The fourth month of the 2010-11 fantasy season is just about over, so we’ll return to the old format and take a look at all of the Western Conference teams and see what could be in store for them moving forward.
Cam Fowler has a dismal minus-14 rating, but has averaged 22:27 (3:27 on the PP) per contest during the last two weeks. If you can handle the plus/minus hit, he’d be a great fantasy own down the stretch. Teemu Selanne is on fire with his 14th multi-point game of the season. He has 10 multi-point efforts since November 29. Anaheim’s home/away splits continue to boggle my mind, as the Ducks allow 2.4 goals at the Honda Center and 3.15 away. If you are a Jonas Hiller owner, it might be a smart idea to bench him and slot in your other goalies when the Ducks are on the road.
The Flames are back on track with three huge wins over some pretty solid teams while outscoring their opponents 14-8 during that span. Much of that success can be attributed to the trio of Jarome Iginla, Alex Tanguay and Brendan Morrison, who have contributed 11 of the 29 total points during that span. I’ve been whinging on the forum about how Olli Jokinen isn’t a fit on that line, and boom they move him off and guess what they start winning again... co-incidence? It’s been years since Morrison has had decent linemates, but when I watch that line hit the ice they remind me very much of the good ol’ Canuck days of him, Todd Bertuzzi and Markus Naslund. If he manages to keep that roster slot, I wouldn’t be surprised to see 30 points out of him in the remaining 32 contests. It’s been pretty much a feast or famine month for Miikka Kiprusoff. In his four victories, he sports a 1.44 GAA along with a mind boggling .949 save percentage. In his three losses along with a no decision, he has a 5.96 GAA and .757 SP. Very Dr. Jekyll and Mr Hyde if you ask me.
Last week I mentioned Dave Bolland in my column, and hopefully you had a chance to take advantage of it. He now has seven points in his last five contests and 11 in the last 15. I wouldn’t expect a point-per-game pace, but somewhere around 0.5 and 0.66 is fairly reasonable. Duncan Keith only has four points and 28 SOG in the last 13 contests, now might be a good time to buy-low on last season’s Norris Trophy winner. If you are in a league that relies heavily on saves or shots faced, it might be a smart idea to move Corey Crawford as he’s facing an average of just 27 shots against in the month of January (compare that to Pekka Rinne who’s averaging 32 or M.A. Fleury at 32.75). Not an immediate warning bell, just some food for thought.
The Avs are back under the win column following back-to-back losses to the Bruins and Preds. They just showed much more jump in the game than their previous losses. Chris Stewart was benched for all of the third period in Monday night’s victory over the Blues, and when you get into coach Joe Sacco’s doghouse, it’s generally not a good thing, (ask J.M. Liles last season). With just two points in five contests since his return from his hand injury, he’s a shadow of the player that tore up the Avs scoresheet back in October and November. It sounds as though Peter Forsberg has a real shot at joining the Avs for a late-season run. Adrian Dater of the Denver Post thinks that he has a 99.9 percent shot at returning to the NHL and joining the Avs, some videos for proof too. With Tomas Fleischmann out for the remainder of the season, that would be a huge boost to the Avs line up for the playoff push. The Avs are really thin on the left side, and that’s a position that we’ve seen Foppa play before, so no problems there. I’d seriously make a pitch to the Paul Stastny or Matt Duchene owner in your league, because it could be a huge payoff if Forsberg returns. The Colorado goalie duo of Craig Anderson and Peter Budaj has a combined 3.12 GAA and .899 SP. I wonder how long that’ll last until GM Greg Sherman pulls the trigger.
Another player that I mentioned last week was Antoine Vermette, he’s currently riding a four-game point scoring streak and really starting to shoot the puck more (12 SOG in that span). The ice-time (19:40 and 2:24) is starting to climb as well, so look for the production to continue. Acting like a little schoolboy, every time I see the name Grant Clitsome it still makes me giggle a little. Lately I’ve been giggling a lot, as he has five points in six games since being recalled from the minors and has really revamped that Blue Jacket’s PP unit. He and Fedor Tyutin have combined for a whopping 12 points in the last six contests. Steve Mason’s career very eerily reminds me of the career path of Carolina’s Cam Ward. Great rookie breakout season, slumps for two years then returns triumphantly in the fourth year (which will be next year for Mason).
