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:
With three weeks left until the NHL trade deadline the Toronto Maple Leafs started selling off some assets sending Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli to the Preds for Olli Jokinen, prospect Brendan Leipsica, a 2015 first round pick and a bag of pucks. Typically a move out of the fantasy value black hole that is the Maple Leafs would be a boon to most players but unfortunately for Franson owners the move out of the barren wasteland of Toronto to the fertile fields of Nashville does little to boost his value. In fact, the move probably hurts more than it helps.
Before the season started I cautioned against drafting Semyon Varlamov expecting a repeat of last season and sure enough he sucked up the joint hard to start the year then hit IR with a bum groin. He came back, sucked it up so more and then exited once more with the same injury. Again he returned and again he sucked and yet again he re-injured the same groin and is now down for “a couple weeks.” Yeah, right. Listen, a goalie with a groin injury is a red flag. A goalie that hurts the same groin three times in less than a half a season is more than a red flag, it’s a signal to run for the hills and not look back. For now you stash him on IR, but don’t expect much from him moving forward. In the meantime rookie Calvin Pickard, G (W, 30 SV, 3 GA, .909%) has taken control of the Colorado crease and doesn’t appear to be ready to relinquish command of it anytime soon. With expensive backup Reto Berra struggling Captain Pickard seems to be the go-to guy for Patrick Roy right now. In a recent interview Roy said of Pickard "He deserves to play, he gives us a chance to win every night. We cannot ask for more from him." And how could you? Why would you? The kid has been stellar in the handful of starts he’s been given, win or loss, and seems to be getting stronger as he gets more time. There’s no reason for Pickard to be available in any leagues right now, deep or shallow, so if he’s available in your league add him yesterday. If you do, don’t drop another starter to do it. Remember that while he might out play Berra like whoa until Varly gets back, as soon as he does Pickard is headed back to the AHL unless the Avs cut or trade Berra, who has a one-way deal and cannot be sent to the minors. Regardless, in the meantime if you're thinking of adding Captain Pickard, make it so. Anyway, here’s what else I saw in the world o’ fantasy hockey last night:
EDIT (21/2/14): Kane is now on LTIR and is out for the rest of the regular season. You can safely drop him in any yearly leagues.
Patrick Kane (1 A, +2) apparently injured his left knee in a 4-0 victory over the Blues last night and it sounds like he’s going to be about for the rest of the regular season, or at least long enough to make sure he contributes nothing to his fantasy owners’ hopes and dreams of winning their leagues. Some reports say two weeks, others say three weeks, I say the rest of the regular season because why would the Hawks tempt fate and rush Kane back before the playoffs? Pro tip: they won't. I guess Brendan Morrow accidentally rolled into Kane’s knee after a hit from the Hawks’ Sheldon Brookbank. Well that’s great; it’s good to know two mostly worthless guys took one of the most valuable fantasy assets off the board for the playoffs. Can you sense my bitterness? Oh, I’m bitter. Like sour patch kids bitter. What, that’s sour? Fine, I’ll happily donate some of my bitterness to bitter it up further. So what do you do if you just lost Kane? Drink and cry, my friends, drink and cry. Before you get too deeply into the bottle, though, consider that Kane’s absence opens up TOI for some of the younger guys and will demand a reshuffling of the lines. It’s hard to say who will end up where, the Hawks have a ton of options, but Andrew Shaw (1 G, 3 SOG, +1, 2 PIM) has goals in back-to-back games and has seven points in nine games this month, so he might be worth a flier. A former Blackhawk now turned Panther is also worth a look as Brandon Pirri has been a roll since being traded to South Florida with seven points in his last eight games. Right now Kane owners are looking at this advice and cringing, thinking; “Shaw? Pirri? These are the guys you expect to replace Kane?” No, bitter Kane owner, I don’t! You can’t replace him, but you might be able to mitigate the impact to your hopes by looking into some of these guys, they might just be available to save your (and my) skins:
Dustin Byfuglien (2 A, 6 SOG, +1) started at right wing for the first time in, well, a while. The Jets hope moving him back to wing will help them find some semblance of an offensive spark, somehow, someway. At first glace this sounds like it's going to be great for his owners, right? Shifting to the wing can only increase his value, right? Well, he lined up with Olli Jokinen and Devin Setoguchi, a slot previously occupied by Bryan Little who is actually having his best season as a pro, so maybe that's not so bad. When asked about the shift Buff dutifully replied that he would do whatever it takes to win, but added that this wasn't his decision. Gee, I wonder how he really feels about it? Apparently the Jets don't much care what he thinks and it's still not his decision because they said today that they'd be keeping the big fella at wing for now. This back and forth dance from