The all-star break is a great time to assess your team and get ready for the stretch run. Feels like mid-season, but it’s really not. Most leagues are about four weeks from their trade deadline and six weeks away from playoffs (assuming H2H format, that is). You should be able to assess your needs pretty clearly at this point, by looking at the standings and overall stats. First, you are either in contention or you’re not. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to assume you are. Because really, six weeks out, you should have at least a mathematical chance to sneak into the post-season.
Oh no. Your D-men are going down left and right and you need replacements! Or your keeper league team is going down and it’s time to target the stars of the future! Your proven veteran has stopped scoring! Who you gonna call? On the week of his call-up back in November, I mentioned that Shayne Gostisbehere might be a nice addition to your squad. That was back when Philly was terrible and there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Now that they are planted firmly in mediocre territory, he and a few others are easily worth considering from a fantasy perspective. What’s rare about Gostisbehere - aside from the tricky name and the fact that I hear Unchained Melody in my head whenever I see his name - is that here we have a smallish, young defenseman who is basically expected to be a power play specialist, but he’s a +5 overall while scoring half of his points with the man advantage. (For the uninitiated, you don’t get a plus for being on the ice for a PP goal). He’s not exactly unheard of, but ownership is surprisingly still under 50% in Yahoo leagues. Run, don’t walk, for the offensive defenseman who can actually play decently in his own end.
As we approach the season’s halfway point, we’re going to take a slight departure from the regular Goalie Report format and instead take a closer look at a few goaltenders in particular. Not the ones in the middle of the pack, but the ones who have surprised us, in good and bad ways. And we’ll ask the question of their second half chances: Pay or Stay Away? Yes, because it rhymes.
Okay, halfway point coming up. Which means it’s time to give some serious thought toward certain players who had either a terrible or amazing first half, and ask yourself whether or not the cold player will improve, the hot player will decline, or if they will simply keep up the same pace. I’ll be focusing on the forward lines this week, with goalies and defenseman articles coming up as we near the All-Star break.
It’s only been a month, but we have a lot of moving and shaking within our four goalie tiers. We have backups usurping starters, starters getting injured, and that mysterious 15-day flu. December in fantasy hockey is a great time to reassess your talent – especially that of the blue chip variety. Now is the time that teams begin to know where they stand in the big picture, and decisions are made (i.e.: coins are flipped) when it comes to the goaltending. You have a prime opportunity to take advantage and buy low on goalies that appear to have a future, and sell high on those who may be losing the confidence of the coaching staff, but still retain some name brand significance in trade talks.
Long term hockey relationships can be the source of fantasy gold. Consider the illustrious history of such legendary lovebirds as Gretzky-Kurri, Hull-Mikita, Hull-Oates (yes, “Hull & Oates”), Trottier-Bossy, Lemieux-Jagr, Lindros-Leclair, and those-were-the-days when Crosby-Malkin, and Toews-Kane were linemates. The less romanticially-inclined out there might simply call them ‘Pairings’. Call them what you will, when you see chemistry like that on the ice, it’s something to behold. And when you successfully draft one of these duos to your fantasy team, it feels like an absolute coup, doesn’t it? You sit there basking in your 3rd round glory: “I’ve got Getzlaf AND Perry!” and dreaming of doubling up your point total on almost every Anaheim goal this season. But in a deep redraft or dynasty league, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to get both, even with your first two picks. So what’s a deep leaguer to do? For every Gretzky to Kurri, there has always been that third wheel, catapulted into short term fantasy relevance as long as they stay on that line. Correctly identify the answer to that trivia question and you’ve got yourself a bona fide sleeper, and maybe even a keeper. So who are the candidates a quarter-way into the season?
Welcome to the second edition of Assume the Position. Today we’ll be looking at a few defensemen that can help you fill out your roster. There are only a few elite level defenders out there; after them, if you want to gain an advantage, you’re going to have to make some sneaky pickups along the way. In shallow leagues, you’re looking to ride the hot hand with your defensemen. Keep track of not only which players are getting the power play minutes, but of those players, who is actually producing at any given time and ride their momentum. In this type of league, most teams should be able to roster four D-men that contribute in several categories. And if you lose one to injury, your replacement will likely be a lesser version but still contribute. Going deeper, however…
Welcome to Assume the Position, a new weekly feature that will focus on one specific player position each week. On a personal note, I love a good, deep league, the kind in which it's actually helpful to know who the backup goalie is in Buffalo. We'll be wading deep into the player pool on most weeks, so dynasty and deep redraft league owners, take note. We’ll start things off with a look at the goaltenders, breaking them up into four tiers, with comments on each. Below, goalies denoted in parentheses are the clear backup, while teammates that are hyphenated play in a more balanced timeshare. Rating goalies by the numbers alone is tricky business. We’ll revisit the chart throughout the season and hopefully give you a leg (pad?) up on the competition that goes beyond the numbers.