Front Line: What's wrong with Iginla?
There certainly doesn't seem to be much that can get Jarome Iginla going this season. Sure, his 44 points seem solid on the surface, but this is a guy who has been a surefire top-10 fantasy pick for the better part of the last decade. Instead, Iginla is on pace for his lowest goal total since the 2000-2001 season.
Olli Jokinen was supposed to be the key, but several attempts to generate a spark between Jokinen and Iginla have more or less failed. The Calgary Flames have also tried David Moss, Curtis Glencross, Eric Nystrom, Fredrik Sjostrom and Craig Conroy for lengthy periods of times alongside Iggy, but that hasn't worked either. And more recently, Jamie Lundmark has failed to provide the spark coach Brent Sutter had hoped, so Iginla remains on a 10-game goal drought and is back on a line with Conroy and Glencross. Right now the future looks dim.
Coach Sutter has been quite consistent with keeping the second line intact all season, as Daymond Langkow, Rene Bourque and Nigel Dawes have rarely been split up. While it's hard to argue with the solid (if unspectacular for fantasy) production from the trio, rekindling past chemistry between Langkow and Iginla appears to be off the table because of it.
It appears that whoever Iginla needs to help him return to form isn't wearing a Flames jersey right now. If Calgary doesn't go after a top-line winger at the trade deadline, it will be a huge mistake.
Top 100 Skaters Note: Sean Allen's top 100 forwards are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play goals, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.
1. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Was (1)
2. Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (2)
3. Dany Heatley, RW, SJ (3)
4. Marian Gaborik, RW, NYR (4)
5. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pit (5)
6. Zach Parise, LW, NJ (6)
7. Patrick Marleau, C, SJ (7)
8. Mike Richards, C, Phi (8)
9. Joe Thornton, C, SJ (9)
10. Henrik Sedin, C, Van (10)
11. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Atl (11)
12. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (12)
13. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Was (13)
14. Corey Perry, RW, Anh (14)
15. Rick Nash, LW, Cls (15)
16. Jarome Iginla, RW, Cgy (16)
17. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (17)
18. Bobby Ryan, RW, Anh (18)
19. Daniel Sedin, LW, Van (19)
20. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (20)
21. Alexander Semin, LW, Was (21)
22. Eric Staal, C, Car (25)
23. Jeff Carter, C, Phi (23)
24. Ryan Malone, LW, TB (22)
25. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anh (24)
26. Jonathan Toews, C, Chi (26)
27. Alex Burrows, C, Van (31)
28. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Det (29)
29. Marian Hossa, RW, Chi (30)
30. Mike Cammalleri, LW, Mon (32)
31. Dustin Penner, LW, Edm (27)
32. Paul Stastny, C, Col (34)
33. Henrik Zetterberg, C, Det (36)
34. Loui Eriksson, LW, Dal (38)
35. Scott Hartnell, RW, Phi (39)
36. Mikko Koivu, C, Min (40)
37. Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB (41)
38. Brenden Morrow, LW, Dal (37)
39. Ryan Kesler, C, Van (48)
40. Brad Richards, C, Dal (33)
41. Brooks Laich, C, Was (43)
42. Martin St. Louis, RW, TB (44)
43. Patrick Sharp, C, Chi (45)
44. Tim Connolly, C, Buf (49)
45. Nathan Horton, RW, Fla (28)
46. Tomas Plekanec, C, Mon (47)
47. Ryan Smyth, LW, LA (35)
48. Olli Jokinen, C, Cgy (42)
49. Shane Doan, RW, Pho (51)
50. Mike Knuble, RW, Was (52)
51. Daniel Alfredsson, RW, Ott (59)
52. Stephen Weiss, C, Fla (53)
53. Travis Zajac, C, NJ (56)
54. Martin Havlat, LW, Min (61)
55. John Tavares, C, NYI (46)
56. Marc Savard, C, Bos (55)
57. Bill Guerin, RW, Pit (57)
58. Tomas Holmstrom, LW, Det (58)
59. Mike Fisher, C, Ott (65)
60. Chris Stewart, RW, Col (72)
61. Phil Kessel, RW, Tor (60)
62. Wojtek Wolski, LW, Col (63)
63. Mason Raymond, LW, Van (64)
64. Steve Downie, RW, TB (66)
65. Jason Arnott, C, Nsh (67)
66. Ryane Clowe, RW, SJ (68)
67. Patrik Elias, LW, NJ (50)
68. Joe Pavelski, C, SJ (74)
69. Patric Hornqvist, RW, Nsh (79)
70. Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, NJ (73)
71. Brian Gionta, RW, Mon (70)
72. Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (71)
73. Andrew Brunette, LW, Min (62)
74. Teemu Selanne, RW, Anh (75)
75. Vaclav Prospal, C, NYR (76)
76. David Backes, C, StL (77)
77. Maxim Afinogenov, RW, Atl (69)
78. Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Van (78)
79. Niclas Bergfors, RW, NJ (81)
80. Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW, Tor (82)
81. Milan Lucic, LW, Bos (83)
82. Rich Peverley, C, Atl (80)
83. Kris Versteeg, RW, Chi (84)
84. Thomas Vanek, LW, Buf (85)
85. Rene Bourque, LW, Cgy (86)
86. James Neal, LW, Dal (87)
87. Danny Briere, C, Phi (88)
88. Michael Frolik, C, Fla (89)
89. Guillaume Latendresse, RW, Min (99)
90. Matt Moulson, LW, NYI (90)
91. Nik Antropov, RW, Atl (91)
92. Dustin Brown, RW, LA (93)
93. Dustin Byfuglien, LW, Chi (94)
94. Alexei Kovalev, RW, Ott (NR)
95. Jussi Jokinen, LW, Car (NR)
96. Jarret Stoll, C, LA (95)
97. Jason Spezza, C, Ott (NR)
98. Troy Brouwer, RW, Chi (97)
99. Simon Gagne, LW, Phi (98)
100. Blake Wheeler, RW, Bos (100)
In the meantime, what is a diligent fantasy owner to do in order to benefit? The gambler in me wants to suggest a play for Iginla if you don't own him. Surely, the Flames' brass recognizes the lack of production and intends to rectify the situation for the home stretch (read: impact trade deadline). However, we need more evidence than that to make such a bold move.
