Friday, December 26, 2014



PORTLAND, ME—With a quarter of the 2014-15 WHL season behind us, the standings are really starting to take shape. While the white-hot Beantown Ball Busters have built themselves a 100-point lead over second place California, those same Kwijibos are only 70 points ahead of 8th ranked Saginaw. Plenty of leap frogging will ensue given how fiercely competitive the top half has been so far. South of the border, so to speak, a handful of teams are a good night or two away from joining the playoff pack, illustrating just how many strong teams we have this year. Only four teams look to be at, or very near the point of no return. After 14th place CSKA Moscow, which sits 75 points out of 8th, New Jersey and West Palm are roughly 160 points beyond the grasp of that same target. Rounding out the standings we have the Porter Pirates, who’s owner has been MIA since October, and of course, the Boston Beernuts, who hardily continue Operation McDavid. 

Unlikely Leaders 
On a team stacked with the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Andrew Ladd, and Dustin Byfuglien, it’s Calder frontrunner Filip Forsberg who’s leading all Beantown Ball Buster skaters in fantasy points scored. Sidney Crosby and Jonathan Toews being the top two scoring forwards for the Portland Pints is about as surprising as football on Thanksgiving, but how about Johnny Boychuk emerging as Portland’s top-scoring defenseman through the first quarter? Speaking of surprising d-men performances, T.J. Brodie is quietly leading all Wolfsburg Vipers skaters in fantasy points scored. Another unanticipated leader is Tyler Bozak of the Altoona Angry Beavers. Bozak currently leads his team in goals and fantasy points—no small task considering that he’s wearing the same virtual jersey as Patrick Kane, Dion Phaneuf and Matt Duchene. Meanwhile, Mount Vernon’s Vladimir Tarasenko has been out-dueling teammates Phil Kessel and Patrice Bergeron to lead his team on the fantasy points front, and trails only Tyler Seguin and Alex Ovechkin in total points among all right wing-eligible players. 

Welcome to the Jungle 
As impressive as Filip Forsberg’s start to the year has been, he’s hardly the only rookie to be making waves in the early going. Jori Lehtera and Johnny Gaudreau have provided key value to a Stuttgart Scorpions team who’s GM has long displayed a keen eye for young talent. Lehtera, in particular, has been producing points at a slightly higher clip than last year’s Calder winner (and fellow Scorpions forward) Nathan MacKinnon. Wolfsburg Vipers forward Tanner Pearson trails only Filip Forsberg in goals scored among rookies, while Saginaw forward Andre Burakovsky and Northern CHEEFs blue-chip defenseman Aaron Ekblad rank 4th and 5th, respectively, in totals goals and assists among rookies. Bolstering Portland’s impressive stable of veteran talent, Mike Hoffman and John Klingberg have been outstanding free-agent finds for Colin Smith’s Pints. Over the last 15 days, only Kris Letang and Alex Pietrangelo have racked up more fantasy points than Klingberg. 

Defending the Keep 
Fans of the defending champion California Kwijibos must be pleased with their team’s title defense thus far. While the Kwijibos have mustered the 8th most fantasy points from skaters so far this season, exceptional play from California veterans Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak has propelled their team into 2nd place in the standings. That’s not to say that California hasn’t received solid contributions from its skaters. When GM Paul Zeman drafted Patric Hornqvist 36th overall, ahead of more proven options like Joe Thornton, Bobby Ryan, and Martin St. Louis, Zeman clearly had a hunch that the Finnish forward was due for a big year. So far that hunch has been proven correct as Hornqvist currently leads all Kwijbo skaters in goals, assists, and fantasy points. Also, I am incapable of writing anything about the Kwijibos without mentioned Radko Gudas, mainly because I love saying Radko Gudas. 

Tweakend Check-in 
So far the off-season scoring tweaks are working as expected. Elite goalies are still dominating the Top 10—Tyler Seguin is currently the only forward in this group, however, Claude Giroux, Ovie, and Mark Giordano (!) are on the cusp of moving up. The 16-20 keeper “tax bracket” (see the value table in the keeper doc for all brackets) is packed with players—Crosby, Rask, Stamkos, Schneider, Tarasenko, that all have high potential to rocket up into more expensive territory. 21-50 is where the scoring tweaks are really felt. For example, Kari Lehtonen, Darcy Kuemper and Braden Holtby have all played reasonably well so far this season, but they aren’t automatically in the top 25 simply for wearing goalie pads. Instead, they, and other comparable goalies, are in the mix with skaters like Shea Weber, Patrice Bergeron, and Evgeni Malkin. 

It’s Still a Goalie’s World 
Swinging back around to the top of the player rater, Altoona’s Pekka Rinne has apparently put his injury issues behind him and is back with a vengeance. Rinne has posted a massive 15-3-1 record along with a 1.86/.932 peripheral split through his first 19 starts. Quick, Fleury and Price are more or less where you’d expect them to be (top 5), followed by another huge bounce-back in Ryan Miller. Miller Time may never live up to the gargantuan contract that Mount Vernon doled out at the last RFA auction, but he has poured it on lately with just one goal against and two shutouts over his last three starts. And Holy Toledo do owners love their goalies. Since lifting the player limit for all positions this season, most teams are carrying the standard 2-4, however some teams are rocking six goalies or more! 

GMs Ready Your Checkbooks 
It’s never too soon to start looking at player prices and to earmark prime candidates for in-season signings. Skaters become eligible for in-season signing once they reach 40 games played this season, or 30 games started for goalies, and as a reminder, you now have the option to sign players for up to four seasons. Another noteworthy refresher—there are two types of contract structures: The traditional escalating structure in which each year of the deal is higher than the previous one, or a flat-rate structure that uses a rounded average of the costs from the escalating structure. You can easily preview player costs under either format using the 2015 Keeper Costs doc below. Happy shopping and good hunting as we plow through winter and towards the new year! 

Saturday, November 1, 2014


BOSTON, MA—It’s been six long months since the California Kwijibos skated to their first ever World Hockey League championship. For nearly 200 days, 17 other franchises and fan bases were left to stew over what could have been, and to plan for the road ahead. Now, with the eighth season of WHL action underway, the waiting is finally over. The Kwijibos look poised to mount a formidable title defense, two-time champion Lokomotiv Yukon has undergone new management, and a slew of rule changes have opened the gates as we churn full steam ahead on the Dynasty Express. 

