Print and Go Back ESPN.com: 2011 [Print without images]

Wednesday, November 10, 2010
Thin Blue Line: Sabres in spotlight

By Victoria Matiash
Special to ESPN.com

Any wise participant in the realm of fantasy sports will tell you one key to success is the willingness to make adjustments without prejudice. Just because Player A was a superstar last year doesn't ensure a similar performance this season. Conversely, even though Player B's history may lack fantasy sparkle, that doesn't mean he can't bring something to the table, if only for a while, under the proper circumstances. Which brings us to the case of Tyler Myers and Jordan Leopold of the Buffalo Sabres.

Tyler Myers
Tyler Myers has not scored a point in his past five games, and is a minus-3 in that stretch.

There's no argument: Myers is having a horrendous sophomore year. After blowing our socks off in '09-'10 with 48 points, the towering 20-year-old has merely four points and is a minus-12. Icky stuff. On the flip side, Myers' teammate Jordan Leopold is on pace for the most productive season of his career. Despite poor play from the Sabres as a whole, the 30-year-old has nine points in 15 contests while averaging over 24 minutes per game. That merits a good deal of respect, and Leopold's owners should enjoy the production while it lasts.

However, this situation is worth monitoring closely. As dire as it seems at the moment, Myers has the talent (and stature) to emerge from this slump, especially since coach Lindy Ruff continues to run him out more often than not when the Sabres have the extra skater. And Leopold, who is playing for his fifth different team since 2008, may eventually fall back to hitting the score sheet once every three games or so, as was his habit. Maybe he'll finish with 40-plus points, but it isn't likely. Particularly since the Sabres are in the market for another offensive-defenseman.

One last item: Defenseman Steve Montador may have also caught your attention by performing beyond his fantasy pedigree with the Sabres, but be wary. Although Montador has eight points this season, he may very well only earn another dozen or so before April rolls around, especially if the team acquires another body for the blue line. Montador's penchant for penalty minutes does add value, but outside of acting as temporary filler for a vacant roster spot due to injury, he remains an asset in only the deepest of leagues.

Top 75 Defensemen

Note: Victoria Matiash's top 75 defensemen are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play points, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.

1. Mike Green, Was (2)
2. Duncan Keith, Chi (1)
3. Zdeno Chara, Bos (3)
4. Dan Boyle, SJ (4)
5. Chris Pronger, Phi (5)
6. Christian Ehrhoff, Van (6)
7. Drew Doughty, LA (7)
8. Andrei Markov, Mon (8)
9. Nicklas Lidstrom, Det (10)
10. Sergei Gonchar, Ott (9)
11. James Wisniewski, NYI (12)
12. Lubomir Visnovsky, Ana (13)
13. Tobias Enstrom, Atl (14)
14. Alex Goligoski, Pit (15)
15. Tomas Kaberle, Tor (11)
16. Bryan McCabe, Fla (16)
17. Kimmo Timonen, Phi (17)
18. Shea Weber, Nsh (18)
19. Dustin Byfuglien, Atl (21)
20. Ryan Whitney, Edm (19)
21. Stephane Robidas, Dal (20)
22. Alexander Edler, Van (27)
23. Joni Pitkanen, Car (24)
24. Erik Johnson, StL (22)
25. Jack Johnson, LA (32)
26. Anton Stralman, Cls (26)
27. Jay Bouwmeester, Cgy (25)
28. Niklas Kronwall, Det (28)
29. Kris Letang, Pit (35)
30. Ed Jovanovski, Pho (37)
31. John-Michael Liles, Col (30)
32. Michael Del Zotto, NYR (29)
33. Marek Zidlicky, Min (31)
34. P.K. Subban, Mon (33)
35. Dennis Wideman, Fla (39)
36. Joe Corvo, Car (41)
37. Brent Burns, Min (34)
38. Pavel Kubina, TB (36)
39. Brian Rafalski, Det (50)
40. Victor Hedman, TB (38)
41. Mark Giordano, Cgy (44)
42. Brian Campbell, Chi (43)
43. Kurtis Foster, Edm (49)
44. John Carlson, Was (45)
45. Paul Martin, Pit (42)
46. Brent Seabrook, Chi (46)
47. Tyler Myers, Buf (40)
48. Keith Yandle, Pho (54)
49. Zach Bogosian, Atl (47)
50. Dennis Seidenberg, Bos (52)
51. Matt Carle, Phi (48)
52. Alex Pietrangelo, StL (55)
53. Kevin Bieksa, Van (51)
54. Ryan Suter, Nsh (53)
55. Francois Beauchemin, Tor (56)
56. Cody Franson, Nsh (57)
57. Ian White, Cgy (58)
58. Dion Phaneuf, Tor (23)
59. Michal Rozsival, NYR (59)
60. Erik Karlsson, Ott (71)
61. Roman Hamrlik, Mon (62)
62. Jordan Leopold, Buf (65)
63. Matt Taormina, NJ (60)
64. Carlo Colaiacovo, StL (61)
65. Jason Demers, SJ (63)
66. Adrian Aucoin, Pho (64)
67. Cam Fowler, Ana (66)
68. Filip Kuba, Ott (68)
69. Brett Clark, TB (70)
70. Andy Greene, NJ (67)
71. Cam Barker, Min (69)
72. Jamie McBain, Car (72)
73. Anton Babchuk, Car (73)
74. Matt Niskanen, Dal (74)
75. Daniel Girardi, NYR (75)

