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Morning Skate: Eagleson and Pennucci Talk Hockey

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.

Janet Eagleson

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

Morning Skate
with Janet Eagleson and Dan Pennucci

Dan Pennucci - to - Janet Eagleson, Sunday Jan. 27


In this space over the course of the lockout-shortened season it's going to be enjoyable discussing the goings on in the NHL and the ways in which it can be utterly frustrating yet fun for us owners. Before we get going, congrats again on your receiving the Fantasy Hockey Writer of the Year award for the fourth time, only a few more to go until you match the number of Norris Trophies won by Nicklas Lidstrom.

How have your squads been doing in the season's first week, which has felt like an eternity in a way. Some teams have already played more than 10-percent of their games and, as the Toronto media is making everyone painstakingly aware, Phil Kessel has not scored a goal yet. Rick Nash has one goal, Mike Richards has no points and Jarome Iginla also has no goals through four games.

This time of the year, it's not uncommon to overreact, or underreact, to hot or slow starts, especially with the truncated, yet concentrated schedule. Are you buying Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton in San Jose right now? Corey Crawford in Chicago or Thomas Vanek and Co. in Buffalo?

Marleau is shooting at at 40-percent clip heading into Sunday with eight goals on 20 shots. Thornton is showing himself to be a rejuvenated player, dishing the puck well and delivering hits. Seriously, two goals a game for four games to start the season. It's unfathomable.

What are some players that have caught your eye in the opening week? Any situations that are of concern to you?


Janet Eagleson – to - Dan Pennucci, Sunday Jan. 27
Subj: Fire Sale?


Thanks for your kind words. The award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association is a big deal in our business and I'm truly flattered to have won it this year and the previous ones, too.

Your Patrick Marleau question is timely. Earlier today, a reader asked me if he should trade high on Marleau and if so, should he pursue someone like Marian Gaborik. My answer? If I had him, I'd trade him. And I'd trade Thornton, Crawford and Vanek, too -- anyone off to an unsustainable pace. But not for a hot Gaborik type -- I'd target a slow starting stud. I took a beating (verbal, of course) last year for suggesting my readers should trade Steven Stamkos during his so-called 50-in-50 run. I was called many, MANY nasty things. But the principle is the same -- hot starts, no matter how good the player, cannot be maintained. A slow down is guaranteed.

You know who I'm both thrilled by AND worried about? (Edmonton defenseman) Justin Schultz. He's truly phenomenal, but I'm convinced there's a crash coming and soon. College players almost always hit a major wall as game counts start to rise and as good as he is, I can't imagine he'll be immune to it. He has 34 games in the AHL and three in the NHL, a total that matches the 37 he played all of last season. I think he flatlines in 10 or 12 games -- that's a whopping 30-plus percent increase in games in a single season. NHL hockey is way harder and harder hitting than the NC-two-A. [Schutlz's] owners will hold on too long ... I'm only investing in keeper formats.

My teams have been OK. How have yours been? How are you enjoying your rookie season in our THL? I've been burned by both Marleau and Thornton in H2H leagues, but the first week is always a bit of crap shoot in that H2H. Ask me again in a week, though, and I might not be so calm.

Let's talk about a couple things you and I have discussed before. First, is there any chance the "surprise" team in the running for Roberto Luongo is the New York Islanders? Evgeni Nabokov is one-and-done there and Tricky Rick DiPietro is surely a buyout candidate. And Garth Snow has proven he doesn't mind insanely large and long goalie contracts. It's closer to Luongo's wife's family in Florida than Toronto is ... Second, Ryan Suter is struggling in his new home, but so is Shea Weber in Nashville. I went on record at the time of Suter's signing in Minny to say I thought he'd struggle there. But I didn't expect Weber would miss him this much. What does the future hold for these two? How do owners handle them?

Eagle out.

Dan Pennucci – to - Janet Eagleson: Mon. Jan. 28
Subj: Bobby Lou


I'm running away from Patrick Marleau after he scored only one goal on Sunday against Vancouver. What a bum! I own a few of the players you suggested in a keeper league and I'm going to assess over the next week.

It's funny you mentioned Ryan Suter and the Wild. Last night I was talking with someone else in a league about Suter and I remarked how it seems that he starts the play that most of the Wild's power-play goals are scored on, yet has been squeezed out of that all-important secondary assist. Suter, however, notched two helpers in the loss to St. Louis on Sunday and I'm not too worried about his production returning, as I own him in just one league. It's a keeper league with RotoWire writer Jan Levine and you keep a player the round in which they're drafted. I had Suter at a spot that yielded value and rolled the dice on him. If he ends up with five goals and 20 assists, I'll take that.

As for Weber, yes, it's a bit baffling. I was in line with you on this when we talked back in the summer that the smart money suggested it would be Suter that would struggle to put up solid numbers without Weber, not the opposite. Ryan Ellis and Roman Josi have been serviceable Suter replacements so far, but owners that made Weber one of the first five defensemen taken can not be happy. Nashville is just 4-for-17 on the power play so far, Weber has zero points through five games. The forwards on the Predators' roster are essentially the same, so logic tells us Suter's absence may be affecting him more than we initially thought. I'd definitely start shopping him.

Back to Suter with a loose segue into Justin Schultz, one of the reasons I passed on Suter in most drafts was that I wasn't prepared to spend a higher-than-necessary pick on him. Schultz was the defenseman darling heading into drafts and his six points through four games, with four on the power play. I spoke to that in my first column, how I believed Schultz would produce, I just wasn't prepared to pull the trigger on him as early. I too have been impressed watching him; kid is poised and has great vision. That assist he had to Jordan Eberle against Calgary on Saturday was so understated, he drew a defender to the point, moved to the right and opened up a lane to Eberle, who scored.

