Forgot Log-in or  Password? |  Help  Not a member, Register Now!
      
Fantasy Football Today
Fantasy Football Today Blog
Gameday Inactives
2014 Draft Prep Guide
Downloadable Draft Kit
Mock Drafts
Get Your Draft Board
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Scores
Fantasy Games
Playoff Challenge
Commissioner
Prize Leagues
Free
Office Pool Manager
Game Pick'em
Player Challenge
Fantasy Baseball Today
Fantasy Baseball Today Blog
2015 Draft Prep Guide
Mock Drafts
Player News
Stats
Players
Depth Charts
Roster Trends
Columns
Injury Report
Rankings
Projections
Schedules
Probable Pitchers
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injuries
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Message Boards
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
Downloadable Draft Kit
Player News
Stats
Players
Columns
Injury Report
Projections
Rankings
Schedules
Mock Drafts
Scores
Standings
Fantasy Games
Commissioner
Free
Prize Leagues
No Fantasy Teams Found
 
 
 

Blue Line Buzz: The beginning of the end

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

With 13 days left in the regular season, the playoff picture has begun taking shape. Right now, Toronto is firmly in the playoffs. The Islanders are likely going to sneak in. New Jersey, last season's Eastern Conference champions, have lost nine straight and likely will miss the playoffs for the second time in three years. Philadelphia, a pre-season favorite from many are out for all intents and purposes, sitting with 37 points following a shutout Saturday by fellow draft lottery friend Buffalo.

In an interesting post-script to the Philadelphia debacle, Columbus is locked in a three-way tie for the eighth spot out West with Dallas and Detroit. Columbus, who recently acquired Marian Gaborik on deadline day and is receiving superb netminding from a Philadelphia cast off, Sergei Bobrovsky, is quickly becoming the darling of the playoff chase. This is a team that was thought to be guaranteed either Seth Jones, Nathan McKinnon or Jonathan Drouin for this year's draft, yet here they are, in firm contention for the eighth spot.

Bobrovsky's play of late has been nothing short of outstanding, as he's likely earned himself a spot on the Vezina Trophy list. Yes, a former Philadelphia netminder could be up for a Vezina. Philadelphia has a tendency to blame their netminders for every fault with the team, yet their system and corps of slow-footed defensemen have more to do with their struggles than anything. True, Ilya Bryzgalov is an easy target, but in last season's second-round playoff exit against New Jersey, Bryz was one of the team's best players, but as Bryz noted this week after being replaced by Steve Mason, it's no beach.

Columbus is succeeding with players acquired in the Rick Nash trade, notably Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov (who left Saturday's win over Minnesota with a head injury courtesy of the Wild's Charlie Coyle). Gaborik appears reinvented in Columbus, likely just happy leave Broadway and John Tortorella's system. True, Columbus might not challenge the West's elite for the Campbell Trophy, but it's a great story.

One of the bigger surprises for Columbus is their blue line production, as one likely assumed, this column included, that Jack Johnson and James Wisniewski would spearhead the offensive charge from the rear. However, with six games remaining in the season, it's steady veteran Fedor Tyutin that's shouldering the points load. His 18 points through 42 games appear in line with what he has done in previous seasons, both with the Jackets and the Rangers, but the fact that he's outscoring Jack Johnson is still surprising. Johnson, acquired from Los Angeles in last season's Jeff Carter giveaway, is eating ice time, seeing 26 minutes per-game and has a solid 16 points, but most had been expecting more.

Tyutin was arguably the fourth-rated fantasy defender on the Jackets' roster heading into the season, trailing Johnson, Wisniewski and Nikita Nikitin; the latter has been woefully underproductive, with nine points in 36 games after grabbing 32 in 54 contests last year following an early-season trade from St. Louis.

Nikitin is one of several underperforming players this season that could be had at a value in this coming fall's drafts. True, Nikitin has three other defenders with whom to share the puck, but Wisniewski has never proven able to stay healthy and Johnson is eating a ton of minutes against the opposition's top players. Nikitin's performance can only go up next season and likely can be had for very little toward the end of drafts.

Here are several other underachievers whose pricetags will be lowered next season:

Jason Garrison, Vancouver: There probably wasn't a bigger candidate for serious regression heading into this year than Garrison, signer of a six-year, $27.6 million contract this past July. Garrison scored a career-high 16 goals last season with Florida, finishing with 33 total points. When joining Vancouver, he became the secondary defensemen on the power play behind Alexander Edler, but veteran Dan Hamhuis is also raking in points, with 21. However, Garrison has a modest 13 points on the season.

