Early in the season a lack of patience is one of the biggest mistakes new fantasy owners make. They are quick to drop established stars starting slow, quick to add and overvalue upstart rookies and old vets that are hot out of the gate and predictably, this is a recipe for disaster. As such, I preach patience as a virtue early on pretty heavily and try and reinforce the idea whenever I can. It’s important to troll the wire constantly throughout the season for streaking players, but now that we’re in the second half of the season you don’t have the luxury of time that you had in the first half and waiting for players like Matt Duchene (1 A, 2 SOG, -1) or Jordan Eberle, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) to get going may cost you a playoff berth.
So how do you know that Duchene won’t pick it back up after you drop him? You don’t, that’s the risk you take when you let go of a guy that has point-per-game potential. That being said, at this point in the season you should have a pretty good idea what players are trending in which direction and why. It’s easy to get emotionally invested in particular players, especially if they burned you for a second or third round pick, but now is not the time to let emotion govern your choices. Be decisive, show no mercy and cut the cord on a guy who just isn’t cutting it for one that will.
It’s not always the guys who are high round busts that become difficult to part with. Brock Nelson, C (1 G, 3 SOG, -1) is an interesting candidate to get dropped and a lot of folks are asking if they should. He didn’t start slow, quite the opposite, he started hot and has since faded as many young players do as they adapt to the grueling nature of the 82 game NHL season. It took seven games for Nelson to find the twine since his last goal on December 19th against the Wings and he’s now on pace for around 60 points by the end of the season. The regression is real, y’all, and a point-per-game pace was never sustainable for the kid. After 12 points (6 G, 6 A) in his first 10 games he’s put up 8 points in 14 games and 7 points in 13 games over the last two months, respectively. I think that’s more in line with what you can expect from him moving forward, so expect around 25-28 points from him moving forward. In standard leagues he’s droppable for the right add, in deeper leagues he should still be owned and, if he goes on a min-run before the deadline, sell as high as you can for the stretch run.
In the end, it’s up to you, but don’t spend time waiting for problems with your team to fix themselves. See a hole? Try to fill it with a trade. Can’t move your guy and see someone streaking on the wire? It might be time to cut bait. Don’t be shy. Fortune favors the bold. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey recently:
Anton Khudobin, G (W, 19 SV, 1 GA, .950%) – After starting the season with eight regulation losses and two OT losses Dobby has finally strung together a few wins in a row. He’s put the wall up against the Devils for a 2-1 SO victory and did the same thing to the B’s last night. What’s more, last night’s solid effort marks three straight starts that Dobby has held the opposition to just one goal. This would all mean a lot if Cam Ward wasn’t playing so well lately, but really Ward just needed a rest and Dobby is finally getting on track. Ward remains the starter for now.
Tuukka Rask, G (L, 35 SV, 1 GA, .972%) – Rask can’t be faulted for last night’s loss to the Canes, but he hasn’t exactly been stellar as of late, either. I think there’s a few things happening this season in Boston that are all occurring at the same time and causing a bit of a perfect storm for Tuukka. The B’s have had a very goalie friendly system in place for a few years now, mainly built around a ridiculously stout defense built around big Zdeno Chara, D (2 SOG, 2 PIM, +1). Well, Chara is 37 and aging faster than expected. He missed time at the start of the season with an injury and hasn’t quite looked like himself since returning. Trading Johnny Boychuk, D (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, -2) didn’t help matters and considering the youth and inexperience that have stepped up on the Boston blue line in Dougie Hamilton, D (1 A, 4 SOG, +1) and Torey Krug, D (-1) there’s going to be some growing pains for the team defensively. That leaves Tuukka in the lurch a lot, but it also exposes that he might not have been the best goalie in the league like many, myself included, believed.
Nick Bjugstad, C (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG) – Last night’s tally marks two straight games with a goal for Jugs giving him 15 delicious goals so far this season. There’s no reason to think he won’t find his way to a 30-goal campaign by season’s end at this rate.
Vincent Trocheck, C (1 G, 4 SOG, +1) – Trocheck’s TOI took a hit when Aleksander Barkov, C (1 SOG, +1) and Scottie Upshall, RW (-1) returned to the lineup, but he hadn’t been doing much anyway, so he’s finding himself in the press box more often these days. There’s a lot of talent here, but he seems to be the odd man out more often than not, so he’s best left on the wire in standard leagues for now. In deep keepers he’s worth a look, he should be a bigger part of the Cats’ offense next season.
Andre Burakovsky, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Since December 4th Burakovsky has been a healthy scratch eight times. Yikes. He’s way too talented to be wasted sitting in the press box, so naturally Caps Head Coach Barry Trotz slotted him in on the top line last night with Alex Ovechkin, LW (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) and Nicklas Backstrom, C (1 A, 1 SOG) and the kid potted the game winning goal on his only shot of the game. It’s hard to say what’s going to become of Burakovsky, but one thing seems clear, he’s going to stick on big ice. If he gets even semi-consistent time on the top line for the Caps he’s worth owning in most leagues.
