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Blue Line Buzz: Gilbert Thriving in Minnesota

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci has covered hockey for Rotowire since 2002 and is the author of Blue Line Buzz since 2011 as well as being the co-author of Morning Skate. He also is a contributor to Talking Red, a New Jersey Devils blog and podcast. He is an English teacher and formerly wrote for The Coast Star in Manasquan, New Jersey where he and his sports section won several New Jersey Press Association awards. Dan Pennucci is a supporter of the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC. He's attended sporting events in six countries.

(All statistics through Sunday, February 3)

Tyler Myers

Was his rookie season the best that it will get? 47 points from the towering blue liner was supposed to be the tip of the iceberg in 2009. His sophomore season saw regression, back to 37 points, but he did crack double-digit goals. Then came his third season, the 2011-12 campaign, littered with injury, forcing him to play a modest 55 games, finishing with a disappointing eight goals and 23 points, scattered over various stints in the lineup.

Coming into this shortened season, Myers's stock fell. Owners looked at his last two seasons and figured his rookie campaign's rate of production was unattainable. As a result, Myers was a player many owners gambled on late in drafts as a potential bounceback candidate, not quite a sleeper; a player that could return value, one of those picks that helps build a winning roster.

Owners that watched the team's opening game against the Flyers saw Myers score a goal and figured they were in for another strong season. In Buffalo's second game, Myers didn't register a point. In its third game, Myers didn't register a point. Same for the fourth game. Through Sunday, Buffalo has played nine games and Myers has not found his name on the scoresheet since opening day, which includes last Thursday's 7-4 win over Boston, a game where Myers finished a minus-1.

Myers sits with one point, a minus-6 rating and a mere six shots on goal through nine contests, hardly numbers that can inspire owners. Myers is seeing power play time, averaging 2:01 heading into Sunday's game, but he's more than two minutes behind teammate Christian Ehrhoff. Conversely, Ehrhoff is producing more than Myers at this point, with five points yet no goals, something owners expected from Ehrhoff.

Myers could be a moveable asset, as he is a talented player and he is still young.  Luckily, Myers is not nearly the frustrating pick he was after the quarter-pole last season, due to his lower pricetag this time around. However, it's getting hard to justify keeping him in your active roster.

Subban Back With Habs

After an acrimonious and very public holdout, P.K. Subban agreed to terms on a two-year, $5.75 million contract this past week, which will pay the highly regarded blue liner $3.75 million in its second year before he starts his next holdout in the summer of 2014. Subban is too talented of a player to not make an impact for the Habs, but how much of an impact he will make is up for interpretation.

He practiced several times with his teammates before rejoining the squad in Saturday's 6-1 pounding of Buffalo, playing 18:01 with 6:32 of that time on the power play. Subban did manage a stat-padding assist on David Desharnais's power-play goal that made the score 6-1 in favor of Montreal. Subban registered another assist on Sunday, again on power play. While he saw over a third of his ice time on the power play in Saturday's game, he's being featured on the team's second power-play unit, for now, it appears.

The Habs have not broken up the productive duo of Raphael Diaz and Andrei Markov on the point of their first power-play unit and are using Subban with the second grouping. Obviously these assignments are not set in stone and Subban will see some overlap time with the first group, but it appears he will have to put his time in with some of the team's lesser scoring forwards before he starts to dish the puck to players like Max Pacioretty. Regardless of whatever ill will was created by holding out, Subban is back on the ice and Montreal is giving him opportunities to show his abilities. It's doubtful to expect a point-per-game from Subban, but his first two games show that he will be factor in Montreal's attack.

Notes and Observations

- Winnipeg's Paul Postma is appearing in the top 20 of the defensemen scoring list and he likely is available in your league. Leave him where he is and don't be fooled by his five points. Postma snagged a goal and two assists in Friday's 8-3 loss to Tampa Bay, but he had two assists in seven games leading up to Friday's outburst. The Winnipeg blue line and its scoring are in good hands considering Tobias Enstrom leads NHL defenders in scoring through Sunday with 11 points and Dustin Byfuglien is contributing much as well, with three goals and seven total points in six games. Monitor Postma's ice time, especially the scant 2:16 he's seeing on the power play compared to the 5:03 Byfuglien is averaging and the 4:23 Enstrom is logging if you're considering adding him.

