Every Wednesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey contributor Brian Metzer provides in-depth defenseman analysis. From updated weekly top 60 rankings to trending players and more, Metzer is your go-to guy for fantasy D-men advice all season long.
A year ago at this time the Calgary Flames were the talk of the NHL. They were on their way to making the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the first time since 2008-09 and doing it with a young, explosive team that caught opponents off guard on a nightly basis.
The attack was led by one of the best collections of offensive defensemen in the League and that was as much a boon for fantasy owners as it was for Flames management.
Mark Giordano turned in a career season that saw him average .79 points per game as he rolled up 11 goals and 48 points in 61 games. When he was knocked out of the lineup with an injury, Dennis Wideman stepped up.
Wideman went from being an early healthy scratch to turning in his own career season. The now 32-year-old averaged .70 points per game, with 15 goals and 56 points. He scored 21 of those points on the power play, which made him even more valuable in fantasy leagues.
TJ Brodie and Kris Russell averaged .50 and .43 points per game respectively and found themselves on fantasy rosters around the globe.
To put what these defensemen did into perspective, one need look no further than their impact on the Flames' overall offensive production. Giordano, Wideman, Brodie and Russell combined for 41 goals and 179 points. The Flames as a whole scored 237 goals over 82 games last season.
The defensemen were responsible for scoring 17.2 percent of the Flames' goals and were involved in creating 76 percent of their total offense.
That had fantasy owners salivating as they entered their drafts this fall, especially after Flames general manager Brad Treliving acquired Dougie Hamilton from the Boston Bruins. He too was coming off of a career season that saw him average .58 points per game, as he had 10 goals and 32 assists.
That would make the stable even better. Or would it?
It created a bit of logjam, especially on the power play. How would things work when everyone was healthy? Brodie missed time with an injury early and things fell into place, but the magic of last season didn't seem to be in effect.
As a group of five, they have combined to score 10 goals and 40 points through 24 games this season. It is hard to figure out what exactly has gone wrong because the Flames are not all that dissimilar from the team that put up 97 points last season.
Here are some of the issues that are plaguing this gifted group. The Flames are scoring 2.33 goals per game, eighth-worst in the League. That number is down from 2.89 goals per game last season.
The next culprit is the power play. Last season these defensemen (Hamilton's numbers from Boston are included) combined for 73 points with the extra man. The Flames scored on 18.8 percent of their opportunities, which ranked 13th in the League. This season has seen the defense combine for nine power-play points. The Flames are converting 13.4 percent of their opportunities, which ranks them 29th in the League.
The entire group is shooting much less, with Wideman's total falling the most. His shot total has fallen off by .87 shots per game. Brodie's total has been least affected, falling .11 shots per game from where it was last season.
If you are playing in a dynasty or keeper format, I cannot in good conscience tell you to drop any of these players outright. That thinking obviously changes in single-year formats and would be dependent on which player the drop is being made for.
Judging by ownership percentages in Yahoo standard leagues, owners are hanging in there with Giordano. He is still held in 91 percent of leagues, but some owners are getting skittish.
My advice is to hang in on him for now. The Flames are struggling and that is impacting his ability to produce. He recently honored the letter on his sweater and gave his team a much-needed kick in the backside. That might help.
He is also a player that has averaged .73 and .78 points per game over the past two seasons. Even with the ups and downs that he's gone through, he's managed close to half a point over the course of his career. That production could kick in at any point.
His minus-15 does make it tough to be patient, but give it a few more weeks.
It may be time to consider moving on from Wideman, Russell and possibly even Hamilton, but Brodie's numbers are just a tick under where he was last season in terms of points and shots per game, so it is probably safe to roll with him. Hamilton scored a goal Tuesday, assisted by Wideman, in the Flames' comeback win against the Dallas Stars, but those type of highlights have been few and far between for Calgary defenseman thus far.
Shayne Gostisbehere, Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers have had high hopes for Gostisbehere since they selected him in the third round (No. 78) of the 2012 NHL Draft, but they couldn't have predicted he'd make such a quick impact upon arriving in the League.
He has been just what the doctor ordered for the Flyers' blue line since being recalled on Nov. 14 and has helped offset the loss of Mark Streit. He is averaging over 18 minutes per game and is manning the point on the No. 1 power-play unit. He has four goals and six points in nine games, with two-game winning goals, 24 shots on goal and four power-play points.
