Fantasy Mailbag: Leafs look poised for breakout with Keefe behind bench

New Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Sheldon Keefe, center top, watches the action along with Maple Leafs right wing Kasperi Kapanen (24) as Maple Leafs right wing Ilya Mikheyev (65) heads to the ice during the first period of an NHL hockey game against the Arizona Coyotes, Thursday, Nov. 21, 2019, in Glendale, Ariz. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Big week in the Big Smoke; Alex Kerfoot is back!

In all seriousness, Mike Babcock’s departure and Sheldon Keefe’s arrival to the Toronto Maple Leafs should be viewed as a positive development for disgruntled fantasy owners.

Stop the presses – Tyson Barrie finally scored a goal. By far, the former Colorado Avalanche rearguard stands to benefit the most from the coaching change. In fact, he’s already been promoted to the first power-play unit. The 28-year-old is set to make his return to Denver on Saturday night. That should be fun.

It took Keefe all but a morning skate to make some subtle line changes and alterations to the floundering special teams units. Well, so far so good. In addition to Barrie’s first tally as a Leaf, Pierre Engvall potted a shorty and Auston Matthews slammed home just his second road-goal of the season.

Without question, the 39-year-old rookie bench boss will look to familiarity for a helping hand. He’s already coached a good chunk of this roster in the American Hockey League with the Marlies. Watch out for William Nylander. Ditto for Andreas Johnsson and Kasperi Kapanen, among others.

On top of that, I’d expect a different philosophy when it comes to the backup goalie utilization. To be blunt, Kasimir Kaskisuo or whomever won’t be hung out to dry when starting. Unbelievably, the Leafs have yet to notch a point in a game not started by Frederik Andersen. That needs to change or they’re not going anywhere this season.

From a Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool perspective, it’s time to start dressing Maple Leafs again. The breakout is coming soon.

Now to your questions:

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Q: Do I try and trade Brayden Point in a Yahoo! standard league? Is his hip nagging him still or does he turn it around?

At this point and time, Brayden Point is an excellent buy-low option. That window is closing rapidly, however, especially with Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov banged up right now.

By Point’s standards, I’d chalk it up merely just as a slow start. That’ll change in a hurry.

Unless someone is willing to pay a hefty price, stick with Point.

Q: I got offered James Neal for TJ Oshie… should I take it?

In terms of value, that’s a pretty fair deal for both sides.

For you, it all comes to categorical needs. Oshie will provide you with more assists and points as well as a better overall plus minus. Neal is a power play beast who shoots the puck a ton. I also think that it’s inevitable that he’ll find his way back onto the first power play unit.

Obviously, that’s prime terrain with the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisitl waiting in the wings.

Assess and then act.

Q: Why does everyone I trade for get hurt?

Again, it’s been a bad luck year for injuries. Hang in there, my dude. Just know that you’re not alone. There are many feeling your fantasy hockey pain right now. Stay positive!

Q: Mike Hoffman, Vincent Trocheck, Zach Parise, David Krejci, how do you rank them for most points?

1. Mike Hoffman

2. Vincent Trocheck

3. David Krejci

4. Zach Parise

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Q: Is Martin Necas here to stay in the show? If so, what point total to you see by year end?

Love me some Martin Necas. Sadly, that Cale Makar kid in Colorado is stealing all the rookie spotlight right now.

Considering his bottom-six deployment and minimal power play usage, the 20-year-old Necas is off to a very solid start.

I’ll be curious to see how he adapts once teams make adjustments. A fair expectation is probably 15-20 goals and around 50 points. I think the Carolina Hurricanes and Necas would be happy with that. Fantasy owners should be too.

Q: What’s your take on Denis Gurianov as a long-term fantasy player? He’s intriguing because he’s quite unknown and has played well on the Dallas Stars’ second line.

You’re right, the 2015 first-rounder has flown under the radar and has played well so far in the early season. He’s a fantastic daily fantasy option.

When the Stars do get healthy, I’ll be interested to see how Jim Montgomery lays out his lines. There’s a lot of fire power in Dallas.

Q: Should I drop Carter Hutton for Mackenzie Blackwood in a league where the only goalie stats is number of wins?

Personally, I’d hang onto Hutton.

Even despite this recent swoon, I still believe much more in the Buffalo Sabres than I do in anything the New Jersey Devils have put forth to-date. Something is off in Newark. In Buffalo, we’ll see how good of a coach Ralph Krueger truly is over the next couple of weeks. They’re in trouble too.

Don’t forget that Blackwood is only 22 years old. Growing pains are expected.

I prefer Hutton.

Q: Is it worth having three healthy goalies on a roster?

Yes, I think it is.

Quite frankly, it’s always been a strategy of mine to carry three competent crease options. In general, the position is as volatile as ever.

With all the time share situations these days, you almost need to have more than the two to stay afloat. Far gone are the days of Martin Brodeur making 75 starts – that’s for sure.

Go depth or go home!


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