Open Ice: That deceptive shots-on-goal statistic
Shots on goal has quickly made the transition from a custom-league statistic to a standard-league category in a few short years. Although many have long advocated for the stat to be used with regularity, this is essentially the first season of fantasy hockey when you would be hard-pressed to find a league that doesn't include it. But it's not always the headline players who rack up this statistic, much like power-play goals (or points) and average time on ice. You can find surprises and acquire them on the cheap in fantasy leagues.
The advantage to having a player who takes more shots than another who might get the same point totals should be obvious: You get help in another category with no markdown for points.
Let's take a look at NHL shots-on-goal leaders and try to identify a few players who should continue to post more shots than expected. When considering a trade for one of these guys, look to your lineup for someone who is on pace to match the player for points this season but is trailing in the shots category. If you make a deal, you should be able to gain some ground in shots while not slipping elsewhere.
Dustin Brown, RW, Kings: Brown is the obvious headliner for this column, as he is the King (pun intended) of the peripheral category. Skating alongside Anze Kopitar on the Kings' top line, Brown has been firing at will and has posted 98 shots on goal through 22 games. That ranks him fourth in the league behind Alex Ovechkin, Jeff Carter and Eric Staal. Brown is notorious for his hits (77 this season rank him fourth in that category), so he will be expensive to trade for, but he definitely is a sneaky acquisition if you target his shots on goal. In leagues that don't count hits, see whether a Brown owner has interest in a player such as Todd White or Matt Stajan. In leagues that have hits as a stat, you'll likely have to pay a little more, but that's OK because you'll get a lot more.
Scott Gomez, C, Rangers: Gomez is known better for his assist totals than his goals or shooting, so the Rangers have allowed him to pepper the net this season. He might be one of the easier targets for this exercise, as his four goals are not indicative of a player who shoots very often, and the fact that he has missed five games brings down his totals. But underneath all that, Gomez has 79 shots on goal this season in 21 games (an average of 3.76 a game). He averaged just less than three shots on goal per game as a Ranger last season, so this new shot-first trend with Gomez could be for real.
David Booth, LW, Panthers: Perhaps you've looked at Booth on your wire, impressed that he has scored 12 goals already, but you shunned him because his other statistics are fairly empty by fantasy standards. With 2 assists and 10 penalty minutes, you're not wrong for thinking that. But if you consider his team-leading 82 shots on goal, you have something to work with. Booth should have no trouble leading Florida in shots all season, and although he has drawbacks in other areas, the goals and shots can be useful in tandem.
Trent Hunter, RW, Islanders: If Brown is the king of the peripheral stat categories this season, Hunter surely is the prince in waiting. With 19 points in 24 games, Hunter already is in unexpected territory as an offensive threat, but he also ranks in the top 40 in the league with 71 shots on goal. That is even more impressive because he has been a secondary scoring asset for the Isles; Doug Weight and Bill Guerin have been responsible for most of the offense. As a bonus, Hunter's 62 hits place him in the top 20 in that statistic. Despite his cross-platform production, Hunter remains available in 87 percent of ESPN leagues.
On to the weekly look at the fantasy stock market.
Drew Stafford, RW, Sabres: A 3-point outburst Friday night thrust Stafford back onto the talented line he played himself off of at the beginning of the season. Tabbed as the physical presence with a finesse touch to perfectly complement Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek, Stafford began the season as the top right winger in Buffalo. He did nothing and found himself falling into the role of healthy scratch by November. But his output Friday was followed by a promotion back to the top line Saturday, and he followed up with an assist on one of Vanek's two goals. With talent surrounding him, this former first-round draft pick might make good on his potential this time. Watch closely.
Tomas Fleischmann and Eric Fehr, RW, Capitals: Put two talented young players on either side of a veteran presence and you have a recipe for secondary scoring in Washington. Flanking Michael Nylander, both Fleischmann and Fehr have come alive of late. Fleischmann has been the more prominent of the two, with a streak of 8 points in eight games leading up to Saturday, but don't underestimate either player. Fehr still has the higher upside as a prospect but also is more likely than Fleischmann to face a demotion once Alexander Semin returns.
Kyle Quincey, D, Kings: A victim of the numbers game in Detroit, Quincey has found a home and a fresh start in Los Angeles. Paired with Matt Greene at even strength and a member of the second power-play unit, Quincey has 13 points, seven of them on the man advantage. His play during the month of November has been particularly impressive, with 10 points in 13 games. Like a lot of these upstart Kings, you'll like him if you give him a chance.
Nicklas Lidstrom, D, Red Wings: I have tried to remain as patient as possible with Lidstrom, hoping he would snap out of whatever funk he is in and rack up the points. Saturday, however, marked his fifth straight game when he didn't find his way onto the score sheet. I use the term "funk" loosely; 14 points in 23 games is something most defensemen aspire to achieve. But Lidstrom is not most defensemen. A pace for 50 points would represent Lidstrom's worst season since a disappointing 2003-04, and you have to go back to 1994-95 (the strike-shortened season) to find another year when Lidstrom didn't top 50 points. So what's up on the Motor City blue line? One might suggest that the addition of Marian Hossa and continued development of players such as Jiri Hudler and Johan Franzen means the team is able to pin the puck in the offensive zone and set up more often, rather than rely on breakout passes on a rush. Unfortunately, the NHL doesn't keep a "time on attack" statistic to confirm this theory, but watching Detroit's dominance of most teams, it certainly makes sense. Another less-likely possibility is that the Red Wings are hiding a Lidstrom injury, but he doesn't look any slower on the ice than last year. The final possibility, and the one that seems most likely, is that this is simply a slow start by Lidstrom, and he'll come on strong and make up for it soon. He started off 2006-07 with the exact same 14-points-in-23-games pace but finished with 62 thanks to a monster December and January. It's time to get worried about his status as a No. 1 defenseman only if this same concern lingers into 2009.
Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.
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