Why does no one own Jean-Sebastien Giguere?

November 28, 2009

Why is this man only owned in 8.5 percent of ESPN leagues and 27 percent of Yahoo! leagues?

Need help with goaltending stats? Despite his track record and pedigree, Ducks G Jean-Sebastien Giguere — who won his third straight Friday night, shutting out the Blackhawks 3-0 in Anaheim — is available in 73 percent of Yahoo! leagues and a whopping 91.5 percent of ESPN games.

Grab him before your competition awakes from its collective Thanksgiving coma and starts reading box scores.

Alleged starting G Jonas Hiller has not played since Nov. 21. In the three games since then, Giguere has stopped 97 of 101 shots. Here’s how their season-long stats look as of Saturday afternoon:

Hiller: 7-8-1, .909,3.02, one shutout.

Giguere: 3-3-2, .918, 2.64, one shutout.

When you consider Giguere has made the last three starts for the surging Ducks, the decision to add him in all fantasy formats is a no-brainer. Even if you are stacked with goalies, Giguere has the sort of upside that’s worth dropping a No. 4 defensemen for — even if it means playing with three D-men for a week.

Yes, his awful 2008-09 campaign (19-18-6, .900, 3.10, two shutouts) left a mark. Yes, Hiller was indisputably the better player last year (23-15-1, .919, 2.39, four shutouts). But Giguere’s elite seasons are the stuff of fantasy championships. If your roster has a goalie who puts up the type of numbers that Giguere did in 2001-02, 2002-03, 2006-07 or 2007-08, your roster is a title contender. In those four seasons, Giguere’s lowest totals for GAA (2.30) and save percentage (.918) were still stellar.

Anaheim next plays Sunday night, hosting a Phoenix squad that’s hardly frightening anyone with its scoring abilities. It would be a great chance for Ducks coach Randy Carlyle to rotate Hiller back in; but if Giggy gets the home start on Tuesday night vs. the Kings — and he continues to excel — you can rest assured the job is his.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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Is Marc-Andre Bergeron worth adding?

November 25, 2009

Bergeron scored 14 goals with the Wild last season, but he failed to impress in other categories.

If there’s one game on Wednesday’s schedule I’m watching for fantasy purposes, it’s Montreal’s visit to Pittsburgh at 7:30 pm EST. The focus of my attention is Canadiens D Marc-Andre Bergeron, who had a fantasy game for the ages in Tuesday night’s 5-3 home victory vs. the Blue Jackets.

He scored two goals — a feat which should open fantasy eyes irrespective of player position.

But since Bergeron is a blueliner, well — the feat immediately begged questions about his roster worthiness.

Moreover, Bergeron tallied eight shots on goal and a +3 in the contest.

So: Is Bergeron worth adding?

The short answer: Yes, if your biggest need is goals and your No. 4 D is a fringe guy. If Bergeron does anything, it’s score goals. His 14 with the Wild last year ranked 11th among all defensemen. He also netted 15 goals with the Oilers back in 2005-06. Further back, in 2000-01, he scored 42 goals with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL.

But don’t expect Bergeron, 29, to help you across the board. In six seasons as a pro, he has never amassed more than 170 shots or 40 PIMs in a campaign. His PP productivity is solid (between 14-25 PPP per season) but not spectacular. Despite his 14 goals last season, he was only the No. 47-ranked D in the Yahoo! game because of his so-so totals in other categories.

Still, if you need goals, M-to-the-A-to-the-B is your man. He is owned in only 5.2 percent of ESPN leagues and 9 percent of Yahoo! formats, so take the plunge. Eight shots on goal in a game are nothing to sneeze at.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Monday night recap (Bergeron, Kuba, White)

November 24, 2009

Bruins C Patrice Bergeron (four assists Monday night) clearly relishes the return of teammate Marc Savard.

