Monday, February 11, 2008

Week Twenty Newsletter

It's not a celebrated mark in the league schedule, those are usually saved for the All-Star Game, the half-way mark and the Trade Deadline, but we've not passed through the two-thirds point of the season and since we have even three ten week periods, it actually provides a good look at how the Draft has progressed this season.

After the first ten weeks, it was no surprise to see Chris lead the way, since he was first for quite some time in the Draft. His first ten weeks had a point value of 276 points, 18 clear of second place, Stuart. Benson rounded out the top three money positions after ten weeks with 246 points.

If you were to look at the Standings now, you can tell that there is a fairly big difference in the points and in the money. The second segment of ten weeks was really good to John B., who had 321 points, Clayton (314) and Stuart (310). This is why Stuart has taken the lead through twenty weeks. Chris, on the other hand, had a mediocre segment, scoring 268 points, 8 less than the segment before. Dale C., who had the worst first segment of the season, actually had one less point than Chris in the second segment, largely due to his Waiver Draft picks coming through in the clutch.

Other notable jumps between the first and second segments were Dieter (219 in the 1st & 285 in the 2nd) and Peter (215 & 283). Their point jumps earned them a 2-spot climb in the Standings.

The second segment outscored the first, 4439 to 3745, so every team, theoretically, should have had their numbers go up. There was nearly 700 extra points to share among 17 teams. Sadly, two teams didn't have their scoring go up... Chris (noted above) and Dennis (206 & 175). Injuries, which Dennis had many, were the major factor in that scoring notation.

There are a total of 746 team games left to play in the third segment, (by comparison: 770 in the 1st & 944 in the 2nd), so we'll likely see a drop in total points again, more than likely across the board.

The countdown is on for the Peter Forsberg (Wes) sweepstakes and it's anyone's guess where he'll go... or whether or not he'll actually come back now. By the poll; Colorado, Philadelphia and Vancouver, are the favourites for his services, but there was some neglect given to Ottawa and the idea that he won't come back at all. During the Hockey Day in Canada broadcast, the idea that Forsberg might shut himself down for the year is a good possibility and then shop around for a good deal in the off-season.

Personally, I can't wait for the sweepstakes to be over. The Forsberg-watch has been rather tiring over the last twenty weeks.

With ten weeks to go in the season, who is your favourite for the Cup right now?

Two teams cracked the 40-point barrier in Week Twenty and both of them moved up two spots in the Draft as well. Going to have to go to another tie-breaker... and Dieter wins with the most points in the week, with 45. Dieter climbed into a solid 8th position with his monster week and has his eyes set on 7th place, where he is only 12 points behind. With the implementation of some new Waiver picks, Andrei Kostitsyn and Pavel Kubina, he may have himself a pretty good chance at making that run.

Helping Dieter out in Week Twenty were: Alexander Frolov (7 points), Olli Jokinen (7), Jason Pominville (6), Martin St. Louis (4) and Chris Mason (4). All of his active players managed to snag a point for our M&S this week, which is always a huge help down the stretch. Curiously, he did decide to drop Marco Sturm (3 points this week and a .55 PPG since picking him) instead of Dainius Zubrus (1 point this week and .45 PPG since the start of the year).

On the Sheet, John P. moved up 4 spots in the pool and into the Top 20 with a 68-point week. It may not have been the biggest week points-wise, but a move into the Top 20 is notable. He received big weeks from Dany Heatley (7), Mike Smith (6), Henrik Zetterberg (5), Daniel Alfredsson (5), Martin Brodeur (5) and four others with 4 points. John now sits 6 points out of 16th spot, but unfortunately, 70 points out of the Top 10. That is only making up 7 points worth of ground a week until the rest of the season.

Well, it's pretty tough to pick a Basement Dweller in the Draft without being terribly hard on someone. Since there has been so much separation, muchly due to bad luck throughout the season, you can really pluralize Dweller into Dwellers and capture the final four teams in the Draft, since they all didn't manage to crack the 20-point barrier in one of the higher scoring weeks of the season. Saying that, with the Waiver Draft picks of Week Twenty done now, it could very well turn into a big game of 'not it' for last place in the pool and maybe some bragging rights, despite their bad luck through the season. So, let's all get excited to see how the end of the year plays out down at the bottom... congratulate the three who don't fall to the bottom... and jeer and heckle the one who remains as the contest's doormat.

The Basement is a little bit more reserved for the Sheet pool this week. Two teams fell 3 spots in this pool, but one had a far worse week than the other. Gerald only managed 45 points this past week, which dropped him from 25th to 28th in the pool. It looks as though it was a bad bit of luck for Mr. Burba, as 8 of his players failed to register a point in the week. 4 of which, were due to injury and not having any trades left.

Well, this contest could be summed up in one fair statement... "Sidney who?" The Pittsburgh Penguins had their mettle tested in the past couple weeks and one player is coming through the fog in flying colours... especially this week.

In four games this week, Evgeni Malkin (Dale B.) had a whopping 3 goals and 9 assists for 12 points. Including the last game of Week Nineteen, the Russian centre has had five straight games with multi-point efforts, since Crosby has gone down with his high ankle sprain. In the 10 games Crosby has been out the Penguins have gone 6-2-2 and Malkin is the biggest reason as to why. In those same 10 games, Malkin has had 21 points (8G, 13A) to pick up all of the slack for their number one guy. He is certainly turning into the player #1B that the scouting bureau thought he would be. If he can keep up the pace when the Kid makes his return, then the Penguins gain some favour for the Eastern Conference favourite position, behind Ottawa and Montreal.

