Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010-2011 Gatekeeper Season Preview

2010-2011 GATEKEEPER SEASON PREVIEW

Last year was my worst fantasy hockey year in some time. Both of my teams were absolute busts, my league preview predictions were horrendous, I completely missed the sudden explosion of mobile, young, scoring defensemen, I blew my 20 free agent years like George Steinbrenner tweaked on coke, and I traded for Steve Mason.

But like a movie hero at the 85-minute mark, I’ve come clean with my sins, realized what I’ve done wrong and vowed to fix everything. I’ve shed the year-to-year WVHL and I’m even going to admit what I got wrong about each team in the 2009-2010 preview. It’s a new me, and I have Oprah to thank!

THE DYNAMITE KID

2009 – Totally missed Drew Doughty turning into Bobby Orr, called this team weak at center right before Henrik Sedin scored 112 points, did not account for Ryan Miller.

2010 – Like any great dynasty, The Dynamite Kid isn’t looking to stop at just one title and nine celebratory bottles of Sam Adams Noble Pils. Goalie and right wing were itches for this team. Rashes, really. The kind just under your skin that you can never quite soothe. So they used their three picks on a goalie and two right wings. Of course, if Lehtonen gets hurt (like always) and Turco sucks (like always), that goalie itch won’t go away, even if Larry scratches to the point of scabbing. Stop touching it!

Missing Streit for six months will hurt, as will having Huselius and Kostitsyn healthy, but with Sedin, Staal, Ovechkin, Nash, Doughty, Myers and Miller all on board, the defending champs will have a good shot at defending their champness.

2011 – With 9 guys heading into free agency in the summer of 2011, and 7 pending for 2012, this team will be turning a few locker stalls over in the future. Ah, I’m sure having Myers, Doughty, Staal and Nash all up at once won’t create any tough decisions. Derek Stepan might get called up from the farm squad in October…of 2010.


KLEVVY MUZHIKS

2009 – Called their ’09-’10 outlook “Not amazing” before they won the Presidents Trophy by 17 points. Although I did predict they’d be the most active team in the 2010 draft and they did keep the fewest players. Even when I’m self-flagellating, I’m self-congratulating!

2010 – Trading Patrick Kane for Jonathan Toews and a 2nd round pick that turned into Nikita Filatov has the potential to turn into an all-timer. We’re talking Neely for Pederson level. Then again, Filatov has the potential to turn into a 20-point, -17 nightmare before returning to Russia. Who can say, really? And if he does, Klevvy also has Jakub Voracek.

The Muzhiks also made some great draft picks in Neuvirth (already the starter), Voracek, McBain, Oshie and Simmonds. The hard part will be figuring out how to give 7 guys 15 years without losing half of them in 2012.

But with the guys this team has in net, they might have a title in hand by then anyway.

2011 – In 2011, they might not need to draft more than 2 guys. But in 2012? Oh man. They’d better hope the Mayans were right, or they’re going to be losing some really good players. Of course, that’ll just make room for Schneider and Ekman-Larsson.


KEYSTONE WINTERHAWKS

2009 – Ragged on them for taking Jonas Hiller instead of Giguere before Hiller stole the job and posted 30 wins. I did correctly call the Cammalleri, Carter and Hartnell backslides, though.

2010 – Geez, I don’t know. Last year, I said their current outlook was “cloudy” and this year I have even less of an idea. I think the main thing that bothers me is that they don’t have one dominant player. I’m an American and I like stars, baby! Out of Cartner, Hartnell, Cammalleri and Iginla, at least two of them should bounce back, there’s great blueline scoring and Ward and Hiller should be able to carry a lot of the weight.

About the only interesting thing about this team is that only 5 guys on it play in the Campbell Conference and 3 of them are Sharks. He has more guys from the Patrick Division (7) on the roster. Seems a little provincial, I guess.

2011 – Also cloudy. This team has a weird mix of old guys and young guys and I feel like half the roster is going to be churned through midseason pickups. They should be set in net, I bet.


3FT MEXICANS

2009 – Predicted that most of their guys were going back in the pool one year early. They kept 18 players this summer.

2010 – If you enjoyed the Blackhawks breaking up their team this past summer, wait until you see what the Mexicans do. Guys will be fleeing this roster like it was Sonora. An incredible 13 Mexican contracts expire after this season. And of the guys on 2-year deals, Souray is in Hershey and Savard might miss the year with concussion problems. The Oilers actually hated Souray so much that they sent him to SOMEBODY ELSE’s AHL affiliate. That is really distancing yourself from a guy.

And if those aren’t enough roster hijinks for you, with only two players drafted but 17 contract years needing to be filled, Mason Raymond and Antti Niemi will be getting 9- and 8-year deals. Or maybe a 15-year deal and a 2-year deal. The Mexicans are being run with all the foresight and planning of, well, Mexico.

2011 – Um, well, the team will be a little bit different next year.


AXXX SLASHERS

2009 – Said they had one good goalie and then question marks, which was technically true. But I was referring to Nabokov, not Rask.

2010 – This year, the Slashers drafted for need, not for speed. They came into the draft with two defensemen and one goalie, but left with with four of each. Of course, three of those goalies are backups starting the season.

Marian Gaborik’s games played the last three years are 77-17-76, which I’m sure is a coincidence, not a pattern. And if Gaborik goes down, the Slashers have his linemate, Alexander Frolov, who usually plays a full season but only tries for half of it. Frolov likes to score 20 points in 15 games, take the next 30 off, then score another 25 in the next 20 games. He’s very fun and unpredictable.

