Fantasy Hockey: Taking a Stand on Left Wings

Zach Parise (photo property of Wikipedia)

In anticipation of the 2010-11 season, has begun its fantasy preview.  In the coming weeks, you can depend on us for  rankings, sleepers, busts, and a “Taking a Stand” preview of each position category.

However, what you will not find in my position previews are a bunch of contradictory thoughts on each player.  Many times, fantasy writers simply spout off one or two positive sentences and one or two negative sentences about each player, leaving the reader in the same place he was before.  With my “Taking a Stand” previews, I strive to avoid that issue.

In these articles, you will find that I take a clear stance on specific players that I feel strongly about.  These are players that I will be willing to reach for or avoid.  Players I want steering my fantasy teams and players I won’t touch unless they are a drastic bargain.  The goal of each is to take a stand and let you question me.  If you agree, great.  If you don’t, tell me why.  You will become a better fantasy player by thinking through each.

In addition to providing strong advice one way or the other, rather than a fluid analysis, these articles will allow you to keep track of my writing.  I could sit here and write about hundreds of players, saying something nice and something negative about each and will be able to claim I was partially correct.  However, by taking a stand,  I will either be right or wrong.  No gray area.

We’ll start the “Taking a Stand” previews with left wing (eligibility determined based on Yahoo! default eligibility).  As a whole, the left wing position is top heavy without a ton of depth.  Only one person will be lucky enough to get Alexander Ovechkin, but those in leagues requiring left wing, rather than just wing, will want to grab a top tier left wing early or be left filling their roster with a number of question marks.  Frankly, there isn’t a ton to like about left wing this season.

Zach Parise – New Jersey Devils – I normally don’t write too much about potential first round picks, it is pretty hard to mess up your first few picks in a draft.  However, I feel like Parise isn’t quite getting the respect he deserves.  In the summer of Kovalchuk, it seems like everyone seems to be forgetting the Devils equally talented superstar.  Parise has four straight 30 goal seasons and was two goals shy of two straight 40 goal seasons.  Parise has also been extremely dependable, playing in at least 81 games in each of his NHL seasons.  With Lemaire and his trap retiring, Parise should have no trouble topping 40 goals and the 90 point plateau, possibly reaching 100 points.  I couldn’t fault anyone taking Parise third overall after Ovie and Crosby.  After the third pick, Parise is a bargain to anyone.

Simon Gagne – Tampa Bay Lightning – I previously wrote about the transformation of the Lightning[/caption]

Thomas Vanek – Buffalo Sabres – I just don’t get it.  Every year someone drafts Vanek way too high based on his “potential” and his 43 goal 84 point sophomore season.  It is well over due that people realize that season is more of the anomaly and shouldn’t expect more than 30 goals and 25-30 assists.  Sure, those numbers aren’t bad, but not in the fourth or fifth round where Vanek is inexplicably taken every year.  The Sabres don’t have an exciting offense as there is little scoring punch beyond the first line, allowing teams to key on that line.  Additionally, Tyler Myers is the only defenseman in the lineup that brings anything to the table offensively.  Why take Vanek anywhere between the fourth and seventh round when you can take Gagne in the ninth or tenth round?  The value just isn’t there.

David Booth – Florida Panthers – I initially wasn’t going to include Booth in this article, but recent rankings and articles have been showing that people are willing to spend a decent draft pick on Booth.  Recently, Sean Leahy ranked Booth 98th overall.  I have seen Booth ranked as high as tenth for left wings.  Booth’s best numbers barely even justify such a ranking.  However, the analysis can’t end with just numbers.  Booth is coming off of two life altering concussions and is one strong hit away from another lost season and possibly career.  The more concussions a player suffers the more susceptible he is to future concussions.  After taking account of the concussions, you still have to consider the anemic offense.  Beyond Weiss and Frolic, there is nothing else of any worth in the offense.  Florida had the second worst offense in the NHL last season, and it looks to be worse this year.  Do yourself a favor and let someone else pay for this high-risk average-return player.

Michael Cammalleri – Montreal Canadiens – Cammalleri is another player that I will never draft because others around me will be paying above market value.  If he plays a full season, 30-35 goals should be expected with about 30 assists mixed in there.  By no means are those bad numbers.  However,  various fantasy minds are ranking him in the top 40 overall and top five on left wing.  Anyone drafting a forward in those rounds would be disappointed if they end up with a 30 goal 30 assist player who does not add much in PIM and is a career minus winger.  You also need to consider that Montreal isn’t an offensive power house and have very little scoring depth to keep teams honest.  Plus, they depend on a passive trapping system to generate turnovers rather than a focus on forechecking and offense.  Cammalleri is also being overrated due to a nice stretch of hockey in April and May.  He did play extremely well and was one of the best playoff performers, but fantasy owners are always over-drafting based on playoff performance.  Lastly, Cammalleri isn’t any less of an injury risk than Simon Gagne.  Yet, Gagne has put up similar numbers in the past, is playing with better talent in a better offensive system, and is being drafted on average five rounds later than Cammalleri.  Again, pass on Cammalleri, unless he is sitting there past the sixth round.

Check back after the weekend for the next “Taking a Stand” installment.