Fantasy Hockey: Breaking down Team Canada
This is the third in our three-part series looking at the Olympic men's hockey tournament from a fantasy-pool perspective.
First we gave you ideas on how to set up an Olympic pool. Then we suggested the players to take to win your pool. This week, we break down the event's best — and certainly most scrutinized — team: Canada.
Which of the gold-medal favourite's goalies will get the bulk of the playing time? Who will be the highest-scoring forwards (besides Sidney Crosby)? How much will the star-studded blue-line contribute?
We answer these questions and more in the final pre-Olympic edition of CBCSports.ca's Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1.
All stats are through Tuesday.
Jordan: The question here isn't whether Team Canada's goalies are valuable enough to draft. It's which goalie is most likely to get the bulk of the playing time. And that could be the million-dollar question — or at least the gold medal-winning question. We all know the contenders: Martin Brodeur (32-19-2, .917 SV%, 2.27 GAA), Roberto Luongo (30-16-2, .919 SV%, 2.33 GAA), and Marc-Andre Fleury (28-16-2, .906 SV%, 2.68 GAA). Despite Fleury's obvious success over the past year, there's little doubt that the race will come down to Brodeur and Luongo. So who will it be? Many people would bet on Brodeur and his record of 21-13-1 with six shutouts since Nov. 25. It's hard to argue with those kinds of stats, but with the Games being played in Vancouver, how do you not start a goalie who has led his hometown Canucks to a sparkling 23-7-1 home record? If Canada has home-ice advantage over other countries, you have to imagine that the only Canuck on Canada's team has one, too.
Jesse: I agree that Luongo should start, but forget home-ice advantage. He's simply the better goalie. The Canucks captain sports a superior save percentage despite playing for a team that's significantly less disciplined than Brodeur's Devils. What does this have to do with goaltending? Well, just imagine how many more difficult shots Luongo has faced behind a Vancouver club that's dealt with 47 more short-handed situations than the Devils, who have had to kill off a league-low 176. Brodeur is a great goalie, but for much of his career he's benefited from playing for a super-disciplined, defensively committed club. Another factor to consider is fatigue. Before getting a night off last Tuesday against the Leafs, the 37-year-old Brodeur played in an absurd 40 consecutive games. The sadistic methods of Jersey coach Jacques Lemaire could be taking their toll, as Brodeur has coughed up at least three goals in five straight contests. Because of his resumé, the three-time Cup champ will get every opportunity to win the No. 1 job. But there's a good chance he loses it to Luongo.
Jesse: I'm going to use this small opening to make a case for Mike Green — the most glaring omission from Team Canada. Know who leads all NHL defencemen in points? Mike Green. Know who leads all NHL defencemen in goals? Mike Green. Oh, I know, but he's a "defensive liability," right? Know who ranks second among all NHL defencemen in plus-minus? Mike Green. In a tournament this deep, there's a good chance that a team's fate comes down to a key power play or two. If that's the case, would you rather have the world's best scoring defenceman, or Brent Seabrook?
Jordan: For me, the conversation about Canadian defencemen begins and ends with Dan Boyle. He will, without a doubt, make or break our country's power play from the point. After all, he is the reason why Green didn't make the cut. As the catalyst for one of the NHL's best man-advantage units, Boyle has 44 points in 53 games, including four goals and 18 assists with the extra man. If you want to throw in a "wild card" (if you can even say that about a player on Team Canada) it would have to be Drew Doughty. Many people were surprised at his selection and even more believe he may not garner substantial ice time. Whatever time he is granted, Doughty is sure to produce. The sophomore already has 11 goals, 23 power-play points and four game-winners.
Jordan: In the interest of generating debate, let's skip Crosby altogether. We all know how good he is. We also know what kind of talent Rick Nash has (and he's sure to put it on display in Vancouver, especially if he plays alongside Sid the Kid). So let's be as bold as we can when examining Team Canada from a fantasy perspective. If you're in a pool where you can pick only one player per NHL team, you may want to stay away from Patrick Marleau. As good as he's been this season (64 points in 59 games), recent evidence shows that he's been anything but a clutch performer. Marleau tallied 17 points and a minus-7 rating in 30 games over his past three playoff appearances, while his teammate Dany Heatley totalled 35 points in 34 games over his past three while with Ottawa. One Canadian who could have an offensive explosion in Vancouver when he finally gets to play with some real talent is Eric Staal. In 47 games so far this year, Staal has 48 points. And in his two previous playoff appearances, consistent would be a good word to describe his 19 goals and 43 points in 43 games. On the flip side, don't take a chance on Patrice Bergeron or Brenden Morrow. With so much firepower, it's unlikely they'll be counted on for offence.
Jesse: I agree that fantasy players shouldn't touch Bergeron or Morrow. And I don't think Steve Yzerman should have either. Bergeron's return from concussion problems is a nice story, and by all accounts he's a solid two-way player, but the Bruins forward has only 36 points this season and he's never topped 73. Morrow's career high is 74 points, and he's got just 31 this season. Plus, he's scored only twice since Dec. 5. Now, I know both these guys have plenty of heart, and their value goes beyond what you see on the scoresheet, but wouldn't your rather have Steve Stamkos? His 33 goals rank fifth in the NHL. And how about Lightning teammate Vincent Lecavalier? Strange how he was barely in the running for a spot on Team Canada, and everyone just sort of decided he's having a bad season. Fine, he probably won't score 40 goals like he did just a couple years ago, but 55 points in 58 games is pretty good. And all but two of his 15 goals have come at even strength, so no one can say his stats are inflated by playing with Stamkos and Marty St. Louis on the Tampa power play.