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Morning Skate: All Hail Kadri

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.

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci (@dpennucci)
Sent: Tuesday, February 26
Subject: Win now?

My world has been turned upside down. Nazem Kadri, the Leafs' cocky brat, is leading the team in scoring. Evgeni Malkin is out with brain pain (that might be Rick Nash's problem, too). And I just traded two of the best keeper prospects in hockey -- Jacob Markstrom and Ryan Murray plus a low first-round minor-league pick -- for Jarome Iginla, Shea Weber, Alex Tanguay and a high first-round minor pick. I'm making a run for a title -- have you done the same yet in any of your leagues? Do you take a wait-and-see approach with your teams or are you all-in when it comes to aggressive trading?

Speaking of trades, we saw a couple deals Tuesday. Simon Gagne to Philly for a conditional pick and Eric Cole and Michael Ryder switch spots. I think this is a get-out-of-a-Sutter-jail for Gagne and that makes him fantasy worthy. But what do you make of the Cole-Ryder deal? Who benefits most and why? Who should fantasy owners target?

I've been thinking a lot about older, free-agent "rookie-types" lately -- you know, the Cory Conacher types. Is it just me or are there more of them this year? Justin Schultz, Viktor Fasth, Damien Brunner. The latter was particularly impressive Sunday night against the beached Orcas -- two goals and the same number of assists were truly impressive. What does your crystal ball foresee for Brunner and Conacher in single-year leagues? And predict which guy will be more valuable in three years time.

It must pain you to see Martin Brodeur on the sidelines. Can Johan Hedberg carry the Devils? Or is this recent tough period for him a new normal? What do fantasy owners do if they own either?

And fantasy owners love the idea of winning "sell high, buy low" situations. I've recently been thinking about a few guys that might fit that bill, so tell me what you'd do with the following. You have one of three options -- buy, sell or hold -- for each and up to two sentences to explain why you think that way.

- Jarome Iginla (couldn't resist -- I'm like a moth to a bare bulb)
- Viktor Fasth
- Mike Ribeiro
- Jay Bouwmeester
- Dmitry Kulikov
- Andrew Ladd

Lastly, what side are you on -- Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert or David Letterman and Jay Leno?

Eagle out

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Wednesday, February 27
Subject: Nazem, Savior Of The Leafs

I definitely prefer to get my news from Stephen Colbert. His two books have made outstanding reading and listening. Stewart's good too, but his stuff has been a little too far left of late. Here in the States, there isn't much middle ground in news. You have FOX on the far right, MSNBC on the far left. Colbert's character, the jingoistic American, delivers with humor and satire.

No, I'm not crying while sleeping in my mid-2000's Brodeur Canada sweater. Hedberg is a more than capable option, but if he goes down, I'm not relishing seeing Scott Wedgewood or Keith Kinkaid in Newark anytime soon. Owners of Brodeur should already have Moose as he's one of the top backups in the league, Hedberg has been seeing starts in back-to-back situations and now has the chance for a few more starts. If Hedberg is available, he should be scooped up immediately. Marty's back seems like it will be fine from what I've read, but insuring him is the sage play. The Devils play in a low-scoring division and Hedberg won't hurt those owners that snagged him.

I'm not entirely sold on Gagne reverting back to the form he displayed just after the lockout before the most recent lockout. The Flyers are having trouble scoring save for the Simmonds-Voracek line, but I can't see Gagne having too much of an impact unless he somehow gets Giroux going. At this point in his career, Gagne can't impact a line the way Hartnell can. (Although, Giroux is warming up nicely).

Ryder joining Montreal I'm buying. Guy can snipe if he chooses to he's starting next to Morning Skate regular Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller. Ryder seemed to be heating up, but he doesn't have Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson around him anymore. I'd definitely target Ryder and Cole over Gagne. Cole heads to a new city and could be surrounded by some talented passers and he can do a little more dirty work than Ryder. He worked well with Ray Whitney during their Raleigh days.

Yes, I watched the Wings-Shamu game on Sunday. Was a great game for two periods; loved the icing pass off the boards from Henrik to Daniel, who made a nasty, but not quite Datsyukian finish on Jimmy Howard. Brunner has impressed when I've seen him and you always have to look out for players that had done well in European pro leagues. Brunner seems like he can do more on his own than Conacher, whom I believe has his value tied to whether he is with Steven Stamkos and Mighty Mite. Speaking of those two, it's great to see Benoit Pouliot fitting in well with those two. Why has he succeeded there and can owners that gambled on Pouliot expect it to continue.

