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Morning Skate: Padding Stats

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
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Monday, Sept. 16
Subject: Game On!

And we're back!

Training camps are open and it's just about two weeks until the puck drops and the inevitable Stanley Cup hangover that will set in for Chicago, a term which I'm assuming has a different meaning for Patrick Kane.

We've already seen a few interesting developments in the first few days of training camp, or to put it another way, more news tidbits than fans who attended the Nashville-Florida preseason contest on Monday. That said it was middle of the day on a Monday in September for a prospect scrimmage.

Speaking of Florida, Tim Thomas leaves reemerges and heads to Florida on a tryout basis. I figured it would be a team like the Panthers to roll the dice on Thomas, but I can't entirely see him in a defensive system which is predicated on allowing as many shots as possible. Also, how much longer do they keep Jacob Markstrom waiting?

Jaromir Jagr is already injured in New Jersey, apparently dealing with lower body soreness. I figured it'd be at least a day. Maybe that $2 million bonus which kicks in when Jagr plays 45 games was a sage choice by the New Jersey brass.

A few good ole Canadian boys are finding themselves with a larger passbook balance after last week, as Alex Pietrangelo and Nazem Kadri have committed long-term to their new team. (Although Kadri crosses the bridge in Toronto while Pietrangelo flies right over it.) I love what Pietrangelo brings both from a hockey and fantasy hockey perspective, obviously the type of talent you want to lock up. As for Kadri, I give the Leafs credit for not signing a huge deal, seems like more of a "let's see you do that again," type of contract.

Lastly, let's examine a potentially murky goaltending situation from a fantasy perspective in each message this exchange, kicking off with Philadelphia.

Steve Mason or Ray Emery: From a wins perspective, the Flyers are in a tough division and their system hasn't done much to insulate goaltenders, too many turnovers in their own zone. Mason seems to be the starter per-se but Emery wasn't brought in to play sparingly, especially after his outstanding statistical season with Chicago last year. I'm wary of Mason, but he looked good playing out the stretch for Philly, with a 4-2 mark, 1.90 GAA and .944 save percentage. That said, I'm still wary and think Emery is the value play.

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Monday, Sept. 16
Subject: Goalies Galore

Damn, it feels good to have hockey back.

I'm honestly not all that surprised by Florida's interest in Tim Thomas. Beggars can't be choosers, Mr. Thomas -- who cares if you're pelted with pucks? His presence on the kitties would actually help save Jacob Markstrom's career -- there's no better way than to destroy a young goalie who's adjusting to smaller pads by tossing him to the wolves. I like the move. And besides, there aren't that many media outlets that cover the kitties. Timmy won't have as many ways to showcase his stupidity ... but I digress.

You know I've long been critical of Nazem Kadri and I'm not entirely ready to give that up. The Leafs signed a great deal. And if he can do the things he believes he can, Kadri will absolutely own Toronto. And I mean OWN. I don't know what my hang up on him is exactly -- I like P.K. Subban's cockiness, but Kadri's grates me to no end. Maybe it's because I'm such a sucker for hot shot defenders.

Speaking of which, Alex Pietrangelo's deal is bang on -- I do not have a problem with it at all. He's foundational to the Blues -- a pillar for their team like Erik Karlsson is to the Sens and Shea Weber is to the Preds. On the ice, I'd rather have him than Kris Letang.

Now to Philly's goaltending situation. I'll get this over quick -- I'm not owning one without the other. I've long been a Steve Mason fan and liked what he did once he arrived on [South] Broad Street. But back to my sideways comment about Jacob Markstrom above -- those new regs around pad sizemeans there are going to be a lot of open five holes. The pads now can't block things off quite as effectively missing three-to-four inches of knee flaps. So Mason will struggle with that. And Emery's bad hip will be stressed by it, too. It's likely to start as an ugly platoon -- both guys will get yanked and fast in the impatient world of orange and black.

Speaking of goalies, what's your take on the Karri Ramo - Rito Berra - Joey MacDonald show in Calgary? Can Ramo really carry those snuffled Flames? And what happens in Anaheim? Does Viktor Fasth finally steal Jonas Hiller's starting minutes or do they end up in a platoon, too? And speaking of platoons, what happens in Tampa with Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback?

As for Jagr's injury? Toronto has Joffrey Lupul's bad back. Some things never change.

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Wednesday, Sept. 18
Subject: Padding the Crease

Yes, I may have baited you with the Kadri question.

