So here we are folks. It’s been a great year and some of you are reading this and feeling just as salty as I am after having been burnt by Pekka Rinne’s horrible week and wondering what might have been otherwise. Ah yes, the fickle mistress of fantasy hockey has lured you in with her siren song with high hopes in October only to dash them on the rocks of despair in April while pointing and laughing. Hey, just like your senior prom! Ah, memories. I digress, it’s the final week of the season and all your moves count more now than they ever have. The wire has been picked clean by guys stacking their lineups for yesterday and many of them didn’t survive. Guess what happens to the guys they picked up? They’ll languish unused on those abandoned teams, so your wire might be thinner than you’d expect. In that case, knowing who plays when and how often this week is again central to success because if you can’t beat ‘em with quality, beat ‘em with quanitity. This strategy becomes especially important this week because many actual hockey teams have already clinched their playoff spots and they’re not going to risk their Stanley Cup dreams for your fantasy title hopes, so keep a close eye on the counts and good luck! I’ll be here all week with updates an advice to hopefully guide you through the final leg of this long, grueling, beautiful marathon we call fantasy hockey. Without further ado, here’s the final breakdown of games remaining for the year: Games Remaining Week 25 Apr 6-Apr 11 4 Games – Los Angeles Kings, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Rangers, Winnipeg Jets, Minnesota Wild, Columbus Blue Jackets 3 Games – New York Islanders, Dallas Stars, New Jersey Devils, Edmonton Oilers, Ottawa Senators, Buffalo Sabres, Calgary Flames, Chicago Blackhawks, Detroit Red Wings, Philadelphia Flyers, Boston Bruins, Arizona Coyotes, Nashville Predators, Vancouver Canucks, St. Louis Blues, Pittsburgh Penguins, Colorado Avalanche 2 Games – Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers, Anaheim Ducks, Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning As you can see there aren’t many teams with four games this week and at the halfway mark in the week there will be even fewer so snatch up guys playing on those teams while you can. I’ll be back again on Thursday with an update on games remaining for the weekend push. Good luck to all of you that are still alive, go win that title and make us here at Razzball Hockey proud! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
So you’ve survived the first round of the playoffs and you’re feeling good, but the game isn’t over so don’t slack now. Last week I touched on a few key bits of strategy to help you win your league and promised an update on one of the most important aspects to victory in the playoffs, tracking games remaining for all 30 teams. Since its Monday it should really be “games this week” but you mean what I know. There are a good amount of teams with four games this week, so that’s good, but some key players like Devan Dubnyk and the Wild only get a couple this week, so it’s as important as ever to keep your eyes on the schedule and make sure your key players aren’t left putting up goose eggs on off nights when you need them the most. Anyway, you know I’ve got your back so I won’t waste more time with a bunch of blah blah hoopla, you’ve got lineups to set and moves to make, so without further adieu he’s the breakdown for games remaining this week: Games By Team For The Week of March 30 - April 5: 4 Games– Washington, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, St. Louis, Colorado, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto, Detroit, Buffalo, Chicago, Florida, Edmonton. 3 Games– Calgary, Dallas, Carolina, New Jersey, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Columbus, Arizona, San Jose, New York Rangers, Boston. 2 Games– Minnesota, Anaheim, Winnipeg, New York Islanders, Nashville. I’ll update this list halfway through the week and be back again next Monday with another reminder. Good luck this week! Also, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
Over the past week my posts have been focused on the fact that at this point in the fantasy season it doesn’t matter what happened before this point in the season, if a guy is scoring you pick him up and if he’s cold and you’re about to get knocked out of the playoffs, or knocked out of playoff contention, the time is now to make big moves. Sometimes that means you have to drop a superstar you can’t keep for next season that’s been nothing but an anchor for the last few weeks or more, and that can be tough, but if you don’t have the stones to make those big risky moves you don’t deserve to win. It’s harsh, but it is what it is. It’s a dog eat dog world and we’re just trying to get our just deserts. If you fancy deserts you might fancy winning, and if you fancy winning you might consider picking up the newest hot hand on the blue line, Marek Zidlicky, D (1 G, 2 A, 4 SOG).
