It's the 11th annual off-season look at each team from a fantasy-hockey standpoint. In keeping with tradition, I run through the teams alphabetically - but switch starting points each year. This year I began with Anaheim and will finish up with Winnipeg in early September. Time to take a look at the Canadiens and the Predators.
Gone - Michael Ryder, Yannick Weber, Colby Armstrong, Jeff Halpern, Tomas Kaberle, Petteri Nokelainen
Incoming - George Parros, Daniel Briere
Ready for full time: After the incredible success Montreal had with last year's rookie additions Brendan Gallagher and Alex Galchenyuk, the bar is set pretty high. But while Habs fans won't be that spoiled for a second year in a row, there is plenty of promise - this time on the back end. Both Jarred Tinordi and Nathan Beaulieu are on the short list to make the team and one of them almost certainly will. And if the second one doesn't, he's sure to be in the mix by the second half.
Beaulieu is an offensive defenseman with a tremendous track record, posting nearly a point every two games as a rookie in the American League. And his plus-5 with two assists in six NHL games looks pretty nice, too. Montreal has three offensive blueliners in P.K. Subban, Andrei Markov and Raphael Diaz, but if they need to turn to another puck mover, Beaulieu is the guy. Given Markov's injury history and last season's concussion for Diaz, it's not a far-fetched scenario.
Leagues that count hits and blocked shots will want to keep an eye on Tinordi in camp, because if he makes the squad he'll be among the team leaders in those categories. Not much in the way of offense, but in the physical categories he'll be a stud.
Fantasy Outlook: The Habs exceeded expectations last year. Only three teams – Chicago, Pittsburgh and Tampa - scored more goals. That's amazing. And you can credit the fantastic scoring depth. Look no further than the centermen. Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, Galchenyuk and David Desharnais are each capable of tallying 65 points. You probably raised an eyebrow when you read "Eller," but his production has increased steadily each year he's been in the league and last season's pace (0.65 points per game) pro-rates to 53 points. He's there. But these four will be sharing ice time and power play time and every line on the ice will be a scoring threat. In Subban and Carey Price the team boasts two legitimate stars and the sophomore Galchenyuk may not be far behind. Fantasy Grade: B (last year was C-)
Gone - Brandon Yip, Jonathon Blum, Matt Halischuk, Sergei Kostitsyn, Bobby Butler, Chris Mason, Hal Gill, Chris Mueller, Zach Boychuk
Incoming - Viktor Stalberg, Eric Nystrom, Matt Cullen, Matt Hendricks
Ready for full time - There's little doubt the Predators cleaned house this summer, cutting loose a lot of dead wood. But with everybody healthy again, the roster remains pretty full. Taylor Beck is probably close enough to make an impact. He led the Admirals (American League) in scoring despite playing 16 games with Nashville. But his odds of becoming a top-six forward right away are slim and rely on how Craig Smith comes back from a dismal 2012-13 campaign.
Both Austin Watson and Filip Forsberg received looks last season, but neither are ready to make the jump out of training camp. They'll still get cups of coffee in 2013-14, but look for them as regulars in 2014-15.
Where there is opportunity is on the back end. Two spots out of seven are open. Three, if you don't consider Victor Bartley a regular, which I do. Mattias Ekholm led the Admirals in plus/minus (plus-15) and had 32 points in 59 games to boot. He's a big man at 6-foot-4 and he's ready for the next step. But offensively, the Predators are covered when it comes to defensemen. So Ekholm's role will probably be a defensive one. At least for this year.
And of course, the star of our show - Seth Jones. This summer's fourth overall pick at the draft is virtually a lock to make the team and he'll probably make a big impact. You can't bury this kind of talent. You can't bring a stud like this "along slowly." Coach Barry Trotz will try, because it's the right thing to do. But Jones will force the matter because he's that special kind of a player. Offensively, he may only reach the 30-point mark as a rookie, but his ice time will grow with each game and his plus/minus will creep ever upwards. Not that I have high expectations or anything…
Fantasy Outlook - Ugh. And now for my rant. So here you have a non-playoff team that is renowned for its lack of offense - mocked in fantasy circles - and finished last in the NHL in goals in 2012-13. The Predators scored 109 goals last year. To put that into perspective, Montreal had more than that with 12 games to play. Come on guys, this is getting old. Yes, strong defense, great goaltending and smart coaching will get you into the playoffs every other year. And sure, once every four years it might even get you to the second round. But you have to score some goals, fellas.
I'm a little biased, as I'm a fantasy hockey guy and we need to see points on the board. But bringing in Stalberg, Nystrom and Cullen isn't the answer.
Goaltender Pekka Rinne and defensemen Shea Weber, Roman Josi and Seth Jones are quality fantasy owns, which prevents me from rating this team a fantasy hockey ‘F.’ But 20 forwards who may, in a great season, get 55 points is not very appealing to fantasy owners. Fingers crossed that Colin Wilson or Craig Smith find another gear. Fantasy Grade: D+ (last year was C-)
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.