This year, the general consensus surrounding the Top 5 for Hockey Pools seems to be:
1. Sidney Crosby
2. Steven Stamkos
3. Evengi Malkin
4. Alex Ovechkin
5. John Tavares
And, it's pretty hard arguing with those five choices.
The question is: Who to draft in the 6th position? (Let us assume "regular" Yahoo Fantasy Hockey Categories: G, A, Pts, +/-, PIM, PPP, GWG, W, SO, GAA, Sv%).
First, we have to decide which strategy to take. Should we:
a.) Draft "traditionally", and pick up another one of the "big centers" out there? (Toews, Kane, Giroux, Staal??).
b.) Pick up a goalie, and try to lock down the goalie categories?
c.) Pick up a D - due to positional rarity - and settle for a "2nd tier" Center (Ribeiro, Staal, Zetterberg) when it comes back around?
There is room for some debate here. But, I personally feel that you have to go with strategy A. Simply put - Centers are strong in 7 categories while defencemen and goalies are good for only 4. Again, there is room for some debate here; but for the purpose of this article, we will look at drafting traditionally - let's draft us a "big center".
...And that "Big Center" has to be...
It was "only" a year-and-a-half ago that Giroux was being touted by Peter Laviolette as the "best player in the world". But now, looking at the overall rankings on most Pools, Claude Giroux is ranked at a rather pedestrian 16th overall. It seems as though the mighty has fallen.
But, I personally think that Giroux is going to rebound in a big way in 2013-2014. Here's why:
First of all - and it's easy to forget - Giroux had a great season last year. 13G, 35A, 48pts in 48 games. 7th in the league in PPP. A healthy 137 shots on goal. This, despite his team's "dismal" performance all season long.
Second of all, Giroux is THE go-to guy in Philly. Philly is going to rely on this guy heavily all season long - that means tons of ice-time, power-play time, high-pressure situations. There is a good chance that every goal that Philly scores this season will have Giroux involved. Philly scored 132 goals last season; Giroux had 48 points. Therefore, Giroux was involved in a goal every time Philly scored 2.5. You gotta like those odds.
Also, let's not forget about Shooting Percentage. Giroux shot at a 9.5% - very low - and a full 2 percentage points lower than his career average. What's 2%? Well, Giroux had 137 shots last season - if we "boost" his shooting percentage up another 2%, Giroux suddenly has 3 more goals in the half-season (6 more during the course of a full season).
Let's look at this: Giroux had on average 2.85 shots per game. Over the course of the season, that's roughly 230 shots (in itself a healthy total). At an 11% success rate (shooting percentage), Giroux should score about 25 goals in 2013-2014. Add to that an extrapolated 60 assists (0.75 Assists per game over the course of his career); and Giroux should finish up with about 85 points in the season.
85 points and a veritable lock for the Top 5 in PPP. Plus, this is the go-to guy. He will be leaned on. That means that the sky is the limit - Giroux is very likely a risk worth taking. But, is he worth a Top 6 pick?
Let's talk about the negative side. Giroux did worry us slightly with his -7 in 2013. So, let's ask this question: Will the Flyers be better in 2013-2014 than last year?
The answer is: Sure. Why not? Really, they couldn't do much worse. They have a goalie now who "might" be able to stop more than 80% of the pucks that are thrown his way.
How about injuries? Scottie Hartnell had an absolutely awful season last year. So bad in fact - so far off of his "average" - that it would be criminal to even suggest that Hartnell will not bounce back. Hartnell should be on everyone's "trending upwards" list; and if he's on the list, so's Giroux.
Vincent Lecavalier should help shoulder some of the scoring burden as well; opening up more key ice-time moments for Giroux. Giroux should be able to get more minutes vs. the other team's 3rd defensive pairing.
And, how about Mark Streit? Have you ever seen this guy play? For my money, Mark Streit is the most underrated defenseman in the league. He was an absolute monster during his time in Long Island. Can Streit do for Giroux what he did for Tavares? Sure. But actually, does he even have to??
The major negativity surrounding Giroux is his finger. All reports say that he will miss most of training camp. Now, most Yahoo and Hockey Pool Pundits out there will have you believe that missing Training Camp is bad news - that this tarnishes Giroux's value slightly. Well, the truth is: It does, and it doesn't. Giroux probably won't miss a single regular season game. And, you know what? Even if he misses 2-4 coming out of the gate - so what? (Is anyone able to say that John Tavares for example will play a full 82 game schedule??).
In fact, EVEN BETTER. Most Poolies will be laying off of Giroux for this exact reason. Which is a mistake.
Now, do yourself a favour, and YouTube Giroux highlights. He is sick. Just watch his skating, his stick-handling, and his overall competitiveness. This is a guy you want on your team.
In conclusion, in my humble opinion, who should you pick in the 6th position? Claude Giroux. I feel that Claude Giroux is a slam-dunk lock for the 6th overall pick in this year's Hockey Pool Draft. Heck, it looks now like you might even be able to get him in the 10 position. Take a minute and think about it - because I could be wrong. But then, who else?