Articles by Dan Pennucci

A listing of all the articles written by Dan Pennucci for the RotoWire Blog.

Olympics- USA, Russia Openers

The United States certainly made a statement with Thursday’s 7-1 rout of Jaroslav Halak, Zdeno Chara and Slovakia, riding a six-goal second period to a win before Saturday’s pivotal clash with Russia. Several things jumped out from the US performance today:

-They’re fast. This group of wingers utilized their speed nicely on the outside and some defensemen getting involved as well, notably Kevin Shattenkirk‘s rush up the ice on one of the team’s goals. (I lost count)

-Great forechecking led to several goals in the second period for the Americans. Notably on the second and third goals.

-Loved the quick shots from Ryan Kesler and John Carlson on the first two goals. It looked like Halak was going to be a handful early on, but it was more of the team in front of him than Halak.

-The Patrick KaneRyan KeslerDustin Brown line will be a handful if the first two of those players can eat up space and bang bodies around, giving Kane the extra space to dangle and create.

-Great energy and production from the team’s "fourth" line of Max PaciorettyPaul StastnyT.J. Oshie. They were opportunistic and gives the team another element of scoring that was a question when the team was announced.

-The American defensemen showed no qualms about rushing into the play and giving the Slovak defense another threat. Defensively, it was good seeing them keep most of the play along the outside.

Phil Kessel finished the game with three points and combined wonderfully with James vanRiemsdyk on one of the Americans’ final goals. That duo along with Joe Pavelski is going to be busy.

-The first power play for the Americans saw Kevin Shattenkirk as the lone defenseman on the five-man unit with Kesler, Pavelski, Zach Parise and Patrick Kane out there as well. The second unit, on its first run, featured Ryan Suter, Cam Fowler, Phil Kessel, JVR and Backes.

-No player on the United States roster played over 20 minutes, but Shattenkirk, Suter and Paul Martin came close.

-At the Bolshoy Arena, Russia roared out to a 2-0 lead over Slovenia with goals from Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin.

-Slovenia made a game of it, hanging in as best they could while under siege from the Russian attack. Slovenia goalie Robert Kristian faced 35 shots, doing the best he could with them.

Ilya Kovalchuk‘s snipe at the end of the second period was a reminder of the utterly disgusting release he possesses, roofing a wrister from the bottom of the slot.

Saturday’s tilt between the Russians and the Americans figures to be a closely played game in the early goings, with both teams facing significantly tougher foes than they did in their opener. The prize on the line is a likely berth straight through to the quarterfinals, bypassing the potentially dangerous qualification round. The speed of the Russian forwards versus the perceived inexperience of the American defense will be a test for Team USA. Meanwhile, the Russian blue line will have its handsful containing the American’s speedy wingers and offensive-minded defenders.

Olympics (Men’s) Day 1

-Either Sweden is quite good or the Czechs are rather medicore. I’m thinking it could be somewhere in between.

-Hell of a game from the US and Canadian women this morning. US seemed to have the better of the play for the middle portion of the game, but you give Canada an inch, and they’re in the door.

-Loved the acceleration form Agosta on the Canadian’s third goal, wow that was a quick first step.

-Hoping the US won’t get Finland in the semis with Noora Raty.

Erik Karlsson looked quite composed on the big rink, as one would expect, but the Swedes overall just seemed a bit faster than the Czechs, especially on Patrick Berglund’s goal.

-True the Czechs were without their top option in goal, but the Swedes held on after the Czechs found their game.

-It will be interesting to see how much Henrik Sedin‘s absence affects the Swedes, but considering Henrik Zetterberg, Gabriel Landeskog and Nicklas Backstrom are guiding the team. They’ll be fine.

-Nice to see Nino Nieddereiter get involved in the Swiss attack today. That team is going to be sneaky if Jonas Hiller can steal a game or two. Offensively, I don’t see them making much of an impact.

-I ilke what the Americans did with their top two lines heading into Thursday’s debut against Zdeno Chara and Slovakia. The line of James vanRiemsdyk-Joe PavelskiPhil Kessel has to be one of the highest scoring trios in the tournament. The blend of playing styles on the Zach PariseDavid BackesT.J. Oshie is a tremendous combination that can be a handful given the energy with which each of those play.

