The Ramapithicines (logo not available)
L: Morrow, Bondra, Rucinsky-P3, Bouchard-P2, Brown-P1
Morrow is a nice blend of PIM and points who scrapes by to qualify as a #1. Bondra has lost the otherworldly speed he used to possess and is now a stationary sniper for the pp. Rucinsky could rebound big-time if he stays on Jagr’s line in NY – more likely, he’ll end up in the 40 pt range. Bouchard has great skill and could be playable, but barely. Dustin Brown isn’t ready yet, but given his tool-box he won’t be denied for long, concussions or no.
C: Zhmanov, Rolston, Bell, Legwand, Vasicek-P3, Kraft-P2
The cavemen pivots are, in a word, UGLY. Zhamnov is already hurt, sparing me the need to comment further about his propensity for long term injury – and he is the Ramapithicine’s BEST centre-man. Rolston plays in Minnesota, ‘nuff said. Bell is on the slow track for power-forward status – but that has been a VERY slow track. Maybe he’ll ‘get it’ this year, but I don’t see it. Legwand has speed to burn, but is running out of chances to be anything more than a less tough version of Scott Walker. Vasicek holds promise, but Staal’s emergence may have derailed his ice-time in offensive situations (still, he’s rolling for me in my NHL 2004 franchise squad). Kraft is a total bust. Surely we can say that now.
R: Palffy, Zednik, Afinogenov, Dvorak, Lupul-P2
Palffy is a points machine when healthy and a solid #1. Zednik is already hurt, but a safe bet for 25 goals when he isn’t. Afinogenov started out nuclear, but has yet to put a dressable season together - it’s official, he really isn’t the second coming of Pavel Bure. Dvorak is 4th line material at best, and a WD casualty in any case. Lupul has goalscorers hands, and should be a future contributor.
D: Chara, Zubov, Ozolinsh, Stuart, Van Ryn, Numminen, Boumedienne, Markov, Phillips-P2, McCarthy-P2
A better top 5 probably doesn’t exist out there. Chara is still a monster, Zubov still a pp god, Ozolinsh is still inconsistent, but getting the points, Stuart is still emerging as a true #1 (though the wait is probably killing him), and Van Ryn could be the heir apparent in Florida, Bouwmeester or no. The rest are filler, with Phillips having some potential as a +/- guy, and McCarthy spending another year on the farm honing his offense.
G: Turco, Hedberg
How much will Turco miss Derian Hatcher and Richard Matvichuk? We’ll see I guess. Till then, he’s still a solid #1, higher than all but one or two other choices, with a pronounced downside if Dallas’ D turns cheese grater.
Total rating: 14.5