Gross Misconduct Hockey Thoughts from a drifter on the hockey landscape

10/29/2009

Armchair GM: Civil War

Last week it was Hockey Wilderness in-fighting as the matchup had me pitted against the head of operations, Nathan.  Instead of it being a spirited Civil War battle, it turned out to be the Fantasy Hockey version of Sherman’s march to the sea.

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Nathan’s squad of Yahoo-drafted fantasy mercenaries did manage to win a few categories and prevent my team from making things really awful (the lead was 11-1 before the weekend) and it also shows that fantasy hockey isn’t completely nerd-proof since categories like game-winning goals are things you just have to hope get you wins.

On the other side of things:  PHEW!

Winning assists and shots on goal by one as well as power play assists by two are tenuous, yet celebrated, victories.  Sure losing goals and power play goals by one is a kick in the teeth, but hey, stuff happens.  The goaltending did the trick for me and new goaltending acquisition Scott Clemmensen did all that he could to try and throw the numbers off completely managing (in his only start of the week) to give up two goals on three shots before being pulled for Tomas Vokoun (who was supposed to have the night off).

As for how the matchup broke down comparatively:

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General Ulysses S. Grant (MVP of the week): How much fantasy hockey love can I heap upon Dallas Stars winger James Neal?  The guy has been a beast and a three goal, two assist week with 4 PIM and 12 shots on goal is pretty awesome.  Now if only I could get some of those goals to be game winners… Oh wait, he did that tonight against Toronto.  Chew on that Second City Hockey.

General William “Tecumseh” Sherman (Supporting the Romp): Give it up for L.A. King Drew Doughty and his five assists and +3 rating, a rating that helped balance out Kimmo Timonen’s -3 for the week.  Sidney Crosby also gets credit for being himself pulling down two goals and two assists as well as 11 shots on goal.

General George Armstrong Custer (Least Valuable Player): It’s tough to be less valuable than Kimmo Timonen is right now, but getting little to nothing of value from defensemen is semi-expected.  A -3 rating, four PIMs and two shots on goal is pretty lame though.  That said, Paul Martin did less than that and that’s why he’s been replaced by Vancouver’s Willie Mitchell.  What do I expect from Mitchell?  PIMs and the occasional point or two as well as not being a +/- nightmare.

hockeywilderness-large VS. secondcity-lg

The Next Battle of Big Horn (As written like a WWE wrestler promo):

I’m looking your way Chicago.  You hear me Second City Hockey? You guys in Blackhawks land might “Commit to the Indian” but I commit to handing your team a whooping.  This very week on this very Internet in this very Yahoo Fantasy Hockey league, all of SBN is going to see what happens when the Frontiersmen run wild on you.

10/19/2009

Armchair GM: Cutting Up Jackets and Feasting on Wings

A Sunday without NHL hockey is getting to be a bit old, two straight weeks without Sunday games makes Joe a dull boy.  Rather it makes me one that has to focus far too much on the NFL and when you’re a Detroit Lions fan there’s better things to do.

So rather than go into hiding and pretend like my efforts to take down the Western Conference elite of Sports Blog Nation are going all for naught, here I am to go and toot my own horn and pick out some MVPs and some players I’m going to put on notice.

Results from Week 1 vs. The Cannon

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While it was just an 8-5 victory, my goaltending chomped on the tailpipe much in thanks to Josh Harding of the Wild getting bombed on and Ray Emery falling from his high horse after earning a shutout in his first start.  Marty Turco was steady but uninspiring from a fantasy standpoint.

Offensively, Drew Doughty was my main man providing tremendous value for a late-round selection tallying a goal and four assists during the first week of play.  James Neal of the Stars carried the goal scoring trophy for the team nailing down three goals.  Brendan Morrow added two goals and three assists and Sidney Crosby showed why it was awesome that he fell into my lap at fourth overall scoring four goals including a game winner.

Who’s on notice after the first week?  Alex Tanguay who scored just one assist (granted it was on the power play) and landing only three shots on goal.  Paul Martin of the Devils finds himself on the hot seat as well tabulating just one shot on goal, an even +/- rating  and one assist (also on the power play).  Josh Harding in his one start for the week managed to earn a 6.01 GAA and a .739 save percentage with only 17 saves.  Ouch babe.

The Cannons were lead by Evgeni Malkin (2g 5a 16 PIM 12 sog) and Alex Burrows (3g 1a 6PIM 23 sog).  Steve Mason and Cam Ward carried the goaltending efforts earning two wins a piece and putting up mostly nice GAA and save percent numbers while seeing a ton of action in the first week.

All in all, a very pleasing effort for the Frontiersmen but that goaltending has to get better.

Results from Week 2 vs. Winging It In Motown

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The trend keeps on keepin’ on.  Another eight victories and only losing out on four against the Red Wings laden squad.  This is when it’s fun to not be a homer.  No, not Tomas Holmstrom.

