Fantasy Hockey Genius, signing off

October 2, 2010

My thanks to anyone who has read and supported Fantasy Hockey Genius during its two-year run. You can continue to read my fantasy sports musings at and Thank you!

Ranking the fantasy goalies…for next season

March 25, 2010

Buffalo Sabres G Ryan Miller is easily the best fantasy goalie heading into next year's fantasy drafts. He is well worthy of a top ten pick.

With fewer than 10 games left in the NHL regular season — aka the fantasy hockey season — it’s still a little early to plan for the 2010-11 campaign.

A lot can change in the offseason.

But for those of us in keeper formats, it’s never too early to start Draft 1 of the goalie cheat sheet:

1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres (37 wins, 2.20, .929, 5 shutouts). This season, Miller was the class of his position. His track record is also something to bank on. In each of his four seasons as a full-time starter, he has won at least 34 games. His save percentage and GAA have improved in each of the last three seasons. And he does not turn 30 until this summer.

For the record, the only non-goalies I would draft ahead of Miller are (in this order): Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Mike Green. And maybe — maybe — Zach Parise.

2. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils (40 wins, 2.34, .914, 7 shutouts). It’s a boring choice, I recognize, but sometimes Sam Adams Lager is the best beer at the bar. To be fair, some signs point to a statistical slippage. He turns 38 in May; his win totals, GAA and save percentage were better in 2006-07 and 2007-08. But when you compare his numbers to those of the other goalies in contention for No. 2, he remains the wisest choice for your second-round investment.

He is, in other words, the Mariano Rivera of NHL goalies: Slipping, but still one of the top three options — and the single safest option — any way you slice it.

Yes, Brodeur was outperformed this season by Ilya Bryzgalov and Miikka Kiprusoff, and to a lesser extent Tomas Vokoun. But if I’m taking bets for 2010-11, I’ll still take Brodeur. Bryzgalov might be a one-season wonder, while Kiprusoff and Vokoun have tortured fantasy owners for years with their in-season inconsistency.

3. Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks (38 wins, 2.43, .921, 2 shutouts). Nabokov, who turns 35  in July, is like a younger version of Brodeur. His GAA and save percentage both improved this season, and his win total still has a chance to eclipse last year’s (41). So why have I ranked him below Brodeur? Mainly because Nabokov’s shutouts slipped to a paltry two. That is a handicap, especially in week-to-week leagues.

I also cannot shake the specter of Nabokov’s two career lapses: the 2002-03 and 2005-06 campaigns. Yes, it’s arguable — given how terrific he has been in the last three seasons — that Nabokov’s “down” seasons are over. But Brodeur does not have down seasons. And he always posts his share of shutouts.

Next time: Goalies No. 4 – No. 6.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The (fantasy) silver lining of Savard’s loss

March 16, 2010

Bruins C Patrice Bergeron has been one of the top centers in fantasy since his teammate Marc Savard (concussion) got hurt March 7.

The Bruins are 1-2-1 in the four games since C Marc Savard (concussion) went down March 7.

Obviously, the Spoked B’s aren’t as potent without their top playmaker.

Still, we couldn’t help but notice that three Bruins forwards have found fantasy relevance in Savard’s absence.

C Patrice Bergeron (27.2 percent owned in ESPN, 26 percent in Yahoo!). In his last four games: three goals, three assists, +5. He ranks No. 29 in ESPN and No. 25 in Yahoo! among all players in the last seven days. Interestingly, Bergeron’s minutes have not increased in the four games sans Savard. But his scoring has. Still, you should be wary of one thing: Bergeron’s hot streak does not include a single power play point.

RW Blake Wheeler (84 percent owned in ESPN, 34 percent in Yahoo!). In his last four games: three goals, two assists, +4, good for a No. 44 rank in ESPN and No. 41 in Yahoo! over the last seven days. Whereas Bergeron’s minutes have not changed in Savard’s absence, Wheeler’s have spiked: He has logged more than 19:00 in each of his last two games. Up till now, he’s been lucky to crack 17:00 in a given contest. However, Wheeler does share one trait with Bergeron: no productivity on the power play in Savard’s absence.

