Monday, August 31, 2009

Lightning Add Tanguay

It appears that the Alex Tanguay free agent situation has come to pass, as he's signed a 1-year deal with the Tampa Bay Lightning, which was almost confirmed on Monday after a weekend of speculation. The race for Tanguay was supposedly between the Lightning and the Minnesota Wild, but the Lightning swooped in and ended up with the winning pitch. The deal is believed to be worth $2.5 million, which is even further below my prediction for his new salary.

Tanguay, 29, played in only 50 games for the Canadiens in 2009, scoring 16 goals and adding 25 assists for 41 points. Of course, his value could be quite high if he can play for than 70 games per season and now he's joining a crop of offensive juggernauts in Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, that the Lightning could jump into being contenders for the Southeast Division title.

The Lightning also re-signed defenseman, Matt Lashoff, to a new 2-year deal on Friday, which has a cap hit of $550,000 per season. Lashoff, 22, played in 28 games for the Lightning, registering 8 assists. He will likely have a hard time cracking the thick Lightning blueline this year, but will be waiting in the wings for his chance.

Salary CapThe Lightning, with all their in-fighting upstairs in management, have managed to pare down the cap number from a season ago, to a very respectable $44.3 million for 19 players (see below). The team still has a few spots to fill and once training camp starts, we'll get to see if we can include Victor Hedman in the discussion for cap space. If he is included, he should have plenty of room to fit in, as the Lightning should be able to use some of their up-and-coming youth to fill some of those forward spots.

Let's also not forget, the LIghtning are carrying $2.2 million in cap space for buyouts this season.

Martin St. LouisMattias OhlundAntero Niittymaki
Vincent LecavalierLukas KrajicekMike Smith
Steven StamkosAndrej Meszaros
Ryan MaloneMatt Walker
Alex TanguayPaul Ranger
Stephane VeilleuxDavid Hale
Jeff HalpernKurtis Foster
Todd Fedoruk

Adam Hall

Ryan Craig

This Lightning team has definitely got a new feel to it, especially with the improved blueline and Antero Niittymaki in net to challenge Mike Smith for the starting role. The potential is growing for a good season in Tampa and the inclusion of Tanguay could mean some good things fantasy-wise for some of their other big name players.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Setback for Brewer

Not only has Eric Brewer had to deal with two back surgeries over the course of the last year, but he now has to contend with a knee surgery, which he has just undergone. This latest trip under the knife could cost Brewer upwards of four weeks on the shelf. It was already unclear as to whether or not he'd be ready for training camp because of his back, but having to wait 2-to-4 weeks for his knee to be ready will likely cut his training camp down significantly, if not completely.

Brewer was a solid fantasy bet in his healthy days, but I'm recommending a complete avoidance of his health headaches. If you were wise, you would avoid him at your draft this Fall and wait to see what he does when he returns to the ice.

Canucks Officially Sign Schneider

The Canucks managed to pull off yet another deal on Friday, as they have officially signed UFA defenseman, Mathieu Schneider to a deal. The details were not disclosed in the news release, but the rumoured deal was to be worth $1.5 million over a single season, which if held true, should be a good deal for the Canucks.

Schneider, 40, split time between Atlanta and Montreal in 2009, playing in 67 games, scoring 9 goals and adding 23 assists. Even at that veteran age, Schneider was picking up plenty of power play ice-time for the Habs upon his return, which definitely helped his overall production for the year. Schneider finished as the 47th ranked defender in terms of pool points, which should still keep him in the discussion for being draft worthy this Fall.

Now, with three new defensemen added to the line-up the Canucks theoretical roster looks a little something like this...

Daniel SedinKevin BieksaRoberto Luongo
Henrik SedinChristian EhrhoffAndrew Raycroft
Ryan KeslerAlex Edler
Pavol DemitraMathieu Schneider
Alex BurrowsSami Salo
Mikael SamuelssonWillie Mitchell
Steve BernierShane O'Brien
Kyle WellwoodBrad Lukowich
Mason Raymond

Jannik Hansen

Ryan Johnson

Darcy Hordichuk

Rick Rypien

Salary CapThis roster, however, is now way over the cap ceiling and there are a few names still omitted from it. If Schneider's rumoured amount is to be correct, then the Canucks have now filled out their 23-man roster, but at an approximate cap hit of $60.6 million, a large $3.8 million over the set amount.

