Monday, March 16, 2009

Week Twenty-Four Newsletter

In Week Twenty-Three, we saw the fall of John B. from the lead of the Draft, falling down to third and Jeremy & Marcus moved into the top two spots in the standings. Well, some more movement went down in Week Twenty-Four, as Marcus moved onto the top of the hill, past Jeremy by a point, while John fell out of the money and Clayton moved in, moving 5 points up on John and only 10 goals (the tie-breaker) behind Jeremy. The top four haven't been this close, this late, in quite some time.

This time last season, Stuart had already been in the lead for seven weeks and held an 11-point lead over second, barely hanging on to a 7-point lead at the end. There was some jockeying nearing the end for the final money spot, but nothing quite as close as it is this season.

The top four are not necessarily safe from anyone below either. Benson, who sits in fourth has moved himself into a close enough range to be seen in the rear view mirrors of the top teams, while Peter has dropped off, but is certainly not out for the final four weeks of the season. Peter only sits 11 points out of 1st place, which is more than easily achievable, especially if a tire is blown down the stretch. Fingers will remain crossed.

This season's version of the Draft is also on pace to surpass the total number of points accumulated last season, which is a good sign that the conglomerate of participants are getting wiser to the selection process of players.

Poll Question
It was a bit of a let-down when it came down to the number of votes, but I didn't really work all that hard to try and get an excess of votes this week anyways. This past week's question was 'which conference (as a whole) did better at the trading deadline?' Likely to no one's surprise, it was a unanimous decision to say that the Western Conference improved as a whole after the deals made. I believe it would be fair to say that the deal that saw Olli Jokinen head to Calgary was the biggest contributor, but that's just me.

The Week Twenty-Five question last season will be the same this season and that is, 'are you looking forward to this year's playoff pool?' We're only four weeks away from the end of the regular season and we can now officially start to look ahead to the playoffs. Both Detroit and San Jose clinched their playoff spots on Sunday night and the top end teams will continue to do so over the next little while. I know I'm looking forward to it all, look for the Sheet to be ready in about three weeks time.

We finally had ourselves a record-breaking week in the Draft in Week Twenty-Four as Benson captured his second Mover & Shaker award of the season with a 45-point effort. The effort barely squeaked over the previous high of 44 points, but it's the new standard nonetheless. The big week also vaulted him atop of the race since the second Waiver Draft, opening a 5-point lead on Marcus in that category. He also puts himself into the mix for the money positions, currently sitting in 5th place, only 8 points out of the money spots going into Week Twenty-Five.

Benson owes his big week to a good number of players, who all had really good scoring spells in the week: Mark Streit (6 points), Johan Franzen (5), Phil Kessel (5), Alex Ovechkin (5), Jamie Langenbrunner (4), Mike Ribeiro (4) and Martin Biron (4). It isn't very often that you see a defenseman lead the way for a Mover & Shaker team, but if there is going to be anyone, it is going to be a guy like Streit. Another impressive figure about the week is that he had two players that didn't register a point, one due to injury and the other being cold. That is also rather impressive.

For his effort this week, Benson will receive an Angelo Esposito jersey card from his days playing with Team Canada, congratulations for that. This week, a Karl Alzner jersey card will be the prize up for grabs to the week's winner. The Alzner card is also from his Team Canada days and it's a nice red jersey swatch on the card.

On the Sheet, there wasn't a great deal of movement, up or down, as 28 teams stayed in the same place from the week before. Three teams moved up 2 places a piece, while six teams moved up a single spot. So maybe, it'll be time to just recognize the top scoring team in the week this week, as Jeremy hit a whopping 91 points in Week Twenty-Four. Jeremy didn't move up any spots in the standings, as he's now in the money spots, where there was a lot of separation going into the week, but now he has closed the gap from his 4th position to 3rd to only 5 points, but the teams ahead of him have been having some great weeks as well, so it'll be something if Jeremy can move up into those spots. Having a good week for Jeremy in Week Twenty-Four were Sidney Crosby (8 points), Alex Semin (6), Johan Franzen (5), Dion Phaneuf (5), Jason Spezza (5) and seven other players with 4 points a piece.

For a third time this season, Larry ends up being our Basement Dweller of the week, finishing with only 18 points. It's been a pretty rough year and a rough week for Larry, which saw seven of his active players get points in the week. His top players for Week Twenty-Four were Simon Gagne and Jordan Staal, who each recorded 4 points in the week, but that was far from being enough from keeping Larry out of the basement. Larry's best player this season, Niklas Backstrom, the Wild goaltender, was one of his players that didn't register a point, as the Wild have been struggling down the stretch to string any victories together. Things are not looking up for this coming week either, as his team only has 32 skater games during the week, down from other teams that have 39.

Our last place team on the Sheet had yet another poor week on the scoring side in Week Twenty-Four, as Greg B. only managed to get 44 points and open up his gap up to second-last to 69 points. I think it's going to be another week where I can just leave it at that.

Well, if there is a measure of good early returns, the Olli Jokinen deal to Calgary maybe seeing some of the best returns in the league, but mainly, it's just scoring. Jokinen was the best player in the pools this week, having 8 points in only 3 games, all on the road as well. But since the trade deadline, when Jokinen arrived, the Flames are only 2-4-0.