Since you didn’t get to see how the squads shaped up before, here’s the comparison (click to enlarge).

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As you can see, there was one transaction made by me.  Josh Harding got the boot already in favor of Scott Clemmensen.  Harding has been lit up in two starts for Minnesota and well, if I’m going to have a backup goalie that starts occasionally, I’d prefer it to be a guy who doesn’t have an astronomical goals against average and a minuscule save percentage.  Call me old fashioned.  As it stood, the only thing I struck out on this time were wins.  Turco had a stellar week including a shutout and Emery, while mediocre, wasn’t overly brutal in his one start.

Offensively, the Frontiersmen were beastly although they enjoy the company of the minus rating.  Alfredsson, Knuble and Neal all ponied up the assists and Brendan Morrow did the heavy lifting with the goal scoring.  You really can’t complain when you get consistent offensive work like that each week.  What I can complain about is how miserable Alex Tanguay is.  I know the offense in Tampa Bay is struggling (as will happen when you basically have one scoring line and nothing else) but tallying zero points and a -3 for the week is a good way to end up on a fantasy managers bad side… Especially when you have one of his other teammates setting up at center for you.

Vinny Lecavalier has yet to score a goal and while the three assists this past week were nice, the -4 is a mega kick in the nuts.  Vinny will get his goals eventually, but the pain of his lack of success is being felt in places other than central Florida.  This isn’t to say that Vinny is officially on notice, but it’s just plain old frustrating.

Who is on notice?  Paul Martin of the Devils.   Zeroes across the board and three shots on goal.  At least get kicked out of a game or something man.  Defensemen are thin pickings in the league as it is, but its frustrating to not get anything from a guy that is getting enough playing time to make things happen.

That said, the whining ends there.  +/- is a bit of a crap-shoot category and it can fluctuate from week to week so there’s no real use in trying to plan against that, especially when you can get a lot more out of every single other category possible by playing a guy any given night.  I would like to see the goal scoring pick up though.  You hear me Vinny?

This week I will have my duel with Nathan from Hockey Wilderness, one of a handful of in-house throwdowns.  After reminding Nathan about his team, suffice to say he hates his Yahoo auto-drafted squad.  I’m not about to start counting wins here, but confidence is running high.  Nathan’s “State of Mediocre” pulled a rather Wild-like showing this past week getting shutout by Defending Big D 11-0.

Oh yes, confidence is VERY high.

10/13/2009

Thanks For Playing: Minnesota Wild

Filed under: Doug Risebrough,Marian Gaborik,Minnesota Wild,Nik Backstrom — Joe Yerdon @ 2:37 AM

It’s with a heavy heart and loads of regret that I am choosing the Minnesota Wild as the fifth and final team of my season’s over series.  No, it’s not just because I occasionally moonlight over at SBNs Hockey Wilderness (I warned them already tough times might be ahead).  I like just about everything the Wild did in the offseason.   The problem here, however, is that it’s going to take a bit of time to right the ship in St. Paul and get away from the “make the most with the least” way of operating the team did under Doug Risebrough and Jacques Lemaire.

Lemaire certainly had his hands full as Risebrough got seemingly lazier as the years moved along in Minnesota and there’s only so much you can do when you’ve got four lines of grinders and one scoring threat who was out of the lineup too often to be counted on.  Last year you could sense that Lemaire had had it with Risebrough’s inability to add actual help to the lineup and Minnesota’s bare bones farm system didn’t allow Lemaire to pick off anyone overtly worthwhile from Houston in the AHL.

gaboriknyrWild fans both love and hate this picture. No, they’re not bi-polar.

Lemaire left the Wild and shortly thereafter Wild owner Craig Leipold let Risebrough walk away.  In their stead, Chuck Fletcher was tapped to be the new GM and Todd Richards was plucked from San Jose to coach the team.  Out went the neutral zone trap and in with an aggressive attacking system.  The problem with this is that the Wild were built to fit Lemaire’s system and scrapping an entire team isn’t logical nor possible.  You can guess where this is headed.

While the start of the season has seen at least one huge highlight from the Wild, a 4-3 overtime comeback victory against hated Anaheim, other games have shown there are reasons to be more concerned (loss to Los Angeles, loss to San Jose). That’s not to say this team is a lost cause, they’re not,  but they are definitely one in the midst of transition and one who you will get to see learn their new system as games and the season moves along.

The positives for the Wild start with their soul cleansing – parting ways with oft-injured high-scoring phenom Marian Gaborik whose injuries last season set Wild fans off for the last time and made them all extremely happy that Gaborik turned down a Titanic-sized contract offer the season before from Doug Risebrough to stay in Minnesota.  Out went Gaborik and in comes Martin Havlat to shoulder the load on offense and give rising star Mikko Koivu someone to work with on the first line.  Petr Sykora joined up late to the party and will help give Martin Havlat somhavlateone to goof around with on the ice and bring about some insta-chemistry thanks to both of them being Czechs.

