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Morning Skate: Breaking Bryz

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
Sent: Monday, December 2
Subject: Breaking Bryz
 
Soooo ... you spent Saturday night at the Devils-Sabres game. You are a brave, brave man. That was the perfect contest to lull a colicky baby to sleep. Yawn. But I digress ...

What's your take on Alexander Edler? It's like his game has disappeared and his confidence has dissolved. Is he really one of the worst plus-minus guys in the league or is it a function of John Tortorella? I do think his 49-point season in 2011-12 was an anomaly, but he is better than the 28-point pace he's on now. Where does he end up in terms of offence? And do you think he can stabilize that plus-minus or will it simply continue to sicken?

Did you catch any of the Sens-Wings match on Sunday? What's wrong with Jason Spezza? Clarke MacArthur was way more impressive. Then again, the entire top line -- Bobby Ryan, Kyle Turris and CMac -- were head and shoulders above the rest of the forwards on the Sens. Is it really that Spezza and Milan Michalek just haven't found the right fit on the other wing?Hmmm ... do you think they should have worked harder to re-sign Daniel Alfredsson? 

Ilya Bryzgalov -- now, he's actually looked pretty good so far. Go figure. What did you think of the Ryan Garbutt hit? The suspended-once-already role player nailed Bryz pretty hard on the side of the headand all I could think about was all that talk about rotational force and its impact on concussions. The Oil just can't catch a break. 

I've been thinking a lot about overrated players and teams. Guys like Stephen Weiss and Matthew Carle. And teams like the Avs. Will Weiss ever find his place in the Wings' system? Is Carle anything more than a boring 38-point, second-assist, number-four defender? And are you buying the Avs or are they about to crash back to earth, just like the Leafs?

Eagle out

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent, Monday, December 2
Subject: Alfie and The Gang

Yes, I was one of those in the masses to see a total 39 shots on goal between the Devils and Sabres. Steve Bernier looked like he was back with San Jose in his rookie season with that game-winning snipe. It was nice to see a win, but there was also some ennui amongst the crowd that said "we needed 64 minutes to beat Buffalo?" However, if the Sabres could have connected on passes in the offensive zone, well, they wouldn't have been the Sabres. Met some entertaining Buffalo fans on the train home wondering if the Sabres could match the Bills' win total this season. In all, it was a great time with some friends complete with barbecue and craft-brewed IPAs.

I saw some of the Sens-Wings game and it's highly ironic to see Alfie's numbers even close to a point-per-game with the Swedish National Team (aka Detroit…Datsyuk...he immigrated). From what I read this summer, it had something to do with money for Alfredsson, but then again there were reports that Eugene Melnyk gave Alfie a blank check (no doubt funded by his crime scene investigation side business). Ryan's been great to watch and nice to see Turris playing well after the way he left Phoenix.

Bryz, so sad. It was great to see him grab a shutout against Nashville in his debut, but that will be the aberration. My wife wants to see HBO's 24/7 follow Bryz around regardless of what team he's on, but I have a feeling the inside look into the always rational Leafs Nation will be eye opening next week.

Edler's an enigma this season, but Jason Garrison was also before his recent five-point outburst. (Odds are Garrison will be streaky again, but I'll take it). Edler was budding into one of the league's finer blue liners a few seasons ago and had decent numbers last year in the truncated campaign. Vancouver has had some serious valleys this season, so his plus-minus is more tied to his teammates, but the points are a bit baffling. A 28-point season from him would be rare. I figured the 49-point mark would be his high point, and he did have 33 points through 51 games before getting injured the season before. I think it's too early to assign Torts as the culprit, but we'll see. I'm keeping Edler as a buy-low candidate for a few more weeks, something an NHL franchise is hoping he'll be this coming summer when he's UFA.

Speaking of Torts, the New York media seemed to enjoy the Rangers beating Vancouver than the Rangers' fans did, with Chris Kreider bagging a hat trick to boot.

You mentioned Carle and Weiss, the injuries might give Weiss a pass for one more season, but he was always a points binger in Florida, a frustrating player to own. If Carle can settle in with consistent at 37-40 points, backloaded with assists, that'd be fine as a late-round pick, but nothing more than a bottom starter on my blue line.