Signing Schneider is a very good move for the team's power play, as he should be able to not only provide some good minutes with the extra man, but also help other defenders like Kevin Bieksa and Alex Edler to become better power play quarterbacks.

Giving a solid nod to how the fantasy numbers will work is really tough at the moment, especially since the team has to make a move or two to clear the cap space.

Sharks Move Defenders

2008-2009 Statistics2010
To Vancouver PosAgeGP/MINPointsCap Hit
Christian Ehrhoff D 27 77 42 2 years/$3.1 million
Brad Lukowich D 33 58 8 1 year/$1.566 million

2008-2009 Statistics2010
To San JosePosAgeGP/MINPointsCap Hit
Patrick White F 20 0 0 RFA
Daniel Rahimi D 22 0 0 1 year/$648,000

The Sharks and Canucks have consummated a deal that sees some questions being answered and maybe a few more being asked. The Sharks have moved a couple veteran defenders for a couple of prospects that were not being able to crack the Canucks line-up.

The Sharks have now moved over $4 million in cap space in this deal, picking up no one-way contracts in the process and should now have opened the flood gates for more to happen.

Salary CapWith two one-way deals out of San Jose, it now gives them 15 players signed on to their immediate roster at an approximate cap cost of $51.6 million, which still isn't quite enough to be comfortable, but it's definitely a start. There could be a huge onus on bringing up some of their younger talent to fill in some gaps at the moment, which may not bode well for the chances in the Pacific Division standings.

The Canucks on the other hand, picked up that same $4+ million in cap space, but they didn't really have that much room left to fill, so there could be a little more on the horizon for them. The Canucks now have 22 regulars signed on for the coming season at an approximate cap number of $59 million, well over the cap ceiling. This doesn't include Cody Hodgson's likely arrival into the line-up as well, which becomes fairly scary.

The Canucks did well to move two unlikely prospects for a couple of veteran defenders, including one to be in the team's top pairing. Christian Ehrhoff is a power play defenseman, while Brad Lukowich is a good stay-at-home defenseman, who also has a Cup ring.

The Canucks may have improved their power play, which could mean good fantasy things for the Sedin twins and could also translate into a few more wins for Roberto Luongo.

The Sharks fantasy value may have dropped a little on this deal right away, but if they can make good of the two prospects, then the salary dump could very well be worth it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Sillinger Retires

It's the end of the road for Mike Sillinger in the NHL, as today he'll announce his retirement. Sillinger has been battling some serious hip problems, which included a pair of surgeries over the past couple seasons. So, at age 38, it should come as no surprise that a player with those kind of health problems will call it a career, since the rehab for a hip injury is quite intense.

In his NHL career, Sillinger played in 1,049 games, scoring 240 goals and 308 assists. His career-best season came in 2006-'07, where he scored 26 goals and 33 assists for the Islanders.

Choosing First Overall

With the first pick overall in your fantasy pool draft, you want to take the player that you think is going to get the most points, right? Well, this season should have a pretty good race for the scoring title, especially if all of the top candidates can stay healthy. Nowadays, you want to find a player that will definitely eclipse the 100-point barrier, as those are the players that are automatically in the discussion for winning the scoring title.

In 2008, only four players managed to jump over the 100-point mark in fantasy scoring for my pools. In 2009, four players again topped the 100-point mark. It's not an easy feat for these players, as the century mark is now only coming to those who are doing exceptionally well. The only two players to repeat as 100-point players in those past two seasons were Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, who are likely to go 1-2 in any pool draft, with the slight exception that Sidney Crosby is still beloved as a top two fantasy player.

It will be really hard to bet against last season's scoring champion, Evgeni Malkin, but it could be easy not to pick him, especially if you're not a big fan. It's hard to deny that Malkin is a talented player, as he's done some pretty crazy things with that puck, but for those who are not fans of Malkin, I would wager it would be because that he doesn't have the flair or the personality of those who are big time scorers. He just goes about his business, racking up points and helping the Penguins win games and with hardly a peep out of him. It's hard to tell if he's enjoying himself or not. However, Malkin is a big, giant ox of a guy, so his durability should be quite good, which makes him an excellent candidate for your number one pick.