When it comes to winning in fantasy sports due diligence on the waiver wire is probably the most important factor I can think of. Yeah, you can draft a perfect team but how often does that happen? Injuries, untimely trades, down years, you name it, there is going to be a host of problems with the team you drafted and there are only two options to fix the damage; trades or the wire. Trades are great, but you often overpay to get what you need, but the wire? The wire provides for free! Ah, my favorite price point. With the fantasy playoffs looming just around the corner and the trade deadline long over it's never been more important to keep your eye on the wire because it’s the guys you pick up on the cheap or free that often make the difference between advancing to the next round and crying in your cornflakes on Monday morning. To that end, I submit for your consideration the most current waiver wire gem and his name is Mark Stone, RW (1 G, 3 SOG).
For most of the season the New York Islanders rotated what seemed like every one of their young forwards through the open slot on their top line alongside Kyle Okposo and NHL scoring leader John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 3 SOG), but no one stuck. Then out of nowhere Okie’s eyeball broke off and he needed emergency surgery to fix the problem because, hey, everyone needs working eyes and if they didn’t put him under the knife then there was no chance he’d return this season. Well, the news out of Long Island today is good! Okie is traveling to Florida to skate with the team tomorrow morning ahead of their Saturday tilt with the Cats and that means he’s very close to returning to game action. That’s great news for Okie and JT owners, but in Okie’s absence Anders Lee, C (1 G, 3 SOG, +1) and Josh Bailey, RW (1 A, 2 SOG, +2) have played well, but one of them is going to get demoted when Okie returns and I highly doubt it will be Lee.
It’s an interesting question, JD. Thanks, self! Just how good has Carey Price, G (L, 30 SV, 2 GA, .938%) been this season? Pretty damn good, that’s how good. In 52 starts he has posted a season line of 36-13-3/1.92/.935/6 and with 18 games left in the regular season for the Habs, Carey now leads the Vezina race over Pekka Rinne and will challenge Dominik Hasek’s ridiculous 1998-99 season. That year Hasek posted arguably the best season by a goalie ever putting up a 1.87 goals-against average to go with a robust .937 save percentage. That’s absolutely ridiculous. What’s more ridiculous is the shooting gallery he faced doing it. There has rarely been a better example of a one-man show than the 1998 Buffalo Sabres, who had no earthly business making the playoffs but no one told Hasek that. Then Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff would let his entire team pinch deep offensively allowing tons of odd-man rushes leaving Hasek hanged out to dry more often than not and more often than not Hasek shut the door. The 2014 Habs aren’t nearly that bad, but it can be argued that without Price they would be struggling to make the playoffs, don’t get me started on leading the Eastern Conference. Indeed, Carey’s 1.92 goals-against average to pair with his beastly .935 save percentage have carried the Habs to first overall in the east despite sitting just 22nd overall with 2.6 goals per game on offense and sporting one of the league’s more inept power plays ranking 24th overall converting on just 16.8% of their chances. That’s pretty ridiculous and come playoff time the Habs will have trouble advancing without a potent power play, but don’t put it past Price to carry them to the Eastern Conference Finals again. Is Price putting up the best season for a goalie ever? You could certainly argue that’s the case. I know I am. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey recently:
It seems like every season there’s one or two breakout goalies that can help make the difference between winning and losing when it counts the most. This season is no exception, and though John Gibson’s strong play is a surprise to no one, Andrew Hammond, G (L, 36 SV, 2 GA, .947%) has been a revelation. Though the two net minders couldn’t be more different; Gibson with his blue chip pedigree and ceiling as high as the sky and Hammond, a 27-year-old no-name never-has-been with a ceiling about as high as my living room’s, both goalies have been hot enough to earn the right to split time with their respective team’s starters making them both most owns in virtually every league.
