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.
I live in Canada, eh. And what I saw here on election night, and now post-election, was a country shaken to the core in absolute disbelief at how the American election turned out. If that’s how we as a nation are collectively feeling, I can’t imagine how high emotions are running on the other side of the border right now. I’m sure last night’s result cut a lot of social network friend lists in half, for starters. But I’m here to say, for better or worse, dammit man, we have hockey.
Halloween is always a good reminder to do a check in with your team, and in particular the rookies, to see who is the real deal and who is just a dude walking around with an ax and wearing a cheap goalie mask. One reason to look at the rookies at this point is because of the Collective Bargain Agreement rules on entry level contracts. Essentially, once a rookie plays 10 games for the big league club, their entry level contract begins. If, however, the team decides to send them to their minor league team (or to Juniors), then the contract start slides to next year. At this point, most of the rookies have hit around eight games played, so it’s the perfect time to assess whether or not they can help your team out. The first few guys here aren’t going anywhere, obviously. But what about those closer to the fringe…?
I both love and hate the first few weeks of the season. Love, because the excitement of the start of the NHL season makes me feel like I’m twelve again, collecting Pepsi bottle caps with the faces of all my favourite players on the under-side; and memorizing all the stats on my hockey cards – that my step-mom will eventually sell without my permission, in a box for $2 at a garage sale. Yeah, Gretzky rookie card and all. Sigh.
So I’m in this one league that drafts way too early each year. On top of that, it’s an email draft that typically takes up to 3 weeks to complete. And it’s deep. Very deep. Twenty teams, with 20-man rosters. So why do I torture myself year after year, with this slow-as-molasses-and-way-too-soon draft? Because it preps me for all the others I will take part in leading up to the season. They’re still playing World Cup games, for crying out loud. How is anyone supposed to be ready for this?
Whether you’re in or you’re out of your league playoffs at this point, here are some d-men that can help you in the final weeks, and another few that, if you snap them up in your keeper league now, will make you the envy of everyone next year! My first piece of advice at this stage of the playoffs is to keep an eye on the transactions in your league on a daily basis. Fantasy owners are all kinds of desperate and you’d be surprised at who they’ll drop in order to gain an edge with streamers during the week. These drops can become your pickups, and if you do advance to the next week, your team will be even stronger for it. If you’re in a keeper league, you are either picking up as many young guns as possible right now, or you’re heading into the finals with great roster already. Some are better for NOW, while some are for LATER and will make great additions to your dynasty team.
Let’s just cut to the chase, shall we? You somehow made the fantasy playoffs, even though your goaltending is suspect. For this playoff edition of the Goalie Report, I’m going to do away with the regular format and go right ahead and list who’s worth an add, who to avoid, and a few desperation plays – if that’s how you roll. These guys might be available in 12-team leagues, but anything deeper and who are we kidding? You’re likely stuck with what you’ve got, and if you’re lucky, one or more of the desperation plays will work out for you.
Will using The Force actually make your team better than picking up Justin Schultz would? Well, no. Not exactly. But it will stop you from making blind spec pickups and dropping guys who might actually be helping you already in some way. In either case, I’m going with “D”, which by the way is the subject of this week’s column. Here’s all the “D” you can handle – if you want to improve your team NOW instead of waiting for the fallout of all the deadline deals – all neatly sorted into three categories: Scoring help, Keepers only, and Peripheral Vision (which help in those “other” stats).
The trade deadline looms, leaving some things uncertain, but for the most part we are getting to the part of the season where we know what we know what we know: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. Sometimes it’s hard to admit that your top ranked goalie just has not come out of his funk (Pekka Rinne, anyone?); or that the offensive juggernaut your goalie plays for just can’t buy a goal (Hello, Ben Bishop!). There are still surprises to watch out for, especially for those in keeper leagues, so keep an eye on the middle tiers if you’re looking to upgrade your goaltending situation. The top tier are likely untouchable; and for other reasons entirely, so are the bottom tier.
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.