RotoWire Partners

Blue Line Buzz: Don't Panic

Dan Pennucci

Dan is a former sportswriter and English teacher. He has been covering hockey for Rotowire since 2002. Supports the New Jersey Devils, Washington Nationals and Chelsea FC.

Don't Panic.

Two weeks into the season, "don't panic" should be emblazoned onto your league roster in large, friendly letters. Several of your top defensemen may be off to a slow start and you could be frustrated, saying "How did I not draft Marc-Andre Bergeron and Ryan Wilson over Drew Doughty and Shea Weber?" No one is psychic. Statistics have a way of balancing themselves out and four to five games into a season simply isn't a large enough sample size. There have been some surprises early on, considering the blazing starts of Erik Karlsson and Kris Letang, but Joni Pitkanen of Carolina is also near the top of the early statistic leaders, with three points through Saturday and his customary minus-5 in three games.

Through Saturday's contests, Duncan Keith, P.K. Subban, Lubomir Visnovsky, Dustin Byfuglien and Shea Weber have combined for no goals, three assists along with a minus-9 rating in 18 games. Weber is the only member of that group with a plus rating while Byfuglien, Keith and Visnovsky have no points through Saturday. Sure, you spent high draft picks on these players and you're frustrated.  I retained Keith and Subban while drafting Weber early in a keeper league I'm in with several other RotoWire writers. Buyer's remorse this early in the season can cause owners to have the urge to jettison talent they feel isn't producing. If you believe some of the above players will bounce back, try to play up their poor start to owners in your league that drafted these potentially strong players; tell them it is time to cut ties with their underperformers.

Subban's start is one of the more disappointing considering Montreal has scored five goals twice this season. He's an immensely talented young player on a solid team, so we can assume he'll bounce back. Byfuglien fell off in the second half last year and Winnipeg is struggling to produce, so there could be some fall-off in terms of expectations from Byfuglien until Winnipeg adapts to their new surroundings. With Keith and Weber, it's just a matter of time until the numbers come.

Avalanche Warning?

Ryan Wilson of Colorado is one of the clear surprises through Saturday's contests, with four assists through five games to go along with a plus-3 rating. Meanwhile, teammate Erik Johnson has an identical stat line save for him being a minus-3. What is going on with the Avalanche? The Avs hung five goals on Montreal in a shootout win Saturday and lit up Ottawa for seven goals last Thursday. The Avs are a potentially dynamic offensive team with several talented, budding stars in Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, T.J. Galiardi and Paul Statsny. Whether Wilson and Johnson continue their torrid scoring pace depends on the Avs scoring goals, but a dip or two is expected. Colorado isn't the most sound defensive team, but they have shown the ability to keep up in an offensive boat race.

Wilson is still 24-years old and his previous career high of 21 points came two seasons earlier. Even more impressive so far for Wilson are his nine penalty minutes and eight hits, but only one of his season's four points have come on the man-advantage.

North Dallas Almost 40

Sheldon Souray spent last season in the AHL with the Hershey Bears following an abysmal 2009-10 campaign that saw him post 13 points in Edmonton with a minus-19 rating. Dallas GM Joe Nieuwendyk obviously felt the Alberta native had a year or two left in his booming shot; Souray has a goal and three assists through five games with a plus-4 and 15 penalty minutes to boot. A look at Souray's numbers during his career reveals that since 2006-07, Souray has a monster season followed by a massively forgettable campaign that is shortened by injury.  Counting his stint in the minors last season as one of those anonymous years, Souray is due for a big season in Dallas.

The veteran has been active in getting pucks on goal, averaging just under four shots per-game and he is seeing power play time. Those who drafted Souray this year acquired him late and he is proving a boon, as well as a source of frustration for myself, who may have dropped Souray before the season started in the RotoWire Staff League.

Don't Assassins Have Three Names?

Marc-Andre Bergeron has been on more teams the last five seasons than he has names. The ever-enigmatic, potentially productive power-play specialist is currently in his bull market phase with Tampa Bay, sitting with three goals and two assists after five games. Bergeron has spent time with the Islanders, Ducks, Wild and Canadiens since the 2007-08 season after breaking into the league with the Oilers. Bergeron had an injury-shortened season with Tampa Bay last year where he registered eight points in 23 games and snagged 34 in just 60 games with Montreal two years earlier. You know what you are going to get with Bergeron when he is in the lineup, production with some inconsistency mixed in; it is just a matter of him staying healthy. Bergeron's two goals in Saturday's shootout loss to Florida are evidence of his offensively ability.

A full year from Bergeron anchoring Tampa Bay's potent power play with the likes of Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis is an appealing thought to fantasy owners. Some owners might be willing to cash in on Begeron's blazing start, trading him before he may get hurt. While some owners yet are enjoying the fact that Bergeron was a late addition or waiver pick-up.

Dennis in the District

The Washington Capitals apparently have remembered they are allowed to play defense after surrendering eight goals in their first two contests. They tightened up in their last two wins, allowing just three goals total. Washington is currently 4-0 and their leading scorer from the blue line is not Mike Green. Green has a goal and an assist after four games while Karl Alzner boasts three points, but it is Dennis Wideman leading the way, with two goals and two assists.

Acquired at the trade deadline from Florida last season, Wideman has fit in well with Washington and is enjoying the time on the team's talented power-play unit. Two of Wideman's four points have come on the man-advantage and he has a chance to challenge his career-best numbers of 50 points, which he registered with Boston three seasons earlier. Wideman is still 28-years old and while he probably wasn't a waiver pick-up in most leagues, he certainly has rewarded owners with value where he was selected.

Phlying In Philly

It shouldn't be a surprise to hockey fans that the Flyers are off to a fast start and, even less surprising, that newly anointed captain Chris Pronger is leading the charge from the back end with a goal and four assists through four contests. Pronger is tied with Claude Giroux for the team's points lead and four of the veteran's five points have come on the man-advantage. A little more surprising is the fact that 26-year old Andrej Meszaros has as many points as Jaromir Jagr and Danny Briere. Meszaros sports a goal and two assists through Saturday with a team-leading plus-3 alongside seven hits and five blocked shots. Meszaros was owned in just under two-thirds of leagues as of Saturday's contests.

Meszaros is in a great situation on the Philadelphia blue line and is currently outperforming Kimmo Timonen and Matt Carle, both regarded as defenders with offensive ability. Philadelphia is going to be a force in the Eastern Conference this season and their blue line is one of the tops in the NHL. Meszaros can produce in multiple categories albeit without gaudy point totals. 30-35 points with a boatload of strong peripheral stats will more than balance out his worth in most leagues.

It is a long season, don't panic.