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Fantasy Mailbag: Patience with Price can pay off

Fantasy Insider Pete Jensen answers your weekly fantasy hockey questions

Saturday, 10.22.2011 / 5:15 PM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Pete Jensen - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Fantasy Mailbag: Patience with Price can pay off
NHL.com's Pete Jensen answers the most compelling weekly fantasy hockey questions from the fans.
All season long, NHL.com’s weekly Fantasy Mailbag will feature the best fantasy hockey-related questions from you, the fans.

Locked into a toss-up in deciding which player to add or drop? Looking for insight on a trade proposal? Look no further than this interactive forum every Saturday during the season for comprehensive analysis on moves that can make or break your fantasy squad.

NHL.com fantasy insider Pete Jensen has your inquiries covered all season long. The most compelling questions posed each week will be answered in an effort to provide you with the best chance to succeed in your particular league.

Submit your best questions for the NHL.com Fantasy Mailbag by contacting PJensen@NHL.com.



Rohan (Fulton, Maryland):

I currently own Tomas Vokoun and Carey Price in my fantasy league. I’m happy with the way Vokoun has been playing, especially after he outplayed Ilya Bryzgalov (who I debated on drafting over Vokoun) in Washington’s win over Philadelphia on Thursday night.

However, I’m not too pleased with the performance of Carey Price so far this season. I was under the impression that he was poised to be a Vezina finalist this season, but certainly not with the numbers he is putting up now. Price is certainly not the only one at fault though, since the Canadiens have been unimpressive as a team without a doubt.

Which of the following ways should I go:

-Trade Price for a goaltender on a surging team (Ex: Semyon Varlamov, Kari Lehtonen),
-Trade Price and a depth skater for a top-tier goalie (Ex: Ryan Miller, Marc-Andre Fleury)
-Wait this rough patch out and hope for Montreal and Price to bounce back


There’s no question Carey Price’s early season struggles (1-4-1 record, 2.83 GAA, .890 save percentage) are alarming. Montreal fans are not happy with their team’s early slump and fantasy owners of Price are most certainly questioning their move of drafting him with an early-round selection. However, we’re talking six starts into the young season. It’s natural to contemplate trading him, but after investing a top pick on his behalf, you owe it to yourself to survey his production over a larger sample size (say, 20 games) before panicking. It’s a long season and Montreal has a promising roster.

At the same time, it’s understandable to anticipate the window of time to make a trade closing -- since Price’s value is still high. Varlamov (3-2-0, 2.14, .936, 1 SO) just helped guide the Colorado Avalanche to their best road trip in franchise history, and Lehtonen (6-0-0, 1.48, .957) has been absolutely spotless as the surging Dallas Stars open eyes around the League. There’s no doubt you wish they were putting up numbers like that for your squad.

As far as your question, I believe trying to pry a top-tier goaltender like Miller or Fleury from an opposing owner will definitely cost you more than just Price and a depth player at this stage of the season -- since Price cannot be compared to either of those goaltenders due to his poor start. Both Miller and Fleury have consistently put forth top-tier production in the crease for their respective teams over the years, and look as formidable as ever early this season. Lehtonen (19th drafted goalie in Yahoo leagues) and Varlamov (25th), are highly regarded at this juncture of the season but are also considered major steals to this point. Lehtonen’s value is higher than anyone thought it would be, and for someone to part ways with an unbeaten goaltender, you will need to pay a higher price than Lehtonen may be worth. Both were sleeper picks to start the season, but could end up being fool’s gold when it’s all said and done this season.

Therefore, your best bet is to wait it out and see how Price and the Habs respond to the adversity facing them early this season. Price is a guy with sky-high expectations of himself and his team -- especially coming off a season where Montreal took the eventual Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins to overtime in Game 7 of their first-round series. You drafted him high because he is 24 years old and broke out for 38 wins (T-1st in NHL), a 2.35 GAA and a .923 save percentage last year. Be patient, because if you re-visit this matter in a month or so, you should be able to get a more accurate sense of where Price ranks amongst his peers.



Bryce (Tampa, FL):

I was wondering if dropping Dustin Brown for James Neal or Shane Doan would be a good idea. Both Neal and Doan are starting out hot and I think that they both will continue this streak for a while.

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Brown is a guy who has reeled off four consecutive 20-plus goal, 50-plus point seasons with the Los Angeles Kings, and his start to the 2011-12 season can be seen as an early indication that his trend of strong production should continue. The 26-year-old forward is entering his prime and should mesh well alongside new addition Mike Richards on the team’s second line.

