You may have seen Jeff Angus popping around SBN from time to time, but he serves primarily as the senior writer of fantasy hockey website Dobber Hockey which has some of the best stat tools to use on the interwebs. Jeff is also a Canucks fan, so who better to field a few questions for the upcoming season about Vancouver from both fantasy and reality perspectives?
Take it away Mr. Angus.
NM: With Christian Ehrhoff trading rain for abhorrent winters, which defenseman projects to be the main beneficiary at ES and on the PP?
JA: At even strength, it
will has to be Keith Ballard. The Canucks can’t replace a puck mover in Ehrhoff with a depth defenseman with limited puck skills like Rome or Alberts. It would be too much to expect Chris Tanev to play top four minutes right away, as well.
NM: Kevin Bieksa is Vancouver's best all-around defenseman in terms of points, TOI, special teams, PIMs, etc. He's also prone to alternating good and bad seasons. Is he the top-ranked Canucks defenseman or does someone else (perhaps named Edler?) get the nod?
JA: I’d say Bieksa is the third best defenseman after Edler and Hamhuis. He brings the most complete game, but Edler’s elite offensive upside and Hamhuis’ ability to chew up tough defensive minutes put them just above. Edler keeps showing flashes of something special, and it’s only a matter of time until he breaks the 50 point mark.
NM: Keith Ballard was, and remains, the biggest defensive question mark that doesn't involve Salo's fragility. Even if he returns to the third pairing in a shutdown role, does he have any fantasy value whatsoever?
JA: If your league counts blocked shots, yes he does. If it doesn’t, nope. Ballard has to be a top four defenseman on this team or he doesn’t fit. You simply cannot have a $4 million dollar third pairing defenseman (try telling that to the Leafs, I guess).
NM: Do you think Ryan Kesler will improve on 41 goals and 70+ points or is the potential for a plateau or a step-back considerable?
JA: He’s in for a slight regression this season, at least in terms of goals scored. The first power play unit lost Ehrhoff, he’s coming off of hip surgery, and teams will get a better idea of how to limit his shooting opportunities.
NM: If Marco Sturm stays healthy, where does he rank overall for left wingers?
JA: Not high. I’d chalk him up for 18-22 goals and similar assists, if he can stay healthy.
NM: Should Owen Nolan impress at camp, is it more of a feel good story or are there fantasy implications to consider?
JA: I think he’ll make the team in a depth role. He can still play and the Canucks could use the experience in the bottom six. No fantasy relevance whatsoever, though.
NM: Assuming goals and assists are rewarded equally and some horrible person puts a gun to your head, who do you pick for 2011-2012: Henrik or Daniel?
JA: If positions matter, I’ll take Daniel, as elite left wingers are generally a commodity harder to find than centers are. If positions don’t matter, I’ll take Henrik. Playmakers are less prone to wild production fluctuations as they usually find their way to be in on more goals than goal scorers two (two assists for every one goal).
NM: Roberto Luongo is coming off the best regular season (by wins, SV% and GAA) of his career, but Schenider will likely steal another 20-25 games. Where does Luongo rank in your list of starting goalies?
JA: He’s still in my top five. His fantasy value will probably be hurt by his awful Cup Final (people have short memories, and real life perception often affects fantasy values more than it should).
NM: In keeper leagues, which Vancouver rookie would you stash away and why: Hodgson, Rodin, Jensen, Sweatt or Schroeder?
JA: Hodgson – safer bet to become a productive NHL player. Too early to write him off. I like Jensen and Rodin, but both are long shots (especially Rodin with his shoulder issues). Schroeder is another wild card, and Sweatt projects as more of a third line energy kind of player.
NM: Who's Vancouver's dark horse player, someone who most will skip over in later rounds but is worth a flier?
JA: Samuelsson. He was injured for much of last season, and it obviously affected his level of play and production. He isn’t getting any younger, but I think he’ll see the bulk of Ehrhoff’s power play minutes on the first unit this season.
NM: I'm blatantly stealing this from Fear the Fin -> Fill in the blank: From a fantasy perspective I think _____________ is the most overvalued player on the Canucks and _____________ is the most undervalued player on the Canucks.
JA: A year or two ago I would have said Hodgson as the most overvalued player, but his value has dropped dramatically in the fantasy hockey world. I’ll go with Kesler, but only because I think 40 goals will be unsustainable until he gets a legitimate winger to play with. The most undervalued player? Edler, especially in keeper leagues. I’d have him right up there with Doughty, Pietrangelo, and Karlsson in terms of offensive upside. The Canucks don’t have any young offensive defensemen in the pipeline either. Edler’s grip on the top power play spot is tight.
NM: Generally speaking, what's the best tip you'd give newbies for fantasy hockey?
JA: Don’t always assume young players improve. Just because a rookie scores 30 goals, it doesn’t mean he’ll score 35 the next season. Young players are inconsistent. And don’t try to build your keeper league team beyond a two or three year scope. This isn’t the real NHL – rebuilding isn’t fun if you keep having to shell money out each year.
NM: Fantasy hockey aside, we know you're a Canucks fan. How do you see the team performing in the regular season given their offseason moves and the inevitable letdown from their Cup run?
JA: It would take a miracle for the Canucks not to with the Northwest. I think the team is in a great spot right now with some tradeable assets, lots of cap space, and not many holes to fill. The most interesting story is going to be Ballard stepping into the top four. I’ll give them a top three finishing spot in the West. After that, it depends on health and a little bit of
help from the referees luck.