I tried watching some of the Devils-Rangers preseason and I just couldn't get excited about it. Sure, Corey Schneider made some great saves and it was good seeing Reid Boucher get some NHL ice time, albeit preseason hockey. However, it's just a lower grade of hockey and there aren't too many compelling roster battles on the Devils, but I'll force my way through a few games in the coming week.

Great call with Philly's goaltending duo. Usually when I roster a 1a and 1b from the same team, I always seem to have the wrong guy on my active roster, thus leading to more frustration.

The words Calgary and goaltending are enough for me to consider not drafting a goaltender if I have to pick from one of those three. The Flames are not looking the most reliable of teams and it'll be weird not seeing Kipper on the team. That said, of those three, Joey MacDonald has been bouncing around from team to team, so maybe some regular ice time can help him. Karri Ramo hasn't been Stateside for quite some time after he was thought to be the savior in Tampa. Berra seems akin to Viktor Fasth last season as a solid netminder who's making his North American debut, albeit without the Anaheim team in front of them. I wouldn't draft any of them as more of a late-round lottery ticket. Ramo seems to have the inside track, but Berra is the wild card. Calgary is a team to avoid outside of a few tremendous young prospects, but their goalies do not strike me as players that can help my roster.

Speaking of the leg pad regulations that are now in effect, which of the top five goalies could be the most affected? Obviously, Lundqvist comes to mind since the knock on him is that he's a puck-blocker, but the guy is always in great position. Are you thinking this could affect the larger netminders like Pekka Rinne or players more like the athletic Jonathan Quick? Is the concern about the pads enough to make you shy away from anyone?

I'm going to go with Fasth if I take any Anaheim netminder this season. Hiller doesn't seem like his job is the most secure. I like Bishop better than Lindback in Tampa Bay, but not as a regular starter on my roster, maybe a reserve. Neither of them distinguished themselves much in their limited roles as a starter and Bishop is on his third team in the last few seasons after being such a highly touted prospect in the Blues organization.

Let's look at two overachievers last season, Sergei Bobrovsky and Corey Crawford. Where do we slot them after the usual top five netminders have been drafted? I can't see repeats from either of them in terms of their production, but I still like them better than a few of the other second-tier starters and would be fine taking them if it's a value, just not based on last season's stats.

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Wednesday, Sept. 18
Subject: New Faces

It's interesting that you tossed out Corey Crawford's name -- he's a guy whose pads reached his armpits. OK, so that's an exaggeration, but I'll bet he'll lose anywhere between two to four inches off the top of those pads. That kind of change is going to impact his game.

Honestly, I'm a little worried about all of the tall goalies and the adjustments they will need to make. Even two inches off each pad will result in a spiffy, four-inch increase to the five-hole. That's a tasty treat for snipers. And most goalies got their new pads in August. The psychology of that is going to weigh on the fragile psyches of most goalies. They're different dudes. Change isn't good. They may think they haven't had enough time to adjust.

But will it really impact fantasy? Not if it's a universal problem -- all counting categories will generally go down, and that will affect everyone relatively equally. But I'm a little worried about two of my leagues where we assign points to things like saves, goals against, etc. I guess it's wait-and-see.

'Nuf about the twinetenders. What does Minny do for Nino Niederreiter? Can he resurrect his once-hot status? Who delivers more for their teams -- Daniel Alfredsson in Detroit or Jarome Iginla in Boston? Does Corey Schneider start 50 games for your Devils? Can Valtteri Filppula both rebound and shake off the Vinny Lecavalier comps? Which sniper pots more goals -- Corey Perry, James Neal or Marian Gaborik? And why?

Lastly, let's speculate on this -- which current playoff teams do not make the postseason if -- or when -- both Columbus and Carolina make this year's playoffs?

From: Dan Pennucci
To: Janet Eagleson
Sent: Saturday, Sept. 21
Subject:  Poorly Named Divisions

A deluge of questions...I love it.

Nino Niederreiter in the Twin Cities I'm buying. Pair him up with Zach Parise, Charlie Coyle, Michael Granlund and the rest of the Wild's underrated scorers (Mikko Koivu and Jason Pominville) and he can make a savvy late round selection in most leagues. Be ready to pull the trigger on him earlier in keeper leagues. However, his spot on the Wild roster isn't certain, but he has shown flashes.

This past summer, you mentioned the mere fact that Bobby Ryan will be playing with a renewed vigor for Ottawa to prove the Anaheim brass wrong for them constantly trying to trade him; I see it as the same situation with Niederreiter. It wasn't a good situation for him on Long Island and there wasn't much communication between the two parties based on published reports. Niederreiter needed to get away from the Islanders, as he didn't fit into their future plans or their physical system. I know it sounds odd to say someone's offensive skills will be able to flourish in Minnesota (just because of all the old Lemaire connotations). It's a burgeoning situation with one of the league's best defensemen and two future blue studs as well, plenty of veteran leaders and talent there as well to insulate the budding Swiss star.

