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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
Cody Eakin
Eakin Agrees To Four-Year Extension With Stars
Cody Eakin, C, DAL
8/28/2015
News: Cody Eakin agreed to a four-year, $15.4 million contract extension with the Stars on Friday, Mike Heika of the Dallas Morning News reports.
Analysis: The 24-year-old was a solid producer for the Stars in 2014-15, registering 40 points (19 goals, 21 assists) in 78 games with the team. He will likely return to his role centering the Stars' third line this season, and should produce similarly barring significant injury.

Elias Lindholm
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Elias Lindholm, C, CAR
8/27/2015
News: Elias Lindholm signed a two-year, $5.4 million contract extension with the Hurricanes on Thursday.
Analysis: Elias Lindholm was a solid contributor in his first full NHL season in 2014-15, registering 39 points (17 goals, 22 assists) in 81 games with the team. He will return to his role as a top-six forward with Carolina this season, and should have a great shot at improving upon his offensive numbers from a year ago as he continues his development as an NHL forward.

Patrik Berglund
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8/27/2015
News: Patrik Berglund aggravated a dislocated right shoulder while working out and is set to undergo surgery Friday, Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reports. He'll require at least four months of recovery time.
Analysis: Patrik Berglund first dislocated the shoulder in 2013-14, and required surgery last offseason to address the issue. The center was able to recover in time from that procedure to play on Opening Night last season, but given how late in the offseason calendar the setback occurred this time around, it looks like Berglund won't take the ice again until the calendar flips to 2016. His extended absence could allow prospect Robby Fabbri to claim third-line center duties out of training camp, with veteran Scott Gomez also in the mix if coach Ken Hitchcock prefers a more experienced option for that role.

Scott Gomez
Gomez Signs PTO With Blues
Scott Gomez, C, NJ
8/27/2015
News: Scott Gomez accepted a professional tryout offer with the Blues on Thursday, Andy Strickland of FOX Sports Midwest reports.
Analysis: After failing to garner a contract in free agency for the second straight offseason, Scott Gomez will again head to training camp on a PTO, as he did last season in New Jersey. Though he wasn't able to crack the Devils' Opening Night roster, he continued to work out with the team after the tryout period ended and was eventually signed to the team when injuries opened up an opportunity in late November. Gomez would end the season as one of the more productive contributors on the offensively challenged Devils, finishing third on the team with 34 points. The Blues boast a far deeper roster of forward talent, but with the news surfacing after Gomez's signing that Patrik Berglund would miss at least four months following shoulder surgery, an opening on the third line could exist for the 35-year-old.

Max Pacioretty
Habs' Pacioretty Still On Schedule With Rehab
Max Pacioretty, LW, MON
8/27/2015
News: Canadiens coach Michel Therrien said recently that Max Pacioretty (knee) remains on schedule in the rehabilitation process, Arpon Basu of LNH.com reports.
Analysis: Max Pacioretty sustained the knee injury while working out in Florida in early July, and was given a projected recovery timetable of 10-to-12 weeks. Given the length of the timetable, Pacioretty is expected to sit out all of training camp, and while his availability for the Oct. 7 regular-season opener in Toronto remains possible, he'd likely be subjected to limited minutes in the early going as he looks to build endurance. Once back to full health, Pacioretty should reemerge as the Habs' most dangerous offensive option after he potted 37 goals and a career-high 67 points in 2014-15.

Ladislav Smid
Flames Expecting Smid Back For Training Camp
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8/27/2015
News: The Flames' front office believes Ladislav Smid (neck) will be ready to skate during the team's first on-ice session at training camp in September, the Calgary Sun reports.
Analysis: Ladislav Smid's season came to an end last January when he required surgery on his neck, but his communication with the Flames to this point in the offseason suggests he has recovered well from the procedure. If healthy, Smid will compete in camp with Deryk Engelland for a spot as Calgary's sixth defenseman.

Sidney Crosby
Pens' Crosby Likely To Play Next To Kessel
Sidney Crosby, C, PIT
8/27/2015
News: Coach Mike Johnston said earlier this week that Sidney Crosby is expected to play next to Phil Kessel to begin training camp, CBS Sports reports.
Analysis: The Penguins have cycled in a number of right wingers next to Sidney Crosby throughout his career, and while Patric Hornqvist proved capable in that capacity last season, he's not nearly as prolific at finding twine as Kessel, a five-time 30-goal scorer. With his health concerns beginning to fade away after missing only seven games over the last two seasons, Crosby once again looks like a reasonable choice at No. 1 overall in fantasy drafts, even after scoring only 28 goals in 2014-15, his lowest total in any year he's suited up for at least 60 contests. Crosby probably won't come close to approaching the 51-goal peak he reached in 2009-10, but a slight uptick in his anomalous 11.8 shooting percentage coupled with the likely increase in assist opportunities with Kessel blitzing the net could make a return to 100 points conceivable.

Mike Richards
Charges Announced For Ex-King Richards
Mike Richards, C, LA
8/27/2015
News: Mike Richards was formally charged with possession of a controlled substance while entering Canada stemming from a June 17 border stop by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Manitoba, Greg Wyshynski of Yahoo! Sports reports.
Analysis: The Kings determined the incident gave them just cause to release Mike Richards for a "material breach" of his 12-year contract, a decision that prompted the NHL Players Association to file a grievance. The nature of the border stop likely won't affect the outcome of that legal battle, as both the NHLPA and the Kings were aware of the circumstances surrounding the incident. Currently a free agent, Richards is able to sign with any team while the grievance remains underway, but his steep decline in performance over the last few seasons coupled with this ongoing dispute probably has few organizations interested in his services.

Kyle Okposo
Isles Begin Contract Talks With Okposo
Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI
8/26/2015
News: Kyle Okposo and the Islanders have begun talks on a new contract, according to Islanders Point Blank.
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Sami Aittokallio
Avs Re-Sign Aittokallio
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8/26/2015
News: Sami Aittokallio has re-signed with the Avalanche on a one-year, two-way contract, General Fanager reports.
Analysis: Sami Aittokallio appears to be the clear No. 4 goalie in the Colorado organization behind Semyon Varlamov, Calvin Pickard, and Reto Berra, so it's somewhat surprising he elected to commit for another year rather than bolt for Europe. Even so, Aittokallio's contract does at least include a clause for him to play overseas if he isn't guaranteed a roster spot with the Avalanche, potentially opening the door for him to leave the club if he's assigned to the AHL out of training camp, as expected.

 
 
 
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