The Islanders make sense for Luongo, like we talked about. Their current goalies are two veterans that they can move or let walk and neither of their two AHL netminders inspire confidence. Have to believe that either Griffin Reinhart and/or the wantaway Nino Niederreiter will be heading back to Vancouver if that's the case.

-What trendy pickups the last week will hold some semblance of their pace?
-What is Zack Kassian doing scoring goals in Vancouver? Doesn't he know he's supposed to be fighting?
-Who are some goalies to be targeting?



Janet Eagleson – to - Dan Pennucci, Mon. Jan. 28
Subj: Good Ol' Canadian Boys

Ha -- your reference to Zack Kassian scoring goals instead of fighting is too funny. For anyone who didn't watch Coach's Corner during the first intermission of Saturday's game, it's a reference to an absurd comment made by Don Cherry. I guess good ol' Don thinks power forwards are just supposed to fire punches, not pucks. The latter just seems to happen when you put Kassian with the Sedins. I'd take advantage.

Tampa Bay's Cory Conacher has a shot at maintaining some value over the season -- he's NHL-ready, AHL-proven and in a great situation. And I just love his nickname (everyone knows the Honey Badger doesn't give a ...). I like the Islanders' Michael Grabner to return to his rookie form. Dougie Hamilton is being insulated well in Boston so he should be able to maintain at least some value. And I'm withholding judgement on Alex Galchenyuk -- that kid is talented and he could be just what le docteur ordered in Montreal.

Goalies. Geez -- they're just as crazy in fantasy as they are on the ice, and I haven't seen a league where goalie hoarding doesn't happen. I search for guys on the wire, but that's never the place where fantasy success lies. I like big things from Colorado's Semyon Varlamov who had a strong fall/early winter in the KHL. Johan Hedberg will get a lot of starts and surprise in New Jersey. And Boston's Anton Khubodin is someone who I like because of Tuukka Rask's propensity for injury. I also like a lot of third stringers because of that injury risk. It's imperative to get to know the next-best thing in the AHL for insurance purposes. Jacob Markstrom (FLA), Richard Bachman (DAL), Cristopher Nilstorp (DAL), Matt Hackett (MIN) and Kevin Poulin(NYI) are all on my radar. So is the Ottawa duo of Ben Bishop and Robin Lehner -- I think one will be traded and that should raise his value.

Last question for this week -- is P.K. Subban overrated? He got the money I think he deserved, but he clearly wanted more. C'mon -- be completely objective. Convince me one way or the other.

Dan Pennucci – to - Janet Eagleson, Tues. Jan. 28
Subj: P.K. Back

Conacher is a player I'm enjoying owning, having burned an early-season pick up on him (we have 6 pick-ups all season, so draft is quite important). Kid seems to be acclimating himself well on Tampa's power play, but someone who is on skates the for the first time probably could get an assist by being on the ice. Your points about Galchenyuk are well-taken. I got to see the kid carve up the Devils' defense (which isn't that hard) on Sunday, forcing two turnovers and setting up Brendan Gallagher and Brandon Prust. He had two more assists Tuesday, he has wheels and doesn't play like a center just out of junior.

We've talked about it before regarding Don Cherry and every week I go back. His point about Kassian was laughable, but it's a shame he's not seeing the excellent complement the budding winger has been to the Sedins. Kassian seems to have staying power on that line with what he offers, but a little more power-play time alongside the twins, Alexander Edler and Jason Garrison would be nice for him. Kassian's definitely a guy I'm buying, especially in keeper leagues.

The comparisons between Kassian and Cody Hodgson for the next several seasons will be interesting as to see who got the better of last February's deadline deal. Hodgson is in a great situation on Buffalo's top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville.

Watching the Habs top the Devils on Sunday and seeing Andrei Markov smoothly operate the Montreal power play made me think why Subban was still holding out. I can understand he wants to be paid what he feels he's worth, or, what his agent feels he's worth, but he was losing leverage with every game Montreal was winning. Apparently he was seeking Tyler Myers money but ended up with a Michael Del Zotto-like two-year contract, only Subban's $5.75 million deal is backloaded, coming in at $3.75 million the second season.

Is he talented? Yes. Exciting? Undoubtedly. Laden with potential? Absolutely? Mature and poised? Maybe not yet, based on what I saw on the ice last year. His goal total fell by half, but conversely, he was much more responsible in his own end, yet still prone to a large mistake such as a missed hit or ill-advised pass. You have to wonder if he's going to try to do too much when he comes back. Truthfully, Montreal could have received a haul of talent for Subban if his charade lasted any longer.

Janet Eagleson – to - Dan Pennucci: Tues. Jan. 29
Subj: Roller Coaster

I love P.K., but he's the kind of guy who's either loved or hated. The murmurs of a rift in the Habs' dressing room just won't go away. But I think it's more a function of a major generational shift in attitudes and changes to the hockey "code" in today's NHL. Young, charismatic players don't hold the veterans (or coaches) in the same regard as previous generations have and that's always going to rub guys the wrong way. Subban still frustrates me from a fantasy perspective, but only because of the inconsistency of his youth. I heard someone call him a thoroughbred and I can't argue that -- he's a rare breed and worth every penny of investment. True, he had no leverage right now, but the deal will cost the Habs dearly in two years' time. Cha--cha-ching!

I'm thrilled hockey is back, but honestly, I'm a bit queasy about the Mach speed that we're on with fantasy. I just have this gut that we're in for a crazy rally car ride this season. And like rallying, there will be breakneck speed, crazy terrain changes and a whole lot of left foot braking along the way. I just hope I don't roll when I execute a handbrake turn.

Until next week,

Eagle out