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Blue Line Buzz: Maximizing defensive strategy

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

New Year's Resolutions, Part I

Anaheim: For Cam Fowler to be stronger in his defensive end and stop saddling owners relying on the talented youngster with a minus-18 rating -- he is currently on pace for 33 points and a minus-40. Lastly, for Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf to pick up the pace and follow the example the ageless Finnish Flash, Teemu Selanne, is setting.

Boston: Someone other than Zdeno Chara needs to contribute more consistently from the blue line. Joe Corvo has been posting points a bit more often, but Dennis Seidenberg should resolve to find the back of the net more, as it certainly isn't for want of trying. For those in deep leagues that count shots on goal, Seidenberg isn't a horrible option. Boston has no problem finding balance in their forward scoring, as eight forwards own 20 points or more with Brad Marchand enjoying a huge season and Rich Peverly being surprisingly productive.

Buffalo: Resolve to find some more healthy bodies on defense. Tyler Myers remains out with a broken wrist and had just six points in 19 games before the injury, while Christian Ehrhoff left Friday's loss to Washington with an apparent upper-body injury. The Ehrhoff injury is a bit more frustrating as his game showed signs of turning around, but he will miss some time. This leaves us with Jordan Leopold (a solid six goals on the season) and the vexing Marc-Andre Gragnani, owner of nine points in 31 games. Brayden McNabb lit up the WHL last season and has the most upside on the Buffalo blue line.

Calgary: What is more surprising about Calgary? That Olli Jokinen has a team-leading 31 points through 39 games, or that Curtis Glencross has more goals, 15, than Jarome Iginla's 14 through Friday? The Flames have not been kind defensively to owners, as Jay Bouwmeester has more points than Mark Giordano, as does Chris Butler and Derek Smith. Not much positive can be said about the Flames, as just four players on the team have more than 15 points through Friday.

Carolina: For Jamie McBain to resolve to take full control of the team's power play and offensive contributions from the blue line in the wake of an injury to Joni Pitkanen and the trade of Tomas Kaberle. McBain, a trendy pick that started horribly, had nine points in December. Tim Gleason may want to resolve to play more consistently offensively, as he will be forever compared to Jack Johnson.

Chicago: Resolve to get more goals from Duncan Keith, Nick Leddy and Brent Seabrook, as the high-flying trio has just six tallies combined on the season despite 54 total points.

Colorado: The Avs finally resolved to put Kyle Quicney back in the lineup after having him a healthy scratch for four games prior to Thursday's win over Winnipeg. Quincey responded with an assist and hopefully will remain in the coaching staff's good graces going forward. Quincey has 18 points on the season with a surprising minus-1 rating, which is quite good for a Colorado defenseman. Rookie Stefan Elliott has been teasing owners this season with flashes of what is to come, going on scoring binges then disappearing. He has three points in five games through Friday, will turn 21 at the end of January and is entirely worth the frustration.

Columbus: Nikita Nikitin, Fedor Tyutin and Grant Clitsome have yet another opportunity to be highly productive on a flailing Columbus team. All three have shown flashes, but have not been terribly consistent. Their teammate, James Wisniewski, will be out of action for four-to-six weeks, suffering a broken ankle Thursday against Dallas while blocking a shot. See what happens when you get in the way of shots to keep the opposition from scoring.

Dallas: Resolve to find a shred of consistency for their defenders in terms of scoring. Sheldon Souray disappeared after a strong start while Alex Goligoski is making Pittsburgh General Manager Ray Shero look like a genius for dealing him last winter for a player that is currently one of the league's top goal scorers in James Neal. Seriously though, Dallas has been a game of shadows on the back end with Trevor Daley and Stephane Robidas popping up like whack-a-moles only to hide quickly. Unrelated, Dallas forward Eric Nystrom has 12 goals on 57 shots for an astounding 21.1 shooting percentage.

Detroit: Nicklas Lidstrom, Nicklas Kronwall, Ian White have combined for 59 points and 21 goals through Friday, not bad. The Wings are again proving to be one of the tops in the NHL and Pavel Datsyuk continues to amaze, as his deflected goal Tuesday against St. Louis was highly impressive.

Edmonton: Resolve to not rely on Ryan Whitney, as the analogy of Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown is in full effect for the Oilers. Knee and ankle injuries have limited Whitney to just 17 games this season with a meager three points. Tom Gilbert and Cory Potter have shown flashes of productivity but hardly any consistency, although Potter had three points in three games through Friday.

Florida: Resolve to continue what they are doing. Carrot Top impersonator Brian Campbell is second amongst NHL defenders in scoring while Jason Garrison has slammed home 11 goals, good enough for the most in the league. Dmitry Kulikov was showing consistency with 20 points in 27 games, but has gone pointless in 10 straight contests heading into Saturday. A talented, yet inconsistent Russian player? Such a travesty is simply unheard of.