In Frozen Fantasy you mentioned the impact the Rogers TV-NHL unholy alliance will have on the cap in years to come, can you foresee any safeguards put in to prevent a have-have not system? In terms of coverage, what's your take on seeing Rogers get it all vs. sharing it with TSN...will it be all Leafs all the time even more or will fans get better coverage?

You mentioned Edler, how about Tobias Enstrom, Michael Del Zotto, Mark Streit? Time for owners to cut bait?

-DAN-

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Tuesday, December 4
Subject: What's on TV?

Ahhh ... HBO. I'd be looking forward to it IF it was actually on HBO up here. But the Leafs are in it and that means the rights belong to Sportsnet. And that means the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) will censor all the fun right out of it. I'm not sure I'm even going to watch. Ugh.

The unholy alliance -- I love that term. I was blown away the NHL negotiated that type of exclusivity. I was expecting more of an NFL model. But I'll take it -- it means that Canadians will not suffer through blackouts of exceptional games simply because the broadcast is considered regional. I live within 90 minutes of Toronto and that means it's Leafs-Leafs-Leafs, with just a dash of something else. Not come 2015. Yippee!

I am a bit disappointed that TSN was shut out. They still have some regional coverage of the Habs and the Jets, but they're otherwise S.O.L. Personally, I prefer the TSN TV personalities and their coverage over Sportsnet's, but I do like Sportsnet radio over TSN. It's a dichotomy, I guess. I think there will be a lot of personalities moving around and the cream will rise to the top for sure. That's great for hockey fans. I won't have to buy the Center Ice package. I'll have access to all of the Canadian games and probably some other great ones like Tuesday's Hawks-Stars tilt. Sweet. (Ed. note: a game in which Chicago put 50 shots on Kari Lehtonen and lost 4-3. Dallas had 18)

I am fascinated by the deal overall because it's less about the broadcasts and more about the content. Content is king - that's our business, too. It'll be interesting to see how that gets used (and abused) over the next decade-plus. 

You've hit a nerve with Enstrom and Streit -- I own both and I'm not a happy camper.
 
Streit doesn't exactly have a lot of NHL mileage, but his game has all but disappeared. He'll be 36 next week. I knew the drop was coming, but this is dramatic. I'm about to jettison. I'd like to dump Enstrom, but I can't. I'm still holding out hope. He's better than this. Way better.
 
Del Zotto? Can you say Tyler Myers? He was rushed and remarkably, he's a five-year vet who is just 23. That last number is the one that matters -- he's a baby. But I think the struggles continue. Keeper status stays the same, but his owners will require patience. Single-year owners? I'm teetering toward trading him to try to get something in a return.

Now, for you. Are the Sharks for real? Is this the year keeper owners should trade Jumbo Joe Thornton to get the biggest possible return? Have injuries forever altered the trajectory of Jeff Skinner's career? And has Jack Johnson's time with the Jackets exposed him for the player he truly is?

Eagle out

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Wednesday, December 4
Subject: Jumbo Joe

Regarding HBO and 24/7, they'll be hard-pressed to top Bryzgalov from 2011, but if anything could be fertile ground for the type of comments Bryz made, I'm guessing the Leafs fan base could give viewers a few gems. However, the new 24/7 trailer looks great. Last Leafs note...I had a laugh when the San Jose Sharks announcers, Randy Hahn and former NHLer Drew Ramenda (great announcing team) noted that the Leafs were winning the hits battle 56-19, saying something to the effect of being amazed by how liberally hits are counted by the ACC scorers.

Thornton certainly looked good on Tuesday night against the Leafs, great patience on that power-play goal he tallied. You know Thornton is going to produce, maybe not to the level we're seeing right now, but he's too much of a factor in that San Jose attack with tremendous options to pass to. I'd dangle Thornton to see what kind of return I'd get, and if it's not a quality return. I'd keep him, after looking to get some quality young players in a keeper leagues or a pick.

Skinner...how many fingers am I holding up? Kid was such a dynamic talent in his first year, now it looks like he'll settle into a 45-50 point player after seeing a highly promising career derailed by injuries. He showed some poise on a goal he scored against New Jersey the day after Thanksgiving, waiting for Cory Schneider to overcommit and he did have a tally last night in the Canes' win over Washington, although that was more of a poor play by the Caps' Braden Holtby. Carolina is an enigma. On paper they look like a team that should be more competitive, but they can't put together consistency. Thankfully, they're alive because of the Metropolitan Division.

