Contributed by Tim Arnold
Could there be a more exciting time for hockey fans than where we stand right now kicking off 2010? The last week has been a massive barrage of hockey with the World Junior Hockey Championships in full gear, the heavy NHL schedule, and all of the national teams being named for the upcoming Olympic games. This includes powerhouse Canada, who like the bobsled competition, should be able to enter more than one team.
Just for the heck of it, let’s take a look at some names who will be chillin’ on a beach in the Caribbean instead of playing at the Olympics:
Martin St. Louis
I know I missed some, so you can fill in the blanks on your own.
As a fan of Canada, I’m not afraid to admit it! As cheesy as it sounds to say it, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING! (Editor’s note: Tim is referring to the Olympics, not the World Juniors. Russia was upset by Switzerland at the WJHC on Saturday.)
Let’s look ahead to this week’s schedule.
4 games: Anaheim, Boston, Calgary, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, NY Rangers, Ottawa, Toronto
3 games: Washington, Vancouver, Tampa Bay, St. Louis, San Jose, Pittsburgh, Phoenix, Philadelphia, NY Islanders, New Jersey, Nashville, Montreal, Minnesota, Los Angeles, Florida, Detroit, Colorado, Carolina, Buffalo, Atlanta
2 games: Edmonton
Mr. Obvious Moment: The Oilers have been brutal. Before finally beating the Leafs the other night, they had dropped seven straight games. Dustin Penner has finally hit a slump, scoring just once in his last 12 games. You had to know Dustin Penner wasn’t going to score 100 points. Penner will bounce back soon enough, but if you’re in a weekly league, you simply can’t have him in your starting lineup this week with the Oil slumping so badly and playing only two games.
Coming off an incredibly exciting OT win at the Winter Classic, the Boston Bruins will be moving back indoors this week and have a favorable schedule waiting there for them. The B’s face off twice this week against the struggling Rangers, and also have games against the banged up Senators, and the red hot Blackhawks.
The Bruins will be welcoming back Milan Lucic this weekend after missing most of the season with injuries thus far. There were a lot of owners who were forced to drop Lucic when he went down weeks ago. With how well the Bruins have been playing of late, Lucic couldn’t be coming back to a better situation. Lucic is only owned in 38 percent of Yahoo! leagues right now. Look for that number to skyrocket once he returns and stays healthy for longer than a handful of games.
Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask: the best 1-2 goalie combo in hockey? Look for the B’s to have a big second half.
It’s a rule now, so Carolina is my “Are you kidding me?” pick of the week. The Canes have been nothing short of horrendous all season long, yet I think if there is a week where they may be able to put together a small stretch of wins before returning to their losing ways, this is the one! The Predators, Avalanche, and Senators await the Canes this week. I think the Canes can win two of those games, and starting Cam Ward may not be as crazy of a thought as it has been all season long.
I still believe that Carolina will go into sell mode, possibly before the NHL trading deadline. Jim Rutherford is having dreams of a Taylor Hall/Eric Staal combo in Carolina, and someone like Ray Whitney is a likely target to move. Whitney’s ownership is down this season, as are his stats, but he will be a valuable fantasy should he find a more competitive team to play for, like say….the Calgary Flames? Just a hunch.
It scares me to think that Rod Brind’ Amour is owned even 5 percent in fantasy leagues this season. Sad to see a great player like Brind’ Amour just fade away like he has.
Toronto Maple Leafs
It destroys me as a life-long Leafs fan to slide them into the “You’re gonna get you’re a$$ handed to you” category, but this week, it’s not looking so good for my beloved Blue and White. Toronto has four contests this week against the Panthers, Flyers, Sabres, and Penguins. I’m picking the Leafs to drop at least two of the four.
The goaltending situation in T.O. is still in shambles as coach Ron Wilson keeps flip-flopping back and forth between incumbent starter Jonas Gustavsson, and the shaky Vesa Toskala. Why Wilson won’t just ride the “Monster” for a half-dozen games to see what he can do is beyond me. He’s only on a one-year deal, and they’re not making the playoffs, so let the kid play.
Phil Kessel snapped out of a seven-game goalless drought on Wednesday with a late third-period power-play tally against the Oilers. He needs to get it going in the second half and can’t let the fact that he doesn’t have a superstar center to play with bother him too much. Good things come to those who wait. Unfortunately for Leafs fans, it’s been a 43-year wait…and counting.
Ian White, ladies and gentlemen. How many times do I need to say it? Go get him off your waiver wire! White is owned in only 35 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Columbus Blue Jackets
For Columbus, the dreaded western Canadian road trip (VAN, EDM, CAL) stands between them and next Saturday. Throw in a game against the underrated Dallas Stars on Sunday and that makes for one tough week.
Superstar left wing and recently named Canadian Olympian Rick Nash has only one goal in his last eight games. When Nash isn’t scoring, it seems no one does in Columbus. I have openly bashed youngster Steve Mason all season long for his horrible play, but another Jacket who has been a big letdown is Derick Brassard. I expected to see him shine with Nash and continue on the pace he set for himself last year. It has not worked well for Brassard, he has just six goals, 14 assists, and an ugly double-digit minus rating.
Evaluate your left wing slot and how many games each of your left wings have this week. If there was a week to sit down Rick Nash on a four-game schedule, this could be it. I’d be surprised to see the Jackets win more than one game this week.
Before we wind up the report for another week, here’s a list of players to look for to help you in the next seven days.
Dan Sexton – ANA – Sexton is not slowing down, and the role he has been handed on a silver platter isn’t going anywhere either. There are four games this week for Sexton and the Ducks.
Milan Lucic – BOS – Lucic is back in time for a four-game work week. Lucic shouldn’t be on any waiver wire with his contributions across the board in fantasy action. Many owners dropped him, go get him before he’s gone!
Anze Kopitar – LA – With Ryan Smyth now back in the lineup and contributing some numbers, we are still waiting on the Anze Kopitar of October and November to show back up on the scoreboard. I said all along sell high on Kopitar, but it might be too late now.
Joe Thornton – SJ – No player since Mario Lemieux in 1988-89 has scored 100 assists in a season . Big Joe will need to keep this pace up without hitting any slumps, but he could be within reach. Since Lemieux’s 114-assist season, there have been 71 different 50-goal seasons. Would be remarkable if Thornton could hit the 100-assist mark.
Good luck this week!
For fantasyhockey.com I’m Tim Arnold, the fantasypuckdude