FH 201: First Quarter Turkeys

The leaves or is that Leafs are falling very fast this time of year.  We are nearing the time of turkey eating. After all why use crow when one can upgrade to turkey. There is something to be said this fantasy season when 111 players are injured or out in some form (thanks TSN). Take a look at some of the stunning notables included on the list.

  • Zach Parise (Knee, out almost three more months)
  • Vincent Lecavalier (Hand, out another four weeks)
  • Sami Salo (Achilles you in 2011-12)
  • T.J. Oshie (ankle surgery, will be out at least three months)
  • Jordan Staal (assorted, will be back soon)
  • Kyle Okposo (shoulder, out another 4-6 weeks)
  • Andrei Markov (knee, out till next season?)
  • Marc Savard (PCS, skating fully, soon to return)
  • Ryan Miller (Groin, day to day)
  • Peter Mueller (PCS, out till 2011)

Those are just to name a few and the more noteworthy injuries to fantasy hockey teams. This season has been like a series of land mines that just keep going off. Just when a GM thinks he has a handle on his roster, another injury occurs then another then another. There are times when the fantasy hockey player may even think of packing it in.

Wait, here is more to chew on for the masses.

The turkeys are always lurking Now that we’re through with the first quarter of the season, it is time to take an unyielding look on what has transpired over the first quarter of the year. While there have been quite a few surprises, the turkeys have just been more ample and abundant than usual.  What is the problem that arises when there are too many of these gobblers on one’s squad? Your team winds up slowly fading to inevitable and catastrophic fate.

Last year there was the plight of Sean Leahy’s fantasy team which had no fewer than eight players hurt at one time. The problem is when four or five of these professional hockey players are on the injured list, it is almost impossible to rectify that via a waiver wire pickup or several. It is the same with having these bottom feeders on your fantasy hockey platoon. All it takes iThes several bad players to sink your team to the bottom of a league or worse, just miss out on the playoffs.

The recipe for what dictates a one turkey baster from a five turkey baster player is quite complicated. For us to review, here is that simple criteria again:

  • 1 Turkey Baster = Slightly Cooked Roster Killer
  • 2 Turkey Basters = Medium Well Roaster Killer
  • 3 Turkey Basters = Well Done Roaster Killer
  • 4 Turkey Basters = Deep Fried Roaster Killer
  • 5 Turkey Basters = Smoked Roaster Killer

So a deep roasted bird really can sink the fates of your fantasy team faster than a lead weight. What we have attempted to do is come up with a less complex way to let the fan know the degrees of how these “duds” destroy not only rosters but wreak havoc on trade values, how a GM brings up prospects in dynasty leagues, etc. The voids created by having to replace one or more of these turkeys has far reaching effects and some of those cannot be anticipated right away.

Then there are the surprise turkeys. These are players who never really have been on a list like this that suddenly find themselves on there. Unfortunately other classifications exist for our purposes here on “First Quarter Turkeys”.

No it is not enough to list the obvious turkeys and then the surprise ones. After that, there is the turkey baster scale combined with our different turkey categories. Our very own Turkey Rambo will accompany us for the tougher decisions, such as how many basters to give certain players. Thanks to our many friends on Twitter, Facebook, Bloguin, and various other social media for their input. Without them, this would not even be a pipe dream to be honest.

There was even talk that we would add a Free Agent Turkey category into the mix so yes we did. That will be our lead-off foray into this ambitious undertaking.

TRADED TURKEYS

Simon Gagne (LW) — Tampa Bay Lightning

Can you really imagine a player going to a team with pretty solid offensive firepower in its Top six and doing less?  This player has done NOTHING. That is right. Gagne has no points on a team that has stalwarts such as Steve Downie, Martin St. Louis, and oh yeah that 20 in 20 Stamkos character just to name a few.Then his neck started to hurt him and really at that point you almost got the feeling it was going to be an injury riddled season for the talented forward who rarely stays healthy.  He is now back but this really is a lost cause of epic proportions in the first quarter for Mr. Gagne.

Our verdict here was one of our easiest of all. Gagne not only gets five turkey basters but also receives our Alexei Kovalev Memorial Award for doing absolutely nothing this quarter. An ECHL player would have at least done something, injury or no injury.

Patrick O’Sullivan (LW) — Minnesota Wild

Yes this is a very sad story so we will spare a ton of details but it seems O’Sullivan cannot find a home or luck anywhere. Mentally he is definitely not all there and that is very sad to see but unfortunately in the NHL, there has to be a time to rise above that and honestly this player has not done so. He also gets our five turkey basters for a lack of service. Stay away at all costs and more than likely, another league may call for his services until the mental and physical aspects come together for this talented but enigmatic forward.