The split in Russian loyalties, if you want to call it that, will see the other side lean on Alex Ovechkin for their big numbers. Ovechkin is a solid number one pick in pools, as he has as good a shot as anyone else to win the scoring title. If your pool has a larger onus on goals, then Ovechkin should be your selection, hands down. Most outlets now have him scoring 60 or more goals this season, which doesn't seem to be an outlandish thought, especially with the way he can get the puck away. He now has a legitimate setup man in Nicklas Backstrom and a few other weapons to help ease the pressure that is solely placed on him, game in and game out. I would be pretty happy with Ovechkin in any one of the top three positions in the draft.

The only player likely to spoil the Russian pairing at the top is Sidney Crosby, who has made a lasting impression already on most poolies, as he's been scoring on such a phenomenal rate since joining the NHL, only missing the 100-point barrier once, due to injury. At a career scoring rate of 1.36 points-per-game, Crosby is nearly a lock for 100 points again this season, even if he only plays in 75 games, he should still have 102 points. Crosby has yet to hit the 40-goal plateau (although he was close in his rookie season) and he has yet to play in a full 82-game season. Since he's already won the Cup, he may have a couple more accomplishments still left on his agenda to check off, for which he has plenty of time to do so in.

Who would you take first overall in your hockey pool draft? Myself, personally, I think I would go with Ovechkin, as I'm a fan and like cheering him on.

If you're looking to make a splash with someone else as the first overall pick, you should be trying to consider who would be most likely to get 100+ points. The usual candidates may include Joe Thornton, Jarome Iginla, Ilya Kovalchuk, Evgeni Nabokov, Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff, Vincent Lecavalier or maybe even Dany Heatley. Either way, you know what you have to be looking for when you're making a gamble like that, unless you're picking a player that you really, really like and would love to cheer on even more because he's on your pool team. Be careful when you do that though, as that is one of the first steps to losing your pool.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Gagne Injured at Camp

The Flyers have themselves an injury scare from the Olympic Orientation Camp for Team Canada, as Simon Gagne has suffered a groin injury. The early indications are that the injury isn't too serious, but he won't be skating any more with the Canadian team. He is supposed to be heading back to Philadelphia to see the head trainer for the Flyers and a further diagnosis should be available. There is no word as to whether or not this injury will carry itself into training camp or later.

If there is going to be any change to Gagne's pool outlook, it will be posted at a later date.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Turbulent Summers

If there is one thing I don't trust as much as injury-plagued players, is those players that had a pretty rough summer in the news. These players had stories written about them or were part of some sort of tragedy, which doesn't work well in the mental aspect of the game and then the player's effort and/or production drops. In the cruel world of gambling, some of these aspects are good to know when making your selections. It's good to identify these players early and have them noted on your list for your hockey pool draft, just so you can either discount their production levels or skip them altogether.

If you can discount a player's production, you are, at the very least, lowering his expectations for the year, to which can be a big bargain if you manage to pick the player in that point bracket and he comes through with an amazing season.

If you discount that same player and someone else in your pool picks him at his normal scoring rate, they will either luck out when that player does score his usual average or be disappointed when he falls short. Then hopefully, you've picked a player of the same average value and had a good season with him.

Since hockey, like most other sports, has a very large mental aspect, I think bringing turbulent summers into the mix is a wise decision.

A good place to begin in the discussions of turbulent summers will be Dany Heatley. His trade demands in June were not taken too kindly this summer, as the only deal that GM Bryan Murray could work out was with Edmonton and Heatley wouldn't approve the deal and get out of town. Ever since, Heatley has been scrutinized in the media and by hockey fans, which could lead to some negative backlash when the Senators training camp opens, especially since it looks to me like he'll be staying in Ottawa for the foreseeable future.

This doesn't look good on Heatley and it could mean some pretty negative implications could come of this, including some diminished ice-time or lessened roles. Of course, I can only speculate as to what's going to happen, but a coach probably doesn't like the idea of one of his top players trashing his system.

Heatley is a 50-goal scorer by trade and it would be silly for any team, even the one he wants out of, to sit him in favour of a player that likely isn't going to score 30 goals, but I suppose it's all a matter of motivation in the end. On my list, I'm discounting his points, lowering his rank for the time being. My draft will commence after the bulk of camp is finished, so I can make a late moment decision as to whether or not to change is outlook, but right now, I'm guessing it won't be very good. I would welcome someone else taking him, while I pick up a player like Jonathan Toews or Anze Kopitar.

