ATLANTA… Now that he’s signed with the Atlanta Braves, Marcell Ozuna couldn’t resist a sympathetic search from CEO Alex Anthopoulos.
“Alex, I have a question for you,” Ozuma said to Anthopoulos on Saturday as they participated in a video conference. “Why didn’t you hire me at the end of the season?”
Instead, the Braves waited a few weeks before spring training to finalize a four-year, $64 million contract with the outfielder, who narrowly missed out on the National League Triple Crown in the 2020 season shortened by the lockout.
The return of the 30-year-old Ozuna guarantees that the Braves, who have won three consecutive titles in the eastern NL, will be among the top contenders for the championship in the new season.
A year ago, they won by losing 3-1 to champions Los Angeles Dodgers in the seven-game series of the Dutch championship.
Having already bolstered the rotation with the signatures of free agents Charlie Morton and Drew Smyly, they made sure their strong team returned largely intact in 2021.
“We have a very good club,” Mr. Anthopoulos said. “We have a world-class club. We need things to go our way and so forth, but everyone on the roster believes we are capable of winning the World Series.”
The Braves knew they wanted Ozuna back, who led the NL with 18 homers and 56 RBIs and was third with a .338 batting average, but they were too slow to act after quickly signing one-year contracts with Morton and Smyly in the early days of free agency.
A few days before Friday’s deal with the Braves, Ozuna was scheduled to play elsewhere in 2021. He had an offer from the Tampa Bay Rays, but he was waiting for something better.
Finally, the Braves got in on the action.
It took only one day to reach an agreement.
“We talked about the contract a day or two ago,” Mr. Anthopoulos said. “It was done very quickly.”
Ozuna, who is not afraid to speak his mind, took the floor and asked why the agreement had not been reached earlier. It was in good faith, but Mr. Anthopoulos said it took time to address the payroll issue, as another season was approaching that would likely be affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“There was a lot of uncertainty at the beginning of the season, both from a team salary standpoint and from an industry standpoint,” he said. “When guys come into free agency, it takes time.”
The Braves also had to consider whether the designated hitter would return to the NL next season. Ozuna thrived in 2020, primarily as a DH. For now, the one-year experiment is out of the question after the players rejected a proposal to delay the start of the regular season.
Unless something changes, Ozuna will start in left field for the Braves, where his defensive limitations will certainly be the focus.
Anthopoulos danced around the question when asked if Ozuna played a full defensive role.
“We feel that when Marcell is in left field, he is solid,” he said. “He has worked hard with all of our coaches so he can continue to be a great player offensively, defensively and in base management.”
Ozuna’s defense may be a problem, but his impact on the Braves’ offense is undeniable.
In his defeat to Freddie Freeman, Ozuna was the main reason why Atlanta’s first baseman won the NL MVP award.
Had Ozuna gone elsewhere, the Braves would have had a huge hole to fill. Now they are back with a team that includes four players who have scored double digits in a 60-game season and are one point behind the Dodgers, who are leading the league.
But Ozuna’s impact goes beyond her impressive numbers. He quickly became one of the Braves’ most popular players, bringing fire to a young and confident team with his various celebrations.
From his mantra of “confusion” to posing for a “selfie” on the basepaths after hitting a playoff homer, Ozuna’s flair was palpable almost every time.
After initially signing Ozuna for $18 million and a year, the Braves were willing to do whatever it took to keep him in Atlanta.
“We needed this season to feel comfortable giving him this contract,” Anthopoulos said. “Wherever we are as a team, wherever he is in his career, wherever we are with what we are, he fits in very well.
Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.
Clearly, the New York Rangers have some things to work out.
Not to mention the passing of Tony DiAngelo, who finished 21st in fantasy points among NHL defensemen last season.
Mika Zibanejad has played between 13 and 35 minutes in four different line combinations this season – only one of which had a Corsi percentage over 50. 11 of the team’s 17 power play points have come from Artemi Panarin and Adam Fox. In the 5-on-5 game, the Rangers scored only 14 goals in nine games, the same number as the Ottawa Senators and Chicago Blackhawks.
