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Frozen Fantasy: Do Your Homework

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Homework – that word alone probably made you shudder. But the lessons you learned when you were in school will actually help you win your fantasy league.

Go figure.

You learned how to research. And you use it all the time. Be honest – how much “research” did you do before you bought your flat screen TV? Or your last car? Yeah – a lot. I did the same.

Homework helps. Particularly in fantasy.

The Internet is awesome for research. But don’t overlook the very cool graphing tool that’s built into your Yahoo! league standings. Use it well and you’ll be able to evoke pure panic in your vulnerable fellow owners.

Let’s take a look.

Go to your league standings and select Standings. They’re fine; they’ll even help you with roster planning. But the real value lies in the tab that says Graph View. In there, you can quickly and easily see seven-day, 14 day and 30-day league trends by total points and each category, too. And used well, you can quickly see which fellow owner is in a free-fall… and then use it to scare him or her into a hasty trade.

This isn’t a shallow plug for a proprietary fantasy tool – honest. I love it because I can directly compare my team to one, two or even all the teams in my league. And when I see an owner who’s dropped hard in one or two categories, I take a long, hard look at ways I can pillage his or her lineup.

Owners in the top three can be particularly vulnerable to this kind of manipulation. Get them to check out the graphs themselves. They’re already obsessed with trying to either stay ahead or climb over the guy at the top. And those graphs can make a small mathematical drop look like they’ve fallen off a cliff. And you’ll be there to “help” them, won’t you?

And all because you’ve done your homework.

Now let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Carlo Colaiacovo, D, St. Louis (5 percent owned) – Carlo Kokomo (sorry, I couldn’t resist using Don Cherry’s mispronunciation – I mean, nickname – for this guy) is a talented offensive defender with an injury-plagued career. But his three-point tease Thursday was a foreshadowing of his potential, particularly with Erik Johnson out with a mild knee sprain. Nab him if only for a week or 10 days.

Jason Demers, D, San Jose (16 percent owned) – Demers was a bit of a revelation last season, finishing fourth in rookie scoring from the blue line with 21 points. Of course, much more was expected this year but many owners soured on him after just two points in his first 11 games. He’s finally using his puck-moving skills for good, not evil, and that has resulted in four points in his last six games. And that means he’ll soon earn some meaningful power-play time. His value is rising.

Shane Doan, RW, Phoenix (41 percent owned) – Doan is lurking on three of every five waiver wires but he shouldn’t be. Since his return from injury Nov. 21, he has 10 points in 11 games, half of which have come on the power play. The only thing he’s not earning is penalty minutes but you can find those elsewhere. Check your wire – you may be pleasantly surprised. Doan is the kind of player who can chug along at a 70-point pace and that makes him useful in every Yahoo! league.

Mikhail Grabovski, C, Toronto (15 percent owned) – It’s hard to believe but Grabo has been the Leafs’ best player over the last several weeks. He’s slick with the puck and is fearless for a little guy. And while he’s still sometimes guilty of overhandling the puck, he appears to have finally shed his lone wolf approach and he’s actually involving his linemates in plays. There are a lot of centers out there so his value comes in deep formats. But there’s nothing wrong with five goals and an assist in his last six games.

Kristian Huselius, LW, Columbus (19 percent owned) – Huselius threw down a trick Thursday night so that 19 percent ownership number is about to spike up. Put in a claim for this talented winger right now. He may be playing through pain for the rest of the season but who cares? He’ll help you even if he’s streaky and one dimensional – isn’t the latter actually helpful in fantasy anyway?

Sergei Kostitsyn, LW, Nashville (3 percent owned) – This bad-ass was run out of Montreal on a rail after last season and until December, I thought the change of scenery experiment in Tennessee had failed. But I’ve changed my mind. He’s on a seven-game, nine-point streak and looks like he’s finally putting it all together. He’s always been fast, skilled and aggressive but he’s been prone to lapses in focus. But coach Barry Trotz has obviously coaxed another miracle out of the reject pile. He needs to be rostered right now.

Bryan Little, RW, Atlanta (12 percent owned) – The word tease can be used as both a verb and a noun, and Little is both. His 31-goal breakout two seasons ago dissolved into just 13 last year, and fantasy owners bolted after he tallied just four points in his first 11 games this season. But he may soon go from tease to rebound with five points, including four goals, and a plus-4 rating in his last six games. He’s not out of the woods yet but he is worth watching.

Joffrey Lupul, LW, Anaheim (9 percent owned) – Lupul’s back problems have driven him deep under the radar – he has burned many a fantasy owner over the last few years. But he’s a pure sniper with soft hands and he’s fully capable of a 35-goal season (when healthy, of course). He looks sharp skating with Jason Blake (3 percent owned) and Saku Koivu (22 percent owned) and he has three points, including two goals, in this last two games. He’s streaky. And he’ll always be an injury risk. But he’s worth grabbing if you need goals – snipers are hard to find on the wire.

Evgeni Nabokov, G, Unsigned (unavailable) – Nabby is headed back to North America after a failed experiment in the KHL. It isn’t really surprising – his American-born wife and kids left Russia a few months ago and returned home without him. Now he’s looking for an NHL job and teams like Tampa Bay and even Chicago could really use some help (did you see how bad Marty Turco was Monday night?). Last year in San Jose, he won 44 games with a 2.43 goals-against average and .922 save percentage. Someone will bite and you should, too. Park on your wire and grab him the moment he becomes available.

Marc Staal, D, NY Rangers (23 percent owned) – I’m still not convinced this particular Staal will ever be a true offensive force; he’s more of a smothering, top-pairing defender who completely silences the opposition’s stars. But right now, he’s on a four-game, five-point streak and he has points in six of eight games this month. He’s quicker and a lot more agile than you’d expect for a big man. And he’s even delivering on the power play. I don’t expect to this last but he’s worth scooping up right now.

Ryan Suter, D, Nashville (29 percent owned) – Suter is one-half of what is arguably the best defense tandem in the NHL. But he and battery-mate Shea Weber (93 percent owned; see below) had struggled to regain their rhythm after Suter’s injury absence earlier this season. Something changed Saturday and since then, both men are on three-game scoring streaks with Suter leading the way with a goal and three assists. He’s reliable and low maintenance, and he comes a whole lot cheaper than Mr. Weber.

TRADE TARGET

Shea Weber, D, Nashville (93 percent owned) – He has really scuffled this season (13 points in 30 games) and his owners have suffered. Most are frustrated and now is a perfect time to move in for a trade. His chemistry with Ryan Suter is back and he’s finally looking like a Norris candidate again. Pounce before his owner notices.

Back to homework. I mean research.

It was only a bad word when you were in school. Now, it’s a welcome tool you can use to mess with your opponents’ heads.

If you’re like me in the Friends and Family league, you already know you can’t climb back and win it all. But if you really are like me, you won’t want to just give up either. So the next best thing is winning a trade, moving up a few spots and (honestly) screwing someone else’s chance at a win.

Until next week.

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