Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Official Gatekeeper Preview

The NHL probably trails only the major leagues in the number of hotshot, can't miss prospects that end up missing. The 1999 NHL Draft alone saw Patrik Stefan, Pavel Brendl, Brian Finley and Kris Beech go in the top 10, setting their teams back a year. What could be more fun than swinging and missing just like the GMs whose posters adorn our walls?

Hence, a keeper league. Finally, all the 22-year olds Caulen picks to show us how smart he is will pay off...even if it's not for three years.

With the first overall pick, The Dynamite Kid passed on Davey Boy Smith and went with Ovechkin. It was all downhill from there. Of course, how could it not be? Everybody after the best fantasy player is downhill. Dynamite provided us with the first keeper-level pick with Bobby Ryan in the third round, and then they took their diploma from the Michael Krogmann School of Winners (accredited) and loaded up the blueline with Weber and Streit.

Dynamite's 7th round pick of Thomas Vanek was clearly the best pick of the evening, as six other owners immediately chimed in with groans. Vanek was the porterhouse thrown into the lion cage and the quickest beast devoured it.

That is not to say The Dynamite Kid is not without problems. The pivot position could be better and even if Ryan moves up to the 80-point level, right wing is thin. Nathan Horton has shown his ceiling, Ryan Callahan is not a dynamic scorer and Mikael Samuelsson is just some guy. Also, as Turco winds down his career, another goalie will have to be found somewhere.

But oh, that Ovechkin and blueline!

2009-2010 Outlook - A lot of good players, and with Huselius, Staal, Horton, Turco and Tanguay, a lot of maddening inconsistency.

2011...And Beyond! - Well, they'll probably sign Ovechkin to 10 years, Ryan to 7 and figure out the rest later. But there's a solid enough core here.

Well, they didn't actually take Scuderi, which seems like underpromising and underdelivering. And Skoodles is actually wearing #7 at L.A. Live, but other than that, a good team name. Name aside, this is a really, really good team. In fact, Scuderi's main issue is going to be figuring out how to keep this group together. Malkin, Green and Zetterberg should get five years minimum, Kessel needs to be hung on to for this Brian Burke Toronto overhaul, and Wheeler, Perron and Steve Mason should be kept. Shane Doan, make sure you rent, not buy!

The quantity approach Scuderi took in net won't last and at least one, if not two, guys will be pared once the season starts and a hot free agent identifies himself. The only problem this team has, and this is nitpicking, is that it's potentially more top-heavy than balanced. But hell, hang on to the stars and plug in a new backing band every fall.

2009-2010 Outlook - Good.

2011...And Beyond! - Really good.

MooseJaw went a bit through the looking glass, confusing building an actual NHL franchise with a keeper fantasy team. Unless...I mean, I guess they could choose to keep Tavares, Varlamov, Little, Filatov, Neal, Stalberg and Lisin for five years each until they're useful fantasy providers. While keeping Crosby for ten years. And I don't think Erik Johnson will be an offensive blueliner even in his prime. Hey, I grok the idea of drafting sleepers in a keeper league. But one or two, not an entire KOA campsite.

So what we have here is a team with lots of potential, not enough contract years to go around, no PIMs and the chance to go -100 on the year. Now sure, I might end up with egg on my face come January, but there's a better chance MooseJaw ends up with Filatov in the minors and half of their team tossed back into the 2010 draft.

But they do have Crosby.

2009-2010 Outlook - Even with Crosby and Luongo, I'm willing to say this team misses the playoffs. Even though 60% of the league makes it in.

2011...And Beyond! - How far beyond are we talking?

The Prime Minister of Holland is outraged that Nate left the extra E out of hoeven, and if he's a President and not a Prime Minister, he's even more outraged now. Nate drew the cliff spot, the big dropoff between the three easy picks and where you have to start thinking, and he did well to take Ryan Getzlaf, a guy that will put up 90 points for a long time. He also reunited the Lennon-McCartney of Ottawa, Heatley and Spezza.

Nate also got perennial employee Henrik Lundqvist and hometown favorites Kris Letang and Marc-Andre Fleury. I'll go so far as to say this is Nate's favorite team that he ever drafted. I think basically everybody on his bench right now except Hedman is going back into the pool next season, because none of them are going to provide the secondary scoring this team so desperately needs.

2009-2010 Outlook - Eh. Okay, I guess. Nothing too flashy.

2011...And Beyond! - Getlzaf, Heatley, Edler, Lundqivst and Fleury are a good core. But will he have the patience to wait on Hedman? Defensemen usually need five years to blossom.

The only thing I don't like about my team is the name, and I'm holding out hope I can improve that before the season. Caulen and I have a fundamental disagreement on the relative values of defensemen and goalies. I've finished 1st and 3rd the last two WVHL seasons by focusing on defense and ignoring goalies, and I feel that is empirical evidence. If this in fact the case, I will be cruising to the title on the backs of the greatest fantasy blueline ever assembled. It is The Beatles of blueline. Sure, Mike Green is Ringo and I have to hope Ryan Whitney can be Pete Best, but look at any preseason fantasy rankings, and I have 3 of the top 5 guys on defense. The +/- and PIM categories are mine! Clearly, this ongoing debate will be settled this season.

