Tuesday, September 22, 2009

50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Scott Gomez

Scott Gomez and New York City were evidently not a fit.

After failing to live up to his monster $51.5 million contract with the Rangers, he was promptly shipped to Montreal in the off-season for Chris Higgins.

The move to Montreal is a positive for Gomez. If things aren’t working out in one city, a change of scenery is always good. It is an opportunity to save face and prove he is worth his contract in the biggest hockey market in the world. There will still be pressure on Gomez to produce, but there will be less hype around him going into the new season.

The Canadiens had a busy offseason. They had the biggest overhaul in recent memory and were by far the busiest team. Not only did they trade for Gomez, but they signed Michael Cammalleri, Hal Gill, Jaroslav Spacek and most importantly, in regards to Gomez – Brian Gionta. Gomez is reunited with Gionta after a two year absence from each other.

In New Jersey, these two helped each other to some of their better seasons, including an 89 point (48 goals) performance from Gionta in 2005 (84 points for Gomez). If they can find the chemistry that they had that season, the Canadiens will be laughing to the playoffs.

On the other side of the combo, Gomez has legitimate goal scorer that he did not have in New York in Michael Cammalleri. Cammalleri scored 39 goals last season with the Calagary Flames and definitly has a chance to repeat that this season with a playmaker like Gomez at centerice.

With those three new faces in Montreal, the Canadiens have a formidable top line that will make their fans forget about their first round knock out last season.

For Gomez, he is already excited to by a part of Les Habitants and a change of scenery puts his dismal days in New York in the past.

After scoring just 58 points last year on a Rangers club that did not have a goal scorer, he will absolutely exceeded those numbers this year. With Gionta and Cammalleri as his wings, plus a very good powerplay, quarterbacked by Andrei Markov, Gomez is heading towards 21 goals, 50 assists, 71 points. (THN predicts: 17/53/70).

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Ales Hemsky

The headache. The point per game potential. The enigma. The most talented player on the Edmonton Oilers. Ales Hemsky is all of these.

Just watch his first two goals from last season:

Unreal. The Great One even thinks so. And whatever Wayne’r says must be true.

He is among the most skilled players in the game. No question. But he has never put a full season together where he can show the rest of the league that he is a legitimate superstar. The closest he came was in 2005-2006 when he played 81 games and scored 77 points, which shows what he is capable of in a full season.

It looked like Hemsky was finally going to put it altogether last season. In his first 34 games, he had 35 points. Then on December 28th, Jordin Tootoo tattooed Hemsky and put him out for 10 games.

He recovered nicely, but was inconsistent after the concussion leading to a respectable 31 points in his final 38 games. The Oilers missed the playoffs, and Hemsky missed another opportunity to position himself among the NHL’s elite.

He finished with 66 points in 72 games (.917 points per game), which is a 5 point drop from the season prior.

Other than finishing tenth in voting for Czechoslovakia’s Golden Stick Award, Hemsky’s offseason was uneventful. However, things have happened around Hemsky that will affect his production this season. Whether it is for better or worse, it remains to be seen.

The first thing that happened didn’t actually happen. In July, the Oilers agreed to acquire Dany Heatley from the Senators for Andrew Cogliano, Dustin PennerLadislav Smid. Fantasy owners were salivating at the prospect of Hemsky lining up with Heatley on his way to a guaranteed 50 assists. T-Shirts, posters and dinner plates were already being made of the Triple H threat in Edmonton (Hemsky – Heatley – Horcoff). However, Heatley exercised his contractual right and nixed the trade. and

Hemsky is stuck with Penner and owners are still wondering if Hemsky will ever play with a legitimate goal scorer.

The second offseason factor that affects Hemsky’s play is the hiring of Pat QuinnTom Renney as Associate Coach of the Oilers. Hemsky is given an old school offensive minded coach that will allow him the freedom to be creative on the ice. as Head Coach and

Quinn relies on his horses. In 2005-06, Quinn let Mats Sundin lumber around the ice for 20 minutes per game (well, 19:58) on his 35 year old legs. This led to a 78 point season from Sundin (in 70 games). In the same season, Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe both averaged over 28 minutes per game, but they were defensemen. But you get the point. Quinn relies on his horses, and at 26, and the only legitimate star on the Oilers, Hemsky needs to be Quinn’s horse.