Los Angeles: Drew Doughty needs to emerge as the leader he was paid to be. The team fired its head coach, Terry Murray, earlier in December after many believed the Kings were capable of a deep run into the playoffs. Regardless, Jonathan Quick has a 2.09 goals-against average and Anze Kopitar sports 34 points through 38 games. Jack Johnson's pace has fallen off and Slava Voynov has experienced the peaks and valleys associated with rookie defensemen.

Minnesota: Resolve to clone Cal Clutterbuck and receive a semblance of productivity from their defenders. Jared Spurgeon leads all Wild rearguards with 15 points, but could miss a few more games following a rough hit from Phoenix's Cody McLeod. Marek Zidlicky has nine points in 26 games this season. For those of you that haven't watched Clutterbuck play, he is pure energy on the ice, a player you want on your team. His 148 hits are second in the NHL and he is shooting at a 12.8 percent clip.

Montreal: Resolve to let your "interim" coach off the hook for his lack of speaking French. Randy Cunneyworth's benching of P.K. Subban last week took some guts considering the team had lost four straight games prior to Monday's outburst win in Ottawa. Subban returned that game with authority, notching a goal and an assist. With Andrei Markov's return date quite murky, Subban will need to let his consistency catch up with his talent while toning down his attitude a bit.

Nashville: Resolve to lock up Gary Suter and Shea Weber to long-term contracts as soon as possible. Weber will be eligible to negotiate a new deal on January 1 after going through a messy arbitration hearing and Suter is a UFA this coming summer as well. Speaking of Weber, here's hoping that Weber's concussion is as mild as it can be (however, the term mild has never seemed adequate to describe concussions). Weber and Suter are in the midst of career seasons and are currently ranked first and third on the team's scoring list -- great for Fantasy hockey players but the Predators' forwards should resolve to contribute more offensively.

New Jersey: Resolve to stop allowing short-handed goals. The Devils have surrendered 11 a league-leading 11 shorties on the season, adding another in Monday's loss to Carolina. Highly touted rookie Adam Larsson leads all Devils' defenders with 13 points but has not seen a shred of power play time in recent weeks. Kurtis Foster has four assists in seven games with the Devils. New Jersey won't score much from the back end, but the Devils are the only NHL team with seven players sporting 10 goals or more.

New York Islanders : Resolve to show up for more than a few games at a time. Mark Streit has been quietly productive, as his 18 points are good enough for fourth on the team through Friday. Pierre Parenteau and John Tavares lead the way with 30 and 29 points, respectively, through 35 games, which is surprising when you consider the team has been shut out seven times this season. Travis Hamonic has been steadier of late, but his season's point totals are just three points higher than Milan Jurcina and Steve Staios each. Odd stat of the day: goalie Rick DiPietro has two assists in eight games while Jay Pandolfo has one helper in 21 games.

New York Rangers : Viewers of HBO's "24/7" may want Dan Girardi's son, Landon, to replace his father on the team's blue line, as his son has been just about as productive of late. Girardi has seen his offensive numbers plummet in December, with two assists in the last 16 games and no goals since November 11. After all, Landon did look ready, taking one timers in the show's second episode. As paltry as Girardi has been of late, teammate Michael Del Zotto is enjoying a career season with 22 points and a staggering plus-minus of plus-25, all the more impressive considering he registered a minus-20 just two seasons earlier as a rookie. Lastly, let the Rangers resolve the Sean Avery situation once and for all; the team waived him a second time on Friday after Avery had been a healthy scratch in nine straight games.

Happy New Year to all.

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Player News
Daniel Cleary
Detroit's Cleary Feels Healthy Heading Into Fall
Daniel Cleary, RW, DET
8:17 AM
News: Daniel Cleary says his knee problems are behind him and he's ready for a bounceback campaign after his worst season with the Red Wings, MLive.com reports.
Analysis: Daniel Cleary signed for less to stay with Detroit but didn't end up doing much, with only eight points in 52 games. Cleary was a fairly strong producer for the Red Wings for several years, but at 35, is more of a veteran depth winger.

Riley Nash
Canes' Nash Promoted To Second Line In Preseason
Riley Nash, C, CAR
8:06 AM
News: Riley Nash will center the second line between Jeff Skinner and Elias Lindholm in the Canes' first preseason game Sunday against Columbus, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
Analysis: This looks to be a temporary assignment for now, as coach Bill Peters has decided to rest Eric Staal against the Jackets, meaning second- and third line centers Jordan Staal and Riley Nash move up in the pecking order. Once the regular season begins, Nash is more likely to be back centering the third line with the likes of Nathan Gerbe and either Patrick Dwyer or Zach Boychuk.

