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 insider all season long.
Many around the NHL raised an eyebrow when the Dallas Stars traded for the rights to defenseman Sergei Gonchar back on June 7 and signed him to a two-year, $10 million contract that would keep the veteran with the team through the 2014-15 season.
Though the move seemed a bit strange to some, it filled a need for the Stars, who were lacking a true quarterback for their power play. It also provided an opportunity for him to work with Alex Goligoski in much the same capacity that he had while the duo patrolled the blue line for the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Sounded like a nice plan until the season started and Gonchar produced just one point, an assist, over his first 15 games.
He has now played in 32 games for the Stars and finds himself with just 11 points, seven of which have come on the power play. That production isn't up to his standards, but those who have followed Gonchar's career closely are reacting with a wink and a nod as if they are in on a secret.
Sarge, as he is called by teammates, is a historically slow starter upon arriving in a new locale and he is following a script that many in the League have seen play out through stops in Pittsburgh and with the Ottawa Senators, before this start in Dallas.
We have chosen to toss out the start he had with the Boston Bruins following a trade during the 2003-04 season, as the sample size just wasn't large enough. He collected nine points (four goals) in 15 games for the Bruins, but it's worth noting that he was held scoreless on seven occasions over that span.
Gonchar signed with the Penguins following the 2004-05 lockout and proceeded to put up 16 points in his first 32 games. Many were upset about that production and ready to run him out of town. He would go on to produce 259 points (54 goals) in 322 games with the team over his five seasons.
For those keeping track at home, his points per game jumped from .50 in those first 32 games to .80 points per game over his tenure in Pittsburgh.
Sarge moved on to the Senators as a free agent for the 2010-11 season and again got off to a slow start. He would pick up just 15 points over his first 32 games in the Canadian capital.
Sound familiar? It should.
He would finish his career in Ottawa with 91 points in 186 games. While that productivity is down a bit from his days in Pittsburgh, he was deferring to Erik Karlsson, who was breaking out during his final two seasons with the team.
We decided to look at Gonchar's starts based on a recent hot streak that has seen him produce 10 points over his past 17 games and seven over his past six. He looks a lot more comfortable and his totals through 32 games aren't far off of his typical pace over his first 32 games with a new team.
His power-play production is up, which is where he has done much of his damage in recent years, and his ownership has dropped to 52 percent in Yahoo fantasy leagues, which means he could be available on the wire in yours.
We sense a breakout coming and he could be good for .50 points per game or more the rest of the way. Though his totals may not rival those of his days with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and company, he could be a 40-45 point defensemen before all is said and done.
Dan Boyle, San Jose Sharks -- Boyle may not be scoring at his customary pace, but he is still a very effective player in this league as evidenced by his recent three-game scoring streak that saw him pick up five points (one goal), post a plus-3 rating and fire 11 shots on goal. Boyle now has 17 points (six goals), a plus-two rating and 70 shots on goal for team that wins plenty of games.
Roman Josi, Nashville Predators -- Josi has had an up-and-down season caused mainly by injuries and the arrival of Seth Jones. Well, he is healthy and taking full advantage of his 24:36 minutes per night to help the Predators and fantasy owners. He has six points (one goal) over his past five games and seven in his past eight. He is owned in just nine percent of Yahoo leagues and could provide a nice boost for your team.
Kris Letang, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Letang is dealing with an upper-body injury and it appears that he might not be able to return until after the Christmas break. He has been officially placed on injured reserve and should be reserved for the foreseeable future. Now is the time to keep an eye on the waiver wire as some owners might drop him, allowing you to poach a potential stud.
Seth Jones, Nashville Predators -- Jones has seen his ice time whittled in recent games and that has cut down on his opportunities to help fantasy owners. Stir in the fact he has just two points in his past 13 games and you have a player that is best reserved for a later date. We have actually dropped him from our rankings for the time being. Look elsewhere, such as at his teammate Josi, for a boost in the interim.
KEEP AN EYE ON ...
Brian Dumoulin, Pittsburgh Penguins -- Dumoulin was one of the pieces the Penguins received in the Jordan Staal trade and has opened eyes since joining the organization with his size, offensive skill and attention to detail. Injuries and suspensions have pressed him into action for the Penguins and he hasn't disappointed over two games, playing an average of 18 minutes, and picking up his first assist in a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. He is logging time on the power play and will continue to do so while he remains with the club. Could be a nice depth grab.
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