We’re rounding the final corner of the fantasy season and depending on your league settings you could be heading down a few different paths. Let’s look at those who are gunning for a money spot in Roto leagues, or those entering the playoffs in H2H leagues. If you are in a tight league where every little stat matters, making the smart adds/drops could determine whether you are the league champion or just another one of the nine, 11 or 13 disappointed losers. At this point of the season it’s not about what your players have done for you all season long, it’s all about what your player will do for you in the next four weeks that will determine your fantasy fate.
Without a doubt
With six points in his last five contests, Vrbata is on another one of his latest hot streaks. During that span, he’s not picking up a lot of overall ice-time as he’s averaging just 14:04, but it’s the 2:40 of PP time that really caught my attention. The 2.6 SOG per contest average is an added bonus. The Coyotes face the Blues, Blue Jackets and Sharks this week in which Vrbata has tallied seven points in nine contests this season, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see a similar output from him this week.
Benn has posted blazing numbers since the trade deadline (14 points in 10 contests), which is why I’m quite shocked to see that he’s still only 42 percent Yahoo! owned at the moment. I thought that the return of Brad Richards would completely cheapen Benn’s fantasy value, but he’s still picking up plenty of scoring opportunities (21:22 and 2:56 on the PP) in Big D. Dallas is only one of eight teams that play on Wednesday, so if you are a savvy poolie, you might want to “stream” Benn just for that extra start then drop him afterwards.
Ott has suddenly found himself in a top-six role with the Stars due to the injury (concussion) to Loui Eriksson. There isn’t a lot of “great news” coming out of Dallas regarding Eriksson, so you would have to think that Ott will at least maintain a temporary top-six role for the remainder of this week. He was once an OHL scoring machine when he registered 202 points in the final two campaigns with the Spitfires, so the offensive upside is possibly there but just lying dormant. Once again I might just quietly add him for the Wednesday matchup then promptly return him back to the waiver wire if he doesn’t produce anything.
The Hawks have been decimated by injuries, especially up the middle, during the last few weeks which has completely opened up a huge role of responsibility for Frolik moving forward. During Sunday night’s matchup against the Coyotes, he lined up alongside superstar Marian Hossa in 85.36 percent of his overall shifts. If that trend continues he could be in for a huge final three weeks given the role of added responsibility.
The latest member of the Geoffrion NHL family definitely opened plenty of eyes with his hat-trick against the Sabres on Sunday night. He picked up 37 points in 45 contests with Milwaukee of the AHL prior to his recall to the big club in late February where he has been on a scoring tear with six goals in 11 contests. He’s still not garnering a lot of ice-time (just 8:10 per contest), but could start to gain more of coach Barry Trotz’ confidence as the season winds down. I’d definitely test him out for Tuesday night’s contest against the Oilers then proceed from there.
If you’re looking for help on the defensive front, then look no further than the 59 percent Yahoo! owned Suter. During the last two weeks, he’s averaging 25:58 as well as 2:40 on the PP per contest while also chipping in with 10 SOG. Although defenseman don’t usually make a huge impact in fantasy leagues, by making a small gain might just help get you over the win/loss hump. I’d easily take Suter over a Sergei Gonchar, Erik Johnson or Zach Bogosian for the time being.
Last week I drew your attention to Ray Emery, so if you heeded my advice you might be laughing in your pools at the moment. This week I’ll go outside the box once again and put my ballot in for Schneider. The Nucks are comfortably in the Western Conference lead as well as the driver’s seat for the President’s trophy. This is the time of the year where the “rest” word starts to creep in for number one goalies. Last season Roberto Luongo appeared in 68 contests, but when it came to the playoffs, the “fatigue” word began to seep in. This campaign, the Nucks have attempted to keep Luongo “fresh” by lowering the numbers of starts since they have a reliable backup in Schneider to fully utilize. With the Nucks having a pretty soft finishing schedule, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Schneider alternative starts with Luongo and edge towards the 23-25 games started mark by season’s end. I’d start by predicting that he gets Thursday night’s start against Atlanta, then possibly next Tuesday against Nashville, one of the two Oiler matchups and then the Minny matchup during the final week.
