Sunday, September 28, 2008

WVHL Season Preview

That picture there has been making the internet rounds like "Obama is a mooslim!" emails recently, but I'm not afraid to show it one more time. Last season, I took the WVHL Cup (it weighs 400 pounds) and it's the only trophy I won in nearly 10 years of Yahoo! fantasy play. I am proud of it and not ready to turn the page on last year. Between that and the fact that it was 99 degrees today and I went to the beach, it seems fairly preposterous that a fantasy hockey draft was held tonight.

And yet here we are.

Keystone Winterhawks (2007 - 5th place)

Although Crosby vs. Ovechkin should foster at least a little debate, the Winterhawks nabbed Ovechkin five seconds in to this year's draft. Then the guy with the Flyer logo made Mike Green the third defensemen gone with his second pick. What Patrick Division rivalry? But I'm sure a guy who has 12 points one year and 56 the next is the bedrock of consistency you can stake a second round pick on.

Green's pick set the tone for the Winterhawks and the 2008 tone is: Guys That Need To Break Out. Green, Carter, Staal, Kane, Stamkos, Kunitz and Afinogenov are all boom or bust picks. It's possible that C Mo mixed up his sleeper list and cheat sheet before the draft.

After Savard and Ovechkin, literally not one of the Winterhawks can be counted on. They could be good, they could be bad and it's impossible to predict anybody's point total within a range of five. Now, you give me a range of, say, 20 to work with, and I'll make some predictions. Jordan Staal? Um...40-60 points. See? Easy. Also, Keystone is basically conceding the PIMs and the +/- each week like a two-foot putt in the Ryder Cup.

Beards in April? - If this was a real team, I'd love their outlook for the future. But the WVHL is more like an airplane, where everybody gets off at the end and never sees each other again. And too many guys have to come through this season for the Winterhawks to get off the ground.

The Awful Stench (2007 - NA)

You could argue that the #2 pick was the best one to have this season. At #1, you have to choose between Crosby and Ovechkin and maybe you could guess wrong. But at #2, somebody made the decision for you and you can't be criticized. And, on top of that, you still get The Bulldog, Sidney Crosby. Man, easy living at #2!

Oakes might have been trying to soft pedal his abilities with a name like The Awful Stench (unless it's some inside college joke), but if that name stays, this team is more like the rotting corpse flower. Terrible smell, but beautiful to look at. Incidentally, the Latin name for that flower, Amorphophallus titanium, basically translates to Big Ugly Dick. Cheechoo's Moose Cree name has the same translation.

ANYWAY, the Stench have the best 1-2 punch at center in the league, are great on defense and are pretty solid in net. Ales Hemsky was a total steal in the 7th round and if Cheechoo bounces back to even decent play this season, the Stench will be savored. Like durian. Once they drop Adam Foote for somebody serviceable, they'll be very good.

Beards in April? - Oh, for sure. Long, sweaty, stinky beards.

Dynamo Mockba (2007 - 7th place)

In Friday's WVFL Week 4 Preview, I jokingly wrote that Nate wouldn't be picking any lower than third on Sunday night. At least I thought I was joking. As it turns out, Nate called Arlen Specter and got a guaranteed top 3 pick inserted into the Congressional bailout package. Designing the Specter '06 website paid off, it seems. Once the House failed to pass the amendment, it was too late. Nate already had Malkin.

Mockba went with a youth movement harder than the KHL trying to steal all of the NHL's young stars. Nash, Toews, Horton, Brown, Malone, Letang, Bouwmeester. If you're looking for a forward who can't rent a car and won't score more than 60 points, try to work out a trade with Nate. He's cornered the market on such players.

As for the veterans, Mark Streit will be hard-pressed to put up half of last year's 62 points on the Island, Huet is on the wrong side of the Bulin Wall and Kari Lehtonen may have been the only NHL goalie with more than 30 starts and a sub .500 record in 2007. Hold on, I'm going to look that up. ... ... ... ... ... ... ... ... oops, sorry. Rick DiPietro did the same thing. The same bad thing.

Though I do have to re-admit that Marleau is a potential 9th round steal. However, he is offset by the 5th round donation of Nathan Horton. Briere went three spots after Horton. Call me in April and tell me who had more points by a 20-point margin.

Beards in April? - Nate can grow one if he wants, but it won't be a playoff beard.

