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Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The Thin Blue Line: Busted

By Victoria Matiash
Special to ESPN.com

With a quarter of the NHL season in the rear view mirror (where does the time go?), it's fair occasion to serve up a mini, non-exclusive list of current fantasy duds. Not only have the following defensemen not lived up to what was expected of them, but the immediate future doesn't look much glossier.

So, in acknowledgement of the American Thanksgiving holiday, a quartet of fantasy turkeys, if you will. No matter how fancifully you dress 'em up, the meat is still dry and there's not a drop of gravy in sight.

Pavel Kubina, Lightning: Sure, the Tampa Bay Lightning are winning hockey games but, in terms of personal production, Kubina can't take much of the credit. The 33-year-old veteran appears to be a shell of his former fantasy self with merely six points to date. Considering Kubina was good for a point every couple of games over the past three seasons, that's a big drop. In terms of available assets on the Lightning blue line, Victor Hedman and Brett Clark (see below) are your better bets.

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

Erik Johnson, Blues: Asked to take on more of a defensive role with the St. Louis Blues this season, Johnson's production has suffered significantly. With five points in 19 games, Johnson is due to improve his numbers somewhat, but not enough to merit a spot in the top 30. It's also worth recognizing fellow blueliner Carlo Colaiacovo has nearly twice as many points in seven fewer games.

Jason Demers, Sharks: Too much pressure? A bit of bad luck? Or a combination of the two? Whatever the case, Demers just seems a bit spooked at this stage. The San Jose Sharks have given the young sophomore every chance to find his scoring groove and he's still stumbling. And now we're hearing Demers is nursing an undisclosed upper-body injury. Consider him day-to-day until further notice.

Zach Bogosian,Thrashers: Peeking out from under the shadow of the formidable Dustin Byfuglien/Tobias Enstrom duo, Zach Bogosian may be the biggest fantasy disappointment of them all. Yes, he's only 20, but this is his third year with the Atlanta Thrashers in the NHL and, by reputation, he has the tools to be a top-notch defenseman. Three points and a minus-8 in 15 games is hardly top-notch. As long as Byfuglien and Enstrom are healthy, you won't get much out of Bogosian this season.

Rising and Falling

Kevin Shattenkirk, Avalanche (debut at #64): Kevin Shattenkirk is succeeding with the Colorado Avalanche where fellow rookie Jonas Holos fell short. An early November call-up -- and unlike Holos, who was given a similar opportunity earlier -- Shattenkirk is shining as an offensive threat from the blue line. With four points, including three on the power play, in his past four contests, the young fellow some call "Captain Kirk" is making a serious impression. Furthermore, and perhaps most importantly, head coach Joe Sacco is really sweet on him. As long as Shattenkirk doesn't rest on his laurels, rest assured, this 21-year-old will remain in the NHL.

Ryan Whitney, Oilers (up three spots): You need assists? This guy will get you assists. A remarkably consistent contributor, we now find ourselves mildly surprised when Ryan Whitney's name isn't on a score sheet. Leading the Edmonton Oilers in points with 17 (all helpers), Whitney puts in monster minutes game in and game out. Outside of goals, he offers the complete fantasy package.

Brett Clark, Lightning (up seven spots): The Lightning have trucked out Brett Clark on the top power-play unit for a while now, but the defenseman has only recently taken advantage in terms of personal production. With four points in his past six games, including three with the man-advantage, Clark is morphing into a solid, if not sexy, fantasy asset. And as Sean Allen points out in this weeks' Forecaster, Clark is available in nearly 93 percent of ESPN.com leagues.

Key injury notes:

• Badgered by an irksome hip issue, Mike Green in not 100 percent. However, after leaving Monday's game in the third period, Green is expected to suit up for the Washington Capitals on Wednesday.

• After missing two recent contests (again) with a nagging lower-body injury and attending the birth of his first child, Ryan Suter may be back for the Nashville Predators on Wednesday. Suter has only played eight games this season.

• The New York Rangers are hoping to have Michal Rozsival, out since Nov. 9, back in the line-up sometime over the weekend.

• Nursing an undisclosed lower-body injury, Adrian Aucoin didn't suit up for the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday. We're still awaiting word on how much more time, if any, the veteran blueliner is expected to miss.

Power Play Performers

Skating Yannick Weber as a fourth-line forward, the Montreal Canadiens want to use the young defenseman on the point during the power play. Recently called up from the AHL, and blessed with a dangerous shot, Weber could make some fantasy noise if he adapts. Keep an eye on this 22-year-old.

Victoria Matiash is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com