How about the fact that Iggy came back with a huge boost in production following the last Olympic break? In the 2005-06 season, Iginla scored at a 0.77 points-per-game pace for the first 57 games. After the playing for Team Canada at the Torino Games, Iginla came back to pot 23 points in the final 25 games (0.92 points per game) and then eight points in seven playoff games.
So, maybe you throw a lowball offer or two to Iginla's owner to see if there is any bite on the other end. Don't break the bank on this one because there is nothing solid to hold on to as far as the numbers game is concerned. But if you can dig out Iggy for below asking price, it certainly is something to consider. Remember, even an off year like this still has him 33rd overall among forwards, so you wouldn't be investing in a dud.
For more subtle moves, I'd consider making a stab at Jokinen. His value is about as low as it has been in fantasy since the lockout. Any big production boost for Iginla is bound to trickle down for Jokinen as well. It's not like he would be left out of Sutter's top-line plans regardless of any big moves by the club.
Rising and Falling
Ryan Smyth, LW, Los Angeles Kings (down 12 spots): The chemistry between Anze Kopitar and Smyth helped launch the pair to a lot of fantasy owners' good graces at the start of the season, but Smyth hasn't been the same since being injured. Since missing time in November and December, Smyth hasn't been quite the player he was. Outside of a four-game power-play goal streak to start the month, Smyth has been pitching a lot of goose eggs. Now, he has been split up from Kopitar onto the second line and isn't taking as many shots on goal. Hopefully, the fire returns to Smyth's belly soon, as he needs to be paired up with Kopitar to have any hope of climbing the rankings again. He is still getting power-play time, but with the Kings 0-for-27 over the past six games, that doesn't mean much.
Brad Richards, C, Dallas Stars (down seven spots): Not that Richards' production has dropped dramatically since Brenden Morrow started missing games, but it's dropped enough that he is no longer bordering on elite. Not only is Richards without a linemate, but he is also down a distraction. Without Mike Ribeiro running a quality second line for the Stars, opponents are focusing on Richards' line. With so many troubles on the injury front, Richards and the Stars need some reinforcements.
Daniel Alfredsson, RW, Ottawa Senators (up eight spots): Guess who's back? Alfie and the Senators are making some noise for the first time this season. Since returning from injury, Alfredsson is up to nine points in just five games. Jason Spezza and Milan Michalek quickly followed suit, and the Sens went from famine to feast in less than a week. I know it's a small sample size, but we've seen what this core of players has done in the past so we might be able to expect big things from Alfredsson, Spezza and Alexei Kovalev going forward.
John Tavares, C, New York Islanders (down nine spots): With just five points in 20 games, Tavares is in a serious downward spiral. This isn't just some rookie slump, cold streak or a rough patch. The downturn came on the heels of some line shakeups that saw Matt Moulson separated from Tavares, and it's strange the two haven't been reunited to try to kick Tavares back into gear. Instead, the recently hot Josh Bailey has been tossed on a line with Tavares and Kyle Okposo. If that isn't enough to get him going again, I don't know what will. The bottom line though, is that Tavares has to sink several spots in the rankings.
• The Washington Capitals busted up the big three of Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin and Nicklas Backstrom again. Mike Knuble has been playing up front with Ovechkin and Backstrom both on and off the power play, and has eight points in his past nine games.
• For the first time since being separated from Joe Thornton in November, Devin Setoguchi has started to emerge as an option again. With five points in five games, Setoguchi has finally clicked with Joe Pavelski. He may be available as he was cut loose in many leagues.
• Pavol Demitra is finally back on the ice, but he finds himself with a Vancouver Canucks team that no longer has any need for him in the top six. Demitra is buried on the third line with Steve Bernier and Kyle Wellwood. There is still an opportunity for him to work his way up, but the situation bears only monitoring at this point.
• Called up to fill in for Bill Guerin on Monday, Chris Conner made an impact with two goals. Taking advantage of winging Sidney Crosby like that can certainly bode well for future ice time. Conner made a bit of a name for himself as a blue-chip prospect for the Dallas Stars in recent years, but he never really took the next step at the NHL level for them.
• A lot of the Sens' recent success has come on the power play, and an unexpected catalyst has been rookie forward Peter Regin. He's skating with Kovalev at even strength, so he certainly deserves a second look.
Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com and the 2008 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here.
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