As for your buy/sell/hold list (your lightning round comes later)

-Iginla: Looked good against Phoenix, usually a slow starter. I'm buying him or holding him if I own him.

-Fasth: Hold or Sell: Hiller is back to get a few starts, but Fasth is a goalie on a winning team. Ducks keep winning. Somehow.

-Riberio: Holding. I traded for him in Jan Levine's league a few weeks ago and he's proving to be one of the few bright spots in The District. Ribeiro is on a one-year deal, so there's some incentive for him.

-Bouwmeester: Buying him. The Flames' games I've seen this year, he's rushing up the ice, dishing the puck with aplomb. Haven't seen this Bouwmeester in a few years. If the Flames start tanking, have to think he and Iggy will go.

-Kulikov: After Tuesday's win over Pittsburgh, I'm looking to sell. Guy can be great then absolutely invisible.

-Ladd: Buying if I want him, holding if I own him. Ladd's just a consistent under-the-radar player in Manitoba. He's hit 28 and 29 goals, respectively, the last two years and seems ticketed to break 20 again, a bit more impressive in the shortened season.

What's your issue with Kadri? From what the Leafs have shown on the ice the last few years, it'd be good to see players with some kind of swagger. I truly hope your life improves and Kadri slumps back to the guy we've seen the last few years. It's coincidental that you mention trading futures to win now. (Note I said coincidence and not irony, Alanis Morrisette take note).

In the league with Jan Levine, I dealt two draft picks for Tavares and Ray Emery in the hopes of moving up the offensive categories. If I can move up a little in assists and power play points, I can make a run at the title, while Emery gives me a handcuff to Corey Crawford. Tavares can be retained for two more years and I feel he's hitting his prime. The "win now" philosophy is valid and if I have a shot to win, I'll deal. Nothing wrong with selling some moveable assets and building for the future though. This season I've been more aggressive in pursuing deals and I'm enjoying making attempts to improve my team.

Speaking of prospects, what kind of an offensive impact can we see from Ryan Murray and Ryan Murphy, respectively. Obviously, Murphy has more skilled teammates, but still.

Ottawa keeps winning and Ben Bishop is playing nicely. We're getting a long look at some of the Sens' top prospects. What do your tarot cards tell you about Jakob Silfverberg and Mika Zibanejad? I've been impressed watching Patrick Wiercioch, guy's a strong skater and can move the puck decently.

All hail Kadri, savior of the Leafs,
-Pennucci

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci (@dpennucci)
Sent: Wednesday, February 27
Subject: Beached Orcas?

Danny boy, you know I've never been a fan of Nazem Kadri. I don't mind the cockiness; I do mind the arrogance. He's always enjoyed looking at himself in the mirror and he's always loved what he's seen. Trouble is, he's loved his own flaws, too ... until this year. It seems he's grown up ... at least a titch. Until now, I've thought he's more like Darcy Tucker than anyone else -- gifted junior with an edge, but small, and better suited in an energy role. He still pulls the odd dipsy-doodle junior-style stunt at the wrong time and I'm sure he'll get his head ripped off a few times, but he's back at center -- his natural position -- and he's starting to shine. Still, he's no more than a second-line center, of which the Leafs have three -- him, Tyler Bozak and Mikhail Grabovski.

Benoit Pouliot is another one of those enigmas wrapped up in something. Pouliot is talented, but he's been tagged as a guy with a bad attitude. Maybe it's just a combination of having been both kicked and whipped by a bad-ass coach when he was in Montreal. I think that, like Kadri, Pouliot has grown up. There's a lot to be said about having other high-end French-Canadian players like Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis to help him along. It's a combination for continued success. I'm buying in.

Now to the two Ryans -- Ryan Murphy and Ryan Murray. Eighteen months ago, I thought Murphy (Carolina) would be a stud. Now, I think he's no better than Marc-Andre Bergeron. He's a talented offensive player, but he was utterly over-matched and completely exposed with his peer group at the World Junior Hockey Championships this year. He's a power-play specialist who'll need to be seriously insulated to succeed in the NHL.