- Tom Gilbert, also touted in Jan Levine's NHL Barometer this week, is enjoying life in his native Minnesota with the Wild. Gilbert arrived in the Twin Cities last February in an understated deadline deal between Minnesota and the Oilers, where the Oil shipped Gilbert for Nick Schultz. Gilbert is currently in the advantageous position of being the other defender on the Wild's top pairing alongside Ryan Suter. Through the last five games, Gilbert has two goals and four assists while seeing 2:46 per-game on the power play, good enough for second on the team behind Suter. Expect Gilbert to continue seeing power-play time while Jared Spurgeon is dealing with a foot injury.

- Raphael Diaz, Montreal: He has eight assists in eight games and is dishing the puck with aplomb on the Habs' top power play unit, with six of those helpers coming on the man advantage. However, danger lurks in the form of a highly touted budding star in P.K. Subban. Diaz is on the top power-play unit and how long he remains there is the million-dollar question for owners lucky enough to have burned a late-round pick or waiver selection on Diaz. Diaz could be a sell-high candidate if you believe you can get something for him.

- The Columbus blue line: This past week has done little to clear up the murkiness that is the Blue Jackets' steady production from the back end. Fedor Tyutin had two assists on Saturday, while James Wisniewski had a point in each of the last four games. Adding to the quandary is that Jack Johnson has been active recently as well, with a goal and two assists over four tilts and Nikita Nikitin may be returning Tuesday from his upper-body injury according to the Columbus Post-Dispatch's Aaron Portzline and Shawn Mitchell. Nikitin may have suffered a concussion, which caused him to miss the team's last two games. Regardless, Nikitin is off to a disappointingly slow start with just two assists in seven games after 32 points in 54 contests last season. Johnson and Wisniewski have a decided advantage in terms of average power-play ice time, 4:33 and 3:59 respectively, while Tyutin is fourth on the list, logging 2:26 per-contest on the man advantage, but has three power-play points. The odds are that owning one of these players will be immensely frustrating, even more so when Nikitin returns, but potentially rewarding.

Johnson: If an owner in your league is frustrated by Johnson's slow start, make a play for the former No. 1 overall pick. Johnson played well following the trade from Los Angeles for Jeff Carter last year with 14 points in 21 games and will continue to eat up power-play time.

Wisniewski: Wisniewski is starting to heat up and has the track record of producing, along with healthy point-per-game numbers. Time may be running out to acquire him cheaply.

Tyutin: Unfortunately, it could be time to sell high on Tyutin, who is likely to be usurped as the team's scoring leader among defenders within the next week or two. He's a steady veteran presence, but Wisniewski and Johnson are likely to do more with their chances while Tytuin seems to be overproducing given his opportunities. Expect an inevitable statistical correction to occur.

Nikitin: The kid has the ability to produce, but it's been maddening dealing with the ebbs and injuries in the season's early going. Watch him closely upon his return from what is believed to be a concussion. Nikitin is the wild card in this group, and while he had an impressive points-per-game ratio last season, there were periods of injury and lacking production.

Adam Larsson, New Jersey: He's back in the lineup after having been forced to watch the team's first five games from the press box. Larsson set up one of the Devils' goals in their loss to the Islanders on Thursday, but was squeezed out of the secondary assist. He's likely not going to see power-play time immediately, especially as the Devils were hesitant to put him the lineup dating back to the playoffs last season. Larsson is talented and can move the puck well, but a more regular place in the lineup will probably do much in terms of helping his confidence. For what it's worth, he's averaging a shade over 18 minutes in his first three games.

Question of the week: Who will be the scoring leader among defensemen at season's end?

Follow Dan Pennucci on Twitter @dpennucci.

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