During the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the NHL and the player’s union negotiated a bye week for each NHL team during the season. Those bye weeks will begin on Sunday for the Islanders and Penguins, Monday for the Senators. What does this mean? First, it’s really not a week they are getting off, it’s five days. If they get an extra day or two, that’s just a regular day off, not part of the “bye week.” If you play in a weekly lineup league, you certainly won’t want to start any player on those teams. They won’t miss the entire week but will likely only play one game at most. Sure, maybe a top-notch goaltender could still start but that brings us to the next problem.
Some teams and players get off to a lethargic start after a break. We saw this Tuesday night, as it seemed to take several teams (Capitals, Rangers) a period or two before they started to play up to their capabilities. A five-day break could make a game or two kind of rough. These bye weeks will also come back to haunt teams, as eventually they will play a large amount of games in a short amount of time.
My final issue is how NHL coaches will handle the bye week. We have seen in MLB and the NFL that teams tend to play it cautious with their injured when their bye week is coming. They may choose to rest a player for a game or two rather than push their luck, knowing that would give them at least a week to heal up. In truth, we don’t know how the coaches will use the bye week. They will look for an advantage but it may be years down the line before we can see a definitive pattern.
Ben Bishop will be sidelined until late January with a lower body injury. This will give the Lightning an extended and uninterrupted look at Andrei Vasilevskiy. I’ve written about the Lightning goaltending situation a few times this season. Bishop will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Due to salary cap issues and the play of Vasilevskiy, it is highly unlikely that he will sign a long-term contract with Tampa. The question has always been what is best for the team? Should they hold onto Bishop, who may give them the best chance at a Stanley Cup run, or trade Bishop and not let him walk away without getting something in return? The team may have been hesitant to try and trade Bishop earlier because they didn’t know if Vasilevskiy could take on the starting role. Well, his numbers (2.53 GAA, .918 save percentage) are better than that of Bishop (2.79 GAA, .907 save percentage). Some might argue that Vasilevskiy should already be the starter, especially with Steven Stamkos (knee) out of the lineup, and the team in 10th place in the Eastern Conference, needing every point they can get. I would expect to hear quite a few trade rumors involving Bishop once he returns from injury, proves he is healthy, and assuming Vasilevskiy doesn’t fall on his face while Bishop is out. There will be one problem, however, and this is true of any team trying to trade a goaltender. The return is generally not what is expected unless a team with Stanley Cup dreams suffers a major injury to a goaltender. This always seems to be the sticking point when it comes to goaltenders.
You may want to avoid Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury for the time being. Not only do they split time in net, but the Penguins are getting awfully thin on defense. Kris Letang (lower body) is skating, but still isn’t expected to return until after the bye week. Trevor Daley (upper body) is also skating and could return after the bye. Brian Dumoulin suffered a broken jaw Tuesday and will be out 4-6 weeks. This leaves the Pens awfully thin on defense. There could be quite a few shootouts coming up for Sidney Crosby and friends.
P.K. Subban is out until at least next week with an upper body injury. There have been rumors that the injury is a herniated disc and will require surgery but this has not been confirmed. If you own Subban, you had better be prepared with an alternative in case the worst-case situation comes to fruition.
The Blackhawks placed Marian Hossa on injured reserve this week. The team had hoped that he would be able to play after the holiday break, but when he was unable to do so, the team elected to place him on IR and activate Artem Anisimov. The isn’t an indication that Hossa has suffered a setback, just that the Blackhawks needed a roster spot. Hossa is having his best goal scoring season since 2008-09, so Fantasy owners will want him back in their lineups as soon as possible.
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