemen in our weekly segment: "On the 'D'-fence." From updated defensemen rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Metzer will be your fantasy d-man expert all season long.
The Nashville Predators have spent the past seven seasons growing into one of the best teams in the Western Conference. They have made that climb based largely on their defensive acumen, their goaltending and the play of their captain, Shea Weber.
Weber, who is in his eighth NHL season, has led the way not only in the defensive zone, but on the score sheet as he has become one of the best two-way blueliners in the League. He and former partner Ryan Suter, who departed for the Minnesota Wild during unrestricted free agency this past summer, combined to score 26 goals and 95 points last season. This makes it even more shocking to consider that Weber has yet to notch a point through his team's first nine games of the season.
The Sicamous, BC native is averaging just over 27 minutes of ice time per night and has been effective defensively, but that is only part of what he is counted on to do for a team that featured just two players who broke the 20-goal plateau last season and ranks last in goals scored this season with 18.
This scoring drought has many around the league scratching their heads, but it isn't necessarily reason for alarm if you drafted Weber.
Since his breakout season of 08-09 that saw him score 11 points (four goals) in his first 10 games, he has been a bit of a slow starter.
He kicked off the 09-10 season with nine points (five goals) in his first 13 games, the 10-11 season with six points (one goal) in his first 10 games and the 11-12 season with just five points (one goal) in his first 11 games. Sure, that is much better than getting nothing through nine to start this campaign, but he was trending in this direction.
It is worth noting that in each of the previous four seasons, Weber has not averaged less than .55 points per game and finished with an average of .62 points per game last year in what was his slowest start of the four years.
Weber is averaging more than two shots per game and with the howitzer of a shot that he possesses it is just a matter of time before he starts finding the back of the net with regularity once again. Let's remember that this is the guy who once fired a puck through the netting of a goal during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
A period of adjustment was to be expected this season, as Weber is playing for the first time in quite awhile without Suter. He is too talented a player to not work himself out of this funk and we believe that he will.
This dip in production is providing the perfect opportunity for savvy owners to acquire Weber as the folks who drafted him are beginning to panic. His ownership has dipped to 98 percent in Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey leagues and if two percent have dropped him, a much larger percent is willing to trade him.
Weber still has the potential to post upwards of 25 points the rest of the way, why not let him do it for your team.
Mike Green, Capitals -- Green might not be the same guy who posted seasons of 73 and 76 points between 2008 and 2010, but he came into camp looking noticeably fit. He is also fully healthy for the first time in several seasons. That alone is reason to believe that he can get back to being a dominant force from the backend. When you mix in the fact that he plays with a dynamic group of forwards featuring Alex Ovechkin, Nick Backstrom, and Mike Ribeiro you have a recipe for fantasy success. He has already posted five points (two goals), two power-play points and 26 shots on goal.
Sheldon Souray, Ducks -- Souray broke back on the scene last year with the Dallas Stars and it made for great theater after the way his time with the Edmonton Oilers ended. The one time 26-goal scorer became a fantasy darling and looks to be picking up where he left off with the high-flying Anaheim Ducks. Souray has already picked up five points (three goals), 16 shots on goal and has registered a plus-five through his first eight games.
Sami Salo, Lightning -- Salo might not have picked up a point in four games, but he is still worth taking a look at. He has always possessed offensive upside and is effective on the power play. He is going to get his points playing with the likes of Steve Stamkos and co. He has already picked up five assists in his first nine games, but what makes him most attractive at this point is his sparkling plus-11. He is also playing more than 20 minutes per night.
Ryan Ellis, Predators -- We had high hopes for Ellis this season and still do, but he hasn't been producing results early in the season. His two-point showing against the St. Louis Blues is a big positive, but there is no discounting the fact that he had been held off the score sheet for six consecutive games prior to that. Reserve him for now.
Ryan Suter, Wild -- Suter, not unlike his former partner Weber, has struggled to start the season. He has just four points (zero goals) in nine games this season and they all came over a span of three games between Jan 25 and Jan 29. He has also registered a minus-seven. He isn't the type of player who you can justify dropping, so owners will have to weather the storm.
