After two incredible weeks of tournament action at the Olympic Games and the NHL schedule break, it’s time for teams to snap back to reality and put down the umbrella drinks they enjoyed during their vacations.
The NHL is not cutting the Olympians any slack with their schedule making. Just one night after we all watched arguably the biggest goal in hockey history from Sidney Crosby, NHL teams are back on the ice. While not bad for the guys who were not at the Olympics, it’s a tough break for a lot of guys to get back and have to play again right away without even having a night or two off. Team Canada would have loved to party it up after their big win in Vancouver last night, but many of them were off to the airport following the biggest game of their lives.
I’m trying to wrap my mind around how Gary Bettman could ever decide to not let NHL players participate at the 2014 games in Russia. They will be there. This tournament was the biggest thing to happen for hockey in a VERY long time.
Could Crosby’s life get any sweeter at this point? He shut the mouths of every Crosby hater out there, and sealed his God-like status in Canada for life with one snap of the wrist.
Let’s take a look at that crazy schedule for this week. 15 teams playing 4 games.
4 games: ATL, BOS, BUF, CAR, CHI, COL, DET, EDM, MON, NSH, NYR, PHI, PIT, TOR, VAN
3 games: ANA, CAL, DAL, FLA, LA, MIN, NJ, NYI, OTT, STL, SJ, PHX, TB, WSH
2 games: CLM
In what many teams will view as the most important week on the schedule for the season, the next seven days are make or break for many teams in their hopes for a playoff spot. Only 20 games remain for most teams, so there is no time to waste, especially with half of the league playing in four games immediately after the Olympic break.
It will be interesting to see how teams respond following the break. I think it’s inevitable that we will see at least one good team go completely flat after this layoff. With four more games on the road this week before returning home next week, the Vancouver Canucks need a strong effort this week to avoid being that team. One plus for them coming back is that Daniel Sedin and Henrik Sedin will be rested. Sweden was nowhere to be seen in the Olympic tourney. Look for Andrew Raycroft to see at least one start this week as I expect to see the Canucks to not push Roberto Luongo too hard right after winning gold.
While I do think the Canucks will survive and go on to some playoff success, the New York Rangers are a team faced with a serious challenge in the first week back. This week the Rangers play four games against Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Washington, and Buffalo. All four teams are east coast powerhouses right now that will be looking to feed on the vulnerable Rangers. Marion Gaborik’s health is a question mark coming back. He was not himself in the Olympics for the Slovaks. Without him healthy, the Rangers are doomed.
Two guys that enjoyed incredible Olympic success who may be on your waiver wire are Brendan Morrow, and David Backes. Both guys have found waiver wires in the recent weeks and shouldn’t be there at all. Both players enjoyed a great Olympic tournament for their respective countries and put numbers up across the board in fantasy action. Backes I would be a little less high on because the Blues just don’t score goals. Morrow looks healthy and ready for a good run with the Stars and Brad Richards passing him the puck.
I can’t believe we have come this far into the article with the NHL trade deadline not even being mentioned! It is just 48 hours away, and the GMs are working overtime putting together proposals after the trade freeze was lifted last night.
I am not expecting to see any blockbusters like what we have already seen with Dion Phaneuf and Ilya Kovalchuk, but there are a few good players out there who will be moving teams, and their fantasy value goes with them. If Ray Whitney winds up in LA alongside Anze Kopitar, what does that do for his value? If Alexei Ponikarovsky lands on a line with Crosby in Pittsburgh, what does that do for his value? These are all real possibilities as there are many teams looking to sell. Toronto and Florida top the list. Keep a close eye on your wire following the trade deadline. There will be someone whose value sky rockets due to new opportunity, and at this point of your season, you could use that injection of offense.
Will Carey Price be dealt?
While I am not expecting any major names to go, stranger things could happen. There are many NHL teams in financial trouble and always looking to clear space to save money. This is why I still think Vincent Lecavalier is in play for Tampa Bay.
The Steve Stamkos watch continues. If you’ve been reading The Week Ahead this season, you know about my love of SS. I said he would score 40 goals, and that night is coming very soon! Since January 2009, only one player in the NHL has scored more goals than Stamkos. Alex Ovechkin.
I pushed hard for Stamkos on Team Canada, and while he was not there in the Patrice Bergeron spot when he should have been, we all know that if NHL players participate in 2014, Stamkos will be an integral part of Team Canada. Look for him this spring in the World Hockey Championships if the Lightning don’t make the playoffs.
Enjoy the first week back, enjoy the trade deadline, and try to stay focused after that amazing tournament in which we saw Canada go home with double hockey gold!
For fantasyhockey.com, I’m Tim Arnold, the fantasypuckdude.