I’d caution anyone who attempts to climb too deep into Tim Thomas’ thoughts - however you may lean politically, he’s a goalie, for goodness sakes - yet I can’t help but ignore my own advice and venture a guess that he’s feeling a little bit weird about being upset about the trade that sent him from the lowly Florida Panthers to the scratching-and-clawing Dallas Stars.
In a truly jarring scene, Minnesota Wild forward Erik Haula collided with would-be Stars starter Kari Lehtonen on Saturday, leaving the talented and starcrossed Finn bloodied and possibly concussed. It’s early, but word doesn’t seem too promising about how Lehtonen is feeling, leaving the Stars to justifiably call up Cristopher Nilstorp on Sunday.
So, that brings us to Thomas, de facto Dallas starter for an undetermined amount of time and an immediate no-brainer for anyone in need of goaltending help at this late stage in the fantasy season. As of this writing, the 39-year-old is owned in 35 percent of Yahoo leagues, you have a nice shot at getting him. Honestly, even owners with solid goalies should at least consider giving the unorthodox American a gander, especially if there are increasingly dire updates about Lehtonen’s health.
Credit the hiring of Lindy Ruff (aka the guy who was behind the bench for those post-second-most-recent-lockout* Buffalo Sabres teams who were sensational-yet-short-lived, much like the Chris Webber Sacramento Kings and Bruce Boudreau Washington Capitals), those mostly awesome unis or the Tyler Seguin acquisition** or savory brisket, but the Stars are becoming a surprisingly beloved team. Even some San Jose Sharks bloggers find themselves being won over … or at least loathing the Stars less with each pulse-pounding game.
That’s a long, highly positive preamble to a warning: the Stars are going to be an adventure. While Thomas’ acrobatic, borderline surrealistic style fits that dynamic from an artistic standpoint, it could make for some meltdowns and some moments when fantasy owners going to bed with leads only to see those numbers swing thanks to wild third periods.
After all, Thomas is far from the Zdeno Chara cocoon that opened the door for such stunning developments as Boston Bruins backup Chad Johnson boasting more wins than Cory Schneider so far this season.
While the Stars tend to create more chances than they allow - they average about a shot more per game than they allow and they seem to shake out well in fancy stats categories - my impression is that they’re not one to sit on leads, either.
In other words, Thomas is going to be an adventure, which means some nights will be better than others. And that could very well be seen in a very dramatic way in a night-to-night basis. As with many Western Conference teams, the Stars have a pretty jam-packed schedule, including four remaining back-to-back games. Whether Lehtonen comes back or not, that will likely open things up for some highs and lows.
I’ve argued in favor of Thomas more than a few times, so regular Dose readers probably aren’t shocked that I’m pumping his tires once more. It’s especially appealing that the team he’s playing for now has as much on the line as he does; Thomas is an unrestricted free agent this summer and a strong playoff run could be lucrative for all parties involved.
Now, of course, Lehtonen could very well bounce back and make much of this moot. For a guy who was once the second pick of a draft (2002, to be exact), Lehtonen is a weirdly unlikely guy (waits for the “actually he was unlucky in that he was a second pick by Atlanta jokes”), though. So we’ll see.
It was a nasty hit, so best of luck to Lehtonen. If he’s healthy again soon, things get downright confusing, as the two could engage in a tug-of-war for starts as easily as Lehtonen could dominate the reps.
FROM 9 TO 91
Speaking of domination, what a weekend for Tyler Seguin. On the night that Mike Modano’s No. 9 went into the Dallas rafters, Seguin capped a stunning duo of games, as he scored eight points in two nights, making an argument that his 91 might ascend some day in Dallas, too. That eight-point run included getting the game-tying goal and two assists in the same evening that Lehtonen was injured. (In fact, Seguin’s PPG came during the five-minute major power play Dallas received via Haula’s charging penalty.)
Now Seguin has 66 points in 62 games played this season, tying him with Patrick Kane and John Tavares for the fifth highest total in the NHL this season.
That impressive jump leaves me wondering where Seguin ranks among the best scorers in the NHL, so I consulted Hockey Reference’s handy tools to find out.
If you begin with the most points scored since Seguin’s rookie season in 2010-11, Seguin ties for 55th overall with Alexander Semin at 187 points scored (one behind Jakub Voracek and, to the surprise of some, Teddy Purcell).
Things get a lot more impressive if you start off with his breakthrough sophomore season in 2012-13, however. Under those circumstances, Seguin's 165 points leave him one point behind James Neal, Henrik Sedin and Jonathan Toews at 166 points and tied with Henrik Zetterberg for 18th best among all NHL players.
* - That phrasing is why you should always roll your eyes at Gary Bettman apologists who push their arguments a little TOO far.
** - Probably this.