Fantasy NHL: Don't Believe the Hype...Players Who Will Struggle This Season

Malcolm HamiltonContributor IOctober 8, 2008

Several players are entering this season surrounded by hype and excitement. 

This is a list of the players that I think will fail to live up to their lofty expectations—and who could really hurt your fantasy team. 

This list is all about expectations.  There are some very good players on this list, but they might not be worth the draft pick you would have to use to get them.

Nicolas Lidstrom, Defense, Detroit Red Wings

Love starting the list with a controversial pick.  Lidstrom has been the top defenseman in the league for several years in a row, and has always lived up to his billing.  But at the age of 38, his numbers are bound to start decreasing. 

Don't get me wrong, Lidstrom is absolutely a top-five defenseman this year, and probably even a top-three defenseman. I just don't believe that he will remain the best in the NHL, and he should not be a first-round pick.  

He's on a terrific Red Wings team, so his plus-minus will be fantastic, but expect assists and points to be on the decline. 

Lidstrom has never been able to rack up penalty minutes, and since he is no longer as fleet of foot, this will become a glaring problem.  This is the year where he gets surpassed in fantasy by young guns Dion Phaneuf and Mike Green.

Alex Kovalev, Right Wing, Montreal Canadiens

At the end of the '06-07 season, Kovalev looked like his age had caught up to him and that his career was essentially done.  However, he bounced back and had a career year last year, putting up 84 points—including 35 goals. 

Kovalev has had an excellent career, and last season was a wonderful trip down memory lane for Alex, but he is no longer the type of player that can score 35 goals every year. 

Kovalev will play on Montreal's first line with Alex Tanguay and Tomas Plekanec.  Plekanec is not a number-one center at this point in his career, and Tanguay will probably take some goals away from Kovalev.  Expect Kovalev's numbers to come crashing back down to earth this season.

Steven Stamkos, Center, Ryan Malone, Left Wing, Radim Vrbata, Right Wing, Tampa Bay Lightning

This Lightning team is getting a lot of hype going into this season, and it seems like people have forgotten that this was the worst team in all of hockey last season.  It's hard to believe that a team that was this bad last season will improve drastically with only the addition of two journeymen wingers and an 18-year-old. 

As it stands right now, these three newcomers will all play together on the second line.  Stamkos, the number-one pick in the 2008 draft, will show flashes of brilliance, but will also be inconsistent and demonstrate his lack of experience.  Stamkos also holds the unfortunate role of having the hopes of the Lightning season on his shoulders, as many fans are dubbing him the next coming of Gretzky. 

Malone had a career year last year, but he was flanked by Evgeni Malkin and Petr Sykora.  Without Malkin feeding him the puck, you can expect Malone to fall back down to mediocrity. 

Vrbata is definitely the least-exciting player out of these three, and while he had a productive year last year, history shows that he is a mid-level goal scorer at best. 

Ultimately the success of this line and these three players in the fantasy world will fall on Stamkos.  Malone and Vrbata have proven themselves to be mediocre, but Stamkos has the chance to be a star.  In the end, Stamkos won't be a superstar off the bat, and Malone's and Vrbata's numbers will suffer as a result.

Dan Carcillo, Left Wing, Phoenix Coyotes

Carcillo was a true fantasy anomaly last season—a goon who could also score.  To go along with 324 penalty minutes, he also netted 13 goals.  The player with the next=most penalty minutes last season was Jared Boll, who had 226—98 less than Carcillo.  That should give you an idea of just how extraordinary Carcillo's season was last season. 

Carcillo is destined to be a checking-line player for his career, so the 24 points that he put up last season should be close to his ceiling.  Since he isn't much of a offensive threat, his value comes from his ability to rack up penalty minutes.  Unfortunately, there is no chance that Carcillo will approach the 324 penalty minutes that he had last year.  Expect 200. 

There is no doubt that Carcillo has value, but he is merely a slightly better model of players like Jared Boll, Riley Cote, or Adam Burish.

Johan Franzen, Left Wing, Detroit Red Wings

No player was hotter at the end of last season and in the playoffs than Franzen.  He was so good that many people believe he will score 40 goals, or even 50, this season.  I am absolutely not one of these people. 

There are several issues that I have with Franzen going into this season.  Everything about him points to last season being a career year, and him being set up for a big fall. 