LW Marco Sturm (82.9 percent owned in ESPN, 15 percent in Yahoo!). In his last four games: two goals, two assists, +4, and yes, a power play goal. He ranks No. 12 in Yahoo! and No. 19 in ESPN over the last seven days. However, like Bergeron, he has not seen an increase in ice time in Savard’s absence.

Like most teams, the Bruins face a packed upcoming schedule, a cramming designed to offset the regular season’s two-week Olympic hiatus. Specifically, the Bruins visit Carolina Tuesday night, host the Penguins Thursday night, and then host the Rangers Sunday afternoon.

So, which of these three Bruins — a center, a left wing, and a right wing — should you pick up for the stretch run? None, if your biggest need is power play points. But if your biggest need is simply points in general — i.e. goals and assists — then let positional scarcity be your guide.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Friday night fantasy feast: Tampa Bay at Washington

March 10, 2010

Don't overlook the fantasy potency of Lightning C Steven Stamkos and his teammates at Washington on Friday night.

The Capitals need no introduction to the fantasy hockey world. They average 3.82 goals per game, tops in the NHL.

On Friday they host the Lightning, who yield 2.93 goals per game (ranking 22nd). The Lightning also rank second in the NHL in penalty minutes, with 1,099 on the season. More on that later.

The last time these two teams faced off in Washington on March 4, the Caps prevailed 5-4.

Right wings Mike Knuble and Scott Walker each scored twice for the Caps, and RW Eric Fehr registered the other Washington goal.

It would seem like an obvious time to snag any Caps right wings from your free agent pool. While that is true, we’re here to tell you: Don’t overlook the Lightning side of the fantasy equation.

Yes, they have lost three of their last four contests. But Tampa Bay has also scored a whopping 13 goals in those four games (including the 5-4 loss at Washington).

In the March 4 game, Lightning RW Steve Downie scored once, C Vincent Lecavalier scored twice and C Steven Stamkos also scored.

Among this trio, perhaps only Downie is available in your league. That brings us back to the penalty minutes. The Lightning find the penalty box against everybody, and Downie (186 PIM) is a big reason why.

Against Washington on March 4, Downie did not log a single penalty minute. But four of his teammates did: Stamkos, RW Mark Parrish, D Kurtis Foster and D Victor Hedman all logged two-minute minors.

On the Washington side, D-men Mike Green, Tom Poti and Jeff Schultz all sat for two-minute minors, as did Knuble, C Nicklas Backstrom and LW Brooks Laich.

All told: This game featured nine goals and 10 penalties (on 10 different players).

In other words, it was a fantasy feast. And the record shows, it wasn’t just the big-name hockey stars dining at the table.

So grab as many Caps and Lightning as you can for Friday night’s match-up.  Then sit tight and watch the numbers roll in.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

So fresh, so Steen

March 8, 2010

Blues C Alex Steen could help your squad this week if you need an injury replacement for Bruins C Marc Savard (above).

How long will the Bruins be without the stellar services of C Marc Savard (concussion)? Carried off the ice on a stretcher in Sunday’s 2-1 loss at Pittsburgh, Savard was moving his limbs — that’s the good news.

The bad news: Even if he is bodily ready, a head injury is something the Bruins will not take chances with. (It is safe to say the organization recalls how long it took C Patrice Bergeron to return to playing condition.)

Scan your league’s free agent pool for Savard replacements, and there’s one pivot who stands out: Blues C Alex Steen, owned in only2.8 percent of ESPN leagues and 8 percent of Yahoo! formats. How shall we make the case for Steen? Four ways:

1. On fire. In the three games the Blues have played since the Olympic fortnight, Steen has three goals and three assists. In the last seven days, he ranks No. 8 in ESPN and No. 9 in Yahoo! leagues.