Welcome Back 
The Mount Vernon Blades, always one of the most active teams on the trade market, have re-acquired two familiar faces from the Brooklyn Cyclones. Veteran Martin St. Louis and goalie Antti Raanta rejoin the Blades after spending most of the 2013-14 season in Mount Vernon. Heading to Brooklyn are goalie Steve Mason and sophomore forward Sean Monahan. This was already the second trade in the first week of WHL action. Immediately following the draft, the Boston Beernuts flipped first round selection Craig Anderson to the Wolfsburg Vipers for Sven Baertschi and Wolfsburg's 2015 fist round pick. 

Shields Up 
Paul Zeman’s Kwijibos aren't as stacked as they were last season (yet), but this team will compete. Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak return in goal, joined by newcomer Jake Allen, whom Zeman plucked at last season’s RFA auction for a cool $5. While Logan Couture is looking more like Patrice Bergeron every year, and Radko Gudas is a lock to continue doing the Monster Mash, a big part of the Kwijibos attack could fall on the shoulders of Patric Hornqvist. Zeman took a chance on this guy, drafting him ahead of Bobby Ryan and Rick Nash, but the chance is there for Hornqvist to take advantage of his plush new real-life surroundings and see Zeman’s faith rewarded. 

Early Impressions 
Everyone knows that a contending team is usually deep down the center, but the Portland Pints are taking that time-honored philosophy to a new level. After approaching the podium with Sidney Crosby and a dynamic Swedish trio of Nicklas Backstrom, Mikael Granlund and Mikael Backlund already under contract, Pints GM Colin Smith proceeded to add Jonathan Toews and Martin Hanzal just for good measure. The Pints are once again looking stacked in goal with the return of Bobrovsky and Lehtonen, however, there are plenty of solid goalie partnerships around the league. Take for example, King Henrik and Mike Smith, who seem to have been patrolling the West Palm crease forever, or the formidable triad of Ben Bishop, Braden Holtby, and Frederik Andersen in Beantown. For all of the talent around the league though, it’s hard to beat what’s cooking in Sagniaw, where steady veteran Roberto Luongo complements the premier tender of the modern age, Tuuka Rask, and with Darcy Kuemper looking ready for heavier lifting. 

Big surprises are generally hard to come by in the early rounds, but we always seem to have a few. Brian Elliott was taken before Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Toews. True to form, GM Joseph Mastrangelo of the Boston Beernuts delivered the first off-the-board selection of the draft, taking Sam Reinhart towards the end of the third round ahead of more established options such as Martin Hanzal, Brent Seabrook, and Brayden Schenn. Rumor has it that Boston is already starting to print McDavid jerseys, although that could change quickly when GM Joe Mastrangelo inevitably decides to trade all of his rookies by Christmas. 

Auto Bots Unite! 
An unprecedented seven (call it six and a half once everyone showed up) teams were on autopilot at the draft this year. Putting aside the obvious disappointment that comes with nearly a fourth of the league not being able to attend, the flip side is that more “safe” picks were distributed across a greater number of teams than in past years. This means that the annual musings about how so many teams look competitive on paper, and how it’s “anyone’s year” have a little more oomph behind them this time around. Automation also led to an interesting run on seven defensemen in the second round, which may have prompted a few owners to pluck from the d-man well a bit earlier than anticipated in subsequent rounds. 

Easy There, CHEEF 
Since taking the reins for two-time champion Lokomotiv Yukon, first year GM Kyle Hamel has come out of the gates swinging. Hamel is new, but he’s hardly a rookie—flashing his six years of fantasy hockey experience by signing some excellent contracts, followed by a remarkably balanced draft. Hamel keenly balanced proven players like Bobby Ryan and Daniel Sedin with blue chippers Aaron Ekblad (4th round, 60th overall) and David Pastrnak (9th round, 150th overall). The newly christened Northern CHEEFS look ready to continue the Lokomotiv tradition of competing now without leaving the cupboards bare. For all of Hamel’s impressive management thus far, it’s hard to rationalize his decision to take Brian Elliott in the first round. Still, I’ll have an apology letter on standby for when Elliott leads the league in shutouts and paces the CHEEFS to a successful debut. 

Brotherly Love 
Bro power is all the rage in the WHL, with two pairs of real-life NHL brothers currently wearing the same WHL uniform. The CHEEFS reunited Henrik Sedin with brother Daniel by drafting the latter 24th overall, and the Beernuts followed suit, plucking Sam and Griffin Reinhart in the third and fourth rounds, respectively. Naturally, this brovalanche extends from the ice all the way to league offices. ‘Nuts owner Joe Mastrangelo and Wolfburg’s Mike Greeley are brothers on the real, as are Michael and Mario Zecca of Brooklyn and New Jersey, and Alex and Joe Dahms, co-owners of the Altoona Angry Beavers. Sibling bias certainly contributed to one of the more entertaining moments of the draft, when the Stuttgart Scorpions sniped Johnny Gaudreau from Mastrangelo with the very pick after Mastrangelo insisted on completing his aforementioned Reinhart duo. 

What’s New in Review 
In case you missed out on previous league emails or simply need a refresher, here’s a rundown of what’s new for 2014-15. Goals, assists, and goals against were all increased by 0.1, bringing the respective totals to +1.9, +1.1, and -1.6.. As you have surely noticed by looking at the standings, we no longer have physical JWHL teams. Instead, everyone's bench has been expanded to seven spots, and you are free to fill those spots with any players in the ESPN universe. Another significant change that you should familiarize yourself with if you haven't already -- player activations. Activating a player means moving him from your bench into your active lineup, and clicking save. You get 450 activations for the entire season (including playoffs) and it's up to you to pace and monitor your usage throughout the season. Also note that moving a player from one active roster spot to another (e.g. from D to Utility) does NOT count as an activation, since the player was already active. In other fresh biz, once players become eligible for in-season signing you will have the option to sign them for a max of four years. In addition, the salary cap has been increased to $400 and there is no longer a keeper limit. This means you could sign a smaller number of all-stars, an entire roster of cheap players, or some combination therein. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014



BOSTON, MA--With the NHL playoffs churning full steam ahead, it's time to reflect on the season that was--The Year of the Kwijibo. Led by the dynamic goaltending of Carey Price and a steady stream of bone-rattling hits from Hartnell, Gudas and Associates, the California Kwijibos outlasted Wolfsburg, Stuttugart and Sparta Praha en route to their first World Hockey League championship. The supremely balanced Kwijibos walloped their opponents in all facets of the game, finishing the 2013-14 season ranked 2nd in total fantasy points from goalies, 2nd in fantasy points from skaters and 2nd in points derived from hits and blocked shots. General Manager Paul Zeman and the Kwiji Kings owned four of six most productive weeks from a fantasy standpoint, all of which coincided perfectly with the WHL playoffs. Fittingly, one of those four weekly records just happened to be the highest-scoring week of the season--178.4 points back in late March. And as if that wasn't impressive enough, the Kwijibos also boasted the top day and top month of the season, 57 points on January 28th and 667 points in the month of March, respectively. 