Rising and Falling

Brian Rafalski, Detroit Red Wings (up 11 spots): With one reasonably healthy game in the books, you can reassure yourself that Brian Rafalski is in good form. After undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery and missing a month, Rafalski returned to the Red Wings lineup on Monday and notched an assist. Even though he only logged a little over 15 minutes of ice time, nearly three of those were spent on the power play alongside old buddy Nicklas Lidstrom. All is well; expect the 37-year-old vet to get more ice time when the Wings host the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday.

Keith Yandle, Phoenix Coyotes (up six spots): The Coyotes didn't fret over Yandle's lackadaisical start to '10-'11, and the 24-year-old has rewarded them since. He has three goals and two assists in his past seven games, including three power-play points. And no one on the Coyotes' roster gets more minutes with the man-advantage. If he wasn't a minus-6, Yandle would be a fantasy dreamboat.

Paul Martin, Pittsburgh Penguins (down three spots): The novelty of joining a new organization may have worn off a smidgen. After earning seven points in his first seven games, Martin has seen his production dry up significantly. Before collecting an assist against the Coyotes on Saturday, Martin was sporting the goose egg through seven straight contests. In all reality, the ex-New Jersey Devils blueliner isn't as good as he was in his first couple of weeks and not as awful as his last two would indicate. Martin is a good fantasy player, but not a great one. Alex Goligoski and Kris Letang have the most value on the Penguins' blue line.

Key injury notes:

• According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, the Minnesota Wild's Marek Zidlicky is expected to miss Thursday's tilt against the Atlanta Thrashers as he nurses a nagging leg injury that forced him to sit out last Saturday's 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

• Although there's no set date for his return, Ryan Suter practiced for about half an hour with the Nashville Predators on Tuesday morning. Suter suffered a lower-body injury on Oct. 18 and hasn't played since. "I feel good," he told The Tennessean. "It's still sore, but it's getting better. Hopefully I'll be back soon." At least there's progress.

Potent Pairings

Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen, Philadelphia Flyers: See? A bit of worry for nothing. Immediately after enduring attention in this space for lackluster play through most of October, Pronger and Timonen returned to their old scoring ways. It just goes to show, often a slump is just that, a slump; and all that's really needed is a bit of patience. In the past six games, Pronger has four points and 10 penalty minutes, while Timonen has seven points and a plus-4 rating. What's more telling is that seven of their combined 11 points were collected with the man advantage. These two make up one seriously dangerous duo on the Flyers' top power-play unit.

Power Play Performers

Finally, Kurtis Foster is shrugging of a sluggish start and finding his rhythm with the Edmonton Oilers. After posting a single point in his first half-dozen appearances, Foster has averaged a point per game in his past six contests. A true power-play specialist, Foster won't ever log monster minutes, but he often garners more bang for your fantasy buck. Four of Foster's seven points were earned with the man advantage.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com