The key for Hemsky this upcoming season is his health. In order for him to be a fantasy stud and to give the Oilers the best chance to win, he must play a full season.

He is likely to start the season with Shawn Horcoff and Dustin Penner on the top line. He is also sure to get lots of powerplay minutes with two offensive minded defensemen in Lubomir Visnovsky and Sheldon Souray. A healthy season for Visnovsky and a canon from Souray adds a few more points to Hemsky’s production.

For the 2009-2010 season, 50MC fearlessly forecasts that Ales Hemsky will play 76 games, scoring 25 goals and 48 assists for 73 points. (THN predicts: 74 games – 24/47/71)

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Valtteri Filppula

A lot of buzz this off season has been around the Philadelphia Flyers and where they are going to replace the 52 goals that Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul left behind. There is a similar, and maybe more enticing situation for fantasy in Detroit where the Red Wings lost Marian Hossa, Jiri Hudler and Mikael Samuelsson. Between those three players, there is a total of 82 goals that have to be made up. EIGHTY TWO GOALS!!!

Who in the world is going to score enough goals in Detroit to supplement that huge loss?

Enter a fantasy stud, who has been buried on a deep Red Wings roster for three years: Valtteri Filppula. On any other team, Filppula would have been a regular contributor for the last two seasons. Due to Detroit’s depth, Filppula is simply a skilled centerman who has the potential to be a top six forward, but is more concentrated on taking care of his own end.

As mentioned, Hossa jetted to Chicago, Samuelsson joined Team Sweden in Vancouver and Hudler is still making his way back to Russia has finally made it to Russia.

Filppula didn’t have to move a muscle and in a matter of months, he instantly moves into a top six role on a very potent offense. Most importantly, he is surely to receive a career high in minutes, including powerplay time – something he is excited about and willing to work hard for.

Filppula will definitely start on the second line. Whether it is as a center or a winger is remain to be seen. Mike Babcock has two options:

A) line 1: Tomas Holmstrom – Pavel Datsyuk – Henrik Zetterberg; line 2: Johan Franzen – Valtteri Filppula – Dan Cleary

B) line 1: Tomas Holmstrom -Pavel Datsyuk – Dan Cleary; line 2: Johan Franzen – Henrik Zetterberg – Valtteri Filppula

Filppula is in a great position to improve on his point totals from last season – something he has done in each season since he broke into the league.

2006-2007: 10G 7A 17P

2007-2008: 19G 17A 36P

2008-2009: 12G 28A 40P

I would not worry about his downward spike in goals from 2008 to 2009, mainly because the Red Wings acquired a legitimate goal scorer in Hossa (40) and had a breakout goal scoring season from Franzen (34). Therefore, Filppula did not have to worry about putting pucks in the net, just playing good defensive hockey.

What was impressive and encouraging about Filppula’s 2009 season was his playoff performance. He was third in playoff scoring on the Red Wings with 16 points (3 goals) in 23 games. If he can continue his play making abilities in his increased role on the second line that he showed in the playoffs, he is surely going to make a fantasy impact.

If there was one thing to worry potential fantasy owners, it is the wild card player that could sneak into Detroit’s top six: Ville Leino. Last year Leino broke into the league after establishing himself in the Finnish National League and scored 5 goals in 13 games with the Wings. He will likely start on the third line and based on how Hudler and Filppula were gently handled by the Red Wings when they broke into the league, Leino will probably see limited minutes. However, a good camp or an injury could force Babcock to put Leino into the top six. Just something to be watch out for during training camp.

Fantastically, Filppula’s plus/minus will remain high because he has been a depth forward, where the main focus is defense. Now that he has entered the more offensive minded top six group not only will his ratio remain high, but his point totals will rise as well.

Putting it all together: 82 goals to make up from last season, increased ice time, increased powerplay time, top six forward on a very effective offensive team, and an improvement of production for three years running. 50MC fearlessly forecasts 17 goals, 39 assists for 58 points (THN predicts: 79 games – 20/30/50). This production makes him a solid fantasy late round pick and a must have in deep leagues.

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Mikko Koivu

Do you ever look at your fantasy pool’s champion and wonder: How is his team better than mine? You look up and down his team and compare him to yours. You look down his team and come to Mikko Koivu and wonder how he has room on his championship team for a guy like Mikko Koivu? Then you look at his numbers and then you realize why he won the league.

