Chiding the Worldwide Leader + Three Legit Sleepers

September 26, 2009
Sleeper, my ass: ESPN.com lists Lighting C Steven Stamkos as a "sleeper." Do they believe their audience actually follows hockey?

Sleeper, my ass: ESPN.com lists Lighting C Steven Stamkos as a "sleeper," as if the first overall pick in 2008 were Steve the Obscure.

Is there anything more annoying in fantasy sportswriting than a sweeping generalization player labeled a sleeper who is not a sleeper?

When I write “sleeper,” I mean a player who is unlikely to be drafted.

I do not mean players like Lightning C Steven Stamkos or Rangers RW Marian Gaborik, who are on the sleeper list of ESPN.com’s experts. Gaborik, the third overall pick in 2000, scored 42 goals in 2007-08; he has been a point-per-game scorer for the past four seasons. How on earth is he a sleeper? Stamkos was the first overall pick in 2008. No, his rookie season was hardly The Crosby Show circa 2005-06. But pedigree alone puts¬† Stamkos on everyone’s radar.

A few days ago I participated in a 16-round live draft for a 12-team Yahoo! public league. Gaborik was the 22nd overall pick (Round 2, Pick 10). Stamkos was the sixth pick of Round 10. This alone disqualifies them from genuine sleeper-dom.

But enough kvetching about my dream employer the Worldwide Leader. I should be more positive; I should focus on quality sleeper content, such as this great list from Dobber. I should also provide my own list — guys you can safely nab in the last round. Each player here is ranked outside of the top 200 on both Yahoo! and ESPN.com; in addition, each player was not selected in the 16-round live draft I just completed:

1. Andy McDonald, C, St. Louis Blues. ESPN rank: 324. Yahoo! rank: 265.

  • Point-per-game track record (when healthy) and a rising team that might offset his biggest fantasy deficiency, the +/- category.
  • He could see time at LW, according to the St. Louis Post Dispatch. (David Backes would play C, David Perron at RW.) That would mean more goals (and more assists for Backes). In fantasy terms, LW eligibility would make McDonald an eminently valuable bench commodity in the Yahoo! format.

2. Willie Mitchell, D, Vancouver Canucks. ESPN rank: n/a. Yahoo! rank: 284.

  • Mitchell ranked ninth in the NHL — and fourth among defensemen — with a +29 mark. Despite this stellar stat, Mitchell does not crack ESPN.com’s top 72 defensemen. If you have the roster room for a fifth defensemen — the type of guy to keep around to ensure you reach games-played maximums — Mitchell is ideal for it.
  • Mitchell is no slouch when it comes to penalty minutes. He has exceeded 80 PIMs in four of his seven full seasons.

3. Steve Sullivan, LW, Nashville Predators. ESPN rank: 225. Yahoo! rank: 407.

  • He has been a point-per-game scorer in his last four seasons. He plays on a winning team, is an asset in the shots-on-goal category, and +/- has never been an issue.
  • He has two 40-assist seasons on his resume (1999-2000, 2000-01).

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


The three most puzzling men in fantasy hockey

September 16, 2009
Bruins C David Krejci, whom you can probably draft in Round 11, will give you comparable production to Sharks C Joe Thornton, likely a second-round fantasy pick.

Bruins C David Krejci, whom you can probably draft in Round 11, will give you comparable production to Sharks C Joe Thornton, likely a second-round fantasy pick.

The season is two weeks away; with it, like clockwork, arrives reams of fantasy hockey content. There’s the Big Board from Matt Romig of Yahoo! Sports. There’s a 10-team mock draft among experts at ESPN.com. Over at Fantasy Hockey Scouts, not only is there a great top-ten list of projected point scorers for the 2009-10 season, there’s also a hilarious post ripping the fantasy hockey ratings of the 30-year-old Worldwide Leader.

Here are three players the experts have radically divergent opinions about:

1. Mike Knuble, RW, Washington Capitals. He is 37 years old; he has never surpassed 65 points in a season; but he is No. 36 in ESPN.com’s overall rankings; and he went 28th overall in their experts’ mock draft. By contrast, Knuble does not crack the top 50 on Romig’s big board. In the overall Yahoo! rankings, Knuble checks in at No. 94, ranking 24th among right wings.

Why the divergence? It’s a classic “supporting cast” scenario, the type rearing its head in every fantasy sport. Projected to skate alongside LW Alex Ovechkin and C Nicklas Backstrom, Knuble has the chance to amass career highs in all categories, especially power-play points.

The verdict: Yahoo! has it correct. You never want to risk a high draft pick on a player whose stats depend on others. ESPN.com mock drafter Victoria Matiash selected Knuble ahead of fantasy staples such as Sharks G Evgeni Nabokov and Flames D Jay Bouwmeester. That baffles me. To elevate Knuble to the point of drafting him ahead of a No. 1 goalie like Nabokov or a high No. 2 defenseman like Bouwmeester is ludicrous.

2. Chris Osgood, G, Detroit Red Wings. The only circumstance under which I’d draft Osgood is if I’d completely screwed up my draft, positionally, and found myself in Round 15 or later with just one starting goalie. In other words, if I’m desperate for a netminder and my only choice is Osgood or Thrashers G Kari Lehtonen, I’m going with Oz.

How the normally reliable Yahoo! rankings could posit Osgood as their No. 39 overall player — and eighth overall goalie — is puzzling. Osgood’s stats were wretched last season. Even his win total — 26 — only ranked 17th, while his 3.09 GAA and .887 save percentage were costly to anyone who owned him. Yeah, I know he kicked ass the two previous seasons. Still, last year was the fourth time in his career he posted a sub-.900 save percentage. Sorry, I want no part of him — not with all the safer goalies out there.

The verdict: ESPN ranks Osgood as their No. 51 goalie and No. 318 overall player. While that strikes me as extreme, considering Osgood was superb in the postseason (2.01 GAA, .926 %) and he has the chance to start for a team that won 51 games, I prefer ESPN.com’s low ranking to the hyperbole at Yahoo!, which ranks Osgood ahead of stalwarts like Bruins G Tim Thomas and Blue Jackets G Steve Mason.

3. David Krejci, C, Boston Bruins. For some reason, Krejci, who led the entire NHL with a +37 mark, who cracked the top 20 in assists with a whopping 51, is not in anyone’s top 50. ESPN.com has him ranked No. 89 overall, beneath teammate RW Blake Wheeler (No. 80), which makes you wonder if they watched a single Bruins game.

That’s no knock on the gifted Wheeler, but Krejci has the reach of greatness in him. More to the fantasy point, Krejci’s numbers (22, 51, +37 26 PIM, 19 PPP, 146 shots) were comparable to those of Sharks C Joe Thornton (25, 61, +16, 56 PIM, 35 PPP, 139 shots). Yet you can draft Krejci a dozen rounds later. I’m not suggesting Krejci will have a better season than Thornton; but fantasy strategy is all about snagging early-round value with late-round picks.

The verdict: Like ESPN.com, Yahoo! has dropped the puck on Krejci, ranking him No. 80 overall, a mere 20th among centers. That is too low for my money. What it means, however, is that you can probably allocate your early draft picks on a No. 1 center, two goalies, two defensemen, and gaudy wing scorers. Snag Krejci in Round 11 and plug him in as your No. 2 center.

One caveat: Krejci is coming off hip surgery and looks unlikely for the season opener, reports Matt Kalman of ESPNBoston.com and TheBruinsBlog.net.¬† Before you invest even an 11th-round pick in Krejci, check Matt’s blogs for updates on Krejci’s condition.

photo courtesy Wikipedia Commons