The Stars were pasted 9-16 in their recent western Canada swing, in which they went 1-2. Their once tight-knit defense has dropped to 12th overall after getting shelled for 14 goals in the last two games. Trevor Daley continues to impress, he’s averaged 23:18 overall and 2:43 with the man advantage during the last two weeks which is exactly identical to the numbers that Stephane Robidas had. He might be a good pickup if you are in need of some help on the blue line. Kari Lehtonen had been on fire prior to last night’s blowout. He still maintains a 6-1-1 record with a 2.39 GAA and .926 SP for the month of January. I’m just a bit wary of his numbers as he’s never seen 60-plus starts since the 2006-07 season and February is his worst month career-wise (3.03 and .910), I wouldn’t panic too much, just trying to give you a heads up.
After being ravaged by injuries, the Red Wings front line is looking pretty thin at the moment but that hasn’t stopped Henrik Zetterberg from dominating offensively with nine points and an amazing 45 SOG in 10 January contests. His minus four rating is a bit of a worry though. Nicklas Lidstrom has hit a bit of a bump in production with just six points in 10 contests. I think it’s mostly attributed to the lack of SOG (14) and once that sorts itself out, the point production will return. Maybe the Evgeni Nabokov attempted signing was meant to be a message to Jimmy Howard. He has 3.24 GGA and .896 SP since the start of December. Heading into UFA status in the off-season, while posting dismal numbers isn’t a good thing especially with the depth available in the free agent goalie market in Summer.
Shawn Horcoff recently returned to the Edmonton line up after missing 21 games with a knee injury. The Oilers went 4-14-3 without him but were 10-12-5 with him. From a fantasy perspective it’ll probably help the young kids with a bit of veteran presence in the line up, but from a “real life” standpoint having another lottery pick probably isn’t a bad outcome either. With Ryan Whitney out of for the rest of the season, Tom Gilbert is picking up all of the left over slack as he’s averaged 27:57 and 4:51 along with 17 SOG in the last three weeks. Gilbert is as streaky as they come, but if he can manage to get on the scoresheet I wouldn’t be surprised to see a repeat of last season (20 points in the final 21 contests). I wonder if there’s a market for Nikolai Khabibulin? I know his stats aren’t exactly impressive, but on a quality team his motivation might improve and so will the stats. At a cap hit of $3.75 mil for a veteran goalie, I’m just wondering if he could be moved at the deadline.
Ryan Smyth has been very streaky this season with seven multi-point efforts along with 25 goose eggs. The Kings need some consistency in his scoring in order to make a big playoff push this season. Despite averaging 21:50 overall and 3:01 on the power-play per contest in the last two weeks, Jack Johnson has a mere two points and 15 SOG during that span. I’d shoot the JJ owner in your league and offer to see if you can grab him on the cheap. With Marco Sturm on the IR with knee tendinitis, Andrei Loktionov was recalled from the minors. He was on a point-per-game pace in Manchester before being recalled and does have the pedigree to become a very successful NHLer one day. I don’t think he has much left to prove in the minors level so keep an eye on him especially in keeper leagues. Jonathan Quick’s numbers are finally returning back to Earth as he was on an absolutely torrid pace to start this season. His January numbers are still fairly decent with a 2.48 GAA and .905 SP, but Jon Bernier is quietly knocking on the door...
The Wild have been pretty hot of late going 7-4 so far in the month of January. Much of that success can be attributed to the top-line duo of Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette who have combined for 21 points during that span. Brunette is a “second-half” guy and his boost in production mirrors that of his career numbers, he has a career 0.66 production from February onwards, so pencil him in as a great pick-me-up for the stretch run. After a couple of injury-plagued seasons, it appears that Brent Burns is back with a vengeance as he’s on pace for 55 points and really dominating the Wild blue line. He’s still relatively unknown in the fantasy world, so if you can get your hands on him, he’ll certainly pay off in April. Niklas Backstrom owners should breathe a sigh of relief as his hip injury isn’t a serious one. He is a great statistical goalie, and if the Wild remain in the mix for the playoff hunt come April, he could be quite the asset to your fantasy squad. In 61 career March/April contests (H2H playoffs), Backstrom has a 30-13-14 record, along with a glittering 2.15 GAA and .925 SP. If you can get your hands on him do it!
The Preds have been on a blistering pace since the start of the New Year. Hopefully you read my forum post back in early January to give you the heads up. 10-3-0 since New Year’s Eve and this is the time of the year where they really start to take off and grind out some victories. David Legwand has quietly put up 10 points in 13 contests since returning from his “lower-body” injury in December. Nashville has a lot of talented wingers, but needs some veteran bodies to hold it all together, so Legwand might just be the solution. He won’t put up mind boggling numbers, but 20 points the rest of the way could make him fairly fantasy worthy. Shea Weber is ranked third behind Dustin Byfuglien and Zdeno Chara for SOG by a defenseman. His current 5.1 shooting percentage is also pretty close to his career low (3.9), so look for him to boost that to the seven-to-nine percent mark that he’s tallied the last two seasons. Pekka Rinne is arguably the best goalie in the past 30 days. He picked up nine victories along with a gleaming 1.76 GAA and an astounding .941 SP during that span. The three-goal effort on Monday night was just the second time in 11 starts that he’s allowed more than two goals. Wow!