Eric Staal
Canes' Staal To Miss First Preseason Game
Eric Staal, C, CAR
7:54 AM
News: Eric Staal will be held out of the Canes' first preseason game as a precaution, reports the Raleigh News & Observer.
Analysis: According to coach Bill Peters, Eric Staal is not injured, and has not not missed any practice time in camp. However, Staal did have surgery for an abdominal injury this summer, and it sounds like Peters is just being cautious with his star center in the early going. For now, this does not appear to be something that will affect Staal's preseason fantasy value, but it's worth keeping an eye on nonetheless.

Derek Stepan
Rangers' Stepan Day-To-Day With Foot Contusion
Derek Stepan, C, NYR
7:30 AM
News: Derek Stepan has a foot contusion after blocking a shot in practice, and is considered day-to-day, Andrew Gross of The Record reports.
Analysis: Derek Stepan's day-to-day injury designation indicates that this is a minor injury, and should be ready start the regular season. Provided he does return to action soon, this injury should not affect Stepan's fantasy value.

Ryan Johansen
Jackets, Johansen Remain $3 Million Per Year Apart
Ryan Johansen, C, CLB
6:35 AM
News: The latest contract offer from the Ryan Johansen camp, rejected by the Blue Jackets on Thursday, is reportedly for two years and $12 million, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: That's down a million from their last proposal, which is some sign of progress, but it's still double the Jackets' offer of two years and $6 million. With multiple KHL teams inserting themselves into the mix, including a one year, $5 million offer from CSKA Moscow, things could get very interesting over the next few weeks.

Boone Jenner
Jackets' Jenner Shifting To Center
Boone Jenner, C, CLB
6:28 AM
News: With Ryan Johansen not in training camp due to a contract dispute, Boone Jenner will play center rather than left wing in the Blue Jackets' first exhibition game on Sunday, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Boone Jenner was an excellent faceoff man in the junior ranks, so Johansen's absence will be a golden chance for the sophomore to prove he shouldn't be playing on the wing.

Jarret Stoll
Kings' Stoll At Full Speed Following Hip Surgery
Jarret Stoll, C, LA
6:14 AM
News: Jarret Stoll, who had offseason hip surgery, has been a full participant in training camp so far, the LA Kings Insider reports.
Analysis: Jarret Stoll's expected to fill a checking line role again for the Kings this season.

Ryan Ellis
Preds, Ellis Still At Odds Over New Contract
Ryan Ellis, D, NSH
12:49 AM
News: Preds GM David Poile addressed Ryan Ellis' contract situation Saturday, saying the main stumbling block continues to be money, according to the Tennessean. "Unfortunately at this time we have not agreed what they think and what we think is fair compensation," Poile said. "We want [Ellis]. We are not trading him, we really like him. We really like the way he played last year. It's just a disagreement on dollars."
Analysis: Ryan Ellis, who has missed the first two days of training camp so far, played in 80 games last season for and finished with 27 points - his highest full season total to date. And while there is still plenty of time left to get a deal done before the start of the season, the clock is ticking. Not only is he missing out on conditioning drills and scrimmages, the more Ellis misses of training camp, the greater the chances of some other defenseman impressing the coaching staff and grabbing a roster spot that might otherwise go to Ellis. Bottom line, we think Ellis will get signed by the start of the regular season, but what his role on the team will be is anybody's guess. He's a risky fantasy pick right now, until all of the above gets sorted out.

Jon Merrill
Devils' Merrill Misses Practice With Head Injury
Jon Merrill, D, NJ
12:48 AM
News: Jon Merrill missed the second day of Devils' training camp on Saturday due to a head injury he suffered after colliding with teammate Ruslan Fedotenko during Friday's practice, Rich Chere of NJ.com reports.
Analysis: Luckily for Jon Merrill, the Devils' first regular season game isn't until October 9. While head injuries are never a good thing, the promising young defender should have ample time to get healthy before the regular season kicks off.

Joe Thornton
Sharks' Thornton Disagrees With General Manager
Joe Thornton, C, SJ
9/20/2014
News: Joe Thornton took issue Friday with general manager Doug Wilson's offseason comments about the Sharks rebuilding and becoming a "tomorrow team," reports the San Jose Mercury News. "That's Doug's opinion," said the big center. "I think if you'd ask anybody in here I don't think they have the same feeling."
Analysis: There have been plenty of rumors about Wilson doing all he can to push Jumbo Joe into a place where the center either demands a trade or the situation becomes ripe to ship him out of town. There seems to be a bit of a ripple starting in San Jose -- we'll see how far it goes.

 
 
 
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