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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
Brooks Orpik
Caps' Orpik Likely Ready For Opener
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News: General manager Brian MacLellan indicated Monday that he expects Brooks Orpik (wrist) to be ready for the beginning of the season, Dan Rosen of NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Brooks Orpik is expected to begin full workout activities within a week or two, barring a setback, so it should provide him plenty of time to recover before the season begins. Assuming that's indeed the case, he should open the season among the top two pairings, and could pick up a fair number of assists while working with the likes of Alex Ovechkin and offseason addition T.J. Oshie.

Nicklas Backstrom
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News: General manager Brian MacLellan indicated Monday that Nicklas Backstrom (hip) recently began skating again, Stephen Whyno of The Canadian Press reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom's status for the beginning of the season remains in doubt after offseason hip surgery, but he's at least progressing. The Capitals haven't released an official timeline for the top-line center, but it should clear up as the season draws near. If Backstrom is unavailable to begin the campaign, Evgeny Kuznetsov seems the likely candidate to center the top line, which would give him a significant increase in fantasy value.

Jonathan Bernier
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8/2/2015
News: Jonathan Bernier and the Maple Leafs came to terms Sunday on a two-year, $8.3 million contract, thus avoiding an arbitration ruling, Chris Johnston of Sportsnet reports.
Analysis: It initially looked like the two parties were too far apart to agree on a deal, but they were able to find common ground near the midpoint and avoid the risk of an arbitration decision. The deal is closer to Jonathan Bernier's proposed figure, but the second year buys out a year of free agency. Bernier is coming off a disappointing 2014-15 campaign, during which he saw his numbers drop in the wins (21), GAA (2.87), and save percentage (.912) categories from the season prior.

Erik Haula
Wild, Haula Reach Agreement On New Deal
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8/2/2015
News: Erik Haula signed a two-year, $2 million contract with the Wild on Sunday, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Rather than take their contract dispute to court, Erik Haula and the team were able to come to terms on a new agreement before the arbitration case was slated to be heard. Haula, who was the last of the Wild's unrestricted free agents, is now expected to be penciled in as the team's fourth-line center to open the upcoming campaign.

Brandon Sutter
Canucks, Sutter Closing In On Big Deal
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8/1/2015
News: Brandon Sutter and the Canucks are closing in on a contract extension that could be worth more than $20 million over five years, reports Elliotte Friedman of Hockey Night in Canada.
Analysis: Orca's general manager Jim Benning wasn't kidding when he described Brandon Sutter as a 'foundational' piece for his club. At that cash, the Orcas must believe Sutter is the solution for their second-line woes. He's been a No. 3 guy through his career, but could step up playing alongside scoring wingers. Monitor this heading to camp.

Marcus Johansson
Johansson Inks One-Year Deal With Capitals
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7/31/2015
News: Marcus Johansson signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Capitals on Friday, James Mirtle of TSN 1050 Radio reports.
Analysis: Marcus Johansson was a solid offensive contributor for the Capitals in 2014-15, racking up 47 points (20 goals, 27 assists) in 82 games, good for fourth best on the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Washington this season, and will likely continue to be a part of the Capitals' top power-play unit. The 24-year-old is a versatile winger who, barring injury, should be similarly productive this season.

Cam Talbot
Oilers' Talbot Expects Battle For Starting Job
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7/30/2015
News: Cam Talbot expects to battle for the starting job in training camp, according to the Edmonton Journal.
Analysis: One would think that Cam Talbot is just taking the high road here. Unless he performs miserably in camp he should be the starting goaltender once the season opens. He won't have anywhere near the defense playing in front of him that he had with the Rangers, so there will be off nights, but he's still better and offers much more upside than any other goaltender on the roster.

Alex Galchenyuk
Habs' Galchenyuk Re-Signs On Two-Year Deal
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7/30/2015
News: Alex Galchenyuk re-signed to a two-year, $5.6 million deal with the Canadiens on Thursday, ESPN reports.
Analysis: Alex Galchenyuk will return to the Canadiens on a contract paying him an average of $2.8 million per year. During the 2014-15 season, he played in 80 games for the Canadiens, finishing with 20 goals and 26 assists, both of which were career highs for the forward. The former third overall pick will join the likes of David Desharnais and Lars Eller as depth at center behind Tomas Plekanec. He also could see some time on the wing behind Max Pacioretty.

Jakub Voracek
Voracek Inks Eight-Year Extension With Flyers
Jakub Voracek, RW, PHI
7/30/2015
News: Jakub Voracek signed an eight-year, $66 million contract extension with the Flyers on Thursday, Frank Seravalli of the Philadelphia Daily News reports.
Analysis: It isn't surprising that the Flyers opted to lock Jakub Voracek up long-term after his performance in 2014-15. He exploded last season, racking up a career-best 81 points (22 goals, 59 assists), good for fifth best in the NHL. While fantasy owners shouldn't expect the 25-year-old winger to top 80 points year in and year out, if he can continue to stay healthy, he should continue to be a top fantasy commodity for years to come. Voracek will return to his role on the Flyers' top-line and power play unit in 2015-16.

Brandon Gormley
Gormley Inks One-Year Deal With Coyotes
Brandon Gormley, D, ARI
7/30/2015
News: Brandon Gormley signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Coyotes on Thursday, Craig Morgan of FOX Sports Arizona reports.
Analysis: Brandon Gormley suited up for 27 games with the Coyotes in 2014-15, managing to tally four points (two goals, two assists) in those contests. He fared a little better in the AHL, registering 10 points (three goals, seven assists) in 23 games with AHL Portland. He will get a chance to compete for a roster spot with the Coyotes in training camp.

 
 
 
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