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Morning Skate: Have We Seen the Best of Keith Yandle?

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 18
Subject: Free Jake Gardiner
What's going on? As we near the NHL's April 3 trade deadline, please report the insane rumors you hear coming out of Leafs Country, wow those are entertaining. I had a good laugh this past week when I was typing up Blue Line Buzz and read over the Jake Gardiner story. It's one of the more idiotic things I've seen in attempts to get playing time. Obviously, Gardiner has not fit in with coach Randy Carlyle's style of play, but to have his agent create a Twitter campaign called #FreeJakeGardiner, is moronic. Calling out the coach in a public forum in the least professional manner possible is a great way to get him to consider your client. (Ed. Note: Gardiner has since been released from AHL prison).
Lastly, can the Leafs hold on, or have they just been lucky in some of their wins? I'm not going to lie, I will enjoy seeing the Leafs in the postseason if only just for the media hype.
You touched on Ryan Miller last week, more so the player Ryan Miller used to be, and now I'm seeing his name pop up in trade rumors on the interwebs. Did Miller wear out his welcome when Ruff was dismissed, or is Miller just not as good as he was a few years ago? I have to think Miller can help a team, but in what role. He's not going to be a backup, as a lesser Ryan Miller is still better than quite a few goalies in the NHL. 
Regarding topics we discussed earlier in this hallowed space, we both agreed that Ryan Suter would struggle a bit in Minnesota without Shea Weber, but it's been the opposite. Weber has come on as we expected following his 10-game disappearing act to start the season, but Suter's been on fire the last two weeks, currently sitting second in defensemen scoring and on pace for a career-best season (in terms of points-per-game at least). Have to think a semblance of this production will continue when the regression kicks in for Suter.
So, I'm a Brian Elliott owner in another league and I missed out on Jake Allen a few weeks ago because another guy got to him before me ... bunch of savages; when will he be dealt from St. Louis and is there anything owners of Elliott can expect in the season's final six weeks?
Seriously, six weeks left. This season is flying by. Any underperforming candidates who we should get in on for a boost?
From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Tuesday, March 19
Subject: It's Good To Be Corey Perry
Dan the Man!
Six weeks -- wow! It has flown by, hasn't it! Leaf rumors are a fact of life if you live in the shadow of the Big Smoke and I find it absolutely remarkable to hear some of the trade speculation that's on the radio. It has gotten better now that the unholy alliance of Bell and Rogers (two major telecommunications companies) bought the team. The radio broadcast holder has changed -- each of those companies owns a national sports broadcaster so they split games -- and that means the quality of the call screening has gone up. Sort of.
Some of the trade speculation -- even from so-called semi-experts in the media -- are crazy. But there was one little tidbit that made me take pause and I think it'll do the same for you. One lone voice speculated that Randy Carlyle's job might not be as secure as we think and that he may need to deliver the team to the promised land this year or he could be carrying out a cardboard box of belongings. Makes sense with a new GM in town and hotshot AHL coach Dallas Eakins just down the Gardiner Expressway with the Marlies.
The Jake Gardiner situation has dominated up here, but so has the Mikhail Grabovski story. Carlyle went through 10 guys in the shootout Saturday night [against Winnipeg] and the creative Grabo wasn't one of them. Neither Gardiner nor Grabo are Carlyle-type guys so trade rumors abound. Grabo, maybe -- but not Gardiner. I'm not sure I like Carlyle enough to move a guy like Gardiner. And now that Corey Perry is off the market ... LOL.
The Ducks have made a statement with that eight-year, $69 mil deal for the snarly one, Corey Perry -- is he worth it? Or was his 50-goal season shades of Vincent Lecavalier? Vinny's best was an outlier; I fear Perry's goal totals could be the same.
Ryan Miller, eh? This year can't get much worse -- that team sucks. He's better than his numbers indicate, but I do think a change of scenery is needed. The trouble is the goalie market is softer than a swirl cone on a summer day. I was only half-joking when I mused about him being lonely -- family stuff can drag a guy down and it can't be easy to be away from your wife in the first year or two of your marriage. A move west would make sense -- can you imagine him playing behind a team with a solid D? And forwards who back check? He can no longer carry a crappy team, but he can be a strong option in the right situation. And getting back to my first comment -- things can't really get much worse. Maybe he's an under performer who can deliver more than he has to this point? I dunno.
I wish I could give you confidence about Brian Elliot, but I have zero faith in a rebound. Where does he go? Edmonton? He's not good enough to absorb a D-free game. I never saw him as more than a 25-30 game back-up, my friend. Classic case of a trade high in a keeper format. Sometimes it seems like a sideways step to make a deal like that if a guy is hot. But I go back to my Marc-Andre Bergeron example -- I still own Jonathan Toews who was still in college when I parlayed Bergeron's overproduction into Captain Serious.
