FHL '05-'06: One month in

Updated: November 9, 2005, 1:58 PM ET
ESPN Fantasy Games

A month into the fantasy and NHL seasons, it is time to check in on the correspondents and how they are faring. The changes in the NHL are having very noticeable effects league wide and in fantasy circles. Some of the old assumptions still hold but other new ones are creeping in. So, here is what your friendly, loveable and dare we say, handsome, correspondents have to say.

To check out the Battle of the Correspondents league, click here.

And click here to read all our fine correspondents' work.

Andrew Kang, Boston Bruins

League Musings

Despite being picked by no one in the league to win, Bobby Orr Flying [Editor's note: this is Andrew's team. I guess self aggrandizing is not his gig] sits atop the standings, thanks to strong contributions from Roberto Luongo, Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne and Lubomir Visnovsky. I am really surprised that The Fighting Tuques, my pick to win, is languishing at the bottom, but I do not expect that to last too long with Dany Heatley and Jason Spezza leading the way. Al needs a goalie, though.

Add, Drop, Trade

I picked up Manny Fernandez, which proved to be useful when Andrew Raycroft went down. He will duke it out all year with Dwayne Roloson, but he usually starts or sits in stretches. He also is either really hot or getting lit like a Christmas tree. Others I have picked up from waivers are Craig Conroy, Alex Frolov and Richard Zednick. I traded Wade Redden and Marian Gaborik for Mike Modano and Sergei Zubov. About even so far on that one.

New Rules

The age old adage still applies - Goalies Rule Fantasy Hockey. The "All-Offense" clubs are suffering as a result. Even though the overall goalie numbers are higher, you still can't win without two strong goaltending performers heading up your squad.

Al Willig, Ottawa Senators

League Musings

Bobby Orr Flying's start team answers the question about whether Luongo was worthy of a first round pick. Yes. The Senators are lagging in games played so I should see some added production once they catch up in that category. The fact remains that I am in last place and getting killed in the goalie category. I am not going to panic just yet, but I need to get my goalies (Ward, Lehtonen, Nabokov) healthy to have a chance.

Add, Drop, Trade

Others have addressed my Kipper pick and subsequent trade so I will not. I have been fairly active on the waiver wire picking up Hecht, Vanek, Jason Williams, Phaneuf, Hartnell, Dumont, Cam Ward, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Emery. Some disappointing draftees include Daze (injured), Hunter (weenie), Leopold (lost PP time to Phaneuf), and Zherdev (lazy).

New Rules

Everyone knows that scoring is up but the underlying why is a critical question to answer if you are going to help your fantasy team. There are a lot more power plays, so having players on the top units has been huge. I would expect this to even out a bit as players get used to keeping their sticks on the ice.

Goons on your fantasy squad should be a thing of the past as you open yourself to getting left far behind in the scoring columns. Thus, having decent scoring players who play a rough and tumble style and stick up for teammates are all the more important to keeping a solid PIM total. Big, lumbering defensemen are liabilities (see: Derian Hatcher). Fast, positionally strong defensemen are assets. Good luck!

Bob Stocking, Carolina Hurricanes

League Musings

As of Nov. 1, I am in 4th place, which is fine. I do not want to peak too early, or get so far behind I do not have a chance. No one is running away with it yet, and only poor Al's team looks like it has to overcome great adversity to have a shot.

Add, Drop, Trade
I was involved in our most controversial trade yet. I surrendered Rob Blake for Alexei Kovalev and Philippe Boucher, and was roundly criticized by several owners for the deal. I felt like I was pretty deep at D (Jovanovski, Tverdovsky, Rafalski, and Tarnstrom) and that the extra scoring would help my team. Here is what the three players have done since the trade (Oct. 10-31):
Blake: 1G, 6A, -3, 5 PP/SH, 12 PIM, 27 SOG
Boucher: 1G, 5A, -2, 3 PP/SH, 25 PIM, 16 SOG
Kovalev: 4G, 4A, +4, 4 PP/SH, 8 PIM, 36 SOG
I can not say that I have won the deal yet, but I certainly did not give away too much for what I got back.

