I admit it. I was one of the 5.7 million Canadian sheep who rushed home Monday to watch at least part of the return of Sidney �I�m not a kid anymore� Crosby. No doubt about it � he was phenomenal.
But I was bored. You?
Don�t get me wrong � that 185-foot rush that ended with a 50 M.P.H. backhand shelf was Sportscenter worthy. But my mind started to wander part way through the second period. And I was checking the on-screen guide to see what else was on by early in the third.
The game was brutal.
The Islanders laid down on Monday night. They were caught with their pants down. And they were wearing the wrong day�s underwear.
It was so bad that Versus on Long Island apparently switched to non-hockey programming after the first period.
It�s not Sid�s fault. Mind you, I grew bored with Sid updates back in August. The Isles embarrassed themselves and the NHL. And they did it on the biggest night in hockey since December 27, 2000 (yes, that was the night Mario Lemieux came out of retirement and spanked the Leafs).
Was it too much to ask you to show up?
Then again, the Isles aren�t alone. In four short days, I saw the Isles drop their drawers, the Caps try to get their coach fired and the Bolts suffer a major power outage. Even the Hawks got caught watching the nifty Oil on Saturday night. Maybe they were all on their iPads planning their Vegas getaway.
I love hockey � just like you. But if I�m getting bored then what does the new fan or the simply curious think?
I�m pretty sure they�re already gone. And that�s not only bad for hockey and fantasy, it�s just plain sad.
Now let�s take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Tyler Bozak, C, Toronto (9 percent owned) � So, here�s the thing. I�ve always thought this guy was seriously miscast as a first-line center. He�s responsible, has great balance and quick enough feet. But he�s always been a little skinny and his finishing skills wouldn�t be described as elite. Or even solid. But this year, something has changed. He moved alongside Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul when Tim Connolly got hurt and hasn�t looked back, even after Connolly�s return. Sure, maybe his recent success (six points in four games) is simply the result of staying out of their way. But he and Kessel are best friends and there�s a lot to be said about a stud and his wingman. Who knows what happens when Mikhail Grabovski comes back in a week � the top-six will be mighty crowded. But until then, take advantage of this source of heat.
Cody Franson, D, Toronto (4 percent owned) � Look who�s finally making his mark. Franson fumed after being left for dead in the press box to start the season � after all, he was a top-four defender in the powerful Nashville system don�t you know. And therein lies the rub. Franson�s deficiencies were masked within Barry Trotz�s system; they�re not any more. Still, he�s back in the lineup courtesy of a Mike Komisarek injury and while he�s not out of the woods quite yet, he and his big shot haven�t looked out of place. He has a goal and two assists (one of each on the power play) in his last three games and should continue to get more. Take advantage. The Leafs sure know how to score and he�ll be in the fray.
Tom Gilbert, D, Edmonton (5 percent owned) � Tom Gilbert played his best game of the season Saturday night. And it was only three seasons ago that he delivered that 45-point effort. Now that strong season came with PP partner Sheldon Souray. Why reference that, you ask? Ryan Whitney is back on Friday. And Gilbert could be a complete steal if the Oil use both on the PP. Get ready to press add.
Shawn Horcoff, C, Edmonton (7 percent owned) � It looks like just about all of the 30-somethings in Oil Country are sipping from the fountain of youth. First Ryan Smyth, now Mr. Horcoff. The captain has six points, including four goals, in his last four games. And three of those goals have come on the PP. The Oil are having a blast right now and their enthusiasm is translating into serious offense. The rooks aren�t available on the wire but this guy is. You can do far, far worse.
Ryan Jones, LW, Edmonton (1 percent owned) � I don�t think there�s anyone � other than his mother � who thought Jones could repeat last year�s 18-goal outburst. And maybe even she was realistic about his potential (she probably told him to cut his hair, too). But here he is, lapping up the elixir of the Oilers� youth movement and he�s on pace for 19 goals and a whopping 35 points. He�s not going to deliver power-play points and his hits are actually down this year. But he may just help those of you in super-deep formats.
Chris Kelly, C, Boston (11 percent owned) � Last season, just 38 guys scored 28 goals or more. And only 29 hit the 30-goal mark. So why remind you of that? Well if you haven�t noticed, Kelly has been finding twine at a pace only previously reserved for these so-called snipers. He has seven points in his last six games and is on pace for 28 goals and 56 points. That almost makes him relevant in standard, two-center leagues. Go figure. The odds are he won�t keep it up. But he�s worth something while both he and the B�s are sizzling.
Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW, Carolina (1 percent owned) � Maybe all it took to light a fire under this guy�s butt was the threat that his coach might be fired. I�ll bet Poni knows darn well his poor play wouldn�t be tolerated by anyone other than Paul Maurice. So with Maurice�s job (and maybe his own) on the line, he exploded for two power-play goals and an even-strength assist in that other game in Pennsylvania on Monday night. He�s fringe-worthy in super-deep leagues only. And only because he�s been known to get his points in bunches.
Curtis Sanford, G, Columbus (9 percent owned) � This journeyman twinetender has been nothing short of spectacular since replacing the woeful Steve Mason a week ago. He�s played in four straight and has almost singlehandedly delivered six of a possible eight points (2-0-1) for the Jackets. He has allowed just six goals in those four games and sports a 1.33 GAA and .946 save percentage � pretty sweet for a guy who wasn�t even supposed to be on the Jackets� NHL roster this season. Grab him and ride him hard. The Jackets will � Scott Arniel and Scott Howson�s jobs depend on him.
Jordin Tootoo, RW, Nashville (1 percent owned) � Clear the track � the too-too train is steaming this week. Not only is he laying those devastating hits that are his trademark but he�s also throwing down points � four in his last two games. His fearlessness seems to have inspired the Preds� power play and his confidence is soaring. Sure, he can be a jerk. And he�s hated by almost everyone not wearing one of those double-fanged, mustard-puce third jerseys. But his energy plus offense � at least in the short term � could quickly bullet train you up in a couple categories.
Kyle Wellwood, C, Winnipeg (6 percent owned) � I�ve talked about Wellie before so this won�t take long. He was the 10th-best center over the last seven days. He�s on a four-game, seven-point streak. He�s on a serious rebound. He can help.
Blake Wheeler, RW, Winnipeg (8 percent owned) � I�ve seen more of Blake Wheeler on my milk container than I�ve seen of him on the ice. Nice guy but man, what a failure of a draft pick. His slow start this season dropped him to the third line but he�s been about as effective there as a down pillow. He got ripped for it in the media last week and guess what happened � yep, a three-game point streak. Sure, it coincided with a Bryan Little burst of offense but maybe those two can build on this chemistry. He may help back-fill for an injury. Just drop him at the first sign of goose down.
Back to Sid.
He really is an unbelievable talent. He�s everything the NHL needs and more. But you can only sell a game if both sides show up.
Artificial conflict takes two to tango. Otherwise, you�re just playing with yourself.
And that only goes so far.
Until next week.