Mikko Koivu is the type of guy that will not lead your team to a victory, but will win you a championship. He is the guy at the bottom of your depth chart that continues to produce. Only the guys that own him realize the worth that Koivu brings. He is the unsung hero. He is under rated because he is simply known as Saku’s lil bro and doesn’t play on a strong offensive team.

Both of those things will change this year.

This off-season, the long time Head Coach of the Minnesota Wild, Jacques Lemaire resigned to take on the vacancy in New Jersey. As a replacement, General Manager, Craig Leipold hired Todd Richards. Before this gig, Richards led the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Penguins to a 51 win season in the AHL in 2006 and signed on as an assistant coach for the San Jose Sharks last year.

There is an excellent article that profiles the new Wild coach by Michael Russo of the Minnesota Star Tribune. It highlights the winning attitude that Richards has, his past, and most importantly, for fantasy buffs, the type of system he will implement:

While all teams trap and the new-edition Wild still will, too, the system’s philosophy will be dramatically altered under Richards. He vows an up-tempo, attacking style, something that Wild fans — especially the No. 1 fan — are excited to see.

This is music to current and potential Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Martin Havlat, heck, even James Sheppard owners everywhere.

Under Lemaire, the Wild were a trapping, defense-first team. They would traditionally win low scoring games and were content with scoring and holding the lead, instead of building on it. They have had talented and skilled play makers in the past, but never really got to explore the potential of their speed because of the system.

With the new coach and the new system, the game should open up for the Wild. Players with speed, such as Koivu and Bouchard will get their opportunities and should score more points. Richards knows that with Marian Gaborik gone, he needs to rely on Koivu to be the leader on the ice and knows that he has the assets to do so.

Richards goes as far to say that Koivu is “probably in the top three among two-way centermen in the game” in Dave Campbell’s article in USA Today.

That may be a stretch, but it says a lot of what Koivu brings to the table – solid defense with untapped offensive potential.

Last season, Koivu finished with a career high 67 points in 79 games. What is interesting about Koivu’s career is that he has increased his points per game every year since he has been in the league.

2005-2006: 21 points/64 games = 0.33 ppg

2006-2007: 34 points/82 games = 0.66 ppg

2007-2008: 42 points/57 games = 0.74 ppg

2008-2009: 67 points/79 games = 0.85 ppg

This is a very impressive stat and encouraging for Koivu going into this season. He has increased his point per game totals by roughly 0.10 in the past three years. Whether or not he does that again this season is yet to be seen, but he with the increased responsibility, new system and opportunity to be more creative, he is surely to increase his numbers. This will put him among the top 25 point getters in the league. 50MC fantastically forecasts 0.91 ppg in 82 games: 25 goals, 49 assists, 74 points (THN predicts – 20/45/65)

If you can draft Koivu in the middle to late rounds – which you probably can – and get top 25 production out of him, that would be considered a bonafide fleecing.

It is widely known that you can’t win your fantasy pool in the early rounds in the draft, but you can lose it. Well, I believe in being able to win fantasy pools in the late rounds. You can do this by taking Koivu.

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Dany Heatley

Dany Heatley’s ‘09 summer checklist:
  • Get out of Ottawa
  • Lay low all summer
  • Exercise No-Trade-Clause
  • Get out of Ottawa
  • Mow the lawn

Although Heatley’s lawn is grows to unbelievable proportions, he is going, going back, back to Cali. Heatley may not have been there before, but he’s there now, and you get the point. Specifically, San Jose.

In this trade, Heatley got everything he wanted. The main thing was getting out of Ottawa. He is now in a pretty good hockey market, but not a crazed hockey market (like in Canada) where the fans will allow him to perform and be a citizen of San Jose who plays professional hockey.

He also inherits the most prolific passer in this generation in Joe Thornton. Thornton has the most points in the NHL since the lockout – 424 – of those points, 316 of them are assists. Thornton, Heatley and Patrick Marleau were put on a line together by Team Canada and Detroit Red Wings Head Coach, Mike Babcock at the Olympic Orientation camp, and the three joked about how it would be a pretty nice line for the Sharks. However, Sharks’ Head coach Todd McLellan revealed this week that although a super line is possible, Devin Setoguchi will play right wing with Thornton and Heatley.

