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Frozen Fantasy: Dirty Laundry

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.

Dirty players – do they belong on a fantasy roster?

Now there's a loaded question.

The Max Pacioretty-Zdeno Chara incident has consumed radio, TV and social media up here in the great white north. And so it should.

It's not going away.

Chara is a great player; Pacioretty was a rising young power stud. The key word there? Was.

The severe concussion is bad enough. But the harsh reality is that broken vertebrae don't heal all that quickly. I've never been happier to hear the phrase “non-displaced fracture” as I was Thursday morning.

The other option – displaced – would have meant a possible spinal cord injury. And a cut between C4 and C5 (base of the neck) is catastrophic. How so? A C4 spinal cord injury means you're a complete quadriplegic; the only things you can move are your head and neck, and you might be able to shrug your shoulders.

Pacioretty is damn lucky. So is Chara.

But is he a dirty player? Or does his size, combined with the crazy speed of today's game, mean he has a target on his back? And if it's the former, what do you do as a fantasy owner?

It's actually a lot easier than in real life – you keep him. Moral outrage just doesn't have a place in fantasy.

Use it during call-in shows. Or venom-laced posts on discussion boards. Just don't have it influence your fantasy team. It's completely irrelevant. And it'll kill any chance you have to win your league.

I know that's a cutthroat position; I'm OK with that. I'm here to win. I don't really care if a guy is a rat's rectum – I'll roster him if he can help me win the title. You should, too.

My opinion of him really doesn't matter – at least not in my fantasy league.

I'm saving that for the dressing room after my Wednesday night men's beer league. Or the end of this article.

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

WINS/RATIOS

Jonas Enroth, G, Buffalo (1 percent owned) – He's little but he's feisty. And it looks like he'll get the start either Saturday against the Leafs or Sunday against the Sens. The Sabres are favored in both and this fantastic athlete allowed just two goals in his last outing – a win – this past weekend. A single win might just make as big a difference for you as it could for the Sabres' playoff hopes.

Braden Holtby, G, Washington (11 percent owned) – Opportunity + performance + surging team? This quirky twine-tender has them all. Michal Neuvirth had his bell rung Monday on the first shot of the game; the shot was so hard that it knocked the mask right off his head. Holtby has been perfect in five periods of relief and while Neuvirth seems to be OK, it's clear the Caps' have a capable backup in this Marty Turco clone (the early-career, third-defenseman, puck-moving Turco, not the quickly-aging fossilized Turco). He might deliver you an extra win or two with solid ratios before season's end.

SHOTS

Antoine Vermette, C, Columbus (25 percent owned) – There's no time to play favorites at center – if your man there sucks then do something about it. And if you need shots then Vermette can give you a boost. His shooting percentage is way below his career average but he's still ripping rubber. He has 17 shots in his last three games and that has finally helped him deliver some points (he's on a four-point streak in those three games).

ASSISTS

Tyler Ennis, LW/C, Buffalo (39 percent owned) – It's a little late for consideration in the rookie-of-the-year chase but Ennis is trying his best to prove those heady preseason predictions were right. He's slippery and skilled, and can thread a needle with a pass from 80 feet. That's helpful when you're skating with snipers like Brad Boyes, Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek, sometimes at even strength, sometimes on the PP. He has five points in his last five games including that nice goal-assist combo Thursday night. He won't deliver a point-per-game going forward – he's too easy to knock off the puck. But you're not moving up if you're not taking a few risks.

Andrei Kostitsyn, LW, Montreal (64 percent owned) – Kostitsyn is that proverbial enigma wrapped up in a riddle. And he's owned in two-thirds of Yahoo! leagues. But he just came off a six-game assist streak (and seven-game point streak) and that makes him valuable in every format – how many of your current guys are rolling like that? Just be prepared for streaks. After all, there was a nine-game drought right before that seven-game stretch…

GOALS

Jamie Benn, LW, Dallas (25 percent owned) – The cat's out of the bag. This guy is on the fast track to greatness – he's a fave of keeper leaguers – but a five-game goal-scoring streak has thrust him into single-year relevance. And when you eliminate the month he just missed with a bum shoulder, he has delivered 16 points (including nine goals) in his last 15 games. Yup – that kind of production is still available…

Power-Play Points

Eric Fehr, RW, Washington (5 percent owned) – Now, that was an impressive return after missing 22 games – two goals on two shots in just over 13 minutes of action Wednesday night. And one of them came on the PP. His gift is his hands; his curse is his health. But he's worth a shot if you need help with power-play points – he's at his best in front of the net with the man advantage and his hands are faster than a pick-pocket's.

Vinny Prospal, LW, NY Rangers (17 percent owned) – Well, I didn't expect this – did you? Be honest – we all hate Vinny P. The come-here, go-away, play hard to get act has worn most of us out. But he's on a five-game streak right now (one goal, five assists) with a heavy emphasis on power-play production (four of those six points and six in his last eight outings). And those kind of points don't come cheap or easy, particularly off the wire. What are you waiting for? Go get him.

Plus-Minus

Chris Campoli, D, Chicago (2 percent owned) – Campoli struggled in Ottawa – OK, who didn't? But he has become a plus-minus horse in the five games since his arrival in the Windy City. His plus-5 rating in five games on a streaking Hawks squad is absolute gold and it will only grow from here.

Steve Montador, D, Buffalo (28 percent owned) – Mr. Steady now has delivered at least 20 points in four straight seasons. But that's not the reason you want him. He has a plus-19 rating coming out of Thursday's loss to Boston; he's plus-5 over his last four games and plus-12 in his last nine. I could use that kind of boost – how about you? Just keep an eye on him – his back might be more than a little stiff after he was boarded by Zdeno Chara on Thursday night. Yep, Big Z was at it again.

PIMs

Steve Ott, C, Dallas (19 percent owned) – The only way to make up big ground in the sin bin is to roster a guy who's at least a tiny bit crazy. Well, Ott is a whole lot more than a little crazy (as witnessed by that stupid spear Monday night). And he gets his PIMs in bunches – like 21 in the last week. Center is a tough spot to roll a goon but we're close to season's end. And that makes it a lot easier to swallow the lack of production in other categories.

Multiple Categories

Andy McDonald, LW/C, St. Louis (45 percent owned) – I've talked about him recently but he's still not getting enough love. He's been a top-10 left winger over the last week with three goals, one helper, two PPPs and 17 shots. He scored the game-winner Thursday night and added two assists, and he's delivering at a pace that we haven't seen since his days in Anaheim. We both know how well that worked out. He can help you take a run.

Back to Mr. Chara.

I promised you my non-fantasy opinion so here goes. Chara knew exactly where he was on the ice. And he knew exactly what would happen when he “nudged” Pacioretty into that stanchion.

You can't convince me otherwise. It was flat-out filthy.

I deliberately chose to take out an opponent in a playoff game Tuesday night. I was playing D and got burned wide; I turned too late. She had a clear lane from the faceoff dot straight to the net. I knew she'd go flying straight into the side of the net if I tripped her. But I chose it any way. It was better than the post or the end boards. Or a goal.

It wasn't an accident. I chose to do it. And so did Chara. Like me, he didn't intend to injure anyone.

I saved a goal. I got a penalty. And I helped her back up.

It didn't happen that way for Mr. Chara.

The system needs to change. There needs to be standardized suspensions: three games for type A infractions, five games for type B, 10 for type C and so on. Then there's zero debate.

Then we'd know why Nick Boynton got a one-game suspension in the preseason for using a throat slash gesture but Chara got nothing for a hit that broke a man's neck.

Until next week.