Well, here we are. The home stretch of the first 9-week segment of the year, which means that we will have a voucher for a jersey to give away, since I haven't quite bought them yet. It also means, the draft pool will begin the proceedings of changing up players to make teams a little bit better, it's waiver draft time!
It looks as though Wayne H. will have a jersey to lose this week, as he goes into the final week of of the first segment with a 15-point lead. Wayne has had back-to-back weeks of 30 points or more, so his team is running quite hot, but he has also run into some injury problems, which will make the end of this race a little more interesting. There are three teams within 20 points of Wayne and all it takes is one cold week from our leader and one of these teams to suddenly catch fire. Can it happen? Sure. Anything is possible.
As for the waiver draft, we have already gotten started, as the standings were pretty much sorted from the early parts of Sunday evening. Darren S. led the way by picking up Joffrey Lupul, who was the best player available, so he'll be able to pick up some extra points from a brand new forward, trying to close the gap on some of the teams ahead of him and possibly give him a chance to get a jersey prize in the second or third segment. Ryan M. made his selection shortly after, taking Kris Versteeg out of Florida, who has been having a monster start to the year and will be a great add to Ryan's team, trying to keep Darren down in last place. The last pick made on Sunday night belonged to Derek W., who took the best defenseman and arguably the best player available, Marc-Andre Bergeron, trying to shore up his blueline to start the waiver draft. Bergeron has been a machine in Tampa and was well worth the selection this early.
Next up in the waiver draft is Peter and I am going to run a bit of a clock system, giving teams 24 hours from the last selection, as a worst-case scenario. Derek's pick was made at 11pm on Sunday evening, so Peter has until then on Monday night to get his pick in or else he will pass. This will go for every team and I will make my best effort to get a hold of you to make sure you get your pick in.
I would definitely like to get everyone's two selections in before the end of the week, so hopefully everyone plays along.
The title of "the year of the back-up goaltender" has been used in a number of spots in the media this season, when describing what we've seen in the creases across the NHL, but we had yet to see it in the hockey pool, until this week, where we have seen our first back-up goalie taking a Player of the Week nod. In Vancouver, it is the actual coming out party for goalie Cory Schneider, who lit up the box scores with wins and shutouts, picking up 10 points and a clear win for the title.
Schneider and the Canucks were on the road for three games in Week Eight and Schneider got the start in all three, thanks to an injury to Roberto Luongo and then a very hot hand kept him in the net, when his number one returned to the line-up and was healthy enough to be his back-up.
The week started on Wednesday in Colorado, where Schneider made 24 saves in a 4-0 win over the Avalanche, then it was a 22-save effort in Phoenix on Friday night for a 5-0 shutout victory and then the coaches decided to ride him into San Jose the next night, where he stopped 43 shots in a 3-2 victory over the Sharks. 3-0-0 with 2 shutouts in the week is good enough for 10 points.
This brings his overall total up to 6 wins and 2 shutouts on the season, good enough for 16 points, 113th in pool scoring, 25th among all goalies this year. Niesa S. picked him up in the draft this year, but hasn't quite seen the returns she was hoping for, as she picked Schneider 84th, but at least it is much closer than he was at the beginning of the week. I would imagine that he will continue to get starts, as long as he continues to win now.
It was a record-setting week in the draft for Stacey C., who absolutely dominated the weekly standings and cruised up the overall standings, making everyone notice him on the way. Stacey bested the next two teams in the week by 12 points, taking the week with 47 points, moving up from 7th place to 2nd, which was absolutely mind-blowing to a lot of teams in the pool this week. It may not have been the best weeks to do this exactly, as he his waiver draft pick fell from 15th to 21st, but he will still get to improve his team and try to stay among the money teams from here on in.
Having a big weeks in the pool for Stacey were Jordan Eberle and Jimmy Howard, who each had 6 points in the week, while Valtteri Filppula had 5 points and Sam Gagner, Ryan Getzlaf, Michael Grabner, John Carlson and Ian White each had 4 points. This was amazing outputs, especially when you consider he had one zero and a couple of 1-point weeks as well, he took the weekly record by 5 points with this great combination.
Stacey also has the new pool scoring leader in Howard, who now has 32 points, best among all players in the league, by a single point, thanks to three solid weeks in the pool.
Stacey's team is a great combination of all three positions in the pool, not one is a leader in their category, but he's getting some good production from all three, forwards, defense and goalies. Likely, the most impressive output on his team is coming from his defense at the moment, which currently makes up 23.9% of his points to this point in the year, which is nicely above average, but isn't overwhelming.
He'll now start Week Nine, the last week of the weekly competition, 15 points back of 1st place, for the jersey race, but he'll also have to fend off a couple of teams for his position, as he is only 1 point up on 3rd and 4 points up on 4th.
Stacey will also have a tough decision to make, when it comes to the waiver draft, how will he try to improve his team, which is firing on all cylinders at the moment?
On the low end of the spectrum, it was a disastrous week for Allan S., who was sent tumbling down the standings, faster than Stacey moved up them this week. Allan's team took a weekly low of 11 points, which dropped him from the money race in 6th place, down to 14th and scrambling to gain some traction.
Allan didn't get some of his relied upon production from players like John Tavares or Martin Havlat, who were healthy and had zeroes, while injuries to David Legwand, Tyler Myers and Evgeni Nabokov certianly didn't help his cause at all. His best player in the week was Ilya Kovalchuk, who had 3 points, so you can see where the problems were across the board.
