Are You For Real? Bryzgalov, Cullen, Carle
The dollar north of the border is all over the place these days.
Only worth about $0.85 U.S. last February, it hit the $1.10 mark a few weeks ago. Now it's hovering above but closer to parity with the greenback. American retailers and Canadian shoppers are benefiting from this surge; U.S. buyers and Canuck merchants are not. However this economic fluctuation affects you, it goes to show the price of anything, currency or commodity, can change radically in a matter of months.
This holds true for fantasy hockey players as well. So let's evaluate the altered value of several skaters in financial terms, as compared to last winter. The assigned prices (in U.S. dollars, that is) are arbitrary and not linked to any real economic data. We're just using them to demonstrate value change. As a point of comparison, let's assume Vincent Lecavalier is worth about $2.00.
February 2007 value: $0.65
Present value: $1.70
Bryzgalov is a brand new man away from the Anaheim Ducks and starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere. Picked up by Phoenix less than a couple weeks ago, Bryzgalov, now an undisputed No. 1 goaltender, carries a perfect 4-0 record. His goals-against average is 1.20 and save percentage is a stingy .929. Stellar numbers, to be sure. But can Bryzgalov live up to his heightened inflation with an arguably substandard team? Or will his value depreciate once the Coyotes get over their latest novelty in net? In essence, Ilya Bryzgalov, are you for real?
John: Just so you know, I had to reread my old college economics books for the purpose of this column. But I digress. Bryzgalov is certainly an upgrade for the Coyotes in net, but I seriously doubt this hot streak will continue. Let's all remember that we're talking about one of the worst teams in the NHL over the past decade, and things don't turn around so quickly.
Victoria: Agreed. This is the same old story about a great goaltender on an inadequate team. Shane Doan and Ed Jovanovski can't do it all. You know you'll get plenty of starts out of Bryzgalov, but the fantasy consequences could be dire.
John: Bryzgalov is facing a little more than 27 shots a game, which, projected over a full season, would land him near the top of NHL goalies in that category. We've all seen what a heavy workload can do to a goalie (Tomas Vokoun is seeing more than 32 shots per game) compared to a smaller workload (Chris Osgood is seeing just 22 shots a game). I would expect his numbers to eventually fall somewhere in the 2.50 goals-against range, just above his career mark. Bryzgalov will be a serviceable but not great option in net for the remainder of the season.
Victoria: But you can't just dump him either. Trade him to someone with especially weak netminders, or ride out the good times while they last. And here's a funny, surprising statistic for you: Phoenix leads the league in wins after scoring first. So as long as they score the first goal each and every game, the Coyotes will win the Cup and Bryzgalov will take home the Vezina trophy!
February 2007 value: $0.55
Present value: $1.75
The Hurricanes lead the league in goals per game, and Cullen is contributing more than his expected share. With 24 so far, Cullen is on pace for an 82-point season. This would be unprecedented for him. In nine previous seasons, he has never eclipsed the 50-point mark. So what gives? Is he for real?
John: Seems pretty puzzling, doesn't it? Cullen tops out at 49 points over the first nine years of his career, yet he's suddenly a point-per-game player now? What's going on? Well, playing on the highest-scoring team in the NHL certainly helps. While I doubt he finishes the year with 80-plus points, I do think he will finish in the 60- to 70-point range. Fellow Hurricane forwards Ray Whitney, Cory Stillman, Rod Brind'Amour and Justin Williams could all potentially set new career highs in points, so why not lump Cullen into that category? Unless the Canes' offense completely dries up, Cullen will continue to produce.
Victoria: I'm a little more suspect of the fast start. As you mentioned, there's a plethora of high scorers on the Hurricanes. Too many, in fact. Six different players have more than 20 points, and that doesn't include stud forward Erik Cole, who has missed eight games. Even for the most productive team in the league, there will be only so many points to go around as the season progresses. Don't get me wrong. I don't think Cullen's output will plummet, but this pace is unsustainable on such a well-rounded offense. Now is the time to sell high.
February 2007 value: $1.25
Present value: About $0.02
By most accounts, Carle was supposed to rack up 50 points this year. So far he has six points in 19 games, including just one in November (which obviously is almost over). San Jose management doesn't seem too disappointed; they just signed him to a four-year extension worth $13.75 million. Are the Sharks out to lunch, or do they expect the young Alaskan lad to turn things around? And if so, when? Is this slow start for real?
John: Six points. Carle must be drinking whatever Jonathan Cheechoo and Patrick Marleau have in their water bottles this season because all three look lost out there. I would venture a guess that this isn't really a problem with Carle alone, but rather the system in place in San Jose. The Sharks are averaging just more than 2.5 goals per game this year and have slowed even more of late.
Victoria: Unimpressive scoring aside, San Jose enjoys a similar luxury on defense as the Hurricanes do on offense. Unlike Carolina, they lack standout superstars, but their core group of defensemen is solid. Christian Ehrhoff and Craig Rivet regularly and deservedly lead the blueliners in ice time. Even Sandis Ozolinsh is contributing since he joined the squad 10 games ago. The one expression I dread to hear regarding any fantasy player is "healthy scratch," and Carle spent three consecutive games as an observer only a few weeks ago. He was tossed back on the ice only after Rivet and Marcel Goc went down to injury. Rivet is back, and Goc is listed as day-to-day. If the Sharks aren't too interested in playing him, why should any fantasy owner?
John: I don't imagine things will improve much for him either. Despite the lack of offense in San Jose, the team is doing pretty well this season. So why fiddle with what's already working? Don't be fooled by the contract extension; it's not that much more per season that the average NHL player makes, and the Sharks still have no obligation to play him. The Sharks simply didn't want to let go of a young defenseman with a little offensive flair. But I agree with you, Victoria. No one should feel obliged to keep him on any fantasy team.
Victoria Matiash and John Pereira are fantasy hockey analysts for ESPN.com.