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Morning Skate: Overrated, Underrated

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.

From: Dan Pennucci (@dpennucci)
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Monday, March 4
Subject: Cams and Hawks
Sitting here watching your whipping boy Nazem Kadri and the Leafs take on the Devils, a few thoughts. Kadri is getting the bounces this year, I hate to admit it. First period he threw a puck in front of Moose Hedberg that bounced off the goalie's stick and through the pads. The odder thing is that Marek Zidlicky has two goals. Devils fans have been bashing this guy for the last week thanks to his immense defensive prowess, meaning the number of goals he's created for the opposition. It's essentially that whenever he gets close to being benched, he does a few things well, making the coaching staff say "well, let's just leave him in a few more games." Also, great features on the Devils' broadcast about southern Ontario natives Adam Henrique and David Clarkson, the latter highlighting the work Clarkson is doing with the Hockey In Newark charity and his Clarky's Kids foundation, which does work in Toronto and Newark. Good stuff.

Cam Ward, gone for the season essentially. Can Dan Ellis be a viable option for fantasy owners? He's a few years removed from that one or two good seasons he had in Nashville. I had to do a double take when the Leafs-Devils broadcast flashed the NHL's plus-minus leaders as of Monday and Eric Staal (less surprising), Jiri Tlusty and Alexander Semin were on the list along with Toronto's Mark Fraser. Tlusty and Semin. Yes, I certainly pegged them to be the best plus players in the NHL, especially with Semin's renowned two-way prowess in his Washington days. (I know plus-minus is far from the best indicator of a complete hockey player, but Tlusty and Semin)? Will no Cam in the crease affect this red-hot trio?

Sheriff Shanahan was busy this past weekend thanks to Buffalo's Patrick Kaleta and the Flyers' Harry Zolnierczyk, both of whom delivered hits that were begging to be dissected with a slowly-narrated video on Neither player has struck me as being viable NHL players, drawing the scorn of most of the league that isn't on their team. Kaleta's boarding of Brad Richards Sunday was reprehensible and he threw his weight around, or tried to, Saturday against the Devils, attempting to goad Ilya Kovalchuk into a fight. As a hockey fan in America, I've accepted the fact that hockey will be ignored by the mainstream sports media here in the states, but on a day where the Wings and Blackhawks played a classic on national television, too much of the talk was centered around a dirty player like Kaleta. As for Zolnierczyk's hit on Mike Lundin Saturday against Ottawa, fellow Philadelphia pylon Zac Rinaldo credited that hit with changing the flow of the game, calling it "beautiful," so there's a reliable endorsement. 

I had to laugh on Sunday afternoon when Ryan O'Reilly knocked the tying goal for Columbus into his own net. Seems like the kid is starting out on third-line duty, but I can't see him staying out of the top six in Denver. I'm picturing him chipping in 12-15 points to finish the season with the Avs looking to deal him next year considering his sizable cap hit. I'm hesitant to go after O'Reilly. Figure I'll let someone else take the risk on adding him. If the guy had Duchene's skill set, we can talk, but he's a two-way guy and better in real life. Is O'Reilly's price tag still inflated because of his time in junior?

Feel like we have to talk about this, but what holes do you see in Chicago. Corey Crawford was outstanding on Sunday, this has to stop soon, right? Any untapped value on the Blackhawks that owners may be overlooking?

Speaking of goaltenders, can Jacob Markstrom be reliable for owners or will he face 50 shots a game like most of the Panthers' netminders have over the years?
Another two points for Kadri....

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Tuesday, March 5
Subject: Horrifying Injuries
Ahhhhh, Kadri. It's a little weird seeing his name on the list of top scorers in the NHL. It's Wednesday and he's tied for 14th with none other than Evgeni Malkin. The Leafs came out flat against your Devils on Monday night, but they turned up the heat in the third.

You reference Cam Ward -- this has been a crazy year for injuries. I know we anticipated an increase in man games lost, particularly in the twine tent, simply because of the compression of games, but there have been some big names down and Ward is the just the latest. Can Dan Ellis carry the mail until the end of the season? Not a chance. But he was having an excellent AHL campaign and he can certainly be an effective part of a successful platoon ... like the daring Niklas Backstrom-Manny Fernandez duo in Minny in 2006-07. They won 45 games and tied seven more that year. Ellis could do that and a guy like Nikolai Khabibulin could be a fit.

Speaking of injuries, I just saw the puck that Marc Staal took to the face. I have to say the hair on my neck stood up watching him writhe like that on the ice. And the slow-mo replay showed a direct hit to his orbital bone and maybe his eye. I really don't like the look of that ... (Marc Staal is expected to make a full recovery.)

