Commentary

The Thin Blue Line: Fantasy wasteland

Weekly news, notes and rankings on fantasy hockey defensemen

Updated: November 11, 2009, 2:50 PM ET
By Victoria Matiash | Special to ESPN.com

This season has not been kind to the Carolina Hurricanes. Having won only twice in 16 games, the team has scored a mere 32 goals (worst in the NHL) while allowing 59 (only the Toronto Maple Leafs have allowed more). The Canes' power-play conversion percentage (12.5 percent) is only slightly better than that of the Nashville Predators (11.9 percent), but numbers aside, the team just looks awkward and awful right now. Injuries to Eric Staal and Ray Whitney haven't helped matters, but the Canes stunk just as wretchedly before they were hurt. The gears are grinding out of sync in Carolina, and that doesn't bode well for the team's fantasy defensemen.

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

You certainly can't fault Joe Corvo or Joni Pitkanen for the squad's poor performance, at least no more than you can blame anyone else, but when a team is struggling like this, it really hurts a fantasy skater's numbers. Not only is production down all-around, but plus/minus numbers take a huge hit.

Case in point: Corvo and Pitkanen each are sitting at minus-10, and we're only 16 games into the season. Furthermore, there's no end to the misery in sight. Although Whitney is due back any day, and Staal by the end of the month, starting goaltender Cam Ward is out with a leg gash until mid-December. Ward hasn't played spectacularly this year, not by a long shot, but at least his presence was consistent. It's not fair to expect the newly acquired Manny Legace to swoop in and save the day. So what now?

Well, we just have to wait it out. The Hurricanes will return to respectability eventually, but in the meantime, don't count on much from the team's blue-liners. You'll just be disappointed.

Rising and Falling

Drew Doughty, Kings (up 15 spots): Just as the Hurricanes' dismal performance hurts Corvo's and Pitkanen's respective values, the surprising play from the L.A. Kings bolsters Doughty's worth. The youngster had a mediocre rookie season in 2008-09, but his plus/minus (minus-17) left much to be desired. With the way the Kings' offense is producing now -- especially forwards Anze Kopitar and Ryan Smyth -- the plus/minus should no longer be a concern for Doughty's fantasy owners.

Ville Koistinen, Panthers (out of the Top 75): Koistinen has averaged less than seven minutes of ice time in his past five games. That just won't do. Rookie Dmitry Kulikov might be one to watch for the future, but sitting at minus-9, he isn't worth grabbing just yet. Bryan McCabe remains the only Florida Panthers defenseman worth fantasy consideration at this point.

Kris Russell, Blue Jackets (out of the Top 75): And not because he has the flu, or not entirely, anyway. The illness, however, does serve as a convenient excuse to remove Russell from the grid completely. The return of Jan Hejda improves the Jackets' back end considerably, but Hejda doesn't carry any real fantasy value on his own. Therefore, this list of Top 75, for the moment at least, is officially void of any Columbus defensemen.

Key injury notes:

Mike Green practiced Monday after missing Saturday's game because of an upper-body injury. The Washington Capitals have three games in four days this week, and it wouldn't be unreasonable to expect Green back before the weekend.

Nashville's Shea Weber returned to the lineup Tuesday and played more than 21 minutes against the San Jose Sharks. After sustaining a foot injury, he recovered ahead of schedule.

Kris Letang is out for a couple weeks because of a shoulder injury. Meanwhile, fellow Pittsburgh Penguin Sergei Gonchar is set to have his cast removed this week and should participate more actively in practice. If there aren't any setbacks, expect to see Gonchar back on the ice by the end of November.

Power Play Performers

It's all about Filip Kuba when it comes to valued defensemen on the Ottawa Senators' power play. He trumps all other Sens blueliners significantly in ice time and opportunity. Three points in seven games is a bit off last year's output of 40 in 71 matches, but it's still early.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com.