2. This is when the Blues get hot. Last season at this time, Blues G Chris Mason went on a hot streak of fantasy-title winning proportions. From March 10 to April 12 of last year, Mason (and the Blues) went 12-3-2.  Those who rode the Blues in March and April were fantasy money down the stretch.

3. The Blues have an easy upcoming schedule. They do not play again until Thursday, March 11, but on that night they visit the Islanders. The next two stops — at Columbus March 13 and at Minnesota March 14 — hardly strike fear in the hearts of owners.

4. Steen has pedigree on his side. The 24th overall pick in 2002, Steen just turned 26 and tied his career high in goals (18), which he set as a rookie with Toronto in 2005-06.

Now, no one is saying Steen is going to morph into a draft-worthy fantasy center in the season’s final few weeks. But he has the talent — and supporting cast — to give your team a lift for the next few weeks. And if you own Savard, your team might need one.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The fantasy case for Corvo

March 4, 2010

Capitals D Joe Corvo, pictured here in Canes candy, is a must-add fantasy blueliner.

Scan the NHL’s plus/minus rankings.

The top three players — and five of the top nine — are Washington Capitals. Further down — ranked No. 13 with a +23 — is Caps RW Mike Knuble.

Of the six Caps among the league’s best in +/-, two are defensemen: Jeff Schultz (+37) and Mike Green (+29). Then there are Caps D-men Tom Poti (+19) and John Erskine (+16), no slouches either. Even Shaone Morrisonn, the Caps No. 5 D, is a +11.

All of this bodes well for new Caps D Joe Corvo, acquired Wednesday from the Hurricanes at the deadline.

Corvo has always been a terrific +/- player. He is a career +43 despite his -6 this year with the wretched Canes. So statistical evidence strongly suggests he’ll be a boon to fantasy owners in an important category.

Moreover, Corvo has surpassed 12 goals and 20 power play points in three seasons of his seven-year career. He has eclipsed 150 shots on goal in four separate campaigns. These are numbers you don’t often find in defensemen, let alone players surrounded by a cast like Washington’s.

Because Corvo, 30, has not produced this season — 12 points in 34 games — his fantasy ownership has dwindled to 35 percent in Yahoo! formats and 55.1 percent in ESPN leagues.

That will probably change after his debut vs. the Lightning tonight at 7:00 pm EST. So grab him now, before you miss out on a chance to upgrade your fantasy blue line at no cost.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Two Canadiens to watch Tuesday night (Pouliot, Kostitsyn)

February 28, 2010

Canadiens LW Andrei Kostitsyn (knee) is slated to return to the lineup for Tuesday night's tilt at Boston. Get him in your fantasy lineup, too.

A tip of the fantasy cap to’s Sean Allen, whose latest Forecaster column contains a note about two Montreal Canadiens who’ve been favorites of the Genius all season: LW Andre Kostitsyn (knee) and RW Benoit Pouliot (shoulder).

Both players are scheduled to return to the lineup for Tuesday night’s 7:00 pm game at the Boston Bruins.

Both players were on fire before injuries derailed their prolific campaigns. True, their scoring touch might not return in their first few games back, as Allen points out. But as faithful readers of the Genius know, we never hesitate to dump our No. 4 defenseman for a speculative add at forward.

In case you’ve forgotten your NHL box scores during the Olympic fortnight, let us remind you:

Pouliot (3.3 percent owned in ESPN, 13 percent in Yahoo!) had tallied five goals and two assists in the eight games prior to his Feb. 5 injury.

Kostitsyn (64.3 percent owned in ESPN, 15 percent in Yahoo!) had logged eight goals and three assists in the 11 games prior to his Jan. 3 injury.

Forced to pick one of the two returning Habs, I’d go with AK-46 (above), who has the pedigree (10th overall pick in 2003) and simply looks like the more lethal scorer to the naked eye.

The only thing in Pouliot’s favor is his positional scarcity as a RW. Still, both Habs are worth keeping tabs on. And both are likely available in your league, especially if your fellow owners have gone to sleep during the Olympics.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons