I'm off to a doctor's appointment this afternoon, so I've turned the blog over to good pal Spencer, with whom I conspire each morning to inflict the Hockey Page on you.
The assignment was simple: I asked Spencer to come up with a list of good and bad fantasy hockey players at the quarter point of the schedule -- notice how I did not say "quarter pole" which is how many sportswriters would've phrased it (incorrectly).
But enough pedantry. It's Spencer's world now, and I'm off to the doctor. Here's his report, and by all means, chime in with hoots, hollers and suggestions at bottom:
"Chris knows how much of a fantasy pool nerd I am and asked me to share my
wisdom passion problem with you. So here's five fantasy studs and five stiffs so far this year (And let's skip the obvious. Yes, the Jagr of 2005 is playing like the Jagr of 1999 (105 shots in 20 games!). Sure, if you have Alfredsson, Heatley or Spezza on your fantasy team, good on ya. If you have two of them, start spending your winnings now.):
Joni Pitkanen, Flyers. Fourth overall draft pick from 2002 is playing, well, like a fourth overall draft pick. Might not be under the radar anymore, but if you can grab him, or trade for him for cheap, do it. Defenceman has 5 goals and 13 assists in 16 games -- some major numbers, but that's not the best part. His plus-16 is huge (5th best in the NHL). He's got 36 penalty minutes as well, a bonus if your league counts penalty minutes as being positive. He only had 44 PIMs in all of 2003-04 so don't count on the penalties to keep piling up, but so far, here's a dominant defenceman in all categories.
Chris Neil, Senators. Only if your pool counts penalties as positive. Ottawa lunkhead has been making regular appearances parked in front of the net on the power play and wouldn't you know, some pucks have been going off him into the net. Plug him in, run away with your penalties category and enjoy the offence as a nice bonus.
Ryan Whitney, Penguins. Speaking of the 2002 draft, fifth overall pick has 7 assists in 8 games. And any guy playing over 24 minutes a game on a team with Lemieux, Crosby, Gonchar and Palffy is bound to get some points. Was thinking he's a bit of a risk to be sent back to the minors when injured Dick Tarnstrom comes back, but he's playing too well and the Penguins need the help. This guy even showed up in a shootout on Monday night.
Mike Knuble, Flyers. Not a huge surprise here after 23 and 30 goal seasons in Boston, but this year, he's showing up on the Philly PP (he had 4 power play goals and 11 power play points in all of 2003-04 with the Bruins; he's got 4 PP goals and 8 PP points after 16 games in Philly). Know how they keep saying Forsberg makes everyone around him better? This guy's totally cashing in. And everyone on the Flyers has a great plus-minus -- Knuble at plus-9.
Ian Laperriere, Kings. Career 20-something points-a-year player has 14 in 17 games already. The guy can really skate and the new rules must be helping. He doesn't get much power play time, but with that nifty plus-minus (+11) and PIMs (36), he's filling the scoresheet. Was a big scorer in junior -- in his rookie season in St. Louis he had 27 points in 37 games.
Nik Lidstrom, Wings. 13 points, not bad, but not great in this version of the NHL. He's tied for 15th in defenceman scoring. And Just 1 goal in 19 games? He's supposed to be one of the best. It's not like the Wings are struggling.
Jay Bouwmeester, Panthers. Just 5 assists in 19 games. Fast skating NHL not helping third-overall draft pick at all. Pathetic Panthers power play isn't helping (3rd worst in NHL at 12.9%).
Andrew Cassells, Capitals. 5 points in 13 games after being brought to Washington to work with young talent like Ovechkin. Healthy scratch for the last five games. Not a happy Capital right now.
Gary Roberts, Panthers. He's healthy, so that's all good. But 4 points in 14 games and just 8 penalty minutes? Maybe he left his blender in Toronto.
Rob Blake, Avalanche. Much like Lidstrom, 13 points in 17 games isn't bad. But not quite the elite. That minus-6 hurts a lot. Thinking he'll bounce back."