There are plenty of surprises in life. Good or bad, they happen to us. Hockey is no different. Every single year there are plenty of surprises that pop up and get us excited. Sometimes it is a team that is usually sold by the pundits to under-perform, yet finds some chemistry and breaks into the playoffs or makes a serious run at the cup. Sometimes it is a player that is talked about as a lost cause or an older player who is talked about like he has one foot in the grave. While the players are usually written off and thrown in the disposal basket – that is the 4th/3rd line, sometimes they get a mulligan due to a good training camp or a hunch by the GM/Coaching staff. The gamble signing can sometime pay back in spades.
I sometimes take a similar risk when it comes to my beer selections. While it is good to always rely on the old tried and true brew, expanding your palette is always fun. The good pubs will have a deep selection with lots of local breweries pumping out great stuff that is seasonal and experimental. I am not an expert scout when it comes to professional hockey players, no matter how much I keep telling myself that I am, but I am some sort of expert when it comes to vodka and beer. If not due to education, at least on basis of volume consumption. What I am saying is that I drink lots of both, but I do not consume blindly. I have my favorites and I always consume in just correct amounts – no binge drinking here. You cheapen the value of what you are drinking and if you do not respect the drink you are holding, do you really respect yourself?
So one would assume that I would know the good from bad and so forth – and I do. But I do take chances on both my fantasy hockey picks and the beers I happen to grab. Someone great once said “You’ll always miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”. I happen to agree with Wayne. You have to explore and take a chance once in a while, because how else would you find greatness where everybody else is not looking?
The beer I recently tried was Left Hand Sawtooth ESB. But first on to some players – I feel like you need to give a chance on your fantasy roster.
The first player you need to check out is Semyon Varlamov. The Russian goaltender played 16 games for the KHL Squad Lokomotiv and posted 1.74 GAA with .946 save percentage. He saw lots of pucks too, about 32 a game. Another telling story here is that he actually did not play that bad last year. Varly posted very good numbers at home with 2.19 GAA and .924 save percentage. His road performance was not as fantastic as he droped to .904 SP and 2.96 GAA. So while the schedule is highly condensed you can use depth in net and I think Varlamov may even go undrafted in most leagues and you can definitely snatch him up really late.
Another player I like to fly a bit more this year is Tyler Ennis. He actually does not have a “low” profile, specially in Buffalo. But when it comes to most poolies, well they probably are waiting on him to do any serious damage before jumping on his bandwagon. He has played wing and may do so again this year, but he has a chance to compete for the number one center position on Sabres. If he holds on to this number one position he will benefit hugely and his fantasy value will be sky high. I think he was ready to make the jump to that 60-plus point level last year, but due to an injury got to only play 48 games. His value can jump up even more if he gets C/LW eligibility. Tyler could fall in your draft, but you would be making a mistake if you do not have this guy on your team.
The Florida Panthers really do lack that superstar player on their roster, while being put together from the unwanted parts of other teams. Florida might be the definition of a GM taking a risk on players that no one else wanted (or couldn’t afford), but that does not mean it is a bad thing, not at all. They will have a superstar player that will play for them this year and he is Jonathon Huberdeau, but that is not who I want to talk about. Peter Mueller is an interesting character to watch this year. He will be pegged for a second line duties playing next to Huberdeau. So why Mueller? He is about 6’2″ and 200 pounds, a rather fast skater, and definitely has some hands. Do not forget that he netted 22 goals during his first year with the Coyotes. He also had 20 points in 15 games for Colorado in 09-10 season after being moved from Phoneix. Both of those seasons he averaged over 17 minutes a game. So for him to be really affective he needs the ice time and he will get that on not-so-talented Florida team. Keep this guy on your watch list!
So back to the beer…it surprised the hell out of me. While pegged to be a rather bitter one, it was not as bitter as sold to me and actually comes off rather sweet at first. It offers a rather smooth drinking experience on par with a Guinness and as my girlfriend described it, “it is not carbonated”, but what she misses out on is the complex flavor structure that this beer offers.
The pour is smooth with a cream-colored head on a bright copper, clear beer that settles nicely with an appetizing look and smell. Goes down smooth, with almost a silky mouth-feel, leaving a sweet and malty aftertaste. The bitterness is there but in much less amounts than at first expected. The finish is dry with a hoppy bitter aftertaste, but still on the very balanced side and is performed almost perfectly. It was a very delightful surprise and I managed to down one too many due to how easily it goes down and keeps you craving more.
So what have we learned? We have learned that Left Hand Sawtooth ESB is a fantastic beer that you should go out and try immediately, take a chance – trust me. Also, do not forget to check out the players I mentioned above. Seymon Varlamov, Tyler Ennis, and Peter Mueller will have a nice season this year and you would not want to miss out on them. Remember that these players are low-risk / high-reward scenarios and if you do not take some chances, well what is the point of living? Sometimes a flyer on an off the radar fantasy pick, or on an off the radar beer can definitely bring you a pleasant surprise.
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Main photo credit: KerriNikolePhotography via photopin cc