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Frozen Fantasy: Apathy Hurts

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.

I thought I'd heard just about everything. And quite honestly, I thought it was my medicinally induced strep throat haze that made me think the Catholic Church of Montreal wanted me to pray for the Habs to make the playoffs.

Huh? I'm not even Catholic.

It wasn't the meds - it was actually true. They'd taken out ads Thursday in major Montreal dailies leading for prayers to help the Habs win. And guess what? The Habs were 11 points out of a playoff spot when the ads appeared. Now, they're nine points out heading into action Friday and could be seven with a win over the Leafs on Saturday.

And Scott Gomez has broken a 369-day goal slump.

Stupefiant! (the adjective NOT the noun, folks)

Maybe the "Prions" (Let us pray) request actually helped Gomez. You know how superstitious hockey players can be. But I have to ask - who among you still own the dude? (His ownership sat at two percent Friday.)

Have you lost your mind? Or are you just flat-out lazy?

His ownership should be a nice round goose egg. He plays the deepest position in the league. Cripes, Edmonton's Sam Gagner eclipsed his season total in points in one bloody night!

Fantasy is home to too many dud - or dead - owners. They're not like you and me - we're together every week to try to find a single gem in a giant pan of fool's gold. Those folks who give up do their entire league a fantasy disservice. One or two might be in over their heads, whether that be because of lack of knowledge or no time. But the rest? I'm pretty sure they just figure they can't win so they won't even try.

Nice...

Maybe the prayers request helped Gomez. Maybe it'll even help the Habs. But there isn't a prayer powerful enough to help a fantasy owner who disses his (or her) league by failing to play in good faith, start to finish.

Guess I'm grumpy when I'm sick. Now let's take a look at who caught my eye through my med-induced haze.

Byron Bitz, RW, Vancouver (1 percent owned) - Bitz is big. Bitz is burly. Bitz is a beast. And now Bitz is the bookend on the Orca's top line with the Sedins - not bad for a guy who just returned from four - count 'em - four groin/hip/abdominal surgeries in the last 12 months. Hey - any guy tough enough to go through four surgeries AND a series of injections in his groin to accelerate healing has my complete admiration. The Orcas need a physical force and the 6-foot-5 Lord Byron looks like the perfect package - he's great along the wall, jars lots of pucks loose when he lays the body, and looks impressive in front of the net. He has three points, including a goal, in two games with the Sedins and will likely get a few more games there before Alain Vigneault juggles the lines again. Roll him on. And remember his name for playoff pools. He could be Plan B for the top line in a hard-slogging series against a physical team. And that would certainly result in some very cheap points.

Tyler Bozak, C, Toronto (13 percent owned) - Boy Wonder has become almost a perfect sidekick to Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. And while GM Brian Burke would prefer a Chewbacca-sized center for his first line, this smart, third-year center has done just fine with the top job, especially of late. He's on a four-game, seven-point (four goals, three helpers) scoring streak and is showing great chemistry with the Odd Couple. And his production over the last seven days (Thursday to Thursday) was third-best among pivots ... behind only Olli Jokinen (62 percent owned) and Sam Gagner (43 percent owned), and ahead of greats like Steven Stamkos, Evgeni Malkin and Anze Kopitar (100, 100 and 99 percent owned, respectively). He could deliver very surprising value going forward.

Jake Gardiner, D, Toronto (9 percent owned) - Silver Stick just continues to impress me with each passing game. It wasn't always that way - I was skeptical at season's start because I wasn't sold on his hockey sense. I am now. His panic threshold is almost as high as a Nicklas Lidstrom or Scott Niedermayer, and he really does look like a guy who'll get that silver hockey stick for a 1,000 NHL games. He's great in transition, solid in his own zone (for a rookie) and isn't afraid to jump up into the play. He has six points (two goals, four assists) in his last eight games and is a whopping plus-7 in that same span. He won't continue to deliver at quite that same pace but a 25-point, "plus" season is pretty good for a 21-year-old rookie.

David Jones, RW, Colorado (6 percent owned) - It's official - I hate David Jones. It's sort of the same irrational hate I had a couple weeks ago when I dropped Sam Gagner in the Friends and Family league before his big eight-point game (at least he was on waivers so no-one got to take advantage). I dropped Jones on Sunday morning in my super-deep keeper league - three goals in 26 games dating back to mid-November had left me frustrated. Sure, he has great hands but a woman can only wait so long. Then he goes out Tuesday and pots two in a three-point night on a newly-formed line with Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk. And against the Blackhawks, no less. He scored 27 goals last year and could be poised to snipe at that pace going forward if that trio sticks together. He's worth a sniff short term, particularly if you need goals.