I honestly think Drew Doughty has nowhere to go but up. Ditto Phil Kessel and Jonathan Quick. I've already put out an APB for Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik, but I probably should have just gone to Carnegie Deli. It's either those monstrous sandwiches or the massive cheesecakes that are dragging those last two guys down ... I know Richards is dragging one of my fantasy teams down. I thought I smelled sulfites when I set my roster with him in it.
Who gets fired first -- John Tortorella or Peter Laviolette? Tell me -- how did Dan Bylsma end up being such a nice guy when his American brethren are just such dicks? I hope the latter gets the nod as the Team USA coach for the 2014 Olympics.
So, what's the buzz on Justin Schultz? You're the blue line man -- do you share my opinion that he's hit the wall? I warned of it a while ago, but that didn't stop a lot people from falling victim to his SOS (Shiny Object Syndrome). And what do you think of T.J. Brennan's prospects now that he's wearing a kitty on his jersey?
Eagle out
From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Tuesday, March 19
Subject: Young D Men
Lots of things to be tackle here, love it and love the stories coming out of Toronto; can only hope their insanity will increase. Yes, I'm sure Caryle will join the ranks of the unemployed if he doesn't win the Cup. After all, isn't that what Leafs' fans and ownership expect? Your point about the new regime in Toronto makes sense.
Speaking of coaches, I like your noting of Tortorella's and Laviolette's personas vis-a-vis Bylsma. I suppose there's less to be concerned about when you have Sidney Crosby, James Neal, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang to throw on the ice, but he's always affable it seems. The vitriol works when Philly and the Rangers are winning but if the team's losing, it doesn't seem the anger works so well. It'd be great to see Bylsma behind Team USA next winter (something we should discuss in the coming weeks. The potential rosters).
I remember agreeing with you about Schutlz hitting the wall in Oil Country. Maybe the heavy slate of games is catching up to him as it's double what NCAA plays, but also, Edmonton isn't that great of a team. Sure, they're loaded with young talent like few teams in the league, but teams are figuring out how to beat them and a good amount of it seems like neutralizing their power play, a huge source of points for Schultz. The kid is a special talent, but even good teams hit a wall during the season. Schultz has two points through the last eight games heading into Tuesday evening and no goals since the end of February, also, both of those assists came in the 6-5 win over Chicago on March 10. Edmonton will go through their growing pains (see Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins etc...) but I think Schultz will put together a small run to finish the season.
Sadly, Schutlz will still go earlier than he should last season because the consensus will be that Edmonton is finally going to get it together next season (like the last few years). I probably won't own Schultz again next season simply because his price tag will be too high. I like Dougie Hamilton better than him, especially in keeper leagues.
T.J. Brennan is in an interesting situation in Florida, who got him for essentially nothing from Buffalo before the draft last June, just a fifth-round pick. He has offensive upside on a team that really doesn't have a great blue line and a gaggle of forwards that can't do much, unless your name is Jonathan Huberdeau. Sure, Brian Campbell is still there and he can dish the puck and start the rush and Dmitry Kulikov is still there, but he's unbelievably inconsistent, dare we say enigmatic. (Side note: Can a Canadian player ever be considered enigmatic?) Brennan's a player that most poolies might not know about and I had to do some research this past January on him, but he's a bit older than most rookies, turning 24 in early April and he had a solid junior and minor career just going by his numbers, but he broke out at Rochester (AHL) last season (14 goals!) before a late call-up. If he can bring the lumber and put up points, he's definitely a player to target next season and the remainder of this one.
Corey Perry's Hart Trophy-winning campaign from a few years ago may have been the outlier, but you still get a 70-80 point, 30-40 goal player that is nasty to play against. He's not shy about throwing his body around and Anaheim saw fit to keep its dynamic duo together. The question I'm pondering is how would he have fared without Ryan Getzlaf? Does one make the other or would they both be as good on separate teams. I expect Anaheim to make a deep run in the playoffs, but it's au revoir for players like Bobby Ryan and Jonas Hiller. Speaking of the Ducks and goaltending, I see John Gibson and Kitchener are heading into the OHL playoffs, how has Gibson been playing of late?
Yes, going to Carnegie Deli when in the City is always a good choice. Massive stacked sandwich of pastrami and corned beef with some amazing homemade spicy mustard. It's a sure thing, unlike Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik this season. The level of talent those two have is insane, but they haven't been producing like one thought they would. It wouldn't surprise me to see either of them bought out come the offseason. As for the Rangers, it's second intermission and they're up 3-2 on the Devils, but much is being made of Tortorella putting Nash, Richards and Gaborik on the top line and Torts not using either Richards or Gabby in the shootout win over Ottawa on Monday. Henrik Lundqvist covers up quite a few holes on that team and between Atlantic Division teams not named Pittsburgh, I see the Rangers sneaking in because of Hank with the Devils and Islanders battling for a final spot or two.