Lee Stempniak rattled off 18 points in 18 contests after joining the Coyotes at the trade deadline last season. If you look at the big picture his 26 points in 48 contests isn’t all that inspiring, but if you break it down to smaller pieces, he is riding a five-game, eight point scoring streak and really starting to find a lot of chemistry lining up alongside Taylor Pyatt and Eric Belanger. Keep a close eye on him in your fantasy leagues. With 40 points in 49 contests, it’s certainly not unreasonable to say that Keith Yandle got snubbed for the All-Star game. He’s arguably a top-five d-man in fantasy leagues at the moment. With the defensive scheme that the Caps are employing at the moment, I’d happily take Yandle over Mike Green. I’m still waiting for Dave Tippett’s defensive scheme to wake up. He’s traditionally a very defensive coach, but it hasn’t really shown up yet. I think it’s majorly due to the fact that they’re lacking a big time shot blocker (the Yotes are ranked 27th in the league in terms of blocked shots). Once the blue line gets healthy again, Derek Morris, Ed Jovanovski, and Michal Rozsival should provide that much needed shot blocking then look for Ilya Bryzgalov’s stats to really take off.
Devin Setoguchi snapped his nine-game pointless drought with two markers on Saturday night because he was finally given an opportunity in a top-six role with Ryane Clowe (ankle) out of the line up. The Sharks top-six is just too deep for him to produce at this level so don’t be fooled by his one-game outburst. The player to really keep an eye on is Joe Thornton as he has nine points and 21 SOG during the last six contests. Try to use his slow start to see if you can sneakily pry him away from an unsuspecting owner. With Antero Niittymaki on the shelf with a groin injury, Antti Niemi has the number one secured for the next few games. He’s won all four of his starts since Nitty’s injury while posting a helpful 1.96 GAA along with a highly respectable .938 SP.
Brad Boyes has quietly had himself a great January with 11 points in 11 contests. What’s actually interesting is that he’s turned into a passer with 10 of those 11 points being assists. Boyes is typically a sniper with 143 career goals under his belt, but has just 10 on the year. The Blues should have a bit of the infirmary cleared with T.J. Oshie returning to the line up and Andy McDonald set to return after the All-Star break, which should give Boyes a few more weapons to distract the opponent with. In the 2008-09 season, he reeled off 33 points in the final 34 contests, and certainly has the potential to repeat that this campaign. Alex Pietrangelo continues to roll with three assists in the last four contests (two of which were of the PP variety). He’s averaged 22:39 and 3:46 during the last four contests. At just 24 percent Yahoo! owned, he’s a great pickup for the duration of this season. After a solid playoff run last campaign, and a great start to this season, Jaroslav Halak is starting to show a few chinks in his armour. He sports ghastly 3.39 and .883 numbers for the month of January. Could it be nearing 12 o’clock on Halak’s ball? If I were an owner, I’d strongly consider nabbing Ty Conklin as a handcuff.
Much like Miikka Kiprusoff the Canucks have been a very Jekyll and Hyde team in terms of their power-play. They’re blazing as the top team on the road with an efficiency of 27.4 percent, but are tied with Calgary at 20 percent at home. They’ll need to fix that up if they are to make a serious run at Lord Stanley’s cup in June. Ryan Kesler continues to be under-rated with 13 points in the last 13 contests. He’s seeing plenty of PP ice-time along with the Sedin twins and should continue to produce at the point-per-game pace. You can call him the Alex Semin (third wheel) of the Nucks. After blasting Alex Edler in my column last week, he made me look like an idiot with six points and 19 SOG. What did I tell you about SOG being the key to point production? I still think this is an opportune time to move him as he’s too passive of a player with the Sedins hogging the puck all the time. You can now, justifiably, ask for a Kris Letang, Lubomir Visnovsky, or Nicklas Lidstrom in return. Roberto Luongo hasn’t lost in regulation since December 5. Since the start of December he owns a 1.95 GAA and .924 SP, how’s that for a payout from investing so highly in him back in your pre-season drafts.
Kind of a fitting title isn’t it? Remember it’s only the end of January and the winner of the pool won’t be awarded for another three months. This is the time to buckle down and make the necessary changes to push your team through to the end.
Questions or comments? As always I’ll be ready and willing to discuss them with you in the comments section below. See ya next week.