Garrison possesses a tremendous slap shot and has offensive upside and his shots on goal are in line with what he did last season, but last season's 10.6 percent shooting percentage was an aberration. Garrison has the skill to make a larger offensive impact than his 13 points, although he has three points in the last four games. You won't have to pay nearly as much for Garrison as the Canucks did in next fall's drafts.

Dmitry Kulikov, Florida: One of the more trendy picks heading into this season's drafts, Kulikov was expected to take the next step in his development following a solid, albeit inconsistent 28 point-campaign one year earlier. Kulikov played just 58 games for the Kitties in 2011-12 and his current season sees him with a mere nine points through 30 games.

His splits this season are just as inconsistent as they were last year, with two goals and no assists in the last 10 games. He's a former first-round pick and will be 23 at the end of October; there's reason for optimism with Kulikov as he's likely to get a few more chances due to his young age. There's still potential there, but some of that is tied to his teammates in Florida. The Panthers aren't the greatest offensive team but the presence of uber-prospect Jonathan Huberdeau and the fact that Brian Campbell will be on the team until 2016 can only help Kulikov's efforts next season.

Again, Kulikov has little places to go but up. He still has a few years left where people will be referring to his potential.

Cam Fowler, Anaheim: The 21-year old has seen 32 games for the Ducks this season and he's regressed seriously since his 40-point rookie campaign two seasons earlier. Fowler has no goals and seven assists this year, that's it. The presence of veterans Francois Beauchemin and Sheldon Souray certainly have cut into Fowler's chances and productions, but owners expected more than seven assists through 32 games. He's missed some time due to injury and is currently day-to-day with an upper-body issue, however this season appears lost for Fowler. He, like Kulikov, also will wear the potential label for a few more seasons, but Fowler can likely be had for almost nothing next season, be it late in drafts or on waivers.

His teammate, Luca Sbisa is also seeing his numbers down from last year after notching 24 points through 80 games last season. Sbisa, famous for being the Philadelphia prospect sent to Anaheim in the Chris Pronger trade, can only bounce back next year. He's still 23-years old and stands to see more ice time for Anaheim as he matures.

Jake Gardiner, Toronto: The saga with Gardiner this season has been well documented; his struggles with coach Randy Carlyle, time spent in the AHL and his Twitter campaign, #freeJakeGardiner, started by his agent. There's no way to predict what will happen with Gardiner and the new regime in Toronto this offseason, but the kid has some serious upside. He's a better offensive option than John-Michael Liles and certainly will offer more scoring potential than recently acquired defender Ryan O'Byrne.

Gardiner has two points through nine games at various points of this season, but seems to be punished for every mistake he makes much more than other players on the Buds' roster. Gardiner posted 30 points through 75 games one year ago, his rookie campaign.

Yes, he's one of those American College boys that Don Cherry loves, but Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk are Americans as well. (Not that it should factor into it, but this is Toronto.) Gardiner should be a late-round target next fall, but bump him up a few spots if he moves from the Leafs.

Video clip of the week: The Devils lost 2-0 to Ottawa on Friday night, outshooting the Sens 33-11. Nothing was more comical than Ottawa's second goal, scored by Milan Michalek. Watch as Devils' defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Marek Zidlicky collide with one another after an offensive zone faceoff-win, springing Michalek and Daniel Alfredsson.

Get player news notifications, manage your team and check scores
- all updated in real time. Download the CBS Fantasy App.

  •  
 
CBSSports Facebook Google Plus
COMMENTS
Conversation powered by Livefyre
 
 
Player News
Brandon DeFazio
DeFazio Signs With Bruins
Brandon DeFazio, LW, VAN
12:21 AM
News: Brandon DeFazio signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Bruins on Monday.
Analysis: Brandon DeFazio, who played two games for the Canucks last season, gives the B's organization some added depth up front and the 26-year-old could compete for a fourth-line role with the big club in training camp.

Anders Nilsson
Nilsson Inks One-Year Deal With Oilers
Anders Nilsson, G, NYI
7/6/2015
News: Anders Nilsson signed a one-year (one-way), $1 million contract with the Oilers on Monday.
Analysis: It didn't take long for the Oilers to lock up Anders Nilsson after acquiring him from the Blackhawks on Monday. The one-way nature of the deal suggests that the Oilers are confident Nilsson can slot in as the team's backup goaltender. Ben Scrivens may be the odd-man out in Edmonton.

Julian Melchiori
Melchiori Inks One-Year Deal With Jets
Julian Melchiori, D, WPG
7/6/2015
News: Julian Melchiori signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Jets on Monday, Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports reports.
Analysis: Julian Melchiori will provide the Jets with depth at defense, which is important for Winnipeg, as the team's defensive corps was banged up early and often last season. He registered one goal and five assists in 70 games with AHL St. John's in 2014-15.

