I'm a good Canadian. I believe in plaid shirts, maple syrup and the best beer in the Western world. But I just about spit my lager all over my plasma Wednesday night.
Superstars scrapping? There’s no room for that in hockey.
Sidney Crosby is supposed to be smart. But that brain fart with Matt Niskanen ranks right up there with some of the stupidest things I’ve seen in a long time.
He got lucky. Really lucky.
That right hand could have easily been broken by one of those punches. Or sliced by Niskanen's visor. And what would have happened if his helmet had come off and his head had hit the ice?
I don’t mind hockey fights – remember, I’m a red-blooded Canadian. But even if he has special coverage from Lloyd's of London, Crosby should only be using those platinum hands for good, not evil.
Earlier this season, Ilya Kovalchuk squared off with Mike Green and Pavel Datsyuk threw down with Corey Perry. And who can forget Jarome Iginla and Vincent Lecavalier trading haymakers during the 2004 Stanley Cup finals?
Sure, they could get hurt while crashing the net. Or blocking a shot. But c’mon – superstars should be “setting the tone” by tickling the twine, not risking their future because their cranial sphincters went into spasm.
Now let's take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Derick Brassard, C, Columbus (11 percent owned) – Brassard is a phenomenal talent – the skill, the vision and oh, those wheels. But he’s gotten a bum rap after spending his first two seasons in the infirmary with his favorite St. Bernard. Last season, he played 79 games (hey, it’s close to a full season) and tallied 36 points. And after sluggish one point in his first six games this year, he has quietly strung together a six-game point streak. He’s getting a lot more goals than he should but the talent is real. And so is the value. Snap him up. His breakout is going to be paired with either Rick Nash or Jakub Voracek. Or both. You can’t go wrong with that pair.
Joe Corvo, D, Carolina (12 percent) – He was a flop last year and sputtered to just three helpers and a minus-four rating in his first 10 games this season. But the calendar turned to November and he has potted two goals in just two games. Couple that with – you guessed it – another Joni Pitkanen injury and Corvo gets a major upgrade. Grab and hold. Now.
Matt D'Agostini, RW, St. Louis (2 percent owned) – This feisty former Hab flopped last season, first in Montreal and then in St. Loo after the March trade. Consider it just a simple sophomore slump because he burst out of the gate this season with five goals and two helpers in his first 10 games. He’s fast, he’s smart and he always seems to find the seams. And that’s a perfect fit with the youthful tempo of an emerging Blues squad. He’s worth a sniff, particularly if you need some goals. He’ll get them playing with Alex Steen and David Backes.
Mathieu Garon, G, Columbus (13 percent owned) – I was so confident in a Steve Mason rebound that I drafted him in one of my leagues. Man, was I wrong… at least so far. Mason is 4-4 to start the season but his goals-against average (3.30) and save percentage (.890) are absolutely rank. Enter Garon who is an awful lot like an open-faced roast beef sandwich on Ryvita – part great and part gawd awful. He’s just so inconsistent. But right now, he’s munching on the roast beef part of his talent and that’s great for fantasy owners. Those shutouts Tuesday and Thursday were absolutely sparkling and he’s been dominating so far… to the point where coach Scott Arniel says he has “1-A and 1-B” twine-tenders. Get him now and pray the roast beef is stacked really, really high.
Michael Leighton, G, Philadelphia (33 percent owned) – Philly’s preseason designated starter skated this past weekend and is as close as 10 days away. Now, Sergei Bobrovsky has been very, very good. But Leighton will get a shot to earn some decent time between the pipes as soon as he’s healthy. And that means he should be owned in a whole lot more than one-third of leagues. Stash him now if you can.
Ville Leino, LW, Philadelphia (51 percent owned) – Leino was a hot grab at the draft table after his outstanding playoff run. But for some reason, he hasn’t really gotten much coverage since the season began. He should, though. He’s tied for second on the Flyers’ stat sheet with 11 points in 13 games. And he’s getting power-play time (and points). He’s available in half of Yahoo! leagues which is a little crazy given his 70-point pace. I’m sure there must be a few leagues out there where a 70-point player wouldn’t be useful. I just don’t know where they are.
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, Colorado (0 percent owned) – Until Thursday, this guy had been one of the most desirable defenders not currently in the NHL. That is, until he got “the call” against the Canucks on Thursday night. Rookies are always a risk but they warrant a look when they have the kind of offensive talent that this guy has. Shattenkirk may get a return ticket to the AHL soon enough – he still has a lot of work to do on his gap control and his defensive focus. But he’s absolutely lethal in transition and could be an impressive partner to John-Michael Liles on the PP. Monitor him. Closely. At worst, remember his name.
Jeff Skinner, RW, Carolina (15 percent owned) – I have no idea how NHL Central Scouting whiffed on this guy. They ranked him 34th overall for last year’s Entry Draft, probably because of his small stature. But the Canes clearly knew better and snagged him seventh overall. He’s probably the best pure goal scorer from the entire draft and now he’s not only rolling on the Canes’ top line but he’s also leading the team in scoring. It’s actually hard to believe he’s only 18-and-a-half. Skate him hard – a slump will come but right now, he’s one of the front-runners for the Calder.
Jarret Stoll, C, Los Angeles (34 percent owned) – Stoll really doesn’t have top-six talent but right now, he’s playing like he does. He had 10 points in 11 games heading into Thursday’s late game and is on pace to return to the lofty heights of his 68-point 2005-06 season. He may not keep it up but his intense work ethic and hockey sense should help him sustain it, at least a little bit. He’s a hot add – join in the fun.
Raffi Torres, LW, Vancouver (9 percent owned) – Look who’s on fire… again. Torres is a fan favorite for his mostly energetic, sometimes reckless approach to throwing his 225-pound body around. But he was a sniper in junior hockey and he has the potential to be a 30-goal man in the NHL (he hit 27 in Edmonton in 2005-06). Unfortunately, he tends to over-think things in a large way and ends up in a mind-made slump. But when he’s hot, you have to take full advantage. And that hat trick Tuesday was a thing of beauty. Roll the dice and just be prepared to fold when the slump begins.
Jakub Voracek, RW, Columbus (49 percent owned) – Voracek was a hot draft-day target after delivering 21 points in his last 22 games last year. But a slow start – just a single helper in his first six games and no goals in his first 11 – has soured a few of his owners. He’s starting to warm up (six points in his last six contests) but those owners may still be frustrated. And that makes him a solid buy-low candidate. Act fast. He may not deliver on his 70-point preseason forecasts. But he may come closer than you think.
Back to sphincter spasms.
I'm not convinced Sid the Kid dropped his gloves to motivate his team. I think the guy is unbelievably frustrated by his team’s inability to ice anything other than two pylons on his wings.
That’s enough to set a guy off. But there are far better ways to get your frustrations out.
Superstars should snipe; enforcers are paid to protect.
Wayne Gretzky had Dave Semenko. And then he had Marty McSorley. And Steve Yzerman had the late Bob Probert.
Role clarity – wouldn’t it be nice? It may save your favorite superstar. And your fantasy squad, too.
Until next week.