Thursday, December 31, 2009

Liles Sits in the Press Box

The Avalanche are starting to get healthy again these days and with that comes some tough decisions for the coaching staff, including scratching John-Michael Liles from the line-up on Wednesday night against the Senators.

Liles has 14 points in 28 games this season from the Avalanche blueline and has some decent numbers of late, having a goal and 2 assists in his last five games, but has been a -1 in those games combined.

ImplicationsThe Avalanche were able to squeeze a 4-3 victory out of the Senators on Wednesday night, so that might mean that Benson's Draft pick may sit another game, unless the coaching staff was really unhappy with the scrambled play in their own zone late. The Avs are in Detroit tonight, so there is a good shot that Benson will have his defenseman back.

On the Sheet, Liles is listed as the Avs top defenseman and no one wanted anything to do with that, when they can have Nicklas Lidstrom or Dion Phaneuf.

Wednesday Night's Sheet Scratches

It's been a pretty rough season for Box 19 forward, Todd White, as he only has 3 goals and 12 assists in 38 games this year and doesn't have a goal in 29 games this year. So, it should be no surprise that White was held out of the Thrashers' line-up on Wednesday night as a healthy scratch to get some new focus. I would expect White back in the line-up soon.

The Stars have sent their Swedish sophomore, Fabian Brunnstom, to their new AHL affiliate for a conditioning stint, as the Box 7 forward has been on the shelf for the past couple weeks with a minor injury. Brunnstrom would do well to get his legs back in the minors, likely not even taking the full two weeks more conditioning stints will allow.

Box 30 defenseman, Bryce Salvador, was not in the line-up for the Devils on Wednesday night against the Penguins because of a lower-body injury. The injury is thought to be a little more serious than a single night off, as Salvador has not accompanied the Devils on their latest road trip.

In the game, it was a quick return to the line-up for David Clarkson, because he ended up leaving the game last night with a lower-body injury, but there has not been any reports as to whether or not this is a recurring injury to his leg, which was broken earlier.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Some Surprise Hockey Pool Players

A popular search term of late in my site statistics is 'hockey pool surprise player.' So, I thought I should help that out a bit and go over who I have been surprised by this year, just in terms of scoring. Now, I am basing this on the numbers I use for my pool, which is pretty straight-forward: forwards and defense get a point each for a goal and an assist, just like regular scoring, while goaltenders get 2 points for a win, 2 points for a shutout and a point for every assist. Frankly, straight scoring has made for some great pools that everyone can enjoy...

So, onwards with the list...

First on the list is Phoenix Coyotes goaltender, Ilya Bryzgalov, who currently ranks 3rd in my pool standings with 54 points, 22 wins and 5 shutouts. It may not be that he's much of a surprise as it is how well the team in front of him has responded to new head coach, Dave Tippett. Bryzgalov has taken his skill set and applied to a team that works really hard and really grinds out wins. You know Bryzgalov is doing good work, because of his five goose eggs this year, but his ranking does surprise because its so high. Last season, Bryzgalov finished 80th in pool rankings.

Of course, Craig Anderson is on this list. He's another keeper that we did see grow before our eyes in his limited ice-time in Florida, but since signing with the Avalanche, he has made an impact. Saying that, Anderson's number have not been as consistent as Bryzgalov and he's dropped down in the ranks a little bit, but his 45 pool points this year still ranks him 11th among all players. The question that hangs over Anderson right now is whether or not he can come back to his early season form and put those numbers back up again.

A big surprise from Montreal is Tomas Plekanec, who has really taken the reins as the number one centre and ran with it. Plekanec has flirted with his skill set for quite some time now, but his chance to shine with an open casting call for the number one job has really turned some heads. Plekanec has 44 points in 41 games this season for Montreal, jumping out of the shadows and into the limelight. His emergence really took the pressure off of Scott Gomez, who hasn't done very well at all this year.

Just appointed to the Canadian Olympic Team today, Patrick Marleau is really taking what was supposed to be a lemon of a season and turning it into a whale of a campaign. The general consensus thought that Marleau would not respond well to having the captaincy taken away from him and the possibility of a line demotion, but neither thing happened. Playing on the top line with Thornton and Heatley, Marleau is turning in an excellent 2010 season, picking up 41 points in 39 games so far.

Los Angeles Kings number one keeper, Jonathan Quick, currently leads the NHL in minutes played by a goalie, which has translated into 20 wins for him this year. That's a solid 40 points, ranking him 25th among all players in the league this season. The Kings had such an explosive start to the season and they are managing to keep it together for the most part, holding onto the 7th spot in the Western Conference. Quick has turned into a great sleeper pick this year, as he was picked late in the Draft on my site this year and has rewarded that team mightily.

Oilers forward, Dustin Penner, rounds out this quick list of surprise players so far this year, as he's currently ranked 30th in pool scoring with 38 points in 39 games for the now-struggling Oilers club. Penner also rocketed out to a pretty big start this year and has done fairly well to keep it all going, despite the losing streak the Oilers are on at the moment. He will be needed to step up a little more though to help right the ship, as the Oilers are now the basement dwellers of the Western Conference and 13 points out of a playoff spot.

For any questions about players and how they're doing or if you should move them, send me an e-mail and I'll try to help you out.

Tuesday Night's Sheet Scratches

The flu bug came back to haunt Box 12 defenseman Steve Eminger on Tuesday night, as the Ducks took on the Wild at home. Eminger has been in and out of the line-up as a healthy scratch for the better part of this season already, but this time had a good reason to be out, instead of his play being bad enough to be sat. I would expect him back soon.

