Front Line: Believe in Canucks' top line
Check out this line: 2.08 goals, 3.91 assists, plus-1.76. That is the average production per game from the Sedins and Burrows over the past month. They have sustained that level of production for the past 30 days (12 games). Over a full season, that would mean the trio was responsible for more than 170 goals, 320 assists and a combined plus/minus of plus-144. Those numbers are, quite frankly, ridiculous.
But their pace over the whole season can't possibly be that solid, can it? Well, not all of them, as Daniel missed 18 games with a broken foot and Burrows has only recently upped his pace. Henrik, on the other hand, is on pace for a 118-point season. Yep. He simply has to maintain his current pace and he'll finish with 38 goals (previous career high, 25), 80 assists (previous high, 71) and a plus-41 (previous high, plus-27) for a total of 118 points (previous high, 82). That's correct, Henrik's previous career high for points is 82 and he is just five points away from breaking that right now.
Daniel Sedin has already missed a third of the season he can't get back, but his current pace will have him finishing with 77 points, just seven shy of his career high of 84. For comparison's sake, if you apply his pace over 82 games, he projects right up there with Henrik at 115 points.
Burrows, on the other hand, would project for a full season of only 74 points right now. That may sound low when he is stacked up against his linemates, but for a player like him to score nearly 40 goals would be phenomenal from a fantasy standpoint. Don't forget Burrows will finish with more than 100 penalty minutes as well as a plus-46 if he continues his current pace.
Sure, they stack up well against each other, especially over the past 30 days, but what about the rest of the league over the entire season thus far? According to the ESPN Player Rater, overall this season, Henrik Sedin ranks 13th and Burrows 15th. Meanwhile, despite missing 18 games this season, Daniel is 33rd overall. That's better than Joe Thornton, Rick Nash or Ryan Getzlaf, and none of them missed 18 games.
This Vancouver Canucks top line isn't going to stop. By showing just how ridiculous their season has been, it would become apparent that there is no sign of things slowing down. However, part in parcel with that argument is the very mindset that your fantasy opponent might have: Maybe things have been so ridiculous that they have to slow down? That's what you want your opponent to think and that's why I think you can confidently trade for this trio and pay a price that will be advantageous to you. While someone trading Henrik, Daniel or Burrows might think he or she is selling high, it will actually be a little bit closer to fair market value. These three have been, and will be, that good this season.
If your fantasy team is languishing at the moment and you are thinking about either throwing in the towel or simply aiming for fifth place, this is the move you make: Go hard after the Canucks' top line. None of them has a shot at catching Alexander Ovechkin, but I wouldn't bet against any of these three finishing with more value than everyone else.
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. Henrik Sedin, C, Van (10)
10. Joe Thornton, C, SJ (9)
11. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Atl (11)
12. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (12)
13. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Was (13)
14. Daniel Sedin, LW, Van (19)
15. Corey Perry, RW, Anh (14)
16. Jarome Iginla, RW, Cgy (16)
17. Rick Nash, LW, Cls (15)
18. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (17)
19. Bobby Ryan, RW, Anh (18)
20. Eric Staal, C, Car (22)
21. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (20)