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But let’s focus on Zibanejad, because he is the only one who was penalized this week, moving from 9th to 21st place. In 185 minutes of ice time this season, Zibanejad scored a goal and an assist. What would we have thought if he had made the top 10?
Oh, he was there for a reason. Zibanejad has been one of the most effective fantasy players in the NHL over the last two seasons. The only forwards who have surpassed him in Fantasy Points in All Games Played (FPPG) for the entire 2018-19 and 2019-20 season have been Connor McDavid, David Pastrnak, Alex Ovechkin, Leon Draisaitl, Auston Matthews, Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Kucherov.
I could have just said he was eighth among FPPG forwards in the last two seasons, but I felt it important to mention the names before him separately. It’s a dizzying company.
So why the slide now? As Emily Kaplan of ESPN reported last weekend, the Rangers may have been a little overwhelmed last season, and expectations for the club as a whole rose too quickly.
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Is Zibanejad one of the top 10 great players on a Rangers team fighting for the playoffs? Without a doubt. But he’s probably not in that elusive top 10 as the club experiments with the lines and tries to find a new facet to the power play after passing on last year’s quarterback.
When everything returns to normal, Zibanejad is a fantastic monster. But until they get back on track, I’m putting the brakes on.
Forward, in motion
Evgeni Malkin, C, Pittsburgh Penguins (down 13 spots, 57): Why beat around the bush: it’s all about the Penguins’ power play. Malkin’s value will fluctuate depending on the success of the Penguins’ power play. Right now, they have five collective power play targets. To get Malkin into the fantasy top 30, the Penguins already need to be in the double digits. Of course, it’s not very satisfying that Chris Letang missed Monday’s game.
Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals (up 24 spots to 78): How did Backstrom manage to get the team on track when his key teammates were absent for minutes at COVID? Legitimate question. Backstrom’s 8.50 fantasy points per 60 minutes (FPP60) is certainly unusual; last season he conceded 5.88. But I think Backstrom is a fantasy acquisition. If the Caps’ power play can do that much damage without some key players (Alex Ovechkin in particular), they’ll have a good time when they get back to full strength.
James van Riemsdyk, W, Philadelphia Flyers (#191): For the Flyers, it’s hard to know exactly who is leading the offense. Sean Couturier has not helped shape the picture for most of the season. Although he is fourth in the points standings this season, only one lineman has scored more than two goals (and yes, van Riemsdyk is one of them).
Lately, Van Riemsdyk has been working with Scott Laughton and Joel Farabee in what could even be called the team’s third row, but the combo has been successful. But what has really set Van Riemsdyk apart so far is his work on the power play. Although he is a specialist in his role with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Van Riemsdyk missed punch against the Flyers last season. That sounds like a mistake. He has already scored five points on the power play and is part of a 13-point, 10-game winning streak. But, before he moves up, can he stay on the power play after Couturier’s return? And if so, who will?
Defenders in motion
Victor Hedman, D, Tampa Bay Lightning (up 11 spots to 19th): I use FPP60 so often to rate players that ESPN.com has changed the standard game to a rating format that I sometimes forget doesn’t take everything into account. Hedman is a good example of that. So far this season, his FPP60 is a modest 6.88, which is solid. He is 79th among skaters with at least 35 minutes of ice time.
But in a direct comparison, Hedman is tied with Brock Boeser at 6.88 FPP60. One of them played more than 26 minutes per game, while the other averaged 18.43. Notice how FPP60 doesn’t take into account the fact that Hedman plays almost 1.5 times as many minutes as Boeser? So far, Hedman is playing monster minutes for the Lightning, and he’s only making points. Based on the initial results, I expect Hedman and John Carlson to be on their own at the end of the season.
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John Klingberg, D, Dallas Stars (44 pitches, 104): Not so fast, Miro Heiskanen. Clearly, Klingberg will not go quietly into the night. He has taken on the role of quarterback for the Power Playing Stars to launch the campaign. It would be more than fair to put them on your cheat sheets at the beginning of the season. Heiskanen took over this role toward the end of last season and even scored more power play points than Klingberg in their run to the Stanley Cup Final. But so far, the Stars have been champions again with Klingberg.