Following in the footsteps of Indiana Jones, Paul was faced with three trials during his pursuit of the Holy Grail. Though perhaps not the penitent man (see ungodly hit totals), Zeman indeed followed in the footsteps of greatness and showed his worth. California's first trial was a 183-138 thumping of eight seeded Wolfsburg, a particularly heartbreaking loss for Vipers GM Mike Greeley considering that his 138 points would have bested any other first round team if not for home ice advantage. The second trial saw the Kwijibos advance to face fellow Californian GM, Joshua Deitell and the crafty Stuttgart Scorpions in the semifinals. Zeman was up to the task, posting the most points among all playoff teams for a second consecutive week, winning 177-142. With two trials down, thus began an all-out war against three-time champion Sparta Praha. To illustrate just how close this series was--and once more discounting the home ice bonus, California out-scored Sparta in seven of the 14 days, Sparta won six of its own, and the remaining day ended in a tie. When the dust finally settled, California had actually scored five fewer points than the runner-up Spartans, but a prolonged stretch of regular season dominance and tenacious support from a committed fan base were ultimately the deciding factors.
"You have to respect every team you face when you go into a playoff," explained Zeman to Pierre MacGuire at a dimly-lit sweat lodge in Saskatchewan. "They all did the dirty work to get to the same point as you and each round everyone starts at zero so anything can happen. We had sixteen or seventeen games missed by players due to injuries which didn't help our cause but guys stepped in and we essentially won by a single even strength goal. I am also a firm believer that if it weren't for the support of our fans, and the home ice advantage that brings, that we couldn't have beat such a stalwart opponent."
Conventional wisdom says that most championship teams are built through the draft, and that trades tend to be reserved for addressing injuries, shipping defective parts out of town, or for trying to push ones team over the top with a star player or two. Or in California's case, six. The Kwijibos made waves with two pivotal trades--one in early January which reeled in Martin St. Louis, Dustin Byfuglien and Blake Wheeler from the Mount Vernon Blades, and the other in early March when Zeman managed to pry away Jarome Iginla, Zdeno Chara and Johan Franzen from the Porter Pirates. On the flip side, California had to part with promising youngsters Vladimir Tarasenko and Tomas Hertl to acquire such a king's bounty of rental players, but the stars clearly aligned for Zeman. 

For all the ruffled feathers over those trades, however, the reality is that the Kwijibos had pieced together the core of its championship roster before the first puck fell. With Price, Halak and Mikko Koivu already under contract, Zeman stepped up the draft podium last September and procured players that would go on to play pivotal roles in his cup run. Dustin Brown in the 1st, who would later be used to acquire Logan Couture from CSKA Moscow. Andrew Ladd in the 2nd round, who finished as California's 2nd most valuable skater and 4th most valuable player overall. Hartnell in the 3rd, who placed just ahead of Ladd as the Kwijibo's MVP skater. Jordan Stall in the 5th--Cali's fourth most valuable skater. Radko Gudas in the 6th, Ryan Murray in the 8th (later traded to Montreal for Shane Doan), and who can forget Zeman making WHL history by drafting fellow GM Josh Deitell in the 11th? ... Hey, you can't win 'em all.
"This year was a personal best with my first win in both playoffs and point totals. A big turnaround from last years 17th place standing," said Zeman. "I got real lucky with a couple of draft selections such as Hertl and Gudas, as well as some fortuitous trades, which enabled me to win it all and for that I am grateful. Big thank you to everyone for the challenge and hope to continue the tradition."

While California's 2014 season ended with banners and confetti, the Kwijibos have traveled a relatively rocky road since breaking into the league in 2009. Working backwards starting with last season (2012-13), Zeman's clubs placed 17th, 3rd, 10th, and 3rd, putting the franchise in a position to buck the see-saw trend in 2014-15. For all of the ass-kickery this year, however, such a California dream was not a foregone conclusion. Tom Lusty and the Saginaw Spirit appeared to be runaway Cup favorites for most of the 2013 portion of the season, at one point sitting atop the standings for 74 consecutive days and building a 72-point advantage over the Kwijibos in late December. All summers must fade, however, as Zeman bided his time--swapping first and second place with the Saginaw multiple times before finally crushing their spirits for good on January 31st. 

Broadcasters everywhere will be thrilled to know that the Kwijibos genuinely did all of the little things to earn their first cup. The championship series was billed as a tour de force between the two top-hitting clubs in the league, and boy did it deliver. 167 penalty minutes were amassed over the final two weeks, including a league-high 113 in the first week of the series. On top of that, California managed a 220-181 edge in total hits thrown, thanks in large part to the beastly Scott Hartnell and new brute on the block, Radko Gudas. While Hartnell's antics and multi-category contributions are well documented, Gudas burst onto the scene this year and established himself as one of the most physically imposing forces on the ice by racking up 152 Pims, 114 shots, 138 blocks, and--brace yourself--273 hits on the season (including 50 over the final 15 games).
"We had been targeting Hartnell since last season and expectations were high after drafting him in the 3rd round," reflected Zeman. "Gudas was a guy that not everyone knew at the beginning of the year. One of the GMs even commented WHO? when Gudie was selected in the sixth round, which makes me smile because they are certainly aware of him now. If you combined PIMs, blocked shots, and hits I believe that Gudas is number one in that category. He was sixth in PIMs and tied for third in hits and when you combine those types of numbers you have a player that no one wants to face."
When physical prowess and ample offense weren't quite enough, Carey Price played the Shepherd. In sum, 14 goalies made at least one appearance for the Kwijibos over the course of the season, but Price was the constant, and easily the most valuable piece on California's chessboard. Price tied for second in the league with six shutouts on the season and was third in average points per game among players with at least 20 GP. In the playoffs Price continued to excel by providing two shutouts and seven wins. Between the pipes during the Championship Final, neither Kwijibo (6-6) nor Spartan (5-5) goalies cracked .500 in the win column, but the key difference was Cali's three shutouts to Sparta's one--including a 41-save gem from none other than Carey Price on April 12th.
"Carey is the ultimate player," said GM Paul Zeman. "Price is an amazing teammate who gives his all game in and game out. He was hurt for a few weeks after the playoffs and it was during this period that the Kwijibos had a rough time of things and started to struggle a bit in the standings, so it is easy to say that Price is the heart and soul of this team."
Just up I-95 in the WHL's birth state of Maine, Portland Pints GM Colin Smith surely cursed the hockey gods after a hot finish came too little too late. Smith's Pints racked up more fantasy points than any other team in the month of April, including an impressive 322 points in the 3rd place series against Stuttgart. As fate and general shit luck would have it, that not-so-pint-sized point total would have easily dispatched Sparta or California over the final two weeks, but c'est la vie in the world of playoffs. Despite another disappointing finish for the perennial contenders, this was the second-best finish in Portland's franchise history after placing 2nd last year and averaging just shy of 5th (4.71) place since the league's genesis in 2007. Looking ahead to next season, Smith's Pints will once again have a stellar core to draft around. Top 10 goalies Kari Lehtonen and Sergei Bobrovsky will return, as will Portland's leading scorer, Sidney Crosby, who enters the final year of his favorable contract, along with fellow centerman Nicklas Backstrom and rising star, Mikael Granlund. 