Here’s a recap of the three biggest fantasy developments from Monday night’s action:

1. Bruins C Patrice Bergeron tallied four assists (two on the PP, one shorthanded) in the Bruins 4-2 win at St. Louis.  He also led the Bruins with four shots on goal. A big factor behind these stats: the return of Bruins C Marc Savard (16:30 of ice time). Coupled with the recent comeback of LW Milan Lucic — who scored Monday night and now has a goal in two straight games — the Bruins are gradually regaining depth and resembling the team that dominated the 2008-09 regular season. No longer shouldering the scoring load by himself, Bergeron (22.5 percent owned in ESPN, 24 percent owned in Yahoo!) is a must-add if you need help in the assists category.

2. Senators D Filip Kuba notched three assists in the Senators 4-3 OT home win vs. the Capitals. He also led the Senators in ice time, which isn’t directly useful in fantasy but is always helpful to know when evaluating blueliners. It was Kuba’s second consecutive game with three assists. (He also scored a goal Saturday night vs. Buffalo.) And the Senators have now won four games in a row.  Though Kuba was a fantasy force last year — 37 assists, 26 PPPs — he is only 25.4 percent owned in ESPN leagues and 18 percent owned in Yahoo! formats. It’s time to grab him. By Wednesday night you may no longer be able to do so.

3. While the Maple Leafs lost 4-3 in OT at home to the Islanders, D Ian White registered one assist, five shots on goal and 26:02 of ice time. In terms of defensive pickups, I would rank him behind Kuba, but make no mistake: White is playing like a No. 4 fantasy D-man: He has three goals and six assists in his last 11 games. He also ranks in the top 10 among all defensemen with 54 shots on goal. And he is available in 84.5 percent of ESPN games and 73 percent of Yahoo! leagues.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Time to (reluctantly) add Maxim Afinogenov

November 20, 2009

Afinogenov is no longer with the Sabres, but his crap-tastic Buffalo seasons explain his low ownership.

After his one-goal, one-assist, +2 performance in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss to the Bruins, Thrashers RW Maxim Afinogenov has jumped to the forefront of fantasy hockey watch lists.

Janet Eagleson sang his praises, pointing out that he is skating with Ilya Kovalchuk and that he now has 19 points in 18 games. To this we will add that the Thrashers are a scoring machine. Their 3.56 goals per game ranks second in the NHL, behind only the Capitals.

Given these circumstances, how is it that Afinogenov, 30, remains only 42.4 percent owned in ESPN formats and 43 percent owned in Yahoo! games?

While we at the Genius wholeheartedly endorse Afinogenov as a “must-add,” we would be remiss if we didn’t point out that he has frustrated us before — and that these previous frustrations are why his ownership remains so effing darn low. Let us enumerate the top two frustrations:

1. The 2007-08 season. Surely you remember: After back-to-back point-per-game seasons with the Sabres in 2005-06 and 2006-07, both of which included ample PPPs and shots on goal, Afinogenov submitted a 56-game dud: 10 goals, 18 assists, -16, six PPPs and 114 shots. His numbers in 2008-09 were not much better. Thus it was with plenty of justification that Maxim fell off the fantasy radar.

2. A +/- nightmare. While Afinogenov has scored consistently all year — as Eagleson mentions, he has a point in 15 of 19 games — he was a -6 after his first nine games. Since then, he has skated with Ilya. Lo and behold, he now stands at +3. Funny how that works.

So while we are all for adding Maxim to rosters, we must warn fantasy players that you’re adding a player who’s dependent on others. We love Thrashers C Rich Peverley as much as the next blogger, but if Thrashers coach John Anderson separates Afinogenov from Ilya, he will minimize Maxim’s value.

For now, though, Afinogenov is someone you should start with confidence.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Three to watch for Thursday (Predators vs. Devils edition: Sullivan, Legwand, Bergfors)

November 19, 2009

Predators forward Steve Sullivan -- always a threat for a 35-goal season if healthy -- is on fire.

Every Thursday, the Genius will list three players to monitor for fantasy relevance. As a rule, the players will be owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues.