-Canada should have a walk against the likes of Norway and Austria, but it will be crucial to see how their line combinations click. A potential grouping of Corey PerryRyan GetzlafJohn Tavares simply isn’t fair.

Suter’s New Value In Minnesota

By now, much has been made about the signings of American-born stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter by Minnesota, also known as “The State of Hockey.” The Wild established themselves as one of the more credible teams in the Western Conference, particularly the Northwest Division, and should vie for one of the West’s final playoff spots. You likely won’t have to pay what the Wild did for Parise and Suter, who inked identical 13-year, $98 million contracts on Wednesday, but both of these players will have their own respective price tags come draft day. From a statistical perspective, neither Suter or Parise can be considered elite players. They’re not average, but they’re not exactly going to lead the league in scoring at their respective positions. Minnesota committed such a large chunk of the team’s future to the two talismanic Americans because of the intangibles the duo possesses: hockey sense, work ethic and leadership to name a few.

Suter: 2011-12 stats: 7-39-46, plus-15, 25 PPP. Suter’s 46 points this season were a career-high and he has posted 37 points or better each of the last four seasons, cracking 40 twice. Suter has never broken 10 goals in his career. His 46 points were tied for 11th best among NHL defensemen along with Dennis Wideman (who received a huge payday from Calgary). His 134 shots were 90 less than former Nashville teammate Shea Weber.

Suter has quietly been one of the top second-tier fantasy defensemen the last four seasons. He doesn’t have the gaudy goal totals of Erik Karlsson, Weber (who may be a former Nashville player soon), Dustin Byfuglien or Kris Letang. Suter has slipped in drafts the last few seasons, but, like Parise, his price tag will not be as low this season due to his free agent signing but more so due to his coming off a career-best season. Elite defensemen usually begin going in the early parts of the third round, and a case could be made for Karlsson going at the end of the first round. Suter doesn’t have the upside of an Alex Pietrangelo or the potential for across-the-board production like P. K. Subban (big hits and PIM numbers), but Suter should slot in to the top 15-17 defensemen taken around Keith Yandle, Mark Streit, Brent Burns and Kevin Shattenkirk. Suter’s situation in Minnesota will be missing one key component that is sure to drive down his value: Shea Weber.

Weber and Suter formed one of, if not, the NHL’s top defensive pairs. Statistically, the duo was one of the best considering Weber’s propensity to knock on the door of 20 goals most seasons. Suter heads to a team with more talented forwards than in Nashville, which could improve his already impressive power-play numbers. Expect Suter to team up with Tom Gilbert on the Wild’s top power-play unit, possibly Jared Spurgeon at times, along with Parise, M. Koivu and Heatley. Suter will likely see close to 27-28 minutes a night with Minnesota. Suter’s value did not take as much of a hit as Parise’s by going to Minnesota, but if you believe Shea Weber had a lot to do with Suter’s success, then you’re likely going to pass on Suter anyway. Suter won’t score too many goals or shoot as often as others, but his assist numbers will be more than sufficient.

July projection on Suter: 7-36-43, 22-25 power-play points. Sixth round or later: Players taken close to Suter should be Drew Doughty, Yandle, Streit, Duncan Keith. Comparable players available after Suter: Matt Carle (hello Steven Stamkos), Jack Johnson, Justin Faulk, Ian White, Nicklas Kronwall, Jason Garrison. I’d expect Dion Phaneuf to go before Suter to go a round or two before Suter, ditto on Michael Del Zotto.

-Dan Pennucci
Twitter: @dpennucci

Fantasy Value: Parise

By now, much has been made about the signings of American-born stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter by Minnesota, also known as “The State of Hockey.” The Wild established themselves as one of the more credible teams in the Western Conference, particularly the Northwest Division, and should vie for one of the West’s final playoff spots. You likely won’t have to pay what the Wild did for Parise and Suter, who inked identical 13-year, $98 million contracts on Wednesday, but both of these players will have their own respective price tags come draft day. From a statistical perspective, neither Suter or Parise can be considered elite players. They’re not average, but they’re not exactly going to lead the league in scoring at their respective positions. Minnesota committed such a large chunk of the team’s future to the two talismanic Americans because of the intangibles the duo possesses: hockey sense, work ethic and leadership to name a few.