Duncan Keith had 69 points last year?!?

2011 – I unno. They’ll still be in the league, I guess.


MOOSEJAWSASKATCHEWAN

2009 – Said they would miss the playoffs, even with Crosby and Luongo, which was wrong. But I was right in wondering why they had so many prospects in Tavares, Varlamov, Little, Filatov, Neal, Stalberg and Lisin. Only Varlamov and Neal are still with the team.

2010 – And Varlamov is about to become Washington’s backup. This team is thin in goal with LeClaire and Varlamov fighting for 40 starts, and thin at center with Hodgson heading back to Manitoba. But they’re deep at right wing and defense, particularly with Byfuglien qualifying for each position.

This team has two huge stars and enough good players to fool itself that it has a chance, but too many holes and iffy players to actually have that chance.

2011 – At least four pretty decent players are leaving town next summer, no matter how those five bonus years are doled out.


VAN MASSENHOEVENS

2009 – Said Ryan Getzlaf would score 90 points for a long time right before he struggled to 69 points, predicted half of his team would go back into the draft pool when he actually ended up keeping 16.

2010 – Kopitar, Getzlaf and Stamkos is about as good as it gets down the middle, but with 10 guys on a 1-year deal, including every right wing, it’s now or never for the Donnies. But with such serious questions on the wings, it’s more likely to be never. Will Nate have the balls to move one of his super centers for help on the wing?!?!

No, probably not.

The Van Massenhoevens had two weird drafts. They opened up by taking two Swedes 20 years apart in age, Paajarvi and Lidstrom. Then they closed the regular draft by taking a guy out with a concussion for 3 months (Mueller) and a guy fighting for a starting job (Niittymaki). Then, in the farm draft, they opened with two guys who will be in the NHL this year and then finished with two Penguins that are long, long, long term guys. Eh, I’m sure Nate knows what he’s doing. His extremely average fantasy hockey record speaks for itself.

2011 – Stamkos, Getzlaf and Heatley locked up for the next three years is a really nice place to start.


THE NERK TWINS

2009 – Didn’t expect the end of offensive defensemen scarcity and overrated my blueline, claiming to have two of the best in the league, was entirely wrong about the value of my goalies, almost everything else I said.

2010 – Believe it or not, I had about the best offense in the league last year, and that was with Franzen and Hemsky missing almost the whole season. But my goalies were so epically bad that the best I could do was win a week 5-4, and the worst I would do is lose 9-1. It was one of the worst performances in net I’ve ever seen from one team, and when I went 0-6-1 through the middle of the season, I was cooked.

The firepower is still on board, and with Spezza, Backstrom, Ryan, Marleau, Hemsky, Eriksson, Koivu, and Franzen, offense will not be hard to come by. If Phaneuf and Chara bounce back and my goaltending is even average, this team should roll.

I know I always love and overrate my teams like any good parent, but seriously, show me a better offense. Show me! Name one!

And if it gets to the point where I’m only starting Lundqvist every week, so be it.

2011 – I hated the Tangradi pick right as I made it, and with this Wheeling mess coming right as the draft contract years are to be finalized, I hate it even more. Two of my farm picks will be in the NHL this year, and Bozak might be decent. He’ll definitely be playing for me after I cut Dubinsky again. And if Corey Crawford takes starts in Chicago, hey, look at me.

Whereas a lot of Gatekeeper teams will be flushing the system this year, I set up myself to lose guys in two years. I have 8 guys on 2-year deals. I already have Presidential Economic Advisor Austen Goolsbee on staff to figure out a way to game these contracts and not let one of my many 40-goal scorers walk free.


WHALE COVE

2009 – I said they were decent. That was overly generous.

2010 – Caulen is moving to San Francisco for a few years, but he should probably be moving to Denver to be near his beloved Avalanche young stars. Then again, maybe distance is a good thing, because if Chris Stewart is anything less than the next Jarome Iginla, Caulen will be heartbroken.

The Whale Cove (named before that Japanese documentary about dolphin meat came out) is putting together a pretty solid core for the future…except his entire goalie corps, Stewart, Duchene and Okposo are free agents next summer. So while it’s probably fun to own the Tavares to Okposo connection and the St. Louis blueline, these guys might not be playing together for too long.

Which means that basically he has four superstars, a bunch of 50-60 point guys and good goalies. Well, two good goalies, at least. Hey, you know what? That’s usually a recipe for success.

2011 – So, ironically, the Whale Cove will improve greatly this season, ruining their draft position for the loaded Gatekeeper 2011 re-entry draft.


SCUDERI 4-EVER

2009 – I said this was a “really, really good team” with a good 2010 outlook and a “really good” future outlook. They lost the first 5 weeks, only won 4 weeks out of 21 and finished last by 12 points. Oops.

2010 – Then again, if you’re going to flame out, do it in the year it delivers Taylor Hall to your doorstep. With Malkin, Zetterberg, Kessel, Green, Visnovsky, Bogosian and Brodeur all in place, this team is primed to avenge last season’s debacle.

Although depth is still a major issue, and if any of the stars struggle again, you’ll see a repeat of last year, when their stars struggled and the team got mauled.

2011 – Scuderi isn’t afraid to trade, and if one star got moved for some depth pieces, they’d have it made.

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