New Rules

I mentioned after the draft that I tried to pick guys I thought would thrive in the new NHL; guys who could skate and whose skills would have more of a chance to shine. I have been pleased with Lang, Arnason, Marleau, Sturm, Stillman, even Havlat (when he's played). But old/slow Arnott has done well, too. Bertuzzi has been OK, but not first-round worthy yet. Now that he has played in Denver, I think he is ready to take off.

Torre Tyson, St. Louis Blues

League Musings

It is not a surprise to me who is in dead last with the No. 1 overall pick; Kiprusoff (traded for an injured Nabokov). Maybe Al should have gone after all hometown players and taken Hasek; who I felt then was then and still looks like a steal at No. 9. Even with my heart led picks of Lalime, Tkachuk, and Weight I still stand in third place. I built my team around defense and I am sticking to it.

Add, Drop, Trade

Surprisingly there have only been four trades in the league, two of which were mine. I acquired a slumping Rob Blake and a thriving Wade Redden (along with an injured Gaborik). Sergei Gonchar is coming around and so will my team as long as I can keep my hands off of them. I tend to trade for the sake of trading and rip myself off trying to seal a deal. Fortunately my offers trying to give Jagr away were rejected. Thanks, guys for that.

New Rules

You can not get upset with otherwise mediocre goalie stats anymore. A GAA of 3 and a win is a great game with scoring up this year. I am also banking on more fringe forwards to fill in my last few spots. As I said before, my philosophy is defense first so we will see in the end.

Rob Warren, Calgary Flames

League Musings

My team is still in the main pack so no need to panic just yet, though a couple of ones (goals, shots) and a two (defense points) need to be addressed before the others pull away from me.

Add, Drop, Trade

Out of the gate my biggest weakness was on defense so I made room on my roster to add Nick Boynton (unsigned at the time) and Richard Jackman (thought he might see power play time) before the season started. I still need to tinker but I am in better shape than before.

Miikka Kiprusoff's awful start provided me with an opportunity to acquire him from his frustrated owner for Evgeni Nabokov. The deal went through on Oct. 13, and Kipper got his first shutout of the season two nights later. His numbers since the trade (through November 1): 4 wins, 1.20 GAA, 0.940 SV%. And then Nabokov got hurt, which proves that you should take advantage of opportunities to pick up slow starters, but also that in fantasy it much more important to be lucky than good. Sorry about your luck, Al.

New Rules

To me the rules changes are a red herring. The biggest impact in both fantasy and the NHL has not been the new rules, it has been the way the officials have been enforcing the old ones. But the best goalies are still the best goalies, the top lines are still the top lines; I think you will have more success focusing on the key players and not worrying about the new rules.

Erick Hayden, Tampa Bay Lightning

League Musings

I am sucking the big egg so far, mostly because I am waiting for some important players (Marty Turco, Chris Pronger and Sheldon Souray) to find their stride. I have also been hurt by players like Chris Simon, Mark Bell and Marc-Andre Bergeron not coming through as expected.

Add, Drop, Trade

I have done a great job salvaging this team with some nice waiver pick-ups -- Henrik Lundqvist, Pavel Vorobiev, Per Axelsson and Frantisek Kaberle to name the best.

New Rules

I love the new rules, though it is a bit of a shift to realize that your players are not performing as much as needed if they are not scoring around or above 1 point per game. With the mass of points it is really harder to tell with the borderline players who is just playing hot, or is the real deal. It is also imperative to find goalies that can handle the new system, as there has been a drastic shakeup amongst the upper echelon of netminders.

Duncan Burns, Vancouver Canucks

League Musings

Only 14 points separate first through seventh in "The Battle of the Correspondents" League. For the experienced FHLer, that can change within two nights of hockey. My team? I went from fourth in the country to fifth in our league. I was prepared that this year was going to be all offense, and drafted accordingly. It has paid off to the point that I have led the league in almost all offensive categories. My plus/minus and assist total is 30 points away from the closest team.