With so much action packed into the playoff bracket this year, it was easy to overlook some quality hockey being played among the consolation ranks. Ty Ladd's Canadiens de Montreal were carried by sensational goaltending from top-rated Semyon Varlamov, and understudies Karri Ramo and Robin Lehner. In the quarterfinals against Tayutic Team Rasta, Montreal tenders stopped a ridiculous 349 shots--roughtly 150 more than any other consolation team, and 130 more than any other playoff team. In the semifinals against West Palm Beach, les Canadiens "cooled down" a bit with 205 saves--100 more than his direct competition and second only to California in total saves that week. In the consolation final against Altoona, Ladd's offense emerged as a major factor, racking up 26 assists to Altoona's six, while Ladd's goalies once again out-dueled the competition in total saves, 212-204. The future looks bright in goal for Montreal, with the services of both Varlamov and Lehner retained through 2015-16. 

The first ever Restricted Free Agent auction wrapped up during the last week of April. While just four players ended up changing jerseys, a handful of interesting bids were placed. Continuing his trend of bold acquisitions, Mount Vernon Blades GM Chet Merola stepped up with a $90 offer sheet to Ryan Miller, adding some much-needed stability to Mt. V's rebuilding efforts. The Brooklyn Cyclones elected to put Wayne Simmonds out to pasture, who promptly signed a two-year, $87 deal ($42/$45) with the Altoona Angry Beavers. The champion Kwijibos also got in on the RFA action, scooping up goaltender Jake Allen on a one-year, $6 contract. Beernuts GM Joe Mastrangelo, who was also in pursuit of Allen's services, instead settled on another young goaltender, Jhonas Enroth for $3. Forwards J.T. Miller and Filip Forsberg also garnered interest, but were both retained by their original owners for $5 and $3, respectively. Not bad for our first attempt, which certainly makes a case for the possibility of an expanded auction in the future once Dyanst Mode is achieved. 

Looking ahead at what's next for the World Hockey League, league Commissioners will be exploring options to slightly decrease the value of goalies, per the last league poll which indicated that most owners think goalies are slightly overvalued in our league. The particulars are still in the works, but rest assured that provisions will be made for owners that already have goalies under contract. In that same survey, strong interest was also expressed in transitioning the WHL to a dynasty format, which will mean more keepers, a shorter draft, and bigger salary cap heading into the 2015-16 season (not next season, but the following). Details are in the works, and again, it's business as usual this summer heading into 2014-15. On a personal note, I would like to echo some of what our league champion recently said in his epic e-mail rant. Thanks to everyone who left it all on the ice this year. You guys are indeed awesome and you make it worth putting effort into the league year round. 

Enjoy the rest of the NHL playoffs and have a great summer! 

Destruction leads to a very rough road
But it also breeds creation
And earthquakes are to a girl's guitar
They're just another good vibration
And tidal waves couldn't save the world
From Californication
- Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Californication"



BOSTON, MA—Mere hours after learning that his team would be without the services of Dustin Byfuglien (and possibly Andrew Ladd and Jarome Iginla) for the rest of the year, free agent acquisition Ilya Bryzgalov gave GM Paul Zeman a much needed reason to smile by positing his second shutout in as many games. The California Kwijibos and Sparta Praha entered part deux of the Championship series separated by less than two points, and it's highly unlikely that this will be the final swapping of the series lead. Meanwhile, Portland and Stuttgart continue to duke it out for 3rd place, and les Canadiens de Montreal and Altoona Angry Beavers have advanced to compete for the consolation crown and the fist overall pick. All prize money will be distributed on the morning of Monday, April 14th in the following denominations: $300 for Playoff Champion, $200 for Playoff Runner-Up, $200 for Total Points Winner, $100 for Playoff 3rd-Place Finisher, and last but not least, $100 for Consolation Bracket Winner. 

Fighting for Inches 
After crushing it for most of March, and most of the regular season for that matter, California and Sparta did not live up to expectations in the first half of the Championship final. The Kwijibos mustered just under 126 points last week after finishing in the 160-170 range in each of the previous three weeks. Sparta didn't fare much better, crossing the half way series mark with a scant 1.6 point advantage over the top seed. Carey Price wasn't bad by any means, but the most productive goalie for Paul Zeman's gang last weeek was Anders Nilsson, who now sits firmly on the waiver wire. Meanwhile, Prague's crease wasn't quite as barren as in previous weeks, as Cory Scheider bounced back with a cool 20 fantasy points through his last three starts. Dampening that performance, however, was Craig Anderson's inexcusable lack of focus and intensity which manifested itself in a delicious .877 save percentage over the last seven days. 

Compounding the Spartan's week 1 struggles was Steven Stamkos being held to just one goal and nine shots through four games, along with P.K. Subban registering an ugly -4 with zero points and Evander Kane's uninspiring play resulting in the 22-year old being a healthy scratch on a crucial Saturday night. California also had its share of disappointing performances in round one of championship play, with the likes of Martin St. Louis and Shane Doan continuing to fire blanks, however, the Kwijbos did see a return to form from Mikko Koivu, who combined with Blake Wheeler and Francois Beachemin for just under 30 points last week. When all was said and done, California out-shot and outhit the Spartans last week, but things just didn't go as planned, for either team, between the pipes. 

