Commentary

The Thin Blue Line: Shuffling Canucks D

Weekly news, notes and rankings on fantasy hockey defensemen

Updated: October 28, 2009, 4:18 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

Truth be told, there were way too many Vancouver Canucks on this list up until this point. A shake-up was in order. However well balanced the Canucks' defensive corps may be, it was still time to reassess each individual and trim the excess fat (i.e. Shane O'Brien).

Offering a well-balanced mixture of toughness (read: penalty minutes) and scoring talent, Kevin Bieksa remains your top fantasy choice on this squad. Leading the team in ice time, and not one to shy away from trouble, Bieksa contributes offensively at even strength and with the man advantage. He's the all-around fantasy package, especially when it comes to ESPN.com standardized scoring.

Christian Ehrhoff ranks second in value as a recent import via the San Jose Sharks. He's fit in well, hasn't he? Ehrhoff is picking up right where he left off with the Sharks last season -- as a major contributor to the box score -- with 10 points in 12 games so far. Bieksa's current partner at even strength, Ehrhoff is a regular fixture on the power play as well, paired with Alex Edler.

After Ehrhoff, there's a bit of a drop-off in value, with Edler and Mathieu Schneider near one another in the bottom half of the Top 75. Now healthy again, Schneider holds the most potential to move up. The 40-year-old scored his first goal as a Canuck on Tuesday night against the Red Wings, earning the 735th point of his NHL career. If he stays fit this season, there will be a few more to come.

In addition to the aforementioned Shane O'Brien, newly absent from the Top 75 is Sami Salo. Sure, he's returning early from a knee sprain and yes, he's been a solid performer with the team since '02-'03, but he gets hurt all the time. Also, with Ehrhoff and Schneider now in the mix, Salo isn't as vital as he used to be, especially when it comes to contributing offensively. And did I mention he can't stay healthy? This latest knee sprain is injury No. 38 of his NHL career.

Top 75 Defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's top 75 defensemen 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. Mike Green, Was (1)
2. Dan Boyle, SJ (3)
3. Zdeno Chara, Bos (2)
4. Chris Pronger, Phi (4)
5. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (5)
6. Dion Phaneuf, Cgy (6)
7. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (7)
8. Stephane Robidas, Dal (11)
9. Duncan Keith, Chi (12)
10. Brent Seabrook, Chi (9)
11. Kevin Bieksa, Van (16)
12. Alex Goligoski, Pit (22)
13. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (36)
14. Mark Streit, NYI (13)
15. Brian Rafalski, Det (14)
16. Sergei Gonchar, Pit (8)
17. Scott Niedermayer, Anh (15)
18. Dennis Wideman, Bos (10)
19. Ryan Whitney, Anh (19)
20. Victor Hedman, TB (18)
21. Cam Barker, Chi (21)
22. Rob Blake, SJ (20)
23. Shea Weber, Nsh (24)
24. Brian Campbell, Chi (30)
25. Christian Ehrhoff, Van (34)
26. Braydon Coburn, Phi (26)
27. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (27)
28. Niklas Kronwall, Det (28)
29. Zach Bogosian, Atl (25)
30. Pavel Kubina, Atl (23)
31. Craig Rivet, Buf (29)
32. Matt Carle, Phi (48)
33. Paul Martin, NJ (17)
34. Joe Corvo, Car (31)
35. Adrian Aucoin, Pho (41)
36. Sheldon Souray, Edm (33)
37. Joni Pitkanen, Car (39)
38. Ryan Suter, Nsh (37)
39. Kris Letang, Pit (44)
40. Ed Jovanovski, Pho (51)
41. Denis Grebeshkov, Edm (35)
42. Drew Doughty, LA (57)
43. Mattias Ohlund, TB (43)
44. Kyle Quincey, Col (50)
45. Marc-Andre Bergeron, Mon (46)
46. Bryan McCabe, Fla (45)
47. Tobias Enstrom, Atl (40)
48. Brent Burns, Min (49)
49. Alexander Edler, Van (32)
50. Marek Zidlicky, Min (52)
51. Erik Johnson, StL (54)
52. Lubomir Visnovsky, Edm (60)
53. Jason Demers, SJ (58)
54. Mathieu Schneider, Van (64)
55. Tom Gilbert, Edm (56)
56. Marc-Edouard Vlasic, SJ (55)
57. Tomas Kaberle, Tor (66)
58. Mark Giordano, Cgy (69)
59. Jaroslav Spacek, Mon (67)
60. Francois Beauchemin, Tor (62)
61. Filip Kuba, Ott (63)
62. Kris Russell, Cls (59)
63. Johnny Oduya, NJ (38)
64. John-Michael Liles, Col (65)
65. Matt Niskanen, Dal (47)
66. Wade Redden, NYR (68)
67. Matt Gilroy, NYR (70)
68. Ville Koistinen, Fla (42)
69. Derek Morris, Bos ()
70. Matt Carkner, Ott ()
71. Jack Johnson, LA ()
72. Paul Mara, Mon ()
73. Chris Campoli, Ott (53)
74. Ron Hainsey, Atl (61)
75. Andrei Markov, Mon (75)