The summer for Patrick Kane was going so well, up until recently. Kane was already named to the Team USA orientation camp and had a promising third season in the league ahead of him, but he (and his cousin) decided to get into a bit of trouble with the law, giving a cabbie a hard time for some change after a night on the town. Now, the severity of the incident is slowly diminishing as the stories are getting published, but nevertheless, now the crowds in opponent's buildings have a bit of fodder for booing and jeering then young forward. This ordeal will be a good challenge on his mental toughness this season.

The biggest difference between Kane and Heatley is that Kane didn't really slight his Blackhawks teammates, so he won't really face animosity in the dressing room. Everyone will be supporting him and he'll at least be able to have a good laugh about the whole thing when no one is looking. On the ice, however, he'll be the target of boos and colourful (and somewhat clever) signage during warm-ups, as no one will want him to forget what he did in the summer. At only 20 years old, Kane will be challenged with this negative energy, so a slight discount may be in order.

Last season, Kane scored 25 goals and 70 points, which is a pretty good year for the sophomore. I have him going down a little bit, which may be enough to get him at a bargain pick, but it's tough to say.

A family tragedy has likely decimated Jose Theodore's summer, as he lost his two-month old son passed away, which wouldn't be easy for any parent. There hasn't been any comment or reaction from Theodore, but nor should there be one at this time, but as an observer on such sad news, this will have to be weighing on his mind for quite some time.

If it wasn't already difficult for Theodore, he had a tough road to go to get back into the number one goalie spot for the Capitals, as Semyon Varlamov had done a good job, casting a large shadow of doubt over him in the playoffs last Spring. This all doesn't bode well for the 33-year old keeper.

Theodore did win 32 games for the Capitals last season, which was enough for the coaching staff to say that the number one job was still theoretically his last week, but I would imagine the leash will be really short from the get-go, especially if Varlamov and/or Michal Neuvirth come out of camp with something to say.

I have a really heavy discount on for Theodore, expecting him to have back-up numbers, instead of starting goalie numbers. I just feel safer that way.

Obviously, no one ever wants anything bad to happen to any of these players, but for everyone else, it all just keeps going on and we have to make sure we take everything in stride. Everyone wants to play in their hockey pool to win, so finding an advantage through the news should be considered somewhat reasonable.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

The Score's 2010 Fantasy Guide

Well, here we are with the last of the three fantasy hockey guides that I bought last year and I haven't seen anything else out in stores, so I'm guessing this is where I'm going to stop.

The Score and Forecaster combine together again to put together another good and thorough look at the year that is upon us, including a few seasons ahead for young players. Of course, the pull-out cheat sheet might also be a big help, especially when you're checking off players that have been picked in your pool. Make sure you get a good read though their sleepers section, there is a lot of good players that you could pick up for some extra points in the late rounds of your pool.

What I'm really after is to look at some of the top players, including the top three forwards in the pool, who all figure to be the top players in your fantasy scoring (but we'll be using my scoring, which is pretty straight forward). The Score is the only one of the three magazines to pick Sidney Crosby as their top player in pool scoring, as they have him pegged for 117 points, the highest point total among the three publications as well. Alex Ovechkin is the unanimous decision between the three as the second best pick, scoring 112 points (including 61 goals), and then the other usual suspect, Evgeni Malkin, scoring 109 points. The top three wasn't really going to change, but I have a feeling that every draft is going to be different, but you can't really go wrong with anyone of those three players.

Are there any surprises in their top ten? You bet. Jason Spezza comes in at 10th with 91 points, which could be a huge stretch. The Senators have plenty of issues with their personnel, including Dany Heatley (who is slated to pick up 85 points, according to this guide), who had wanted out of Ottawa. The acquisition of Alex Kovalev (72 points) may help Spezza out, but I can't see a top ten finish for him.

In the goaltending slots, there is a tie in points between both Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo, picking up 94 points each, but Kiprusoff takes the title by the number of projected wins, as he is predicted to have 44 wins, where Luongo has only 40, but more shutouts. Rounding out the top three is another one of those usual suspects, as Evgeni Nabokov is set for 39 wins and 5 shutouts for 88 points. It's hard to go wrong with those three at the moment, but Nabokov's name is swirling around in trade rumours. As long as he's in San Jose, he should be okay.

Marty Turco was somewhat of a surprise in the top ten in wins, as he's slated for a 78-point season. The Stars didn't do a great job of improving their team in the off-season, which may not translate well to his win count, so I would be weary of his projected numbers. Nikolai Khabibulin winning 36 games is also kind of a stretch, saying that the Oilers are likely candidates for the playoffs, which also doesn't seem too likely.

