I try not to lose faith in any of my players in the first month of the season. I prefer to stand by my draft decisions and ride out a player’s slow start, rather than regret dropping them too early. Of course, living up to that ideal is a whole other ball of wax, but it usually serves me well for a few weeks at least.
If your crew of defencemen is lacking, now is a great time to start shuffling. It is a time of uncertainty and doubt for many owners, which means you can – and should – capitalize and improve your blue line before these cold starters warm up. Below are a few you should alternately covet, drop, and consider for the long run.
P.S.: Today’s post is not-so-subtly brought to you by the color Green and the word Day.
WAKE ME UP… WHEN NOVEMBER ENDS
Torey Krug, BOS
First up is Krug, who has had three remarkably consistent 40-ish point seasons. This year, however, it took him 10 games to get his first assist. Since then, however, he’s on 5 points in 9 games roll, including his first goal of the season. His ice time is close to last season’s, as is the PP time. He’s also shooting the puck a lot. So what changed? On the surface, nothing at all. If I was to speculate, I’d point out that he underwent offseason shoulder surgery, and you can’t predict how that will affect a player when he comes back, physically or mentally. It would certainly help explain the slow start, but whatever the case, Krug is clearly back in his offensive groove and worth picking up in shallow leagues if he’s been dropped. Owners who have held him this long are probably wise to his resurgence, so buying low may no longer be an option here.
Oscar Klefbom, EDM
After no goals in his first 17 games played, he’s now got goals in back to back games. The opportunity has always been there. His power play and overall ice time have actually increased slightly from last season. Like Krug, past injuries may have played a part in his slow start. Klefbom’s play last year was promising, but he played only 30 games last season because of a broken finger and an infection in his leg. He’s got tons of potential, and a clear path to being the power play quarterback, feeding the puck to some very talented forwards. But he hasn’t proven yet that he can be consistent. Take a flyer on him if he’s available in shallow leagues; and in keeper leagues, see if you can buy low.
Dustin Byfuglien, WPG
Count me among the frustrated with Byfuglien, who until a few nights ago, had been about 20 goals off of his usual 20-goal pace. What can you do? You can’t drop a perennial 20-goal scoring d-man, you just can’t. … But you can buy low if he’s not on your team yet. He’s actually not far off the pace, it’s just that his usual 1:1.75 goal-to-assist ratio is sitting at a highly unusual 1:9. I’m with Viz on this one. He’ll bounce back and give you his typical goal total by the end of the season. And the way the Jets offense has been playing, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the assists continue as well, which could take him past his career high of 56 points. Hot streak on the horizon.
Rasmus Ristolainen, BUF
In 12-teamers, Ristolainen has probably been dropped by a lot of owners. One point in his past eleven games can be a bit disheartening for the fantasy owner. And believe me, I’m tempted to write off the Sabres at this point and throw in the towel myself. But two things tell me otherwise. One is his plus-minus rating, which sits at a palatable -3, and has hovered around even all season. This is in stark contrast to his -21 total last year, and -32 the year before. So, on a team that is having trouble scoring, he is somehow managing to play good defence. Maybe because he has to. Which brings me to the second thing, which isn’t a thing at all, but a person: Jack Eichel. (I almost wrote Jack Bauer there, because, man, the Sabres need a hero right now). Expect him back early in December. Now, I’m not sure he (Eichel, not Bauer) can save what is ailing this team, but he sure can inject some fire into the power play – on which, by the way, Ristolainen has averaged over five minutes in the past three games. If you’ve held him thus far, give him a couple of more weeks and see if the return of Eichel makes a difference.
John Carlson, WAS
It’s time to go shopping for Carlson. You might just catch the Buy Low window before it closes. Carlson is normally a whiz on the potent Washington power play, but he’s sitting at a grand total of 0-7-7 in 18 games. Take a closer look, though, and you get: first eight games, one point; next eight games, six points. The only worry here is injury-related. Apparently he was banged up a bit in the World Cup tournament, which supposedly had an effect on his slow start to the season. The last couple of games, Matt Niskanen has played more PP minutes than Carlson, a trend that doesn’t make sense unless they are resting Carlson for some reason.
Sure, I like these guys, but I just don’t see the light…
Colton Parayko, STL
I hate to put Parayko in this category, I really do. But allow me to explain. Parayko was a fantasy darling last season, and a revelation for the Blues. As a rookie, he scored nine goals with his rocket of a shot, and finished a plus-28 on the season, showing that he can take care of business at both ends of the ice.
He hasn’t entirely disappointed this season, but his short term upside is capped by his role. Last year at the trade deadline, folks were salivating at the thought of top power play defenceman Kevin Shattenkirk, getting moved. Well, that didn’t happen, nor did it happen in the offseason. So Parayko remains stuck on the 2nd unit. He’s got a real shot to be a true stud, in the NHL and on your fantasy squad. But if you’re waiting for it to happen this season, you’re just wishing upon a star. He’s a sell in re-draft, but still a big buy in keeper leagues.
T.J. Brodie, Dougie Hamilton, Mark Giordano, Dennis Wideman, CGY
The real question here: How intertwined are the fates of this 4-headed beast? Is this an all or nothing proposal? I believe it is. These guys have shown they are capable of 40+ points, and all four have had a terrible start to the season, as have the Flames on the whole. To be clear, I think each player is worth owning, but I’m advocating selling because of much uncertainty and inconsistency. All four are capable of manning the first team PP unit, for example, but there is room for only two. Early on, the Flames have had all kinds of trouble keeping the puck out of the net, and the (pun intended) net result of that is that the defence actually has to play more defence than usual, which is the likely culprit of the across-the-board decline in points. Expect the Flames to improve, but how much is anyone’s guess. And guessing sucks.
…Take a shot at these guys.
Anthony Deangelo, ARI
Deangelo is the big pick up of the week. If you haven’t heard of him yet, go see if he’s still available and if so, grab him. THEN, come back here and keep reading. With a long history of suspensions, bad boy Anthony Deangelo was shipped out of Tampa Bay and is now getting his chance in the desert. He is a supreme offensive talent, and he’s showing it right out of the gates. Time will tell if he’s matured enough as a person to stick in the big league.
Troy Stecher, VAN
Stecher is a pure spec play. He’s a good 2-way player who is getting a decent amount of power play time on a team that lacks a clear point man. His plus-minus will help no one, but if your league counts SOG and you’re desperate for PPP, then give him a try.
Dmitri Orlov, WAS
As Carlson goes, so does his young, offensively minded partner. Keep an eye on both. Orlov has shown the potential for being a major offensive contributor, it’s just a matter of when.
Ivan Provorov, PHI
Provorov has a decidedly mediocre line: 0-7-7, with a -8 rating, in 17 games played. The offensive defenseman is only 19 though, and is averaging over 20:00 of ice time per game, while playing on the both the power play and short-handed units. He’s a must own in all keeper leagues, and tempting to fill out your roster in re-draft, just for the potential when it all clicks.
Thanks for reading, as always. If there are any other players that are frustrating you beyond belief and you don’t know whether to drop them, trade them, or hold them, feel free to post below and I’ll add my two cents as soon as I can.