Unless I finish fourth.

But ANYWAY, I do really like my team, even more than usual. Ditching losses increases the value of Gustavsson and Khabibulin in net, and having Brodeur (6th round!) for the first time ever promises to be fun. Backstrom, Alfie and Kopitar will deliver assists while Nash, Eriksson, Franzen and Hemsky pile up goals. If any of the X factors of Kunitz, Dubinsky and Stafford come through, this team won't even need a name. The league will refer to it simply as "Oh, Shit".

2009-2010 Outlook - This team is so good, it will probably meet itself in the finals.

2011...And Beyond! - A good core to build around and we'll have at least two of the league's best defensemen for a long time.

For only being one meter tall, these Mexicans are tough little guys. Perry, Backes and Blake should capture the PIMs point almost every week and Souray and Bieksa aren't exactly wallflowers. Los Mexicanos should also dominate in net and in the frustration category, with Kovalev and Antropov being about the two most frustrating guys in the league.

There's nothing else too remarkable about this team and there's no real identity to it. I mean, I guess their anchor is Marc Savard? Even though they drafted Perry first? Something they didn't really seem too keen on at the time. But if they're controlling five of the scoring categories each week, they'll begin to frustrate us as much as Antropov frustrates him each week.

2009-2010 Outlook - Better than you think

2011...And Beyond! - This team is going to look pretty different next year. Most of these guys must be going back in the pool, right?

The Winterflyers not taking Mike Richards in the first round is probably the upset of the century, unless them not getting Claude Giroux beats it, but at least they got Carter and Hartnell for their 2009-10 descents to reality.

They also took Cam Ward wayyyyyyyyy too high and Jonas Hiller even though Giguere is still the actual starter in Anaheim. And no Ray Emery? The blueline will provide tons of points, but Cammalleri has the potential to join Carter and Hartnell on the downslide. Elias, Blake...Keystone basically drafted the opposite of a keeper team. Old guys on the way down instead of young guys on the way up.

Maybe it will work.

2009-2010 Outlook - Cloudy

2011...And Beyond! - It's going to be interesting to see how many contract years are given to Carter. This has a lot of Bob Clarke potential.

This team was humming right along in the draft, opening up with a rock-solid nucleus of Datsyuk, Semin, Kane and Backstrom the goalie. But then, like somebody noticing they were perfectly on rhythm and then losing the beat, the Muhziks took Ray Whitney in the 6th round. The pick was so jarring that Klevyy hadn't recovered by the 8th round, when they took Michael Frolik. Intentionally.

This another PIM-heavy team with Lucic, Clutterbuck, Burrows, O'Brien and Montador all earning frequent-traveler points at the Penalty Box Hotel. Unfortunately, too many of those guys don't do anything else and this team needs help at center, left wing and more points from the blueline. These needs are too glaring and specific to lend themselves to pithy remarks. Besides, Russians hate humor, finding it frivolous.

2009-2010 Outlook - Not amazing

2011...And Beyond! - The Muhziks might be the most active team in next year's draft.

As the draft started, Caulen crowed about his planned first round pick and how sly it was. Then he took Ilya Kovalchuk, who has been a first round pick for about nine years now. Like somebody from Pitchfork declaring The Rolling Stones to be their favorite band, we were left expecting more. Keeping the music analogy going, this keeper league is a dream come true for Caulen, who loves potential more than players. He loves to draft young guys like a Pitchfork editor only seeing underground shows, then ignoring a favorite band's major label debut. It's what he was made for.

So what gems did Caulen unearth? What acts did he break? Claude Giroux, Derrick Brassard and his precious, Alex Goligoski. That's it? Peter Mueller? Kyle Okposo? Patrik Berglund? Only guys we've already heard of? What a letdown! And to top it off, I drafted Jonas Gustavsson just to mess with Caulen...only Caulen told me I talked him off Gustavsson during the WVHL draft! And he seemed remarkably pleased with "stealing" the constantly maligned Carey Price in the sixth.

Lecavalier, Thornton, Kovalchuk and Toews will be great, and getting Hossa back in December will be a free boost, but this team will be seriously hurting for goals. Man, I knew this team would have trouble scoring goals when they were still playing open mic nights!

2009-2010 Outlook - Decent. Let's not plan a release party just yet.

2011...And Beyond! - Giroux and Goggles are the future.

If Zach Parise is your first round pick, you don't want to hear that Jacques Lemaire is back coaching the Devils and promising more defensive responsibility. With Richards and Pronger, then Frolov and Brown, the Slashers twice took teammates with consecutive picks, then later took teammates Mikko Koivu and Zidlicky with 2 out of 3 picks. If nothing else, hotel room assignments are settled.

The Slashers have one good goalie and then two very significant question marks fighting for the other spot. But if Gaborik can hold up (Ha! I know! Seriously!) and they can figure out how to squeeze six centers into three lineup spots and Parise, Richards and Krejci all follow up career years, things could be okay.

Interestingly, the Slashers should up around even on the +/- because half of their guys will be +20 or better and half will be -20 or worse.

2009-2010 Outlook - They're okay.

2011...And Beyond! - Pierre McGuire would give Richards 39 years and cut everybody else. The Slashers should only give Richards 38 and give Nabokov 2.

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