Fantasy Pool Look: Blues turning it around

Only four teams scored fewer goals in 2007-08 than the St. Louis Blues. When a team fails to score even 220 goals in a season, poolies tend to downgrade the entire roster in terms of fantasy value. The Blues scored only 205 times.

But the Blues are already showing signs things have changed. Heading into Tuesday night, only Montreal, the Rangers and Colorado had scored more goals and all had played more games – including a league-high nine for the Blueshirts. 

So what’s different and how will things shake out come April?

Two things are different. The first: New personnel. Last year the key contributors were Paul Kariya, Brad Boyes and Keith Tkachuk. Granted, Andy McDonald brought some support (more on him later) and David Perron performed when he played, but the team scored primarily with three guys.

This season, rookies Patrik Berglund and T.J. Oshie have come in and changed the team’s offensive makeup. Neither of them will reach 80 points this year – even 70 is a stretch – but their presence on the ice makes the opposition think twice about who they should focus on defensively.

The second difference is a healthy Andy McDonald. The 31-year-old is coming off a miserable 2007-08 campaign during which he was bothered by several nagging “upper body” injuries. Anaheim, the team he began the 2007-08 campaign with, had a short summer after winning the Cup and then started the season in Europe.

McDonald didn’t even have 10 weeks to rest all the bumps and bruises accumulated during his 103 combined regular season and playoff games in 2006-07. Now, coming off the longest summer an NHL player can have, he is 100 percent and it showed in the pre-season when he led the league scoring. He has seven points in his first five regular season games.

The domino effect of adding three “new” (I’m calling McDonald new) offensive players cannot be underestimated. On a weak team, Tkachuk will still tally 55 points and Kariya will still earn 65, but with three more skill guys now on board, you can add 10 to both of those point totals.

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That’s what adding a second wave of offense does for your team. And it’s not just Tkachuk and Kariya – Lee Stempniak will also see a boost when he returns from his knee injury. Throw in the steady progression of sophomore Perron and this team is rolling on all cylinders.

As for how things will end up after 82 games are complete, I look at it this way: After the 2006-07 season, I called Dallas the “Siberia of fantasy hockey,” where “offense goes to die.” Whoops. The Stars went from 21st in goals-per-game to ninth in 2007-08 as a result of small changes that influenced the coaching philosophy.

I think the Blues, with their new philosophy, will make a similar offensive jump, from 26th to 15th…

I hope poolies have noticed Chicago’s Kris Versteeg. He spent the first few games playing with Martin Havlat and was on a line with Patrick Kane last game. Versteeg has six points in six games and is also a PIMs player, having spent 174 minutes in American League sin bins last season…

Injuries, from a fantasy league perspective: Stempniak is hoping to return for Wednesday’s contest. Look for him to get back on a line with McDonald… Montreal’s Andrei Kostitsyn could be out for a while if he has indeed suffered a concussion, as reports indicate. In the meantime, his brother Sergei will take his spot on the Tomas Plekanec-Alex Kovalev line… With Brian Rolston out due to a sprained ankle for at least two weeks – and likely longer – Petr Vrana is worth watching. The rookie led New Jersey’s farm club in scoring last season.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league – check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.

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