What a weird week:
• The Rangers and Oil went 70s retro with a full-out line brawl. The Bolts and the Flyers flashed back to the 80s with nine goals in a single period.
• League disciplinarian Colin Campbell came out as just another potty-mouthed, emotional hockey parent.
• An assaulted taxi driver in Phoenix discovered he couldn’t get the same press as his counterpart in Buffalo did.
• Darryl Sutter flushed his own son down a Carolina toilet in an attempt to save his job.
• The Islanders decided to include a “No Trespassing” clause in all terminations.
• Montreal discovered there’s no warranty on bionic knees. And New Jersey learned that elbows couldn’t be insured.
• Milan Lucic became more Rick Nash than Rick Nash himself. And Ilya Kovalchuk continued to deliver “Like a Bosh.”
• And the groundwork was laid for the first 50 goals in 50 games since 1991-92.
Now if only the Desert Dawgs moved to Winnipeg. Or Quebec City.
Hockey is trending.
Talk radio can’t keep up. Neither can Twitter or the discussion boards. Even the trolls don’t have enough time to bark on every tropic.
Will the NHL take advantage?
We can only dream. The good, bad and ugly – I’m firmly in the camp that believes any coverage is good coverage. Hockey would be a whole lot earlier on the ESPN highlight reels if they’d only embrace the craziness above.
The good news? Some people have been so distracted by all this NHL nuttiness that they’ve missed some impressive performances. And that’s good news for you.
Let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Patrik Berglund, C, St. Louis (4 percent owned) – Maybe the Mats Sundin comps were a little premature. But right now, this slick stickhandler is on a four-game, six-assist streak and he’s looking more and more like he did in his rookie season (47 points in 76 games). He’s becoming relevant in single-year leagues and might still be available at a slight discount in keeper formats. Just don’t wait on him for long.
Francis Bouillon, D, Nashville (1 percent owned) – Soupbase isn’t the top offensive choice on the blue line. Or the second. Or third. But right now, the little fire hydrant is playing like he’s an offensive stud and you’d wise to take advantage. He has four points in his last four games and he’s also kicked in seven penalty minutes and a plus-5 rating. It won’t last forever.
Brad Boyes, RW, St. Louis (17 percent owned) – Is Rip Van Winkle starting to stir? After scoring on opening night, Boyes went 13 games without another goal and his preseason prediction as a bounce-back candidate disappeared faster than a fart in a fan factory. Granted, he overachieved in 2007-08 and 2008-09 – those 76 goals came on the back of a seriously bloated shooting percentage. But at least he was firing pucks. And in the last three games, he has three goals on the back of 13 shots, the same number of shots he’d racked up in his seven previous games. He won’t get back to 40-plus goals. But 25 are certainly doable this year.
Brett Clark, D, Tampa Bay (3 percent owned) – Fantasy owners all too often fall for the big names and ignore the less-than-glamorous point producers; Clark is one of the latter. He’s on a three-game point streak right now and is the Bolts’ top scoring defender – yes, he’s tied with the more-heralded Victor Hedman (59 percent owned) and has a lot more goals (four) than the youngster (zero). Despite his frequent mistakes on the ice, Clark is a decent puck-mover with 40-point upside and a nasty shot (just take a look at highlights of Thursday’s goal that he put right through the net). His power-play time may get cut if the Bolts sign Marc-Andre Bergeron (see below). Until then, he’s worth a waiver grab.
Logan Couture, C, San Jose (18 percent owned) – Couture has been on the radar of every smart keeper leaguer since his draft year. He leapt from 87 points in 62 games in his last season in junior to an incredible 53 points in just 42 AHL games last year. From there, his hockey smarts helped him make a seamless adjustment to the NHL including an impressive (and conscientious) role in the postseason. He started slowly this season. But since a promotion to a top-six role, he has delivered eight points, including a couple multi-point efforts, in his last seven games. And he’s now on my Calder radar along Michal Neuvirth, Tyler Ennis, John Carlson and P.K. Subban. He’s that good.
Devan Dubnyk, G, Edmonton (3 percent owned) and Martin Gerber, G, Edmonton (0 percent owned) – The Bulin Wall’s cranked groin has resulted in a trip to the IR and that means this duo gets the dubious task of trying to mortar up the porous Edmonton net in his absence. Rolling either of these guys is for the truly desperate. And neither would rank as a keeper in any format. But then again, Dubnyk’s goals-against average (2.99) and save percentage (.923) are better than several of the goalies I’m rolling in the Friends and Family league… everything is relative, isn’t it?