With new blood infused into the Blue Jackets' line-up on Tuesday night, Box 11 defenseman, Mike Commodore, was assigned the position of press box participant for the evening, as the Jackets were on Long Island for a game. Commodore has also had his fair share of time in the press box already this season and some time away due to injury. His fantasy value is really low this year.

Another player making a return to the press box was Jeff Woywitka, upon the arrival of Trevor Daley back into the line-up from injury. Woywitka, a Box 14 defenseman, has been at the bottom of the blueline totem pole all season long and has done okay filling in for his injured mates. He'll likely be in the press box for a little while anyways, or until another injury or some terrible play.

Real bad news for Box 3 forward, Martin Erat, as he left Tuesday night's game against the Blues with a knee injury, which he suffered in a knee-on-knee collision. The actual length of time and severity of the injury is still yet to be announced, but he didn't return to last night's game and the initial feeling from the footage is not positive.

It looks like the Penguins are trying to send a message to Ruslan Fedotenko, who holds the team's worst plus/minus rating at -6. Fedotenko, a Box 22 forward, was held out of the line-up against the Sabres for some spotty play of late, but that didn't really help the team's fortunes at all, as the Penguins gave up a 3-0 lead to lose 4-3 in regulation.

A scratch and an injury here in St. Louis, as the Blues played against the Predators on Tuesday. The Blues held out Erik Johnson, a Box 10 defenseman, as a healthy scratch on Tuesday, which likely didn't sit very well with the young defender. That was likely to give him a kick in the pants for his play recently. Paul Kariya, on the other hand, has been listed as out day-to-day with a head injury, but the reports are that the injury is not serious. Kariya, a Box 3 forward, is still doubtfulfor Thursday night's game, so it could be a little while before he returns.

It looks like the relationship between the Canucks and Mathieu Schneider has soured to its breaking point, as the club has placed the veteran defenseman on waivers, which he cleared on Wednesday, leaving the Canucks some flexibility. With news that Kevin Bieksa, a Box 10 defenseman, left Tuesday's game against the Coyotes with a leg injury, some wonder if there will be any change in heart for Schneider to help fill in the position if Bieksa can't go on Thursday.

Team Canada Selection Has Been Made

The team has been primarily selected and we now have a framework to go from, heading towards February 16th in Vancouver. Steve Yzerman and his management team have deliberated long and hard to come to this 23-man roster and its one we can all be proud of.

Now, this selection process doesn't conclude the pool. The final standings won't be decided until the team hits the ice in Vancouver on the 16th, so there is a little bit of hope and praying that these 23 stay healthy, since this is the first choice selection by team management, although I'm sure there may be some people who think that a player or two might not deserve to be there and someone they chose should be there instead.

No one in the pool had all 23 picks correct, Stuart and Leon each had 20 right to lead the pool and you can see how everyone matched up here on the standings.

There really shouldn't have been any doubt to the goaltending trio that was going to be selected. All three were pegged in there for quite some time now. Martin Brodeur, Roberto Luongo and Marc-Andre Fleury are all playing exceptionally well at this time and make for little debate as to their inclusion, but the debate rages on to who will get the nod as number one.

Going alphabetically from the forward position, Patrice Bergeron, Sidney Crosby and Ryan Getzlaf lead the way for Canada up front. Bergeron's selection surprised a lot of people, but in all fairness, eight teams did pick Bergeron in their team, so kudos to those eight.

The next three include two Sharks and one Flame. Dany Heatley and Jarome Iginla were pretty much locks for the team heading into today's decision and there was a question mark as to whether or not the management team thought that the chemistry that Patrick Marleau had with his fellow Sharks would be enough to name him. Question answered.

A couple of bubble players, arguably, in the next three, when you talk about chemistry. Rick Nash was a veritable lock for the team with all his experience playing for Canada already, while Brendan Morrow brings lots of experience himself and Corey Perry gets to keep his chemistry with his Ducks teammates on the team. Lots of grit in this trio and a good share of scoring should come from here as well.

Two of the next three shared a lot of question marks, while the third was pretty much a lock with two of his linemates in San Jose, likely to be his linemates for Team Canada. Mike Richards and Eric Staal both play for hurting NHL clubs, but none of that hurt carried over to Canada's selection process. That's a big plus for these two, as they'll be vital. Joe Thornton on the other hand... will pivot Marleau and Heatley. Enough said.

The trouble with having a 13th forward is really that 13 is a prime number and isn't divisible by any other number, so Jonathan Toews is left on his lonesome, just because of his name. Toews brings his versatility to the board, which was key number one for Team Canada and his superior shootout skills in the clutch will likely be helpful, especially after the lessons learned in 1998.

The defense was going to be a solid group no matter which way you looked at it. Between Dan Boyle and Duncan Keith, you were completely locked in with those two. Nine teams did put Drew Doughty on their Team Canada, so there really should be no surprise here. You get offense and responsibility from these three, both qualities clutch and found in the picks on the blueline.

Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger are familiar with each other from previous Team Canada's and the Stanley Cup winning Anaheim Ducks. How much more do you want to prattle on about those two? Brent Seabrook does fit into the familiarity discussion, as he forms the top pairing in Chicago with the previously mentioned Keith. Look for that pair to stay together as well.

Another prime number on defense as well, as Shea Weber stands all by himself at the bottom of the roster selection, but that's okay... he's a one-man wrecking crew to say the least. Big hitter, big defense and big shot... the Nashville Predators pillar of strength is a welcome addition to this club.

Now, let's not forget... as official as this team looks, it's not final. There is still a month and a half worth of NHL hockey to be played and this year, if anything, has been terrible for injuries. Fingers crossed for these 23, but let's not be terribly surprised if something unforeseen happens.