Keepers in motion
For the second week in a row, I prefer not to point the finger at specific individuals here, but to talk about the overall strategy. While it is too early to make difficult decisions about a goalkeeper, there has also been a lot of time to bench some players. These two statements may be mutually exclusive, but it is a delicate balance.
Players like Igor Shesterkin or Ilya Samsonov should not be thrown into the sea right away, as they still have plenty of time to earn recruiting capital. But you also can’t sit on the hands of Chris Drieder, Kevin Lankinen or James Reimer (especially not Petr Mrazek, maybe for a while). You have to find the balance in your individual fantasy range to make some speculation about goalies while sticking with goalies who have the advantage of being among the best.
Okay, I wish I had a better answer. But I can’t in good conscience suggest that we discard many of the goals we have invested in the project in a few weeks. A team’s defense can improve. Scores can improve. The balance between the two can produce victories that quickly yield fantasy points for the right goalie in the right place.
So hang in there, use your injured reserve to make room for an extra goalie, and be patient.
Unless you have Tristan Jarry. You can serve him.
Neueinsteiger in der Rangliste : James
van Riemsdyk (n° 191), Denis Gurianov (209), Jordan Kiru (210), Kevin Lankinen (211), Chris Driedger (218), Joel Eriksson Eck (237), Calvin Peterson (240), Devon Toews (242), Brian Elliott (248), Carter Verhedge (249), Tyler Motte (250).
Missing are Paul Stastny, Ty Smith, Connor Murphy, Noah Dobson, Hampus Lindholm, Thatcher Demko, Casey DeSmith, Alex Tach, Jordan Greenaway.
Dylan Strome, Derek Stepan, Nico Hischier, Robert Thomas, Tony DeAngelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, Noah Hanifin, P.K. Subban, Linus Ulmark, Matt Murray, Reilly Smith, Maxime Comtois, Alex Yafallo, Christian Dvorak are absent.
Top 250 Fantasy-Hockey-Rangliste1
2.Nathan McKinnon, C, Oberst (C2)
6.AustinMatthews, C, Thor (C4)
7.StevenStamkos, C, TB (C5)
9.MitchellMarner, RW, Tor (RW2)
10.John Carlson, D,Wsh(D1)
11.AndreiVasilevsky, G, TB (G1)
12.BradMarchand, LW,Bos (LW3)
14.Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (RW3)
15.SebastianAho, C, Maschine (C6)
17.ArtemiPanarin, LW, New York (LW5)
18.Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (C7)
19.VictorHedman, D, TB (D2)
20.Brent Burns, D, SJ (D3)
21.MikaZibanejad, C, New York (C8)
23.John Tavares, C., Tor (C10)
24.MikkoRantanen, RW, Col (RW4)
25.Blake Wheeler, RW,Wpg(RW5)
26.JakeGuentzel, LW, Pit (LW6)
29.Ryan Nugen-Hopkins, C,Edm(C11)
30.Patrice Bergeron, C,Bos(C12)
32Taylor Hall, LW,Boothe(LW7)
33Kyle Connor, LW,Wpg(LW8)
35.BraydenPoint, C, TB (C13)
36EliasPettersson, C, Van (C14)
37IvanProvorov, D, Phi (D6)
39Mark Stone, RV,Vgs(RW7)
40TravisKonecny, RV, Phi (RW8)
41CaleMakar, D, Oberst (D7)
42JeffPetrie, D, Mon (D8)
43AndreySvechnikov, LW, Auto (LW9)
44JT Miller, C, Wang (C16)
46. Carter Hart, G, Phi (G5)
47.AnzeKopitar, C, LA (C17)
48.FrederikAndersen, G., Thor (G6)
49.PhilippGrubauer, G., Oberst (G7)
50.GabrielLandeskog, LW, Col (LW10)
52.DougieHamilton, D, Auto (D10)
53.Cary Price, G, Mo (G8)
54.ErikKarlsson, D, SJ (D11)
55.RyanPulock, D, New York (D12)
56BoHorvath, C, Wang (C18)
57EvgenyMalkin, C, Pete (C19)
58.IgorShesterkin, G, New York (G9)
59.AntonKhudobin, G, Dal (G10)
60.Darnell Nurse, D,Edmar(D13)
62MorganRilley, D, Thor (D14)
63SemyonVarlamov, G, NYI (G12)
64ChrisLetang, D, Pete (D15)
65Seth Jones, D,Cls(D16)
66Sean Couturier, C, Phi (C20)
68Jamie Benn, LW, Dal (LW11)
69Logan Couture, C, SJ (C21)
70Thomas Chabot, D,Ott(D17)
71Tyson Barry, D,Edm(D18)
75Dylan Larkin, C,Det(C22)
76MatthewBarzal, C, New York (C23)
79T.J.Oshie, RW,Ush (RW9)
80Quinn Hughes, D, Wang (D19)
82.Shea Weber, D, Mon (D20)
83KirillKaprizov, LW, Min (LW13)
84Ryan Ellis, D,Nsh(D21)
86TeuvoTeravainen, RV, Auto (RW11)
87JohnnyGaudreau, LW,Cgy (LW15)
89WilliamNylander, RW, Tor (RW13)
90ThomasHertl, C, SJ (C26)
91JacobTrouba, D, NY (D22).