Our Matt Cubeta hyped Gostisbehere in his Fantasy Black Friday column last week but after he scored his third goal on Tuesday, he was a must-mention here. He's owned in 20 percent of Yahoo leagues and it's a safe bet that number will be on the rise.
Ben Hutton, Vancouver Canucks
Hutton has been out of the lineup dealing with a lower-body injury but had seen his production tail off in recent weeks. He was recently held without a point in four straight games and posted an ugly minus-5 over that span.
He's back at practice but should be reserved until he shows he can get back to being a consistent contributor for fantasy owners.
KEEP AN EYE ON
Colin Miller, Boston Bruins
Miller, who is skating on the Bruins' second pairing with Dennis Seidenberg, has spent lots of time on my fantasy radar this season. He just doesn't always stay there. He is currently manning the point on the Bruins' second power-play unit and has been hot over his past couple of games, with one goal, two assists, four shots on goal and a plus-2 rating.
That burst has pressed his season totals to two goals, eight assists, four power-play points and 34 shots on goal over 19 games. He has also added 24 penalty minutes, 29 hits and 17 blocked shots. He's definitely worth a look in deeper formats and becomes a more regular play with each point he picks up. He is owned in 25 percent of Yahoo leagues.
TOP 60 FANTASY DEFENSEMEN
These rankings are based on expectations for this season. Value is quantified by defense pairings, power-play usage, past performance and overall upside in standard Yahoo categories (goals, assists, plus-minus, penalty minutes, power-play points and shots on goal).
||Erik Karlsson, OTT (SAME)
||Erik Johnson, COL (+2)
||John Klingberg, DAL (SAME)
||Francois Beauchemin, COL (+2)
||P.K. Subban, MTL (SAME)
||Cody Franson, BUF (-2)
||Andrei Markov, MTL (SAME)
||Mark Giordano, CGY (-8)
||Brent Burns, SJS (SAME)
||Morgan Rielly, TOR (SAME)
||Duncan Keith, CHI (+7)
||Cam Fowler, ANA (+5)
||Kevin Shattenkirk, STL (-1)
||Niklas Kronwall, DET (SAME)
||Oliver Ekman-Larsson, ARI (-1)
||Mike Green, DET (+1)
||Victor Hedman, TBL (-1)
||Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF (+1)
||John Carlson, WSH (+1)
||Dennis Wideman, CGY (-10)
||Justin Faulk, CAR (-1)
||Andrej Sekera, EDM (+2)
||Dustin Byfuglien, WPG (+2)
||Matt Niskanen, WSH (+2)
||Roman Josi, NSH (-4)
||Jason Demers, DAL (-1)
||Ryan Suter, MIN (-2)
||Marek Zidlicky, NYI (+2)
||Tyson Barrie, COL (SAME)
||Dougie Hamilton, CGY (-7)
||Kris Letang, PIT (+2)
||Colton Parayko, STL (-1)
||Brent Seabrook, CHI (+4)
||Alexander Edler, VAN (+3)
||Shea Weber, NSH (-2)
||Nick Leddy, NYI (-1)
||Alex Pietrangelo, STL (SAME)
||Alex Goligoski, DAL (-1)
||Drew Doughty, LAK (-3)
||Zdeno Chara, BOS (-1)
||Keith Yandle, NYR (-1)
||Colin Miller, BOS (NEW)
||Ryan McDonagh, NYR (+1)
||Seth Jones, NSH (-1)
||Torey Krug, BOS (-1)
||Jared Spurgeon, MIN (SAME)
||Sami Vatanen, ANA (+3)
||David Savard, CBJ (+1)
||Johnny Boychuk, NYI (-1)
||Ryan Ellis, NSH (-1)
||Jake Muzzin, LAK (+2)
||Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJS (+3)
||TJ Brodie, CGY (-2)
||Shayne Gostisbehere, PHI (+3)
||Anton Stralman, TBL (+1)
||Alec Martinez, LAK (-6)
||Dion Phaneuf, TOR (+7)
||Oscar Klefbom, EDM (-3)
||Aaron Ekblad, FLA (+2)
||Trevor Daley, CHI (-2)
Dropped out: Ben Hutton
Key injuries: Mark Streit, James Wisniewski, Kyle Quincey