10 YEARS INTO HIS CAREER, ‘THE KID’ IS STILL THE KING
(No. 1 projected scorer: 106 pts)
HOCKEY POOL OLDTIMERS vividly remember the fall of 1995. It was a time when tweets came from your pet budgie, smart phones meant push button rather than rotary, and Instagrams came from Polaroid cameras.
It was also a time when Jim Corsi was known best as a goalie coach and hockey pool information arrived from The Hockey News in your mailbox – the one by your front door.
The hottest hockey fantasy information in the 1995-96 preseason was that Dave Roche, a 55-goal scorer for Windsor in the Ontario League and a tough guy to boot, was going to play on a line with Mario Lemieux. Every poolie who had done research had him highly rated as a sleeper and proudly picked him before someone else got him. A raw rookie with no professional experience, he had just one point in his first 13 games. He came around in the playo s, though, and was sixth in scoring on a Penguins team loaded with future Hall of Famers. They would succumb to the Florida Panthers in seven games in the ‘Year of the Rat.’ Roche went on to put up good goal and penalty minute numbers in the minors, but never got another shot at the NHL.
Things have changed slightly in 20 years. Roche is at peace on his waterfront home near Peterborough, Ont., though he probably wishes someone would stop using him as an example. Corsi is better known for a stat named after him than his coaching. Information comes across Twitter feeds seconds after it happens, and we can check any line combination in any game even while it’s still being played. What technology hasn’t given us is a sure-fire way to predict linemates prior to upcoming seasons.
Despite 20 years of history repeating itself, we’re still all over any hint that a certain player is going to play with the big boys on the top line. An edge, any kind of edge, is worth our time. The problem is, we still tend to put too much stock in the information. This year, more than any in recent memory, there’s a lot of instability on the top lines of a lot of teams. We’ll go through them, with the options available, and see if we can’t find an edge.
The first thing to know is that none of these are sure things. They’re sleeper potentials, speculative picks or cheap options in a salary cap league.
Nowadays it’s more duos than trios at the top of the lineup. Look around the league. Teams have two dominant scorers, not three, and they stick together. It’s not that the third members don’t matter, it’s just that they don’t matter as much.
Often their value is defensive, and often they sit down when the power play comes on. Ask Alexandre Burrows, a third wheel with the Sedins who scored plenty of goals at even strength, but had a front row seat for the power play.
If they’re too good offensively, teams may want to balance their scoring. Everybody wants a strong second scoring line. Why put Evgeni Malkin with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz when you can have two top lines instead of one?
Even so, we still want to know the add-on for a dynamic duo because they’re still going to reap benefits statistically. The best example is Pascal Dupuis, an e ective player who has been a mediocre scorer his career. Thanks to Crosby and Kunitz, he suddenly became a good scorer and is viewed as a better player because of them. See next page for case study.