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Blue Line Buzz: Predicting a streak

by | Rotowire.com
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(all statistics through Sunday, December 1)

We're Going Streaking ...

Part of the maddeningly frustrating appeal of Fantasy sports is the streaks. Winning streaks, hot streaks, steady yet unspectacular streaks and, of course, those stretches of futility. Streaks where you leave a player in your lineup for games or weeks and they fail to even look as if they're on the ice. Disgusted, you then remove the dead weight from your lineup, either cutting them or benching them, and then they proceed to remind you why they were in your lineup in the first place, by, you know, actually producing. Reinsert them, only to see zeroes.

On a larger scale, this always seems to work in threes. Player Y explodes in year one (not necessarily a rookie year, but year one for example's sake) when you didn't own him. Draft Player Y in year two anticipating that same level of production. He's a bust in year two; by year three you'll be damned if you'll invest in them again, only to see them explode back to year one level production.

Managing these streaks can be the key to finishing atop the pool. Some of it is dumb luck, but having an idea of players prone to streakiness can pay off as you decide whether it's a sage decision to utilize their skill set.

While power-play ice time and shots on goal are typically statistics to examine as harbingers of future production, looking at game logs is paramount.

Marek Zidlicky, New Jersey: Zidlicky has 13 points in 27 games. For defensemen that aren't elite point producers, a benchmark of a point every two games is solid, players you can rely on in later rounds to fill your roster. Take a closer look at Zidlicky. The Czech veteran is mired in a six-game points drought and has a mere four points over the last 15 games. Throughout his career, he's been a player who binges on points, doing just enough to mask those stretches where you forget he's on the ice in the offensive zone. (You likely won't forget he's on the ice in the defensive zone, neither will the opposition.) True, the emergence of rookie Eric Gelinas (2-8-10 in 17 games) and the recently hot Andy Greene (1-5-6 over his last five games) has had something to do with Zidlicky not producing as much, but Zidlicky has also seen his power-play time decline over the last five games, comprising a smaller percentage of his total ice time, which has stayed largely the same.

Utilizing a player like Zidlicky can pay off in deeper leagues, but the negatives and the unproductiveness outweigh most benefits.

Jason Garrison, Vancouver: Those who employ the talents of Garrison on their roster have likely enjoyed the six points he registered over a five-game span this past week, notching a goal and five helpers. However, you could excuse most owners if Garrison had been removed from the active lineup or jettisoned unceremoniously to waivers. The Orcas' blue line bomber had recently endured a span of 14 games where he didn't register a single point. True, Vancouver was mired in a losing streak at that time, but Garrison was still seeing regular ice time including one game with almost nine minutes on the power play. Garrison's goal in Thursday's win over Ottawa was his first in 25 games after he'd opened the season with a goal in each of Vancouver's first two tilts. Again, Garrison's numbers are deceiving on the whole, as he has 15 points in 29 games, just a shade over .50 points-per-game, solid numbers for a defensemen of his caliber, but is the production worth the hassle of owning him?

Remember, this is the man who potted 16 goals in the 2011-12 season for Florida, just three of which were tallied after the All-Star break. Goal-scoring defensemen are not easy to come by, which makes Garrison's slumps almost a necessary evil to having him on your roster. The flip side to this argument is that the 16-goal campaign was an aberration, as Garrison had seven tallies in his first two NHL seasons. That monster season earned him a massive contract with Vancouver in July 2012 and he slammed home eight goals in shortened season one winter ago.

Garrison has a howitzer of a point shot and gets to dish the puck to the Sedin twins on the power play when the two of them decide to play. Six of Garrison's 15 points, 40-percent, have come on the man advantage. Despite his having just three goals on the season, the prospect is there for Garrison to deliver quality numbers despite the fluctuation in production.

Duncan Keith, Chicago: Four years ago, Duncan Keith won an Olympic Gold Medal, a Norris Trophy and a Stanley Cup. Since then he's won another Cup but has seen his offensive production slide prior to this season. If you're looking for consistency this year without the peaks and valleys, Keith has delivered for owners, failing to register a point in only six games this season and never going more than three contests without one. Will he challenge the league's elite point-producing blue liners come season's end? Probably not, but it's steady production from a player known more for his name than his offensive production the last few years. While Keith is raking in helpers, 23, the same amount as Sidney Crosby heading into Sunday, tied for third in the league, Keith won't be scoring 14 goals as he did in his golden year. His 24 points put him behind only Ottawa cyborg Erik Karlsson's 27.