Filppula in Tampa Bay I'm less certain about. We talked this past summer about being able to hide out, for lack of a better term, in the Detroit system, as he now could be exposed in Tampa Bay. The Bolts paid a hefty price for him at $5 mil per for 5 years, but, unless he rides shotgun with Mighty Mite and Stamkos, I don't see Filppula being hugely productive.

Iggy in Boston - Iginla is a traditionally slow starter, but I think this could be exacerbated from a fantasy perspective with the Bruins. Boston's scoring is always balanced and I've found owning their offensive players can be a bit frustrating simply due to the fact that their scoring is so spread out. Boston doesn't need many goals to win games with that defense and system. Guys like Brad Marchand and Patrice Bergeron are solid mid-round additions, but their fantasy value will never match what they do on the ice, so many intangibles that can't be measured statistically. The question with Iginla is on which of the top two lines does he skate? Lucic-Krecji, or Bergeron-Marchand? Remember, Iggy isn't the only new top six forward on Boston, as the perennially consistent and underrated Loui Eriksson heads to the Hub. I'm leaving Iggy and grabbing Loui. Iggy can be a boost to teams in leagues that count shots, but I'm only drafting him if it's a situation where other younger, more talented players have been snagged.

Alfredsson in Detroit - I'm more indifferent about the situation. He'll see some production with a place alongside either Datsyuk or Zetterberg, but I'm wondering where the upside is with Alfie. I see him around 45 points and not much more. Still sad how the situation ended with him in Ottawa.

I'm saying Corey Perry leads that trio of snipers, then Neal and Gaborik. You can't deny the offensive situation Perry is in alongside Hair Club model Ryan Getzlaf. They're the primary options on their team and I think the Ducks will be hungry after that disappointing playoff exit last year. It's going to be interesting seeing them play Vancouver often this year. Perry plays big and can be a boon for owners in multi-category leagues. Neal will be alongisde either Malkin or Crosby, so he has that going for him, which is nice. Gaborik. Where's the center to get him the puck? True, he's off Broadway and a continent away from John Tortorella, but the offensive systems of Anaheim and Pittsburgh have me convinced over Columbus.

Carolina and Columbus have a tough road in the horribly named "Metropolitan Division" (seriously, who focused-group that one?). That said, Philadelphia and New Jersey are in transit (definitely a euphemism) while Washington will battle with the Islanders for the wild-card spot. At this point I'm saying: Pittsburgh, Rangers, Isles, Canes, Washington, Devils, Columbus, and the Flyers.

What can owners expect from Mikhail Grabovski in Washington? Filip Forsberg in Hockey Tonk?

Any players who you'll be avoiding, whether it's a situation they're in or injury issues?

From: Janet Eagleson
To: Dan Pennucci
Sent: Saturday, Sept. 21
Subject: Injury Report

Metropolitan? Some of those cities just aren't that important or big (sorry, Raleigh et al.). Maybe it should be have the cosmopolitan division. But then again, there's not much that's cosmopolitan about Columbus, Raleigh or Uniondale. But I digress.

I like Mikhail Grabovski in Washington, but he's nothing more than a 55 to 60 point player at the very best. Filip Forsberg has impressed Preds' staff, but I suspect anyone who can score would impress them. He just turned 19 in August and Seth Jones will hit that mark in early October. Will the Preds really carry two 19-year-olds? Seems like a stretch to me. Even if they do, Forsberg will be making the leap from the Swedish second division. There are a lot of adjustments he needs to make and that system carves about 15-20 points off a player's upside.

Injuries? Tomas Vokoun's blood clot problem from Saturday scares me. He has a rare clotting disease called pelvic thrombophlebitis that originally flared up 2005-06. Can Marc-Andre Fleury carry the load after the team all but tossed him under the bus last year? Claude Giroux's tendon surgery is concerning -- tendons are slow to heal because of a poor blood supply. And the immobilization needed is significant (his whole forearm would have been in a fixed position). He could get off to a slow start. (Ed. Note: Giroux has had the splint removed from his right arm).

Other than those guys, I think Pekka Rinne's recovery from hip surgery should be watched. Ryan Callahan's absence from the Rangers will have a big bearing on the team's start. But Alexei Emelin's absence might just have the biggest impact on any team. The Habs desperately need his physicality and the complexion of the entire team changes without him.

Man, I can't wait until Opening Night.