If you hadn’t already seen or heard about the hit yet you’re about to get a heavy dose because the league has levied a four game suspension against Dustin Byfuglien today for his brutal cross-check to the back of the head of the Rangers’ J.T. Miller earlier this week. No one can deny it was a dirty play. It happened away from the puck and Miller was completely defenseless, so the suspension is absolutely warranted. I like Buff but I think he can get a bit out of hand sometimes and this is one of those times. This sort of thing is a risk with his style of play so it’s to be expected in small doses, but to pull this kind of crap when his team is fighting for their playoff lives and worse, fantasy owners are fighing for their own playoff lives and championship dreams this garbage costs his owners in the biggest way at the worst possible time. There aren't many options at this point in the season, but there are moves you can make to mitigate the damage.
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.
The trade deadline has come and gone in 2015 and we’re left with a flurry of moves that mostly didn’t matter. There were buyers, there were sellers and then there was the Buffalo Sabres who went into full tank mode and sold off every halfway decent asset they had on their roster in hopes to land Conner McDavid. Don’t believe me? They sent away Chris Stewart, Michal Neuvirth, Bryan Flynn, Jhonas Enroth, Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford and Joel Armia in deals leading up to or at the deadline and they basically took a bunch of draft picks, injured players and a few cases of Molson in return. That’s an impressive fire sale, but I’ll laugh my pucks off if they don’t land McJesus. At any rate, almost nothing the Sabres did at the deadline mattered for fantasy owners, it’s all about quality not quantity folks, but there were a few deadline deals that will shake up the landscape of a few NHL teams and might just offer some key opportunities for the savvy fantasy owner to capitalize on:
There’s about six weeks left in the regular season and that means we’re officially in the stretch run for fantasy hockey. Given there’s only a month or so left before the fantasy playoffs kick off it’s more important than ever to keep your eye on the waiver wire for those diamonds in the rough. It really doesn’t matter what a guy has done to this point in the season, if he’s scoring now he’s worth picking up if it’s going to help you get those precious points to secure your spot in the post season and beyond. To that end I turn your attention to the the Islanders, who have become a source of fantasy gold lately with Anders Lee, C (1 G, 3 SOG, 2 PIM) and Josh Bailey, LW (2 SOG) both making strong cases that they should be picked up just about everywhere.
The New York Islanders have one of the best offenses in the NHL, in fact they have the second best offense in the entire league. Let that sink in for a moment. Yes, it’s true, the Isles sport the second best offense posting 3.2 goals per tilt and they show absolutely no signs of stopping anytime soon. In fact, they’ve been picking up the pace lately and could soon be the best offense in the league. The engine that drives this goal scoring machine is their top line, anchored by the dynamic duo of John Tavares, C (1 G, 1 A, 6 SOG) and Kyle Okposo, RW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1). The wild card has been the coveted third spot that has mostly been used by Isles Head Coach Jack Capuano to stream whoever the hot hand is at the moment, and lately with eight points (2 G, 6 A) over his last eight games that’s been Josh Bailey, LW (1 G, 1 SOG, +1).
The Arizona Coyotoes did a strange thing yesterday when they traded their best goalie, Devan Dubnyk, to the Wild for a third round pick. On the surface this might sound like a fairly yawnstipating deal. The Wild are getting killed in goal this season and it’s one of the few parts that don’t work for them, but adding a guy who has a career GAA of 2.88 might seem like the wrong direction to take to fix those woes, but if you take a deeper dive into his numbers you’ll find a goalie who has been burned by playing on some of the worst possession teams in the league for his entire career, and this season is no different. With Niklas Backstrom clearly past it and Darcy Kuemper both injured and clearly not ready to handle a starter’s workload, Dubs will get every opportunity to win the starting job right now and that means if you need help in the crease, he’s is definitely worth adding.
For some time now the most talked about injury a player suffered in hockey has been the dreaded concussion. Well, this season we’ve got a new injury de jour, and it’s the broken finger. Everyone is breaking their freakin’ digits this season; Victor Hedman, Sergei Bobrovsky and Ben Lovejoy are all down for various amounts of time with broken fingers and yesterday Torey Krug and James Wisniewski joined the club with broken a finger each. Krug is out for two to three weeks and Wisniewski is out for one to two weeks. Mark Letestu figured Wiz was going to be lonely on IR so he pulled his groin and joins the IR crew himself for at least a few weeks, but who owns Letestu anyway? Hey, speaking of concussions, both T.J. Oshie and David Backes are both down with concussions with of course no time table for their return. As per the standard procedure both are out for at least a week at which time they’ll be evaluated and if they show know post concussion syndrome symptoms they can be cleared to play, otherwise they’re down for another week until they are reevaluated by team doctors. So they’re basically week-to-week. Is the entire St. Louis roster week-to-week now or what? Regardless, these aren’t the only injuries, they’re just the most recent and you know what that means? To the waiver wire we go!