22. Alexander Semin, LW, Was (21)
23. Jeff Carter, C, Phi (23)
24. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anh (25)
25. Alex Burrows, C, Van (27)
26. Ryan Malone, LW, TB (24)
27. Jonathan Toews, C, Chi (26)
28. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Det (28)
29. Marian Hossa, RW, Chi (29)
30. Paul Stastny, C, Col (32)
31. Henrik Zetterberg, C, Det (33)
32. Ryan Kesler, C, Van (39)
33. Loui Eriksson, LW, Dal (34)
34. Scott Hartnell, RW, Phi (35)
35. Mikko Koivu, C, Min (36)
36. Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB (37)
37. Brenden Morrow, LW, Dal (38)
38. Dustin Penner, LW, Edm (31)
39. Brad Richards, C, Dal (40)
40. Brooks Laich, C, Was (41)
41. Martin St. Louis, RW, TB (42)
42. Patrick Sharp, C, Chi (43)
43. Tim Connolly, C, Buf (44)
44. Tomas Plekanec, C, Mon (46)
45. Ryan Smyth, LW, LA (47)
46. Marc Savard, C, Bos (56)
47. Olli Jokinen, C, NYR (48)
48. Shane Doan, RW, Pho (49)
49. Mike Knuble, RW, Was (50)
50. Daniel Alfredsson, RW, Ott (51)
51. Stephen Weiss, C, Fla (52)
52. Nathan Horton, RW, Fla (45)
53. Travis Zajac, C, NJ (53)
54. Martin Havlat, LW, Min (54)
55. Steve Downie, RW, TB (64)
56. John Tavares, C, NYI (55)
57. Mike Fisher, C, Ott (59)
58. Phil Kessel, RW, Tor (61)
59. Bill Guerin, RW, Pit (57)
60. Tomas Holmstrom, LW, Det (58)
61. Mason Raymond, LW, Van (63)
62. Mike Cammalleri, LW, Mon (30)
63. Joe Pavelski, C, SJ (68)
64. Chris Stewart, RW, Col (60)
65. Wojtek Wolski, LW, Col (62)
66. Jason Arnott, C, Nsh (65)
67. Ryane Clowe, RW, SJ (66)
68. Patrik Elias, LW, NJ (67)
69. Patric Hornqvist, RW, Nsh (69)
70. Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, NJ (70)
71. Brian Gionta, RW, Mon (71)
72. Vaclav Prospal, C, NYR (75)
73. Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (72)
74. Andrew Brunette, LW, Min (73)
75. Teemu Selanne, RW, Anh (74)
76. David Backes, C, StL (76)
77. Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Van (78)
78. Guillaume Latendresse, RW, Min (89)
79. Milan Lucic, LW, Bos (81)
80. Thomas Vanek, LW, Buf (84)
81. Maxim Afinogenov, RW, Atl (77)
82. Kris Versteeg, RW, Chi (83)
83. Jason Spezza, C, Ott (97)
84. Niclas Bergfors, RW, NJ (79)
85. Rene Bourque, LW, Cgy (85)
86. James Neal, LW, Dal (86)
87. Dustin Brown, RW, LA (92)
88. Danny Briere, C, Phi (87)
89. Jussi Jokinen, LW, Car (95)
90. Michael Frolik, C, Fla (88)
91. Alexei Kovalev, RW, Ott (94)
92. Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW, Tor (80)
93. Nik Antropov, RW, Atl (91)
94. Simon Gagne, LW, Phi (99)
95. Dustin Byfuglien, LW, Chi (93)
96. Rich Peverley, C, Atl (82)
97. Jarret Stoll, C, LA (96)
98. Troy Brouwer, RW, Chi (98)
99. Jason Pominville, RW, Buf (NR)
100. David Perron, LW, StL (NR)
Rising and Falling
Jason Spezza, C, Ottawa Senators (up 14 spots): He has scored four goals in his first four games back, returning at just the time the Ottawa Senators got hot. Now that Spezza is back in game shape, coach Cory Clouston has reunited him with Daniel Alfredsson and Milan Michalek. The difference this time is that the Mike Fisher-Nick Foligno-Alexei Kovalev line is actually providing some secondary scoring. With both pistons firing, the Sens should be able to maintain an offense that they should have had all season. I won't say Spezza is all the way back yet, but he's close.
Marc Savard, C, Boston Bruins (up 10 spots): He's back on the ice and playing huge minutes, so it's time to get Savard back into your lineups. His second injury absence of the season turned out to be less than a month, and he jumped right back on the top line with Milan Lucic and Miroslav Satan. He has an assist in each of the two contests since returning and should be back in game shape sooner than later. I have doubts as to whether Savard can climb back into the top 30, but this is certainly a start.