Home Cookin' Saving Portland's Bacon 
Despite being out-scored by Stuttgart in the first leg of the battle for 3rd place, Colin Smith's Portland Pints enter Week 2 with roughly a 14-point series lead thanks to their double digit (17) home ice advantage. The familiar saying goes that a team's best players need to be at their best during the biggest moments of the season, and Portland's stars were exactly that last week. Last week's WHL points leader, Sergei Bobrovsky, and Kari Lehtonen combined for a hefty 45 points, with both tenders averaging over 5 fantasy points per start. Driving the boat on offense, Sidney Crosby and Nicklas Backstrom have been phenomenal down the middle, racking up a combined 22.9 points over the last seven days. Stuttgart's goalies have been just a shade less spectacular in the bronze bonanza, despite strong single outings from Jonathan Quick and Marc-Andre Fleury. What is truly keeping Josh Deitell's stingers alive is their youthful spark-plug offense led by Tyler Seguin, Charlie Coyle, Nathan MacKinnon and Taylor Hall. Stuttgart's 45 points last week (17 goals, 28 assists) was far and away the best mark among the four remaining playoff teams. Taylor Hall in particular has been white hot lately, dishing out the most fantasy points among skaters over the past week. 

And Then There Were Two 
Persistent Vezina-worthy goaltending from Semyon Varlamov and appropriate spikes in production from real-life Canadiens Brian Gionta and Alex Galchenyuk have propelled Ty Ladd's Canadiens de Montreal past the top-seeded West Palm Beach Rangers and into the consolation Final. Like countless playoff teams before them, Montreal was carried through by inspired play between the iron despite being out shot and outscored in the series with West Palm. Meeting Montreal is Joe Dahms and his unrelenting band of Angry Beavers. At the core of Altoona's semifinal victory over the Porter Pirates was a quintessential WHL performance from forward Brandon Dubinksy, who unloaded 18 shots and 20 hits last week. Meanwhile, versatile forwards Ryan Garbutt and Curtis Glencross continue to fill in admirably for the injured Patrick Kane and Matt Duchene. Moving forward against a hot Montreal club, however, Pekka Rinne will need to recapture some of the magic which made him an elite goalie in 2012. 

Taking Shape 
With just six teams maintaining a pulse in the 2013-14 season, the 2014 Draft Order is falling into place. The consolation winner and runner-up (Montreal of Altoona) will draft first and second, respectively, followed by West Palm (3rd), Porter (4th) and Tayutic (5th) to round out the top 5 picks. Lokomotiv Yukon will draft 6th overall, followed by Brooklyn (7th), Mount Vernon (8th), New Jersey (9th) and CSKA Moscow (10th) to complete the top ten. Wolfsburg will pick 11th, followed suit by Beantown (12th), Saginaw (13th), and Boston (14th). The final four teams to approach the podium in the first round will be the 3rd place runner-up (Stuttgart or Portland), followed by the 3rd place winner, the championship runner-up, and finally, the 2013-14 WHL Champion. 

Ready Your Bids 
Starting one week after the conclusion of our playoffs, we will be holding our first ever auction for Restricted Free Agents (RFAs). As previously mentioned, an RFA is any player that was on a contract entering this season, but is not yet under contract for next year. Rules are fully defined in the rulebook, and you can see a full list of RFAs in its own tab in the keeper doc, but here's a condensed timeline to help you prepare: 

Monday, April 14th - Sunday April 20th 
Teams will be free to resume making trades and may sign players to protect them from reaching the auction. While participation in the auction is encouraged, it will not be required, so this will be an important week for owners that want to focus on signing their own RFAs before the bids start rolling in. 

Monday, April 21st - Sunday April 27th 
* All transactions and contract signing will be frozen for one week. During this week, owners will be able to submit up to two blind bids through Survey Monkey. 
* Placing a bid is essentially submitting an offer sheet for a one-year contract, which will be binding if successful. The minimum bid is the player's final keeper cost, and one bid may be conditional on not receiving the other player. 
* Owners will have the opportunity to extend a winning bid to 2 or 3 years by however much the bid exceeds the Y1 cost. For example, if a player would be $20/$25/$30 and you bid $22, your options would be one year for $22, two years for $22/$27 or three years for $22/$27/$32 (+2 each year). 
* Original owners will have 48 hours to match the highest bid on any of his RFAs. 
* All bids will be revealed on Wednesday morning, April 30th. Once all bids are announced, owners will be free to resume trading until the keeper deadline in late August. 

Good luck to all remaining combatants! 

Sunday, April 6, 2014



BOSTON, MA—The WHL Championship series is afoot and four surviving teams in the consolation bracket continue to battle for draft position and a cool, crisp c-note. As ten owners can now attest, the world of head-to-head playoffs is riddled with pitfalls. Among them, blood-boiling cold spells, sudden injuries and illnesses, and inexplicable production from chumps on the other team. Most of the match-ups were competitive heading into this past weekend's consolation quarterfinals, but two teams in particular really stole the show: Ty Ladd's Canadiens de Montreal and Joe Dahms' Altoona Angry Beavers. 

C'est Magnifique: Canadiens goalies played out of their minds last week, racking up a staggering 349 saves--easily tops among all playoff teams and nearly 200 more stops than any other consolation club. Breaking down those 349 snags, pad stacks and waffle board stops, Semyon Varlamov chipped in a respectable 105, while Finnish netminder Karri Ramo, widely considered an afterthought in a mid-season trade, contributed a league-high 133 saves last week. All in all, Canadiens goalies stopped over 93% of shots faced throughout the quarterfinals. Considering such a dominant performance in the crease, it's easy to overlook a noteworthy offensive performance from Tomas Tatar, who scored twice as many fantasy points as any of his fellow Canadien skaters last week, with the lone exception of deadline acquisition Craig Smith, who notched a respectable 9.2 fantasy points in four games. Montreal now takes on the West Palm Beach Rangers in the consolation semifinals. 

Beaver Fever: After a tumultuous season regular season for Altoona, Dahmsie's Beavers have been a model of consistency in the month of March. Altoona posted between 122-129 points in each of the last four weeks, and their 154 shots on goal in the quarterfinals were second second only to a team that is now playing for the title. It might not sound surprising to point out that Jeff Skinner (15) and Brent Seabrook (11) played significant roles in reaching such a lofty total, but how about Ryan Garbutt and Dmitry Kulikov stepping up with a combined 25 shots last week? Before March began, the Beavers hadn't cracked 100 shots on goal in a week since mid December. And then--fully consumed by Beaver Fever, Altoona easily cleared 100 in all four weeks of March, including 140+ in each of the first three. However his season ends, Joe Dahms has the heart of a warrior. 

Pirates Stun Yukon: Timely offensive outbursts from Jordan Eberle and Ryan McDonaugh helped first-year GM Bill Fyler and the Porter Pirates upset Lokomotiv Yukon by less than two points. Prior to this humbling defeat, Darryl Scharr had led his Yukon pack to 1st place finishes in 2012 and 2013. In other consolation action, Ryan Callahan and the Mount Vernon Blades were unable to keep their Round 1 mojo alive against Henrik Lundqvist and Bob Guarascio's West Palm Beach Rangers. With 10 teams now eliminated (and using Most Improved standing since January 1st as a tiebreaker for teams that were knocked out simultaneously), draft order is starting to take shape for Tayutic (5th), Lokomotiv (6th), Brooklyn (7th), Mount Vernon (8th), New Jersey (9th), Moscow (10th), Wolfsburg (11th), Beantown (12th), Saginaw (13th), and the Beernuts (14th). The top four and bottom four picks are still being determined on the ice, and of the four remaining consolation teams, only Altoona, Porter, and Montreal still possess their first rounders. 

Battle for Bronze: Following their respective semifinal losses to California and Sparta, the Stuttgart Scorpions and Portland Pints are locking horns for third place. Continued heroics from Gustav Nyquist (11 goals in 9 games) and late-round splashes from depth skaters Matt Martin and Alexei Emelin weren't enough to help Stuttgart reach the summit of Mt. Kwijibo. Josh Deitell's crew, who upset heavily favored Sainaw in the quarterfinals, carried an impressive lead into last Thursday's games, but would eventually run out of rocks for his sling. Meanwhile, Colin Smith and the Portland Pints fought tooth and nail against Sparta Praha in the second consecutive playoff meeting between the two commissioners. Between games on last Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, Portland managed to recoup 17 points, but ultimately fell just short, also losing by 17 points sans H.I. advantage. The 3rd place goalie match-up pitting Kari Lehtonen and Sergei Bobrovsky against Jonathan Quick and Marc-Andre Fleury figures to be far more competitive than the goalie duel in the Final. Other key players to keep an eye on in this series include Nathan MacKinnon for Stuttgart, who will see increased ice time down the stretch in real life with Matt Duchene on the shelf, and Mikael Backlund for the Pints, who has more shots on goal over than past 15 days than all other Portland skaters not named Crosby. 

And now for the Main Event! Stamkos vs. Price, Subban vs. Byfuglien, Landeskog and E-Kane vs. Hartnell and Ladd. All signs are pointing to these next two weeks being an absolutely brutal affair. Brutal, in the sense that potential exists for a prolonged Creed-Balboa slugfest, or, just as conceivable, one team could explode out of the gate and never relent. Oh yes, pucks will be snared, bones shattered, twine tickled (eww), maybe we'll see a streaker or two. Whatever happens, it should help tide you over under the Stanley Cup playoffs kick off. 

Clear Edge in Cali Crease: The average WHL team has accrued roughly 365 points from goalies this season. California entered the Championship Final with 539, or 173 points above the league average. Sparta, meanwhile, woke up on Monday with just 267 points from its tenders, or, 98 points below league average. Conclusions will differ, but any unbiased conversation about the "best goalie in the world today" is going to involve California workhorse, Carey Price. His peripheral numbers don't sparkle as much as those belonging to Saginaw's Tuukka Rask, for example, but consider this: Price's real life team has scored nearly 40 fewer goals than Boston has for Rask, and Carey has just two less wins. The Kwijibos boast a truly elite goaltender--one that leads all WHL goalies in points over the last two weeks, plus another guy named Jaroslav Halak, as if Goliath needed lifts in his shoes. At the other end of the sheet, Cory Schnieder simultaneously remains the future of Spartan goaltending, yet stuck in the shadow of Hall of Fame shoe-in, Martin Brodeur. The reality is that Prague hasn't had a bonafide starting goalie for an entire season since Ryan Miller in 2011. Schneider and Craig Anderson have been solid at times this year, vanilla at others, and a fortuitous late-season boost from Thomas Griess likely won't be enough to keep up with the Joneses. 

Meat and Potatoes: So, California has the definitive advantage in net, while the Spartans carry an edge on offense after pumping out a league-high 18 goals and 173 shots on goal in the quarterfinals. Still, this is the magical land of playoffs where randomness abounds and the margin between an outpouring of offense and a porous defense is razor thin. Like countless cup contenders before them, where these two powerhouse teams exhibit similar qualities is in the trenches. When it comes to throwing hits, blocking shots, winning face-offs and generating offense from the blue line, California and Sparta are cut from the same cloth. Praha technically has doled out more hits and blocks this year, but the difference thus far in the postseason has been marginal. Both teams throw their weight around and aren't afraid to make the sacrifice play, giving further reason to believe that this series will be an all-out war of attrition.

Sunday, March 30, 2014



BOSTON, MA--Mid way through the World Hockey League semifinals, the list of Championship hopefuls has been whittled down to the two New England-based Commissioners and the two GM's living in California. Josh Deitell's Stuttgart Scorpions are hanging tight as they seek a second consecutive upset, while Sparta's high powered offense looks to stay hot against the hungry and more balanced Portland Pints. Following their Round 1 victories in the consolation bracket, Mount Vernon and Brooklyn have advanced to play top-seeded West Palm and second-seeded Altoona, respectively, while the six most-improved teams in 2014 have entered the fray after a week 1 Bye. 

Early Exit for Saginaw: Led by the hot hands of Gustav Nyquist and staunch goaltending from Jonathan Quick, the Stuttgart Scorpions piled up 62.4 points last weekend en route to a massive quarterfinal upset over the #2 ranked Saginaw Spirit. Josh Deitell's dark horse crew outscored the favored seed in goals and assists and kept it razor close in all other categories. The Spirit, meanwhile, struggled to find its legs despite being a regular season juggernaut. Perhaps most frustrating for Saginaw faithful was a pair of miscalculated goalie starts (or non-starts, rather) from veteran GM Tom Lusty, which led to a combined 17.6 points being left on the bench from stalwarts Roberto Luongo and Tuukka Rask. A truly disappointing and surprising fate for a team that owns half of the season's top ten daily points records. 

Commissioners March On: No team's goalies made fewer saves in the quarterfinals than those between the pipes for Sparta Praha. Unfortunately for Beantown fans who were pining for some genuine ball busting, Nate Asdourian was unable to take advantage of the sparsely populated Spartan crease, registering a first round low-100 shots on net through the first week of postseason play. To put that into context, the top 8 playoff teams averaged 143 shots on goal in Round 1. 

It didn't quite come down to the home ice advantage bonus, but Portland's quarterfinal series with the Boston Beernuts was incredibly tight. Colin Smith's Pints tied Wolfsburg for most goalie wins in the opening round and was dominant in the faceoff circle--a hallmark of the Pints franchise. Similar to the regular season, Joe Mastrangelo's Nuts were paced by Alex Ovechkin, Corey Perry and Steve Mason, but were ultimately done in by an uncharacteristically porous outing from Viktor Fasth. The Beernuts now turn their attention to locking up core pieces such as Boone Jenner and Evgeny Kuznetsov. 