defense to forward and back again the Jets have him doing is slowing his development at either position, but it mostly hurts his blue line skills. A lot of folks wondered why he was snubbed from the US Olympic team and it's because he's not a good defensive defenseman yet, in fact I'd still label him a liability on the blue line and his horrible plus/minus can attest to that. I'd call this a desperation move from a team in complete disarray, riddled with injuries and not entirely sure what to do about it. Since moving from Atlanta to Winnepeg it has been all down hill for a franchise that started out, well, at the bottom of the hill and has since been trying to skate to the top. Obviously trying to ice skate uphill is going to be problematic, but that hasn't stopped the Jets from giving it the ole' college try, eh? Only time will tell how Buff reacts to the switch, but I doubt it changes his overall numbers much. He'll likely give us the same 60 some points he was already on pace to deliver for his owners, so whoop-dee-freakin-doo! If this was a better team the switch would mean more, but it's not, so it doesn't. Blah, the Jets are terrible in so many ways. Anyway, here's what else I saw in the world o' fantasy hockey yesterday:
Normally I focus on one player that stands out to me as I write these rundowns, but tonight I have to switch it up because the Edmonton Oilers have come alive! Semyon Varlamov stayed in the entire game taking an 8-2 pounding from the league’s youngest team. It's pretty ironic that back in 1995 when Avs Head Coach Patrick Roy was left in for all 9 goals scored effectively ending his career with the Habs (and he nearly retired completely) and now he's gone and done the same thing to Varlamov, classy. I never liked Roy. Anyway, here’s the rundown for the Oil:
Taylor Hall (3 G, 1 A, 7 SOG, + 1) is elite and should be the guy that leads this team back to greatness. He’s got all the skills and he put them all on display tonight.
Jordan Eberle (1 G, 1 A, 2 SOG, even) is the other half of the core of this offensive unit that could be one of the best in the league in the second half.
David Perron (1 G, 1 A, 4 SOG, +2) is having a career year and after not living up to expectations for years seems to have found a home in the Great White North.
Ales Hemsky (1 G, 1 A, 1 SOG, +1) is showing signs of life as well. He’s one of my second-half sleepers.
Mark Acrobello (1 G, 1 A, 5 SOG, +1) remains a risky add at best. He’s tiny and inconsistent, but could live well off the table scraps of others if the Oil take off like I think they can.
Sam Ganger (1 G, 2 SOG, even) should take this opportunity to step up and be a leader for this young bunch. He was once a highly touted prospect himself.
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (1 A, 2 SOG, +1) chipped in an assist, but should be right in the middle of all the scoring sooner than later. What would a mention of the Oilers’ potential be without the Nudge?!
Nail Yakupov (1 SOG, -1) continues to be a huge bust and what a tickertease for his owners. I never buy in early on young Russians because so few of them pan out and Yakupov seems to be the same. On a team flush with young talent this kid is playing an embarassing season of hockey with a -17 rating and just 9 points in 28 games played so far. Nail, I think the KHL is calling.
After a terrible start to the season it seems like this young team is getting its legs and finding their identity as a team. They’ve won four of their last five games and with performances like this there’s a possibility this team might, may be able to ull itself out of the basement and fight for a playoff spot. After adding Breezy to upgrade their goalie situation and a favorable schedule going up to the Olympic break facing the likes of the Flames, Jets, Blue Jackets, Hurricanes and Predators, things are looking up for the Edmonton faithful. Is the horrible start a thing of the past? Maybe, but you can’t deny tonight’s results, and this didn’t come against a bad team with lackluster goaltending either. Don’t miss out on this potential buffet o’ fantasy black gold, grab some Oil while you can get ‘em cheap! Anyway, here’s what else I saw in fantasy hockey recently:
David Backes scored and Alexander Steen scored twice but it wasn’t enough to overcome the Winnipeg Jets who posted a shootout win 4-3 last night.
Evander Kane, Olli Jokinen and Tobias Enstrom each scored for the Jets. Please, blog, may I have some more?
The Jets looked like they had it all put together for a playoff berth. Carolina faltered, the Jets made up ground and held a good lead in the division. Then the Washington Capitals won 16 of their final 20 games to snatch the #3 seed away from the Jets. Please, blog, may I have some more?
Tomas Kopecky had a hat trick and an assist as the Florida Panthers scored four power goals in a wild 6-4 win over Pittsburgh.
The Panthers scored their first four goals on the power play and three of them came in a five-minute span of the second period. Please, blog, may I have some more?
A lot of the talk surrounding this summer’s free agent activity has centered on the loyalty, or lack thereof, shown by players to their long-time employers.
Martin Brodeur and the New Jersey Devils renewed their wedding vows with a 2-year contract that will see Brodeur in a Devils’ sweater through his 42nd birthday. Please, blog, may I have some more?