Running with the (former) Devils

August 2, 2009
New Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri, formerly of the Calgary Flames, is likely to move from center to left wing -- and keep launching shots.

New Montreal Canadiens forward Mike Cammalleri, formerly of the Calgary Flames, is likely to move from center to left wing -- and keep launching shots.

In Fluto Shinzawa’s hockey notes column there’s a terrific “charticle” by Sean Smith about the Montreal Canadiens’ offseason moves.

Unfortunately, there’s no link to Smith’s excellent (and fantasy relevant) piece at Boston.com. So here’s our summary:

The Canadiens ditched Methuselah 36-year-old Alex Kovalev (26 goals, 39 assists, 209 shots), 34-year-old Saku Koivu (16-34-123) and 29-year-old Alex Tanguay (16-25-76). In their stead, GM Bob Gainey acquired 27-year-old Mike Cammalleri (39-43-255), 30-year-old Brian Gionta (20-40-248) and 29-year-old Scott Gomez (16-42-271).

Shots on goal in 2008-09 for Kovalev-Koivu-Tanguay: 408

Shots on goal in 2008-09 for Cammalleri-Gionta-Gomez: 774

On the surface, it seems like too lopsided a win for the Canadiens. That’s why I was suspicious. Koivu, for example, only played 65 games last season.  Tanguay only played 50. The J.D. Drew of hockey Kovalev showed up for 78, but in how many of those did he really play?

In 2007-08, by contrast, Kovalev played all 82 games; Koivu played 77 games; and Tanguay played 78. As you might expect, their aggregate shots on goal increased accordingly:

Shots on goal in 2007-08 for Kovalev (230)-Koivu (15o)-Tanguay (121): 501

The next step was to compare their 501 shots to the Cammalleri-Gionta-Gomez totals for 2007-08:

Shots on goal in 2007-08 for Cammalleri (210)-Gionta (257)-Gomez (242): 709

The Cammalleri-Gionta-Gomez trio still outshot the Kovalev-Koivu-Tanguay by a wide margin, even though Cammelleri played only 63 games in 2007-08 (compared to 81 in 2008-09). Gionta played all 82 games in 2007-08 (compared to 81 in 2008-09) and Gomez played 81 (compared to 77 in 2008-09).

What does all of this mean for fantasy purposes? Two takeaways:

1. Gionta and Gomez, reunited, will not return to their 2005-06 Devils glory. You remember the season, surely: Gionta (48-41-291) and Gomez (33-51-244) were never better.  It’s easy to forget that one season later both players — still together on the Devils — returned to statistical levels that have since become norms: Gomez (13-47-248) became the borderline No. 2 fantasy center that he is today. Gionta (25-20-194 in 62 games) became a borderline No. 2 right wing, worth owning mainly if you need help in the shots category.

2. Cammalleri’s value will not rise. Remember, he played with Jarome Iginla last year. ESPN’s Sean Allen believes a 30-30 season is a reasonable basement for Cammalleri, and I agree. That’s not bad, but it’s a dropoff from Cammalleri’s 2008-09 numbers. To be certain, Cammalleri remains a No. 1 left wing. But I won’t draft him ahead of a high-upside youngster like Rick Nash — the game’s best player, according to one Bruins’ defenseman, Shinzawa reports — or a gifted scorer (coming off a down year) with higher penalty-minute potential, like Dany Heatley.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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