Tis the season for fantasy savings. This time of year can be a joyous yet stressful time for you when you are shopping for the right gifts to put under your tree. In this economic environment, it is important to get the most out of your investments. The same holds true for your hockey squad. You may be feeling the heat as your team is underperforming and needs a jolt. This is the perfect time to go shopping for sales for your fantasy team. The right gift bought at the right time can get your team from the cellar to the cup.
Why is this the season for fantasy values? Well, most owners are at their wits end when it comes to being patient with their underachievers. We are about 30 games into the season and the leash can't get any longer. Right before the midway point, it is time for a change according to most owners. Take advantage.
At the same time, with the holidays and everyone being so busy, many leagues are going into slumber mode but some active owners may be looking to spice things up just for the sake of change. These anxious, hyperactive owners will make some concessions at this point in the season just because trading is entertaining. Looks like a sale price to me.
So, with so many games under the belt, what players are still underachieving but have a chance to turn it around in the second half? We will take a look at the Buy Lows aka value and sale gifts perfect for your fantasy stocking. On the other hand, what players should you be returning in the Sell Highs before they go and break on you? You knew it was too good to be true, and they will soon be discarded in the fantasy closet with injury or slump if you aren't careful. Then, what oldie but goodie can you pull out and reuse when all the new shiny gifts just aren't cutting it? The Resurrection will give you an idea. Finally, the Flashback will give us some time to reflect on our great holiday memories and how things change.
Anyway, enough talk. In this season of traditions, I present a classic Status Report.
The Status Report:
Holiday Sales (Buy Low):
Dany Heatley, LW, OTT
There is a chink in the armor this season. This mega star may finally be obtainable for a fairly reasonable price. I'd take that gamble that he returns to form despite the teams struggles. Dany has never been JUST a point-per-game player in the "new" NHL like he is right now. Three more games with no points helps that image to buy him cheap. Pay a little more than fair and just keep thinking about his consecutive 100-point seasons and the fact he is only 27 and entering his prime. History is on your side.
Brandon Dubinsky, C, NYR
So a player enters the league. He scores 57 points in his first 121 games. Good debut right? He is still only 22 years old. Really good right? Well, it is all about perspective and Dub has accomplished this solid start is such a fashion that it currently has a bad taste in his owners' mouths. Currently, without Jagr around, Dubinsky is producing at a slightly better rate than he was last year when he scored 40 points in a full seaosn. He is also shooting much more while raking up more penalty minutes. Overally, he is showing progress. Still, currently he is slumping significantly. He has only produced 5 points in his last 25 games after a rocket start. Even worse, he only has one point in his last nine contests. THis is an opportunity to get a really good price. 12 points in 13 games made stardom seem near. It may take a while, but that potential is still to take flight in the next few years.
Fedor Tyutin, D, CLS
The secret to this sale is that no one knows about it. With very little advertising, many leagues have not snagged Fedor based on his attractive progressions he's shown in his young career. A highly touted prospect, Tyutin was still ignored by many because his value wasn't expect to be on the offensive end. Still, his overall solid play is translating across the board with his new club. Entering his fourth full season, it may be time for a breakout after averaging just over 20 points per season thus far in his career. Now with Columbus, Tyutin is producing faster than ever with 14 points already in 30 games. With three points in his last four games now, the 25-year-old defenseman is surging again and looks well on his way to doubling his previous average. Another benefit of this gift, if you have shots on goal, he will in the top 20 this season in that category at his position.
Pascal Leclaire, G, CLS
Call me crazy, but I am buying this guy right now in my keeper leagues. Why? Dirt cheap. Good thing they don't trade players in Wal-Mart 'cuz this sale might cause a stampede and get someone trampled at his price. Yeah, like that would ever happen... ha... ha. Anyway, dark humor aside, he has only started three times in the last month with the injuries and arrival of young star Mason. Does that make Leclaire incapable of being a star starter again someday? Not necessarily. The picture isn't rosy right now with 16 goals allowed in his three starts, but someday soon he will get another shot. Whether it be with Columbus or another club, I want to own him when that happens. He did boast a 2.25 GAA and nine shutouts last season after all.
Sam Gagner, C, EDM
Wasn't this guy here a few weeks ago? Well he is still a great long-term value. Like Semin or Marleau last season, the future is still huge for Gagner. You need to have patience. If you don't have a deep bench or place to stash him, you might not be able to take him on if you are in the cup chase. If you are reloading for next year, why not? This guy is only 19 and has a lot of growing to do before he becomes the consistent force we all expect. Regardless, injury and concussion give him some excuse for the regressions so his rock bottom price is worth the gamble.
Gift Returns (Sell High):
Sheldon Souray, D, EDM
One of the more heavily advertised items this season, Souray is a flashy gift that may not be worth the trouble. This present is very useful and although it looks nice, it will be sure to have you returning to the store time after time for replacements. Sheldon has only played 75 games or more twice in his 10-season career. Save yourself the headaches and take him to the return line just once. You probably picked him up on sale and should be able to get full retail value at what he is going for right now with 22 points in 27 games.
David Backes, RW, STL
Backes is having a great year so far. Much of the value you are seeing in his ranking is related to his penalty minutes. In his career, he has had double-digit penalty minutes in only five games. In November he had three of those. In those three games he had half of his 81 minutes with 40 of them. He will have a career high in the category as a result, but you can't expect this to be something you can count on regularly. As a result, I'd just cash in while his value is high. Plus, though he only has 14 points on the season, he has six of them in the last six games. That little streak boosts his image temporarily as well.
Shane O'Brien, D, VAN
Another penalty minute purchase, O'Brien is leading the league in that cat. Although it is great, you can't expect it to continue. He will be good but not at this rate with 110 already. It makes him look great at a thin position, but he can really hurt you in points and shots with only five and 17 of each. He also doesn't score many goals and none this season. He was a great late snag, but now is the time to get some trade value out of him. This is one of the few times you will be able to use O'Brien as a trade piece to legitimately sweeten deals in the eyes of some owners. Take advantage and replace him with a more balanced option afterwards.
Mike Ribeiro, C, DAL
No Morrow, no more star Ribeiro. Now the question is, can you still get the price you want for him. With only four points in his last 12 games, time may be getting short. The issue is, years of underachieving have caused some owners to be overly biased against Ribeiro in trades despite his last 100 games of success. Still, if you find someone who has liked what they've seen in the last year, and hasn't realized how quickly his value is dropping for this season, make the move if you are playing for the short term. If you are in a keeper, you might just want to wait until Morrow returns. If you don't have him, wait another month and hopefully he will be on sale by then. When Morrow comes back, I would then trade him when he is a point-per-game player again because his sidekick's absence shows that he is dependent and thus a risk if they are ever separated.
Oldie but Goodie (The Resurrection): The player who may have some value after all.
Ian Laperriere, RW, COL
When you though the newer games like Wiii Boxing (Carcillo, Clarkson, etc) had passed this classic gift by, this Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robot just keeps on entertaining. After seasons seeing 45 and 29 points on offense, we thought this pony may have regressed to only one trick with his fists. Still, as it turns out, he is now already at 12 points for the season putting him on pace for 32 points. Apparently returned to his previous status as a great product, Laperriere is also on pace for 196 PIM with his current 72. His career high is only 185 and that was nine seasons ago. This guy is becoming a greater classic than Nintendo's Punchout.
Memories (Fantasy Flashback): Your weekly reminder that fantasy hockey is a rollercoaster.
Patrick Marleau, C/LW, SJ
Oh, how things have changed. When you bought this gift, you never thought you would use it. Still, for those who did grab this sale item of 2007 are finally finding him very useful. The team has eight more wins this season than last. The club as a whole isn't the only part in San Jose seeing a revitalization. Luckily, as the team goes, so goes Marleau.
07-08: 30GP, 6G, 9A, 15P, -2, 4PIM, 5PPP, 66SOG
08-09: 30GP, 16G, 19A, 35P, +17, 6PIM, 5PPP, 108SOG
What a difference a year makes. This gift is now invaluable and aren't you glad you bought it and stored it away a season ago. If you did, kudos. Few have those kind of patience, but his history proved he was a quality purchase sure to return someday. His shots are way up, his points have more than doubled and most dramatically, his plus/minus has been directly changed by the team's and his own success. Impressive.