Jack Johnson...haven't heard that name in a while. That's odd. I have always been amazed that Columbus can get solid production from its blue line. It hasn't helped playing in the Columbus system after leaving Los Angeles. He's become little more than an afterthought in most leagues with five points and a minus-13 after a productive start to his career in Columbus back in 2012 and last year's truncated campaign. Give LA credit for capitalizing on Johnson's 42-point season and using him to get Jeff Carter.

-Not to bring up the Leafs again, but what can owners who have held on to David Clarkson expect from him?
-Kris Letang, what's going on there?
-Mine Calgary for some talent, what's there for owners to cash in on?
-What does the Henrik Zetterberg injury mean for Gustav Nyquist and Tomas Tatar?

-DAN-

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Thursday, December 5
Subject: Sprouting Wings

Clarkson? I do not hold out much hope other than in the hits category. The scorekeeper at the ACC seems to count up hits, so at least he has that going for him. He hasn't found his fit with any of the Leafs' centers and I don't see that fit coming soon. Or easily. Sad, really -- he was likely a better fit in Jersey.

Kris Letang -- wow, eh. He suffered through nagging pain in his knee after tweaking it in camp. But the bigger issue seems to be the new system the Pens play. They roll a neutral zone system that seems to keep three guys, including both defenders, behind the puck. That means he just doesn't carry the puck as much as before and that's one of his strengths. Honestly, I think he needs to carry the puck to get completely into the games. He has really picked things up of late; I'm not sure if he's just feeling better or if the Pens have become a little more flexible in their system (I haven't seen them play in the last couple weeks, so I can't say which it is.) Whatever the cause, I say buy.

Calgary? Jiri Hudler is the first guy who comes to mind. He's rolling at close to a point-per-game without being a complete drag on your plus-minus. And I'd roll Mark Giordano ... whenever he's healthy. I like Sven Baertschi from a dynasty perspective. Sean Monahan has been more than impressive. I think Reto Berra could be a starter in the NHL, but not without a serious infusion of talent in front of him. But there's not a lot of gold when you start panning. 

I really like the combo of Zetterberg - Gustav Nyquist - Johan Franzen, but I worry that Zetterberg is the straw that stirs the proverbial drink. I'm in a hold and see pattern for a few games. Nyquist was productive with Franzen and Stephen Weiss on Wednesday night (in the loss to Philadelphia), but I'd like to see them together a couple more games. Tomas Tatar has been really good on the third line. I honestly think he might push his way up the lineup ... if the Wings let him. You know their perspective on young players. 

Parting shot -- what did you think of Sean Couturier's outburst Wednesday night. Real or fraud? 

Eagle out

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Friday, Dec. 6
Subject: Two-Way Flying

Sean Couturier, the player the Flyers got in the Jeff Carter trade. (Not directly, but with the Jackets' 2011 first-rounder). Couturier sure looked good Wednesday night, showing some good awareness on the goal he tapped in after bringing the puck into the zone by just hanging around the net with his stick down. He notched four points that night including an empty-netter. He had a down year in the truncated campaign but you saw his ability as a two-way forward in the 2012 fiasco that was the Penguins-Flyers first-round series. He limited the effectiveness of some of the Pens' top scorers, capping off a great rookie campaign.

As for this recent offensive spurt of 11 points in 12 games, he hasn't gone more than two games without a point since November 12 and he's showing great chemistry with the newly acquired Steve Downie. I'd be skeptical about picking up Couturier only because much of what he's done his first two years in the league doesn't factor into the box score. Eventually, I'm sure the Flyers hope he can develop into a Patrice Bergeron type player and that Couturier will show some of the skill he flashed in junior with the Q's Drummondville, posting consecutive 96-point seasons leading up to his draft year.

The benefits outweigh the risk for Couturier in keeper leagues, those in single-season leagues need to be aware that he hasn't been a big scorer in his two-plus seasons. I'm buying in deep keeper leagues.

Question of the week: Good deal or too much for the Rangers and Henrik Lundqvist. 7 years, $59.5 million for the King?