Goalies can be notoriously difficult to rank and project for accurately. I give each starter projections but I might not bother trying to predict what kind of numbers a backup is going to offer unless I have reason to believe that they're going to play enough to be worth owning. Most of the time, backups aren't, but there have been some gems in the understudy group in recent years. Cam Talbot's stellar work behind Henrik Lundqvist last year helped ease the pain of the wounds Jimmy Howard's 2014 campaign left me. Damnit, Howie! At any rate, Chad Johnson filling in for Tuukka Rask showed similar value. For the most part, though, backups are backups and largely worthless without a starter getting injured. Then we have the always wonderful goalie committees. Is there anything worse than goalie by committee? Yes, yes there is, but for the purposes of this post, no, no there is not. The Hurricanes look to provide a buttload of frustration for anyone willing to draft their way into that sad state of affairs again in 2015 with Anton Khudobin set for a bit of a regression and Cam Ward being, well, Cam Ward. On the flip side the duos of Brian Elliot and Jake Allen in St. Louis and Frederik Andersen and stud rookie John Gibson where if either guy is asked to go 60 starts their season would end up bleh, but limit them to around 40 starts a piece and they stay healthy and rested, the numbers stay sexy, and you stay happy with a cheap no. 2 tender. Anyhooze, lets get to the meat o' the matter, Razzball's 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Goalie Rankings:
The Detroit Red Wings are one of the few teams so well built that they can sustain a playoff run despite missing four of their top players, two of which are point-per-game guys or better. How, you might wonder, is this feat possible? That'd be solid drafting, a commitment to player development and a fantastic scouting department, all of which Wings GM Ken Holland has in spades. The idea that the Wings roster is loaded with wire gold is not a new theme for me, but right now it's more important than ever to remember. Tomas Tatar (2 G, 4 SOG, +2) now has three straight two-point games and seven over his last five. I’ve been preaching to y’all to pick up any Red Wings that are scoring due to their ridiculous injury woes and Tatar is high on that list. At times he can look like a weak option compared to his high flying Swedish buddy Gustav Nyquist, but Tatar has solid value right now and should be owned everywhere. Riley Sheahan (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +3) is another one of those newly valuable Wings that I keep saying you should add. Sheahan has the potential to be something special pretty soon, but you can say that about most of the incredible crop of youth the Wings sport thanks to GM Ken Holland’s deft moves over the years. With six points over his last five and nine points in 13 March games, he’s definitely worth a stream. Sadly, Tomas Jurco (1 A, 5 SOG, +3) isn't among the new elite just yet, but returned from a broken rib to help out with an assist, but I don’t think he's worth an add at this point. He might be the best of the bunch for the Wings youth in terms of pure talent, but right now that's not resulting in many points. He remains very raw and needs more time to develop, and while this is that time, with just 11 points in 27 games so far this season I can’t really recommend him, even to stream. It’s a shame, really, I thought Jurco would be the one to burst onto the scene like Gustav Nyquist has. The moral of the story here is when in doubt, look to the Red Wings roster for scoring help, you can't go wrong! Anyway, here's what else I saw in the world o' fantasy hockey last night:
This has to be one of the busiest deadline days that I’ve seen in a few years with 19 trades getting completed today and 32 deals going down since the Miller to St. Louis deal kicked everything off post Sochi. We saw ten goalies change hands, two captains trade places and guys like Vanek and Halak who were traded for the second time just this season! I went through the list and picked out what I thought which moves had the biggest fantasy impact and highlighted those. If you’re looking this over and think I missed a few, check out these posts from yesterday for more trade analysis; Roberto Luongo Back To Panthers, Add Lack! Ilya Bryzgalov To Wild, Fasth To Oilers, Penner To Caps Ryan Miller To Blues For Halak, Stewart, Picks Martin St. Louis (F-TB) for Ryan Callahan (F-NYR), 2014 conditional 2nd-round pick, 2015 1st-round pick
In what was perhaps the biggest deal of the day
the Rangers and Bolts swapped captains moving two guys who had never played anywhere else, well, elsewhere!
