Monday, November 14, 2005

Victims of the new NHL

Sure, we've all heard of the successes of Eric Staal, Bryan McCabe, Manny Legace and countless others so far in this young season.

Yet, there have also been casualties. Players who haven't adapted to the endless powerplay advantages and red line less neutral zone and are scared and alone on the bench of your fantasy hockey team. These are those 25 players...

25. Mattias Weinhandl, NY Islanders. 16 GP, 1 G, 1 pt. OK, OK, so you're only playing seven minutes a game, I get that. But you're not really a checker are you? And it's not like you're on the '84 Oilers here.

24. Alyn McCauley, San Jose. 17 GP, 5 pts, -5. As quickly as McCauley found his game in 2003-04 with 20 goals and 47 points, he appears to have lost it. Pity that.

23. Mike Peca, Edmonton. 15 GP, 1 G, 21 SOG. Oilers, Oilers, Oilers. You go to the bargain bin, you're gonna get more than just dented cans of beans. What's that you say? He makes $4-mil? Kay, I dunno.

22. Kris Draper, Detroit. 18 GP, 3 pts, -4. I have you in a hockey pool. You're not doing good. You made my list.

21. Pascal Dupuis, Minnesota. 14 GP, 0 G, 5 pts. He's got a shooot, and he doesn't know how to use it. He also plays over 18 minutes a game. What he does in those minutes, I don't know.

20. Jordan Leopold, Calgary. 19 GP, 0 G, 1 pt. 23 minutes a game he's on the ice. Not once does he pass it to a guy who passes it to a guy who scores. (Well, he did it once.) I am incredulous. I do have some advice, however. Stop passing it to Shean 'Lucky Charms' Donovan.

19. Nils Ekman, San Jose. 16 GP, 4 pts, -3. Another magic man who came out of nowhere last year to produce for the Sharks who has pulled a magic disappearing act this season.Ver did he go?

18. Martin Biron, Buffalo. 7 GP, 4.36 GAA. If this is how you play when your team is 'shopping' you for a trade, I'd hate to see what happens when the warranty expires.

17. Shawn McEachern, Boston. 14 GP, 1 G, 5 pts, -8. Now I know he's 36, but really, I expected more, perhaps even a spot alongside Super Joe and Glen Murray on the top line. Instead McEachern is on pace to be -35 in 60 games played after posting 55 points in Atlanta in 2003-04.

16. Scott Hannan, San Jose. 17 GP, 3 pts, -12. I'm going to help Gretzky and his Team Canada Co. out here: No Turin for you.

15. Vladimir Malakhov, New Jersey. 17 GP, -9. There has to be some sort of twisted joke happening when Larry Robinson is coaching Mr. Malakhov for over 22 minutes of icetime a night. My god he looks awful out there this season.

14. Brent Johnson, Washington. 5 GP, 5.37 GAA, .865 sv pct. The St. Louis Blues, the worst team in the NHL, waived you to make room for Reinhard Divis. This week, they waived Reinhard Divis. You're worth less than that. Go sit with Belak.

13. Nikolai Khabibulin, Chicago. 16 GP, 54 GA, .868 sv pct. Yes, his team is horrifically awful in front of him, and, yes, he has been playing better as of late, but still — the highest paid goaltender in the league has allowed the most goals against this year. For that, you get on the list.

12. Oleg Kvasha, NY Islanders. 17 GP, 1 G, 1 PPP. Sure, Oleg's a streaky fellow, but this is ridiculous.

11. Brian Savage, Philadelphia. 15 GP, 1 G, 1 pt, -4. Generally, hockey fans call him Mr. October, but it's well into November and he's still MIA. I have a new nickname — Mr. He No Score No More. I never said it was a good new name.

10. Sheldon Souray, Montreal. 17 GP, 3 pts. Sure, expectations may be a little high, especially when that McCaberle guy in Toronto is scoring up such a storm. Divorce is tough for anyone, but when your ex used to be on Baywatch, it's even tougher. I should know.

9. Sean O'Donnell, Phoenix. 17 GP, 1 pt, 4 SOG. Sure, he's never going to light the world alight with his scoring touch, but four shots on goal? He's on pace for 16 SOGs in 70 games this season. The mighty Belak is projected to have twice that many. (There's no such thing as a 'mighty' Belak.)

8. Jozef Stumpel, Florida. 18 GP, 0 G, 4 pts, 13 SOG. Somehow, someway, you found your way onto a pool team I'm on. There's no bench spots, you can't drop players and the points from everyone count. I hate you, Mr. Stumpel.

7. Janne Niinimaa, NY Islanders. 17 GP, 3 pts, -3. How one can play 21 minutes a game in 'The New NHL'™ and end up with three points, I don't know. Janne is getting a lesson in Trade Bait 101, which is not altogether unlike Jail Bait 102. I should know.

6. Jan Hrdina, Columbus. 18 GP, 3 pts, -7, 19 SOG. Sometimes I feel sorry for Doug MacLean. Then I remember that I was the one who wrote mean things about him.

5. Dan McGillis, New Jersey. 14 GP, 0 G, -4. Whoever thought the Devils had a good defence before the season was entirely out to lunch. (Can a blogger heckle himself on archived posts?)

4. Shean Donovan, Calgary. 19 GP, 1 pt. The man who exploded for 18 goals and 42 points in 2003-04 has reverted to the stone-handed leprechaun that he is. All Sutter can ask is: 'Where me lucky charms?'

3. Jeff Friesen, Washington. 14 GP, 1 G, 3 pts, -8. So, if I'm the lawyer arguing against the Capitals suit with Alex Semin, I think I have a pretty good argument for why I would not pay $2.28-mil for him.

2. Ty Conklin, Edmonton. 4 GP, 4.42 GAA, .836 sv pct, 0 NHL roster spots. This link sums it up. I trashed Mr. Conklin in my season preview, which prompted this response from an Oilers fan: "...but how can you bash Ty Conklin and not Mathieu Garon." I just can.

1. Wade Belak, Toronto. 13 GP, 0 G, 0 pts, -10, 33 PIM, 7 SOG. Oh Belak, how you are abused in this city. In fact, saying his name is akin to saying you like the Senators in Toronto. Wade, if you only play nine minutes a game, how in the world are you on the ice for so many goals against? Pat Quinn's going to lose his job over you, my heavily tattooed, pasty friend.

I realize that there are more players playing terribly on your respective favourite teams. While I could not include everyone who is gimping along so far this season, I do appreciate any suggestions you may have in the comments section.

Injured players or those who failed to stick with NHL teams (Conklin excepted to make a petty point) are not included in my arbitrary list of doom.

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At 8:56 a.m., November 14, 2005, Anonymous David Johnson said...

It's an interesting list and I can't think of any one thing that is common between them all. You have more defensive mided players like McCauley, Peca, Draper, etc., speedy players like Friesen, bigger players like Kvasha and O'Donnel, and puck moving defensemen like Malakhov and Niinimaa. Khabibulin has always been a streaky goalie and I suspect this year is no different. At times in 2003-04 he almost lost his starting job to Grahame.

And why exactly is Belak on your list? He wasn't any good (especially as a defenseman) under the old rules either so it isn't like he hasn't adapted. Aside from being a tough guy he isn't very useful.

At 11:51 a.m., November 14, 2005, Blogger J. Michael Neal said...

I'm not sure I buy the inclusion of Kris Draper on this list. I think his game suits the new rules pretty well, so long as you remember his role. Almost a third of his ice time is spent killing penalties, and he and Maltby are a large part of the reason the Wings' PK has been so good.

He certainly isn't going to help a fantasy team, serves a very real purpose on the Detroit team.

At 2:06 p.m., November 14, 2005, Anonymous pete said...

I think I know how Stumpel got on to your pool...

My apologies once again.

At 2:18 p.m., November 14, 2005, Blogger James Mirtle said...

Belak is playing regular duty on the Leafs defence, for whatever reason, and really shouldn't be. You're right though — I for the most part tried to include good players who had taken a fall. Someone had to be last, though, and it's him.

Draper only has three points in 18 games. What is he doing in the other 2/3 of his icetime that he doesn't get any points? (Checking the other team's top line, I know.)

Last season Draper had 40 points in 67 games, and that was with what appeared to be a deeper Red Wings forward corps. I figured he was good for at least that many this year. Apparently not.

Pete, at least you picked Frolov and Conroy. I picked good ol' Conroy to have 20 points more than the closest hockey pool book. Looks good so far.

At 8:25 a.m., November 15, 2005, Blogger alyosha mcbain said...

You were right on the money about the Devils' defense in your preseason assessment...the funniest thing about this list is seeing Vladdie Malakhov on it. Continuing with his career-long habit of playing poor hockey more often than not, Malakhov is driving the Devils and Coach Robinson to drink. In your preseason assessment of defensive strength I defended the Devils' top six; now I can admire the prescient wisdom you expressed.

As a Ranger fan, I have been deliriously happy with their performance so far this year. The rule changes have greatly helped them, it's true, but they are playing like they care for the first time in YEARS. Ryan Hollweg, Dominic Moore, Jason Ward, Jed Ortmeyer, and Michal Roszival are all playing tremendous hockey for them. But the best thing for me is not seeing Brian Leetch out there for 35 indifferent minutes, out of position and unwilling to hit people or block shots. He was a great player back in the day but has been mediocre now for years and years....

The other great thing about the rule changes is how upset Martin (Sister-in-Law Lover) Brodeur has been over them. It is an indication that the league is heading in the right direction. Brodeur's incessant whining about the new offensive challenges of the revamped NHL has been hilarious. He blamed his sprained knee on the new unrestricted offenses, saying that "goalies will get hurt more because they are facing more action". Poor baby--more likely he knows that he is finally going to be exposed as the most overrated player in hockey because he can no longer play the puck behind the goal line or hide behind massive leg pads.

At 8:40 p.m., November 15, 2005, Blogger Nick said...

Draper had a good season last year, but I think he just got lucky. He was overrated, I think he's back to where I would expect him to be.

At 7:34 p.m., November 20, 2005, Anonymous jameso said...

It's funny to see Belak up there without Berg's name... there seems to be a pendulum effect where first one and then the other is the most scorned man in hockey. Belak seems to be a victim (symptom?) of some really bad coaching choices (ie. playing him at D, playing him above AAA), but Berg, Berg is meant to be a defenceman. He's never been good, but I think he's really been exposed under the new rules.


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