Whitechapel Rippers (2007 - NA)

It is common for an owner to make a selection and then immediately decry it as a bad pick. It is uncommon for an owner to do that after the fourth pick of the draft. I don't know what Larry has against Dany Heatley, but I'm sure I'll find out shortly. Maybe he hated picking from that part of the pool with the drop off. You're bobbing along, bobbing along, all of a sudden you're underwater.

The Rippers need Kovalev and Naslund to play like it's 2002 and they need Smyth and Demitra to play 80 games instead of 40. They also need Toskala to not play for what will be the worst team in the league in '08-'09. They need to avoid the note at the bottom of this article about how Savard and Ryder have no chemistry. But what don't they need? Centers. Richards and Roy are pretty good.

Beards in April? - This team has enough to a veteran presence to make the playoffs. And then lose in the first round.

IC Pounders On Ice (2007 - NA)

In the WVFL, I said the IC Pounders were not good enough, one of the best and then just average in the span of two weeks. It will be much more straight forward in the WVHL. This is a good team. Lundqvist was the 8th goalie off the board even though he was the 2nd best last year, and this team might have more offensive firepower than the 2008 Stanley Cup Finals.

The only question mark might be on defense. Pavel Kubina could be a -80 for Toronto and Schneider is one of those guys who's good on good teams and bad on bad teams. He currently plays for Atlanta. But when you can get Mike Ribeiro in the 7th round, a new 80-point scorer and the #1 center for a good Dallas team, you save drafting defensemen for later times.

Despite the names Phil Zottola and IC Pounders on Ice, whispers had been filling the West View grapevine that this GM was not actually from Pittsburgh. One particularly vicious rumor said he was from Lakeland, Florida. In an attempt to shoot down such scurrilous scuttlebutt, the Pounders took Miroslav Satan in the 5th round, a completely Pittsburgh move.

Beards in April? - Beards and a filthy Penguins hat with a perfectly U-shaped brim.

Kitcheners Ks (2007 - 3rd place)

If there's one thing Tony loves as much as Nate and more than Caulen, it's drafting old veterans in the first round. I'll save the pop psychology for another time, but making Brodeur the 6th overall pick came as a bit of shock, especially when last year more or less proved that superstar goalies don't equal a winning team. TK made Gaborik his 2nd pick and if he can manage to trade Gaborik the day before he gets hurt, that will be a great pick.

Morrow and Pronger will bring penalties and Briere and Gomez bring great value as 5th and 9th round picks, but most of the K roster just bring questions. Questions like "Is Brad Boyes going from 17 to 43 goals a fluke?" and "Can Wolski score more than 30 points?" and "Johan Franzen is talented and all but he doesn't score much, does he?" and "Is that seriously your defense?"

Of his three 2008 fantasy hockey teams, this should be Tony's least favorite.

Beards in April? - A bushy white beard with scraps of beef-a-roni in it is not a playoff beard. It is something that frightens small children.

One Day With The Cup (2007 - 1st place)

Not sure if you guys have heard, but I won the title last year. And drinking two whole bottles of Prosecco out of the Stanley Cup taught me that you need big-scoring defensemen and you shouldn't waste your time on marquee goalies. This team was drafted off of that exact blueprint. Of course, if I don't win it all this time, it's back to the drawing board in 2009 with Nabokov and Luongo as my first two picks.

As the clock was ticking down on my 2nd round pick, the hemispheres of my brain were waging a fierce civil war. The right side could not believe I was about to take Olli Jokinen so early. The left side argued that he's a former 90-point scorer who's great on the power play, on an improved team and playing for a coach who wants to stress offense this year. The left side, the cold and calculating side, the side that says airlines shouldn't spend $110 million on safety fixes until at least 1,500 people die because that's when it becomes cost effective, won out.

This team has maybe the best defense in the league and tons of solid veterans. The kind of players you get when you pick in the middle of each round. Erik Cole is going to be a steal in Edmonton and if Gagne and Bergeron bounce back from injury, this team could be incredible.

Beards in April? - I started growing one this morning so it can be nice and thick for the playoffs.

Atlas Schruggz (2007 - NA)

Parents, when you're shopping for Atlas licensed merchandise for your li'l sports fan, the hockey team is the one with the C in Schruggz. The football team is just Shruggz. For some reason. Anyway, Thornton and Lidstrom are two good cornerstones for building a team, real or fantasy. Everybody likes Detroit, but their clear #1 goalie slips to the 5th round? Nice pick up.

