Dropping the Gloves is a new series in which Cameron Chase and Alexander Monaghan share their weekly thoughts on fantasy hockey via email. The main purpose of the article is to entertain so keep in mind that the contents may, or may not, be factual. Feel free to gripe in the comments.
From: Alexander Monaghan <[email protected]>
To: Cameron Chase <[email protected]>
Subject: Dropping the Gloves — To Drop, or Not To Drop
With roughly a month remaining in the regular season, and fantasy hockey season for that matter, the pickins’ look slim. Most teams with any stability have their lines set for the stretch drive and a lot of players are playing through injuries. Then again, there are some that aren’t, which is a bit more concerning. Is it time to send some of those stars players packing like they’re Peyton Manning or Brett Favre? Or do we let these guys go down with the ship?
The obvious name is Sidney Crosby. Limited to only eight awesome games, the Croz carries the ‘out indefinitely’ label almost as much as he carries the ‘best player in the game’ moniker. On Tuesday, it was announced that Crosby’s symptoms have subsided and that he would be taking contact soon. The last time this happened, it took a few weeks for Sid the Kid to get back into the lineup. But do the Penguins have that much time to spare? With only a few points on the Flyers, it seems like now would be the perfect time to get a boost from the captain. So… one week, two weeks? How much longer do you give him to return before pulling the trigger on that IR slot?
Another player with their status in the air is Jonathan Toews. While Toews began skating this week his return date remains clouded in mystery. In fact, we don’t officially know if he has a concussion or not at this point. If it is in fact the former he is as good as gone unless the Blackhawks desperately need him back in the mix. Last week we saw some savvy pundits selling Toews for some depth– that might not be a bad move at all if you aren’t in a trade freeze.
Meanwhile, in Minnesota, the captain is nowhere to be found. Koivu will be reevaluated in about a week but the outcome probably isn’t good. Back in December, the Wild rushed him back into the lineup only for him to injure his shoulder even worse. At this point, I can’t imagine a reason to rush him back into the lineup; heal him up for next year. Him, and his starting goalie Niklas Backstrom, are lost causes and therefore dropped.
Where do you stand on these guys? Are there any other players you’re ready to drop for the remainder of the season?
I’m sorry…Sidney who? Oh you mean the guy from all the Sportchek/Gatorade/Dempster’s bread etc. commercials? He still plays hockey? Interesting…
No doubt that the Pens need a captain out there, but considering how dominant Evgeni Malkin has been I doubt they need Sid very much. I figure the Pens are pretty much a lock for a playoff spot so there’s no need to rush Crosby back. Sure, he’d come in, pump up the crowd, boost up the teams morale a bit, and maybe accumulate a few points but really, in all likeliness, they probably won’t play him until the playoffs. MAYBE they’ll have him in the lineup for the last couple weeks of the season, just so he can get his bearings back, but even then it would be unlikely to do that much for your fantasy league.
The worst part about Toews being sidelined is the fact I traded for him a few weeks before his mysterious injury. I sent away Zetterberg, thinking that Chicago would go on a tear before the season’s end and also taking into consideration that Zetterberg had been “meh” up until that point until I traded him. Now he’s lighting it up out there for the Wings on the first line. Hopefully Toews comes back soon but the Blackhawks are being pretty hush-hush about the whole thing injury; and that’s usually never a good sign.
Mikko Koivu, I’ve had it out for that guy all season. My personal vendetta against him spawned from when I (pre-maturely) dropped him in November and added Kris Versteeg (both were pretty equal through-out the season). Versteeg had the point lead between the two for a while but as soon as Versteeg cooled off I had regrets about dropping Koivu. Luckily (and I know that it sounds bad) Koivu became injured and I thought to myself “I dodged a bullet there” but then Karma came up to bite me when Versteeg ALSO became injured. Right now, I would agree with you that Koivu won’t be back in the line-up this season, but that more has to do with my high hopes as oppose to a conscious decision.
One guy I’ve been flip-flopping about, and we touched on this in past weeks, is Pavel Datsyuk. There’s a very strong chance he’ll be back within a week or so. But the question is: will he be as hot as he was before or will the surgery cause him to treat the end of this season as a warm up for the playoffs. At this point I could probably trade him a way for a star player on a team that’s lighting it up for their playoff stride. Examples that I’ve pondered over are Jason Pominville, Martin St. Louis or even Jarome Iginla. It’s just difficult taking a chance like that, especially if Datsyuk comes back better than ever.
The theme this week seems to be “injured captains” because the other guy I have injured (alongside Toews and Datsyuk) is Vincent Lecavalier. Although he hasn’t been sinking the puck as often as his teammate Steven Stamkos, there’s no denying that your fantasy league team took a hit after he fractured his hand back on February 20th. They say he could be back in mid-March so there’s a pretty good chance he’ll join his teammates during the Lighting’s run to pass Washington and Winnipeg for that 8th seed. Although I don’t think I’ll trade him just yet, that doesn’t mean I can’t dangle that trade offer in front of fellow league members like a carrot.
A couple obvious drops that I would do, that is if I had any adds left in this league, would be Nathan Horton. The sniper has been on the IR for over a month now from a “mild” concussion. I would also drop one of my lesser defensemen in Dmitry Kulikov. It’s too bad that Horton was taken out when he did as he seemed to be doing a pretty decent job as the Bruins ONLY legitimate right wingers, posting 17 goals and 15 assists with an average time on ice of just 15:55 per game. After losing him, it seemed the Bruins took a hit, leaving Bruins coach Claude Julien to mix the lines around until he finally found a workable first line. FWIW, he’s got Brian Rolston in that role; the same Rolston who played on the third line with the Islanders.