Your thoughts about Ryan O'Reilly are valid and I'd stay away from him right now, too. It's hard to live up to a monstrous contract and even the best players have struggled right after they've signed on the dotted line. But no, I don't think he's overrated because of his junior days. He's captain material and beast down the middle already ... in a Jordan Staal with more production earlier kind of way, but his value will always be greatest on the ice. I've said it before and it's worth stating again -- I'm taking Matt Duchene 10 times out of 10 in fantasy.

The Hawks look invincible, don't they? They gave Marian Hossa the silver stick for his 1,000th game Tuesday night -- what an unbelievable recovery after last year's gut-wrenching injury in the playoffs. The Hawks are flying right now, but there are a few things that make me take pause. They're not deep at center and Dave Bolland has a history of injuries. And I think they need to add a crease-crashing power forward type before the deadline. I'm just not sure their current style will stand up against the heavy hitting of the Kings or the Ducks. Untapped potential: Get in on Brandon Saad now. Run, don't walk.

I like Markstrom in Florida. And bring on the vulcanized rubber. Roberto Luongo gained a reputation as one of the league's top netminders when he was there and pelted with pucks, so why can't Markstrom. If you look at wins as team talllies like we do in baseball, you're left with ratios and he can deliver in GAA and save percentage.

So what do you make of Guy Boucher's future in Tampa Bay? I thought he was on thin ice last season and here we are in another putrid year. This is Stevie Y's third year there and how much rope does he continue to give Boucher? And did we all overrate Victor Hedman?

Let's talk over-hyped and under-estimated for a minute. I'm going to give you some names and you tell me if he's overrated, under-estimated or just plain ordinary. Here goes...

P.A. Parenteau
Stefan Elliot
Cam Ward
Ryan Getzlaf
Jimmy Howard
Ryan McDonagh
Teddy Purcell

And will Mike Green ever be a fantasy force again?
Eagle out
From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Wednesday, March 6
Subject: Over-Under
Yes, the Staal injury was sickening. Usually it's legs getting twisted and mangled that make me cringe, but that puck hitting Marc Staal square in the eye was horrific. Whatever the sport, be it football or baseball, I love the TV networks showing the replay from five different high-definition angles in super slo-mo...maybe we don't all want to see that. Lastly, I caught some of NHL Live with EJ Hradek tonight and the first topic of discussion was visors. Hradek likened the choice of not wearing visors to a macho thing and blamed guys like Don Cherry for saying people had to be tough. Enough folks in the media are talking about visors, it's foolish to not wear one. Let's move on.

I'm currently taking in NBC Sports' Wednesday Night Rivalry telecast featuring the blood feud that is Chicago-Colorado. I can see the Rivalry Night moniker for Bruins-Habs or Penguins-Flyers, but some of these are a stretch. Also, we are privy to Pierre McGuire and his sideline reports. A friend of mine and I tried to come up with a game for McGuire to drink whenever he mentioned a CHL team, American college team or Shattuck St. Mary's. Thankfully we never played it.

As for Guy Boucher's future in Tampa Bay, Tuesday night's thrashing of the Devils certainly helped, but he'll need a few more of those. I'm surprised that Anders Lindback is not working out there as yet, but as for Victor Hedman, perhaps we did overrate him, but was it from a perspective of expecting more offense or him to be better than he's shown defensively?

Fair points about Markstrom as it did make Luongo into one of the league's best netminders for a long stretch of time. (Why can't the Islanders get players like Luongo?) I just can't see Florida winning too many games. Conversely, with Cam Ward going down the Southeast and its one (likely) playoff spot are open. Speaking of the Canes, I can't see Ellis carrying the Canes, but I think he can be effective against certain opponents. He's a starting goalie with a pulse, so he'll be snagged up in a few leagues. (Even the Columbus duo Sergei Bobrovsky and Steve Mason are rostered in leagues.) Carolina is still a solid team and I love how Kirk Muller has them playing, seemingly getting consistent effort out of Alexander Semin.

I've always liked Ryan O'Reilly on the ice, but I'm wondering if the Avs will be looking to move him next year.


Pierre Parenteau, Colorado: About right. Guy has quietly produced and was rewarded with sizable contract from Colorado. Apparently, all you have to do is put him on a line with one of 2009's top draft picks. He's a mid-to-late round value depending on the size of your league and expecting anything more than 55 points is a bit much.

Stefan Elliot, Colorado: Still too early to tell, but he hasn't been doing himself too many favors this season. Jury's still out.

Cam Ward, Carolina: I still look at Cam Ward as a value after the elite goalies are gone. He's going to play close to 70 games a year when healthy with solid enough numbers, not world beating, but steady.

Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim: Overrated. I've always found his price tag to be a bit too high come draft day, hence I rarely own him. I think we've seen his ceiling, which is fine, just not for the price it costs. Wonder how he'll look in Leafs' blue next season? (Ed. Note: On Friday, Getzlaf signed a multi-year contract extension with Anaheim for eight years, $66 million.)

Jimmy Howard, Detroit: Now overrated, but he was underestimated when Lidstrom, Rafalski et al were in front of him. I always felt it unfair to call him the new Chris Osgood, as Howard established himself a few years ago as a guy that could win games instead of being along for the ride.

Ryan McDonagh, Rangers: Underrated. Guy's an all-around defenseman with huge potential. So much that the Rangers leveraged the amazing Scott Gomez for him. We saw the tip of the iceberg from McDonagh last year.

Teddy Purcell, Tampa Bay: Overrated. There's a lot to be said for whom someone skates alongside, but Purcell cashed in last season with the Bolts after never quite delivering on his potential with the Kings. He's disappointing more than a few owners this year.

Mike much time do we have to discuss his plummet from the elite? Guy's never been the same since those strange leg injuries last year, you even saw it a bit the season he was a borderline first-rounder after two seasons of point-per-game production, which is astounding. He's my prime buyout candidate in The District.

Saw that James van Riemsdyk scored again for the Buds. 13 goals on the season. Think Philly could use some of those numbers right now?  What was missing in Philly that the Leafs are getting right with JVR? Also, is it too early to equate the Luke Schenn-JvR deal with James Neal-Alex Goligoski? Where do you see JvR going next fall in drafts?

Speaking of the Flyers, a lot of rumors swirling about Danny Briere. Do they move him? What kind of return can Paul Holmgren expect?

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Wednesday, March 6
Subject: Pierre McGuire
So you're not a Pierre McGuire fan, eh? If you can look past the head shaking and bouncing, and the hyperbole, you'll find an intelligent hockey man with strong insights into the game. I am a big fan of buzzword bingo -- in the office and everywhere else. I think you and buddy should go ahead with your version. Just be sure to drink some water in between each big gulp.

I agree with a lot of your over and underrated picks. I do think that both Jimmy Howard and Cam Ward are overrated ... particularly the latter. He has long been spoken of as one of the premier Canadian twinetenders, but Canada doesn't have the corner on that position any more. In fact, it's easy to put the Swedes, Americans and maybe even the Russians well ahead. There's already been plenty of speculation about who'll mind the Canadian net in Sochi and Ward is always in the discussion. Ward is 26th in GAA and 22nd in save percentage -- those numbers aren't exactly fear inducing.

James van Riemdsyk is an interesting character, isn't he? I think he'll settle in as a 65-70 point guy with a fly-by at 75-80 for a season or two. I do have my reservations about him, though. He's working on his Cy Young season and he'll do well with someone dishing him the puck. But he's not a true power forward -- he doesn't lay the body enough -- so his value is a bit limited. He was a steal ... even if he's one of the prime reasons behind Phil Kessel's poor season. Kessel isn't being paid to dish JvR the puck, but that's already what's happening. As for draft position, [JvR will] go two rounds too early and disappoint his owners.

Daniel Briere is an interesting target, but I think it'll take a miracle to get him into the togs of the Bruins, Blues or Coyotes. He has a no-trade clause and he's been to Hades and back in the last few years. He lost his mother to a brain aneurysm last summer; I believe she was barely into her 60s. He went through a painful divorce a few years ago and he loves his three boys who live in Jersey. He's not going to accept a move away from his kids, so Boston could be the only spot he might land. But really, why would Philly move him to an Eastern conference rival?

There are rumors swirling around a bunch of guys. What do think becomes of Ryan Whitney, Ryan Clowe, Mark Streit, Drew Stafford and Paul Stastny? And what happens to their respective fantasy values if they're moved?

Eagle out.

P.S. Dan, I have to tell you I fear for your Devils. Six straight losses? At least Andrei Loktionov looks like he's finally blossoming.
From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Thursday, March 7
Subject: Swirling Rumors
Regarding Loktionov, he's been a pleasant surprise and he has almost as many points as Travis Zajac. We talked about that on the Talking Red podcast the other day about how Loktionov seems to be gelling with Ilya Kovalchuk. Kovy, who is currently on a line with an 18-year old (Stefan Matteau) and a guy acquired for a fifth-round pick (Loktionov). I like what Loktionov is offering the Devils, but the team is in utter disarray right now heading into Thursday's game with Buffalo where they're looking to kick the extra point and make it seven losses in a row. Hedberg has been spotty and Brodeur's return keeps getting pushed back. Team isn't scoring, simple as that.