Mikhail Grabovski, C, Toronto (9 percent owned) – Grabo can be great and horrific, and often in the same game. Just witness Tuesday’s bizarre effort against Nashville. He was on the ice for all four Nashville goals and his first-period brain burps gifted at least two of those goals to his foes. But he then turned things around in the second and was instrumental in delivering the Leafs’ the win. His power-play goal tied the score; he then set up the winner on the PP. He’s a valuable addition if you can stomach his plus-minus – his four-game goal streak is as good as almost anyone’s right now and he has 10 points in his last eight games. Take advantage. Just swallow hard when you do.
Jonas Gustavsson, G, Toronto (40 percent owned) – Another bad groin, another big break. Jean-Sebastien Giguere is out a week or two and the Monster will get just about every start in his absence. This guy is athletic. But that’s part of the reason why his numbers aren’t the best – his post-to-post movement is somewhat uneven because he moves so dang fast. And rather than maintaining his shape, he gets twisted up and out of angle at times. He’s calming himself under the tutelage of the great Francois Allaire and could use the next couple weeks to showcase his ability to be an NHL starter. Thursday night was certainly a nice start toward proving his mettle.
David Jones, RW, Colorado (6 percent owned) – Remember last year? He started hot and was well on his way to a breakout season when disaster struck – blown ligaments meant reconstructive knee surgery. Well, he’s back and he’s healthy. And this strong, all-round power winger is once again showing his smarts and skills. He has five points in his last four games while playing in a top-six capacity for the Avs. He’s responsible enough to stick there. And if he does, his point totals will be tasty. Get him now or regret it later.
Ondrej Pavelec, G, Atlanta (18 percent owned) – His single win has him sitting squarely in the ignore category of four in every five Yahoo! leagues. But you should really start paying attention to the guy with the 10th best goals-against average and sixth-best save percentage in the league. Yes, he’s that good. Chris Mason’s (48 percent owned) ratios have exploded like road kill on a hot summer day; Pavelec will start adding wins sooner rather than later. Stash him.
Alexander Vasyunov, LW, New Jersey (0 percent owned) – Vasyunov is a pure sniper – his release is flat-out elite. But the other parts of his game – you know, important stuff like defensive zone coverage, physical strength and focus – have been really slow to develop. But even the shortcomings of weak, easily distracted, cherry picking snipers can be disguised alongside the likes of Ilya Kovalchuk, Patrik Elias or Travis Zajac. OK, maybe just the latter two. But in all instances, his opportunity to score has arrived and he has delivered points in three of his last four games. Left wing is typically a vacuum – he may be the kind of talent who can actually help you.
Kris Versteeg, LW, Toronto (23 percent owned) – Gutsy. Determined. Skilled. The adjectives used to describe Versteeg when he first arrived in Toronto just didn’t come through in his first month in blue and white. But since the start of November, he has eight points in eight games, including five on his current four-game point streak and three power-play goals in his last two games. He’s finally looking comfortable, particularly on the power play. And he’s finally gaining fantasy relevance. Get on board now.
Ray Whitney, LW, Phoenix (23 percent owned) – I dropped this guy a few weeks back; I’m sure plenty of you did the same. And last Saturday night, I cringed every time I checked the highlight pack for the Desert Dawgs’ tilt with the Blues. Three goals, two assists and a plus-2 rating all but doubled his point total for the season. Wow! This finesse specialist may be aging but can still deliver on occasion. He may have already been snapped up in your league. And if he has, you should immediately take a look at the player your league-mate dropped to grab him. These little outbursts of his will be further and further between, and his owner may come to regret taking the plunge. Particularly when the Yotes’ top lines are re-adjusted upon Shane Doan’s return.
Marc-Andre Bergeron, D, Unsigned (0 percent owned) – He certainly has his own-zone shortcomings. And he hasn’t signed yet. But Bergeron and the Bolts are doing the dance right now and if he signs, Bergeron will immediately audition as the team’s power-play specialist on the back end. That power play includes studs Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis and (when healthy) Vincent Lecavalier. I smell points. Lots of points. Watch for a signing and get ready to pounce.
Back to this past week.
For all the weird that happened last week, there was also no immunity from tragedy.
Daron Richardson, the 14-year-old daughter of Ottawa Senators assistant coach (and 21-year NHL veteran) Luke Richardson, took her own life at the family’s Ottawa home last Friday.
Luke, his wife Stephanie and daughter Morgan, 16, openly shared the pain of their circumstance in an effort to remove the stigma associated with suicide. And they donated Daron’s organs to help save four other lives.
Sure puts our daily gripes into perspective, doesn’t it?
Until next week.