Player: LW/RW Steve Sullivan, Predators.

Ownership: 8 percent Yahoo!, 3.7 percent ESPN.

Tonight: The Predators host the Devils at 8:00 pm EST.

Optimism: Sullivan is a point-per-game machine when healthy, with generous doses of penalty minutes and shots on goal to boot. He has started slowly but scored twice vs. Montreal on Saturday and tallied another goal vs. San Jose on Tuesday. Now is an ideal time to add the slick veteran with a whopping eight 20-goal seasons on his resume. By the way, the Predators have won three in a row on their current home stand.

Skepticism: Sullivan, 35, has not played more than 70 games in a season since 2003-04. Also, his position eligibility changes from Yahoo! (LW) to ESPN (RW), so your ability to roster him may depend on your depth at a specific position in a specific format. Ideally, he’d be eligible at both positions in both formats, but the fantasy gods are not always kind.

Player: C David Legwand, Predators.

Ownership: 6 percent Yahoo!, 0.9 percent ESPN.

Tonight: The Predators host the Devils at 8:00 pm EST.

Optimism: Where there is pedigree, there is fantasy potential. Yes, Legwand has underperformed (statistically speaking) for the second overall pick of the 1998 draft. But the Preds are hot and so is he: In his last five games, he has two goals and three assists. This includes a one-goal, two-assist gem vs. San Jose on Tuesday night. Though Legwand only has eight points, his career low .063 shooting percentage suggests he’s been the victim of bad luck — and that he’s been in position to post gaudier totals.

Skepticism: Legwand, 29, has not sniffed the power play, with only one PP assist in 19 games. That is not what you want from a fantasy center. And make no mistake: You should not view Legwand as a permanent addition to your roster. But if you need a one-game stopgap, now is the time for him. He’s hot, and he’s at home.

Player: RW Niclas Bergfors, Devils.

Ownership: 18 percent Yahoo!, 5.9 percent ESPN.

Tonight: The Predators host the Devils at 8:00 pm EST.

Optimism: His last seven games: three goals, five assists, five PPPs (two goals, three assists). Call him the anti-Legwand: If you want help on the PP, grab Bergfors.

Skepticism: In fantasy terms, Bergfors, 22, is feast or famine. His saucy November numbers include two dud efforts, on Nov. 11 vs. Anaheim and Nov. 16 at Philadelphia. In each of these contests, Bergfors did not even manage one shot on goal. For that reason, Bergfors is also a viable spot starter, but still too wet behind the ears for permanent rostering.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Steve Mason is the Matt Ryan of fantasy hockey

November 16, 2009
Mason

Does this man remind you of a certain Atlanta Falcons QB?

Blue Jackets G Mathieu Garon (3-1-0, 2.60, .923) is getting the start tonight as Columbus hosts Edmonton at 7:00 pm EST.

It begs the question: What is a fantasy owner to do with supplanted starter G Steve Mason (pictured left, 7-5-2, 3.67, .879)?

The numbers tell us: Mason is getting dropped. His ownership is down to 88 percent in Yahoo! formats and 96 percent in ESPN.

Garon, by contrast, has risen to 7 percent ownership in Yahoo! and 2.9 percent in ESPN.

My verdict is simple:

1. Do not drop Mason. As a rookie last season, he was simply too awesome (33-22-0, 10 shutouts, 2.29, .916). Those numbers suggest the germ of an elite goalie, as opposed to a netminder whose rookie numbers belie his ultimate level (such as Carey Price circa 2007-08). Ten shutouts cannot be a fluke. Whether Mason’s sophomore slump is permanent, no one can determine right now. But based on last year, his fantasy owners should give him until mid-season to right the ship.

2. Garon, 31, is only worth adding if you own Mason. Yes, the history books are littered with folks like Bruins G Tim Thomas who do not peak until mid-career. But before this season, Garon had never shown any flashes of fantasy viability. His lifetime numbers tell the tale (97-84-3-10, 2.83, .905).