From what I'm seeing out of Oil Country, is that Whitney will be moved, but who's willing to pay that kind of a price for inconsistency and bad ankles? Last year I equated owning Ryan Whitney, both in fantasy and real life, to Lucy holding the football for Charlie Brown. Each time you think it will work out, you end up flat on your back muttering "Good grief."

The Isles have to move either Streit or Lube Job and get something for them. Streit's on the wrong side of 35 and there has to be a team out there willing to take a rental on a playmaker as skilled as he is. He's not a dynamo in his own end, but that could be the Long Island effect, but his contract's up, as is Visnovsky's, and the Islanders need to get something for either of them. If Streit ends up on a solid team, I'd look to snatch him up. If he can be that productive on the Island, imagine him on a solid defensive team. I'd look to trade for Streit right now and enjoy the benefits when he is moved.

Stastny's been an enigma these last few years. Bugged by injuries and the emergence of two uber-hyped and talented centers in Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duchene. He's been one of those players, this season at least, where you take him out of your lineup, he'll go on a three-to-four game streak, but then reinsert him and he disappears. The Avs have a solid top-six, but Stastny's value to his owners will have a negligible difference if he's moved.

Was it two years ago that Drew Stafford potted 30 for the Sabres? Seems a lot longer than that if you've owned him. Ryan Clowe has simply been baffling this year in San Jose. Can't make any sense of it and it wouldn't surprise if he was moved, but the Sharks aren't getting any younger up front.

Yes, I remember the story about Briere. A lot of the Philly area papers (near me) talked about it during HBO's "24/7" last year. Sad story, really, to say the least. Some of the items I've read have him involved in deals for Shattenkirk or Yandle.

I suppose Pierre McGuire is a slow-moving target, but you're correct in saying the hyperbole, the "go have fun out there," the crushes he gets on players (Zach Parise being one) do cloud some of the valid points he makes. Not to mention the World Juniors in 2009. Can you believe it? I can. What's amusing about the Between The Glass segment is the spot in between the benches at The Joe in Detroit looks like it was tailor-made for McGuire. We didn't commence with the buzzword bingo game as it was a Devils-Pens game and, between Crosby and Parise, we're pretty sure we would have been dead before the first period.

Nice assessment on JvR. I can't see him consistently potting 70-80 and this chatter about the Leafs getting a first-line center leads me to believe they'll overpay for someone this summer.

Lightning Round:

-Seth Jones or Nathan McKinnon?
-Pavel Datsyuk or Anze Kopitar?
-Ben Scrivens or Devan Dubnyk?
-Dan Girardi or Brent Seabrook?
-The Hockey Song or The Zamboni Song?

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Thursday, March 7
Subject: RIP Stompin' Tom
Lightning round, eh?

Seth Jones or Nathan McKinnon -- I'll take Popeye's kid on the ice -- I've always had a thing for elite defenders and I suspect he'll be a pillar on the ice. But McKinnon's my guy in fantasy. A point per game (or more) for years.

Pavel Datsyuk or Anze Kopitar -- I love both, but it's Datsyuk all the way. He has four Lady Byngs and three Selkes, and is considered one of the toughest forwards to play against. He's smart, offensive and defensive, and he's the best puck-pocket in the NHL.

Ben Scrivens or Devan Dubnyk -- Tough one. I like the cerebral qualities of Mr. Scrivens, but Dubnyk is a touch higher on my list. He's a starter already -- regardless of quality. Scrivens may never get that chance.

Dan Girardi or Brent Seabrook -- Great question. Seabrook is Girardi with one fantastic offensive season. Seabrook might get you five more points in a full season, but Girardi will block 50 more shots. Girardi is on my team. Besides, I love his underdog story.

The Hockey Song or Zamboni Song -- Really? This isn't even close. RIP Stompin' Tom Connors. Better song. Better performer. More iconic. He was the kind of guy who you might find on stage in a bar, tearing up the floor with that stomp of his, who'd come down and shoot the breeze with you over a pitcher of beer. He was real. I'm sad he's gone.

Parting shot -- I hope the NHL takes a look at the Ronny Keller injury and looks at ways to prevent something similar from happening on this side of the pond. The hit was ugly. But moreover, Keller's life is now forever changed. He is now a paraplegic who "might" be able to use a manual wheelchair, but no longer has voluntary control over his bowels or bladder. He'll probably need a surgically implanted rod to give him the ability to sit up with stability. His autonomic nervous system is now severely dysfunctional, leaving him prone to hypertension, bradycardia and other major cardiovascular problems. His self-esteem will plummet and his mental health will be tested. And he'll never have an erection again. And none of it had to happen. None. Let's get some of this crap fixed.

Eagle out.