There are some days this column writes itself and some days, like today, when I’m dealing with the flu and nothing comes to mind. Don’t worry; I’m not going to end this column on that note, although, I would find it kind of funny if I did. Just like any hockey player, though, I have persevered. I’m reminded of what’s so great about hockey. Like how players want to play or how they don’t look for any excuse to take a game off. How many times have we seen a player return to the game just a couple of shifts after taking a few dozen stitches in the face or losing a few teeth?
It was just a month ago that John Tavares of the Islanders literally pulled teeth from his mouth and handed them to the trainer after taking a puck to the face. He didn’t miss a shift. Unbelievable! What does this mean for Fantasy owners? Well, it means if one your players is out due to injury (Jeff Carter, Alexander Ovechkin, Ryan Callahan, Rick Nash, Lubomir Visnovsky, Pekka Rinne), they are really hurt. As always in Fantasy leagues, staying healthy is the most important thing. A healthy team is a competitive team. Now, on to what else is happening around the NHL.
1. As anyone who reads this column regularly can tell you, I’m not a big fan of PIMs as a category in Fantasy, and what happened during the Flyers-Capitals game Friday is a perfect example why. Ray Emery came in to replace the ineffective Steve Mason. While he didn’t play any better (4Gs on 19 shots), he all but won the PIM category for anyone who happened to start him by engaging in a fight with an unwilling participant (Brian Holtby) and taking 17 minutes in penalties. I don’t understand why Fantasy leagues want to reward this kind of play. It’s a fluke kind of thing and we’re left guessing who just might get a misconduct penalty.
2. The first major trade of the NHL season will certainly have some Fantasy impact. The Islanders dealt Matt Moulson (and a couple of draft picks) to Buffalo for Thomas Vanek. Moulson’s Fantasy value would seem to take a hit in this deal. He goes from playing on a line with Tavares to really playing with nobody. He’s been a perennial 30-goal scorer with the Isles; he’ll be lucky to hit the low 20s with Buffalo. The good news, however, is that his stay in Buffalo should be a short one. The team is in major rebuilding mode and will look to trade Moulson for a few more draft picks; the only thing left to decide is the timing. Vanek should prosper playing with Tavares. Assuming he can adjust to not being the focal point of the offense, a return to a 40-goal pace is not out of the question. This trade also signifies to the rest of the league that it is open season for Ryan Miller or any other player on the Buffalo roster that is not in their future plans. Miller owners had to be a little surprised when the first big trade that the Sabres made this season didn’t involve him. Miller has played quite well so far, and is rewarding Fantasy owners in every category with the exception of wins. He will be moved, but not until the Sabres receive an offer they believe they can’t refuse or the trade deadline is upon them.
3. I’m not a lawyer, so I’m not going to get into the legalese of what’s going on with Semyon Varlamov. He was arrested for kidnapping and assault. This had to scare his Fantasy owners but the team plugged him right back into the starting lineup Friday, and he responded with an overtime win, only allowing two goals on 29 shots. Perhaps Varlamov will use the games as a distraction from his legal problems. If you’re worried about him missing time due to these issues, you’re likely safe there. These cases have a tendency to either take forever to go to court or to work themselves out before those proceedings take place. Still though, if I have the roster space, I wouldn’t mind picking up Jean-Sebastian Giguere.
4. The Capitals keep saying the upper body injury to Ovechkin is not serious, but he has missed two games now. The Caps have said over and over again that it is not a concussion but they are refusing to say what the exact nature of the injury is. The only thing they have clued us in on is that he is day to day. That’s not going to make his Fantasy owners all that comfortable about starting him next week.
5. In weekly lineup leagues, I always see good players benched for lesser ones because one player has only two games that week while the other player has three. I try not to outsmart myself when setting my lineup. Sure, it’s nice to start a guy who will have more opportunities. But in the end, you want your best players in the lineup. Now, if it was two less games, then I might feel differently.
Feel free to follow me and ask any Fantasy related questions you like on twitter, @georgekurtz.
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