Dan Hamhuis (D) — Vancouver Canucks

So Hamhuis bounced to Philly, Pittsburgh and then Vancouver on his merry travels and then proceeded to be the overrated player everyone thought he was. Two goals and an assist in 12 games is not bad but the -2 and low hits and blocks is a bit of a concern. The 20 point pace really is about right but the lack of specialty points is a bit of a surprise considering Hamhuis has a pretty good shot. However, Hamhuis also has shown a propensity for not playing as well in his own end as some expected him to.

Vancouver has not been quite the same this year and some are starting to grumble that replacing Willie Mitchell with Hamhuis was not the greatest of ideas. Hamhuis was expected to be as sound and do a little more offensively but the reality is this one has not gone according to plan. There was some debate as to how many basters to give him. In the end, we went with three basters. It would have been four but no one could find a deep fryer good enough to send into Canada.

Jason Arnott (C) — New Jersey Devils

Here turkey turkey turkey!  Though his five goals so far in November are respectable. Arnott only has 12 points in 21 games with translated to .57 points per game. This is down from the .72 points per game last year and .87 points per game two seasons ago. It is just coincidental that the -.15 regression has occurred but Arnott at his age is declining some in skill at least defensively as his -7 will attest to. However he has a booming shot and if it is on target, it will go in. The eight goals is a plus which makes asserting a label on Arnott a bit harder than some would think.

Where are we going to go here. This was fairly tough but Arnott has produced a little better this month. Given the expected dip, I would give him three turkey basters but just barely. The typical Devils homer would say one or two at the tops. I am not as merciful.

Lars Eller (C) — Montreal Canadiens

Some of us always go in with our heads held high and then come crashing back to Earth with a big, giant resounding thud.  ONE POINT THIS YEAR?  Are you kidding me?  This was a supposed Top six forward that was almost can’t miss. Therefore, he has missed and awfully.

There are other players on Montreal who have been brutal but Eller was traded in the summer so as we note, he is a traded turkey of the worst kind since so many fantasy experts had him at a half point per game at least. It has been asked not how many basters should we give him but if we should pay for a one way ticket to Hamilton?

Here is my answer. We give Lars Eller the five turkey basters, a one way ticket to Hamilton, and a bag of pucks with the Church’s Fried Chicken as well.

FREE AGENT FRENZIED TURKEYS

Ilya Kovalchuk (LW) — New Jersey Devils

Yes we knew the controversy would be intense but no one knew how bad this would become. If anyone expected Ilya Kovalchuk to have four goals at this juncture, considering he had 41 last year, raise your hand and call yourself a deity right now. The four goals and six assists just hurt badly for any fantasy owner. Even Brian Boyle has eight goals right now. Sean Avery has more votes for the All-Star game and to add further insult the immortal Andrew Ladd has more points than Kovalchuk at the moment. That is just the tip of the iceberg.

While Kovalchuk cannot be blamed for the entire team’s problems on just cause. There is a negative effect by him clutching the stick extra tight. Think of how many games the Devils have sagged because they did not score on one end and gave up a goal on the other. Even in Monday Night’s 5-0 win, Kovalchuk had one shot late in the game and was almost invisible. Then he was seen joking around with Alex Ovechkin, who was almost as invisible.

Something has to loosen him up a bit because nothing else is working. We talked to his agent Sunday Night and everything seems okay on the surface but one gets the feeling that the situation is eating at him. Based on expectations alone, Kovalchuk will be given our five turkey basters. Second round fantasy pick may want to WAKE UP!

Marty Turco (G) — Chicago Blackhawks

Hey a goalie made our list finally. That is a good thing to see.

Aside from one brilliant year in Dallas, Turco was a man under siege who would crack as the postseason came. The Blackhawks were not expected to be as good this year as last year but there were some considerable pieces. However, nothing has looked consistent in Chicago and especially Marty Turco who has looked able at times and then worse than an ECHL goalie at others. The 2.83 GAA and .906 save percentage are pretty decent but not even at Turco levels on worse Dallas teams.

Remember Turco is 35 and usually the skills start to erode in most netminders at this point and time. Chicago’s schedule does get a little bit easier. As much as people would like to kill Turco in this spot, the turkeys and I are willing to give him somewhat the benefit of the doubt here. Here are three turkey basters to Mr. Turco and a hope that he lowers that GAA some.

Ian White (D) — Carolina Hurricanes

For whatever reason, Calgary was an unmitigated disaster for Ian White. Maybe there was something in the water but it was not just the six points this year in 16 games with the -10 for Calgary. At some point, it became all mental in the wrong direction. White and Brent Sutter and did not seem to see eye to eye at all and the reality became that White was the wrong fit all along compared to what Calgary really needed. So finally White was traded to Carolina where he can fit in with a more offensive type of play.

If this all works out for Ian White, you will not see him anywhere near a list like this for the rest of the season. He is too good not to be on a 50 point pace or close to it. As it stands now, he is a three turkey baster mainly because he did not have a snowball’s chance with that regime in Calgary. The change will do him good.