92. BradyTkachuk, LW,Ott(LW16)
93.Evander Kane, LW, SJ (LW17)
94.DarcyKemper, G, Ari (G16)
95.AlexDeBrincat, LW, Chi (LW18)
96.ChrisKreider, LW, NYR (LW19)
98.Pierre-Luc Dubois, C,Wpg(C27)
99.BrockBoozer, RW, Wang (RW15)
102Brian Rast, RW, Pete (RW16)
104JohnKlingberg, D, Dal (D24)
106.Ryan O’Reilly, C,StL(C28)
107.JakeMuzzin, D, Thor (D25)
108JoePavelski, RW, Dal (RW18)
109.Jared Spurgeon, D, Min (D26)
110Claude Giroux, LW, Fee (LW20)
111ZachParadise, LW, Min (LW21)
113RyanSuter, D, Min (D27)
116Drew Doughty, D, LA (D29)
117Nick Suzuki, C, Mo (C29)
118TimoMeyer, RW, SJ (RW19)
119.Mackenzie Blackwood, G, NJ (G20)
120.AlexanderEdler, D, Van (D30)
121Shea Theodore, D,Vgs(D31)
122OndrejPalat, LW, TB (LW23)
125Sam Reinhart, RV,Boothe(RW20)
128MikhailSergachev, D, TB (D35)
131Tom Wilson, RW,Ush(RW23)
132.Sean Monahan, C,Cgy(C30)
134MiroHeiskanen, D, Dal (D37)
137Cam Talbot, G, Min (G22).
138. VictorOlofsson, RW,Buf(RW24)
139Adam Fox, D, New York (D39)
140Thomas Tatar, LW, Mon (LW25)
141.JacobCichrun, D, Ari (D40)
143.Mike Hoffman, LW,StL(LW26)
144.John Gibson, G, Ana (G24)
145.AlexisLafreniere, LW, New York (LW27)
146Oliver Ekman-Larsson, D, Ari (D41)
147MattDumba, D, Min (D42)
148KevinFiala, C, Min (C31)
149.Josh Morrissey, D,Wpg(D43)
151.Tanner Pearson, LW, Wang (LW28)
152.Brendan Gallagher, RW, Mon (RW25)
153.Cam Atkinson, RW,Cls(RW26)
154NazemKadri, C, Col (C33)
157Mark Giordano, D,Cgy(D44)
159RyanStrom, C, New York (37)
161TylerToffoli, RW, Mo (RW28)
163BradenHoltby, G, Wang (G25)
164AlexanderRadulov, RW, Dahl (RW30)
165TristanJarry, G, Pete (G26)
166Blake Coleman, LV, TB (LW29)
167Ryan Graves, D, Oberst (D45)
169.JakobSlavin, D, Auto (D46)
170Adam Henrique, K, Ana (C38)
171EsaLindell, D, Dal (D47)
172Alec Martinez, D,Vgs(D48)
173Brock Nelson, C, New York (C39)
175Anders Lee, LA, NY (LW30)
177Josh Norris, C,Ott(C40)
178PavelBuchnevich, RW, New York (RW32)
179KylePalmieri, RV, NJ (RW33)
180.RyanMcDonagh, D, TB (D50)
181Roope Hintz, C, Dal (C41)