Consolation Needed in Moscow:Timely offense from leading scorer Wayne Simmonds and a 14-point shutout from Evgeny Nabokov proved to be too much for injury-depleted CSKA Moscow, as Mike Zecca's Brooklyn Cylones emerged from its first round skirmish with a mere 0.8 point margin of victory. Erik Karlsson remained awesome and Mathieu Perreault stepped up for Nate Fournier's hard luck club, which was without starting goalie Ondrej Pavelec as well as Cam Fowler and Jonathan Huberdeau for the entire first round. In other consolation quarterfinal action, Chet Merola's Mount Vernon Blades came alive on the backs of newly-acquired Rick Nash and Derek Stepan and dispatched the significantly favored New Jersey Wall Flowers. Mario Zecca's Flowers outshot the Blades 124-101, but this one boiled down to goaltenders. 317 saves were made during the WTF-MVB series, second only to 352 saves between California and Wolfsburg. 

Vipers Show Bite in Loss: Before our playoffs began, this series had all the makings of a first round slaughter, but the result was anything but. If you discount the home ice advantage bonuses, Mike Greeley's Vipers amassed more points during the quarterfinals (137.7) than any other playoff or consolation team, except, of course, the damn Kwijibos. What's a team to do when their PED-laden opposition racks up a whopping 165 points? No other team has cracked 160 puntos in a week this season, and the truly scary part is that wasn't even California's best outing. During the final week of our regular season, the Kwijibos pumped out a staggering 178 points, which unofficially has to be a league record. Short of Jonathan Bernier being healthy and weaving a few miracles, there really isn't much more that Wolfsburg could have done in this one. Deadline acquisitions Joe Thornton and Dustin Brown performed as advertised, and Vanek was Vanek, but in the end, admirable gave way to indomitable. 

Semifinals Underway: There's certainly a lot to love about this west coast affair between top-ranked California and seventh-seeded Stuttgart. Carey Price and Jaro Halak vs. Jon Quick and Marc-Andre Fleury is a marquee goalie matchup at no mistake. On the skater front, Andrew Ladd continues to be the straw in the Kwijibo cocktail, followed closely by two red hot contributors that you might not expect given the bevy of talent on this Cup-favorite roster--Scott Hartnell and Radko Gudas. 

For Stuttgart, Gustav Nyquist has been dynamite in the postseason with six goals in Round 1, and two thus far in the Semis. The former UMO Black Bear leads all skaters in fantasy points over the past seven days and, at this pace, will easily perform beyond the pay grade of his new two-year, $25 contract. After California's 181.84-point outburst last week and a seasons worth of good fortune, the sharp sting of karma may be in the cards. Meanwhile, in the Commissioner's brawl, Colin Smith's Portland Pints entered the semifinals with hearts ablaze and lingering memories of their quarterfinals loss to the Spartans in 2012. This matchup of perennial contenders is sure to entertain and figures to be a nail-biter to the bitter end. 

Game on! 

Tuesday, March 25, 2014



BOSTON, MA--At long last, World Hockey League playoffs have arrived! For just the second time in seven years, WHL managers will duke it out head-to-head style for cash prizes, draft positioning, and summertime bragging rights. Before delving into match-up previews, lets recap how the next month will go down. First, the money. The total pot is 900 bucks, with $300 going to the playoff champion, $200 to playoff runner-up, $200 to the total points winner, $100 to the 3rd place finisher, and $100 to the last team standing in the consolation bracket. That's right--the consol winner gets a nice, crisp c-note in addition to the first overall pick in September, so keep fighting till the bitter end, Kingslayer! 

As for the playoffs themselves, all 18 teams will compete across two different brackets for the duration of the NHL regular season. The top eight seeds in the overall standings are fighting for their right to party with Lord Stanley, while the remaining ten clubs were seeded into the consolation bracket by percentage of improvement in 2014. Both ladders incorporate three rounds of play, and draft order for next year will be determined by playoff performance (consolation winner drafts first, Champion drafts last, runner-up second-to-last, etc., with M.I. standings settling all tiebreaker scenarios). Alright, if you need more foreplay, you know where the rule book is. On to the match-ups! 

(1) California Kwijibos vs. (8) Wolfsburg Vipers 
Weekly Average (season): 131.49 (CK) - 114.37 (WLF) 
Last Week: 178.7 (CK) - 131.3 (WLF) 

Talk about the rich getting richer. Not only have the Kwijibos loaded up on elite rental players for the stretch run, but Carey Price is back in action and Jaroslav Halak looks to have pried away the starting job in Washington just in time for the postseason. With so many high profile skaters to keep track of, it's easy to miss that Andrew Ladd quietly led all Kwijibo skaters in regular season fantasy points. Value McStudMuffin. While things couldn't look rosier on paper for the top seed, Mike Greeley's Wolfsburg Vipers open the playoffs with untimely injuries to their top goalie, Jonathan Bernier, and top skater, Chris Kunitz. Until those players are healthy enough to return, the upstart Vipers will rely heavily on David Krejci and Jimmy Howard, as well as newcomers Joe Thornton, Dustin Brown, and Mark Giordano. Gio in particular has been on fire over the last ten games--among skaters, only Jamie Benn has had more fantasy points over that span. This one has the potential to get ugly, but the bottom seed always has a puncher's chance. 

(2) Saginaw Spirit vs. (7) Stuttgart Scorpions 
Weekly Average (season): 127.74 (SS) - 114.54 (SCOR) 
Last Week: 152.2 (SS) - 100.4 (SCOR) 

Perhaps the scariest thing about Saginaw heading into the second season is that no one player has been driving the boat. To be sure, Tuukka Rask and Patrice Bergeron have been the rudder and sail of the U.S.S. Spirit all season long, but Tom Lusty's crew has been firing on all cylinders. Bergy, Backes, Kopitar, Steen, etc. are known quantities, but a real difference maker could be the relatively unheralded Anders Lee--scooped off of waivers on March 5th and has quietly tallied 14 fantasy points over the final five games of the WHL regular season. Meeting the Spirit head-on is Josh Deitell and the Stuttgart Scorpions, a.k.a. Jonathan Quick, Marc-Andre Fleury, and the children of the corn. Tyler Seguin ended our regular season with twice as many shots as any of his teammates--a team that includes fellow studs Nathan MacKinnon, Taylor Hall, Valeri Nichuskin, and Gustav Nyquist. The kids have nothing to lose against a juggernaut foe--a classic first round scenario. 