The name Ryan Murray (Columbus) usually elicits one of two reactions -- uber stud or overrated. I'm in the overrated category -- I think he could be Marc-Eduoard Vlasic with a bit more offense. Take a look at Vlasic's career arc and the age he started in the NHL -- I see the potential for some uncanny parallels. Then again, I'm torn. I really like [Minnesota’s] Jonas Brodin and I believe he has big, untapped offensive abilities. And I see Brodin and Murray as similar players. I could regret moving him.

Mika Zibanejad or Jakob Silfverberg? How about both? Both will be top-six forwards and both will deliver at a point-per-game pace in their prime. I think Silfverberg will get there first -- he's a lot like Daniel Alfredsson. But Zibanejad isn't far behind and brings more dazzle to the ice. Fantasy-wise, Zibanejad will cost you more because of his shiny first-round status and his dangle, but Silfverberg will deliver more for less. Patrick Wiercioch impressed me a couple years back, but not any more. His foot speed and mobility haven't improved enough to earn him ongoing time. It might be different if he had Cody Franson's skills, but he doesn't.

So, by this time next week, we'll be at the half pole of the season. Right now, four teams from each of the Central and Northeast divisions are in playoff spots. Will they all stay there? Who drops? Who gains? And is there any hidden fantasy value in either of those divisions? Or does that lie somewhere else?

Lastly, what does the future hold for the Vancouver Canucks? Ryan Kesler's return gave them a huge boost -- balancing out the lines and having multiple threats made them a different team. Now, Kesler’s out with a broken foot. Can they stay ahead of the Wild? Is there any risk they're fighting for a playoff spot at season's end?

Eagle out.

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Wednesday, February 27
Subject: Russell Crowe Or Keanu?

I had an inkling of your feelings toward Kadri based on what you'd written about him over the last few years. I feel it's going to be difficult for someone highly touted to succeed in Toronto. Place seems like too much of a pressure cooker and expectations are a bit unreasonable at times. I've noticed that about Kadri, though, how he goes for dangles or drop passes at ill-advised times. Bozak I like more than Grabovski from a keeper perspective in most leagues.

Yes, re: Ryan Murphy now with the Canes while some of their regulars are injured and a rather damning MA Bergeron comparison for the high-priced pick. I do remember him being more than a bit spotty when the Americans routed Canada in the semifinals, but I thought he'd be a year or two away from getting a look. Carolina, doesn't have many stalwarts on the back end out there to insulate him. Hardly a Zdeno Chara to Dougie Hamilton situation, but Hamilton appears infinitely more skilled on the defensive end. Justin Faulk, Jamie McBain and Joe Corvo don't inspire me as nurturing complementary players.

I feel bad for Columbus and Murray this point. However, the Jackets seem to have quite a deep blue line of third-pairing defensemen to throw on the ice, so I have to think Murray will get a long look next season when his shoulder heals. You figure one of these picks have to work out for Columbus. Pickles I always liked, but not necessarily as the foundation of a franchise type defender. I worry what playing in Columbus will do to a kid like Murray. Jack Johnson's a good puck mover, but not too responsible at times. Throw in Wisniewski, Nikitin and the rest, and I can see Murray going for the Green Jacket as a rookie.

I've enjoyed watching Zibanejad and Silfverberg the last few weeks (glad I do not have to cover the Senators as a journalist, then you add in Kaspar Daugavans et al) and I'm eager to see these two uber-talented forwards with the likes of Spezza in a few years. Those are two I'll definitely be targeting next year, along with Robin Lehner.

Playoff picks: The Northeast will get 4 into the playoffs, sorry again Islanders. Philly is too good to miss out, despite some obvious flaws. But I think it's going to be the Rangers sneaking in. Nash is dizzy and Richards is being mentioned as a buyout. Also, no one has seen Marian Gaborik of late. Still, King Henrik gets them in.

The Central, that division is deep and yes they get four in. Detroit sneaks in behind Nashville. Rinne's been a monster and I've become a fan of the Blues. Nasty team and Hitchcock's thing seems to be working. In the West, Colin Wilson has been quietly having a great season for the Predators and Chris Stewart seems to be finding some of his scoring touch with the Blues again. Neither player will win you your league singlehandedly, but they're both nice complements as hidden value.