In the 3 games this week, Jokinen managed to pot 6 goals and 2 assists, including a 5-point game against the Maple Leafs in an 8-6 loss on Saturday night. Since his trade to Calgary, Jokinen has 10 points in his first 6 games with the club, which has been a big blessing for Dennis, who has him down at the bottom of the Draft. This emergence of scoring has actually lifted Dennis to the middle of the pack since the second Waiver Draft, where his previous two sections of the season have been mired at the bottom or near the bottom. I would wager he wished Jokinen was there all season.

There are actually a number of goalies I could go after in the cold player column, but falling out of the playoff picture rapidly are the Phoenix Coyotes and Ilya Bryzgalov had failed to register a point in the week to accentuate that fact. The Coyotes, despite the amount of youth on the team, were really giving it a good go through the first half of the season, staying competitive and within shouting distance of the final playoff spot in the West. It does look as though that the team has ran out of gas and it's time to start playing for next season. They did acquire a good amount of players and picks at the deadline, so they should be able to put a better set of legs out on the ice next season, which should make them a little more competitive. I don't know how pool worthy they will be, but Bryzgalov may have a better shot at more points, if that is the case.

Other News and Notes

On Sunday, the Blackhawks called up Jack Skille from the minors, but he didn't figure into the game, sitting in the press box as the extra forward on the roster. Skille has played in only 8 games this season for the Blackhawks and has an assist in that time. There is no word as to whether or not Skille will figure into the line-up this week or not.

The Red Wings were without Valtteri Filppula on Sunday, as they took on the Blue Jackets, as the young forward was out with back spasms. There was no indication on how bad the spasms were and how long he'll be out, but I would expect him to miss at least one more game, but the Wings only have two games this week, starting on Tuesday and finishing Friday.

It continues to be a disappointing year for Ville Koistinen in Nashville, as he's now being swapped between a healthy scratch and playing forward, instead of playing his native defense. The Box 13 defender wanted to be traded out of Nashville, but the asking price may have been quite high for Koistinen, as the Predators still remain somewhat high on him. Koistinen continues to be a casualty of good depth.

This may be a list of players that have figured back into their team's respective line-up in the week and found themselves all back in the press box over the weekend. In Ottawa, that would be, you guessed it, Box 27 defender, Christoph Schubert. Filip Kuba figured back into the line-up after missing a couple games with the flu, which meant that Schubert was back upstairs for the Senators game against Pittsburgh.

There was some bad news for Philly on the weekend, as Randy Jones left yesterday's game against the Rangers with a lower body, either a groin or a hip injury, which will likely keep him out of the line-up for a little while. Jones had a late start to the season due to a hip injury. The Flyers will also wait on word on whether or not Braydon Coburn will be suspended after a clear shot to the head of Nikolai Antropov on Sunday, so stay tuned for that.

The revolving door of forwards continued in Phoenix on Saturday, as Daniel Winnik figured out of the line-up, as both Martin Hanzal and Kyle Turris went back in. Not quite a fair trade, but there were a few other pool players that were also spinning around in circles, trying to make it into the line-up. This will likely continue as a trend, as the evaluation for 2010 continues.

Newly acquired Craig Adams, from the Waiver Wire around the deadline, didn't figure into either one of the Penguins' weekend games, which isn't anything new to the Box 7 winger, who sat in a number of games in Chicago, before moving to Pittsburgh. It is somewhat likely that the experiment with Adams may be getting close to over, but will likely keep him on, in case of injuries.

The Sharks are trying everything they can to get Christian Ehrhoff back on pace with his scoring again, but to no one's surprise, he can't score from the press box, where the Sharks kept him on Sunday. Ehrhoff was scoring at a torrid pace at the beginning of the season and was a key contributor to the Sharks' early season success, but has since fizzled off, leading to his times in the press box. Something is likely to change here soon.

Well, he has missed all 24 weeks leading up to this coming week, but Brian Pothier is set to make his season debut this week after being called up from his conditioning stint in the AHL. Pothier has been out for the majority of the season suffering from post-concussion syndrome. Pothier was not taken in the Sheet pool at all and likely shouldn't be considered for the remainder of the year.

Click here to see an updated injury page.

Hockey Night in Canada

We're back to a plain' ol' doubleheader on Saturday. In the first half of the telecast, the majority of the nation will see the Leafs travel to Montreal to take on the Habs. The odds are pretty high that there will be at least 10 minutes of celebration for Montreal's centennial season, so you could probably be a little late to the broadcast and not miss a minute of actual action. This game will feature a couple of players among the top three teams in the Draft, as Jeremy has Pavel Kubina of the Leafs and Clayton may have Alex Kovalev back in the line-up for hte Habs. In the late game, the CBC takes their show on the road down south again to their favourite US hotspot, Phoenix. The Canucks will travel into the desert to take on the Coyotes for that broadcast. Our new leader, Marcus, will have Ed Jovanovski playing in that game, while Jeremy has Keith Yandle of the Coyotes and Clayton will have Sami Salo, Kevin Bieksa and Mattias Ohlund. There could be some jockeying in the standings during these two games, eh? Very exciting.

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