You mentioned Drew Doughty as a bounceback guy for the rest of the season, but what about the numbers Slava Voynov is putting together, Jake Muzzin too.
Is any of this type of a run sustainable for has been on fire along with goalie Bob (Sergei Bobrovsky…why can't the Flyers get goaltending like that?). It's a great story, but I'm not sold yet...
From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Tuesday, March 19
Subject: Enigmas
Yes, my friend -- Canadian players can be enigmatic. Jay Bouwmeester comes to mind. We tend to overgeneralize or stereotype players based on country of origin and that's always dangerous, no matter what walk of life. There is something to be said, though, about the systems from which players emerge. The Russian system has long favored individual skill development so players are encouraged to dangle, stickhandle, etc. Swedes are apparently passive ... just don't tell Nicklas Kronwall or he might hip check me. You occasionally see the influence of roller hockey on American-born players who have cut their teeth in Southern or West coast climes. And right or wrong, we Canadians see ourselves as humble, hard-working types who play the game hard and stick up for our teammates.
John Gibson was a stud at the World Juniors, but he just returned to the ice in Kitchener about 10 days ago. He'd been dealing with a nagging hip flexor injury, but suffered some soft tissue issues in his groin in a game against Mark Scheifele's Barrie Colts in the middle of January and missed something like 18 games. He's supposed to be fine and his Rangers are playoff-bound, but I'm a little worried the long layoff will hurt him. Long-term, I still really like him. Hey -- if the great Vladislav Tretiak says he's going to be a star, I tend to go along with his assessment.
I've always liked Jake Muzzin -- I held onto him for a long time in one league waiting for this success only to have to drop him on a games-played requirement. Dang. Slava Voynov is a great player -- he's for real. Drew Doughty? He's a great skater, but dare I suggest he's overrated? I'm sure I'll be roasted for that. But the name Jay Bouwmeester comes to mind.
Columbus has impressed me, but in the same way that Toronto has done the same. I think they're responding to changes in the organization and over-performing based on a team system. But there are plenty of examples of a team succeeding because they play as a team rather than as a group of individuals with high-end skills. I do like John Davidson as an exec and I'm intrigued by Jarko Kekalainen as GM. It's ironic the Jackets are winning with the Rangers' depth players, and the Blueshirts are losing with the Jackets' former star. Which is more successful -- depth or a stars/scrubs approach?
What exactly is going on in the Shark Tank? Brent Burns makes a better forward than a defender, yet the team is looking at moving Dan Boyle to make the team Burns'. And Scott Gomez is one of their best scorers this month? That's either a great signing at a reduced price or a complete condemnation of the rest of the lineup. Or maybe both.
Lastly, what do you make of Keith Yandle? I love the guy, but is there a chance that his best is already behind him? I can't believe I'm saying that.
Eagle over and out.
From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Wednesday, March 20
Subject: Shark Week
Yes, I should have more accurately referred to John Gibson as vanquisher of Canada. Too bad he's been banged up.
Great assessment of the different nationalities playing the NHL and, yes, I've noticed some of the things you mentioned and, speaking of Nicklas Kronwall, he just laid out Charlie Coyle in the second period of the Wild-Wings contest. Big hit, as usual he skated almost backwards into his target before leveling him. The hip check seems to be a lost art save for players like Kronwall or Subban. Back to Wings-Wild here, Gustav Nyquist made the Minny defense look silly after deflecting a point pass in his own zone before turning on the jets and a slick five-hole finish on Niklas Backstrom. Nyquist has lit up the AHL this season and I don't know how much of a sleeper he's going to be heading into next season in some leagues, but I love the kid's skill level and potential. I'm buying next year, so don't steal him from me.
I won't roast you for calling Doughty overrated, mainly because he has been the last few seasons. Seems like he and Keith Yandle are hitting the regression a bit earlier in their career. Yandle's numbers are serviceable this season, just not for what owners paid for him. I read some rumblings earlier in the season that the 'Yotes would be looking to move him, but he's still a great puck-mover, but they committed the future of the Phoenix blue line, understandably so, to Oliver Ekman-Larsson, a budding star if there ever was one. I can't come up with a viable answer for Yandle except that he's been maddening to own as some of his points have been concentrated over a few games.
