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Frozen Fantasy: Overrated

Janet Eagleson

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

I havenít hit my head (lately, at least). Iím not anti-Canadian. And Iím certainly not on the Leafsí bandwagon. Iím merely a realist.

Roberto Luongo is seriously overrated. So is Marc-Andre Fleury.

The numbers donít lie. And Iím not talking about Bobby Louís typical October slow start. Or the Pensí annual post-playoff hangover (poor babies).

Neither Luongo nor Fleury is the fantasy stud we think he is.

Sure, both deliver wins (OK, not Bobby Lou in October). But not that many leagues just count wins. And shutouts are as fluky as they come.

Most Yahoo! leagues rely heavily on save percentage and goals-against average. In fact, I would argue that those two categories are far more indicative of individual supremacy than wins.

So what gives?

Last season, Luongo finished between 15th and 20th in both goals-against average and save percentage; Fleury was a couple spots lower in GAA and a lot lower Ė between 25th and 30th Ė in save percentage. And yes, Iíve factored out anyone who didnít play in at least half of his teamís games.

I know what youíre thinking. And I donít mind being called a hemorrhoid Ė or worse. Itís my job to drop a few thought bombs every once in a while. Strip away the emotion and the passion, and drive home the objectivity of stats.

Would I trade either one of these guys away? You bet your flat screen I would. Largely because there would be someone (and maybe a couple people) who would sorely overpay for numbers that donít actually exist.

And trading a Bobby Lou almost immediately puts me into the trade class that includes the very best skaters (think Sidney Crosby or Alexander Ovechkin).

Now those guys are real difference makers.

And I could live with a Craig Anderson, Pekka Rinne or Jaroslav Halak between the pipes.

Now letís take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Cam Barker, D, Minnesota (14 percent owned) Ė Hereís the bottom line. If Woof is healthy, heís an excellent point-producing defender. Trouble is, heís not exactly Mr. Healthy. And even if he was, heís just not Mr. Consistency. He has the talent to deliver 20 goals a season. But heís never been able to live up to being drafted right behind Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Still, heís great on the power play and is a great forward skater (please close your eyes when he pivots to defend; he may be one of the worst backwards-skating defenders of this era). Heíll play second fiddle to Marek Zidlicky and Brent Burns on the PP but Burns is an injury just waiting to happen. And Barker will be the next best thing. Two years ago, this talented blueliner scored 40 points; he should be owned in more than a handful of leagues.

Jamie Benn, LW, Dallas (12 percent owned) Ė Bennís rise last season was meteoric Ė his second-half was outstanding (14 of his 22 markers came in that period) and he finished third on the rookie goal-scoring list. And his blend of skill, toughness and drive has him ticketed for stardom. This year started slowly for him Ė a concussion kept him out for three games. But he was in all the right places in his return to action on Thursday night and tallied three helpers while playing on the third line. That assignment wonít last for long and heíll soon be riding shotgun on a scoring line. I think heís a 60-plus point guy this year; donít wait on him.

Matt Cullen, C, Minnesota (30 percent owned) Ė Cullen is a tweener. Heís a flashy skater but he doesnít have the soft hands of a playmaker. But heís more than just a checker, too. So what makes him fantasy worthy? Heís red-hot right now Ė he has nine points, including seven on the power play, in his first six games Ė and heís making the most of his opportunity as the Wildís second-line center. Minny is actually the perfect fit for Cullen and itís more than the on-ice chemistry. Itís also his home state and he sure is loviní that home cooking (how many states have a statue declaring an official state muffin? Itís blueberry, by the way). This year will be his first-ever 50-plus point season. And itíll likely come in bunches. Itís worth riding Wild when heís hot.

Andrew Ladd, LW, Atlanta (26 percent owned) Ė Laddís five-year audition as an NHL understudy earned him not one but two gaudy Stanley Cup rings. Now he brings his big body and his bling to Hotlanta for a potential role as a leading man. He already has two goals and four assists in his first six games and while he wonít sustain a point-per-game pace for the full season, he does have a shot at a 60-point year. He has that nice combination of speed, skill and ruggedness, and heís the perfect team player. That combo should lead to success.