3. Garon does belong on all watch lists regardless of how he plays tonight. Just think back to how marvelously Avalanche G Craig Anderson performed as the backup to Panthers G Tomas Vokoun last season.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Time to drop Wideman and Lidstrom?

November 14, 2009
DennisWideman_BostonBruins

Bruins D Dennis Wideman is a gifted offensive player, but for fantasy purposes there's little risk in dropping him.

In his first 13 games, Red Wings D Nicklas Lidstrom scored only three points (one goal, two assists).

In his next four games, Lidstrom tallied three assists and raised his +/- by +3. His season totals after 17 games, entering tonight’s 7 pm EST tilt vs. Anaheim, are one goal, five assists, +10, two PIMs, two PPPs, and 36 shots on goal.

Here’s the question: If these numbers belonged to any other D, would you drop him?

The realistic answer is yes.

However, this is Lidstrom we’re talking about. Despite his season-long drought, he still is the No. 39-ranked blueliner in the Yahoo! game and No. 25 in ESPN formats. That makes him a No. 3 or No. 4 D, even in deep leagues.

When you throw in his recent hot streak; his superb numbers last year (16 goals, 43 assists, +31, 33 PPPs, 180 shots); and the Red Wings’ winning ways, it is easy to reach the following verdict: Don’t even think about dropping Lidstrom.

Even in this slump, he is statistically own-able. Once he gets going, you’ll regret the move. And if you think no one is dropping Lidstrom, you’re wrong: the man is down to 97 percent ownership in Yahoo! (still at 100 percent in ESPN though).

Remember: last season, there were plenty of points to go around on the Detroit blue line among Lidstrom, Niklas Kronwall (six goals, 45 assists) and Brian Rafalski (10 goals, 49 assists). Lidstrom may take a step back, but the scoring and minutes of Kronwall and Rafalski do not necessarily cannibalize his value.

Bruins D Dennis Wideman is another story. His ownership is down to 71 percent in Yahoo! (though still, incredibly, at 100 percent in those loyal ESPN formats).

Why have Yahoo! owners bailed on Wideman? Largely because of his four points (one goal, three assists) in 15 games, coupled with a -1, 30 shots on goal, and only one PPP.

Based on these numbers, Wideman is nowhere near the top 50 defensemen.Yes, he netted two assists vs. Pittsburgh on Nov. 10, but that effort broke a 10-game scoreless streak. And on Nov. 12 vs. Florida, Wideman promptly returned to his scoreless ways. We’ll see what he does tonight at 7:30 pm EST in Pittsburgh.

Regardless, the question is: Can Wideman rebound and match his superb stats from last year (13 goals, 37 assists, +32, 25 PPP, 169 shots)? Also, while it’s mainstream thinking to view last season as Wideman’s breakout, it is easy to forget that he scored 13 goals and launched 171 shots in 2007-08.

The guy is a talented offensive player. But does he deserve the same fantasy leniency as Lidstrom?

Short answer? No. For two reasons:

(1) Wideman does not have the name brand Lidstrom does. If you drop Wideman, and he recovers, there is a solid chance you can snag him from the free agency pool before another owner does. It is highly unlikely another owner will use his waiver priority on Wideman. By contrast, if you drop Lidstrom, you will not get him back. Count on it. Another owner, down on his luck, will use a waiver on him or sweep him up the instant he becomes a free agent.

(2) Last year, Wideman did not have to compete with Bruins D Derek Morris for ice time — specifically PP time. Whereas the Red Wings still boast the same top three D as they did in 2008-09, the Bruins replaced D Aaron Ward with Morris. Though Wideman is still staking a solid 21:00 per game, he trails both Morris and Chara in average ice time and PP time. By contrast, in 2008-09, there were single games in which Wideman skated more minutes than Chara. At worst, he ranked second in D minutes.

Those days are over. And until further notice, so is Wideman’s run as a viable fantasy blueliner.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons