It’s almost midseason. It’s time to swing for the proverbial fences.
What do you have to lose?
Statistics tell me it’s unlikely you’re in first. And if you are, it’s probably in only one of your many leagues. It’s exactly the same boat that I’m in. So there’s only one place to go and that’s up. Remember – people rarely remember who finished second.
I had to look up the 2007 Stanley Cup loser; you probably will, too. Unless you’re a fan.
Winners are remembered. So are those teams that got aggressive and rammed their way into the playoffs.
Fantasy hockey is the same.
Think back to last year. You know exactly where you finished and you probably remember who won. You may also remember who sold the farm to make a wild run either up the standings or into the playoffs.
But you don’t remember the second-place finisher… unless it was you. It’s time to make your mark; it’s time to be remembered.
Risk really is relative. Do you want to finish second? How big a swing are you willing to take?
Before I get to who caught my eye this week, I’ll give you a quick run-down on some guys I think are both undervalued and overvalued right now. You know them all so I’ll only give a bullet on each. But remember – big swings sometimes produce home runs and sometimes they even become grand slams. But there’s also a risk that they’ll only produce air.
But you won’t know which it is if you don’t swing.
UNDERVALUED (Go Get… But Only at Some Kind of Discount)
Drew Doughty, D – He finished third last year in scoring from the blue line; this year, he currently sits 28th. Like that’s going to last.
Ales Hemsky, RW – His team sucks; he doesn’t. He’s back from injury and will deliver at a point-a-game pace. Some people won’t notice.
Ilya Kovalchuk, LW – He’s a huge risk but he’s really not this awful. And he did play relatively well under old coach/new coach Jacques Lemaire last season. Just be cautious.
Vincent Lecavalier, C – Contrary to popular belief, he’s not done. His current streak is only the beginning.
Patrick Marleau, LW – Is he really just a 60-point player? He hasn’t scuffled like this since Ron Wilson was his coach. He’ll rebound to a point a game.
John Tavares, C – Kyle Okposo will be back a couple weeks; JT will get a big boost then. Imagine him having someone to play with… what a novel concept.
Joe Thornton, C – He’s 22nd in league scoring; his worst finish in the last five seasons was 11th. He may only deliver helpers but he’s not going to finish 22nd.
Marty Turco, G – His skills are declining and Corey Crawford is good. But I can’t help but think it’ll be Turco between the pipes as the playoffs approach.
OVERVALUED (Consider Moving… at an Inflated Price, of Course)
Dustin Byfuglien, D – Last season, only one defender finished at close to a point-per-game; the next guy was nowhere close. The second half will only get tougher for Big Buff. His pace can’t help but slow.
Nathan Horton, RW – So much for flourishing on a better team. He’s on pace to finish with fewer total points than he did last year (57) – that’s a problem when he got those points in just 65 games. He’d end up with just 43 if he only played 65 games this year. Big name. Not so big value.
Ryan Malone, LW – He’s playing his best hockey ever but he’s never come close to 65 points (his current pace). So what makes anyone think he can do it this year?
Patrick Sharp, LW – I love him but is he really a 40-goal scorer? Is he really going to finish second in the league in SOG?
Now let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Anton Babchuk, D, Calgary (8 percent owned) – It has taken a long time for Babs to get comfy in Calgary. So long, in fact, that I’d started to wonder if he was checking seat sales to Russia again. But he has points in his last two games and four in his last seven. It’s nothing spectacular but it’s enough to put him back on my radar. He has a powerful point shot that can be effective when properly harnessed. And he did once score 35 points in 72 games a couple seasons back. Watch him – maybe he’ll blossom with one less Sutter around.
Sean Bergenheim, LW, Tampa Bay (3 percent owned) – There are only two reasons to even consider this energy winger – Vincent Lecavalier and Simon Gagne. They’re his linemates right now and this buzzsaw has benefited with two points in his last three games. It won’t last – he really is a bit player. But Vinny is heating up and Bergenheim could get points by simply keeping his stick on the ice and heading to the net. Sort of like me in my men’s beer league. But that’s another story.
Jiri Hudler, RW, Detroit (6 percent owned) – So what exactly happened to this guy’s skill on the plane between Moscow and Detroit? His much-anticipated return to the Motor City has been nothing but a failure; in fact, Hudler has spent time in the media box on more than one occasion. But something – let’s call it opportunity – has gotten into him in his last few games and he’s finally taking advantage. The dazzle appears to be back – he has four points, including three on the power play, in his last two games. I snapped him up. You should, too.
Pavel Kubina, D, Tampa Bay (36 percent owned) – Is it just me or is this guy looking really old? Kubina is on pace for his worst offensive output since 2002-03. But just when things started to look really bleak, he lit things up with four points in his last four games. He’s still a wonky skater with lumbering feet and his pinches are occasionally Darwin worthy. But maybe, just maybe, he’s getting a bit of his 40-point-per-season mojo back. That means his value is about to take a tick up, particularly if he can ratchet up the muscle. And if those trade rumors (to San Jose?) are true, his value will go up even more.
Michael Leighton, G, Philadelphia (31 percent owned) – He got off to a rough start in his season debut (a win) Thursday night but remember – he was 16-5 as a starter last year. You need to stash him on speculation alone, particularly if you have room on your bench. Sergei Bobrovsky can’t carry the mail for a full season – he’s just not used to playing more than 35 to 40 games a year. And the Flyers will give Leighton a chance to prove his playoff heroics from last season (Cup finals aside) were for real. Besides, he’ll deliver numbers in any start he makes, even if they’re few and far between in the short term. The Flyers are for real.
Andrew MacDonald, D, NY Islanders (1 percent owned) – I nabbed MacDonald in one of my head-to-head formats the moment James Wisniewski (58 percent owned) was pitched off Long Island. After all, someone has to soak up the minutes at both even strength and on the power play, and this guy has the tools to do both. He’s a smooth skater with a great outlet pass and a quick shot from the blue line. And he has finally improved his defensive positioning to the point where he can be considered a reliable NHL defender. He has five points in his last six games. Give him a look.
Jason Pominville, RW, Buffalo (29 percent owned) – For a while there, it looked like this four-time, 60-plus point producer had forgotten how to score. But his slow production through November was probably tied to the lingering effects of that October concussion and not an erosion of skill. He now has nine points (four goals, five assists) in his last 10 games and he looks like he’s finally back in the fantasy groove. He’s not a great long-term keeper – he’ll soon be passed over by the Sabres’ younger players. And he’ll likely always carry that underachiever tag. But go ahead and roll the dice – he’s warm enough to give your lineup a boost.
Tuomo Ruutu, LW, Carolina (10 percent owned) – Ruuty is nasty and skilled – the perfect fantasy combo. But injuries have plagued him in just about every season he’s played and they have turned him into a fantasy pariah – everyone stays away from guys they think will end up on the IR. That’s too bad for them, particularly if they’re in leagues with deep or specialized counting categories. Right now, he’s second in the NHL in hits (133) and he’s on 55-point pace. He’s even on a three-game point streak (one goal, three helpers). He probably won’t stay healthy but he’s delivering when he is. Left wing is a fantasy sinkhole – he may be worth adding and dropping a few times over the next few months.
Dennis Seidenberg, D, Boston (22 percent owned) – Ryan Whitney owners – get to the wire and see if this guy is available. Seidenberg has an unbelievably powerful and heavy shot that may not always find twine but does create juicy rebounds. And that has resulted in three power-play assists for Seidenberg in his last four games. He’s not Whitney (no guff). But he’s a serviceable replacement from an awfully thin wire.
Vladimir Sobotka, C, St. Louis (2 percent owned) – No, he’s not spectacular. He’s not really even that good. But this plumber has taken things up a notch in the last five games with a four-game, five-point scoring streak. He’s ideally suited as a third or fourth line center but right now, his speed has helped him get into some extra offensive spaces. He may help you in deep leagues if you’re desperate down the middle.
Derek Stepan, C, NY Rangers (10 percent owned) – Stepan has stepped on the gas again. This smart, poised playmaker is once again scoring goals and has four goals and one assist on his current five-game scoring streak. He’s not flashy nor is he overly fast. But he has buttery soft hands and he plays a very deceptive, puck-possession game. He’s not the kind of center you can carry over the full course of the season but he is valuable in stretches. And he’s stretching right now.
Back to taking a risk.
Second sucks. Losing blows. But apathy is worse than both.
It’s time to show some of your league mates they can’t walk all over you. And that you’ll never be satisfied with seeing them gloat.
Swing for the fences.
Until next week.