But while Brown has gotten off to a solid start for L.A., James Neal has been out of this world for the short-handed Pittsburgh Penguins. Neal experienced a rough patch after being traded to Pittsburgh from Dallas late in the season (1 goal, 5 assists in 20 games with the Pens last spring), but his 7 goals is tied for the League lead with Phil Kessel of the Toronto Maple Leafs entering Saturday’s action. If Neal is somehow still available in your League, it’s a no-brainer to snatch him. Once Evgeni Malkin and/or Sidney Crosby are back into the swing of things for Pittsburgh, Neal’s point production could only benefit.

However, if someone has nabbed Neal by now, which is probably the case, Doan is a perfect veteran option for your roster at right wing. Here’s why – you may look at the Kings as a playoff contender and the Phoenix Coyotes as a team that may be on the outside looking in, but Doan is where his team’s offense starts and ends. Sometimes you may find that with a deep offense like Los Angeles, a player of Brown’s caliber may have a more difficult time elevating his numbers from an individual standpoint. Meanwhile, Doan (3G, 4A in 6 games) is traditionally at the forefront of Phoenix’s offensive game plan, putting up 20-plus goals, and 60-plus points. Doan is a top-line force who knows Phoenix’s system inside and out, and despite the fact that Brown may play for the more offensive-minded team, the man in the desert -- in this case -- could be bound for the better fantasy season.



Martin (London, Ontario):

I got a trade offer from a friend, where I would send Joe Thornton and Duncan Keith in exchange for Ilya Kovalchuk and Mike Green.

Duncan Keith is a question mark to me. He hasn't started off the season as well as I thought he would, but then again, he's got a few points under his belt now. I’m fairly confident that Kovy will be back to his 40-goal self again this season, but Green is my main concern. He’s a high-scoring, puck-moving D-man, but I am worried about his health -- which proved to be a deal-breaker last season.

Will Green’s season mimic last year, or is he back to the blue-line weapon he used to be? Should I make this trade?


This deal appears fair for both managers involved, but there is greater potential from what you would be receiving - so I would give it the green light. Kovalchuk, along with Zach Parise, are the anchors of the New Jersey Devils’ offense. The Devils have seemed extra motivated early on in the season, and Kovy (2G, 3A in 5 games) has reaped the benefits so far. While Thornton is extremely consistent, having reeled off 11-straight 20-plus goal seasons, there is just more goal-scoring potential with the 28-year-old Kovalchuk, who has six seasons of 41-plus goals in his career, including 52-goal showings in '05-06 and '07-08.

Mike Green
Defense - WSH
GOALS: 1 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 2
SOG: 14 | +/-: 0
Now let’s break down the toss-up in this trade on the blue line. Concerning your “x-factor” in the deal, Mike Green, it’s important to realize that you can’t control injuries as a fantasy owner. Why do owners take a chance on Sidney Crosby despite an unknown timetable for his return? The reward outweighs the risk. Green has been injury-plagued for a number of seasons, but it would be foolish to ignore his back-to-back 70-plus point showings in 2008-09 and 2009-10. His PIM totals were more than 50 in both seasons, his plus-minus rating was off the charts (career-high plus-39 in ‘09-10), and his shot totals exceeded 200 in each of the two years. Most importantly, Green scored 31 goals in ’08-09. That is game-breaking potential that few defenseman in the game today can fathom. Despite a slow start offensively, Green (1G, 1A in 6 games) should find his rhythm for the Capitals, who are currently unbeaten at 6-0-0 entering Saturday’s action.

Keith (0G, 3A in 6 games this season) is a bounce-back candidate himself as a point-generator on the defensive front for the Chicago Blackhawks. This 28-year-old has won the Norris Trophy and the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks in 2009-10, and has missed only six games in his first six seasons in the League. However, his production dipped from 69 points in '09-10 to 45 in '10-11, raising a red flag for fantasy owners. Keith scored a career-high 14 goals in ’09-10, but Green’s best-case scenario is far superior to that of Keith. That’s the main reason why this deal is in your best interest to make.



Blaine (Calgary, Alberta):

I am in a fantasy keeper league with 12 teams. We have 2 roster spots for goalies but I choose to select three goalies to help with the goalie stats (I can change my lineup daily).  My goalies are currently Tim Thomas, Jaroslav Halak and Steve Mason. If the beginning of this season is any indication, I am in trouble.

I want to drop Halak and/or Mason and pick up a free agent. Some of the top FA goaltenders are Johan Hedberg, J.S. Giguere, Craig Anderson, Devan Dubnyk, Evgeni Nabokov, Cory Schneider and Nikolai Khabibulin. Which goalie(s) would you drop, and which would you pick up? Thanks for the help with this.


Despite the Bruins’ mixed success offensively this season, you are in good hands with Thomas. Last year he led the League is both GAA (2.00) and save percentage (.938) and is proving that his age is not an issue as he has put together a 1.98 GAA and .932 save percentage in five games played in ’11-12. As far as your other starting spot, you have a predicament on your hands.