I can't see Vancouver missing the playoffs, even without Kesler (what a break for them, pun completely intended). Their goaltending duo is arguably one of the league's best, the sisters are finding their game and I've always been a fan of Alexander Edler. Jason Garrison's been hot the last week as well. The Wild I think will fall a few points short in the end, battling it out with Los Angeles and San Jose. Minny has two elite players in Suter and Parise, but there are too many holes on that team, not unlike the Oil.

Vancouver will get in, but not much further. Alexander Burrows seems to be finding his name on the scoresheet more of late as well for them.

Lightning Round- fantasy perspective only. 140 characters.

-Youngblood or Mystery, Alaska?
-Iginla or Marleau?
-Jonas Brodin or Matt Dumba?
-Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Kevin Shattenkirk?
-David Backes or Jamie Benn?
-Jaroslav Halak or Carey Price?

Lastly, that's some flu Rene Bourque caught in Montreal. A severe cold to a concussion.

Ciao,
-Pennucci

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Wednesday, February 27
Subject: Hitch ‘Em Up

You know, I like the Blues, too. Hitch has really lit a fire under those boys. I've always been a fan of T.J. Oshie, particularly after he ran over Rick Nash not just once, but twice, in March 2009. I actually go back to YouTube and watch it every once in a while.That kid has a little honey badger in him for sure. And I really like David Backes -- the guy is one of the best two-way power types in the NHL and I have huge respect for what he and his wife, Kelly, do to support rescue animals. That's something that's near and dear to my heart. Check out Backes' Buddies whether you like cats and dogs, or not.

Lightning round? I really like this part of our weekly jab-fest.

Youngblood or Mystery, Alaska -- Russell Crowe can't skate. Keanu Reeves can't act, but at least he barely spoke. For that alone, it's Youngblood for me.

Jarome Iginla or Patrick Marleau -- Always has and always will be Iggy for me. It's that irrepressible smile and the net crashing that get me every time.

Jonas Brodin or Matthew Dumba -- Tough call. Both have 55-point upside, but Dumba adds PIMs. And he will give you a few more goals. It's a brains vs. brawn debate. Dumba for his trade value. Bigger name.

Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Kevin Shattenkirk -- Shattenkirk. Both are future all stars and OEL might be the better all-rounder on the ice. But Shattenkirk is fantasy gold.

David Backes or Jamie Benn -- Backes on the ice; Benn in the fantasy arena. We're just seeing the tip of the iceberg offensively from Benn.

Jaroslav Halak or Carey Price -- Price, hands down and with eyes closed. He's two years younger and already better. Advantage price in keeper formats.

BTW, I agree with you on the playoff teams although some do make me queasy. And I enjoy both Stewart and Colbert -- sarcasm is one of my favorite things. Oh ya -- I think you know that already.

Last word -- Kyle Palmieri. Real or fake? Did you see his line Wednesday night?

Eagle out.

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Thursday, February 28
Subject: Point Break

After Wednesday, I'm prepared to dub Kyle Palmieri a real deal in The OC (don't call it that). Yes, I saw his natural hat trick stat line. Did you see his first goal? The one where he drove the net around Shea Weber, carrying Weber on his back and a deft move to avoid Pekka Rinne's poke check. That's Shea Weber he just did that to, made the guy look like Patrice Brisebois. Of course, having space on the ice created for you by being the third piece to a Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry combination certainly helps. Anaheim keeps winning and they really haven't been that far behind Chicago in terms of the consistency. I can't figure how the Ducks keep winning, but it's odd seeing Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin near the top of the league's plus-minus leaders. (Why can't the Leafs get players like Beauchemin?)

St. Louis is fun and I think most hockey fans in America can embrace it as a type of America's team considering Backes, Oshie and Kevin Shattenkirk are some of USA Hockey's brightest players.Vladimir Sobotka, while not American, is a hell of a player to go up against and I've always liked David Perron as an underrated playmaker.

I'm outraged by your claim that Keanu Reeves can't act. Did you see Point Break? The scene when he shot the gun in the air and yelled because he loved Patrick Swayze too much and couldn't shoot him? Where Keanu says he's an "EFFFF BEEEEE EYYYYYYE Agent!"(explicit language in link) Someone was robbed of an Oscar.

I've always liked Mystery, Alaska and Youngblood as well. Last word on your end since it's important we continue talking about Hollywood here: who was the better skater, Russell Crowe in Mystery or Rob Lowe in Youngblood?

Ciao,
Pennucci