The sheer consistency with which Keith has been collecting assists lately is pleasing to owners (nine over his last seven games). You're not getting a player who is binging on points, scoring three goals over three games then disappearing (with Keith, you don't have to worry about goal scoring at all, actually). You're receiving consistent numbers, albeit ones that likely will slow down soon, but there is a track record of production (despite the last three seasons of regression). If Keith settles into the essentially guaranteed production levels of a Ryan Suter, that has to be considered more valuable than a player slamming home goals in spates only to vanish for a stretch.

Torey Krug, Boston: One of last spring's breakout stars of the playoffs, Krug is terrorizing Eastern Conference netminders with seven goals through 28 games, a pace that could regress back toward the mean, but an impressive one nonetheless. Krug is tied for the goals lead among NHL defensemen with seven, sharing it with Karlsson, Shea Weber and Phoenix's Michael Stone. There has to be attention paid to Krug (not that there hasn't been), who's ability to blast the puck unseated Zdeno Chara from the Bruins' power-play point, but again there are stretches where Krug just isn't finding the net, with a modest one goal over his last 12 games. He has nine assists and 16 points on the season, but over that 12-game stretch he did notch six assists, hitting the magic .50 points-per-game mark. Krug will continue seeing scoring chances, but do his goals make him more valuable than a player similar to him only putting up assists, say a Kevin Shattenkirk, whose 16 points breakdown is 1-15-16 rather than Krug's 7-9-16.

Question of the week: Steak or sizzle? Would you rather quiet, consistent production (think Loui Eriksson in his Dallas years) or a player who binges on points?

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Player News
Boyd Gordon
Oilers' Gordon In Line To Serve As No. 3 Center
Boyd Gordon, C, EDM
9/18/2014
News: Boyd Gordon is expected to serve as the Oilers' No. 3 center to begin the season, ESPN.com's Pierre LeBrun reports.
Analysis: Though filling the hole at the second-line center spot is the more pressing need for the Oilers, it appears that rookie Leon Draisaitl or Mark Arcobello will be given the opportunity to do so before Boyd Gordon does. Gordon is serviceable two-way depth center for the Oilers, but he doesn't offer enough offensive upside to keep up with the likes of David Perron and Nail Yakupov on the wings. Look for Gordon to finish with another season where he hovers around the 20-point mark.

Ilya Bryzgalov
Wild Talking To Bryzgalov About Tryout
Ilya Bryzgalov, G, MIN
9/18/2014
News: Minnesota has approached Ilya Bryzgalov about coming into training camp on a tryout, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: With Josh Harding suffering an ankle injury this summer and Darcy Kuemper unsigned and threatening to play overseas, the Wild may bring back Ilya Bryzgalov to serve as Niklas Backstrom's backup.

Josh Harding
Wild's Harding Ruled Out Indefinitely
Josh Harding, G, MIN
3:17 PM
News: Josh Harding has been ruled out indefinitely with a fractured right foot sustained in an off-ice incident Sept. 14.
Analysis: Josh Harding will fortunately be able to avoid surgery on the foot, but the injury more than likely dashes his chances of playing in the Wild's season opener. More details surrounding the nature of Harding's injury should become available in the coming days, but expect his stock to fall considerably in drafts as the season approaches. Harding already came with plenty of built-in health risk due to his complications with multiple sclerosis that have prematurely ended each of his last two seasons, so the injury only further damages his standing. Look for either Niklas Backstrom, Darcy Kuemper or perhaps a currently unsigned goalie to compete for No. 1 duties in training camp.

Max Domi
Domi Could Make Big Contribution
Max Domi, C, ARI
11:24 AM
News: Max Domi, who had a brilliant 93 point campaign for London in the OHL in 2013, is being looked to crack the Coyotes' lineup and add scoring, according to Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic.
Analysis: Max Domi's offensive ability is not in question, but coach Dave Tippett will need to be assured that he can handle his defensive duties in order for Domi to get the kind of ice time he needs to reach his potential.

