Fantasy Hockey: Is Phaneuf worth keeping?

In this week's edition of Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1, we assess the impact on poolies of last January's blockbuster trade that sent Dion Phaneuf from Calgary to Toronto. Is it time to give up on the underperforming defenceman? We debate that question, and give our advice on which players to add and drop in your league.
Dion Phaneuf has put up disappointing numbers as a Maple Leaf, but does the had-shooting defenceman still have fantasy value? ((Jim McIsaac/Getty Images))

It was almost a year ago that the Calgary Flames traded one-time franchise defenceman Dion Phaneuf, along with forward Fredrik Sjostrom and blue-line prospect Keith Aulie, to the Toronto Maple Leafs for forwards Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers, and defenceman Ian White.

With Toronto and Calgary meeting this Saturday on Hockey Night in Canada, figured it's a good time to look back on the trade  (hey, we're in the dog days of January — what else are we gonna talk about?)

Our job is to assess the impact the trade has had on fantasy hockey. Is it time for poolies to give up on the underperforming Phaneuf? Are any of the other players in the deal worth owning? What can be expected of these guys in the future?

In this week's edition of Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1, we answer those questions and give our advice on which players to add and drop in your league.

Don't have a league? Check out CBC's Hockey Night in Canada Fantasy Pool presented by Kia. You could win an automobile. Or try the Crown Royal Star Selector in-game pool. A trip to an HNIC game is up for grabs.

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All stats are through Thursday.

1. What impact has the trade had on the fantasy landscape?

Jesse: The thing that strikes me is how much rope fantasy players continue to give Dion Phaneuf. Name another defenceman with one goal and eight points in 27 games who would still be owned in 81 per cent of Yahoo! leagues. But that's the type of respect you earn by averaging 18 goals and 53 points over your first three NHL seasons. Plus, a lot of fantasy leagues still count penalty minutes as a positive, and Phaneuf averaged a robust 118 PIMs in his first three years. Know how many defencemen notched at least 53 points and at least 118 PIMs last season? None. The season before? None. In fact, over the last two seasons combined, only 14 blue-liners recorded at least 53 points. And only one of them (Sheldon Souray in 2008-09) reached even 83 PIMs, which is Phaneuf's lowest total over a full season in his career. Phaneuf is clearly a unique player, and one who's still only 25 years old. He shouldn't be written off as a fantasy commodity because of a couple weak seasons.

Jordan: I completely disagree. It's all about the now. If a player isn't producing, cut him loose if your league allows it. Let's not beat around the bush here — Phanuef is downright awful. In terms of the overall trade, from a fantasy perspective, the Leafs got ripped off. Bearing in mind that there are other factors that the two teams had to consider (including team chemistry, contracts and the presence of Keith Aulie and Jamal Mayers in the deal), simply put: the Flames got the players that put points on the board. Including Ian White's stats before he was traded to the Hurricanes, the combination of White, Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan produced 84 points for Calgary, while Phaneuf and Fredrik Sjostrom are at a total of just 28 for Toronto. Anyone who drafted the Leafs' captain this year must regret the move. Phaneuf was selected, on average, 51st in Yahoo! drafts, which is midway through the fifth round. I, for one, attribute his lack of production over the past two seasons to the fact that perhaps the league has simply figured out that Phanuef has only one main offensive strength: his shot. Remember when former Leafs blueliner Bryan McCabe  began to score at will from the point? It took some time, but eventually teams learned to throw a body in front of him while on the penalty kill. Just like that, McCabe's points output went from 68 in 2005-06 and 57 in 2006-07 way down to 23 in 2007-08. Until Phaneuf is able to do more than just shoot the puck hard (and often miss the net), I don't expect his fortunes to change much. Unless you're in a keeper league that over-emphasizes defencemen, I'm not sure why most managers haven't cut their losses yet. 

2. Who's your add of the week?

Jesse: Phaneuf's teammate Nikolai Kulemin  is on fire. The 24-year-old forward has 14 points in his last 13 games, and he recorded at least a point in 10 of those contests. In just 43 games this season, Kulemin has already matched his career high with 16 goals, and his 32 points are just four short of his best total. With the Leafs close to falling out of the playoff race and perhaps looking to the future, Kulemin could see an increase in his overall ice time and power-play time rates, both of which rank ninth on the team. But for now, he's available in almost three quarters of Yahoo! leagues.

Jordan: One of the hottest players in the league since late December is Carolina's Tuomo Ruutu. The former first-rounder has 15 points in his last 10 games and seven points in his last four games. Ruutu already has 35 points, which ties his total from all of last year, and he's owned in just 33 per cent of Yahoo! leagues. If your league is even deeper than that, look no further than last week's edition of our blog, where I highlighted the play of Habs castoff Sergei Kostitsyn. Some of you listened, as the Nashville winger is now owned in 15 per cent of leagues (up more than 10 per cent from last week), and he's still playing very well.  His most recent six-game point-streak, in which he scored nine points, did just come to an end, but he still has tallied 20 points in his last 19 games.

3. Who's your drop of the week?

Jordan: We can go ahead and call my answer to this question the "public service" section. The following three players are not currently playing in the NHL: Nikita FilatovMichael Del Zotto and Mathieu Carle. Most of you already likely know that, but there are still 22 per cent of Yahoo! leagues in which Filatov is owned, 39 per cent in which Del Zotto is owned, and 13 per cent in which Carle is owned. And, yes, this is the same Mathieu Carle that hasn't played a single game in the NHL this season.

Jesse: It looks like Marty Turco's days in the NHL could be numbered. Some expected a renaissance season from the 35-year-old when he joined the Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, but the arrangement hasn't worked out. After cap concerns cost Chicago a lot of depth in the off-season, the team finds itself struggling to maintain a playoff position in the West, and Turco is 9-10-2 with a 3.02 goals-against average and .899 save percentage. No surprise, then, that he has yet to get a start in 2011. Corey Crawford, who has started six straight and won four, is the better option if you want a 'Hawks goalie. He's 15-8-1 with a sparkling 2.14 GAA and .920 percentage, making him potentially the Antti Niemi  of this season.