Kulikov, on the other hand, wasn’t that big of a hit to my team — of course losing anyone can be hurtful unless you have Rene Bourque on your team (I’m thinking about dropping him out of pure spite). He was a part of that trade I mentioned a few weeks back when I HAD to get rid of Roloson and I had to sweeten the offer by sending away Suter for Kulikov. I thought I had the last laugh on that when Kulikov went a decent point streak and Suter was injured, but pretty soon those tables were turned and I had the guy on IR and he had his star defensive back on the ice.
You mentioned injured captains and yeah, wow, just a ton of them have missed playing time this season. Like a ton — Pronger, Crosby, Gionta, Lidstrom, Toews, Koivu, Morrow, etc. It makes you wonder if you should be drafting these guys in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, they are fine players and really provide the heart-and-soul effort that I crave when watching hockey but none of that matters in fantasy hockey. There’s no intangibles statistic in standard leagues so really take the streaky floaters with confidence — at least you know they won’t be injured blocking a shot or sore from a fight.
Take Ryan Callahan for instance. On a personal level, he is one of my favorite players in the league. However, I’ve never drafted the Rangers’ captain because he almost always gets hurt in a season. And while his 25-goal, 50+ point output is great for a depth winger, I find it hard to invest in a guy who puts his body on the line every year. The same goes for guys like Cal Clutterbuck or even Taylor Hall. The effort is there, in bunches, but that sort of reckless game doesn’t translate into an iron-man streak.
Then again, an ironman like Jay Bouwmeester is just as useless if he doesn’t produce. We might just be splitting hairs.
As for your assessments on Kulikov, Datsyuk, and Horton, I agree… for the most part. Horton is an easy dump, like a night after eating
enchiladitos. His history of concussions along with not getting back on the ice make him a candidate to miss the postseason altogether. With regards to Kulikov, he just started to skate and could be rushed back soon. I would guess another week or two which is obviously another one of those roster move conundrums. As for Datsyuk, he still has Franzen and the Red Wings have look offensively charged as of late. So much so that Henrik Zetterberg could be one of the best players in hockey right now (ouch). Sadly, I could have traded for him a month ago but didn’t want to part with Joe Pavelski. And now with the Sharks tanking, that move looks awful.
One silver lining is how all these injuries create roles for other players looking for ice time. When Dats went down, Zetterberg got more minutes. In turn Darren Helm is now the team’s second line center. Of course, we can’t say that for all teams but Jordan Caron has come on as of late with Horton out and Steven Stamkos has simply dominated with Lecavalier out. Kind of brings us back to your original point — that Evgeni Malkin is the best player in the game when Sidney Crosby is out.
By that same token, things can get oh so much worse due to injuries. Koivu, and Niklas Backstrom’s inflictions cost the Wild a playoff berth. Their successors in Matt Cullen/Kyle Brodziak and Josh Harding/Matt Hackett haven’t been much better. So at least there’s a balance…
There’s no doubt that Minnesota’s playoff hopes were flushed as soon as their IR became as populated as the ball pit at Check E. Cheese. The Wild seem to be dropping like flies out there but there’s still some life out there from winger Dany Heatley. In the time that Koivu has been away Heatley has been able to maintain his scoring abilities, but lately his first line position has proved to be only doing damage to his plus minus rating.
Just to go back to Malkin again; it’s true that he has been the Pen’s go-to-guy on the ice but his situation with James Neal reminds me a lot of the chemistry that Crosby and Malkin displayed in previous seasons. Could it be that Malkin, who was once Robin, has now come out as the Dark Knight and Neal has jumped in the side cart to dominate the NHL leader boards? After Neal was sent by the Stars to play with Pittsburgh he had a slow start with six points in the first 20 games and had an insignificant amount of ice time (at least compared to his average now). Neal has definitely made himself cozy on the first line with Malkin which makes me wonder…if Crosby were to return soon, would Neal still get to be included in the festivities on the ice?
I always like to see players rise up to the challenge and consistently put up decent numbers on a weekly basis, what I don’t like to see is players that are shaky all season and took some time off at one point to retire to a spot on the IR. I’m referring to the player that was given the opportunity to become a solid mobile defensive on the newly revived Winnipeg Jets; Tobias Enstrom, or Dustin Byfuglien…either or…but mostly Enstrom.
When the Enstrominator was shipped over the border to play for Winnipeg, I had high hopes he was going to put up great numbers, but that largely relied on the hopes Winnipeg as a team would do a lot better in a colder summit. He was doing a decent job in the beginning of the season, riding the momentum of a city psyched to have their old team back up and running, but after his collarbone up and decided to break; a large chunk of his season disappeared. He is lately showing some life out there, which is related to Winnipeg’s determination to keep their position within the top 8 seats. So hopefully he’ll keep this up.
One more player that I want to mention is Jonas Gustavsson; back when James Reimer became injured, Jonas was sent to the net but struggled to keep a winning streak going. When previous Leaf’s Coach Ron Wilson wasn’t flipping burgers, he would give the majority of the starts to Gustavsson during Reimer’s time off, only trusting Scrivens in the net a few times here and there. Optimus Reim never did get his groove back and now the newly appointed Randy Carlyle seems to have his target set on Gustavsson as the starting goalie for the remainder of the season. In the end the Monster benefitted from a teammate’s injury, which seems to be a big trend this season, but I don’t know how much luck that’ll do him, playing on the Leafs and all.