182. Jakub Voracek, RV, Phi (RW34)
183. Andrei Burakovsky, LW, Col (LW31).
184. Duncan Keith, D, Chi (D51)
185. Matt Grzelcyk, D, Bos (D52)
186. Philip Chroneck, D, Det (D53)
187. Samuel Girard, D, Oberst (D54)
188. Anthony Duclair, LW, Fla (LW32)
189. Jason Zucker, LW, Pete (LW33)
190. Nate Schmidt, D, Van (D55)
191. James van Riemsdyk, LW, Phi (LW34)
192. Damon Severson, D, NJ (D56)
193. Alex Killorn, LW, TB (LW35)
194. Neil Pionk, D, Wpg (D57)
195. Adam Boquist, D, Chi (D58)
196. Nikita Gusev, LA, NJ (LW36)
197. Ryan Johansen, C, Nsh (C42)
198. Ilya Sorokin, G, New York (G28)
199. Petr Mrazek, G, Auto (G29)
200. Philippe Dano, C, Mon (C43)
201. Jake Allen, G, Mo (G30)
202. Jean-Gabriel Pago, C, New York (C44)
203. Phil Kessel, RV, Ari (RW35)
204. Eric Staal, C, Boothe (C45)
205. Vincent Trocheck, K, Auto (C46)
206. Jack Hughes, C, NJ (C47)
207. Paul Francouze, G, Oberst (G31)
208. Tyler Bertuzzi, LW, Det (LW37)
209. Denis Gurianov, LW, Dal (LW38)
210. Jordan Kiru, C, StL (C48)
211. Kevin Lankinen, G, Chi (G32)
212 Antti Raanta, G, Ari (G33)
213. Ryan Getzlaf, K, Ana (C49)
214. Erik Gustafsson, D, Fi (D59)
215. Kevin Hayes, C, Fee (C50)
216. Matt Duchene, C, Nsh (C51)
217. Pius Souter, C, Phi (C52)
218. Chris Dreiger, G, Fla (G34)
219. Matthias Ekholm, D, Nsh (D60)
220. Jonathan Marchessault, LW, Vgs (LW39)
221. Mikael Granlund, LW, Nsh (LW40)
222. Clayton Keller, C, Ari (C53)
223. Nick Ritchie, LW, Bos (LW41)
224. Dominic Kubalik, LV, Chi (LW42)
225. Kasperi Kapanin, RV, Yama (RW36)
226. Pekka Rinne, G, Nsh (G35)
227. Jeff Skinner, LW, Boothe (LW43)
228. Dustin Brown, RW, LW (RW37)
229. Tyler Myers, D, Wang (D61).
230. Kaapo Kahkonen, G, Min (G36)
231. Jonathan Drouin, LW, Mo (LW44)
232. Charlie Coyle, C, Bos (C54)
233. Anthony Cirelli, K, TB (C55)
234. Jordan Eberle, RW, New York (RW38)
235. Zach Hyman, LA, Tor (LW45)
236. Rickard Rakell, C, Ana (C56)
237. Joel Eriksson Eck, C, Min (C57)
238. Vince Dunn, D, StL (D62)
239. Alexander Georgiev, G, New York (G37)
240. Calvin Petersen, G, LA (G38)
241. Jaden Schwartz, LW, StL (LW46)
242. Devon Toews, D, Oberst (D63)
243. Nolan Patrick, C, Phi (C58)
244. Jesse Puljujarvi, RW, Edmar (RW39)
245. Josh Anderson, RV, Mon (RW40)
246. Jacob Silfverberg, RW, Ana (RW41)
247. Boone Jenner, C, Cls (C59)
248. Brian Elliott, G, Fi (G39)
249. Carter Verhege, C, Fla (C60)
250. Tyler Motte, LW, Wang (LW47).