This move creates a few fantasy ripples and they tend to center around the return of goal scoring machine Steven Stamkos
. When Stamkos broke his tibia a lot of folks though Marty’s production might slip at a bit and that’s a fair assumption to make, however, it didn’t happen. He has 61 points in 62 games with a plus-12 and 167 shots on goal and a shift to the Rangers isn’t going to slow him down either. The move could lead to a possible reunion on a line with Brad Richards
, but considering how bleh Richards has been this season even St. Louis might not be able to snap him out of it. But fear not, St. Louis owners, there are plenty of places Alain Vigneault can slot in his new weapon and get the usual point-per-game production from him. Stamkos, on the other hand, may see a dip in production without Marty on his wing, and Cally isn’t going to be able to fill that gap, so expect a few fewer assists from Steve-o, but the goals should continue to pour in. In the end, both St. Louis and Stamkos are so good that their production will more or less stay the same, but Callahan becomes an intriguing option. Owned in just 44% of Yahoo leagues and ~84% of ESPN leagues, if Cally ends up playing alongside Stamkos he’s going to see a scoring boost for sure. He isn’t without offensive ability, but everyone knows he’s a grinder more than anything else. If he’s out there in your league and you need a scoring boost, you could get that on the cheap from Callahan. Anyway, here's the rest of the deals that I thought would make a splash in the world o' fantasy hockey:
Chris Kreider (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, +1) was having a fairly quiet rookie campaign until recently, but the quiet is fading quickly behind a wall of cheers from Rangers faithful as he settles in on the top line for the Rangers with Rick Nash and Derek Stepan. Kreider burst onto the scene immediately following his senior season with Boston College, diving head first into 2011-12 playoffs scoring a handful of key goals for his team early on, finishing with 6 points (5 G, 1 A) in 18 playoff games that season. There’s one hell of a way to start your career and get some experience, eh? No pressure! He had a rough year in the lockout shortened season and he didn’t start the year with the Rangers in 2013 because of it. Regardless, it didn't take him long to get called back up this season when the Rangers started out flatter than the funny pages and were desperate for some scoring. Well, they found some in the 22 year old as he continues to have a Calder worthy season and he's currently on pace for 51 points in 75 games and currently sits at plus-11, ten points higher than any other Ranger with Carl Hagelin coming in second with a plus-one. He’s a big (6’3” 240lbs) fast skating prototypical power forward with incredible hands, vision, a great slapper and a nasty wrister. He can can hit hard, and does so often, plays both ways and, well, frankly the kid can do it all. While there’s bound to be ups and downs given his age and the fact that the Rangers are so awful offensively, he’s so good he remains an absolute must own in every keeper league and at this point it's probably wise to own him everywhere because his upside in the second half is huge. Despite that he’s owned in just 38% of Yahoo! Leagues? Come on, really? What the eff is wrong with Yahoo managers?! The 73% ownership mark in ESPN leagues sounds more in line with what he’s done and capable of so if he’s available in your league and you need a scoring boost, pick him up already! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
Backup goaltenders are among the most important players to track over the course of the season if you want a real chance at winning your league. Like closers in fantasy baseball or running backs in fantasy football, goalie turnover can be rather high due to injuries, poor performance or trades, so knowing whom to own before they get their shot is key. What’s more, the idea of the “no. 1” goaltender doesn’t mean what it used to in terms of games started. In the past, 70-75 games for a starter was not unheard if your team is lucky enough to have a Tuukka Rask or Corey Crawford between the pipes, but these days it’s much smarter to limit even the elites to around 60 games started. Even with a guy who can start 70ish games, it does more harm than good to roll your starter out that many games during the regular season leaving him too exhausted to perform up to snuff in the playoffs, when it matters most. The need for teams to strike a good balance between riding their work horses in net and giving them a break leaves open a wealth of opportunity for fantasy owners to exploit.