In San Jose, Heatley goes someplace where he knows somebody who can plug him into the social pipeline. In short, he knows a lot of key Sharks’ players. He has played with Thornton, Marleau and Rob Blake with Team Canada. He has played with Dan Boyle in the past and played with Joe Pavelski at the University of Wisconsin. Most importantly, Heatley played under McLellan for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2000.

Heatley has proven that he can score. He has gone to the Stanley Cup finals. And he has a great singing voice. Now he has to prove that he can stick with one team and not be a distraction in the locker room. He does not have to be a leader with the Sharks, but simply a guy who can follow the rules and perform on the ice like he has done his whole career. In Atlanta, he was productive, but one incident led him to asking for a trade out. In Ottawa, for a few cloudy reasons, wanted out. This past summer, his character took a hit, but in San Jose he has the opportunity prove that he is a reliable team mate because as Eric DuhatschekHockey is not baseball, but once principle is the same – three strikes and you’re out. says, “

With all that being said, I fealessly forecast 52 goals, 39 assists for 91 points for a healthy season from Dany Heatley this season. (THN predicts – 44/38/82 – pre-trade)

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Brandon Dubinsky

Brandon Dubinsky hasn’t even participated in training camp yet and he’s already in John Tortarella’s doghouse. That’s the problem – he hasn’t been there. The former restricted free agent held himself out of camp last week because he did not reach a contract extension with the Rangers. The prolonged negotiations left fans and his Head Coach to wonder if he was even worth it.

Alas, on Saturday, Dubinsky and the Rangers reached a 2 year deal worth $3.7 million. A modest compromise for a resolution that took way too long to come to.

On any other team in the league, Dubinsky would be a good second line centerman with lots of potential. However, on the Rangers, Dubinsky immediately jumps in as their number one center and must prove himself this year to justify his holdout.

As the first line center for the Rangers, Dubinsky must improve on his 41 point 2008-2009 campaign. With the opportunity, he should. He is likely to have Marian Gaborik and Vaclav Prospal on his wings, who can both put the puck in the net and bring as much energy as Dubinsky does. The key is Gaborik. He mustRyan Getzlaf having hair before he is 30.
stay healthy. However, a healthy Gaborik is as likely as

Gaborik has already missed time from training camp. Compound that with Dubinsky’s 8 day hold out, and that puts the Rangers on page 1, while every other team in the league is already at page 20.

Gaborik is a great offensive player that can definitely help boost Dubinsky’s numbers. There is no denying that. However, if when Gaborik gets hurt, who will the Rangers turn to for scoring? Dubinsky has not proven he can carry a team. Prospal isn’t the type to be the go-to guy. Chris Drury can lead a team in the locker room, but his numbers have taken a drastic hit since coming to New York. Could Tortorella rely on the AHL standout and NHL rookie, Artem Ansimov, for consistent point production? It is a scary picture in New York without Gaborik. They were a terrible offensive team last year, but could be even worse this year.

Speaking of Ansimov, he has impressed in the preseason. If Dubinsky falters out of the gate, Tortorella will not hesitate to give this kid an opportunity. If you draft Dubinsky, be sure to add Ansimov to your watch list.

Now that Dubinsky is in camp and with his team, he has to come in with a chip on his shoulder. He has a lot of work to do, a lot to prove and a lot of responsibility to take on. How will he handle all of this? The Rangers’ season starts October 2nd against the defending champs. We shall see.

Taking all of this information into consideration, I fearlessly forecast 20 goals, 35 assists for 55 points. (THN predicts – 17/32/59). Dubinsky still has potential to breakout this year, but don’t overate him. He has the energy on the ice, the motivation behind the bench and the offensive creativity to play with Gaborik. A bright future is ahead for Dubinsky, but needs some offensive help.

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Nik Antropov

Nik Antropov. Nikolai f’n Antropov. He actually wasn’t as bad as some people would have you think (fyi: I think Steve Simmons is a babbling idiot. He’s right up there with Bob McKowen and Roger Lajoie).

Antropov finished last season with a career high 59 points, including 28 goals! 28 goals! He accomplished this while playing on the offensively challenged Toronto Maple Leafs and the even more offensively challenged New York Rangers.

Despite all this, he gets no love. He still cannot live down his reputation he built in Toronto as being a first round bust. Perhaps the reasoning behind the frustrations of Leafs’ fans is because Antropov was taken 10th overall in the 1998 entry draft ahead of the likes of Alex Tanguay (12), Simon Gagne (22) and Scott Gomez (27).