The beginning is nigh! Yes my dear readers we’re drawing near to the start of the season so I won’t waste your time with a long blurb to kick this post off. I will say that this list is pretty comprehensive and if you can’t fill out your D based on this list you’re either playing in the deepest of leagues of you’re not very good at this fantasy hockey thing and should take up knitting. I covered as many guys as I could, but when I hit around the 65th rearguard there wasn’t much to say about the last ten guys so they became the honorable mentions. I guess that makes this a top 65 in some ways, but whatevs. There’s 75 names and sets o’ projections so I’m sticking to my guns. Plus, 75 sounds so much better than top 65, you know? As usual if I missed your guy or you have any questions, hit me up in the comments! At any rate, without further ado (there’s that word again), here are the 2014-2015 Fantasy Hockey Top 75 Defensemen:
We’re down to the final week of the season and most leagues have already been decided, but for those of you in leagues who are still fighting it out to the last puck drop, I’ll keep posting my daily roundups to keep you informed. Though I only took over Razzball Hockey halfway through the season I have to say I’ve enjoyed writing every word and I hope that I’ve been able to help shepherd a few of you to success this season. If not, well, I only take credit when you win, so don’t come knocking with all that sadface “I lost!” nonsense! Seriously though, it has been and I hope will continue to be a blast. Now then, for those of you still on the hunt for a title, how can we help? Patrik Hornqvist (2 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, 2 PIM, +3) might be an option! To hell with might, he’s the best option you’ve got this late. Even if it wasn't this late, the way he's been playing over the last two-three weeks has been unbelievable. I didn't mention him because there were other, hotter, better bets to ride to a title but I guess I can't deny it anymore. Horny has posted a whopping 10 points in his last five games with no signs of slowing down. Granted, no signs means squat because this kind of play is way above Hornqvist’s head, but while he’s scoring like there’s no tomorrow, you should add him, because in a few days there’s going to be no tomorrow! At least for fantasy hockey leagues this season, that is. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey this weekend:
Jonathan Bernier (2 GA, 25 SV, W) got the win and looked good doing it until he was hurt when Leafs defenseman Paul Ranger checked Patrice Bergeron (1 G, 1 A, 8 SOG, +2) into Bernier. Bergeron fell awkwardly on Bernier’s leg and he left without being able to put any weight on it. He’s scheduled for an MRI today and is listed as day-to-day with an LBI. He just returned from another injury only to get reinjured and honestly I think his season is done. That’s truly a shame, he deserved more considering how outstanding he has played for the Leafs this season, a team in the process of letting themselves and their fans down in a big way. Oddly that makes me happy. It’s Toronto, what can I say? At any rate, James Reimer (1 GA, 10 SV, W) came in to a standing ovation and held fort allowing one goal on 11 shots helping the Leafs to two critical points with the win. Reimer is what the Leafs have moving forward, it doesn’t look good for Bernier’s chances of returning this season, playoffs or not, but the results of the MRI will tell us more later today or tomorrow. Any Bernier owners should have already handcuffed Reimer to Bernier, but anyone looking for some goalie help can grab Reimer now. It’s the Leafs, and you’ve seen how they have been playing lately, so temper your expectations a bit. That said, a starter is a starter right now and Reimer is talented and the schedule is fairly favorable over the last four games with matchups against Winnipeg, Tampa Bay, Florida and Ottawa coming up. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey yesterday:
Normally I'd start one of my daily rewind posts with a blurb about a guy who is notable for his production and well worth your attention, but this struck me as far too karma conspiracy to not lead off with today, also, its actually really important news. James Neal is out indefinitely with a concussion. Yes, Neal owners, you read that right, try not to cry too much, your tears are made of salt water and that shiz can really eff up your computer/phone/tablet/whatever you damn kids are using these days. Why do I think this is karma catching up with him? Lest we forget, earlier this season Jimmy was suspended for nealing Boston's Brad Marchand in the head while he was down on fall fours trying to get back to his feet. It was a henious move by Neal's part, but he has no real history of dirty play (well, excessively dirty, anyway) so we can forgive it given the tone of that game prior to the incident. Still, it's hard not to see this as cosmic payback for the move. I won't call this a schadenfreude moment for me because I don't wish head injuries on anyone, even if they absolutely ruin my team every time they face Neal and the Pens. At any rate, this weakens the Pens significantly and fantasy owners even more. There is no way to replace Neal, so the best you can do is scope out the wire and hope perhaps one of these guys is available:
If you were asked “Which is the best line in hockey right now?” what would you say? The Kessel/Bozak/JVR line in Toronto? How about the Perry/Getzlaf/Penner line in Anaheim? You might even venture a really far out guess throwing the surging Nash/Kreider/Stepan line out there for the Rangers. Well, none of the above is the answer here folks, because the TVO line on Long Island has been dominating the league for the past month. John Tavares (3 A, 4 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) leads the league in scoring since December 17th and decided that his lead wasn’t quite big enough, so he added three helpers after scoring goals in back-to-back games prior to last night. That gives him 25 points in his last 17 games. Kyle Okposo (2 A, 3 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) now has 22 points in his last 17 games and is now tied for second in the league in scoring since Dec. 17th with Thomas Vanek (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, even) who clearly loves playing with Okie and Tavares, and who wouldn’t? He has 23 points in his last 17 games and holy hell is this line good or what? I know I have a history of bashing the Isles for not giving Tavares enough talent to work with, but he sure has it now. Unfortunately that hasn’t changed the fact that the Isles have a horrible defense and suspect goaltending, so despite the fact that the TVO line is scoring in buckets, it hasn’t been enough. Obviously all three of these guys are taken in your league and if they’re not, you’re in a really horrible league. The only player since Dec. 17th in the top 4 in scoring that isn’t an Islander is Flyers’ Wayne Simmonds with his own 22 points over that span, and there’s a guy worth adding and is likely still available, so add him where you can. Did I just start a feature about three guys and end up recommending you add someone completely different? You betcha! Just trying to keep you readers on your toes. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night: