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Center Stage: Staal, Getzlaf looking for turnarounds

Wednesday, 01.04.2012 / 11:21 AM / Fantasy Hockey Draft Rankings, Advice and Analysis

By Matt Cubeta - NHL.com Staff Writer

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Center Stage: Staal, Getzlaf looking for turnarounds
Fantasy expert Matt Cubeta takes a look at five of the biggest center disappointments and how they can turn their seasons around starting right now.
Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy centers in our weekly segment: "Center Stage." From updated center rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy center expert all season long.

It's been a long three weeks since our last "Center Stage" update, but we're back at it with an updated outlook at our fantasy centers.

With the New Year behind us and as fantasy insider Justin Goldman did in his "In the Cage" segment on Monday, it's time to take a look at five of the biggest center disappointments and then post their New Year's resolution for how they can turn their seasons around starting right now. We'll do the same for left wings and right wings on Thursday and Friday.

Eric Staal -- You've been just about a point-per-game player since your sophomore season in 2005-06 (473 points in 479 games), but this season you sport just 25 points in 41 contests. It's time to find your game of year's past. With your brother back on the ice for the Rangers (it was Eric's hit on Marc Staal that led to a concussion), we're hoping your mind is clear and you can return to your usual form -- we'll let the slow start slide if you're able to do that.

Jeff Carter -- Columbus has showed us a different side of you. We've come to expect your usual 30-plus goals every year and at least 300 shots, but right now you're on pace for just 26 goals and 244 shots, which would be your lowest since 2006-07. You did post 7 goals in a seven-game span in December, but since then you've been held goalless with just 1 assist over your previous four contests. We're hoping the first 27 games for the Jackets has been an adjustment period for you and that you finally start to gel with captain Rick Nash.

TOP 40 FANTASY CENTERS

These modified re-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 from last week. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings). Note: Positions are dictated by how they're labeled in Yahoo! Fantasy Leagues.
*dual position eligibility in Yahoo! Leagues

Players that dropped out of previous rankings: Craig Smith

Players on IR: Sidney Crosby, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Jeff Skinner, Matt Duchene
Ryan Getzlaf -- So far you've been able to avoid the injury bug (and we're all grateful for that), but your production isn't close to what we've come to expect from you. Last season you recorded 76 points in just 67 games to go along with a solid plus-14 rating, but this year, you have struggled mightily: 6 goals, 19 assists and a minus-18 (pointless in his last five games). We're hoping you and Corey Perry find last season's magic and that Bruce Boudreau's offensive tactics come into effect for you and your entire team -- you're simply too talented to struggle this much.

David Krejci -- It hasn't been all bad for you, but after recording 23 points in 25 playoff contests last season, fantasy owners were definitely expecting more than you're current 23 points in 32 games. What's an even bigger disappointment is that you're a minus-1 on a team that leads the NHL in goal differential at plus-55. We're hoping your current five-game point-scoring streak is a sign of things to come and that you start to get in your playoff mentality mode for the second-half of the regular season.

Patrik Berglund -- You were pegged by us to have a big season this year, but unfortunately 9 goals and 8 assists in 39 games doesn't exactly scream success. You're total ice time and power-play ice time are very similar to what you saw last season, but the production just isn't the same when you had a breakout 52-point campaign. We're hoping your post-All-Star-break performance from last season is a trend and you put together a big second half -- last season you notched 24 points (11 G, 13 A, as well as 76 SOG) in the final 32 games for the Blues.

TRENDING UPWARD

Jason Spezza -- There might not be anyone in the NHL that's streakier than Spezza. The Sens center has always been known for scoring his points in bunches, and that's exactly what he did during a six-game span in mid-December. Spezza posted four multi-point games for a total of 3 goals and 9 assists over those six games. He then followed that streak with just 1 goal in five games before registering a goal and an assist on Jan. 2 against the Devils. Spezza sits with 40 points in 40 games this campaign, and as long as he can remain healthy, you should continue to see point-per-game numbers all year.

Jamie Benn -- In his first game with his brother Jordie Benn alongside him, Jamie went on to tie his season-high with a 3-point night Tuesday. Could this be a sign of things to come? We sure hope so.  Benn now has 5 points in his last two games giving him a total of 37 points in 38 games for Dallas, easily placing him as the Stars' best forward this season. While 30 goals might be out of reach this season, 80 points could still come -- start him as one of your top forwards.

John Tavares -- Speaking of streaks, Tavares is quite similar to Spezza in that aspect. The Islanders forward has 35 points in 37 games this season to go along with his usual hurtful minus-8 rating, but Tavares has again hit a major hot streak recently with 2 goals and 5 assists in his last three games. He may drive you crazy because there will be times when he's held pointless for stretches, but he's as valuable as anyone in fantasy hockey when he catches a hot streak like he's on right now. Regardless of the inconsistency, by season's end you should be looking at a 70-point player.

TRENDING DOWNWARD

Patrick Kane -- It's not that Kane has been bad (after all, he is rated 26th among all fantasy players in Yahoo! Leagues), but it feels like we just kind of expect more out of such a talented player. Kane has 36 points in 39 games, but just 1 goal over his last 11 contests (also just 4 assists). While we definitely can expect him to start scoring more frequently, he takes a small dip in the rankings until he proves it to us.

Stephen Weiss -- Could the fairy tale season finally be starting to dwindle away? Let's not give up just yet, but Weiss has hit his first rough patch of the season with no goals in his last 10 games and just 4 assists during that time. Weiss still has 33 points in 37 games overall, and his line with Kris Versteeg and Tomas Fleischmann is still considered one of the League's best trio's to date, but just remember, Weiss has never had more than 61 points in a season, so don't be too surprised if he continues to slow down.

Craig Smith -- Not too many people saw this kind of start coming the Predators rookie (his 25 points are third among all NHL rookies), but Smith's play has tailed off recently with no goals in his last 13 games and only 4 points during that long span. His line (Martin Erat and David Legwand) is still one of Nashville's top two offensive combinations, but they simply haven't been producing like they were earlier this season. Don't be disappointed if Smith doesn't surpass the 50-point mark -- he is just a rookie.

KEEP AN EYE ON...

Brandon Dubinsky
Center - NYR
GOALS: 4 | ASST: 15 | PTS: 19
SOG: 67 | +/-: 9
Brandon Dubinsky -- While Dubinsky has just 4 goals in 37 games this season, he's been starting to show his usual self of late (6 points in his last 6 games). John Tortorella continues to move Dubinsky around to different line combinations, but if the Winter Classic is any sign, Dubinsky could see more time skating with Brad Richards and Ryan Callahan -- which is what all of his fantasy owners should want. Dubinsky has been playing the role as a shut-down defensive forward, but he's too skilled for that. His points total stands at 19, but his plus/minus (plus-9) and his penalty minutes (62) have certainly helped owners that still have him on their roster. Stay patient, we think he's finally starting to come around.
NHL.COM FANTASY HOCKEY COVERAGE
Exclusive: NHL.com's top 275 rankings
Cubeta breaks down top 50 fantasy players
30 in 30 fantasy hockey preview index
Pete Jensen's 10 sleepers for 2014-15
Matt Cubeta's 10 sleepers for 2014-15
Matt Sitkoff's 10 sleepers for 2014-15

TOP 275 OVERALL FANTASY RANKS

RANK TEAM PLAYER
1. Sidney crosby
2. Steven Stamkos
3. Corey Perry
4. Evgeni Malkin
5. Ryan Getzlaf

COMPLETE RANKINGS BY CUBETA, JENSEN & SITKOFF