How many ambulances can a chaser chase if a chaser could chase ambulances? Lots, apparently...that is, if you're looking for an NHL defenseman.
Is it open season on blueliners?
I don't think I've ever seen a period of time when so many NHL defensemen have gone down with potentially catastrophic injuries. A Mack truck with Steve Downie vanity plates ran down Roman Josi. Dan Boyle is apparently feeling better, but may still undergo major medical testing to make sure his brain is still in one piece. The sight of Niklas Kronwall being taken off the ice on a backboard made my stomach turn.
And I actually changed the channel after seeing Jacob Trouba go headfirst into the end boards Friday night. “Moving and alert.” I still get shivers thinking about it.
Today's game is fast and it's played on the edge, both literally and figuratively. The closer the boys play to that edge, the more fun it is for fans. But decisions get a whole lot harder when you're going 25 mph on a piece of sharpened steel that's an eighth of an inch wide.
It seems like today's defensemen are bearing the brunt of those bad decisions. Boyle and Kronwall are top-20 (or close to it) defenders. Josi could have delivered 40 points this year. And Trouba is an emerging young stud whose name was tossed around by some as a possible short lister for the Calder.
We're only eight games or so into the season - how many more guys will go down?
A lot of people will tell you not to panic when your fantasy team underperforms early in the year. I agree. Panic is a useless emotional response. You run into stuff when you panic. Instead, I say you should weigh the potential burden of these major injuries and then get aggressive.
This isn't an excuse to be stupid. Emotion makes you stupid. But you probably have a couple of guys who are overperforming. And someone in your league probably covets at least one of those guys.
Tomas Hertl isn't going to score 70 goals this season. Neither is Alexander Steen. Patrick Marleau isn't going to crest 100 points. And Marc-Andre Fleury won't win 65 games. Cripes, he'll be hard-pressed to win 35.
What's the worst that can happen? Your injured guys come back sooner than expected and give your lineup a boost? You've already secured your gains by trading your overachiever. And you've strengthened your roster.
Now let's take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Mark Arcobello, RW, Edmonton (10 percent owned) - Go get this little brainiac right now. I'll wait for you to come back. The 5-for-9 Arcobello is excelling in a Martin St. Louis kind of way, particularly when it comes to dishing the puck to his elite sniping line mates, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle. Sam Gagner's injury opened a door in Oil Country and Arcobello has stepped right through it...to the tune of six assists in four games dating back to last Saturday and eight in as many games overall this season. The Oilers have an overabundance of firepower up front, but this guy might even stick on a scoring line when Gagner returns. And that means 50-55 points. Even if he doesn't, he's bringing loads of playmaking skill to smart fantasy owners right now.
Andre Benoit, D, Colorado (1 percent owned) - Benoit isn't anything special - he's a soon-to-be-30, journeyman defender with 48 whole NHL games in his jock. But he's finally landed a full-time gig in Denver AND he's seeing time on special teams. He's a cheap option for your last blue-line spot and he's more than available.
Alex Chiasson, RW, Dallas (19 percent owned) - Chiasson was last year's Tomas Hertl. He drained a surprising six goals in seven games in a brief callup last season, which I chalked up to lightning in a bottle. Wrong. The guy is big, can skate, works hard and has talent. And he's off to a fantastic start this year. He has six points (three goals, three assists) in six games and has been held off the score sheet just once. He's got the second-line right wing gig and he's getting solid power-play time. And he's learning from savvy vet, Ray Whitney. I think he's going to out produce 82 percent owned Mr. Hertl. Go get him.
Matt Cooke, LW, Minnesota (7 percent owned) - A couple years ago, I'd never have stooped so low as to put Cooke on any “buy” list - there were just way too many years that he was Wikipedia's poster boy for weasels. Not that I have anything against weasels - they're sweet little bastards. But Cooke really has reformed his game and this season, he's putting up the best numbers of his 15-year career. Yes, you read that right. He has three goals and three assists in eight games. He's also laying hits and his plus-minus (plus-5) looks great. He's actually worth something in standard leagues.
Nathan Gerbe, LW/C, Carolina (21 percent owned) - It's funny, you know. The offensively starved Sabres just couldn't find room for this water bug, so they bought him out this past summer. Now, the NHL's Muggsy Bogues has clicked with Jordan Staal in Raleigh and has five points (three goals, two assists) in eight games so far. He'd be tied for second on the Sabres with a total like that, but I digress. He's been quiet for a couple games heading into the weekend, but that won't last long given his chemistry with Jordan Staal.
