There are 10 to 12 games left in this season. And youíre within spitting distance of a podium finish. You can almost taste it.
Are you still fighting or are you waving the white flag?
Leave now if youíve sent a pair of tighty whiteys up the flagpole. Iím not interested in talking with you. Itís way too easy to give up than it is to make an effort on something. But I digress.
Well, not really.
Fight, damn it Ė fight! It doesnít matter if youíre second or second last, there are dozens of reasons to keep at it. And pride is the biggest. Have some dignity. Címon!
Iím in third in my home Yahoo! league. And Iím bound and determined Iím finishing second. Itís my first year in this league and impressions matter. Iíve already achieved my first goal Ė finishing ahead of the guy who made the mistake of inviting me in.
You know who you are. Gotcha.
I know first is out of touch Ė there are too many points to make up in a dozen (or fewer) games. But second? Thatís doable. Cripes, Iím only two points out of second. Yesterday, I was four points out. Itís that close.
But hereís the real test. Am I truly prepared to do what it takes to secure that spot? Are you?
I need assists, power-play points and positive plus-minus. And as I see it, the best way for me to accomplish that is to drop Jordan Eberle (71 percent owned) to pick up Mats Zuccarello (25 percent owned). Iím not kidding. But can I do it?
Surprisingly, the two playersí stat lines are almost identical (Eberle: 23/30/53, minus-13, 17 PPP, 180 SOG; Zuccarello: 15/36/51, plus-12, 15 PPP, 145 SOG). But Eberleís plus-minus is hanging on my team like an anchor.
Dropping a big name guy Ė or two Ė isnít easy. You may face ridicule from your league mates. But more likely, youíll face serious self-doubt, particularly if you think someone else will snap up your drop.
It all depends on your opponentsí needs, but thereís a strong chance that pickup will be for name value alone. Unless that guy is a perfect match for that particular ownerís needs. If theyíve even thought that far ahead.
Can I drop Eberle? Could you, if thatís what it might take to accomplish your goals? Swallow hard.
Now letís take a look at who caught my eye this week.
Plus-minus and Hits
Nicklas Grossmann, D, Philadelphia (3 percent owned) Ė Has Grossmann turned his game around? I doubt it, but the Flyers are on fire and his game is getting dragged along with it. And that means heís your guy if you need a boost in plus-minus or hits Ė heís plus-5 with 14 hits in his last five games. Plus-minus can be a particularly volatile category, but a couple extra pluses could deliver a couple extra points in a tight category.
Marc Staal, D, NY Rangers (4 percent owned) Ė Staal got his first point in 12 games in Fridayís win over the Blue Jackets. But I donít care about points Ė I have my eyes on this Staal because of his plus-minus. And funny thing is, thatís probably why heís available in so many leagues. He had a bad stretch of own-zone play coming out of the Olympics (minus-10 in eight games) and some owners tossed him to the curb because of it. Thatís behind him and heís now plus-6 in his last four games. The Rangers are prepping for the playoffs and Staal is a big-moment player who ratchets things up in important moments.
Goals and Plus-minus
Jimmy Hayes, RW, Florida (1 percent owned) Ė Fifteen minutes of fame Ė thatís what Hayes has had in the last two weeks. The otherwise forgettable forward has seven points -- including four goals -- and a plus-4 rating over his last seven games. It wonít last, but who cares? At this point, weíre both desperate to juice our rosters.
Nicklas Jensen, LW/RW, Vancouver (2 percent owned) Ė I could tell you Jensen is a finisher, pure and simple. I could tell you heís a smart, two-way winger who wonít sink your plus-minus. But I can just tell you his stat line since his recent call up: seven games, three goals, five points, 10 SOG and plus-five. One last thing? Heís become Henrik Sedinís minion. Go get him.
Joel Ward, RW, Washington (9 percent owned) Ė Ugh. I dropped him when he had but a single point in eight games back in January. M-I-S-T-A-K-E. He has five points in the last four games and is riding a four-game goal-scoring streak. And, oh yeah Ė a career-best 22 goals on the season. Yes, you read that right. Joel Ward has 22 goals. Heís going to flirt with 50 points and 25 goals, and that means he should be rostered in more than one in 10 leagues.
Brian Gibbons, LW/C, Pittsburgh (0 percent owned) Ė Gibbons is yet another offensively-gifted pocket terrier who thinks heís a Doberman Ė sometimes that works, sometimes it doesnít. Right now, itís working to the tune of a three-game assist streak heading into Saturdayís tilt with Tampa Bay. The Tampa angle is key Ė they have their own share of pocket players and that should inspire Gibbons to chase that bone even harder. Heís quiet about his offense, but it should keep trickling in as long as the big dogs in Pittsburgh are producing, too. Heís worth a look.
Mikael Granlund, C, Minnesota (12 percent owned) Ė My name is Mikael and I like playing beside Zach Parise. No Ė I mean I REALLY like playing alongside Parise. And on the first power-play unit. Granlund has been quietly chugging along at a point-per-game pace since Jan. 23 Ė thatís 18 games! Thereís no way he should have such low ownership. No way. He wonít any more.
Kris Russell, D, Calgary (5 percent owned) Ė Russell jumped out at me Friday night Ė that was the first three-point game of his NHL career. Who knew he had that in him? He has five points, including four helpers, in his last five games. He canít possibly keep this up. But he skates well and can move the puck, and the Flames are playing inspired hockey right now. Thatís a recipe for something good, right? Maybe?
Matt Hackett, G, Buffalo (1 percent owned) Ė Iíve liked Hackett for a long time. Heís talented and athletic, and he delivered a nice win over Edmonton on Thursday night. Both Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth are sidelined right now, so that means a Sunday start against the lowly Orcas is definitely possible. Now long term, I think there will be real fireworks between Hackett and Neuvirth. Hackett is cocky and brash; Neuvirth hasnít really hidden the fact he believes he should have been a starter a long time ago. Confidence can go a long way between the pipes and sometimes cocky really can rule the day. Training camp will be fun. Until then, snag some spot starts with Hackett and drop him like a stone once those other two boys heal up.
Teuvo Teravainen, LW, Chicago (3 percent owned) Ė Hang on a second Ė I need to wipe the drool off my cheek. This guyís skills are sick Ė he has slick hands, X-ray vision and shifty moves in tight. Remind you of anyone? Yeah, the man heís replacing, Mr. Patrick Kane. The 19-year-old has already spent three seasons Ė and has 93 points in just 133 games Ė in the Finnish SM-Liga. Now thatís impressive given the age and experience of the competition in that league. He may not play immediately Ė he needs to get acclimated to his new team in practice. But he should impress as soon as he does. Iíve stashed him away.
Back to Eberle.
Tonight, I benched his butt. Tomorrow I decide if I do something a bit more drastic.
Of course, it would be a completely different discussion if this were a keeper league. But in single-year leagues, you can be more aggressive and make drastic moves, if thatís whatís required.
All it takes is courage.
I know itís the right thing. Iíll let you know how it goes.
Until next week.