On defense, it does look a wee bit different, but that's only the third one in the top three. Mike Green continues to lead the pack and the Score has him scoring 29 goals and 46 points for 75 points, ranking him 39th among skaters, which could be a low second or high third round pick. Andrei Markov is only listed as being 10 points behind in Montreal, listed for 65 points, but is ranked quite a bit lower among all players. In third, it's Nicklas Lidstrom who finished third in defensemen scoring, listed with 61 points in Detroit, which doesn't seem to be out of the question at all.

Looking through their list of defensemen, I did see a bold prediction, saying that Tom Gilbert of the Oilers will break out for 52 points this season. Could the arrival of Khabibulin really create more offensive chances for Gilbert? It really looks like the Score is pushing for the Oilers to finish in the 8th spot in the West.

The Score does a good job in listing rookies in their magazine and listed them by position. It's too bad they don't designate them on their cheat sheet, but we'll work with what we've got. Any idea who they have as their top rookie this year? Yeah, it's unanimous again with the selection of John Tavares. Tavares is ranked 99th among all skaters with 57 points, including 32 goals. They also predict an easy Calder win for the number one overall pick this past summer. Ville Leino ranks well again with 53 points, including 24 goals. Rounding out the top three is Cody Hodgson with 46 points in Vancouver, including 19 goals. No real surprises in the rookie race.

Finally, the last comparison is the expectation of who will be the number one goalie in Toronto will be. The Score suggests that the two goalies will more or less platoon the position, with Jonas Gustavsson getting a little more action and winning a few more games than Vesa Toskala. Gustavsson is tabbed to win 23 games, while Toskala has been listed with 19. The Pooler's Guide suggested that Gustavsson was going to take the job, while the Hockey News was saying more towards a platoon as well. Don't be in a big hurry to pick a goalie from Toronto... especially if you weren't to begin with.

The Score's guide is pretty good, especially for their youth section. This could benefit more for keeper pool leagues, especially those who keep a lot of players. I think the Score is probably my favourite of the three again, just because there was some more reasonable numbers for the goalies and they do have a better look at young players. This is the one I would personally recommend.

Friday, August 21, 2009

The 2009 Edition of the Poolers Guide

The review of hockey pool guides continues today, as I purchased the Pooler's Guide from 'Hockey - The Magazine' yesterday. This again is one of the flashier publications out there, which is really great to look at and they seemingly do a greater depth for keeper pools, listing a lot of salaries and give some advice accordingly.

Again though, I want to go over the same points I went over with the Hockey News guide, giving you an idea of what to expect out of the magazine. If you have the same idea about some of the top players, you may have a little more faith in what they say about the depth players when it comes to crunch time.

Exactly like the Hockey News before it, the Pooler's Guide predicts that Evgeni Malkin will re-capture the Art Ross Trophy with 115 points. I really can't say that I'm surprised, as it does seem really easy to call a repeat performance with Malkin, as he does a lot to make his game look so effortless. Next on the list, it's Alex Ovechkin with 114 points, including 60 goals, and then Sidney Crosby forms the top three with 110 points, with only 40 goals. It seems like these three will be the favourites across the board for the top picks in any pool.

The new entry into the top ten which raised an eyebrow of sorts was Nicklas Backstrom, Ovechkin's centre in Washington. I can't say that I'm terribly surprised, as he'll likely be a huge help to Ovechkin's 60-goal campaign. Backstrom finished 11th in pool scoring last season, so there really is no stretch, but his inclusion did stick out a little bit at 98 points. By comparison, the Hockey News has Backstrom in 12th among skaters at 90 points.

There is a big difference when it comes to goalies, as the Pooler's Guide has Miikka Kiprusoff as the far-and-away favourite in net, with 44 wins and 8 shutouts for 104 pool points, 6 points clear of Evgeni Nabokov in San Jose. Martin Brodeur returns to the top three with 42 wins and 6 shutouts for 96 points.

No real surprises in the top ten in goaltending. Ray Emery ranks 12th among goalies with 33 wins and 5 shutouts, while Semyon Varlamov is expected to split duty with Jose Theodore and pick up 22 wins and 3 shutouts. Theodore is expected to have 28 wins and 2 shutouts.