Matt Moulson, LW, New York Islanders (dropped out): No longer sniffing the ice with players who can make a difference on the score sheet, Moulson and his 20 goals are quickly becoming an afterthought. He has just six goals and five assists in his past 28 games, and is a minus-7 over that span. While his actual pace hasn't dropped off a ton from earlier this season, his power-play production has dried up, his plus/minus is now a detriment and even his shots on goal have fallen below average. That's three categories he is no longer helping. The ride was nice while it lasted, but it's time to bid Moulson a fond farewell.
I'm using this space and changing up the format this week to have a look at yet another big-name trade involving the Calgary Flames. This time, the Flames dealt former fantasy star Olli Jokinen and the pesky Brandon Prust to the New York Rangers for power-play specialist Ales Kotalik and forgotten winger Christopher Higgins. Here's who's affected the most:
Olli Jokinen, C, New York Rangers: This should come as no surprise, as Jokinen has the most to gain from the deal. He did not fit in with coach Brent Sutter's Flames and has been a huge disappointment to anyone who wound up with him in fantasy circles. He hasn't even been the best Jokinen to own this season (that title goes to Jussi Jokinen). On pace for his lowest goal total since 2001-02, Jokinen is highly unlikely to vault back into the upper echelon of fantasy players even with this move to Broadway. Still, a new mix of players to skate with always contains the potential for chemistry. The biggest problem is that to be a fantasy stud, Jokinen needs to be the focus of the offense, which will not happen with Marian Gaborik in town. When Jokinen was a perennial fantasy hero with the Florida Panthers, he used to fire 350 shots on goal per season. He'll be lucky to top 250 this season. Here's the bottom line: If you are desperate and you can fetch Jokinen in trade for someone like Jason Arnott, do it. You may not win the trade if Jokinen doesn't catch on with the Rangers, but you won't significantly lose the trade either.
Ales Kotalik, RW, Calgary Flames: I like the idea of adding Kotalik to your roster and seeing what happens with the Flames. While his role was significantly reduced for the Rangers in recent months, he is still a dangerous player with a wicked slapshot. Remember, he had 16 power-play points this season and only six even-strength points. He is a specialist and the Calgary Flames just shipped off their power-play point shot (Dion Phaneuf) to the Toronto Maple Leafs. There is an opening here, and if Kotalik can get on Coach Sutter's good side, there is a chance he can take advantage of it.
Christopher Higgins, LW, Calgary Flames: Higgins has been a terrible flop for the Rangers and hasn't shown any signs of his near-30-goal form from 2007-08 with the Montreal Canadiens. However, he joins a mix including Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Mikael Backlund, Ales Kotalik and Dustin Boyd, who all have a pretty even shot of landing on a line with Jarome Iginla for the remainder of the season. Such a role could do wonders for someone like Higgins, especially if he lands time on the power play.
The Anaheim Ducks saw Teemu Selanne return from injury to join newcomer Jason Blake and Saku Koivu on the second line. That means Bobby Ryan was promoted to the top line with Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Selanne was also back with Getzlaf and Perry on the power play, where he scored a goal. There is a lot of potential in these new combinations. David Booth is back for the Florida Panthers from a 45-game absence due to a concussion. He looked sharp Sunday and Monday, netting an assist in his first game back and firing a team-high six shots in his second. Booth was on the first power-play unit. If he's available, go get him. I don't claim to know the reasons why, but Dainius Zubrus is skating on the New Jersey Devils' top line with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac. He has four points in his past two games. Coincidence? I think not. With Mike Green out of the lineup (both suspended and hurt), the Washington Capitals deployed a five-forward power play with Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Tomas Fleischmann, Brendan Morrison and Mike Knuble. Fleischmann and Morrison make great spot starts for the remaining two games of Green's suspension. Stajan and Hagman drew first power-play unit duties with Iginla in their Flames debut on Monday night, and Stajan also skated alongside Iginla at even strength. The Jokinen trade means more line changes are pending, but that was certainly a vote of confidence from Coach Sutter in their debut.
Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here.
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