Shoalts: I love how LeBrun claims he only occasionally talks to players, coaches and GMs about pool moves. He grills the pants off them every day, and then runs to our transactions wire. He spends so much time on this pool you’d think he was single. Being single, by the way, is a huge advantage in a pool. Madam takes a dim view when you’re sitting in front of a hockey game with your laptop out at 9 o’clock at night.
Duhatschek: Let’s get into some specifics for readers who have drafts coming up. I know nobody is going to give away their best secrets, but let’s talk about how to deal with a player like Jason Spezza, the new Ottawa Senators captain. Anybody who pays only half-hearted attention won’t find Spezza on the leaderboards because last year, injuries limited him to five games. But the year before, the last time the NHL played a full season, he was fourth in the league in scoring. So where do you put Spezza? And how do you integrate all the players who missed time because of injuries last season into your lists?
LeBrun: I love drafting players on bounce-back years. And I think Spezza will have a monster year playing alongside Bobby Ryan. He’s a no-brainer, top-10 pick among forwards in my opinion. I’d also keep an eye on Jaroslav Halak in St. Louis. The Blues goalie rededicated himself this off-season, stayed in St. Louis the whole summer to train, dropped from 14-per-cent body fat to 8 per cent and has been told by the Blues he’s the No. 1 goalie ahead of Brian Elliott. The Blues want Halak to carry their team, and Halak is in a contract year. Smells like a motivated fantasy netminder to me.
Friedman: Spezza will go for a lot of money because a lot of high-scoring forwards get locked-up and kept. It’s just like the NHL at free agency, there is only so much supply and a lot of demand. When it comes to injuries, the first thing I look at is how often a guy’s been hurt. Is he normally durable? Was this a fluke? Spezza’s last four full seasons saw him play 286 of 328 games. So he’s pretty durable. The second thing is age. He’s 30; not so bad. The third thing is if his injury is something he (or other players) can come back from. You never know with a back problem, but a lot of guys deal with it. I’d take the chance.
Shoalts: The other thing to watch for are the guys who play with someone like Spezza. I have Milan Michalek, who was also a disappointment because he missed half of last season with an injury. But he says he’s healthy now and it looks like he’ll play with Spezza. I’ve got him at four bucks which could be a hell of a bargain but I need to squeeze every dollar on my payroll to free up enough money to renew a bunch of good young players. At four bucks, I’m leaning toward keeping him but any advice would be appreciated.
Duhatschek: When I’m in a pool with civilians, one of the biggest mistakes they make is overreaching for young players coming in. Everyone is determined to find a sleeper or a great bargain. Sometimes, the best bargains are guys that reliably get points year after year, but never go where they should in the draft order. Ray Whitney has been that guy for most of his NHL career. Andrew Brunette was that guy for a long time too. But you’re right Dave – getting the third guy riding shotgun on a great line can pay dividends. Last year, anybody who grabbed Jiri Tlusty because he was playing on the same line in Carolina with Eric Staal and Alex Semin did very well. This year, that guy might be Chris Kreider with the Rangers. For the moment anyway, they have him playing with Brad Richards and Rick Nash.