Ben Bishop, G (W, 20 SV, 2 GA, .909%) – Big Ben returned to his winning ways with a 4-2 win over the Sens last night. He wasn’t really tested by a weak Ottawa offense, but you’ll take it. If Bishop is finally healthy again, if, he’ll be fine. He also has an easyish schedule this week with the Bolts travelling to Montreal to face the Habs on Tuesday and return home this Friday to rough up the hapless Sabres. He should start both games.
Robin Lehner, G (L, 26 SV, 4 GA, .867%) – Ugh, Lehner has allowed four goals in four of his last five starts and, predictably, lost all four. Craig Anderson hasn’t been completely awful this year and Lehner has, so this situation won’t change anytime soon. You’ve disappointed me, Robin.
Kyle Turris, C (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG) – With a goal last night Turris stretches his points streak to three games and as four points (2 G, 2 A) over that span. He’s actually been worth owning in a lot of leagues for a bit now and is currently on pace for around 60 points and 20 goals. That’s the ceiling, but it’s a ceiling worth owning. Like the Sistine Chapel’s ceiling. I’d own that, but Turris isn’t that wonderful. He’s more like the ceiling in a well-kept department store.
Victor Hedman, D (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG) – Speaking of the Sistine Chapel, my Sun and Stars, who rarely disappoints added two points last night, he second such effort in back-to-back games, each with a goal. That pushes Hedman’s season line to 5/15/20/+9 in 23 games played. Delicious.
Nikita Kucherov, RW (2 A, 2 SOG, +1) – The Bolts…
Tyler Johnson, C (2 G, 6 SOG) – …are so…
Steven Stamkos, C (1 G, 3 SOG) – …effin’ stacked.
Semyon Varlamov, G (L, 23 SV, 4 GA, .852%) – The look of frustration on Varly’s face after he allowed the game winner to David Savard, D (1 G, 3 SOG, -2) was well earned because it was a weak goal Varly should have had. It banged around a bit, but Savard launched it from juuuust inside the zone and it was by no means a scorcher by the time it reached the net. It was a rough night for Varly all around, that game winner was the fourth goal he coughed up on just 27 shots to the Jackets on route to a 4-3 loss. I remain bleh on Varly.
Matt Duchene, C (1 A, 2 SOG, -1) – I hate to say it, but Duchene is droppable at this point. He has points in back-to-back games so unless there’s something absolutely worth grabbing right now you might want to hold on to him for a few more games to see if he can build on this, but if not he can be dropped in most leagues. He’s put more than 3 shots on goal in any game just once since November 29th when he registered six against the Stars. His 10.1% shooting percentage is just two points off a slightly inflated 12% career mark and he hasn’t scored a goal since December 11th. There is no trade value here, there are only bitter tears and broken dreams.
Jarome Iginla, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Iggy has certainly picked up the pace after an early season slump, but last night’s goal was a gift from David Savard on a horrible cross ice pass that Iggy picked off and walked in on Curtis McElhinney, G (W, ) all alone and put it home. I can see Iggy scoring 10 goals and 20-25 points in the second half, but that’s aboot it.
Gabriel Landeskog, LW (1 G, 4 SOG, -1) – Landy’s goal was decidedly more impressive compared to Iggy’s as he marched right into the slot and backhanded by McElhinney for a pretty goal. Unfortch for his owners, this tally was his first since freakin’ November, and that’s completely unacceptable from the Avs’ captain. At this point there’s no denying that Landy is a bust for 2015, but he has the talent to put together a strong second half. Will he? I don’t know. He can, anyway.
Brandon Dubinsky, C (2 G, 5 SOG, +2) – If you waited for Dubs to return from his pre-season hernia surgery you have been rewarded for your patience (always a virtue I preach in the first half of the fantasy season) because he is on fire with seven points (2 G, 5 A) over his last four games with at least a point in each game. He’s a plus-seven over that span and in just 11 games since returning he’s put up nine points (2 G, 7 A), 15 PIM, 30 SOW, 114 FW, 25 Hits, 3 PPA and a plus-six rating. Baller. Not only that, he’s shooting a 6.7% clip which is 2 points below his 8.7% career average, so expect a few extra goals as that normalizes over what should be a strong second half for Dubs.
Ryan Johansen, C (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Joey stretches his point streak to seven games with a goal last night and that pushes his goal streak to three games, too. He has nine points (3 G, 6 A) over that span and is currently on pace for 75 points and just under 30 goals by season’s end. I expect a big second half from Joey, so I figure he’ll at least meet both of those marks.