Parise 2011-12 stats: 31-38-69, minus-5, 14 PPP, 3 SHG. 24th in the NHL in points. The 69 points were his lowest since the 2007-2008 season (he missed all but 13 games of 2010-11 with a knee injury). Amongst left wings, Parise was tied for 5th in the league with Matt Moulson, Henrik Zetterberg and Patrick Sharp. Moulson, Erik Cole, James Neal, Scott Hartnell and Ilya Kovalchuk all posted more goals than Parise (although Kovalchuk mostly played on the right wing last season with Parise.)

Since intangibles and positioning are not fantasy categories, we have to examine the two prizes of NHL free agency on this statistical basis. Parise is one of the stronger left wings on the board, but in a league that simply uses a forward position, his value will not be as high. He was one of 30 players to crack 30 goals this past season, many of whom went well after Parise was drafted in most leagues, such as former teammate David Clarkson, Moulson, Cole, Milan Michalek and Jason Pominville. Parise will have an inflated price tag because of his name being in the media, so it’s important not to pull the trigger on him too soon. He’s an immensely talented player with seasons of 46 and 38 goals to his credit, but odds are he won’t crack 40, possibly not even 35, in Minnesota. Parise should skate alongside Mikko Koivu and likely Devin Setoguchi or Dany Heatley (who may be the happiest person in Minnesota). Don’t rule out Wild coach Mike Yeo putting Cal Clutterbuck on a line with Parise either, as protection. In that case, Clutterbuck could have a David Clarkson-lite season. Expect Parise to be available in the fourth round after the goal-scoring centers and elite defensemen are gone. There are plenty of more reliable wingers that will go before Parise and some with potential to produce afterward. Parise won’t carry your team’s offense, but he’ll be an excellent source of goals and power-play points if you don’t pay too much for him.

Much like Suter adapting without Shea Weber, Parise will have to adapt to Mikko Koivu. Parise had outstanding chemistry with Travis Zajac during his tenure in New Jersey and played well with Adam Henrique and Kovalchuk this past season; Kovalchuk finished fifth in the NHL in scoring last year while emerging as a legitimate all-around player. However, Parise’s adjustment without Zajac seems to be less of a concern to people than Suter’s without Weber. Koivu is an excellent playmaker and should mesh quickly with Parise, so expect Koivu to cost a little more on draft day than he has in the past.

July projection on Parise: 34 goals, 40 assists. late 4th round, top 5-7 left wings available. LW ahead of him: Kovalchuk, Neal, D. Sedin, Hartnell (in PIM leagues only), possibly Patrick Sharp. Expect Moulson and Loui Eriksson to go after Parise, so wait on those two while someone else takes the bait on Parise.

-Dan Pennucci
Twitter: @dpennucci.

Feeling Minnesota: Parise and Suter

Devils’ fans have seen this movie before. Scott Niedermayer. Brian Rafalski (and to a lesser extent), Scott Gomez and Brian Gionta. The consensus seemed to be that their captain, Zach Parise, who led the Devils to the Stanley Cup Finals this past Spring, was weighing lucrative offers from many teams, but that it would come down to either returning to New Jersey or heading back home to Minnesota, as Devils GM Lou Lamoriello indicated to the Bergen Record’s Andrew Gross. Parise’s choice of returning to the Twin Cities on Wednesday, sent reverberations through the hockey world when he signed with his hometown Wild along with former Nashville defender Ryan Suter; both players inked 13-year, $98 million contracts, as first reported by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo thus crushing the hopes of Pittsburgh, Detroit, Philadelphia and countless other teams that had their eye on both players. (Parise is said to have received offers from “16-17 teams,” according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun.