San Jose's struggles may factor into your depth v. stars argument, but I don't think anyone, Scott McLellan included, can make sense of the Sharks' enigmatic play (not fitting however, since most of the team is Canadian). They have the talent to play well but they've struck me as top heavy the last few years, not boasting great depth. It's quite funny that Brent Burns is playing almost a point-per-game as a third-line winger after he did nothing on the blue line when returning to action. I like him a lot as a mid-to-late round target for next season, as defensemen that can score with regularity are always a target for me. Moving Dan Boyle would be a surprise but he's been one of their most reliable players the last few years, as well as one of the steadiest players in fantasy hockey. It seems that we've been hearing about the Sharks' window closing for the last five years. I can't see Jumbo Joe or Marleau hoisting the Cup unless they pull a Ray Bourque and bolt to a contending team. I know it won't happen, but Thornton going back to Boston if the B's need a center and winning there - imagine the hilarity.
It's hysterical that Columbus is winning basically with the Rangers' cast-offs. Several of those players, Rangers' fans will tell you they miss as they're seeing what they did on the ice the hard way. Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik seem to be shells of themselves while Rick Nash is finding his stride. The players on Columbus such as Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov were solid role players for the Rangers but Dubinsky could never seem to get out of the Torts' dog house. I'd love to see Columbus rally, but the West is deep and I don't see them sneaking in despite it being a good story. As I said in the last email, Lundqvist covers up a lot of holes on the Rangers and they have a solid defense.
Lastly, do you see anyone picking up Mike Komisarek and his $4.5 million hit for next year after the Leafs waived him today? Seems all that Twitter campaigning worked as Gardiner is back in The Show.
Lightning Round for you:
Mike Babcock or Ken Hitchcock?
Corey Perry or Bobby Ryan?
Brad Marchand or Patrice Bergeron?
Ken Holland or Peter Chiarelli?
From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Thursday, March 21
Subject: Lighting It Up
Komisarek seems more like a target for a compliance buy-out, but there's always a chance a team like the Isles could use him to stay at the cap floor. He needs insulation, though, so that means he needs to be on a good team and in a good system. That's not the Isles. Most people cite the now-famous beating he took from Milan Lucic as the turning point in his career. But I think we need to compare his effectiveness alongside Andrei Markov [during Komisarek's Montreal days] versus the revolving door of relative incompetence he's skated with in Toronto. He can help someone in the right situation.
Nyqvist is already on one of my deeper keeper rosters. The guy has point-per-game upside, but I'll be completely honest -- I tend to avoid the Wings' prospects because they actually develop them properly. And that means they're eased into the lineup gently and at an older age than other teams do it. Perhaps I'm impatient, but for the most part I'm going to let someone else clog up their roster. I take Wings once they have a few years under their belts.
The Sharks just feel like a country club to me. I know it isn't, but they lack urgency or something. I like Jumbo Joe and his laid-back ways, but that's the kind of personality that borders on passive and it just feels like the whole team takes that on a little too much. I'd rather hand the reins to Little Joe Pavelski
Now to your lightning round. You've made this one particularly challenging, but here goes.
Mike Babcock or Ken Hitchcock -- This one is really tough. Babcock has a slightly better winning percentage in both the regular season and playoffs, but Hitch has more wins. Two years ago, I would have said Babcock, but I'm picking Hitch right now. He has impressed me with his ability to change his approach to fit his team (as opposed to imposing his style on them) and he's really brought out the younger players in St. Loo.
Corey Perry or Bobby Ryan -- No contest. Both will deliver similar points, but Perry brings more edge to the ice. He's irritating and very, very effective.
Brad Marchand or Patrice Bergeron -- Ouch. Bergeron if I'm building an on-ice team -- the guy is a great pillar down the middle. But Marchand delivers the added value of physicality and PIMs for fantasy. Still, they are very close, but for very different reasons.
Ken Holland or Peter Chiarelli -- This is a little easier for me -- I'm impressed by Holland's longevity and his oversight of a scouting department that has been panning gems from the lower rounds for years. I like Chiarelli, too, particularly for what he managed to do to shed Tim Thomas. But it wasn't that long ago that his name was being tossed around as a possible "next fired" exec.
Happy birthday Bobby Orr -- the man still has it at 65. And there's no debate -- he's the best to have ever laced them up. Gretzky is number two.
The last word is yours my friend.
Eagle out
From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Friday, March 22
Subject: Finnish Gold
Nice choices in your lightning round. I love Bergeron as a player, but in terms of fantasy, I will lean toward Marchand depending on my league's scoring system. Still, Marchand has been steady this year.
Lastly, the video coming out of Finald for Valio Suomi milk featuring Teemu Selanne borders on both the ridiculous and the sublime. It follows a young boy's dream of playing hockey and Teemu surprises him in his bedroom while the kid is sleeping. Enjoy.
Janet Eagleson writes Frozen Fantasy for RotoWire
Dan Pennucci writes Blue Line Buzz for RotoWire.