Nobody's as jacked about the season being saved as your typical hardcore fantasy hockey freak (of which I am a proud member). Draft season is even more special this time around because instead of being neatly spread out over the course of a month, it's jam packed into 10 nerd fun-filled days!
But when you dust off those projections you bought last summer, you need to understand that it's not just a matter of multiplying their projected point totals by 48/82. You need to identify which players the season's delay hurts and helps, as well as which players are helped/hindered by a shorter schedule. Rather than bumble through that on your own, how be I force-feed it to you and you can just agree with me, kay?
Players Hurt by the Lockout
I have a theory, which pretty much becomes fact as soon as I publish it because damn it…it just sounds right. Here it is:
If a player is leaving his prime years, say in that 32 to 35 age group, and he has already shown signs of decline, then he should have been playing competitive hockey during the lockout.
And no, the odd charity game doesn't count. Three months of "informal" workouts after coming off a poor season (by that player's standards) is a recipe for disaster. Here are some candidates:
Dany Heatley, Minnesota Wild - On the heels of declining point totals in each of the last three seasons, the 31-year-old (he turns 32 in a couple of weeks) decided that the best way to turn things around would be to not play hockey.
Brad Richards, New York Rangers - The 32-year-old had seasons of 91, 77 and 66. The graph is straight as an arrow - and it's pointing downwards. Putting Rick Nash on his wing should help. But then again, putting Marian Gaborik there didn't, so...
Vincent Lecavalier, Tampa Bay Lightning - Same deal here. He's 32, his seasons have gone from 70 points to 54 to 49. He could have used the extra work, but instead he's behind the eight ball.
Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks - The sisters chose to workout at home after a season in which they saw sub-point-per-game numbers for the first time in four years. Not the greatest of ideas. I wouldn't expect a big decline, but I'm not seeing a rebound either. (Also, I called them the sisters because I love counting how many Vancouver fans comment "sisters - real original", and then call me a name.)
Mike Ribeiro, Washington Capitals - Ribeiro's decline has been a small one, but the best way to keep that going is to spend three months working out off the ice. Or the only time on the ice is with guys who have beer guts that top mine.
[Related: Winners and losers of the NHL lockout]
Players Helped by the Lockout
I slide these players into three categories: 'Old Vets'; 'Band-Aid Boys'; and 'Rushed Kids'
The oldest players in the league
The oldest players in the league are the players who are still in the NHL because their skills are at such a high level that it takes longer for them to erode. These guys can still do it over 40 games, but often by Game 60 or 70, they're just getting secondary assists or no points at all. Well, not only did they have some extra rest, but they'll only be playing 48 games.
Teemu Selanne, Anaheim Ducks - Now 42, there's no arguing that Teemu is amazing. He had 66 points last season…but after the 52-game mark he managed just 16 points in 30 games. Now he's allowed to slow down after the 52-game mark.
Jaromir Jagr, Dallas Stars - Jagr got his customary groin injury out of the way while playing in the Czech League. It should be a snap to get through 48 games. As long as the 'snap' isn't the sound of his groin, he should be okay.
Ray Whitney, Dallas Stars - If you look at his stats across the board, last season (at 39) was the best one of his NHL career. He's gotta slow down some time, but I'm betting it will be around Game 49.
Daniel Alfredsson, Ottawa Senators - This is tailor-made for the 40-year-old, who has been fighting one injury or another these last three years. His body is breaking down faster than Gary Bettman's credibility, but he can do 48 games in his sleep.
Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers - After slipping into the 35-40 point range, Timonen shot back up to 43 when he had to shoulder the workload left by the Chris Pronger injury. The 37-year-old Timonen's body is wearing down and he's questioned whether it can handle a condensed schedule, but he just has to gut it out for 48 games.
The injury prone players, or "Band-Aid Boys", are looking at fewer games to get injured in. That's the long and the short of it. Although this season didn’t start early enough for the Carlo Colaiacovos and Marcel Gocs of the hockey world, here are some key fragile players who could start and finish the campaign intact.
Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings - Kronwall has 17 points in the last 19 games that he played with Nicklas Lidstrom out of the lineup. He's been pretty durable the last two years, missing just five games, but he missed 121 of 410 games prior to that.
Steve Sullivan, Phoenix Coyotes - Although he managed 79 games last season, we all know Sully's back is strapped together with duct tape and Bazooka Joe bubble gum. The added rest and the three-month season is very doable.
Sidney Crosby, Pittsburgh Penguins - Thirty-four fewer games in which to sustain a concussion.
Martin Havlat, San Jose Sharks - He who is so injury prone that he gets sidelined for months just from climbing over the boards is happy. The added rest did a world of good and it's a nice, short season he can play hard in.
The Young Guns
Sometimes a team has a 19-year-old that's too good for junior hockey, but not eligible to play in the AHL. So they keep him. That's not always a good thing, as their development slows. Or maybe the player was ready for the NHL, but could use a bit more seasoning that he wouldn't otherwise get. A lockout forcing these kids into the AHL the following year is great for turning that around. It also helps rookies who arrived from Europe and would have been thrown directly into the lion's den of the NHL - but instead get some time to get acclimated to North American pro hockey. Players such as:
Ryan Johansen, Columbus Blue Jackets - He tallied nearly a point-and-a-half per game for Portland (WHL) before joining the train wreck Blue Jackets. Not the greatest environment to kick off a pro career. But then, by that logic, he wishes the lockout lasted several years. He has 26 points in 33 AHL contests.
Cody Eakin, Dallas Stars - The Capitals did everything right with Eakin last season. They were careful with him and he exceeded expectations at the NHL level. Dallas would have had him in their lineup with hopes of him being the second-line center. That may not have turned out well. Either way, three months of further AHL seasoning combined with the return to health of Derek Roy and Eakin will slide seamlessly onto the third line with no pressure.
Mikael Granlund, Minnesota Wild - Granlund is destined to make a splash as a rookie whether it happened in October or January. But it sure doesn't hurt to give him 21 AHL games (21 points) to get used to the small ice.
Nino Niederreiter, New York Islanders - It was a horrible season for El Nino that destroyed his confidence. But his PDO stat was 889, which was the lowest in the league. His teammates had a shooting percentage of 0.84% when he was on the ice. It's hard to get assists when your linemates are whiffing. Well 34 games into the AHL season and he has 34 points, good for seventh in league scoring. Confidence-o-meter now sits at 10 out of 10. Were it not for the lockout and the Islanders kept him up, he would have been Gilbert Brule-ed for sure.
Jakob Silfverberg, Ottawa Senators - Last year's SEL MVP was supposed to make a splash in Ottawa as a rookie. But that may not have worked out, given how he started at the AHL level. He had just four points in his first 10 AHL games and was minus-5. But that's what the AHL is for - to work through that stuff and right the ship. And he did exactly that, posting 25 points in 23 games (plus-9) since.
Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, Philadelphia Flyers - Much like Jason Spezza and Eric Staal didn't "need" more time in the minors back in 2004, it sure as hell helped them out. Spezza came out of the lockout and posted 90 points, which was a 35-point jump from the season before 04-05. Staal went out and posted 100 points. So yeah. It helped. Schenn sits 12th in AHL scoring with 33 points, while Couturier has 28.
Brett Connolly, Tampa Bay Lightning - The 20-year-old is used to putting up huge numbers, so he wasn't used to seeing his rookie output sitting at 15 points in 68 games. With Syracuse he's tallied 30 points in 33 contests and he'll ride that wave back onto the big club.
• • •
And yes, I missed lots of players in this column. I did it to drive you nuts. If you're looking for more help for your draft, I have a new mobile draft app for Android and iPhone, or pick up my Fantasy Hockey Guide here - all are based on the 48-game season and frequently updated with injury notes.
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