Alex Goligoski, Stars -- Goligoski is entering his prime, which dovetailed nicely with the acquisitions of some high profiled offensive weapons such as Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, and Derek Roy. Unfortunately he has yet to get the results fantasy owners were hoping for as he has picked up just three points (zero goals) in 10 games.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Simon Despres, Penguins -- Despres, who found himself a healthy scratch during two early-season games, has worked himself back into Dan Bylsma's lineup and has rewarded the coach with solid play. He has been partnered with Kris Letang for the last week and has thrived in that role. He has picked up four points (two goals) in his seven games this season and looks to be getting stronger with each outing. He has taken a few too many penalties as of late, but that bolsters a fantasy lineup in most situations. He makes for a great depth signing as long as he stays active.
TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN
These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings. They are based on a standard fantasy league with these offensive categories: G, A, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP, SOG.
1. Erik Karlsson, Senators (same)
2. Kris Letang, Penguins (+5)
3. Alexander Edler, Canucks (+1)
4. Alex Pietrangelo, Blues (-1)
5. Kevin Shattenkirk, Blues (+1)
6. Tobias Enstrom, Jets (+8)
7. Zdeno Chara, Bruins (-5)
8. Dustin Byfuglien, Jets (-3)
9. Niklas Kronwall, Red Wings (+4)
10. Brian Campbell, Panthers (same)
11. Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (same)
12. Shea Weber, Predators (-4)
13. Dan Boyle, Sharks (-4)
14. Keith Yandle, Coyotes (-2)
15. Kimmo Timonen, Flyers (+3)
16. Mark Streit, Islanders (+1)
17. Ryan Suter, Wild (-2)
18. Drew Doughty, Kings (+2)
19. Jack Johnson, Blue Jackets (same)
20. Dion Phaneuf, Maple Leafs (-4)
21. Christian Ehrhoff, Sabres (+1)
22. Joni Pitkanen, Hurricanes (+1)
23. Justin Schultz, Oilers (-2)
24. Sergei Gonchar, Senators (same)
25. P.K. Subban, Canadiens (+1)
26. Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Coyotes (+2)
27. Duncan Keith, Blackhawks (-2)
28. Dennis Wideman, Flames (+3)
29. Mark Giordano, Flames (same)
30. Andrei Markov, Canadiens (+3)
31. Matt Carle, Lightning (+3)
32. Alex Goligoski, Stars (-5)
33. Dmitry Kulikov, Panthers (-1)
34. Raphael Diaz, Canadiens (NR)
35. Mike Green, Capitals (+5)
36. Sheldon Souray, Ducks (+4)
37. Marek Zidlicky, Devils (+5)
38. Tyler Myers, Sabres (-2)
39. Ryan Whitney, Oilers (-1)
40. Jason Garrison, Canucks (+3)
41. Kevin Bieksa, Canucks (+3)
42. Brent Seabrook, Blackhawks (-5)
43. John-Michael Liles, Maple Leafs (+2)
44. Travis Hamonic, Islanders (+2)
45. Ryan Ellis, Predators (-10)
46. Ian White, Red Wings (+1)
47. Nick Leddy, Blackhawks (+2)
48. Slava Voynov, Kings (+4)
49. Dougie Hamilton, Bruins (+1)
50. Ryan McDonagh, Rangers (-2)
51. Dan Girardi, Rangers (same)
52. John Carlson, Capitals (+2)
53. Tom Gilbert, Wild (+2)
54. Justin Faulk, Hurricanes (+5)
55. Victor Hedman, Lightning (+1)
56. Fedor Tyutin, Blue Jackets (NR)
57. Paul Martin, Penguins (same)
58. Derek Morris, Coyotes (NR)
59. Erik Johnson, Avalanche (-1)
60. Sami Salo, Lightning (NR)
Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Jared Spurgeon
Injured/Out: Cam Fowler, Brendan Smith, Jared Spurgeon, Jake Gardiner, Brent Burns, Matt Niskanen, Andrej Meszaros, Zach Bogosian, Nikita Nikitin, Carlo Colaiacovo, Ryan Wilson, Lubomir Visnovsky (suspended)
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