He took a little longer to develop at the NHL level, and the fans, media and coaches grew impatient. Antropov became the scapegoat for 40+ years of Maple Leaf failure. He was the whipping boy of the franchise until he was run out of town.

While in Toronto, Antropov was my favorite Leaf. I saw potential and a misunderstanding on why he was continually scrutinized. He was also a leader in the community.

He would occasionally spend his Sunday afternoons at the Pickering Flea Market and sign autographs and interact with fans; however many he had. He was consistently on a local Ontario fishing show, FishTV, which I religiously watch on Saturday mornings. He even continued to be on the show after he was traded to New York.

This off season, the Atlanta Thrashers signed Antropov to a 4 year/$16 million deal. He was signed to center the top line which includes perennial 50 goal scorer Ilya Kovalchuk and budding sensation Bryan Little (31 goals last year). I’m not strong in math, but basic arithmetic tells me that there is 80 goals between the two wings. Somebody is going to have to set up all those goals. I am not saying that Antropov is going to have 80 assists, but he will surely have a lot more chances to set up goalsin Atlanta than he did in Toronto or New York. Antropov has also proven he can put the puck in the net as well. He had a career high 28 goals last season and 26 the year before.

The question coming into camp is whether or not Antropov would be able to keep up with two dynamic skaters. I caution myself with preseason results, but Antropov has been clicking very well with his new linemates.

Last night versus the Carolina Hurricanes, Antropov had three assists including one from a goal from Little and one on the powerplay. It is evident that the Thrashers trust Antropov and are prepared to give him more ice time and responsibility. Again, it is only preseason, but it is refreshing to see that Antropov is compatible as a Thrasher.

He is 29, going into his tenth year in the league and has finally found his game. He is away from the hockey and media hubs and found a place in Atlanta (which could also be considered a media hub because of Ted Turner, but definitely not a hockey crazed market… you get it). He will not face the pressures he faced in Toronto and gets an opportunity to play with a legitimate goal scorer for the first time in his career. That alone makes him of fantasy significance.

Simply based on his reputation, he is surely to slip in your fantasy drafts. I fearlessly forecast Nik Antropov will score 23 goals and 42 assists for 65 points in a full season with Kovalchuk and Little (THN predicts – 72 games/30/35/65). Grab him in the late rounds as a depth center and you’re laughing.

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Patrick Marleau

Patrick Marleau had a great comeback season in 2008-2009 with 71 points in 78 games. He set a career high with 38 goals, in which 10 of them were game winners. In 2007-2008, he merely scored 48 points. For those of you who thought Marleau was finished after that, you probably were not among the leaders of your league.

I, on the other hand, picked him up in the late rounds and reaped the benefits.

This has been a terrible off-season for Marleau. From being the subject of multiple trade rumors to being blamed for the Sharks playoff demise to losing his captaincy, the media would have you think that Jason Allison has a better shot at 70 points.

Marleau must use the off-season speculation as motivation. The entire Sharks organization has A LOT to prove this upcoming season, but Marleau more than anyone else.

Wearing the “C” for any NHL team comes with a great deal of pride. It also comes with a great deal of responsibility. The load of an unsuccessful playoffs is solely carried by captain Marleau. Having lost his letter from the only organization he has played for is a slap in the face. However, it is also a harsh reality that Marleau was not good down the stretch.

This season, Marleau has to prove that he is a leader and show that striping him of his letter was unjustified. He can achieve this by leading the team in the locker room as well as on the ice where he needs to have another career year.

Possibly the biggest motivational factor for Marleau this upcoming season can be summed up in two words: contract year. For some reason, something happens to players when they are not guaranteed a contract the following year. Players from all major leagues become stronger, faster and more productive as if they were pressured from a all-powerful being. A being that allows them to continue living a comfortable life. It simply cannot be explained.

In all seriousness, a contract year is a very powerful factor in a players’ career. Marleau is unlikely to sign another $6.3 million per year contract, unless if he has an unbelievable season. However, if he wants to continue his career in the NHL as multi million dollar player, he must produce, produce, produce.

Marleau can either prove his critics wrong or he can buckle under the pressure. Since, the whole organization is under pressure, Marleau will have a good sized support system and will not be the only one to carry the blame, if the Sharks should fail. But the Sharks won’t fail – neither will Marleau. He (they) have too much on the line and too much talent.

Marleau is still among the fastest skaters in the league, he has never had major injury concerns and he proved last year that he can score a few goals. Given that Marleau plays a full schedule, he will score 35 goals, 40 assists, 75 points and he will help lead the Sharks past the first round. (THN predicts: 78 games – 35/35/70)

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: David Krejci

David Krejci came out of obscurity and broke out last season with 73 points. He inherited the second line center duties and more minutes when Patrice Bergeron went down with another concussion and took full advantage of his opportunity. Whether he played with Michael Ryder, Milan Lucic, Blake Wheeler, Phil Kessel or Chuck Kobasew, Krecji showed his versatility by flourishing in any circumstance.

Nothing really went wrong for Krejci last year as he became an instant legitimate fantasy stud. For his efforts, the Bruins signed him to a 3 year/$11.25 million deal that has likely put Phil Kessel on the outs in Boston.

However, this offseason, the young Czech playmaker needed surgery to repair an injured hip. It was a successful minor procedure, but it is still going to keep him from playing the first few weeks of the season. The Boston Globe reports indicate that Krejci’s hip has healed quicker than expected and has been skating around with his team mates, but is still slated to miss the beginning of the season.

Injuries that keep a player from starting the season always hurt the players value. Firstly, their timing will be a step behind all the other players, who have been already playing at game speed for weeks. And secondly, they are susceptible to losing their job to players that got out of the gate quickly and ceased the opportunity left by the injured player.

In Krejci’s case, the second factor is what should worry current and potential Krejci fantasy owners. This is because there is a very capable and proven center right behind him in Patrice Bergeron – the same player he took the job of last season because of injury.

Bergeron is likely to start the season as the second line center and if he can get off to a good start and stay healthy, he will be able to reacquire that position even after Krejci comes back. Owners will have to hope for a speedy recvery from Krejci and that Bergeron falters out of the gate.

However, 50MC believes that Bergeron will take a strangle hold on that second line center position and remain their for the majority of the season. This leaves Krejci as the third line center and often floating on the second line. For the Bruins, this gives them very good depth at center, but for fantasy owners, it leaves Krejci with decreased minutes with good powerplay time.

Therefore, David Krejci will still have a good season, but not as good as last year’s breakout. 50MC fearlessly forecasts 13 goals, 33 assists, 46 points for Jon Heder on skates. (THN predicts: 78 games – 21/38/59)

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Alex Tanguay

Alex Tanguay is coming off one of his most unusual off-seasons in his career. After missing most of the second half of the season, inlcuding playoffs with the Montreal Canadiens due to an “upper body” injury (i.e. shoulder), Tanguay had minor arthoscopic surgery to repair his injured wing.

Then came July 1st, when unrestricted free agents were free to sign with any team. After all the big names came off the board, most contending teams were close to the salary cap, and Tanguay was still left without a team. For close to tow months, Tanguay became the best player available; therefore, was rumored to go anywhere from Atlanta to Nashville to New York (both teams) to Phoenix to Edmonton to Clarington Jr B.

Finally, Tanguay and the Tampa Bay Lightning came to a one year, $2.5 million agreement.

In a fantasy hockey perspective, there were many decent scenarios for Tanguay, but the prospect of teaming up with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis on a francophone line, is surely the best case scenario for Tanguay. However, the three Quebecouers are unlikely to terrorize teams together at the same time, unless if it is on the powerplay.

Based on the success that Steven Stamkos had with St. Louis during the tail end of the season last year, including the World Championships for Canada, those two will likely start the year paired up. This leaves the Lightning with a 1A and a 1B line combination situation where Lecavalier will center Tanguay and Ryan Malone on the 1A line. To say the least, Lecavalier seems excited. On the 1B line Stamkos will center St. Louis and the winner of a top 6 spot, which is a competition between Steve Downie, Stephane Veilleux, Martins Karsums and Dana Tyrell.

Both lines should get plenty of opportunities to score, especially if Lecavalier can bounce back after a disappointing 67 point season, and if Stamkos can build off a strong finish to last year’s rookie season.

This means that Alex Tanguay has an opportunity this season to rejuvenate his career after two sub-par seasons. He can parlay a successful season with Tampa Bay into a bigger, more scure contract next year when he becomes a free agent once again.

Tanguay did not have a bad season last year, perse. His health was the only major road block last season. He only played 50 games, but scored 41 points. Had he not been injured, he would have easily eclipsed the 60 point plateau. Now put a playmaking and healthy Tanguay beside Lecavalier and Malone, who like to score, 60 points should be a breeze.

Tanguay’s injury may scare off other managers, but it should not scare you. Before last season, Tanguay averaged 76 games a season. Granted that Tanguay has a healthy season, where he plays at least 72 games, I would peg him for 21 goals, 43 assists, 64 points. Obviously, if he goes the entire season with no injuries, that number goes up. But 64 points is pretty good for a guy who is likely to be ignored in drafts because of last season.

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Brenden Morrow

Warning. Warning. Level 5 Sleeper Alert!

After a very successful 2008 season, when he finished with 74 points and a productive playoffs, Brenden Morrow was on his way to another successful season. However, a blown knee limited Morrow to only 18 games. He tallied 5 goals and 10 assists in those games.

Morrow returned to the ice last week at Team Canada’s Olympic Orientation Camp. It was the first time he tested his knee and by all accounts, it was a successful test. Morrow is on the bubble to make the Olympic team, and he himself thought it was a surprise that he even got an invite to the camp. However, for Morrow, the camp was more about testing his repaired knee than impressing the Team Canada brass.

Morrow is the type of sandpaper that any team needs. He has a proven track record in the playoffs as a member of the Dallas Stars, and his reputation landed him on the second line at the orientation camp alongside Dany Heatley and Mike Richards. He was thrown in with the big guns right away and did not look out of place.

This is great news for fantasty managers.

Due to Morrow’s shortened season, his pre-season ranking is high. Morrow was a top 20 rotisserie fantasy player in 2008 when you mix in his 32 goals and 105 PIM’s. This same player, with a surgically repaired knee comes into this season outside of the top 100 in most pre-season rankings. For example, Yahoo! has dropped him to #137 among the likes of Alexei Ponikarovsky, Drew Stafford and Brooks Laich. those are all good players, but I would rather have a proven goal scorer who has a better shot at 70+ points than any of those guys.

This often happens to players who had their latest season cut short to injury. They are left on the curb and simply forgotten. Similar to Morrow, Paul Kariya and Danny Briere are superstars who are coming back from injury and should be targeted.

Morrow is surrounded with an underrated group of productive skaters in Dallas. Their top six includes – Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards, Loui Eriksson, Fabian Brunnstrom, and Mike Modano – which is as deep as any top 6 core in the league.

It is likely that if the pre-season rankings have forgotten about Morrow, managers in your league have as well. If you want to win your pool this year, highlight and asterisk Brenden Morrow for the later rounds because he is sure to drop that low. If you get him as a depth forward, you automatically give yourself a better shot at winning your pool.

I would expect Morrow to comeback to form this season: 31 goals, 39 assists, 70 points, 95 PIMS.

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: Claude Giroux

The first player I will forecast is someone who I have been trying to educate myself with all summer long - Claude Giroux of the Philadelphia Flyers. The reason being is that he is on my own fantasy keeper team and I have been trying to decide whether or not he should be kept over the likes of Shane Down, Patrick Marleau, Danny Briere, Andrei Markov or Devin Setoguchi. From what I have read and how he finished the season, I think I will be keeping Giroux.

Going into last season, he was expected to make the squad and contend for the Calder Trophy. However, after a lackluster training camp, he was sent to the team's AHL affiliate, Philadelphia Phantoms. After scoring 34 points (17 goals) in 33 games, Giroux was called up to the big club, where he tallied 27 points (9 goals) in 42 games.

By all accounts, he had a decent rookie regular season. However, if you look at his NHL point totals more closely, they are more impressive. Specifically looking at the tail end of the season, more specifically the final 13 games of the season. This is when Giroux inherited a decent winger in a healthy Danny Briere, earned trust from the coaching staff, was able got his feet wet and learned how to play at the NHL standard. At this point, he was arguably the best Flyers' skater.

During this span of 13 games, he scored 12 points (4 goals) and was playing 14-15 minutes per night with Danny Briere, who had 16 points during the same period.

During the first round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, Giroux led the Flyers with 5 points in 6 games. This series was Giroux's breakout moment, as he showed great skill and also played in every situation. He was easily the Flyers' best player.

