Now is the time in Fantasy Hockey when you should be looking at your team, trying to figure out what you do and don’t need. We are about a third of the way through the season; it’s time to make some changes if changes need to be made. While I still hate to give up on a player that was thought of highly before the season started, if that player is bringing my team down, then he has to go. You need to start looking at your ratio categories now (save percentage, GAA, etc). Those categories become harder and harder to make up ground in as the season rolls along. Counting categories, however, are easier to gain ground in. First or second year players (those with no track record), who aren’t performing, can be let go for players that have a track record and can help you now. Jonathan Drouin of the Lightning is a perfect example of this. He was a much ballyhooed rookie before the season began, was going to play on a line with Steven Stamkos, but now seems to be a healthy scratch more than he is in the lineup. Does he have upside? Yes, but that may not be realized until it’s too late for your team. Tough decisions are part of the game; hopefully, we make the right ones.
Semyon Varlamov has to be driving Fantasy owners crazy, as he is out for the third time this season with a groin injury. We have talked over and over again how groin injuries are one of the toughest injuries for a goaltender to overcome. Goalies constantly have to push off and go from post to post. This explosive action will put strain on their lower bodies. The hardest thing is that it’s hard to tell when you’re completely over this injury. Obviously, Varlamov never completely got over this injury the first or second time he suffered it and the Avalanche will have to be extremely cautious this time. They say he will be out for about two weeks but that once again seem to be rushing things. If you own Varlamov you have no choice but to stash him on IR or your bench for now. You can’t release him, as he was one of the best goaltenders, if not the best, in the game last season. You can’t trade him, as he would be a sell low and you’d be lucky to get 50 cents on the dollar for him. As for who to pick up, Calvin Pickard and not Reto Berra will start in Varlamov’s absence. Pickard is not the second coming, but depending on who else is on your waiver wire, he may be the best you can get.
The Ducks signed goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov earlier this week and sent him to the AHL on a conditioning stint. This situation is similar to what the Blues have done with the signing of Martin Brodeur and now Frederik Andersen owners are worried that Bryzgalov may play more than a typical backup would. Is this worry justified? Yes and no. Andersen has played well this season with a 2.46 GAA and .913 save percentage. Those aren’t great numbers but they’re not bad ones either. Could Bryzgalov eat into his starts? Yes, but it would seem unlikely that he will take over the starting role but more likely playing once a week. This does mean that John Gibson is likely to spend the remainder of the season in the AHL once he has recovered from his groin injury. If you have been stashing him on IR, you can safely let him go in redraft leagues.
The Ducks also lost winger Corey Perry for 3-4 weeks due to a knee injury. This is a big loss for both Anaheim and Fantasy owners, as you just can’t replace a player who scores goals both at even strength and on the power play, and also isn’t afraid to play the game hard and thus add some penalty minutes to his resume. Perry is unlikely to play until the new calendar year and there are some who think that he could be out longer than the original timetable. If you’re looking for someone on Anaheim to grab while Perry is sidelined, Matt Beleskey or Kyle Palmieri could be players to look at on your waiver wire.
The Penguins are a M.A.S.H. unit right now. Winger Chris Kunitz is out for a couple of weeks with a foot fracture; winger Pascal Dupuis is out for the season with a blood clot; winger Patric Hornqvist still hasn’t skated with the team and has missed the past two games since suffering a concussion, and defenseman Kris Letang has been out with a groin injury. Losing one or two of these players would be a blow to any team, much less four. The good news is that Hornqvist could return this weekend and Letang on Thursday. The Penguins, though, will be on the market for a Top 6 forward after the holiday season and they do have defensemen in their minor leagues to share. A sneaky pickup in Fantasy leagues is Blake Comeau, who is playing with Evgeni Malkin, and playing well.
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