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Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Front Line: What's wrong with Havlat?

By Sean Allen
Special to

On Oct. 13, I focused on two players in this space: Marian Gaborik and Martin Havlat. To sum up the column quickly, my thinking was that both new situations for Gaborik and Havlat would give them the incentive to play at the top of their game and avoid injury, which in turn would mean both their names would be near the top of the scoring race.

Well, Gaborik is in and out of the No. 1 position among forwards on the ESPN Player Rater since Alex Ovechkin yielded ground with an injury, and Havlat sits 246th among forwards. So I guess I deserve a pat on the shoulder and a punch in the face for those calls. (Although I will point out that I have been touting Gaborik all along, as evidenced in our Sleepers and Busts from the draft kit. Yet I implore you to ignore my preseason love for Kris Russell.)

But this is not meant to single out Gaborik at this point. I want to know what is up with Havlat. Before this season, he scored 0.84 points per game. Take out his rookie and sophomore seasons, and he scored 0.94 points per game in 325 contests from 2002-03 to 2008-09. You would be right to point out that he has played only 325 games during that span, but we all know about his troubled injury history. That is not the point here. Right now, frustrated Havlat owners have a healthy player who just isn't producing.

So what's the trouble? You usually can pin vast underperformance from a player still in his prime on one of three things: linemates, coaching or hidden injury.

I don't think it's coaching. I'd like to think the run-and-gun offense that Minnesota Wild coach Todd Richards is trying to install, learned from his time as an assistant with the San Jose Sharks last season, is a good fit for Havlat. No one has called him defensively adept, so being able to play with some abandon should be a good fit as far as team styles go.

It could be linemates. Havlat has had his choice of linemates this season, as he went through the top six looking for chemistry and found none. He certainly doesn't mesh with the strong combination of Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette, which unfortunately leaves little opportunity to add a player with top-end skill. The Wild do lack an elite two-way forward who would be a good fit for an all-offense player like Havlat. Andrew Ladd and Dave Bolland both made good linemates for Havlat with the Chicago Blackhawks last season thanks to those qualities. Still, the Wild have thrown everything they have at Havlat and nothing has stuck, so you wonder whether he could find chemistry with anyone.

Which leaves the possibility that he is playing hurt. He missed two contests in mid-October with a strained groin (Gaborik's modus operandi), so perhaps he is still not 100 percent having taken only a week off to heal. Of course, we can't know whether this is the case, unless someone happened to clock Havlat's pre-strain and post-strain speed. I will note that pre-strain he had five points in five games, and post-strain he has three points in 13 games. Which one sounds more like the Havlat we know?

Whatever the case, Havlat is fantasy poison at the moment with a minus-13 and no production. I don't think I would recommend going after him at this point in hopes he'll turn things around unless (A) the Wild find a two-way forward for him to work with (Benoit Pouliot, anyone?) or (B) he takes more than a week off with "another" groin strain.

Top 100 skaters

Note: Sean Allen's top 100 forwards are ranked for their expected performance in standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that already have been accrued. ESPN Fantasy standard stats include goals, assists, power-play goals, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Was (1)
2. Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (2)
3. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pit (3)
4. Dany Heatley, RW, SJ (4)
5. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Det (5)
6. Rick Nash, LW, Cls (6)
7. Marian Gaborik, RW, NYR (8)
8. Mike Richards, C, Phi (7)
9. Zach Parise, LW, NJ (10)
10. Jeff Carter, C, Phi (9)
11. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (13)
12. Joe Thornton, C, SJ (11)
13. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Was (12)
14. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (24)
15. Alexander Semin, LW, Was (14)
16. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anh (15)
17. Bobby Ryan, RW, Anh (16)
18. Corey Perry, RW, Anh (17)
19. Jarome Iginla, RW, Cgy (18)
20. Henrik Zetterberg, C, Det (20)
21. Patrick Marleau, C, SJ (21)
22. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (22)
23. Brenden Morrow, LW, Dal (23)
24. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Atl (30)
25. Henrik Sedin, C, Van (26)
26. Ryan Smyth, LW, LA (28)
27. Eric Staal, C, Car (25)
28. Marc Savard, C, Bos (19)
29. Scott Hartnell, RW, Phi (29)
30. John Tavares, C, NYI (35)
31. Alexandre Burrows, C, Van (32)
32. Vaclav Prospal, C, NYR (34)
33. Chris Kunitz, LW, Pit (31)
34. Devin Setoguchi, RW, SJ (33)
35. Brad Richards, C, Dal (36)
36. Mike Cammalleri, LW, Mon (37)
37. Paul Stastny, C, Col (38)
38. Travis Zajac, C, NJ (39)
39. Daniel Alfredsson, RW, Ott (41)
40. Mike Knuble, RW, Was (27)
41. Jonathan Toews, C, Chi (42)
42. Brooks Laich, C, Was (44)
43. Tomas Holmstrom, LW, Det (43)
44. Dustin Penner, LW, Edm (49)
45. Nathan Horton, RW, Fla (40)
46. Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB (45)
47. Loui Eriksson, LW, Dal (50)
48. David Clarkson, C, NJ (51)
49. Shane Doan, RW, Pho (46)
50. Mikko Koivu, C, Min (48)
51. Patrick Sharp, C, Chi (52)
52. Patrik Elias, LW, NJ (53)
53. Milan Hejduk, RW, Col (59)
54. Olli Jokinen, C, Cgy (47)
55. Brian Gionta, RW, Mon (55)
56. Tomas Plekanec, C, Mon (56)
57. Teemu Selanne, RW, Anh (58)
58. Scott Gomez, C, Mon (60)
59. Martin St. Louis, RW, TB (61)
60. Ryan Malone, LW, TB (69)
61. Mike Ribeiro, C, Dal (62)
62. Alexei Kovalev, RW, Ott (57)
63. Thomas Vanek, LW, Buf (71)
64. Ryan Kesler, C, Van (67)
65. Jason Arnott, C, Nsh (68)
66. David Booth, LW, Fla (63)
67. Milan Lucic, LW, Bos (66)
68. Jakub Voracek, RW, Cls (65)
69. Ales Hemsky, RW, Edm (72)
70. Dustin Brown, RW, LA (87)
71. Wojtek Wolski, LW, Col (73)
72. Daniel Sedin, LW, Van (85)
73. Rene Bourque, LW, Cgy (74)
74. James Neal, LW, Dal (79)
75. Ryane Clowe, RW, SJ (75)
76. Phil Kessel, RW, Tor (84)
77. Bill Guerin, RW, Pit (76)
78. Marian Hossa, RW, Chi (77)
79. Martin Havlat, LW, Min (64)
80. David Perron, LW, StL (80)
81. Kyle Okposo, RW, NYI (81)
82. Tim Connolly, C, Buf (83)
83. Mikael Samuelsson, RW, Van (86)
84. Andrew Brunette, LW, Min (88)
85. Rich Peverley, C, Atl (NR)
86. Jason Spezza, C, Ott (89)
87. Danny Briere, C, Phi (90)
88. Mike Fisher, C, Ott (91)
89. Blake Wheeler, RW, Bos (78)
90. J.P. Dumont, LW, Nsh (92)
91. Mason Raymond, LW, Van (NR)
92. Kris Versteeg, RW, Chi (93)
93. Brendan Morrison, C, Was (95)
94. Ales Kotalik, RW, NYR (96)
95. Matt Moulson, LW, NYI (97)
96. Derek Roy, C, Buf (98)
97. Jason Pominville, RW, Buf (99)
98. Brad Boyes, RW, StL (NR)
99. Alex Tanguay, LW, TB (100)
100. Justin Williams, RW, LA (NR)

