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The Real Spiel: Staal still valuable despite slow start

By Sergei J. Feldman - NHL.com Staff Writer

Given the complex, never-steady landscape of fantasy hockey, each week, NHL.com Fantasy Insider Sergei Feldman will give you The Real Spiel on some of the quirks and trends that permeated your week of fantasy hockey by way of in-depth analysis.


NOT ST-ALL SHE WROTE

Eric Staal
Center - CAR
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 4 | PTS: 8
SOG: 78 | +/-: -18
Eric Staal’s name has rarely been synonymous with struggles. After his rookie season, the Carolina Hurricanes captain has never finished a season with less than 29 goals, 35 assists, 70 points, 277 shots and 50 PIMs. As of now, he’s on pace for 16 goals, 16 assists and 32 points. If you’re a fantasy team owner and have Staal on your roster, he’s likely there because you were convinced he’d deliver more often than not and lift your team to the top. Now, you’re thinking that might not have been the best idea, right? It’s time to get rid of his subpar production and league-worst minus-18 rating, right? Wrong.

Here’s The Real Spiel:

Upon a deeper dig, you’ll notice that despite Staal’s abysmal minus-18 rating, Staal’s production isn’t horrific enough to merit a departure from your lineup. Would you like to see more than 4 goals and 8 points in 20 games? Surely. But what he’s lacked in those categories he’s made up in shots, as he currently leads the NHL in rubber thrown at the cage (78). It’d be one thing if the chances weren’t even there, but for Staal, they’re aplenty. Sometimes they just don’t go in and given precedence, the likelihood that they’ll eventually go Staal’s way is strong. What’s more, he’s also seeing time at left wing. Eligibility at both the wing and center position is an asset worth holding onto. The Hurricanes have often gone from slumping to unbeatable status in recent years and Staal has just as often been the reason why. Stay patient and enjoy the eventual rewards.

RICK (NASH) ROLLED

For most of the season, Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash has been the Western Conference’s version of Eric Staal. He’s right there with him in plus-minus, sitting at minus-12. Both players have four goals. And Nash has thrown almost 70 pucks on net. As for Nash’s history, he’s been nothing short of consistent in each of his eight prior seasons. The same question applies: is Nash someone to part with given his slow start and the likely struggles of the Blue Jackets?

Here’s The Real Spiel:

The Blue Jackets might not make the playoffs this year and Nash might not be up for any of the major individual awards by year’s end, but your fantasy team will be better off with him in your lineup than that of your opponent. Unlike Staal, Nash has 10 assists to go along with his four goals, which means he’s been able to contribute when not putting the puck in the net. When you’re a “pure” goal-scorer, the bounces are bound to go your way, and Nash hasn’t run into that stretch of yet. Fact is, despite admitting to feeling pressure in Columbus during the team’s troubling times, Nash has been a factor on the ice. It’s hard to let a two-time 40-plus goal-scorer leave your roster. It’s hard to say goodbye to roughly 250 shots per year. So don’t do it. Hang on to Nash and enjoy his annual production.

NEXT STOP, POMINVILLE

Jason Pominville
Right Wing - BUF
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 23
SOG: 65 | +/-: 0
If you haven’t yet familiarized yourself with Jason Pominville, you might want to go ahead and do so sooner rather than later. Yes, Jason Pominville. You know, the Buffalo Sabres right wing. The guy who scored at least 20 goals in five straight seasons. The guy who reached the 80-point mark in 2007-08. The guy who is on pace for 34 goals, 64 points and 98 points this year. Yeah, that guy. Pominville, often thought of as a sleeper, has woken up and is playing as though he has insomnia. But once a sleeper, always a sleeper in the long run, right?

Here’s The Real Spiel:

Pominville has laced up the skates 20 times this season and on only five occasions did he come off the ice without registering a point. If that’s not consistent, nothing is. He has points in six of his past seven games and now is tied for fifth in points in the League with 23. He’s also fourth in assists (15) and is a Top-20 shot producer. If there’s a decline in sight, it has been far from evident up to this point.

BLOOMING FLOWER

Pittsburgh Penguins cage protector Marc-Andre Fleury has always been a more-than-reliable netminder, coming up strong in big games and giving his team a chance to win night in, night out. That’s just the reality. Too bad we’re talking fantasy here. In recent years, Fleury has been no more than a solid option in net for most fantasy clubs. Until last year, anyway, when “Flower” showed he can carry his team on the shoulders and produce mind-boggling stats, in the process. This year, the trend has continued. But as the Penguins get healthier and more offensively gifted, the team might need Fleury to do enough to come away with a win. How might that impact your fantasy team?

Here’s The Real Spiel:

When Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are on your team, offense is bound to immediately come to mind. Forget other complimentary pieces like Jordan Staal and Chris Kunitz and James Neal. Crosby and Malkin by themselves make the Penguins a dangerous offensive club. But just as obvious is the team’s strength as a defensive unit and leading the way in that category is Fleury. So far, Marc-Andre is second in the NHL in wins (10), has a 2.04 GAA and .924 save percentage. The fact is, Fleury makes his team look like a contender as much as his teammates—offensively gifted and everything—make him look like an ace in net. That dynamic figures to exist for the duration of the season, so make sure it exits for your club.

‘CHAR-MING AS EVER

The season hasn’t been the greatest ever for Ottawa Senators defenseman Sergei Gonchar but the past week certainly has. Points in four straight games has highlighted the veteran defenseman’s recent stretch of hot play. While Gonchar hasn’t dominated any major fantasy stat category, he has slowly but surely emerged as a more-than-reliable asset for team owners. Keep in mind, the 37-year-old blueliner is known for slow starts, whether it’s joining a new club or within a given season. So how should a recent streak be treated by all you owners out there?

Here’s The Real Spiel:

Sergei Gonchar
Defense - OTT
GOALS: 2 | ASST: 11 | PTS: 13
SOG: 33 | +/-: -1
It’s unlikely that Gonchar will put up Gonchar numbers at this point in his career. But he doesn’t need to in order to be an asset for your fantasy team. The Senators have shown they can be a competitive club against some of the League’s best clubs this year and with talents like Jason Spezza, Milan Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson on the ice, Gonchar figures to be a beneficiary, which means you can be, too. Among his strengths is his ability to run the point on the power play, allowing for more-than-likely contribution in the power play points category for your clubs. As he gets situated with the Senators in general, and this season, specifically, Gonchar could turn into a pleasant surprise for more than just a four-game stretch.

Author: Sergei J. Feldman | NHL.com Staff Writer

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