(3) Sparta Praha vs. (6) Beantown Ball Busters 
Weekly Average (season): 127.65 (SPTA) - 115.49 (BOS) 
Last Week: 129.2 (SPTA) - 120 (BOS) 

For two glorious seasons near the turn of the century, Nate Asdourian and I played goal for the same high school team. Years later, we find ourselves on opposite sides of the puck in the WHL quarterfinals. Everyone knows it's all about timing in fantasy playoffs, and without a clear workhouse goalie at the moment, Sparta will continue to count on Gabe Landeskog, Evander Kane, P.K. Subban, and Zach Parise to carry the mail. The "dark horse" for the Spartans will be Steven Stamkos, who is mere weeks returned from a broken right shin and looking like he won't be 100% until next season. Nathan Asdourian's Beantown Ball Busters, on the other hand, have to like their chances with the current league MVP, Ben Bishop, in net, and man beasts like Ryan Getzlaf and Milan Lucic rolling at a torrid pace. Two lower profile players to keep an eye on in this series: Tommy Wingels and Carl Soderberg. Wingels still isn't a household name despite averaging 2.0 points per night all season long (albeit with Saginaw until recently). Soderberg had a slower start in 2013, but has turned it on recently with a 2.0 average of his own over the last ten contests. 

(4) Portland Pints vs. (5) Boston Beernuts 
Weekly Average (season): 124.27 (PINT) - 119.60 (NUTS) 
Last Week: 140 (PINT) - 126.9 (NUTS) 

When his #1 goalie doesn't play at all the week before the playoffs, it might seem strange to claim that the stars are aligning for Colin Smith's Portland Pints. And yet, they totally are. Signs are pointing to an imminent return for Kari Lehtonen, Claude Giroux has averaged over 4(!) points per game over the last 15 days, and Sergei Bobrovsky has only allowed five goals in his last four starts. On top of that, Erik Johnson, Scottie Upshall and Mikael Granlund have been pulling their weight (and then some) for what seems like most of 2014. Also, Sidney Crosby. Things are looking promising in P-town, but Smith--a perennial contender still searching for his first championship, will no doubt remain tight-lipped and cautiously optimistic until the final buzzer sounds. Meanwhile, the Beernuts enter the Cup Crusade riding a massive surge from Steven Mason, Joe Pavelski, and half man-half Yeti, Brent Burns. Joe Mastrangelo's Nuts will have their hands full, but an optimist would say that the likes of Bobby Ryan, Phil Kessel, and Nathan Horton have been suspiciously quiet lately. Just sayin'. 

Top pick up for grabs: While West Palm, Altoona, Porter, Tatutic, Montreal, and last year's champion Lokomotiv Yukon have earned a one week respite in the opening round of the consolation playoffs, the four remaining seeds have no time to rest. The 7th-ranked NJ Wall Flowers have a clear advantage over a struggling Mount Vernon Blades team that hasn't cleared 100 points in a week since mid January. It's no secret that manager Chet Merola has been fully committed to building for the futre, evidenced by selling off his major assets for uber-prospects Tomas Hertl and Vladimir Tarasenko, both of whom are injured as of this writing. While taking one on the chin may be a foregone conclusion, the bright spot for the Blades has been Merola's ability to sign promising players to attractive deals for next year and beyond. 

Speaking of young players with bright futures, NJ's Sean Couturier looks to be finally coming out of his shell after many months of patience from owner Mario Zecca. Corey Crawford, Ben Scrivens, and James Reimer offer a range of options in net, and they will need to be the backbone of Zecca's team as they pursue the 1st overall pick. In the other consolation quarterfinal, #8 CSKA Moscow takes on the 9th-ranked Brooklyn Cyclones in a dust up between two of the WHL's Original Six. Moscow's James Neal might not be out for the season after all, which would lend a much-needed boost with starter Ondrej Pavelec nursing a LBI, and Erik Karlsson trying to carry the entire Red Army on his back. Mike Zecca's Cyclones have been dormant for much of the season, yet they continue to roll out an intriguing lineup with pieces like Ryan O'Reilly, Kyle Okposo, Kyle Turris, and of course, Antti Niemi, who is capable of stealing a consolation round on his own at any given time. 

Deadline Shopping Spree: No doubt inspired by the abundance of trades leading up to the NHL trade deadline, the World Hockey League saw its fair share of bag-packing leading up to its own trade deadline last week. 10 teams got in on the action, shipping out 37 players across 11 deals, and like any good deadline, there was a solid mix of steals, puzzlers, and at least one rage-inducing bombshell. 

Turns out that even the most formidable armies can always use more soldiers. As if acquiring Martin St. Louis, Dustin Byfuglien, and Blake Wheeler back in December wasn't enough, GM Paul Zeman worked some more magic by reeling in Johan Franzen, Jarome Iginla, Zdeno Chara, and Brendan Gallagher at the deadline. All due respect to Mika Zibanejad, Lars Eller and Zach Bogosian, but how Zeman has assembled this All-Star lineup without losing any draft picks is maddeningly impressive. Nate Asdourian's Beantown Ball Busters was another active participant in the shake up dance, parting with key pieces Jonathan Huberdeau, Alex Chiasson and Anze Kopitar in exchange for the enigmatic yet potential-laden Jacob Markstrom, as well as attractive keeper options such as Pavel Datsyuk and Tommy Wingels. We have a youth movement to report in the streets of Montreal. in addition to the previously mentioned Chiasson, Ty Ladd worked the phones like seasoned pro, landing prime keepers Mark Scheifele, Craig Smith, and Alex Galchenyuk. 

As for specific trades, there were so many interesting ones, but one in particular that caught my eye was Wolfsburg dealing Nick Bjugstad and Tim Thomas to Moscow for Joe Thornton and Dustin Brown. I like this trade for many reasons--Mike Greeley sensed a need for a short-term boost heading into a quarterfinals matchup against the Cup Favorite, while Nate Fournier shrewdly acquired a younger version of Thornton in Bjugstad, and a veteran starter in Thomas to give his team some depth in a key position and possibly an edge in the consolation ranks if Lehtonen experiences any complications. Another high-value deal for both parties involved was Saginaw's acquisition of Marian Hossa, Jakob Silfverberg, and Justin Abdelkader from Mount Vernon for Derek Stepan and Rick Nash. Merola netted Nash and Stepan at very reasonable prices for next season, especially Nash, whom most would agree is due for a bounce-back in 2014-15. For Saginaw, Hossa provides obvious short-term value if he can stay healthy over the final month, but the real boon of this trade for the Spirit was freeing up cap space to sign Jordan Schwartz. Game on, good luck, and don't forget to tie down those jerseys.