As for the rest of the forwards there are a lot of question marks about what their play in a new system will be able to provide.  The prevailing thought is that with the leash Lemaire kept everyone apparently under being gone now, some players who showed offensive potential might be able to break out.  Players like Pierre-Marc Bouchard, James Sheppard and Benoit Pouliot will have the chance to show that they’re worth something for the team and have the ability to be productive offensive players.  Older players like Andrew Brunette know their roles Owen Nolan and speedy guys like Antti Miettinen could flourish in Richards’ new system… But all that learning needs to be done on the fly while trying to win games and with a defense that leaves a bit to be desired.

Sure, Marek Zidlicky was a fine point producer and power play quarterback type of defenseman with the Nashville Predators but his new gig in Minnesota has made some Wild fans angst-filled as his defensive liabilities were apparent last year and now its feared they’ll only get worse as the team opens up the game.  What they do have working here is Brent Burns who is one of the better defensemen in the league you’ll never hear about.  He’s a great puck mover, has some solid offensive skill and can defend decently to boot.  As for the other parts here, it’s a bit of a patch work.  Nick Schultz and Jamie Sifers are still young with promise which is a good spin off to talking about Kim Johnsson who is not so young but still doing decently along the blue line.  Shane Hnidy and John Scott are big bruisers, especially Scott at 6’8″, and Greg Zanon (free agent acquisition from Nashville) is the prototypical defensive defenseman.  Scott is the defenseman this year who has drawn the unenviable assignment of occasionally playing on the fourth forward line to play the part of enforcer while Derek Boogaard is out with an injury.  Just the fact that John Scott is seen as somehow appropriate in this role as a forward is a bit disturbing and speaks to where the depth on this team lies… Not that Derek Boogaard is a game-breaker in the first place, but still.

Goaltending, the Wild’s asset under Lemaire, is now up for debate to see if Niklas Backstrom is a system goaltender or the real deal.  Wild fans are praying that he’s the real deal as former GM Doug Risebrough’s parting shot into unemployment was granting Backstrom a potentially short-term crippling contract paying him $6 million per season for the next four years.  If Backstrom doesn’t show that he’s the Vezina-nominated man between the pipes, the Wild are going to be cursing the name Risebrough until well after the contract expires.  Backstrom is a good goalie but he will certainly have moments where he’s hung out to dry by guys unwittingly leaving him alone.  All of this same lingo applies to backup Josh Harding who, despite being a restricted free agent in the off-season, stuck it out in Minnesota getting a nice bump in pay and providing Minnesota with a potential fall back option in case Backstrom fails.

What I give the Wild thumbs up for here is making changes to fit in with the way the NHL is played now and for realizing that if things stayed the way they were, things were going to continue sliding downhill even in the face of seemingly being close to the playoffs (last year’s Wild team was two points and two wins out of the eighth spot last year).  This year they’ll have to take their lumps and build character and build off the wins they do get.

Learning lessons is difficult to do and fans in Minnesota are going to HAVE to be patient with this team and realize that the previous administration put them in this hole by scouting young players poorly and not being properly active in the free agent market.  Chuck Fletcher has already done a world of good in that respect, losing out on Saku Koivu because he didn’t want to steal the spotlight from his younger brother and landing Petr Sykora to help give a boost to the offense.

A championship won’t be won in one off-season in St. Paul, but should coach Todd Richards show a commitment to playing the up-tempo attacking brand of hockey that has become more of the norm across the league and the fans continue to show their immense support and love for this franchise, the free agents will come because playing that brand of hockey in a place that will  live and die with their team while supporting the hell out of them is the greatest thing in the world.  It’s just going to take a little time is all and this year is going to be the “darkness before the dawn” for Wild fans.

Have faith, but for now… Have a seat on the bench, the playoffs won’t be there for you this year.

03/04/2009

Trade Deadline – Going Wild!

Filed under: Hockey Wilderness,Minnesota Wild,shameless plug — Joe Yerdon @ 6:58 AM

Very literally I’m going Wild – I’ve got a new column over at Hockey Wilderness dealing with the Wild… not dealing.

Again, as always, pay a visit over to SBN with neide and buddhafisch they do a KILLER job there covering one of the most frustrating teams in the NHL.

Be nice and lend them a soft shoulder to weep on because their team’s management hates the fans a lot.

01/28/2009

Shameless Self Promotion

I’ve also got a post today over at Hockey Wilderness calling for the head of Doug Risebrough.

Give neide and buddhafisch some love over there, they could all use a hug.

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