Devin Setoguchi (RW) — San Jose Sharks

There will be no Corsi regression coefficients here on FH 201 but definitely we will crunch some deep numbers. This is not the same player as last year and its not even close.

The dropoff last year was precipitous but the slip even further back this year seems to say there is some deeper on or around the surface. The six points in 19 games only scratches the surface and pain of fantasy owners out there. Only one of Setoguchi’s six points came during a win. The situational stats are just bizarre. Usually players excel when winning but in parts of the last two years, Swtoguchi likes to be down first.

What do you do with a guy like this who clearly was once much better off that he is currently. A change of scenery clearly is the right way to go but the Sharks want are hesitant to just trade away the still talented forward. We are going to give Setoguchi four turkey basters and only spare him of the fifth because of his drop of production last year. Fantasy GM’s should have been more aware.

Antti Niemi (G) — San Jose

Some will say its because of the new team and some will say its getting used to the new defense while others will say he was insulated in Chicago. This may be a rare case where it was a little of all three.

The bottom line is Antti Niemi just has not played well in San Jose and has become the 1B to Antero Niitymaki’s 1A. The 26-7-4 record with Chicago and magical Stanley Cup run is almost like a dream. Here is the nightmare. Niemi has a 2-4-1 record with a .878 save percentage and 3.91 GAA.

The problem is San Jose’s defense is just not Chicago’s. Clearly signing in the first week of September did not help at all.

This probably was not the greatest fit for Niemi.  Maybe he should have taken a year in the KHL to refine his skills some before coming back to the NHL. What is clear is he deserves only four turkey basters as San Jose has played as awful in front of him as Niemi has behind them.

THE OLD GUARD (The 35 and over turkeys?)

Martin Brodeur (G) — New Jersey Devils

Sometimes in this business, we have to be cold. A player who has won over 600 games (the most in NHL history) usually gets treated with kid gloves but not here.

It is not a secret that Brodeur plays his way into shape unlike most goalies. That has come back to haunt him this year as his team has evaporated in front of him. The result is a very poor win loss record and a high GAA at 2.74 and a save percentage of .901.

When you are 38, it may be time to beef up that offseason program. The rigors of an NHL season is infinitely tougher than some beer or even semi-pro league. It is a criticism that has been quietly echoed for several years in New Jersey and now it has bubbled up to the surface. The injuries have hurt some but one has to play a bit better to start the year off and clearly Brodeur was a step slow until the last few starts.  However, now he is hurt again so that gives him a total of three turkey basters. Hope abounds in early December when Brodeur returns.

Jamie Langenbrunner (RW) — New Jersey Devils

It looks like we are zeroing in mostly on Devil players but the reality is to be that bed takes a team effort of epic proportions. The nine points in 16 games does not sound that bad on the surface but the attitude or lack thereof at times in the locker room is disconcerting. Either way, Mr. Grumpy is Mr. Power Outage as he has no man advantage goals at the moment. Now battling injury, Langenbrunner has a tough road to climb especially if New Jersey starts to climb out of this season long hole they are in.

Langenbrunner needs a player of Parise’s skill set to thrive given his age. He cannot quite create the offense needed to be a Top six forward in the NHL. Those days are slowly becoming numbered and at some point not even Parise will be able to save him from the fantasy chopping block.

Doug Weight (C) — New York Islanders

Again this was a very excruciating choice as he is near the AARP age. Well he is not honestly but it sounded good at the time.

The nine points in 18 games on a bad team is not damaging exactly but its the fact that Weight has been constantly hurt over the last few years that if you took a flyer on him then shame on you. Now it is his back. Who knows when it will be his knees, or groin, or something else for that matter.

Weight is at the sunset of his career. It was pretty damn good while it lasted but he should have probably retired after last year but the Isles had so much hope. In certain ways, Weight coming back made sense and then the season started. So we give him only one turkey baster as a sign of respect and last rites on his hockey career.

Steve Sullivan (C) — Nashville Predators

This is another borderline case as he does have a respectable 10 points in 19 games. However, some feel he has the talent to do a little more in Nashville this year than he has so far. That sounds a bit unfair on the surface to me at least. He is definitely a player to keep a look out come the second quarter of the season when he heats it up a bit.

Right now, we only give him a half a turkey baster just to let people know that he may or may not be at the point of breaking down production wise again. Stay tuned.

THE SURPRISE TURKEYS

Travis Zajac (C) — New Jersey Devils

Here is a player no one ever thought would slump this bad once he got his wheels motoring. Yet here we are with a guy who clearly misses his linemates like a homesick puppy dog. Now the nine points in twenty one games is appalling enough until you throw in one key, vital stat. Travis Zajac has no points on the man advantage at all. He had 21 last year and 15 the year before that. We are talking ZERO here during the first quarter. There are certain reasons why a team of turkeys is what we are calling the New Jersey Devils right now and this is one big one.