Matt Moulson, LW, New York Islanders (20 percent owned) Ė I wasnít sold on this guy last season Ė I thought those 30 goals were merely a product of opportunity and heíd disappear this year. But I was wrong; really, really wrong. Heís back at it this season Ė he has four goals and six points in seven contests so far and I think heíll get 55-60 points (and maybe even 35 goals) by seasonís end. Thatís worthy of a roster spot in every standard, 12-team Yahoo! league. Donít believe me? Last year, the 24th most productive left winger delivered just 51 points. Go get him.

Jake Muzzin, D, Los Angeles (0 percent owned) Ė In the last 14 months, Muzzin has gone from overage underachiever in junior hockey to OHL Defenseman of the Year and full-time blueliner with the L.A. Kings. Now thatís a leap. Now Drew Doughtyís wink-wink upper-body injury (read: concussion) means thereís a job opening for a slick-skating puck distributor on the Kingsí power play for at least a week. The muzzled one is as good a bet as any to assume that role Ė he has a fantastic one-timer and is poised enough to control the line. This is pure speculation but sometimes, thatís as good a reason as any to nab a guy. You can always dump him later if it doesnít work out. But you might just hit that proverbial home run.

P.A. Parenteau, RW, New York Islanders (4 percent owned) Ė Parenteau is the latest graduate from the Rodney Dangerfield School of Disrespect. He was a prolific junior scorer who developed into a point-per-game minor leaguer in the Rangersí system. But he didnít get a lick of ice time at Madison Square Garden until his third season with the boys in blue; after that, they cut him loose. Now heís found a home on the Island of Misfit Toys and heís piling up the points, particularly on the power play. He has two goals and five helpers in seven games; six of those seven points have come with the man-advantage. He may still end up as a Quad-A player. But right now, heís leading the Isles in scoring. Plug and play; you wonít be disappointed.

Dwayne Roloson, G, New York Islanders (11 percent owned) Ė The Energizer Bunny has grown a grey beard. Thatís the only way to explain how this 41-year-old chronic overachiever can keep delivering the mail the way he has. Rolie the Goalie is playing much better than hockey platoon-mate Rick DiPietro, whoís just a foxtrot away from yet another injury. And he was the only reason the Isles came out of Toronto with a win on Monday night. Heís uber competitive and athletic enough to have played in 113 games (51 wins) over the last two seasons. Thatís more games than Jean-Sebastian Giguere (53 percent owned) and two more wins than Tomas Vokoun (95 percent owned). Heíll have his moments Ė the rest of that Islesí squad will swing like a pendulum. But goalies with talent are like platinum. Stash now or overpay for goaltending help in the future.

Michael Ryder, RW, Boston (5 percent owned) Ė You know youíre from Newfoundland when your community buys a Zamboni before a bus. Newfies are a funny lot Ė their laid-back personalities can sometimes be misinterpreted as disinterest or a lack of engagement. And that was the rap on this natural scorer to start this season. He struggled mightily last year and there were plenty of not-so-quiet rumors that heíd be demoted to the AHL if he didnít get out of the gate fast this time round. Well, those thoughts have been banished after a better-than-expected start (two goals and two assists in five games) and if he can keep things up, he could easily return to the 30-goal plateau. Yes, his wrister is that deadly (and quick). Goals donít grow on trees; pick the free fruit while you can.

Anthony Stewart, RW, Atlanta (2 percent owned) Ė Itís a classic story Ė older brother busts it on the ice and excels through junior hockey. Little brother watches and plays a little, too, but doesnít know if the game is right for him. Big brother gets drafted and becomes a pro; little brother kicks it up a notch and gets drafted, too. And then little bro blows big bro right off the ice Ė far, far off the ice. But sibling rivalry has finally kicked in and itís clear Anthony has finally got tired of losing street hockey tourneys to younger sib, Chris. And in six games with the brown birds, Anthony has equaled his career output (four) in goals and seems to have clicked with Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd. Heís not the stud his brother is but few are. He can help you in a few categories.

Back to Bobby Lou and the little flower.

Iím not just blowing smoke Ė I own both in the same keeper league. But Iíll admit I havenít had the stones to trade either one of these guys. Yet.

I have seriously considered it, though. And itís getting harder and harder not to pull the trigger.

But I certainly wouldnít chase either one of them in any format other than a wins-only league.

Fantasy value comes in two forms: actual numbers delivered and the value someone will give you in a trade. The first one is pure fact; the other is all emotion.

Winning is based on the former and not the latter. At least in every league Iíve ever been in.

Until next week.