This team is solid on defense, but a little top-heavy in the scoring department. Samuelsson, Lupul and Rolston shouldn't be counted on for much. Also, the entire bench has to be dropped because Sundin isn't in the league, O'Sullivan wasn't in camp and Oduya isn't useful for fantasy purposes. However, he is good for when you want to say, "Oh, DO ya?"

The greatest fear for this team is that bad football juju carries over to hockey and Joe Thornton blows out his knee eight minutes into the first Sharks game.

Beards in April? - Only question is how red this beard will be.

Dublin Donkey Punch (2007 - NA 2003 - 6th place)

Dublin lost its franchise to relocation in 2003, but like the NFL and NBA, the WVHL is not afraid to put an expansion team in a failed market. But even with five years of vacation, Dublin wasn't missing a beat in the draft. Datsyuk in the first round! Phaneuf in the second! Wow! Things are going great! This team will...Corey Perry in the third round? We just went off the rails. Stealing Henrik Sedin in the 7th round makes up for the Perry pick, though. The guy had at least 75 points each of the last three seasons and you people let him fall to the 88th pick? What is wrong with you?

The DDP has two of the slickest centers in the league, but it remains to be seen whether their wings can finish anything off. Remember when Milan Hejduk had 50 goals? That seems like a long, long, long time ago. So long ago that Joe Sakic didn't last until the 11th pick, let alone the 11th round. Also, who will be playing in Ryan Whitney's spot for the first four months of the season? I hope not Ryan Whitney, because that'll be a big fat zero.

Beard in April? - Mmmmmaybe. Perry is good for PIMs, but it seems like all of the wings have a ceiling of 60 points. And there are not 17 million cracks in that ceiling. There are 0, in fact.

obamanators (2007 - 12th place. Yes, out of 12)

The plus of Dean Kline letting autodraft do the heavy clicking: He should have a better team than he usually does. The minus of Dean Kline letting autodraft do the heavy clicking: his 2nd, 3rd and 4th picks were two goalies and a guy about to schedule shoulder surgery. Though maybe new teammate Sheldon Souray can tell Gonchar what he experienced in 2006 after shoulder surgery. That being, a lost season.

You know what? Looking through this roster, maybe it's not any better than your average Kline-drafted team. Terrible +/-, no PIMs. Their best hope might be to sweep the goalie categories every week and only lose 8-5 instead of 11-2.

If you think you need help in net, start putting your trade offers together now.

Beards in April? - Autodraft computers can't feel love and they can't grow beards.

Camelsfoot Range (2007 - 8th place)

With three rounds left in the draft, Caulen showed up and decried his autodrafted team. The stock market plunged 650 points the following morning. When the man speaks, people listen. Spezza and Hossa are great picks at the top of the draft, of course, and it'll be interesting to see if Caulen hunkers down with two star goalies or tries to move one for more scoring.

Scott Hartnell was drafted solely for the goon factor, but +/- is still an issue for this team and Tomas Kaberle could be brutal up in Toronto in that column. The PP rivals that of the Islanders for non-explosiveness. The Camelsfoot power play is chemically inert, good for mixing with volatile substances for transport.

Michalek, Cammalleri, Havlat, Plekanac and Okposo are all young players with tons of potential, but when they are the heart of your scoring wingitry, potential can't pay the bills.

Beards in April? - Two WVHL playoffs in a row missed by Caulen? For us old timers, this is like watching Edmonton and the Islanders struggle.

KHL All-Stars

Vincent LeCavalier falling to the end of the 1st round is the type of gift you write a thank you note on heavy card stock for. In fact, KHL had maybe the nicest first four picks of the draft. Visnovsky is a nice middle round pick, especially when you consider what he should be able to do on the Edmonton power play, and if Byfuglien ends up playing forward with defensive position eligibility, how nice.

Tenth round pick Martin Gerber is the clear-cut #1 goalie on a good team and even though Carcillo may cut his PIMs in half, 162 PIMs is still a lot. The KHL capsule is getting short shrift, but I just like this team. There aren't too many bad things to say.

Okay, maybe having three Coyotes is a little silly.

Beards in April? - Hot, scratchy desert beards.

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