Rotisserie by the Numbers
Grahame's fantasy value takes big hit in Tampa BayPosted: Tuesday January 14, 2003 5:49 PM
By Craig Rondinone, SportsTicker
Cardinal rule 716 in fantasy hockey -- When a player gets traded, his fantasy value usually goes up. Look for John Grahame to be an exception to that rule.
Grahame was traded from the Boston Bruins to the Tampa Bay Lightning for a fourth-round draft choice this week, and some in the fantasy hockey world moaned and mourned, mostly those who have Grahame on their rosters.
Time and time again, players see their careers, and their fantasy values, get reborn when they slip into a new uniform. This is because the player gets to go to a team that wants him and plans to use him to his fullest potential, something his former team normally cannot say.
Other factors for why switching cities leads to immediate improvement for many players include playing with a better supporting cast, being energized to be with a different organization, and getting additional ice time, especially on the power play.
This season alone, we have witnessed a lot of players who were down on their luck turn into the next Wayne Gretzky, the most notable being Michael Nylander, who went from the doghouse in Chicago to centering the top line in Washington, with Jaromir Jagr riding shotgun.
Jan Hlavac went from being an underused shooter in Vancouver to a solid sniper in Carolina. Jason Woolley went from being a nightly healthy scratch in Buffalo to manning a point on Detroit's potent power play. And Mike Dunham went from being a sieve for Nashville to a brick wall in the nets for the New York Rangers.
Most players get promoted to a much larger role when they get traded. They go from being a fourth-line center to a second-line center or from a little-used defenseman to a backliner who plays 20 minutes a night.
More shifts plus more chances to score generally equals more points -- that is unless your name is Valeri Bure. And for goaltenders, the more games you start, the more games you win and the more saves you make.
But Grahame is taking a step backward. He goes from being a starting goalie in Boston to Nikolai Khabibulin's skate sharpener in Tampa Bay.
You would think having an 11-9-2 record with a 2.71 goals-against average and a .902 save percentage would be good enough to keep you as a No. 1 backstop, not to mention bring back a little more in a trade than a measly fourth-round pick.
Boston began to realize what many around the NHL knew at the onset of the season -- Grahame is just not that good.
After a torrid start where he benefited from the stellar play of the overachieving Bruins, Grahame was beginning to show the same cracks he has shown in parts of the last couple seasons. He was 1-4 with a 3.81 GAA and .875 SP in his last five contests and had begun sharing more and more time with Steve Shields. He also was having problems with giving up bad goals and losing his temper.
More importantly, with the Bruins in the middle of a horrendous slump, Grahame did not have one spectacular game where he stood on his head and single-handedly won a contest for his team, something big-time goalies tend to do.
Grahame is an injury-prone hothead who strings together just as many bad streaks as good streaks. It is hard to count on him to be your starting goalie. His consistency, immaturity, medical track record and a career save percentage under .900 beg for him to be a backup.
Tampa Bay looks to be the perfect situation for him to thrive, but his fantasy owners will not thrive with him playing once every two or three weeks.
So Grahame goes from playing twice a week to twice a month. Pity him and his fantasy owners.
He is not the only goaltender affected by this minor little swap, though. Khabibulin now will get some much-needed rest, considering the overused workhorse has played in 40 of the Lightning's 43 games this season. I will be perfectly honest. I don't know who Khabibulin's backup was before the Grahame deal.
Khabibulin has been playing like a man who just ran a marathon with King Kong Bundy on his back. His play has really suffered as the season has wore on and worn him down to a nub of his former self, and his numbers (18-16-3, 2.67 GAA, .907 SP) are only a shade better than Grahame's.
Khabibulin was voted as the Eastern Conference's starting goalie for the All-Star Game, but he has not had as good a season as Martin Brodeur, Patrick Lalime or Ed Belfour. Getting more nights off gives him fewer chances for victories, but his GAA and SP should improve.
Shields also will get a slight boost in his fantasy value, although it only will last until Boston trades for another goalie, which is a hotter rumor going around right now than anything having to do with Justin Timberlake.
Shields has his moments, good and bad, and they will happen more frequently now that Grahame is not around to steal his playing time. Look for Shields to play 70-75 percent of Boston's games over the next month and for him to have a record a little above .500, along with a decent GAA and SP.
Penalty ShotsAnother player who was acquired recently for a fourth-round pick, Boris Mironov, has a much better chance of living up to the old adage of seeing his fantasy value rise now that he is on a different team.
Do not be fooled by the antics that happened this season between Mironov and the Chicago Blackhawks management. The 30-year old can still play. He just did not want to play in Chicago for whatever reason. He has a lot of things going for him now that he is a member of the New York Rangers.
Mironov should be comfortable with fellow Russians Darius Kasparaitis and Vladimir Malakhov protecting the blue line with him. He should also see an ample amount of power-play time once he gets comfortable with the system, since Brian Leetch looks like he will be out a while longer. Playing with Tom Poti, Eric Lindros, Petr Nedved and Co. should translate into points rather quickly.
And besides, he was sitting out in Chicago, and now he is playing regularly with the Rangers. That elevates his fantasy value one million times right there.
The Mario Lemieux Award for excellence at getting injured this week goes to ... Mario Lemieux. The streak is over. After playing problem-free for half a season, the injury bug has bitten Super Mario right in the groin. He missed a couple of games last week, but what is worse is what happened this week.
Lemieux was not scheduled to play Monday night against Boston, but at the last second, he decided to give it a go. Thanks for nothing, pal! He aggravated his injury after playing one period and now will miss a couple more games.
That's wonderful news for fantasy owners who heard he was going to play and put him in the lineup at the last minute and now will get nothing to show for it but a big, fat zero for the week. You see why this weekly award is named after him?
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