It’s that magical time of year again when all over the globe people are arguing back and forth about
what will happen in the upcoming NHL season. Some of these arguments can get fairly heated so in
an effort to curb poolie on poolie violence, I have listed the NHL Fantasy Top Ten list. Defense men
will be done separately, as will goalies. Please note that all players will be rated on a full 82 game
schedule as predicting injuries is impossible. So please enjoy my insights and feel free to comment.
# 1 Alexander Ovechkin
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Anyone that tells that they knew that Henrik Sedin was going to lead the league in scoring last year is completely and utterly full of it. Without a doubt, Alexander Ovechkin is the odds on favorite to lead all scorers in the upcoming 2010-11 NHL campaign. What is even more likely is that he also wins the Rocket Richard trophy for the most goals scored. “Alex”, “Alexander the Great”, “Ovie”, whatever you call him is immaterial. Ovechkin was put on this earth with one single and solitary purpose… to score goals.
To all of you poolies out there, you can debate back and forth as to whether Malkin will bounce back this year or if Sid the Kid has ever more to show then we’ve seen thus far. But the single and undeniable truth is, if you have the #1 overall pick in your hockey pool and you do not select Alexander Ovechkin ….. then you are a danger to yourself and everyone around you and I hope that you get hit by a bus.
Ovie was only 3 points shy of top spot last year and he did so in 10 less games than Hank Sedin. He is top 5 in average ice time per game and he plays on the #1 power play unit in the league. Many thought that he had a lot to prove at the beginning of last season as his arch rival Crosby had knocked him out of the playoffs and captained the Stanley Cup winning team. This year, after an embarrassing first round shaming by the Habs, Ovechkin has even more to prove and possesses the dogged determination required to do so. Still not convinced? Well as fright inspiring as Ovechkin has been for his opponents what is even more terrorizing is his rag tag battalion of comrades. Backstrom, Semin, Green…. all young, all improving, all healthy. The President’s Trophy appears to be a lock for the Caps again this year and I expect them to be even better this time around.
When it comes to keeper leagues then I would allow some leeway when it comes to debating the #1 overall pick. To me, Ovechkin is completely fearless and does not allow anything to get between him and scoring a goal. As admirable as this quality is, there is another name for it….. reckless. Ovie plays with such reckless abandon that it borders on negligence. We’ve seen this with his suspensions last season but what worries me most are the implications on his long term health. Being the whirling dervish that he is has made him great but it is also what may be his demise. Pavel Bure could have played a few more seasons had his knees not turned to jello. Peter Forsberg would be a no doubt, first ballot hall of famer if it wasn’t for his club foot. It pains me to think that if Ovie cannot find a way to reign in his enthusiasm just a little bit then his greatness will be short lived. Is it better to flicker out than fade away? That is a question that Ovie will need to ask himself.
# 2 Sidney Crosby
What an interesting and exciting year it was for Sid the Kid the last year. A Stanley Cup hangover, Olympic gold medal, winning (sharing) the Rocket Richard trophy all followed by a surprising 2nd round exit from the playoffs. The legacy of Crosby is already long and well decorated but we are really only at the beginning. Without a doubt, Sidney Crosby should be the #2 selection in any hockey pool.
Sid’s 51 goals were surprising to many last season as most view him as a ‘pass first’ type player. Personally I think that Sidney is still a playmaker first but the urgings of coach Bylsma and the lack of everything from Evgeni Malkin left a lot slack that needed to be picked up. This may also have lead to Crosby having even more TOI (time on ice) than his nemesis Alexander Ovechkin.
There is no question that Crosby is going to put points this year but that does not mean that there are still not questions that need to be answered. Chiefly, who in the hell is he going to be on a line with? The rumors swirling this off season is that Crosby personally phoned Mike Comrie telling him to come and play on a line with him. Much to the chagrin of Billy Guerin, Comrie accepted this bro-prosal for a measly half a million and a chance to dance with Lord Stanley. Personally I think that Sidney just wants a hook up with Hillary’s sister Hailey but hey, you can’t blame him for that. What about Malkin? Will Gino have a repeat of last year’s dud? Will he be on par with 2 years ago in which he answered the question as to why Pittsburgh went to all the trouble of bringing him over. Will an improved Malkin boost Sidney’s stats or will he be eating his captain’s lunch.
