Puck Daddy - NHL

Hockey fantasy league victims participants each have his or her own draft strategy. In the Yahoo! league I've taken part in for the last several seasons, my priorities are to start with the biggest offensive numbers-generator on the board, then grab a Nicklas Lidstrom-type two-way star defenseman and then hope that Patrik Elias is available later in the draft ... because my team name is the Elias Sports Bureau, you see.

Goalies? After Miika Kiprusoff nearly torpedoed my campaign by playing like Kip Dynamite for the first few months in 2007, I'm off of selecting star goalies extraordinarily high on the draft board. ESPN, however, is not.

The WWL came out with a rather extensive collection of fantasy hockey rankings yesterday. ("Believe it or not, people think people at ESPN hate hockey." - Barry Melrose) I don't play ESPN leagues and never have. (Countdown to glorious Yahoo! league continues...) In other words, I'm not sure if goaltenders mean more for scoring on ESPN than they do in other fantasy leagues; their fantasy page says something about the draft rankings "being based on ESPN's standard game settings."

That's the only rationale I could envision for this:

1. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils
4. Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim Ducks
7. Jose Theodore, Washington Capitals
10. Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks
14. Carey Price, Montreal Canadiens
15. Ilya Bryzgalov, Phoenix Coyotes

Just under half of the top 15 ranked players are goalies? Me thinks someone's trying to put the fantasy back in Fantasy.

Forget, for a moment, the illogic of Nabokov ranking fourth overall for goalies. He's as studly a stud as you'll find between the pipes; unless you believe the Sharks are going to tank (wocka. wocka.) without Ron Wilson behind the pine, I might even have him over Brodeur.

Also forget, just for a moment, that some of their opinions are a bit wacky:

Bryzgalov will have a lower win total than some other top goalies, but his expected workload means his stellar goals-against average and save percentage will count for a lot towards your totals.

Do the words "contract year" mean anything?

The fact is that there are just too many damn goalies in the Top 15. Fox Sports' rankings from June had two goalies in their top 15. One of those goalies was named Roberto Luongo; if you're wondering where ESPN has him, that would be 26th overall - behind Cristobal Huet (18th, and a goalie in a platoon this season) and Chris Osgood (22nd, and good for 60 games at best). I guess 35 wins, a 2.38 GAA, a .917 save percentage and six shutouts ain't what they used to be.

Fantasy rankings are like racist jokes: Everybody has them, and they're guaranteed to offend somebody. And ranking Jose Theodore higher than the Pittsburgh Penguins' Evgeni Malkin or the San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton is patently offensive to anyone with a functioning brain. Why not just toss Marty Turco up there, too? Oh, that's right: He's ranked 58th overall, two slots behind the porcelain Manny Fernandez of the Boston Bruins, a guy you're going to have to wait until five minutes before game time to start because there are a gazillion other goaltending options for Boston. Sheesh!

In a way, fantasy players owe ESPN a debt of gratitude. Some casual fan dillweed who you invited just to get an even number in your league will log on to this list the day before your fantasy draft and print it out for reference. And then, when he or she uses this rigid ranking as gospel, you'll all have a laugh as dillweed snags Cristobal Huet before Marian Hossa because ESPN said so.

Look, we're having some fun at the WWL's expense, which is our god-given right as embittered hockey fans who watched ESPN give more love to Texas Hold'em than the Stanley Cup playoffs back when it had the rights. But this fantasy list was good fodder, and some of the network's moves this summer indicate a willingness to give the NHL improved coverage. And that's a good thing.

Also good: That ESPN has ranked 450 players for fantasy hockey. Memo to Landon Wilson, right wing for the Dallas Stars: Hey, dude, someone had to bring up the rear. Ouch.

FYI: The Flyers-centric Philabright blog has put out power rankings. And naturally has the Flyers fourth in the NHL and the Penguins sixth.

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