Suter was highly coveted by Detroit in the hopes of starting the process of replacing Nicklas Lidstrom, but the Wings lost out on both Suter and Matt Carle, who isn’t an impact player defensively. Suter brings his consistently solid numbers to Minnesota but the question will abound as to how he will produce without Shea Weber by his side. Suter will be Minnesota’s stopper now while also running their power play. He isn’t a goal-scoring defender like Weber, but he can eat a lot of minutes and has great vision. Suter had a career-best 46 points last season but has not cracked seven goals in the league since his second full season, where he notched eight. Parise will slot right in to the top left wing spot for the Wild with Mikko Koivu as his centerman, where he will give the Wild the same outstanding work ethic he gave in New Jersey. Parise’s feet are always moving and he has the capability to change a game. He has a rare combination of skill and work rate, which will endear him much to the Wild faithful. Expecting Parise to be a point-per-game player or to duplicate his 2008-09 season of 94 points would be a folly, but 30-35 goals sound about right.

Despite the fan bases of both New Jersey and Nashville feeling as if they were spurned, much like Predators GM David Poile, the signing of the two in Minnesota is good for hockey in the United States. Poile felt spurned as his team was not able to “make a counter-offer” for Suter, as noted by The Tennessean’s Josh Cooper. There arguably is not a more hockey-mad area in the country than the Twin Cities and Minnesota in general, so the return of one of its favorite sons and the arrival of one of the best US-born defenseman currently in the league is a good news on that front. Both players were stars at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver and are good ambassadors for the game. The Wild and their fans have been understandably excited by the signings but you have to wonder where these signings put the Wild in terms of competitiveness in the Northwest Division. Vancouver remains the top of the division and Edmonton will certainly be exciting, but the Wild are certainly ahead of Colorado and Calgary. The Wild should challenge for one of the West’s final playoff spots along with Phoenix, San Jose and Detroit. (Yes, Detroit).

The Wild will be an intriguing team to watch and you have to believe this signing gives them instant credibility as a competitive team. They’re still a while away from being a Stanley Cup contender, but this should shift some of the competitive balance out West.

-Dan Pennucci
Twitter:@dpennucci.

AARP Week In Dallas

The scene in The Hunt For Red October when Sean Connery and Scott Glenn are attempting to outrun the evil Russian sub helmed by Stellan Skarsgaard in one of his notable pre-Good Will Hunting roles features a line by Courtney B. Vance, sonar operator on the Red October that sums up what could be heard by the current members of the stars: “Way to go Dallas.” Vance says this emphatically when the USS Dallas directs a torpedo away from Red October, but you have to imagine Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk being almost as excited with several of the moves his squad made today. Dallas finished six points out of the final playoff spot and their 89 points was good enough for 10th in the West. The Stars made a move quickly after free agency began on Sunday, July 1 by signing 41-year old Ray Whitney to a two-year, $9 million contract. They followed that up on Monday by jettisoning agitating center Steve Ott to Buffalo in a deal for veteran pivot Derek Roy. Ott’s name was bandied about at the trade deadline, as rumors had him heading to Vancouver at that time anyway. The Stars locked up former Canuck blue liner Aaron Rome for three years at $1.5 per and then threw $4.5 million at Jaromir Jagr to bring the 40-year old to Big D on Tuesday.
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Dallas lost Mike Ribeiro to Washington and happily let Sheldon Souray walk to Anaheim, where the Ducks, for reasons passing understanding, gave him a three-year deal worth $11 million. It should be noted that Souray was largely invisible from December on for Dallas. These recent signings by Dallas by no means vault them to the top of the Pacific Division, considering the talent Los Angeles has returning and San Jose being a playoff team, but the Stars are very pleased with their moves, as Nieuwendyk told the Dallas Stars’ website that the team is “back to being a relevant franchise.” At least in terms of top-six forwards, Dallas is going to have a quality group, but can the Stars rely on Alex Goligoski and others to shut down the opposition. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who should be ready to training camp following a meniscus injury at the World Championships, is capable of taking a team to the playoffs, but the health of their players is a concern. Jagr missed a handful of games last season, 13, but 41-year old Ray Whitney has missed just seven games the last two seasons.

How the Stars pair up their forwards will be interesting, as it’s safe to assume that Jagr will be on Jamie Benn‘s wing with either Michael Ryder or the massively underrated Loui Eriksson alongside the pair. (Eriksson has consecutive seasons of 71, 73 and 71 points while missing just three games over that stretch). Throw in Derek Roy as a potentially productive second line center with Whitney on his wing. The only player in this group with big fantasy upside is Jamie Benn, who should have some more room to maneuver with Jagr on his wing. Don’t sleep on Loui Eriksson in his contract year either, he is a sneakily productive player, conversely, Derek Roy has hardly been consistent in his career, so measure his value relative to the players left in the draft, ie find someone with more upside first. If Jagr can stay healthy, there’s little reason to think he will not challenge the 54 points he put up last year with Philly, even if Jamie Benn is not Claude Giroux.

