For the past eight years, Fantasy Pool Look has offered insight on what each NHL team has on tap for the summer – from a fantasy hockey standpoint, of course.
I’ll look at the changes made and what the outlook is and then grade the team based on its appeal as an NHL team you would want to build your keeper squad around.
The grades are for dynasty leagues and will often veer from what’s deserved in the NHL world. As in the past, we’ll run through every team alphabetically.
This week: Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo and Calgary.
Gone – Kyle Chipchura, Andy Sutton, Andreas Lilja, Todd Marchant, Jarkko Ruutu and, possibly, Teemu Selanne
Incoming – Matt Smaby, Andrew Cogliano, Jeff Deslauriers, J-F Jacques, Kurtis Foster, Andrew Gordon, Bryan Rodney, Iiro Tarkki
Ready for full-time – Kyle Palmieri is the brightest young prospect ready to make the jump and should end up on the second line right away if Selanne retires. I can see 35 points out of the youngster this campaign.
There are other players who were up and down last year, namely Matt Beleskey and Nick Bonino. Both should finally stick this time around.
We may see goaltender Tarkki get in a few games if Jonas Hiller has a relapse with his vertigo issues.
Fantasy Outlook – If Cogliano can find his form now that the pressure is off and become even a 45-point player this year, it would give this team options. They don’t like having to play their Big 3 (Bobby Ryan, Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry) together and would much rather split them up. But they can’t very well do that if Ryan has nobody to play with. Saku Koivu fits best on the third line these days. Goaltending is strong if Hiller comes back healthy, but is otherwise suspect. Offense from the back end is above average thanks to Lubomir Visnovsky, Cam Fowler and now Foster. The pipeline has a few future NHLers, but no potential star.
Fantasy Grade: C (last year was C)
Gone – Tomas Kaberle, Michael Ryder, Mark Recchi
Incoming – Joe Corvo, Benoit Pouliot
Ready for full-time – There are several players ready, but this team is so very deep they will likely only see a handful of games. Defenseman Yury Alexandrov and forwards Max Sauve, Zach Hamill and Jordan Caron will have their share of cups of coffee, but it’s doubtful we’ll see a rookie make a Brad Marchand-like impact. Any ice time that is freed up will be given to skilled sophomore Tyler Seguin.
Fantasy Outlook – The defending Cup champs have the star goaltending depth, but the potential for splitting starts is not exactly a good thing in the fantasy world. They also have lots of depth in terms of firepower and a full pipeline of kids with potential. They may not win a Cup again this year, but for the next few years they will win a lot of hockey games with a lot of players who tally at least 55 points. Fantasy Grade: B (last year was B-)
Gone – Patrick Lalime, Tim Connolly, Rob Niedermayer, Mark Mancari, Paul Byron, Chris Butler, Steve Montador, Mike Grier, Matt Ellis
Incoming – Ville Leino, Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr, Ales Kotalik
Ready for full-time – Luke Adam, the American League rookie of the year (the third straight Sabre to win the honor after Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis), is ready for full-time duty and has the much-needed size and skill to be effective right away.
Defenseman Marc-Andre Gragnani led this team in points in the playoffs, so we know he deserves a real shot at a roster spot. At 24, he’s done his time. But with the money being thrown at Tyler Myers, Ehrhoff, Jordan Leopold, Regehr and Andrej Sekera, can they afford Gragnani? He’s currently a restricted free agent and even if the Sabres bury Shaone Morrisonn’s contract in the minors, they may have trouble fitting Gragnani under the cap. He’s a dynamic young quarterback who could blossom if given the chance. Perhaps he’ll get one on another team or perhaps the Sabres will make room for him by dealing someone else.
Fantasy Outlook – They may not have any superstars right now in terms of forwards who can post huge numbers, but there are several candidates with the potential to reach that high standard – both on the team and in the system. An owner with deep pockets bodes well for future success.
Fantasy Grade: B- (last year was C+)
Gone – Kotalik, Regehr, Tim Erixon, Fredrik Modin, Steve Staios, Ryan Stone
Incoming – P-L Letourneau-Leblond, Clay Wilson, Jordan Henry, Ben Walter, Paul Byron, Chris Butler, Roman Horak
Ready for full-time – Byron is ready to make the jump and he is one of my early dark horses. The Flames desperately need another offensive contributor and they were aggressive in going after this guy. Still only 22, his numbers at other levels have progressed steadily and he did not look out of place during his eight games with Buffalo last season (two points).
Fantasy Outlook – It’s been awhile since I’ve liked what Calgary has done at the draft, but this year they made some good picks. And landing Byron was a great minor move that could turn out to be major. But the cupboards were pretty bare before GM Jay Feaster took over, at least when it came to offensive prospects (which is what we poolies care about). If we wanted gritty, hardworking, defensive players for our fantasy leagues, then Calgary’s farm system was the place to go. But I don’t know any league like that. And this team is all about Jarome Iginla and not enough about anyone else. Now 34 with just two years left on his deal, it looks as though the Flames will be in a rebuilding mode sooner rather than later.
Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was D)