Sergei Kostitsyn, LW, Nashville (11 percent owned) - Kostitsyn is the epitome of conservation - he has fired just 57 shots in 49 games this season but he has converted on almost 25 percent of them. This is nothing new for SK74 - he led the Preds in goal scoring last year with a similar shooting percentage (the NHL's best, by the way). He's at his best when he's inspired - aggressive and intense - and right now, he has delivered two goals and three points with a plus-4 rating in his last three games. There was a time when he was the sidekick on a junior line with Sam Gagner and Patrick Kane. Clearly, the talent is there; the motivation just doesn't always follow. But when it is - like it is right now - you need to jump on board.

Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW, New Jersey (2 percent owned) - Some things just go together. Peanut butter and jelly. Wings and beer. And Poni and the Devils. Yup, Poni is the latest Carolina reject to discover he can still actually play. The big winger is a natural in the swamp and has been on absolute fire (one goal, five assists, plus-6) in his last five games. Take a chance - I did. Really? What can it hurt?

Brayden Schenn, C, Philadelphia (7 percent owned) - It's about time, eh? A couple of bad breaks (foot and concussion) kept this future top-line center off the ice for all but eight pointless games before January. And while he's yet to record a multi-point game in his young career, he does have four goals and nine PIMs in his last seven games. Two of those snipes have come on the PP and for those of you in specialty formats, he has also laid 20 hits in that same span. I'm not a fan of his skating - it's a real work in progress. But I do like his power game and his ability to snipe. He's still a better keeper than a single-year guy. But four in seven shouldn't be knocked as a fluke. The next 25 games or so could be special for this kid.

Luca Sbisa, D, Anaheim (3 percent owned) - Right now, I'd rather have Sbisa on my single-year squad than his supposedly more-talented teammate, Cam Fowler (49 percent owned). OK, I'm sour on Fowler because he has really burned my butt this season. But he's seriously overrated in single-year formats. Both men are on pace for 27 points this season but this slick Italian has four points in his last five, and his own-zone play is head and shoulders above Mr. Minus-19. Sbisa is a heavy hitter but also has a good shot and distributes the puck well. Cripes, he could even be the better bet over next season, too. Right now, Sbisa's surge of production will help you in deep formats without completely tossing your plus-minus down the drain (he's minus-7 overall but plus-2 in 16 since the start of 2012).

Devin Setoguchi, RW, Minnesota (18 percent owned) - Seto is like your buddy who passes out on the subway and misses his stop - fun to be around but you can't count on him a lick. He's barely a complementary player but can fool you when he's skating with top-end talent. And we're back in one of his fooler states right now. Mikko Koivu's return has returned and that means the Wild reunited him with Seto and Dany Heatley. And guess what? Seto immediately potted a goal and added an assist. Pick him up, wait for him to start putting up a few points and then trade him right before your deadline. And then avoid him like the plague next season.

Back to Gomez.

You can't even turn his pathetic play into a decent drinking game. You'll be sober forever ... unless you use shots on goal. Wait - you can't rely on that any more either.

So I ask - what did you do between Scott Gomez goals?

Blake Griffin dunked over a car at last year's NBA All-Star Game. The Bruins won the Cup. Barcelona carved open Man U. The Red Sox completed the biggest regular-season choke in history. And Usain Bolt screwed himself with a case of premature ... initiation at the World Championships.

Hey - even Justin Bieber grew just enough facial hair to really irritate Selena Gomez.

Scott Gomez is probably a really nice guy. And his failure to launch wouldn't get a tenth of the attention it does without that albatross of a contract he wears around his neck.

But nice guys have no place on a fantasy team. The same way that dud owners don't belong in fantasy. Sadly, we'll probably never get our way with either of those things. But we sure can slag them plenty.

Before I go, I want to give a quick shout out to Scott, my physio-terrorist (his words but I'm finding them prophetic) and regular reader. He's keeping me off the ice right now because of my wrist and elbow. All I can say is this: good thing he plays fantasy hockey ...

Until next week.

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