Offseason Notebook: Post-free agency Top 75 rankings
You'll notice some very big changes from my first Top 75 list, which was done before the free-agent frenzy. Before, I emphasized consistency and leaned more toward defensemen and goaltenders because I consider them more of a "sure" thing (as much of a sure thing as any fantasy rank). Now that most teams are taking some serious shape, I am more confident in moving several forwards up the list.
Another thing I can do now that most free agents have found a home is decide which teams will benefit fantasy owners most when it comes to power-play and plus/minus categories. You'll notice that all Ottawa Senators have dropped a few rankings, as I consider the team incredibly top-heavy and I don't have confidence in any of their defensemen to run an efficient power play. I also take issue with having only Martin Gerber and Alex Auld to mind the crease.
Without further ado, here is the revamped top 75 as of July 16. Remember, this is for the coming ESPN 10-team standard leagues that count goals, assists, penalty minutes, plus/minus, power-play points, shots on goal and average ice time for forwards; wins, goals-against average and save percentage for goalies.
I'll pre-emptively defend some of the ones that might make you wonder what I'm smoking.
|2008-09 Fantasy Hockey Top 75 Rankings: Updated July 16|
|7||Pavel Datsyuk||C||Red Wings|
|11||Henrik Zetterberg||LW||Red Wings|
|13||Nicklas Lidstrom||D||Red Wings|
|16||Rick Nash||LW||Blue Jackets|
|18||Marian Hossa||RW||Red Wings|
|36||Brian Rafalski||D||Red Wings|
|46||Martin St. Louis||RW||Lightning|
|49||Johan Franzen||C||Red Wings|
|72||Mats Sundin||C||Free agent|
Now, to go over some of my selections that I feel need a little justification:
Marian Hossa, RW, Red Wings (18): Even I was baffled at first by my ranking Hossa at No. 41 before. Sure, we didn't know where he would end up signing, but it was still way too low. Now, at No. 18, I still look at him and say he should be higher, but whom do I drop? Is Hossa more valuable than Rick Nash? Alexei Kovalev and that dynamite power play in Montreal? Henrik Zetterberg? Ryan Getzlaf? Hossa is likely to find time with Pavel Datsyuk, Zetterberg and/or Tomas Holmstrom on the top line (depending on who is hurt that week). However, if everyone happens to be healthy, we are talking about some combination of Johan Franzen, Daniel Cleary and/or Valtteri Filppula. Those guys aren't chopped liver, but they aren't Datsyuk, Sidney Crosby or Ilya Kovalchuk either. Hossa is still a top right winger (thanks to a lack of depth), but I'm not bending over backwards to get him on any of my teams.
Vincent Lecavalier, C, Lightning (20): You might wonder why I have him relatively far down the list. First, that minus-17 Lecavalier logged last season is likely to stick around for another year. Filip Kuba, Paul Ranger, Matt Carle and Ty Wishart are all offensive-type defensemen, as opposed to defensive. Plus, with Olaf Kolzig and Mike Smith manning the net, the Bolts are going to let in a lot of goals. Don't get me wrong, this team looks built to win, but by scores of 6-5 rather than 3-2. Secondly, the Lightning's free-agent roundup means that all the offense doesn't have to flow through one line anymore. Coach Barry Melrose can trot out four scoring lines if he wants to. I think the offense is spread around a little more in Tampa this season.
Carey Price, G, Canadiens (34): Can I get away with just saying "I believe!" No? Didn't think so. OK, think of it this way: Price might be just 21 when the season starts, but he is battle-tested at every level. The world stage? A 6-0 record with a 1.14 GAA in international play. Thrust into the AHL playoffs? How about 15-6 with a 2.06 GAA leading the Hamilton Bulldogs to the Calder Cup and being named MVP (that's after playing just two games of professional hockey with the Bulldogs before the playoffs started). Rookie NHL season at the age of 20? A 24-12 record with a 2.56 GAA and .920 save percentage. Now let me restate my argument: "I believe!"
Jonathan Toews, C, Blackhawks (43): While Toews and Patrick Kane (58) are ranked so high, teammate Martin Havlat is not. Injury issues aside, I don't even think a guaranteed healthy Havlat would crack this list. Not only do I predict that Toews and Kane will avoid any sophomore slump, I think they will get better. The offense will flow through their line (leaving Havlat and Robert Lang a distant second). In fact, consider Toews and Kane a middle-class version of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. Brian Campbell and Cristobal Huet help these two with their peripheral stats such as plus/minus and power-play points. Patrick Sharp didn't make the Top 75, but he'll also be a No. 2 winger as the likely candidate to line up with the Toews-Kane combo.
How about a few names that you don't see, but maybe think you should:
Jason Arnott, C, Predators: I wanted to include him, but with the loss of Alexander Radulov and the uncertainty over Steve Sullivan's return, I have serious concerns for the four months of hockey when J.P. Dumont isn't on fire.
Chris Osgood, G, Red Wings: I just don't think he has 82-game stamina left and I worry other teams might figure out the key to scoring goals against him (by taking more than 15 shots a game).
Nikolai Zherdev, RW, Rangers: I would have included him, as I love the idea of Zherdev working with Markus Naslund and Scott Gomez, but if I hear one more person call him "enigmatic," I'm going to snap. Putting him on the list might have caused someone to comment "Ohhh, yes Zherdev is an enigmatic choice." Then I would have snapped.
Daniel Briere, C, Flyers: To be honest, Briere is actually third on my list of Flyers centers. I think Jeff Carter takes a step forward, and because he also brings some physical play to the table (you know how they love that in Philly), I expect him to end up with better numbers than Briere. Briere will be serviceable, but I like Mike Richards and Carter as a terrific one-two punch. Briere's minus-22 on a good Flyers team last year should be a red flag.
Michael Cammalleri, LW, Flames: Cammalleri's value all hinges on where they play him. Does he line up on left wing with Jarome Iginla and Daymond Langkow, where the Flames put all their offensive eggs in one basket? How about shifting to center to play with Iginla and Todd Bertuzzi? What if Cammalleri plays center on the second line with the likes of Dustin Boyd or Rene Bourque? You can see how I put him in fantasy limbo right now.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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