It’s tough to judge if and when Halak will return to his ’09-10 form, but with St. Louis’ young core making strides by the day, Halak’s astronomically poor numbers (1-4-0, 3.47, .835) should improve if he stays healthy. Mason, on the other hand, is making Columbus’ goaltending situation very unpleasant -- especially with backup Mark Dekanich on injured reserve. Mason has played in all seven games for the Blue Jackets and is a forgettable 0-6-1 with a 3.46 GAA and .881 save percentage. While Halak showed promise two seasons ago, Mason’s Calder Trophy-winning season in ’08-09 is becoming a distant memory. It may be time to explore other options in net for your fantasy team.

Judging by your available options, Hedberg, Nabokov and Giguere have proved themselves to be reliable backups in small sample sizes this season for their respective teams. With Martin Brodeur nursing an injury, Hedberg should be in the crease for the New Jersey Devils for the time being. Anderson has struggled out of the gate this year but is coming off his best outing of the season, stopping 35 of 36 shots in the Ottawa Senators’ win Thursday night over Winnipeg. But the most intriguing option on your list is the Edmonton goaltending tandem, Khabibulin (1-0-2, 0.95 GAA, .962 save percentage) and Dubnyk (1-2-0, 2.30, .920). Each goaltender has made three starts, and while wins have not always been the end result, their effectiveness and resilience as a duo has been well-documented.

Since you are willing to change your lineup daily, I would drop Mason in favor of Khabibulin, and then make room by dropping your least touted skater for Dubnyk. Having both of these options will ensure you a start every day the Oilers suit up, as long as you stay up-to-speed with the latest news leading up to each game. This way, if the Halak experiment does not improve, you will have a reliable back-up plan.



Kenny (Pittsburgh, PA)

I selected Evander Kane with my last pick in hopes of his putting up similar production to last year. So far, he hasn't produced much for me. I know the season is still early, but I was curious if it would be a good idea for me to drop him for Vinny Prospal, Tyler Seguin or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? Also, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is available to give me depth on defense. Is he worth going after?

Evander Kane
Left Wing - WPG
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 20 | +/-: -2
While many fantasy owners may have expected Kane to take the next step after a 19-goal, 43-point season in 2010-11, the reality of the matter is that this 20-year-old is struggling to find his identity with the Winnipeg Jets through the first five games of the new season. The franchise has a new coach in Claude Noel, and obviously a new beginning in Canada, so there’s a good chance Kane could struggle for weeks to find his niche in the rotation and work out the kinks of the new offensive system. Kane has mustered 20 shots through five games, but has not yet registered a point, which is a concern. He should eventually find his scoring touch and put together a decent season (in the vicinity of 40 points), but it seems likely that this season will be one with growing pains for an inexperienced player like Kane.

Therefore, a player like Seguin (2G, 6A in 7 games this year), who has spent time on each of Boston’s talent top two lines, is a better option. Despite the fact that Seguin is a few months younger than Kane, the former has recent playoff success in the back of his mind, which could help him translate his game better in the short-term and score 20-plus goals and 45-plus points for the Bruins this year. As far as Nugent-Hopkins, it still remains to be seen if he will stick with the Edmonton Oilers past his nine-game audition. Despite his quick instincts allowing him to already notch a hat trick and produce 5 points in his first 6 NHL games, Nugent-Hopkins is only 18 years old, and the Oilers will make a decision to either keep him in the flow and exercise the first year of his entry-level deal or assign him back to the Western Hockey League to continue to develop. Because of that uncertainty, you may not want to ditch Kane for RNH prematurely and regret the move in a week or two.

Prospal is another option to strongly pursue, as the 36-year-old has produced strong totals in points (6), hits (9), PIMs (10) and shots on goal (24) this year as a member of the Columbus Blue Jackets -- who are winless in seven games entering Saturday. The Czech-born winger missed a large chunk of last season with the New York Rangers because of injury, but still produced nearly a point a game (23 points in 29 games). If this wily veteran stays healthy for the Jackets, he could re-discover his 20-plus goal, 55-plus point form in 2011-12.

And regarding your additional question, with goal-scoring defenseman so hard to come by these days, definitely consider Ekman-Larsson for a bench spot or even as a 3rd or 4th defenseman on your roster depending on how many slots you are allotted and how deep your crop of blueliners is. This Swedish-born defenseman spent 48 games with the Coyotes last season and 15 with the franchise’s AHL affiliate in San Antonio. While his numbers last season didn’t jump out at you, his performance this year sure has. Ekman-Larsson has three goals in six games playing on Phoenix’s third defensive pairing, and is expected to be in the desert for the long haul in ‘11-12. If his offensive numbers continue to rise, the opportunity is there for him to burst onto the scene and see power-play time with Keith Yandle as early as this season.



To submit a question for NHL.com's weekly Fantasy Mailbag, contact fantasy insider Pete Jensen at PJensen@NHL.com.

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