Mike Green is again the top projected defender, as he should be, with 30 goals and 43 assists in Washington, a bit more conservative than the Hockey News' 78 points. Also coming in 2nd and 3rd (respectively) is Andrei Markov in Montreal and Scott Niedermayer in Anaheim. Let's not be too surprised here, let's just take this information and use it wisely, as you don't want to sell the farm on players that will only just eclipse the 60-point barrier.

Next up on the review is the rookie race in 2010. Last season, the Pooler's Guide went out on a limb and went with Kyle Okposo to take the crown, but this year, they have decided that they will follow suit on the hype parade, choosing John Tavares to runaway with the points race, scoring 22 goals and 30 assists for 52 points. Ville Leino, who is still considered a rookie in Detroit, comes in at number two with 40 points, while Cody Hodgson and Matt Duchene will each pick up 38 points. Victor Hedman should be the top defender, according to their list, with 25 points this season, far less than the Hockey News' prediction.

Of course, now we come to the big free agent acquisition of the Maple Leafs, Jonas Gustavsson. According to the Pooler's Guide, he will take over the starting job from Vesa Toskala, winning 25 games with 2 shutouts, while Toskala only picks up 12 wins and 2 shutouts. Do you jump on the Gustavsson bandwagon when the time calls for a Leafs goalie?

The magazine doesn't bring a lot of new news to the table at the top of the lists, but there is some differences in the middle which could be contentious. Keep a close eye on what you want and keep the injury prone players away from your team, if at all possible.

Goc Goes To Nashville

The Nashville Predators have reportedly signed UFA forward, Marcel Goc, to a new 1-year deal. Goc was not tendered a qualifying offer by the San Jose Sharks this summer, foregoing restricted free agency and letting him out to the open market, where any team could have their shot at him. Finally, it appears that he has a new home.

Goc, 26, had himself an injury-plagued season, being out of the line-up on four occasions, missing 27 games. In the 55 games he did play with the Sharks, he only managed to register 2 goals and 9 assists.

Salary CapGoc will reportedly have a cap hit of $550,000 on his two-way deal, meaning that the Predators are not taking a big risk by signing him. Since he did play in 55 games last season, he should be considered ready for the line-up come the Fall. The deal now brings the team's salary cap number up to $39.9 million for 18 players, which still falls underneath the cap floor, but there are plenty of spots left on the team to ensure that they are compliant with the salary cap rules.

Goc has not been a big name player and has not exceeded point totals of 22 points in his career, so as a fantasy player, he's a bit of a bust. With his injury problems last season compounding the issue, Goc is definitely someone you should stay away from at your fantasy draft.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Yelle Signs in Carolina

The Carolina Hurricanes added more quality defensive depth down the middle on Wednesday with the announcement that they had signed UFA forward, Stephane Yelle to a new 1-year deal.

Yelle, 35, played with the Bruins last season, scoring 7 goals and adding 11 assists in 77 games. He isn't a very good fantasy player, by any means, unless you're keeping defensive stats or face-off percentages in your highly complicated pool. Yelle sees a lot of time in key defensive situations, which does keep his +/- a tad low, but he is reliable, which is what you're after when you're looking for a third or fourth line centre.

Salary CapThe contract is reportedly worth $550,000 for the season, which keeps the cap number reasonable in Carolina. The team does have 20 players signed on now (with Yelle), at a cap rate of $52.3 million. That leaves them plenty of space to be players at the trade deadline, if the team plays as well as they did at the back end of the regular season and the playoffs.

The Hurricanes, along with their new addition, have one of the older, more savvy line-ups in the league, which could benefit a player like Cam Ward, in getting more wins this season. With Rod Brind'Amour, Ray Whitney, Matt Cullen, Scott Walker, Sergei Samsonov and Aaron Ward already in tow, the dirty-30 club will be packed and ready to rock in 2010.

The Superstar Defensemen

If you were to ask me (which it looks like you are), in some cases, defensemen in the fantasy leagues are quite valuable, getting more points than forwards for goals, but the way I run my pool doesn't see that sort of benefit. Personally, defensemen are either really good offensively or they aren't, there is very little middle ground when it comes to picking defensemen. If a defenseman is going to get a lot of points in a season, he can be extremely valuable. So much so, they could end up going in the first round of a draft.

In my pool, the defensemen are scored the same as the forwards and my scoring is far more straight-forward than some of those fantasy leagues. If a defender is going to have an awesome year, that, to me, doesn't make him top drawer in quality, he could go as high as the late second or early third, if you were smart, but certainly not first.

