How many excuses have you already used this fantasy season? ‘My sleepers haven’t panned out.’ ‘My best players got hurt.’ ‘I was forced into an auto-draft.’ ‘I’m so busy at work (or school) that I’m never first to the wire.’
You might as well just say ‘the dog ate my fantasy team.’
Look – I’m not being critical; OK, I am a little. Stop whining – I have. I could have complained bitterly about getting stuck with an auto-draft in the Friends and Family league. But I adjusted those rankings myself – my team was my responsibility.
Trust me – I’ve said my share of those excuses over the years. But the bottom line is simple – your team is only as good as you make it, from draft to season’s end. And that includes being brutally honest – and unemotional – with every single player on your roster.
Honesty – that will test your intestinal fortitude for sure. It has mine.
Sure, it’s hard to only look at the numbers – that’s why I have a sorely underachieving Tomas Kaberle on my Friends and Family roster. I’m still holding out hope that he’ll rebound (or get traded). He’s not droppable and he’s certainly not tradable. So I’m stuck with him. But Anton Babchuk? What have I been thinking? Who cares if his opportunity in Calgary is greater than in Carolina. He has sucked.
Early December is a great time to take stock of your fantasy future. All is not lost. And nothing – even a big lead – is carved in stone.
On November 15, I had 28 points in the Friends and Family league (yah, I already know that sucks but rub it in if you’d like). Wednesday, I had 54.
No more excuses.
Now let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Justin Braun, D, San Jose (0 percent owned) – Who? This guy barely hit the Sharks’ top-20 prospect list this season but he’s turning heads now. He got the call last week and was pressed into heavy action Saturday night when the Sharks went down to four defensemen. He didn’t wilt. He didn’t look scared. He simply logged close to 23 minutes of ice time and tallied two assists. He then followed it up with a near 20-minute, one-assist performance Tuesday night and he logged his first goal – a power-play marker – Thursday against Ottawa. He won’t overwhelm anyone with a physical game. But he’s a college product with great offensive instincts who’s hockey smart, skates well and passes with laser-like efficiency. Hmmm… sound like any other Shark you know? He’s no Dan Boyle – not yet anyway. But his resume and tool belt are more than just a little similar to his teammate. The Sharks’ blue line has been devastated by injury. I think Braun’s opportunity is now.
Tomas Fleischmann, LW, Colorado (21 percent owned) – Many of us drafted this shifty stickhandler as a legitimate breakout candidate after his amazing 41 points in his first 46 games last season. But the Fleischmann who showed up this year was the same post-Olympic slug who picked up just 11 points in his last 29 games (including an invisible playoffs). Ugh. But things changed in a big way this week with his move to the Mile High City. He’s no longer a third-line option; he’s now the top-line left winger with the great Paul Stastny and aging but still sniping Milan Hejduk. His 60-point potential is now a whole lot closer to reality. Scoop him up before his Friday debut.
Sam Gagner, C, Edmonton (14 percent owned) – Remember the fourth-year theory? Well, Gagner is in that magical season and in his last few games, he’s starting to look like he’s actually about to break out. He stretched his point streak to four games and six points with that goal Thursday night and that shorthanded goal Wednesday night was absolutely filthy. He looked off the defender and Carey Price, and when Price bit on the pass fake, Gagner fired a no-look wrister shelf into an opening no bigger than a Sunkist orange. It’s definitely a candidate for goal of the week. The Oil will finish near the bottom of the league and that means a lot of owners will look past its players. You shouldn’t, at least not right now.
Tom Gilbert, D, Edmonton (3 percent owned) – Two years ago, it took Gilbert 10 games to really get rolling; he finished with 45 points. Last year, he had just 11 of his 31 points in his first 61 games. This year, three points in his first 18 games drove him off just about every fantasy roster. But he has quietly put up five points in the last six games heading into Thursday and is flashing some of the skills we saw two years ago. Will he keep it up? Probably not. But this could be a sign that he’s better than he was the first three-quarters of last year. And in a world where productive fantasy defenders are tough to find, Gilbert might just have sneaky value. Might.
Milan Hejduk, RW, Colorado (72 percent owned) – Count me among the people who downgraded this guy on my preseason list based on those nagging back and knee injuries from last year; man, was I wrong. He’s healthy and looking like the sniper of old, and with the addition of Tomas Fleischmann, he’ll be the prime beneficiary of not one but two elite playmaking linemates. He’s not available on the wire in most active leagues; in fact, his ownership jumped six percent in just a few hours Thursday afternoon. But he might be languishing on an inactive league-mate’s roster. Go ask about him in a trade. He’s worth it.