Evgeny Kuznetsov
Caps' Kuznetsov Signs Two-Year Deal
Evgeny Kuznetsov, C, WAS
7/6/2015
News: Evgeny Kuznetsov signed a two-year, $6 million contract extension with the Capitals on Monday, Chuck Gormley of CSN Washington reports.
Analysis: The "bridge deal" is close to what Evgeny Kuznetsov's camp and the Capitals had been rumored to be working on in previous days. Considering that the 23-year-old figures to be a fixture of Washington's offense next season, the cap hit is more than reasonable. After a slow initial adjustment to the North American game upon his debut in the second half of 2013-14, Kuznetsov's production ticked up down the stretch late last season. With Nicklas Backstrom recovering from offseason hip surgery, the Capitals will count on Kuznetsov for a breakout campaign in 2015-16.

Rich Clune
Leafs Sign Clune TO AHL Deal
Rich Clune, LW, NSH
7/6/2015
News: Rich Clune signed an AHL deal with Toronto over the weekend.
Analysis: Bought out of the final year of his contract by the Predators before free agency started, Rich Clune will head north to continue his career after recording 17 points in 62 games for AHL Milwaukee last season while making one appearance with their parent club in Nashville. Clune, who recently opened up in The Players' Tribune about his prior struggle with drug and alcohol addiction, has been sober for five years and could reemerge as a fourth-line option for the Maple Leafs at some point in 2015-16 if he first excels with their farm team.

Colin McDonald
Flyers Pick Up McDonald For Added Forward Depth
Colin McDonald, RW, PHI
7/6/2015
News: Colin McDonald signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Flyers on Friday.
Analysis: The right winger made 18 appearances during the regular season and two in the playoffs for the Islanders, providing two goals and six assists. He'll compete for a fourth-line role with the Flyers in training camp.

Leo Komarov
Leafs' Komarov Facing Charges In Finland
Leo Komarov, C, TOR
7/6/2015
News: Leo Komarov is facing four criminal charges in his native Finland in relation to a 2014 traffic accident, Lance Hornsby of the Toronto Sun reports.
Analysis: Leo Komarov is alleged to have been responsible for a "traffic hazard" and for "falsifying information to police," among other accusations. The 28-year-old could spend up to nine months in jail if found guilty of the charges during his August trial. For their part, the Leafs are standing by Komarov and expect the matter to be resolved before training camp opens, but the charges still cast a dark cloud over the forward. Komarov is under contract with the Leafs for three more seasons after accruing 26 points in 62 games in 2014-15.

Harry Zolnierczyk
Ducks Ink Zolnierczyk To One-Year Deal
Harry Zolnierczyk, RW, ANA
7/6/2015
News: Harry Zolnierczyk signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Ducks on Friday, TSN's Ryan Rishaug reports.
Analysis: The 27-year-old has been an insurance forward the last few seasons, occasionally seeing time for NHL clubs when injuries open up opportunities. At this point of his career, Harry Zolnierczyk appears best suited for a full-time role at the AHL level, where he recorded 18 goals and 44 points in 60 games for Bridgeport last season. The Ducks are expected to assign Zolnierczyk to their affiliate in San Diego to begin the upcoming campaign.

Marc-Andre Gragnani
Devils Sign Gragnani To Two-Way Deal
Marc-Andre Gragnani, D, NJ
7/6/2015
News: Marc-Andre Gragnani signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Devils on Friday, Tom Gulitti of The Record reports.
Analysis: Marc-Andre Gragnani returns to North America after spending the last two seasons in Europe, most recently with Bern of the Swiss Elite League. He led all defensemen in the league with 37 points in 49 games, which was good enough to earn him another look from an NHL club. The 28-year-old previously appeared in 74 NHL contests with the Sabres, Canucks, and Hurricanes, but will likely have to bide his time at AHL Albany before a role with the Devils comes to fruition.

Brett Connolly
Connolly Inks One-Year Deal With Bruins
Brett Connolly, RW, BOS
7/6/2015
News: Brett Connolly signed a one-year, $1.025 million contract with the Bruins on Monday.
Analysis: In the wake of the departures of fellow forwards Carl Soderberg and Milan Lucic this offseason, Brett Connolly -- whom the Bruins obtained from Tampa Bay this past March -- has a real shot at sliding into the team's top-six forward mix in 2015-16. The 6-2, 181-pound winger tallied 12 goals and 17 points in 55 NHL games overall last season, and at age 23, the 2010 first-rounder could be poised for a break-out in his first full campaign with the B's.

 
 
 
Top Videos
Rankings