The New Jersey Devils are one such team. There have been rumors all season long about Scott Gomez and his future with the Devils. According to recent reports, the Devils believe they have one of their best assembled teams ever and will likely risk losing Gomez to unrestricted free agency at the end of the season to make a run for the Stanley Cup this season. This is good news for Gomez fantasy owners. With the knowledge that he is likely staying until the end of the season and the Devils continue to make strides, Gomez should have a very strong finish. Remember the end of last season? The Devils could easily repeat that run especially with the Rangers and Islanders inconsistent play.
For several months Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk were mentioned as major fantasy disappointments. Regardless the Red Wings played well and should continue to do so. It will be interesting to see if they can take over first place in the Central Division. The state of Dominik Hasek’s aging body and health will greatly contribute to their success. Obviously their top players need to score. Zetterberg has recently experienced a resurgence. He has quietly scored 19 goals and added 20 assists. These may be the last few days to get him in a steal of a trade before his numbers start racking up.
The Atlanta Thrashers have a 26-14-8 record and lead the Southeast Division. A surprising stat however is their goal differential. They have only scored 5 more goals then they have allowed. This is by far the lowest of all division leading teams. This stat is baffling when one considers the talented scorers such as Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk and the solid goaltending in Kari Lehtonen. All of the teams in the Southeast Division can score, but it will come down to which teams in this division can play decent defense. Carolina will be getting defenseman Glen Wesley back in the lineup soon. He should aid some of their weakness. With the return of Cory Stillman and the great play of Justin Williams the Hurricanes are sure to make a run at the Thrashers and the Stanley Cup. Last season’s playoff experience and the strong leadership of Rod Brind’Amour should help.
Recent reports quote Todd Bertuzzi skating again and “feeling great.” As mentioned in the midseason guide, Bertuzzi will be an unrestricted free agent who may try to make a name for himself the second half of this season. Florida already has a solid power play unit; the addition of Bertuzzi could make it even better.
The hottest team in the NHL is the Ottawa Senators. Mike Comrie has turned out to be a great pickup for them. Jason Spezza should be back from injury soon and the Senators could have two very strong deadly lines with lots of talent. Comrie had 30 goals last season on a not-so-special Coyote team. Playing on Ottawa should help his second half numbers. The chemistry between Ottawa forwards and their defense has started to take form. In goal, expect Ray Emery to notch more wins. This team is still not 100% healthy and yet they are making noise; imagine what they will do when everyone is healthy. If defensemen Tom Pressing is available in your league, you may consider replacing one of your slackers with him. He should have a better second half.
In Columbus, Sergei Fedorov recently returned from injury. Injured teammate Rick Nash is also practicing again with the team. Nash has been a major disappointment to fantasy owners all season. Many have held onto him thinking he will come around. Last season he had a strong second half but the Blue Jackets overall are missing something. The hiring of Coach Ken Hitchcock was an improvement, but it was not enough. Look for Columbus and Nash to make a bigger impact next season.
Other Quick Notes and Observations:
Kristian Huselius and Daymond Langkow continue to be impressive with Jarome Iginla injured. Calgary is on the rise.
Kyle Wellwood’s injury really hurts the Maple Leafs. This team has not been the same since Sundin first got injured. Sundin has been back but the team never rebounded.
Buffalo’s Thomas Vanek has been consistently good all season. He and teammate Maxim Afinogenov may make next season’s fantasy drafts very interesting. They add an interesting dynamic to a talented never-say-die team.Anaheim’s Chris Kunitz was thought to be a hidden gem in this season’s fantasy drafts. While he has played well at times, Ryan Getzlaf, Dustin Penner and Corey Perry are getting more attention. These youngsters deserve the recognition. Kunitz is the lone player with tough guy grit on a line with Teemu Selanne and Andy McDonald. This means he is more likely fighting the battles along the boards instead of putting in rebounds in front of the net.