Rangers star keeper, Henrik Lundqvist (John P.) didn't earn a point in the pool and lost his weekend start to his back-up, Steve Valiquette (Box 24) who had a shutout on Saturday. Lundqvist was a popular decision to pick-up when Martin Brodeur (Don) went cold in the early part of the season in the Sheet pool, but now Lundqvist can't seem to find the handle.

You want to know who else is cold on Broadway? Jaromir Jagr (Wes). Jagr hasn't tallied a point in his last 7 games, which is likely leading to a little bit more discontent. Thankfully for the Rangers, they have had some other players pick up the slack so they've at least won a couple games over the last stretch.

Other News and Notes

On Sunday, the Anaheim Ducks were happy to greet Samuel Pahlsson (Box 8) back into their line-up against the Red Wings. The Ducks have missed their defensive specialist for 21 games. Pahlsson was only supposed to be out for a few games when the injury occurred, but he couldn't quite shake the pain of his abdominal injury, thus sitting out for quite some time.

The Ducks, in amidst of all their returns, sat Doug Weight (Aaron) for Sunday's game against the Red Wings, due to an upper-body injury. Weight could have also been considered the odd man out as well with forwards coming back to the line-up, so an injury might look good to the league's record keepers, in case he has to sit for a while. Awfully skeptical of me, don't you think?

Drew Stafford (Box 21) re-aggrevated an ankle sprain on Friday night and wasn't in the line-up on Sunday either. Coach Ruff wasn't going to give a timetable for a return, but also wasn't too optimistic when it comes to when he thinks Stafford will be ready again.

Tim Connolly (Chris) returned from bone spur in hip on Sunday afternoon. He didn't register a point in his near 19 minutes worth of play in the game, however. His return couldn't come too soon with all the injuries the team has suffered of late. He may have been rushed back to accomodate all the injuries.

The young teenage phenom, Jonathan Toews (Chris) returned to the Blackhawks' line-up on Sunday night in Vancouver. He had missed the last 16 games due to a knee injury, but looked back in place amongst the team, registering an assist and winning most of his face-offs through the night. This could mean some great things for the Blackhawks and their supporting cast.

Also in the game versus Vancouver on Sunday night, Martin Havlat (Marcus) didn't play for very long, only managing 4 minutes of play in the 1st period before not coming back due to the flu. Havlat thought he could play through the illness, but instead of being scratched, he made his team down a man through the last two periods, to which the Hawks admirably played on without him.

Karlis Skrastins (Box 11), after Saturday, had been scratched for 3 consecutive games. The big defender hasn't been too productive of late and therefore has seen a few more games from the press box. Skrastins hasn't been taken on the Sheet pool, so this comes as very little concern.

Red Wings winger, Jiri Hudler (Marcus), was scratched on Saturday for the first time this season, but returned to the line-up on Sunday because of Dan Cleary's (John B.) injuty. Hudler was picked up in the Waiver Draft in Week Twenty, so he'll have to be better this week.

Roman Hamrlik (Dennis) was sidelined 3 games in the week and there isn't any word on whether or not he'll be able to go right away in the new week. The Canadiens play again on Tuesday against the Lightning.

The flu bug struck again in Nashville. This time it took defenseman Dan Hamhuis (John B.) under it's spell and kept the productive blueliner out of the line-up on Sunday. Look for his return during the week.

Karel Rachunek (Box 16) returned to the press box on Saturday night. Rachunek continues to have a tough time staying in the line-up for the Devils. In 38 games this season, the defenseman still has 11 points (3G, 8A), which isn't too bad. It must be a case of some work ethic or defensive play issues that Coach Sutter isn't approving of.

Braydon Coburn (Dale B.) left Saturday's game with a leg injury, which required surgery to relieve some internal bleeding in his buttocks. The early indications are that he'll miss a couple weeks with torn buttocks.

Simon Gagne (Peter) left Sunday's game with a concussion. Gagne left the ice in the first period against the Flyers and with his injury problems so far this year, odds are that Gagne will not be in any hurry to come back to the line-up. Possibly another "oops" when it comes to a Waiver Draft decision.

If there truly was a concern in goal for the Penguins, this would probably be much bigger news. Marc-Andre Fleury (Dennis) is just about ready to resume playing for the Penguins, but first he needs a fair bit of conditioning. Off to the AHL for the young netminder for just that. Fleury will likely spend at least a week, possibly two, getting his legs under him again and should likely be playing for the big club during their playoff run... unless the unthinkable happens.

Veteran winger, Keith Tkachuk (Aaron), sat out of Wednesday's contest with a bit of the flu. If the flu bug was to keep him out of the line-up for another game, I would certainly be surprised.

A Northwest Division battle will highlight the weekend's festivities on Saturday night. The Oilers will be in Vancouver to take on the Canucks. The Oilers are looking to claw back a few points to start thinking playoffs again, despite their injury problems. The Canucks will hope that they're on the right track to climb back into the thick of the playoff race. Out West, the early game looks to be the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs, in another battle to climb back into playoff consideration.

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