This is the 10th off-season for Fantasy Pool Look and for the 10th summer in a row I’ll provide an outlook for each team. I’ll have my fantasy hockey goggles on, of course. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically, but switch starting points each year. I began with Winnipeg and will work my way to Anaheim. Contract information courtesy of CapGeek.com. Time to take a look at the Red Wings and Stars.
Detroit Red Wings
Gone – Nicklas Lidstrom, Fabian Brunnstrom, Chris Conner, Jiri Hudler, Brad Stuart, Ty Conklin, Tomas Holmstrom
Incoming – Jordin Tootoo, Jonas Gustavsson, Mikael Samuelsson, Damien Brunner
Ready for full time – Gustav Nyquist is an early candidate for the Calder Trophy. Not a slam dunk or a much-hyped candidate, but certainly a good one. He has the hockey sense and talent to steal a scoring-line spot. The earlier he does that, the bigger the splash on the scoresheet. He was a star in college and he averaged more than a point-per-game in the American League last season.
Coach Mike Babcock will be watching Brunner carefully. The Swiss sensation has been absolute dynamite in Europe, posting 164 points in his past 132 Swiss League games. He’s 26, so he’s more mature than most rookies. He may take the Ville Leino route to the NHL, which means looking very good during brief NHL stints, but playing most of his first North American season in the AHL. Still, he’s one to watch in training camp.
Poolies have waited a couple of years for Brendan Smith to get his full-time chance. He’ll get one now. A potential 50-plus point, 100-plus PIM blueliner, Smith will probably start slowly in the points department. But he’ll reward owners right away in leagues that count penalty minutes.
Fantasy Outlook – The Red Wings have been a reliable team for fantasy owners for two decades. The stars generally shine, though Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg are more like 70- to 75-point players than the 90-plus guys they used to be. The middle-range guys post reliable 45-55 points. The prospects get eased into the NHL as if on a conveyor belt. You know what you’re getting with this team, which is nice. Fantasy Grade: B+ (last year was B+)
Gone – Mike Ribeiro, Jake Dowell, Andrew Raycroft, Steve Ott, Adam Pardy, Sheldon Souray, Adam Burish, Radek Dvorak, Eric Godard
Incoming – Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy, Aaron Rome, Ray Whitney, Cody Eakin, Christopher Nihlstorp
Ready for full time – Defenseman Philip Larsen, 22, played most of last season with the big club anyway. He makes it difficult to be sent down because he chips in offense despite limited ice time and he doesn’t make the mistakes expected of 22-year-olds. He was a plus-11 in 55 games. With Souray gone, look for Larsen to start logging more than 20 minutes of average ice time and partner with Alex Goligoski on the power play. A 40-point breakout isn’t out of the question.
Another defenseman, Brenden Dillon, is a late bloomer on the cusp of a roster spot. It’s more likely he’ll be a mid-season call-up, but he’ll get a long look in training camp. Unlike Larsen, the offense for Dillon will come gradually.
Eakin was acquired from the Capitals to be Dallas’ third-line center. Roy’s surgery will see to it Eakin gets a look on the second line for a few weeks until Roy returns. What he does in those games will impact his role going forward in 2012-13. But Eakin is an overachiever, always meeting and exceeding expectations – and poolies love that kind of player.
Ryan Garbutt injected toughness into the lineup late last season. If you want a dark-horse PIM player, look no further than this guy. He could top 120 penalty minutes if he can play 65 games.
There may be room for one more forward and there are several candidates to watch. Some believe Scott Glennie’s game will translate to the NHL better than the American League and he’s impressed team brass with his play the past few months. But the highly touted college boys are in the mix as well. Reilly Smith, Austin Smith and Alex Chiasson are hungry for spots and will almost certainly have one within 18 months. To complicate matters, Radek Faksa is said by some to be one of the most NHL-ready prospects from the 2012 draft.
The Stars have revamped their roster for the better. The future looks much better than it did a year ago and Dallas has a budding star in Jamie Benn. They’re deep in talent in the pipeline. Unfortunately, they don’t have a lot of high-end offensive types on the way. Much better than a year ago, however. Fantasy Grade: C- (last year was D+)
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.