Simon Gagne: Frank Franklin II/AP
Though the NHL doesn't officially hand out a comeback player of the year award (the closest thing to such an honor is the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is given to the player who "best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship, and dedication to hockey") here are my top 10 candidates -- sans Sidney Crosby (who missed time with injury last year) -- for comeback fantasy player of the year.
Last year: 25 GP, 7 G, 11 A, 18 PTS, -8, 4 PIMS
This year: 69 GP, 30 G, 39 A, 69 PTS, +22, 34 PIMS
Last year: 35 GP, 10 G, 17 A, 27 PTS, +4, 22 PIMS
This year: 70 GP, 24 G, 39 A, 63 PTS, +23, 24 PIMS
Last year: 37 GP, 4 G, 21 A, 25 PTS, -29, 57 PIMS
This year: 67 GP, 14 G, 36 A, 50 PTS, +9, 46 PIMS
Last year: 63 GP, 26 G, 16 A, 42 PTS, -18, 54 PIMS
This year: 55 GP, 29 G, 41 A, 70 PTS, +25, 77 PIMS
Last year: 74 GP, 20 G, 35 A, 55 PTS, +10, 38 PIMS
This year: 72 GP, 30 G, 47 A, 77 PTS, +17, 30 PIMS
Last year: 71 GP, 9 G, 22 A, 31 PTS, -19, 98 PIMS
This year: 67 GP, 10 G, 33 A, 43 PTS, +20, 106 PIMS
Last year: 82 GP, 19 G, 18 A, 37 PTS, -6, 28 PIMS
This year: 67 GP, 31 G, 23 A, 55 PTS, +19, 16 PIMS
Last year: 35 GP, 19 W, 2.33 GAA, .921 SV%, 4 SO
This year: 55 GP, 30 W, 2.72 GAA, .911 SV%, 3 SO
Last year: 70 GP, 14 G, 17 A, 31 PTS, -4, 30 PIMS
This year: 65 GP, 25 G, 22 A, 47 PTS, +26, 26 PIMS
Last year: 82 GP, 15 G, 37 A, 52 PTS, -4, 28 PIMS
This year: 69 GP, 25 G, 32 A, 57 PTS, +3, 36 PIMS
There will be a pretty decent crop of unrestricted free agents this summer and since I'm in a list mood, here are my top 20 UFA skaters. I've excluded players who seem likely to retire.1. Marian Hossa: Hossa will score wherever he goes but the Wings will likely keep him.
2. Daniel Sedin: He's almost assuredly a package deal with brother Henrik.
3. Henrik Sedin: Could the twins be Toronto-bound?
4. Mike Camalleri: Has really fit in nicely with Flames and is due for a raise.
5. Marian Gaborik: Health issues may scare a lot of teams off.
6. Martin Havlat: Seems to like it in Chicago and now the Hawks seem to like him too.
7. Jay Bouwmeester: It always seems as though is production should be higher.
8. Alexei Kovalev: He's taken too many games off this season.
9. Alex Tanguay: Health issues stalled a solid start with the Habs.
10. Nik Antropov: He's a big man with soft hands. Could be a big score for someone.
11. Jiri Hudler: The Wings want to keep him but can they afford both him and Hossa?
12. Erik Cole: Recent trade home should prove to Hurricanes he's worth keeping around.
13. Bill Guerin: Sidney Crosby will want Pittsburgh to keep him.
14. Brian Gionta: He's likely finished as a Devil after many good years in the Swamp.
15. Petr Sykora: Fits in nicely with Evgeni Malkin. Wouldn?t anyone though?
16. Keith Tkachuk: He'll no doubt resign with St. Louis as a veteran on a young team.
17. Mike Knuble: A consistent 25-30 goal scorer.
18. Robert Lang: A solid second- or third-line center.
19. Victor Kozlov: A Robert Lang in the making.
20. Saku Koivu: Could be the end for the captain in Montreal.
Watching the Toronto-Montreal game Saturday night (still the game's greatest rivalry) the point was made more than once by the Hockey Night in Canada broadcast team that clubs who are out of the playoff race often make for the most dangerous opponents. The thinking goes that, with little on the line, those teams play loose and carefree and relish the opportunity to play spoiler. How else to explain Ottawa's 9-1 mark over the last 10 games? Or Atlanta's 7-3 record? Or Toronto's 5-4-1 mark for that matter? By that logic players on golf course-bound teams are dangerous too. Just look at Toronto's Alexei Ponikarovsky, who has 14 points in his last nine games. Or Atlanta's Todd White with 15 points in his last 11. Therefore, when your league's trade deadline rolls around each year, don't discount a player because his team has struggled to that point. Often, it's those players who perform best down the stretch.
Brendan Witt: Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI
With the golf season in full swing and The Masters around the corner it seems like a good time to take a look at the NHL's race for the green jacket award -- that being the dubious distinction for having the league's worst plus/minus rating.1. Brendan Witt, New York Islanders: -33
2. Rod Brind'Amour, Carolina Hurricanes: -25
T3. Jack Johnson, L.A. Kings: -20
T3. Brad Boyes, St. Louis Blues: -20
T3. Freddy Meyer, New York Islanders: -19
T3. Chris Campoli, Ottawa Senators: -19
T3. Rob Niedermayer, Anaheim Ducks: -19
T3. James Sheppard, Minnesota Wild: -19
Sometimes seen as sidekicks to more heralded teammates, these defensemen have emerged (or are emerging) as the No. 1 fantasy option on their respective teams:
Duncan Keith, Chicago Blackhawks: He's often overlooked with the Brian Campbell on the blue line too, but it's looking like Keith will carry a +30 or better rating for the second straight year and with a career-high 41 points thus far Keith is Chicago's best all-around rearguard.
Brian Rafalski, Detroit Red Wings: OK, Niklas Lidstrom could play with skate guards on and still be Detroit's best defenseman, but Rafalski, with 54 points, has actually outscored his aging partner, who has 50 points.
Dennis Wideman, Boston Bruins: He's been colder than Cruella De Vil lately with zero points in his last seven games, but with 44 points and a +32 rating, it's actually Wideman, not Zdeno Chara, who is the spoke in the wheel that makes Boston's transition game lethal.
Alexander Edler, Vancouver Canucks: Amid a bunch of veterans -- Mattias Ohlund, Sami Salo, Willie Mitchell and Kevin Bieksa-Edler, in just his second full season, trails only Bieksa in points with 32 to Bieksa's 39 but carries a +7 rating to Bieksa's -3. Mitchell leads Vancouver's defensive corps with a +30 rating, but Edler seems destined to be the team's No. 1 blue liner moving forward.