Corey Crawford, G (W, 30 SV, 4 GA, .882%) – Crawdad did win this one, but it wasn’t pretty. He hasn’t looked like himself since he returned from his latest injury late last month allowing 18 goals in six games since returning after allowing 27 in 14 games in October, good for a .929 SV% for the month. He should get back on track soon, but if he continues to struggle it may be an indication that he isn’t 100% healthy yet. I would be hard pressed to understand why the Hawks rushed him back if that’s the case, so let’s call this a normal, temporary bleh spell for an otherwise outstanding netminder.
Kari Lehtonen, G (L, 33 SV, 5 GA, .868%) – The same can’t be said for Lehtonen, whose bleh spell has been basically his entire 2015 season. He started to look pretty solid again and even held the Wild to just one goal on the heels of a 6-0 shutout of the ‘yotes, but when put up against stiffer competition Kari folded like a paper bag. Hell if I know what to do with him at this point. I own him in one league and he’s my fourth goalie now and rarely starts. I’d recommend taking that approach if you can.
Jamie Benn, LW (1 G, 2 SOG, +1) – Not only did Jamie score a goal last night…
Jordie Benn, D (1 G, 1 SOG, -1) – …his brother Jordie did, too! Aw. Doesn’t it just warm the cockles of your heart?
Patrick Sharp, LW (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) – When Kris Versteeg went down with a broken hand Sharp was the biggest beneficiary of the fallen as he moved into Versteeg’s comfy slot in the top six with Brad Richards, C (1 G, 1 A) and Patrick Kane, RW (1 G, 2 SOG) and the trio clicked last night to the tune five points (3 G, 2 A), so I’d say that’s going to work out just fine for everyone involved.
Brandon Saad, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Sharp wasn’t the only beneficiary of the Steeger injury, Saad remains on a line with Jonathan Toews, C (1 A, 3 SOG) and Marian Hossa, RW (2 A, 1 SOG, +1) where he’s thriving with four points over (3 G, 1 A) over his last five games with goals in back-to-back games and in three of his last four games. I’d expect another 10-12 goals and 25 points from him in the second half, but suspect 60 points is his ceiling.
Frederik Andersen, G (W, 27 SV, 3 GA, .900%) – This one was a bit sloppy for Freddy, but he was able to hold on for the 4-3 SO victory. He’s going to have a solid second half, but I wouldn’t expect miracles. He’ll deliver lots of wins if nothing else.
Matt Beleskey, LW (1 G, 2 SOG, +2) – If you’re going to be a one trick pony in hockey it’s a good idea for that trick to be scoring goals. Speaking of one-trick goal scoring ponies, here’s Belly! Last night’s tally marks goals in back-to-back games and he has 17 on the season now. He has 22 points in 41 games and 17 of those 22 points are goals. His plus-17 rating helps ease the pain of keeping him on your roster, too, which you should have done in most deep leagues already. Expect a significant decline in the second half, there’s no way he scores another 17 goals this season, more like 10-13 tops.
Hampus Lindholm, D (1 A, 1 SOG, +3) – Hamper hasn’t been doing much this season, but he’s a sophomore defenseman so what’s there to expect? He’s been respectable with 16 points in 40 games and is on pace for around 30 points and, if he gets lucky, 10 goals by season’s end. He’s worth holding in keeper leagues, but in redrafts he’s totally droppable if owned at all.
Craig Smith, C (1 G, 6 SOG, -1) – Smith is on pace for 26 goals in 82 games right now and considering he’s also on pace for 250 some shots and shooting at a 10.4% clip, just one point above his career 9.2% average, I’d say he’s a safe bet to hit the mark skating on a line with Filip Forsberg, C (1 A, 3 SOG, -1) and Mike Ribeiro, C (3 A, -1).
Corey Perry, RW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1) – Despite last night’s deflection goal being the first for Perry since November 29th he’s still on pace for 39 goals this year and there’s no reason to think he won’t flirt with that number now that he’s tasted the back of the twine again.
Jaroslav Halak, G (L, 18 SV, 4 GA, .818%) – Of all the teams to snap Halak’s seven game win streak the Oil were the last team I’d expect to fit the bill, but here we are. Losing to the Oil will bruise any goalie’s ego, but The Halakness Monster will be just fine.
Jordan Eberle, RW (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) – Eberle is a bust, that much is for sure. Despite his current three game point streak he’s on pace for less than 20 goals and 50 points with a minus-25 rating by season’s end. It’s not all doom and gloom, he is shooting at a 8.4% clip which is well below his career average of 13.6%, but his career mark is actually a bit inflated in itself, so that doesn’t bode well for a huge turn around. There should be some uptick in scoring here, but not enough to warrant holding him while someone on the wire is putting the biscuit in the basket. When he goes cold again, don’t feel bad about dropping him.