As much as last year’s 63 points in 71 games was a breakout for Jamie Benn, this season could see him being even more productive. The 6-2 pivot will turn 23 in two weeks and has to be a target for people after the elite centers are gone. Benn is a potential 30-goal scorer at center and will have one of the NHL’s all-time best wingers on his line, albeit toward the end of his career, and the Stars believe that Jagr is still a “world-class player”. One of the only concerns for Jagr is Dallas’ travel schedule in the Western Conference, but that hasn’t affected Ray Whitney too much the last few seasons with the Desert Dogs.

Dan Pennucci
Twitter @dpennucci

Matt Carle: The Forgotten One

While those in the media and fans on Twitter are impatiently awaiting a Zach Parise decision on where the star forward will end up, a handful of other free agents in the NHL are waiting to see where Parise and Nashville’s star defender Ryan Suter will land in order to set the market. (Many are also chastising Parise for having the temerity for taking his time to make a life-changing decision.) Parise has returned home to Minnesota and spoke with the Minneapolis Star-Tribune’s Michael Russo about the process of selecting his new home. Parise has not yet made a decision on his future and will continue weighing all options. You can bet that Jaromir Jagr is waiting on seeing where Parise goes, according to TSN’s Darren Dreger. The trade scenarios with Columbus’s Rick Nash and Anaheim’s Bobby Ryan should also clear up once Parise and Jagr sign.

Reports out of Nashville have Ryan Suter fielding offers from several teams, with Detroit being one of the frontrunners in addition to Suter staying put with the Predators. Where Suter lands should have a massive effect on the future of Nashville’s Shea Weber, a restricted free agent. The Predators re-signed star netminder Pekka Rinne this past season, but conventional wisdom should suggest that the team will have a hard team keeping Weber beyond next season if Suter departs. What NHL general manager will have the brass to sign Weber to an offer sheet?

Teams that lose out on the Ryan Suter sweepstakes can be consoled by the fact that Matt Carle has a similar skill set albeit with a little less production the past few seasons than Suter. Carle has missed just two games the last three seasons, making him one of the few Philadelphia Flyers blue liners than can actually say that. Carle has averaged 34.3 points the last three seasons with a plus-53 rating over that span. He can move the puck out of the zone and run the point on the power-play. Close to one-third of his 34 points last season came on the man-advantage. He is a player whose offensive numbers are similar to those of Suter’s, but critics do not feel he is as adept defensively as Suter. Neither player is a big-goal scorer, but they are capable of putting up tremendous assist numbers, similar to former Devil and Red Wing Brian Rafalski.

Suter is clearly the defenseman prize of the free agent class. The Wisconsin native has cracked 30 points in each of the last five seasons and notched a career-best 46 points with a plus-15 rating this past season and 25 power-play points, over half of his total. Suter has not come in under 37 points in any of the last four seasons and can certainly eat minutes, as Suter logged 26:30 per-game, most of it besides Shea Weber. This brings us to the burning question of how Suter will handle life away from Weber. Most assume that Weber will still be productive without Suter, but that Suter may not rack up the numbers the way he did this past season. Strangely enough, Suter could be a value if he lands somewhere other than Nashville next season in drafts this fall, not a huge value, but certainly a round or two later than he would have gone should he stay in Nashville. Suter is one of the second-tier defenders in fantasy hockey that go after the big-goal scorers such as Weber, Zdeno Chara and Erik Karlsson have been snagged.

Statistically, Suter and Carle are not too different, but Carle could be more of a value in terms of salary for whatever team lands him should they miss out on Suter. Carle can be had several rounds after Suter in most drafts and his production is just a rung or two under the Nashville star. If Detroit loses out on Suter, expect them to make a run at Carle, who isn’t as solid defensively as Suter, but can certainly move the puck.

-Dan Pennucci
Twitter: @dpennucci