Welcome to CBCSports.ca's Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1, where every Friday our resident nerds — er, experts — Jesse Campigotto and Jordan Shifman debate three hot topics of interest for poolies.
In last week's edition we argued the top fantasy goalie. This time we continue getting you ready for the 2009-10 season by answering another three burning questions: Who's the most overrated player? Which of the remaining free agents will make the biggest impact? And who will be the comeback player of the year?
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1. Who's the most overrated fantasy player heading into the 2009-10 season?
JS: There are plenty of players that become overrated by fans, media and those directly in the hockey business over time. And nothing is more frustrating than drafting one of those highly touted underachievers and getting little in return. Players like Cristobal Huet, Patrick Marleau, Danny Briere, Chris Drury, Brian Campbell, John-Michael Liles and Joffrey Lupul have received their share of undeserved praise over the years and this year will be no different. But there is one player in particular that is headed into a make-or-break campaign with high expectations: Vesa Toskala. With a revamped defensive corps and a monster of a back-up named Jonas Gustavsson, Toskala will be expected to perform. Initially brought over from San Jose in 2007 to take over the reigns between the pipes in Leafland, Toskala has been anything but impressive. He's averaged just 27 wins, one shutout and a save percentage below .900 per season in Toronto. Like Huet in Chicago, Toskala's career as a starting goalie is surely on the line this season and for good reason.
JC: Whoa, whoa. Toskala overrated? Every Leaf fan I talk to would rather see Peter Ing in net. I'm going with Marty Havlat, who went much higher than he should have in both of my drafts. Sure, he's coming off a career-best 77-point season, but there are some major red flags. Check out these numbers: 18, 56, 35. Those are Havlat's games played in the three seasons before last. In 2008-09 he played a career-high 81 game but — surprise, surprise — that was a contract year. Now that he's got his money, and he's left high-flying Chicago for more buttoned-down Minnesota, don't expect the same durability.
2. Which free agent will end up making the biggest fantasy impact?
JS: Despite the recent signings of Robert Lang, Maxim Afinogenov, and Rob Niedermayer, plus Mats Sundin's retirement, there are still a few notable free-agents out there that could add some scoring and experience to an NHL team, and therefore a fantasy team, too. In my mind, Marc-Andre Bergeron is the best free-agent defenceman available. He had 14 goals last year with the offensively challenged Wild and could be a steal of a pick-up if he joins a contender. Between the pipes, there are two viable options out there, both named Manny. Manny Fernandez has yet to be signed, while Manny Legace was just released by the Atlanta Thrashers. If you're desperate for goaltending — which wouldn't surprise me, especially if you were in my pool — both goalies have something to offer. Legace has averaged 25 wins per season over his past five with Detroit and St. Louis, while Fernandez has proven his worth over the years with Minnesota and Boston, winning the Jennings Trophy last season with Tim Thomas. Perhaps the most intriguing name out there is none other than Peter Forsberg. One of the most well-rounded Europeans ever to play, Forsberg may make yet another comeback to the NHL.
JC: Do we really have to go through another series of "Will Forsberg return?" stories. Even Brett Favre thinks it's too much. Also, I'm so glad you mentioned Max Afinogenov. It's a marriage made in heaven: maybe the most freewheeling, frustrating player in the NHL joins maybe the most freewheeling, frustrating team in the NHL. Speaking of former Sabres, if you're keeping an eye on free agents, how about Miro Satan? Yeah, he's about to turn 35, but he's potted 354 career goals, including 17 last season with Pittsburgh. Of course, he did start off on a line with Sidney Crosby, so some of those goals may fall under the Rob Brown Theory (ie. anyone can become a goal scorer when he's put on a line with the best playmaker in hockey).
JS: As much as I'm sure people (including me) don't want to hear about Forsberg's possible NHL return all season long, if he comes back he'll make the biggest fantasy impact without a doubt. And that is the question here, is it not? Think about this one, though: if Forsberg chooses to retire instead, he would be exiting in the same year as the other two original superstar Nordiques from his era: Joe Sakic and Mats Sundin. How crazy would that be? As for Afinogenov, I've taken a risk on him in my pool. If he plays on a line with Kovalchuk, you never know, but he's certainly on a short leash.
3. Who will be the comeback player of the year?
JC: I'm going with a really deep cut here. Ready? Marty Brodeur! Gutsy, eh? Whatever. I know he's not exactly below the radar, but Brodeur is coming off the first major injury of his career, an elbow problem that limited him to 35 games and crippled more fantasy teams than Ulf Samuelsson and Gary Suter in their primes. Before that, however, Brodeur put together a streak of 10 straight seasons with at least 70 games played. That included a ludicrous 78 games in 2006-07, and 77 in 2007-08. He won the Vezina as the league's best goalie at the end of both seasons, averaging a stellar 2.17 goals against and a .921 save percentage. He's 37 now, but I expect a big-time bounce-back year from Brodeur. If you're looking for some less-obvious names for comeback years, look at Pascal Leclaire (just named the clear-cut No. 1 goalie in Ottawa) and Ray Emery (back from his Russian exile).
JS: Wow. You certainly went out on a limb there. Did you also pick the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers to win the Super Bowl? Thought so. Not only did you pick all goalies, but you boldly picked the best goalie of all time in Brodeur. I wouldn't even really consider it a comeback year because he's just that dominant and won't surprise anyone by returning to form. If you're looking for a real comeback, there are plenty of guys that could impress, including Andy McDonald, Paul Kariya, Steve Sullivan or, wait for it, even Daniel Carcillo. OK, so Carcillo isn't in the same class as the others, but the Philly enforcer should still improve on last year's numbers. Sullivan is the player that stands out to me here. He hasn't played a full season since prior to the lockout, but has averaged 0.96 points per game when he has played. Andy McDonald could be considered in the same category. Last season he scored 44 points in 46 games with the Blues, including 19 power play points. Likewise, his teammate Paul Kariya tallied 15 points in just 11 games in 2008-09 with nine on the power play.
Next week: Who are the best free agents?