Alex Pietrangelo, D, St. Louis (20 percent owned) – A lot of you will likely disagree with what I’m about to say but then again, I’m pretty much used to that by now (wink). Eric Johnson is sorely overrated; Carlo Colaiacovo (7 percent owned) and Pietrangelo (15 percent owned) are significantly better offensive (and fantasy) defenders than Mr. Johnson, who might be nothing more than another Jay Bouwmeester. Pietrangelo has four points in his last five games and is showing off the tools that will make him a stud fantasy defender in very short order. He’s a fantastic keeper and right now, he’s more than worthy in single-year leagues.
Brandon Prust, LW, NY Rangers (3 percent owned) – Prust is a Don Cherry special – quick, gritty and physical, and willing to drop the gloves whenever needed. But he’s not just a meathead – he does have talent. Nine of his 14 points last year came in the 26 games he played after arriving in Madison Square. And he has seven in his first 26 with the blueshirts this year. Couple that with the fourth-best penalty total in the league and he’s definitely a guy who can bolster your sin bin position without completely crippling you in the other categories. Just take a look at his last five games – two goals, one assist, plus-2, 11 hits and 19 PIMs. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Kevin Shattenkirk, D, Colorado (26 percent owned) – I’ve talked about him before so I won’t spend much time right now other than to say this – go get him. People are noticing his output – his ownership skyrocketed a whopping 15 percent in just four hours Thursday! And couldn’t you use a guy who’s delivered six points in his last five games and 11 in 13 overall? Right now, I’d rather have this guy than Tomas Kaberle who has 11 (all assists) in 23 games. But I don’t. I’m stuck with the wilting Leaf.
Jeff Tambellini, LW, Vancouver (1 percent owned) – I think this guy has finally taken the word entitlement out of his vocabulary. It’s easy to see how it could have gotten there initially – it’s a vicious combo for a teenager to handle when you’re the child of a former NHLer (and current NHL exec), a Junior A scoring stud, king of the campus at Michigan and a first-round pick by age 19. But he never fulfilled any of his so-called potential and has had a rude awakening to life in the pros. But this recall by the Orcas feels different somehow. He has four goals in nine games and his team is 8-0-1 with him in the lineup. And his speed takes the lightning line of Mason Raymond and Ryan Kesler to mach levels. He always wanted to be a Canuck – it shows. Grab him now.
Alex Tanguay, LW, Calgary (39 percent owned) – There are a lot of adjectives to describe the play of the Flames this season – horrific, abysmal, pathetic… the list is long. But none of those apply to Tangs whose 22 points heading into action Thursday night leads his team. His pace is close to that of his glory years and his chemistry with the resurgent Jarome Iginla is palpable. He’s on a four-game, five-point streak heading into Minny on Friday night and he should definitely be owned in a whole lot more than just over one in three Yahoo! leagues, regardless of format.
Scottie Upshall, RW, Phoenix (3 percent owned) – If only this guy could stay healthy. He suffers from Jack Russell syndrome – you know, little dog with big dog thoughts – and that puts him on the IR way too often. In fact, he’s never managed a full season. Never. His 12 points in 24 games are unimpressive. But take a look at his last three contests – three goals, including a game winner and two helpers – and his eight goals overall. There’s short-term value in this little dawg. Just understand he will – not might – get hurt again.
Antoine Vermette, C, Columbus (22 percent owned) – I’ve officially given up on this guy ever breaking the 70-point barrier – his inconsistency is maddening. But right now, his powerful combination of speed, (lower-body) strength and skill has him on a four-game, seven-point scoring streak. Don’t count on him over the long haul; at least not yet. But short-term, I say stick in the spurs and enjoy a great eight-second ride.
Back to excuses.
We make them every day. And we all know someone who’s never to blame for anything.
But trust me – once you stop making excuses and start adding objectivity to your fantasy game, you’ll be able to skate circles around your league-mates. Their whine will be your opportunity, whether it’s through an impetuous drop or a frustrated trade.
Even if it isn’t, it’s a whole lot of fun to sarcastically toy with your mates on the message board. You might not win your league but you will win the respect of a lot of owners.
Until next week.