Jaden Schwartz
Schwartz Remains Unsigned
Jaden Schwartz, LW, STL
11:05 AM
News: Jaden Schwartz, a restricted free agent, remains unsigned with one day left before camp opens, reports Andy Strickland of Fox Sports Midwest.
Analysis: Reports suggest that Jaden Schwartz and the Blues remain far apart. The 22 year-old had a break out season with 56 points and a plus-28 rating. It is unlikely that he will miss time in the regular season and hopefully any time he misses in camp does not cause him to get off to a slow start.

Justin Braun
Sharks Sign Braun To Five-Year Extension
Justin Braun, D, SJ
10:53 AM
News: Justin Braun, who set career bests with 17 points, four goals, and 13 assists last season, has inked a five-year, $19 million extension with the Sharks, which will begin in the 2015-16 season.
Analysis: Justin Braun's strengths for fantasy lie in his 20:59 of average ice time last year, but his value in other categories is generally limited. Though he occupies a prominent place on the Sharks' penalty kill, the aforementioned career-highs are nothing that will get you drafting him in early rounds. It's a great signing for the Sharks, but strictly from a real-life perspective.

Nathan Horton
Jackets' Horton Still Fighting Back Issues
Nathan Horton, RW, CLB
10:44 AM
News: Though he's fully recovered from his abdominal and shoulder injuries, Nathan Horton will be limited in the early stages of training camp due to lingering back issues, Shawn Mitchell of the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Nathan Horton appeared poised to enter his second training camp with the Blue Jackets at full health, but it didn't take long for him to succumb to another injury. While this latest ailment doesn't appear nearly as concerning as the abdominal and shoulder injuries that both required surgery over the last 14 months, it's difficult to rely on Horton staying upright over the course of a full season. If he's somehow able to dispatch the myriad health concerns that have plagued him the last several seasons, 50-point potential exists here. For right now, however, that projection probably appears overly optimistic.

Ryan Johansen
Jackets' Johansen Seems Headed For A Holdout
Ryan Johansen, C, CLB
9:06 AM
News: Blue Jackets GM Jarmo Kekalainen dropped strong hints that the club would stop negotiating with Ryan Johansen's agent once training camp begins on Thursday, the Columbus Dispatch reports.
Analysis: Meanwhile, club president John Davidson described agent Kurt Overhardt's contract proposals as "embarrassing" and "absurd", and said that while the Jackets are using Matt Duchesne's bridge deal as a reasonable point of comparison, Overhardt has been tossing around names like Stamkos and Toews. Public statements like these are clearly a negotiating tactic, but the Jackets do have enough depth at center that they could try to survive the loss of Ryan Johansen, last season's top scorer, by shifting Boone Jenner into the middle or possibly giving a prospect like Alexander Wennberg a long look.

Kris Letang
Pens' Letang At 100 Percent In Advance Of Camp
Kris Letang, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Kris Letang, who suffered a stroke nearly eight months ago, has been working out without any complications this summer and should be a full participant for the start of training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: In addition to the stroke, Kris Letang was limited to 37 games last season due to a knee injury and an elbow infection. Though he's the ultimate health risk after missing 99 games over the last three seasons, but few blueliners possess as much skill offensively as Letang, who still accumulated 11 goals and 11 assists in limited action in 2013-14. Letang compiled 50 points in his last full season in 2010-11, and that peak could be in reach again if he can avoid any long-term health complications.

Derrick Pouliot
Pens' Pouliot Not Expected To Be Ready For Camp
Derrick Pouliot, D, PIT
9/16/2014
News: Penguins coach Mike Johnston said Tuesday that Derrick Pouliot (shoulder) likely won't be ready for training camp, Josh Yohe of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports.
Analysis: Johnston said that Derrick Pouliot, one of the team's top prospects, would likely be able to take part in some skating at the start of camp, but he'll be held out of contact drills until further notice. The former No. 8 overall draft pick accumulated 17 goals and 53 assists over 58 games last season with the WHL's Portland Winterhawks.

 
 
 
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