We are about a month into the NHL regular season, which means on average we have completed about 20-percent of our Fantasy Hockey season (a little less for total points or Rotisserie leagues). Generally I don’t like to make any major (panic) moves until I’m sure about what I’m seeing. Is 12-15 games enough to make a final judgment on a player? Yes and no. I like to wait a few more weeks just to make sure said player isn’t off to a slow start. I want as much information as possible. Has his play declined because a new coaching staff put in a new offensive system? Is he playing on a different line? Perhaps one of his talented line mates has been out with injury. I want to take all of this into consideration before I release or trade away the player. The same is true of any player I am thinking about acquiring. I always churn the bottom of my roster. Any players I may have taken a flyer on during the draft that isn’t working out now can be sent packing for someone else that has caught my eye, but I’m not quite ready to pull the plug on a player/veteran that has produced in the past. I want to be just a little more patient. This does not apply to trading a player, however. Any player can be traded at any time should you believe the value to be good enough and that it helps your team.
Those of us who play in weekly lineup leagues have to be getting a little frustrated with the amount of suspensions the NHL has been handing out over the past couple of seasons. We can debate all we want about the validity of the rulings, whether or not they are ticky tacky; but like we see in the NFL, if you hit someone in the head and the league believes it was avoidable, you’re going to pay the price. Blue Jackets defenseman Jack Johnson was the latest culprit and he was banned three games earlier this week. This is now a dead spot on your roster. Some have asked me why leagues can’t allow a replacement to be made if a player is suspended. Well, of course your league can allow that, just like you can allow a player who is injured to be replaced, but if you make these changes then why not just play in a daily lineup league? This would solve all of your problems now, wouldn’t it?
The Ducks have been having some problems between the pipes this week. Frederik Andersen suffered a leg injury last weekend and has been day to day ever since. John Gibson then injured his groin during warmups Sunday and will now be out at least 4-6 weeks. This led to the Ducks having to recall Jason LaBarbera from the AHL and play him in his third game in three nights. This also led to the team having to dress goalie consultant Dwayne Roloson for the game to backup LaBarbera. The good news for Fantasy Hockey owners is that LaBarbera is expected to return for the Ducks on Friday versus Phoenix, and I wouldn’t have much of a qualm with starting him immediately.
Taylor Hall is one of the best wings in the game. The problem is, the Oilers forward just can’t stay healthy for any length of time. Since joining the NHL, he has missed 50 games and that number will keep rising until he returns in about a month. Who will play on the top line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Jordan Eberle? Benoit Pouliot is being given the first shot at the job, but you can hardly say he deserved it with one goal and three assists in 13 games. This seems to be a decision to try and justify the five-year $20 million contract he was signed to this offseason. It would seem that Teddy Purcell or perhaps even Nail Yakupov or David Perron would’ve been a better choice. Pouliot would only be an option in deeper leagues.
How much of a hit does Jason Spezza’s value take now that he has been taken off the top line? Well, anyone being taken away from Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn is going to suffer. His bad news, of course, is good news for Valeri Nichushkin owners. Nichushkin returned from his groin injury earlier this week, and although he got off to a rough start (zero points, -2 in two games), his talent should show soon enough. As for Spezza, he will play on the second line with veteran forwards Ales Hemsky and Erik Cole. To put it nicely, this is an experienced line but also one that doesn’t possess anywhere near the firepower of the top line. Spezza goes back to being a C2. Nichushkin however should be picked up if you’re looking for a forward on your waiver wire that could eventually light the lamp with regularity.
The Rangers are getting hammered right now with injuries, especially to their defensive corps. This has forced me to think twice about starting goalie Henrik Lundqvist in daily Fantasy Hockey leagues. Dan Boyle (broken hand) is hoping to return next week, Ryan McDonagh (shoulder) is expected to miss the next 3-4 weeks, and John Moore (suspension) is eligible to return in two more games. The good news is that Kevin Klein, who was day to day with an ankle injury, returned Wednesday, and center Derek Stepan (fibula) could return as soon as this weekend. It may take another couple of weeks until the Rangers are back at full strength, and then you will feel comfortable starting Lundqvist in daily games again.
You can feel free to follow me on Twitter, @georgekurtz.