Add, Drop, Trade

My fall from domination? Platoon goaltending is one of the worst things that can happen to an FHL junkie. In my case, Team USA goalie Ty Conklin was sent to the minors! Who in their right mind would have seen that? Likewise, Jose Theodore's backup in Montreal, now L.A. King savior, Mathieu Garon has imploded. Needless to say, I am now near rock bottom of goaltending stats. Absolutely devastating! Having three of the top five defenseman, I had to make a trade for a goalie. I traded Tanguay/Zhitnik for Pitkanen/Grahame to plug the hole in my goaltending situation.

The biggest upset has to go to "Bobby Orr Flying". I did not see that coming whatsoever. Of course, the incredible start by Luongo did not hurt his team either. His goalie situation is finally coming back to earth, where it was supposed to be anyway. It is a long season, and injuries are starting to impact all teams. I am satisfied with my picks, and my standing, just wished that my goalies did not want to go on an extended golfing trip after the lockout.

New Rules

What new rules?

Ted Herbert, Phoenix Coyotes

League Musings

My team currently sits ninth in the standings. This is due to early season injuries to Fedorov, Sundin and more recently Cloutier. If these players can return to the lineup soon then my team could certainly make a move in the standings. Post-draft thoughts regarding my best pick were close. My best pick preseason was Briere, who I thought was a 30-goal caliber forward. Briere currently sits at 10 goals in 12 games, on pace to shatter my original assessment. The early season surprise on my team however has been Eric Staal, who has 25 points in 12 games played. I drafted Staal late in the 19th round. The biggest bust from my draft right now is Jarome Iginla, my first overall pick, who has had a slow start to the season.

Add, Drop, Trade

There have been several trades but overall a quiet league with respect to trading. My best pickup off waivers is clearly Labarbera who has been among the top goalies and has kept my goalie categories somewhat respectable. The injuries to Sundin and Fedorov resulted in some waiver pickups to keep my team alive in the standings.

New Rules

The new league rules have impacted fantasy leagues. The goalies once thought elite are making way for some young kids like Lundqvuist and Labarbera (my best waiver pickup). The forwards that were once fantasy worthy (Modano, Guerin, Amonte, Weight, Tkachuk) are more like waiver guys and are being replaced by the kids and future stars (Staal, Havlat, Spezza, Ovechkin).

Josh Bornstein, Philadelphia Flyers

League Musings

I am currently residing in second place. No one is running away with this league, so it is all about positioning yourself to make a run at the end. My games played are below the maximum limit and my team has been relatively healthy. My goaltending tandem of Jose Theodore and Manny Legace has been very good, while my overall offense has been solid. I'm looking for Markus Naslund and Joe Sakic to be great, not just very good. I'm confident that they will step up and lead my club. I drafted Patrick Elias in the 12th round, and I'm hoping that in about two or three weeks that he will return to action and be the absolute steal of the draft. Scott Neidermayer has picked up his play. I still believe that he will end up in the top 5 in defensemen scoring. My Achilles' heel has been my +/- (and to a lesser extent PIM). Fortunately, those are two categories that you can easily manufacture later in the year.

Add, Drop, Trade

I thought that I had one of the strongest drafts back in September. So, I have done very little tinkering with my lineup. My recent addition of Ray Whitney has really helped especially with his prowess on the power play. I dealt John Grahame and Joni Pitkanen for Alex Tanguay and Alexei Zhitnik. It was a fair and even deal. At this point in the season, I am not looking to make a head-tuner of a trade. My confidence is high with the Beasts and their current roster.

New Rules

I love the new NHL. The game I love is now exciting. Skill is rewarded while boorish, lazy play is being penalized. Being a Flyers' fan, I thoroughly enjoy watching New Jersey struggle to find an identity now that they can not cheat to win. Sorry, I did not mean to offend the three Devils' fans out there! Of course, the officiating will change as the season marches on. But, as long as the neutral zone remains obstruction-free, the game should remain very entertaining and the fantasy stats should continue to pile up.

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