Rising and Falling

Paul Martin, Devils (down 16 spots): Martin will miss the next four to six weeks with what those in the medical profession refer to as a "nondisplaced fracture of the radius and/or ulna," or what you and I call a "broken arm." Fortunately, there's no need for surgery, but the New Jersey Devils will still have a tough time replacing their power-play quarterback and team leader in ice time. No single blueliner will be called upon to fill Martin's skates, as head coach Jacques Lemaire reportedly plans to dole out Martin's minutes fairly evenly amongst the rest of his defensemen. Colin White, Andy Greene and the recently called up Cory Murphy are the likeliest candidates to see more playing time with the extra man, although of the three, no one stands out enough at this point to earn a spot in the Top 75. That could change over the next week or so, but right now, look elsewhere to replace Martin for the duration of his absence.

Sergei Gonchar, Penguins (down 8 spots): There are a few reasons Gonchar drops only eight spots when he's slated to miss four weeks of action. First of all, his busted wrist is a straightforward (clean) injury and doesn't require surgery. Once it heals, it's essentially fixed; he's already skating in practice and wears a noncontact jersey. As far as injuries go, this one ain't bad. Furthermore, Gonchar is just that good, capable of putting up excellent numbers by season's end even after missing an entire month. Stick him on your IR if you can, pick up some hotshot "du jour" in the meanwhile, and wait it out. And if you have to leave him on your bench, you'll live.

Derek Morris, Bruins (debut at No. 69): In light of Dennis Wideman's sluggish (and unhealthy) start, Morris' fantasy value jumps significantly, at least for a little while. He's currently skating alongside Zdeno Chara on the Boston Bruins' top power-play unit and leads all team defensemen with seven points. Now, don't expect this scenario to play out too long. History shows, and Morris has been in the league a long time, that he's not going to put up big scoring numbers on a regular basis. He last cracked the 30-point mark in '02-'03, whereas Wideman has steadily improved in his past three seasons and exploded with 50 points last season. But if you can pick up Morris to temporarily plug a hole without much sacrifice, do it. May as well ride him while he's hot.

Matt Carkner, Senators (debut at No. 70): All right Mr. Carkner, your 31 penalty minutes in nine games have our attention. That, plus the fact that you aren't a liability in other fantasy categories has earned you a spot in the top 75. Continue to pound opposing players, carry a plus/minus rating in the black, net the odd point, skate approximately 19 minutes per game and you'll stay there. In fact, you'll likely move up.

Michael Del Zotto, Rangers (up 23 spots): Twelve games in, it's safe to say Del Zotto's bright performance this season is no happy accident. A mainstay on the New York Rangers' top power-play unit and averaging a point per game, this rookie plays with the confidence of a talented veteran. There's no doubt his production will slow a touch, but he's too gifted to slump for any real stretch. As long as coach John Tortorella continues to use Del Zotto as he has done thus far, this teen deserves to be in the Top 20.

Key injury notes: Brent Seabrook is still listed as day-to-day with a concussion. It's impossible to take anything other than a "wait and see" approach to any undefined head injury. Until more is known, Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Duncan Keith were cautiously adjusted.

Potent Pairings

Brent Burns and Marek Zidlicky: The Minnesota Wild won't be this awful for much longer, that's a promise. They're simply not that bad a team. And when the tide does turn, their top two defensemen, Burns and Zidlicky, will reap the rewards. Although not paired together at even strength, these two are joined at the hip with the man advantage and are performing more confidently in that scenario with each passing game. Zidlicky, in particular, is looking looser and looser all the time. He was an absolute beast in Saturday's 3-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, launching seven shots in more than 27 minutes of ice time. Soon his numbers in other fantasy categories will rise as well.

Power-Play Performers

If Drew Doughty continues to climb this list, it only makes sense that his power-play buddy Jack Johnson be included as well. So there he is, at No. 71. With four points (including two on the power play) and 12 PIM, the young L.A. King deserves some fantasy attention, even in light of his being minus-6.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com

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