Given the nature and the abhorrent drop of Zajac and the prospect of not seeing Parise or Langenbrunner for awhile, this point production could actually get worse which is why we are tossing out four turkey basters for Zajac. Does he turn it around at some point? That is a tough call given the climate at the current moment.

Roberto Luongo (G) — Vancouver Canucks

The 2.88 GAA and .907 save percentage spell out that Luongo is facing just over 30 shots a game but he was used to that in Florida. He is just having too many inconsistent efforts as well as the team.

Clearly when Luongo is given the physical treatment, his other goalie senses crack faster than bad China glassware. Look at the games where he does not see that spy in front of him compared to one that he does.  His rebound control has also been a bit lackluster at times and somewhat ugly at other times. The .500 record worries most GM’s to death but that can turn around.

Right now the key is the rest of the team in front of Luongo. Those scoring chances did not seem to occur last year. If the team gets it going, Luongo will gain his confidence back and things will roll from there. If not on the other hand, the Coach could be swinging from the noose anytime soon. Part of me also wonders if Luongo is battling the groin again. Stay tuned on that fantasy owners and keep an eye out for it.

Mike Smith (G) — Tampa Bay Lightning

There is just a level of ouch when it comes to goaltending in Tampa Bay. Between Dan Ellis and Mike Smith, Steve Yzerman must be thinking this is not how to do it these days but it looked really great on paper. The 7-3 record hides the fact that Smith gives up goals like he still had no idea where his head is attached to. When you give up three or more goals that many times, one has to wonder if he should be called Mike “ThreeOrMore Smith”. The 3.17 GAA and .887 save percentage is abysmal and disheartening given the alternative.

Due to the persistent bad play of Smith, we are assigning the full five turkey basters on this one. Not only do the Bolts have goaltending issues but their defense is a bit leaky on the back end as well. That does not excuse the last line of defense and if Tampa intends on making the playoffs and advancing, they need to find a #1 and sooner rather than later.

LOOKING AHEAD TO THE SECOND QUARTER

There is a growing sense that some trends that have been established may actually reverse themselves a bit or relax some. Clearly other trends will continue or get more amplified as the schedule stretches out a hair or most teams. Think about the drop in shootouts compared to this time last year or the fact that shots on goal are up by over 10%. Definitely times are always changing. If the fantasy owner does not adapt, even a little bit, then they are just cooked like a turkey would be.

Prevalent thought dictates that there are not just turkeys at the NHL level but turkeys at other levels as well. Every so often, we will poke a little turkey fun into the prospects. If the readers know any high profile prospects who are not performing up to expectations, we want to know about them. This is a time of year where we start peeking at the prospects to not only see who could crack a roster in the future but also potential draft picks for next season.

The idea is to spread the word about prospects for dynasty leagues as well. People have to understand that yes the NHL players are our principal concern.   Guys like Dan Boyle, even who knows Alex Ovechkin could be on the halfway version of this post. No one really knows.

However I am here to tell you of a few players you may want to keep an eye on. First the good…….or the three to be.

  1. Carey Price (do not think he is a fluke)
  2. Jonas Gustavsson (Will make them say Giggy what…giggy who?)
  3. Ilya Kovalchuk (Going out on a short limb here)

Then there is the three to turkey.

  1. JS Giguere (He will pout again…watch for it.)
  2. Clarke MacArthur (Sell high and sell now!)
  3. Andrew Ladd (Eventually he will tumble down to Earth)

The last question becomes what is left?  As much as we love fantasy hockey, there is an aspect we do not love. We are nuts and bolts numbers guys. No one sits there and goes over Corsi like regression theory to explain things here. That is not our job. We want to provide you with the turkeys for a reason because these are players that are impacting your team in a bad or ugly way.

Also if we missed any turkeys at all, feel free to let us know. They will be put on our “monitored list” for future editions of this upstanding column. The turkeys have also announced they may expand in the new year to twice a week to help our fantasy hockey brothers and sisters out there. We are here to help.

So from all of us at the Fantasy Hockey Wing of Inside Hockey, we’d like to wish all of you out there a Happy Thanksgiving. May the turkey be moist and may you enjoy your time on the couch afterwards recovering. The most important thing is to please stay safe.

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3 Responses to “FH 201: First Quarter Turkeys”

  1. Chuck Tay
    November 24, 2010 at 4:28 pm #

    Nik Zherdev – RW – Flyers
    After scoring over 20 goals in twice in his career, and leading the Rangers in points with 58 in 82 games, he’s dropped on the Flyers depth chart. He’s been twice a healthy scratch and after being re-inserted into the lineup he’s played on the fourth line and has only 7 goals and 8 pts in 20 games.

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