If Ovechkin and Crosby were said to be dead even in terms of talent then Ovechkin would still get the unanimous decision in a hockey pool simply because of his supporting cast. All are ridiculously young and infinitely talented whereas Crosby’s T-Mobile Fav 5 seems to change every single year. Gone this year is Gonchar which has many wondering what the powerplay look like. In all honesty, the powerplay actually wasn’t all THAT good with him. Quarter backing the PP is up for grabs as there are a few potential candidates. Will it be Malkin on the point, will Goligoski step up or will it be the newly acquired Paul Martin. Regardless, Crosby is going to get a whole truck load of points this year but just how many will be ultimately determined by whether his teammates help him push the team to victory or if he has to drag them all of the way there.
# 3 Nicklas Backstrom
“And with him as always is Garth”…. I can’t help but think of Wayne’s World when it comes to the young upstart center Nicklas Backstrom. Ovechkin’s Wayne may get all the fame and the babes but would he be half as cool and party just as hard without the assistance of his enigmatic and mysterious blond haired companion?
Now do away with the Bohemian Rhapsody and the head banger hairstyle and simply look at the facts. The young Swede was able to quietly amass 101 points while appearing in every single game last season for the Capitals. As the first line center on the highest scoring team in the league, any poolie worth his salt could not afford to overlook him, even at the 3rd overall. Backstrom is an integral part of the league’s #1 power play and will be relied upon to take all of the important offensive zone faceoffs. It may belittle the actual skill that this kid possesses but by osmosis alone he should be a no doubter for 100 points.
I am sure that I can come up with plenty of hero/sidekick references to use as analogies, whether it is Batman and Robin or The Green Hornet and Kato, Backstrom will always play second fiddle to Ovechkin. There were 3 occasions last season when little Nikky was left to fend for himself and he actually did quite well, there was even a game where he potted 5 points. It is hard to fathom that a 33 goal scorer could be thought of as a sidekick but as long as Dean’O’ runs the show in Washington Backstrom will be stuck playing the role of Jerry Lee Lewis. From what I have heard about Backstrom’s personality, I am quite sure that he is fine with flying under the radar.
# 4 & # 5 Daniel and Henrik Sedin
This could be viewed as a bit of a copout but the truth is that these two do pretty much everything together. On appearances alone it is damn near impossible to tell them apart but on the ice, it is a much different story. Henrik is the center, the consummate playmaker while Daniel does his best to find the open parts of the ice and bury the biscuits that his brother dishes him. Together the Sedins can run their own cycle down low or pick apart defenses on the fly. As they appear to be entering their prime, the Sedins will undoubtedly light up the score sheets and traumatize their opponents.
Don’t let the point totals fool you, Daniel had just as good of season last year as his Hart Trophy winning brother. The injury to Daniel was a bit of an aberration as the brothers have traditionally been able to stay healthy and productive. When it comes to the hockey pool though you got to keep your head up and make sure that you don’t get the two confused. If your pool is giving more points for goals than assists then make sure you take Daniel over Henrik. If the point compensation is equal then I don’t think that you can make a mistake by taking one over the other. Personally I believe that if two players are deemed to be even, it’s usually a good idea to go with the center.
The projected numbers are not quite as good as they should be given the points from last year. This is due to what I expect to be a more balanced attack from Vancouver this year. The emergence of Ryan Kesler as a legitimate offensive threat and the additions of Ballard and Hamhuis for the PP should relieve some of the pressure on the bothers to carry all of the offence. That being said, I expect Vancouver to be the best team in Western Conference this season and the Sedins could very well exceed my expectations. If you think it was difficult to choose the Hart Trophy winner last year, imagine what would happen if two of the front running candidates were the Sedin twins.
Yours in hockey,
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