Without a doubt, the big prize in the defensemen pool will be Mike Green of the Washington Capitals. No matter what kind of fantasy league you're in, you should be looking at trying to nab Green early. His 31 goals in 2009 should be more than enough reason for you to snap him up, especially in the first round (if your pool rewards defenders for their goal scoring). As of today, depending on what pick I would have received in the draft, I would have Green going in the second round, easily. He should be as good as most forwards in the second round would be.

Splitting up second and third could be a bit difficult, as this one is a bit of a toss-up to me, but in the end, I would probably go with veteran savvy over natural scoring ability for my next best defender, Nicklas Lidstrom. Lidstrom had a bit of downturn year, but he should be able to pick his socks up again and get a 70-point season out of it. He doesn't score as many goals, but he does do a lot of good for the Red Wings, who will need his offensive talents this year.

If you were going to go in the opposite direction, then I would point towards Andrei Markov of the Canadiens, who is a deathly accurate goal-scorer with one hell of a cannon. Markov has been picking up his numbers as his career has gone on, jumping up to being the second best point production defender in the my pool last year. It was an off-year for goals, with only 12, but as the new quarterback for the Montreal powerplay, he did pick up a boatload of points. Look for him to shoot more with the new offense that's in place.

Forming the deadliest pairing in the NHL, Brian Rafalski joins my list at number four, expecting him to have a pretty good season with his teammate, Lidstrom. The Red Wings have a lot of cap space taken up by these two defenders, but they are doing their job at both ends of the ice. Rafalski was no slouch in 2009, racking up 59 points, but I expect a little bit better from him, as the Red Wings may lean a little bit more on their top blueline pairing for more shots and better looks at the net.

I certainly wouldn't be disappointed if I was to get Scott Niedermayer as my first defenseman on my fantasy team. He may look really old in the playoffs, but at only 36 years old, he's still got plenty left in the tank. Last season's 59-point campaign was good, especially since he played all 82 games. With some of the younger talent maturing in Anaheim, Niedermayer's passes out of the zone could be more useful for goals, which could very well mean that he'll rack up some assists this year. A pairing with either James Wisniewski or Ryan Whitney is also quite appealing this season.

Does the emergence of John Tavares make Mark Streit better? I'd probably have to go with a yes on that one. Streit has turned into one of the best offensive defenders in the NHL and even with being on a terrible team on Long Island, he still managed to pick up 56 points. Now, the Islanders have used their first overall pick to get one of the more offensively gifted forwards, which means Streit may have someone to pass it to down low for a one-timer. I wouldn't hesitate to pick Streit this year, as his numbers could go through the roof a bit.

I have a lot of interest in seeing how much better Shea Weber is going to be in Nashville this season. Weber finished 2009 with 23 goals and 30 assists and he opened up a lot of eyes and minds to the fact that he's still in this league and wants to do well. Weber should have opened up an opportunity to skate with Canada at the Olympics in February and with a good opening half to the season, that should become a reality for him. If he has the drive to play for February, he could be a hard defender to stop from scoring and a hard defender to get past at the blueline.

I would have to believe that there were a lot of disappointed poolies out there with Dan Boyle on their team. With all the hype and expectation that was involved with his move to San Jose last summer, he only picked up 16 goals and 41 assists on a team with Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Rob Blake, Jonathan Cheechoo and Devin Setoguchi. With the Sharks in limbo, in regards to their roster for training camp, there is no telling who will be on the team and who will join the team, if there are any moves made. This uncertainty can't help the confidence much, so I would be keen to drop Boyle down a peg or two, just for the time being. He has the potential to be a bust this year, especially with the Sharks revamping.

Let's not forget our friend, Sergei Gonchar, who had some injury troubles last season. It may be easy to forget about him if you are going by last year's scoring list only, since he only played in 25 games, but let's remember that he plays on a high-powered Penguins team and is one of the premier offensive defenders. Don't let him sit on the list for too long or else you may miss out on him. I might be looking at him in the third or fourth round, depending on who I'm drafting with and how my team is working itself out. Hopefully, his knee is given a clean bill of health at training camp... that's the only factor into not picking him this year.

Well, that should be a good start to your fantasy pool homework regarding defenders. Hopefully, I'll be publishing a little bit more about who I think will likely breakout.