For starters, Franzen is 28 years old.  During his hot streak last season, I just assumed that he was 22 or 23 because this was his breakout season.  However, he's been on the Red Wings roster, and healthy, for years.  In '05-06 and '06-07, Franzen put up 16 and 30 points while playing a full docket of games. 

While Franzen has inherent value just by the fact that he is on a dominant Red Wings team, the notion that he has 40- or 50-goal potential this season is preposterous.

David Booth, Left Wing, Florida Panthers

Booth was a player who came from out of nowhere last season to help a lot of people's fantasy teams.  However, looking back on his production in the minor leagues, there really was no precedent for his success in the NHL. 

Its tough to believe that Booth's '07-08 season was anything other than a fluke.  Booth's previous numbers are hardly dominant.  Booth was at Michigan St. for the '05-06 season, and only managed to net 13 goals.  Then, in '06-07, he went into the Panthers system and put up a lowly 24 points during a full season. 

Last season, Booth was definitely helped by the presence of star centers Olli Jokinen and Nathan Horton.  However, Jokinen is off to Phoenix, and Horton will be playing on the first line, while Booth will not. 

Booth is a promising young player.  But a 30-goal scorer, like many are predicting?  Not a chance.

Kristian Huselius, Left Wing, Columbus Blue Jackets

I never like it when a player goes from a great team to a bad one, as Huselius has done in his move from Calgary to Columbus.  Also, Huselius will be playing out of position on Columbus's top line, because Rick Nash is firmly entrenched in the left-wing spot. 

Many of the issues that surround Huselius are not about his skill or potential, but about his attitude.  The main reason that Huselius was shipped out of Calgary was his inability to get along with coach Mike Keenan.  After a 34-goal campaign in 05-06, Huselius was only able to manage 25 last season.  The move to Columbus won't make that number increase. 

Huselius will be centered by the unproven and raw Derick Brassard, whose largest priority will be to get Rick Nash the puck.  After Nash gets his 40, how many more goals will there be to go around?  If Huselius failed to net 20, I would not be surprised.

Mark Streit, Defense, New York Islanders

Many people were very excited about Streit's emergence last season, especially with his prowess in power-play points.  However, in the offseason, Streit went from a superb power-play team, Montreal, to a dreadful one, New York. 

So much of Streit's value was derived by his ability to run the point in the power play.  In fact, more than half of Streit's production last season came on the power play, 34 of 62 points.  The Islanders look like a team with the potential to be historically bad this season, and it is unfortunate, but Streit's numbers will suffer as a result. 

Streit was third in scoring among defensemen last season.  Expect him to be well outside the top 15 this season.

Cristobal Huet, Goalie, Chicago Blackhawks

Huet's presence on this list has nothing to do with how good a player I think he is.  Huet has proven that he is one of the best goalies in the NHL.  His numbers last season speak for themselves.

He had 32 wins, a .920 save percentage and a 2.32 goals against average.  After his trade from Montreal to Washington, Huet's was arguably the most dominant goalie in the NHL. 

However, Huet was signed in the offseason by the Chicago Blackhawks, and will be forced to share the netminder duties with incumbent Nikolai Khabibulin.  While the Blackhawks should be great this year and Huet has proven himself to be a very capable goalie, he cannot be considered a top-tier goalie in the fantasy world, because he just won't start enough games. 

Now, if at some point in the season Khabibulin gets hurt or Huet wins the job outright, then he is a top-five goalie the rest of the way.

Chris Osgood, Goalie, Detroit Red Wings

I'm ready for the angry posts from Detroit fans, as Osgood not only closes the list but also represents the third Red Wing on the list.  After Osgood's dominant playoff performance, many people are clamoring for him to be considered a top-10 goalie this season, which in my humble opinion is laughable. 

There's a reason that Osgood hasn't started a season as a number-one goalie since '03-04 in St. Louis—and even then he was beaten out for the job at one point by the lowly Manny Legace.  The Red Wings clearly didn't think enough of him to start him over an ancient Dominik Hasek, so does one hot month change any of this?  Absolutely not. 

At the age of 35, Osgood cannot be counted on to last an entire season.  Also, the addition of super backup Ty Conklin will surely take some playing time away from Osgood, especially as the Red Wings gear up for the playoffs. 

Osgood will win a lot of games just as a result of being on a excellent Red Wings team, but in terms of his fantasy relevance in every other category, he will not be a top-20 fantasy goalie.


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