Outlook not so good
It appears that DD is once again having a bit of a down month with just three points in nine March contests. Once again Ma’s Laws are proving true. If you look at the drop in point totals this month, it can be completely related back towards the lack of SOG. In February, DD registered 0.62 points-per-game along with a 2.62 SOG average. This month, he’s averaging 0.33 points-per-game and just a 1.44 SOG average. If your fantasy fate is dependent on production from your blue liners, then I’d suggest you bite the bullet and find a replacement for DD.
Datsyuk is hampered by the dreaded DTD lower body injury and from what I can dig up on the Red Wings’ blogs and forums, Datsyuk didn’t make the trip to Nashville and hasn’t resumed practicing, which to me seems like he’s nowhere near being rushed back into the line up. Much like the scenario with Doughty, if your fantasy season hinges upon the production of Datsyuk, you might just be better off biting the bullet and making the tough drop.
Following along the exact same lines as Datsyuk, Franzen is also protected by the coaching staff due to a “groin” injury. I wouldn’t be surprised to see them rest him for the next week and maybe longer to get him perfectly healthy and rested for the post-season. If you are a Franzen owner, do yourself a favour and seek other alternatives.
I mentioned Stewart’s name a couple of weeks ago, so I’ll go back to the well once again. Sure he does have decent overall numbers since the “big trade”, but if you look at the team depth charts he’s not anywhere close to the top. The Blues are David Backes and Andy McDonald’s team and Stewart is truly riding shotgun in a lesser role. During the last five contests, the duo has combined for 11 points while the 86 percent Yahoo! owned Stewart has tallied a giant goose egg. The RW position is extremely deep, so there should be plenty of alternatives available as a replacement on the waiver wire.
As discussed earlier this article, now might be the time to cut ties with Eriksson. Concussions seem to be the most common, debilitating injury at the moment and it appears that no one really has an answer to solve the problem. Although he is expected to participate in a full practice on Tuesday morning, the Stars are taking a real wait-and-see approach with Eriksson. The Stars only have two games this week so it might be a smart idea to keep him out of the line up until next week to give him a full two weeks of recovery period. In terms of fantasy impact, now might just be a good time to cut bait on the Swede and maximize some of your starts.
With just four points in the last 10 contests, it appears that the offensive bubble of Burns has finally burst. A lot of the drop off in production can be mainly attributed to the return of Marek Zidlicky back to the Wild line up. I haven’t followed every single Minnesota game this campaign, so I don’t have a full picture of what is exactly going on. But the odd, few games that I do manage to catch on Center Ice, and see Zidlicky and Burns on together, it just seems like Burns takes a back seat to Zidlicky. I have a sneaking suspicion that it’s very similar to what Dobberite Buck Fush posted in the forums regarding Dion Phaneuf and his need to be number one status in order to produce “big numbers”. The Wild are essentially out of playoff contention, so there’s not much reason to hang on to Burns any further.
The playoffs chances of the Wild continue to dwindle, as you’re reading this column, they’ve gone 2-6-2 in their last 10 contests. In seven March contests, Backstrom maintains a 1-4-1 record along with a ghastly 3.88 GAA along with an atrocious .883 save percentage. He has also given up three or more goals in eight out of the last nine games. Those are the type of numbers that will completely destroy a fantasy team during the H2H playoffs. Backstrom was dealing with a hip flexor injury in early January where he missed nine contests due to the injury, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the injury has crept up once again, which might be causing his play to drop off during the tail end of this season. With goalie stats being as fickle as they are, I wouldn’t want to roll the dice with Backstrom’s play to determine my fantasy fate.
Remember at this stage of the season, it’s not about when you drafted a player back in September, nor is it about a player that has potential point-per-game status sitting on your bench with DTD status. It’s all about what a player can do for you in the next seven days and beyond. Don’t let “big name” status get in the way of you winning a fantasy championship, it’s all about the numbers from here on out.