Alex Killorn, LW/C, Tampa Bay (13 percent owned) - This smarty pants Harvard grad arrived in Tampa Bay last season as a callup and few people - other than Killorn himself - thought he'd last more than a couple weeks. Well, he played so well that the Bolts couldn't send him down. And low and behold, Killorn registered 19 points in 38 games. Now he's upped the ante and has six points in his first seven games, and he is clearly smart enough to play on a scoring line. He's not a point-per-game producer, but he does have 70-point upside. And he could easily hit 60 this year. That warrants ownership in all but the smallest of Yahoo! leagues.
Jakub Kindl, D, Detroit (4 percent owned) - Honestly, I'm not a big Kindl fan. But the sight of Niklas Kronwall on a backboard being slid off the ice in Colorado on Thursday night was enough to send me to the wire. Kindl was first over the boards to replace Kronwall on the power play and he snagged an assist there Thursday night. He might eventually lose the gig to Brendan Smith, but I'm banking on a short-term fantasy return right now given the potency of the Wings.
Anton Khudobin, G, Carolina (8 percent owned) - I like this guy. Until he cranked his manhood, Khudobin was in a timeshare for the starter's role in Carolina. At least that's what coach Kirk Muller revealed on a Toronto sports radio station earlier this week. Cam Ward is a fine enough goalie, but he has disappointed me ever since his early-career exploits. Khubodin is on the IR and there's no specific report on the potential length of his stay there. But he's worth stashing as a just in case. Twinetenders with his potential and maturity are usually only available in trade, and then you have to overpay. You can always drop his butt if he's out for months.
Robin Lehner, G, Ottawa (10 percent owned) - The Sens are leaking money - try $110 million in the last 10 years. Owner Eugene Melynk isn't a stupid man and he won't suffer fools too much longer. That's why I just don't think the rumors linking Lehner and the Oilers are true - that makes less sense than Sarah Palin has ever made and that's bloody hard to do. If anything, Craig Anderson's contract will make him expendable and Lehner will be the top dog in Canada's capital. When does it happen? My guess is this season and that's why Lehner should be stashed on fantasy rosters. He's ready and he's cap friendly. Stash him now and rub salt into your opponents' wounds later.
Ryan Malone, LW, Tampa Bay (14 percent owned) - Malone's ownership jumped by 10 percent in the second half of this week and for good reason. When he's healthy, he can deliver you offense and aggression, and that's gold in Yahoo! leagues. So far, he has a goal, three assists, 26 PIM and 12 hits in his first seven games. Just get ready to dump his tail when - not if - he gets hurt. It'll happen. I'm talking about Ryan Malone here.
Ryan Murphy, D, Carolina (2 percent owned) - I'm holding my breath on this guy. Why? For every bit of offensive talent he brings to the ice, he brings an equal - or even greater - amount of defensive queasiness along with him. In fact, his approach in his own zone is largely built on luck. But the Canes are hurting on the back end, so Murphy is getting lots of ice time to prove his worth. And he has delivered a goal, three assists and a remarkable plus-2 rating in the first seven games. Staals plus Semin and Skinner? Murphy should get points by osmosis if he shares the ice with those guys.
Dustin Penner, LW, Anaheim (4 percent owned) - Let me get this out of the way. Kevin Lowe's offer sheet for Dustin Penner back in 2007 ranks right up there as the worst in hockey. Penner has never really lived up to it and Lowe will never be able to live it down. Penner may be consistent in his inconsistency, but let's not forget he did deliver 32 goals and 63 points in 2009-10. Yah, I'd forgotten that, too. The talent is there if (IF) he decides to use it, so his four points in five games jumps out at me. He's still under the radar, but won't be if he stays on track and away from the pancakes. Keep an eye on him.
Paul Postma, D, Winnipeg (0 percent owned) - Friday night was tough on the Jets - they lost both Jacob Trouba and Mark Stuart to injury. So opportunity has knocked for Postma. He's a former AHL All Star who knows how to play on the offensive side of the puck. He'll be given an opportunity to play an expanded role, but ultimately his disinterest in physical play will become a problem. Until then, you might as well take advantage. There are just too many defenders out with injuries to get choosy with the wire.
Back to Jacob Trouba.
I saw Taylor Hall do the same thing in the Memorial Cup in 2010. He bounced back almost immediately and even won the tourney MVP award.
Miracles can happen. Godspeed to Boyle, Kronwall, Josi and Trouba.
Until next week.