Allan's pick in the waiver draft did improve greatly, but his decision process of who to drop may be a bit difficult, as there is still some quality talent in there. Will one of his injured players get the boot? I could see Nabokov going, since the starts have been spread out on the Island, but he is also trade bait, which would likely still be intriguing, seeing him go to a contending team and then picking up points. So difficult.
On the sheet pool, the pool leader remained the same and he took a little bit more of a lead through Week Eight. Jeff E. had a monster week, taking 85 points and opening up the gap between himself and 2nd place to 27 points. The gap is still rather manageable, but does look very daunting, no matter how early it is in the season. Zac H. still sits in 2nd, while we have a new face in 3rd place, as Chris G. stormed his way up with one of the three top weeks in the pool.
Helping out towards the big week for Jeff was Brian Elliott and Tim Thomas, who each finished the week with 8 points each, while Ryan Nugent-Hopkins had 5 points and then picking up 4 points a piece for him were Jiri Hudler, Ian White, Joffrey Lupul and Johan Hedberg. Jeff had made five trades at the beginning of the week, shoring up some of the healthy players on his team and all five of those players picked up points for him, which was absolutely clutch.
Moving up the most in the standings were Wendy C. and Don C. #2, each team moving up five spots, thanks to making some clever trades in the week. Wendy moved up from 17th to 12th, while Don's second team moved up from 28th to 23rd and both teams still have plenty of room to move up.
The 2nd place team of Zac H., led the pool in goals scored in the week with 25 and now has the overall lead in the first tie-breaker as well, now having a combined 150 goals from all of his players this season.
NEWS AND NOTES
A minor groin injury was enough to keep back-up goalie Dan Ellis from getting dressed on Sunday night against the Maple Leafs, which led to the team calling up Jeff Deslauriers from the minors to give support to Jonas Hiller. I don't believe that Ellis missed out on a start on Sunday, but if you were wondering why he was not in the line-up this is why. Ellis has not been a great pool player this season, only picking up 2 points in the season, to date. It's hard to say how long he'll be out, but if it's a groin injury, I would imagine the Ducks will take their time with him.
Just coming off a minor injury of his own, Brendan Morrison was back up in the press box on Sunday evening, as his team, the Flames, took on the Wild in Minnesota. Morrison came off another knee injury in the week and there is likely a chance that his return was somewhat premature, which is reasonable, since Morrison is a pretty good team player and likely wanted to help get the Flames back on track as soon as possible. Morrison has 1 goal in 10 games this season and hasn't been a terribly productive member of the team, so it the scratch could have been for those reasons as well.
The Hurricanes were able to welcome Joni Pitkanen back to their line-up on Sunday, as they took on the Senators, which meant a player had to come out of the line-up as a healthy scratch. The underachieving Tomas Kaberle was the pick of the coaching staff, as he was a healthy scratch for the second time this season. Kaberle only has 5 assists in 24 games with the Hurricanes this year, which is far below the expectations of a top notch offensive defenseman and the Hurricanes are hoping that he can turn his season around or else he'll likely be trade bait before too long.
Link to the Injury/News Page
HOCKEY NIGHT IN CANADA
The last Hockey Night In Canada broadcast of the first segment of the pools will be a tripleheader, with a very early West Coast start and two storied rivalry games, which should make for some entertaining hockey on the day. And since we are looking at the first waiver draft in the draft pool this coming week, I will point out the best player available from each game and they will get their picture posted for posterity.
In the afternoon game, the Montreal Canadiens will make an appearance in Hollywood to take on the Los Angeles Kings. Both teams are hitting the one-third mark of the season outside of the playoffs and both teams are in desperate need of finding some offense before too long. There may not be a great deal of history between the two teams, but since they will have to scratch and claw their way back into the playoffs, this could make for a decent game. The top player available for the waiver draft between these two clubs in David Desharnais, who currently has 13 points in 24 games for the Habs and has played some fairly good hockey for the club. He currently ranks 23rd among players available, so there is a chance he is taken this time around.
In the 5pm MT game, it looks as though we'll see the return of the Maple Leafs to our television sets, as they visit Boston to take on the Bruins. This Original Six match-up hasn't disappointed yet this season, as there is plenty of emotion in this one. Both teams are currently fighting for the top of the Northeast Division standings and both are close to the top of the Eastern Conference. There are also a couple of old storylines still to be looked over again, but I don't think I'll have to do that here. This should be a pretty good game. The best player available for the draft pool this time around is goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, who has taken most of the minutes since the loss of James Reimer and he has done well with those minutes. Gustavsson ranks 6th among players available with 17 points and he will more than certainly be gambled upon this season.
The late game will see the Battle of Alberta get renewed for the second time out of six meetings this season, the first one going to the Flames in Calgary, but the second go around will be in Edmonton, where the Oilers have been great this season. The young kids will have a bone to pick with the old boys, showing them that there is a new game in town and it isn't for the slow and aged. I think we'll see a pretty good tilt between the two clubs, especially if the Flames can get their act together, but you'll know that they will bring their A-game to a rivalry match-up like this. The top player available for the draft in this game is Shawn Horcoff, who ranks 9th among available players with 16 points. Horcoff has started to find his scoring touch, playing with a couple of the young bucks on the club, which makes him a pretty good pick-up.