Rising and Falling

Rich Peverley, C, Thrashers (debuts at No. 85): Uncle! I give up. Who cares that he was a role player until being traded to the Atlanta Thrashers last season to suddenly becoming a point-per-game player (58 points in 56 games as a Thrasher)? No one can deny the numbers. With Ilya Kovalchuk back to cement this team as a scoring machine, invest in Peverley at will.

Brad Boyes, RW, Blues (back on at No. 98): After falling off this list with many of his fellow St. Louis Blues teammates, Boyes is back on now that the team has found a line combination that works and is sticking with it. With David Perron and Andy McDonald, Boyes has two goals and three assists in his past three games. He won't score 40, and 30 may even be a stretch, but sticking with those linemates, he has a shot at 25 goals in his remaining 64 games.

Daniel Sedin, LW, Canucks (up 17 spots): Despite some reports, Daniel Sedin did not have a setback in his return from a broken foot. He tried things out in practice and realized he needed a bit more time to tolerate the pain. He could be back as soon as Friday. Use the so-called setback as a way to initiate trade talks with his owner in your league right away.

Steven Stamkos, C, Lightning (up 10 spots): Stamkos' jump into the top 15 is a way to solidify him as one of the game's elite fantasy players. There is little doubt he'll continue tearing away at more than a point-per-game pace and manage to keep his head above water in the plus/minus department. The power-play goals are what put him over the top, though. With six man-advantage tallies already, he will be among the league leaders in an important standard-league category by the end of the season.

Scoring Lines

• The high-performance line of Michael Ryder, David Krejci and Blake Wheeler has been reunited by the Boston Bruins. But until Marc Savard and Milan Lucic return to take away the opponents' defensive focus, don't expect things to start happening. Be prepared for this Bruins team to be pretty good when it's healthy again, though.

• Could Olli Jokinen be on the verge of turning around a dismal campaign with the Calgary Flames? First off, you need to temper any expectations, as his ice time is way down from his time with the Florida Panthers. But you will note his shots-on-goal pace for the season is a terrible 186, while his shots-on-goal pace for the past six games would put him closer to 260. He is back on a line with Jarome Iginla, and now may be the time to buy extremely low.

Brandon Sutter has enjoyed five points in the past six games for the struggling Carolina Hurricanes. Unfortunately, his scoring will come to an end when Eric Staal returns, as Sutter has been centering Staal's wingers, Ray Whitney and Erik Cole.

• Once again I'll point out that the Detroit Red Wings' new line of Henrik Zetterberg, Daniel Cleary and Ville Leino has looked unstoppable. Two of those players are widely available.

• You might have noticed because of his six points in five games, but the New York Islanders have moved Richard Park onto the first line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Kyle Okposo maintains value, though, as he doesn't need to play with a fellow star to score.

• It may take just a little while for Evgeni Malkin to roll again, but he skated with Sidney Crosby and Ruslan Fedotenko as the Pittsburgh Penguins' top line after returning from injury. If it sticks, Fedotenko will be worth owning.

• The San Jose Sharks' original top six are back and rolling. Joe Pavelski should be scooped up if he is still available. He has six points in five games since returning from a lower-body injury.

Paul Szczechura is the latest Tampa Bay Lightning to get a chance to fill out the final top-six opening. He's skated with Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone. In 14 games with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL, Szczechura led the team with 14 points.

Power Plays

Clarke MacArthur has been spotted on the top power-play unit for the Buffalo Sabres with Derek Roy and Thomas Vanek. He has two power-play helpers in his past two games.

• Note that Niclas Bergfors' seven power-play points have come while he has ranked 10th in average power-play ice time for the New Jersey Devils this season and ninth in the past five games. Imagine what increased minutes will do.

• Still getting significant power-play time, Claude Giroux has six assists in six games, with four of them on the man advantage.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for and the 2008 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here