Missing you dearly
By Thomas J. Harrigan, Fantasy Sports Writer
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Last season, defensemen Shea Weber and Ryan Suter combined for 95 points -- 26 goals, 69 assists -- with 364 shots on goal and a plus-36 differential for the Nashville Predators. This season? One point and a minus-4.
What's the difference? The two now play 873 miles apart instead of on the same blue line.
Suter signed with the Minnesota Wild last summer for 13 years and $98 million, while Weber received a 14-year, $110 million offer sheet from the Philadelphia Flyers that was ultimately matched by Nashville.
The split hasn't gone so well for either player.
Weber's stat line is currently bare through five games -- zero goals, zero assists and an even plus/minus. The only positives he has contributed to fantasy owners are 12 shots on goal and 11 penalty minutes.
Suter, meanwhile, at least has an assist with eight shots in four games, but he has a minus-4 on the ice.
Weber was the No. 3 overall defenseman in standard-scoring fantasy leagues last season, while Suter was 11th. This season they rank 42nd and 104th at the position, respectively.
The two blueliners formed an indispensable combination for seven seasons after being drafted in the same class in 2003.
They played together almost exclusively, both at even strength and on the power play. They were deadly together on the latter, combining for 13 power-play goals and 34 power-play assists last season to help the Predators rank first in the NHL in power-play percentage (54 goals on 250 opportunities, 21.6 percent).
This season, Nashville ranks 13th in PP% and Minnesota ranks 23rd.
The problem: Roman Josi is not Suter and Jared Spurgeon is not Weber. At least not yet. Josi and Spurgeon are both young and could step up as a complement to their more accomplished defensive linemate.
Nashville also has 22-year-old Ryan Ellis, the 11th overall pick in the 2009 NHL Draft. Ellis had 29 points (7 G, 22 A) in 61 games between the AHL and NHL last season.
But neither Josi nor Ellis is going to develop Suter's handling and passing ability right away. Weber and Suter built chemistry by playing together for a long time. Nine of Weber's goals were assisted by Suter last season.
If fantasy owners are looking to buy low on one of these players, Suter might be the better choice based on how he fits in on Minnesota's power play.
Even though it has struggled so far, the team's top power-play line of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Dany Heatley with Suter as the lone defenseman should be a formidable one eventually.
Weber, meanwhile, is trying to get things done with Patric Hornqvist, Mike Fisher, Martin Erat and Sergei Kostitsyn on the team's top power-play line. Hornqvist doesn't stray too far from the net and Kostitsyn has barely played on the power play in his career, so the onus is on Fisher or Erat to step up as the top power-play creator with Suter gone.
Suter will also come cheaper than Weber in a trade since he doesn't score that much (or even direct many shots at the net).
Fantasy owners shouldn't give up on Weber that easily, though. He's still a star and can certainly make things happen on his own, especially once his 106 mph slapshot starts finding holes. It's just a matter of learning to play without his buddy for the first time in his NHL career.
After seven seasons together, perhaps we should give these guys a little more than one week of play (after just one week of training camp) to learn to be apart.
01/27 14:40:31 ET