This is a very small scale sample size, but it shows what Giroux is capable of when given more responsibility.

This season, I expect Giroux to build on last season's success. The emergence of Giroux made it easier for the Flyers to let Mike Knuble walk to Washington and trade Joffrey Lupul back to Anaheim. Those two players alone scored 52 goals last season - goals that need to be made up this season. Up to the task is Giroux, who is more than happy to fill the 52 goal void.

The skill and speed is unquestioned, but the major question around Giroux leading up the season will be where he plays.

In a recent interview with Chuck Gormley, Head Coach of the Flyers, John Stevens, said that he and the Flyers' brass love Giroux playing the center ice position. This means that Giroux is likely to start training camp as the 3rd line center, with Mike Richards and Jeff Carter centering the first two lines.

Giroux's wings are still up in the air. It would be interesting to see a Francophone line with Giroux centering Danny Briere and Simon Gagne, but a bonafide goal scorer like Gagne is likely to flank Richards on the top line. As mentioned, Giroux worked well last year with Briere. However, are the Flyers prepared to give their highest paid player 3rd line minutes?

I believe that the Flyers are committed to winning this year. If winning means sticking their $8 million man on the 3rd line with Giroux, then the coaching staff will do so. Having said that, even if Giroux and Briere play on the 3rd line, they will still get at least 15 minutes of ice time per night. In addition, Giroux will get a lot of time on the power play as well as time on the penalty kill.

If the Flyers decide to put Briere on the top line with Richards and Gagne, Stevens has two options concerning Giroux. He can center Aaron Asham and Darrell Powe or play the wing on one of the top two lines.

Giroux is likely to start training camp centering the 3rd line. However, there are many things that can happen between training camp and the Olympic break, and Giroux has too much skill to stay outside the top 6 forwards. Therefore I am unfazed on where Giroux will play.

Taking into consideration all of this information, plus the fact that he has been working out with Danny Briere all summer and scored 25 points in 4 games in a charity hockey tournament, I fearlessly forecast a moderate 23 goals, 39 assists, 62 points (THN prediction: 26/43/69) this season for "Peter Forsberg with two healthy ankles."

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50MC’s 2009-2010 Fearless Fantasy Forecast: TJ Oshie

Near the end of last season, TJ Oshie became one of my favorite players. There are two main reasons why: His first hit on Rick Nash and his second hit on Rick Nash.

Going into the season, there was a little bit of hype around Oshie. He was the 24th pick of the 2005 draft, but his developement at the University of North Dakota landed him on the Blues' roster last season. It took him almost a whole season to get used to the speed of the NHL, but when he did, he proved that he is among the elite of the new generation of NHL stars.

Oshie finished with 39 points in only 57 games last season. However, in Oshie's last 15 games, he scored 14 points, including 5 goals to help the St. Louis Blues clinch their first playoff berth since 2004. Unfortunately, the Blues were schooled by the Vancouver Canucks in a four game sweep, in which Oshie did not register a point. However, the late season run proves that the the Blues may be young, but they have the talent to be a playoff contender.

This year, the Blues are going to rely on Oshie, as well as their other young stud, Patrik Berglund, as regular contributors to a team that should make the playoffs once again. With Paul Kariya and Andy McDonald coming back from injury, Oshie will likely start on the 2nd or 3rd line with either Berglund or Keith Tkachuk as his center. He played well on the powerplay last season, but with the return of the verterans, Oshie will probably be on the 2nd powerplay unit.

The good thing about Oshie and the Blues this season is that from Brad Boyes to David Perron, they are deep with young talented forwards and Oshie will never be stuck on a line that cannot score. However, due to the depth, Oshie is stuck on the back end. There is also a fear of the dreaded sophomore jinx, that I was not a believer in until Peter Mueller happened.

I would discard Oshie's pointless playoffs last season because of his youth and that the playoffs are a whole other entity. At times, unsuccessful playoffs are a point of motivation and something to learn on. They are a harsh realization that you myst get better. In Oshie's case, I think he knows his must get better and will dedicate himself to doing so. Given that Oshie found his game at the NHL speed at the end of last season, and has a core of players that he can play with, Oshie will have a successful second season. I fearlessly forecast 22 goals, 36 assists for 58 points for St. Louis' new fan favourite. (THN predicts: 78 games - 24/29/53)

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