Twenty-two weeks into this crazy NHL schedule and by this point you should have some good idea as to where you sit in your leagues out there. Whether you have already locked up a berth in the post-season, are fighting it out for the last spot, or are in dead last with no vital signs at all, every week is still has the same importance. Even for you GMs out there who are all but dead in your league, the opportunity to play spoiler is still there. What better way to get back at the team that hammered you 10-1 earlier in the season than to knock him off his pedestal a bit and hurting his playoff chances or seeding?
With the Olympic tourney now a distant memory, especially for those of you south of the 49, the focus now is on these last 15 or 16 games of the regular season and the last couple of weeks before fantasy playoffs kick off. Most leagues, like the NHL, had their trading deadline come and go this week allowing GMs one final shot at bulking up their roster in hopes of a successful playoff run. I participate in half a dozen leagues or so and the trade action in my leagues was very much like the NHL in being dead quiet. There was not even one trade made in any of my leagues this week, let alone any blockbusters. Again, much like the NHL these days with the salary cap playing such a huge role, pulling off trades is equally as hard in fantasy. You really have to find that perfect match of a GM who is seeking something you have a surplus of and is willing to give something up that you covet. It’s not easy. In all of my leagues, there have only been a handful of trade transactions this season due in large part to GMs not wanting to part with their star players, regardless of how good or bad of a season they have had thus far.
A prime example of this is a GM in one of my leagues who right up until the New Year was having no part of my repeated offers for Blues RW Brad Boyes. While in hindsight it was good for me to not acquire the struggling former 40-goal man, the process was tedious. My original offer was Travis Zajac, which was turned down outright. Later I offered the then red-hot Dustin Penner, again to no avail. My man crush on Boyes may have got the best of me when I offered the then injured Marian Hossa, but once again, the owner apparently had a bigger crush on Boyes than I did and turned the deal down. This week, just hours before our league deadline passed, this same owner sent me an offer of Boyes for Lightning RW Steve Downie, who sat on our waiver wire all season long until about four weeks ago when I snatched him up once he landed on the top line in Tampa, and since has become one of the most valuable players in all of fantasy hockey. This time, I turned the deal down. Trading isn’t as easy as it sounds.
Once again this week we will see nearly half of the league tap into a four-game schedule. The Olympic break has really taken its toll on teams who have been forced into stockpiling lots of games in a very short period of time. Just ask the Vancouver Canucks, who play four more this week, including the final two games of their NHL record 14-game road trip. The Nucks finally land back in Vancouver to take on Ottawa next Saturday night. Being a Leafs fan, it’s hard for me to give credit where credit is due when it comes to a rival city like Vancouver, but I give the Canucks their props. The fact that they have not really hit any major snags in this insane trip is an accomplishment in its own. Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, and Alex Burrows are still tearing it up and leading the charge for their offense. If the return of the injured Pavol Demitra can spark some secondary scoring, this team could be downright scary come playoff time. A hot goalie in Roberto Luongo and his ever increasing confidence level after bringing home gold for Canada is a huge bonus for Canucks fans. Now only if they can figure out a way to beat the Chicago Blackhawks.
4 games: ATL, CLM, DAL, LA, MIN, NSH, NYI, PHI, TB, TOR, VAN, WSH
3 games: ANA, BOS, BUF, CAL, CAR, CHI, COL, DET, EDM, FLA, MON, NJ, NYR, OTT, PHX, PIT, SJ, STL
Despite Alexander Ovechkin struggling (goalless in 6 games) the Washington Capitals continue to plough their way through the Eastern Conference with ease. They sit a full 16 points ahead of the second place team in the conference and have all but locked up that number one seed. I don’t know what’s going on with Ovechkin. Little has been made of it, whether it is an injury or whatever it may be that is keeping him off the board, but if you ask me, he just has not been the same since Canada flat out embarrassed the Russians in the Olympics with a blowout 7-3 win. I managed to watch two Caps games this week and despite the team still looking incredible, Ovie just hasn’t been his usual self. Here’s the stupid comment of the week that I can’t help but throw in, but without the Great 8 on the top of his game, I don’t care how good the rest of the team is. They need him pumpin’ at full steam to have any real shot to continue their dominance. Maybe now that Sidney Crosby has taken over the NHL goal scoring lead with 44 goals, that will wake up the sleeping monster.
Okay, I can’t go this entire article without mentioning Steven Stamkos. I have been preaching about Stamkos all season long. I predicted in the preseason that he would score 40 goals, and I pushed hard for his inclusion on Team Canada, but apparently Steve Yzerman doesn’t read The Week Ahead. On my Twitter page I have had a countdown of sorts going with every goal that Stamkos scored inching closer to the 40. Well, two nights ago he accomplished the feat. Stamkos has hit that 40-goal plateau, has scored points in 16 consecutive games for the Bolts and has a league-leading 16 goals with the man advantage. He’s a star who I just knew would shine incredibly bright far sooner than anyone ever thought. Chew on this one… since January of 2009, only one player has scored more goals than Steve Stamkos. Some guy named Ovechkin. With 16 games still left to play and Stamkos on the tear that he is on, 50 goals could very well happen. Stamkos will be a top five fantasy pick next year in nearly every draft out there, as he should be.
Can anyone explain to me why the Flyers didn’t try and get a goalie at the deadline? I think I have said this now for about 12 years running. They don’t acquire a goalie when Jaroslav Halak, Carey Price, Dwayne Roloson, Martin Biron, Marty Turco, and Peter Budaj were all available. The very next day they announce that Ray Emery is out for the season and that they will be riding Michael Leighton and Brian Boucher into the playoffs. So long, Philly.
A couple of names that need to be mentioned this week include Steve Downie of the Lightning and Brian Elliott of the Ottawa Senators. Both of these guys are must owns. Downie has been across the board, one of the top five fantasy performers for the past two months. He is scoring, getting major ice time with the number one line and PP action, and gets into a fight nearly every night because after all, his main role is still to be a pest. I’ve dropped Brenden Morrow and made Downie my resident go to goon that scores some.
Brian Elliott is without question the number one main in Ottawa going forward. Don’t be fooled by a spot start here and there for the shaky Pascal Leclaire. Coach Clouston will be relying on Elliott heavily here in the last 15 or so games. Elliott is only owned in about 30% of Yahoo! Leagues. If you need help in the pipes, there may not be a better waiver wire goalie option out there.
Good luck this week!
For fantasyhockey.com, I’m Tim Arnold, the fantasypuckdude.