Is there a crisis in Canadian NHL cities? You bet your tighty whiteys there is.
Go Habs, go!
Seven Canadian markets, but just one team appears to be a lock for the playoffs. And that team just happens to be the last squad from north of the 49th parallel to have hoisted the Cup.
That was 21 years ago.
The Leafs are in free fall; they seemed like a lock to be there just two weeks ago. The Canucks have been on life support for a while, although every once in a while, there’s a faint heartbeat. Then there are the gaping wounds that are the Jets, Senators, Flames and Oilers.
The polar vortex has hit Canadian NHL cities hard. Every team outside Montreal has gone on a massive losing streak. The Leafs are the most recent at seven games. The players look frozen to the ice.
Does anyone outside Canada care? They should. That sound you hear isn’t just those teams circling the drain. Those teams are taking TV revenues and the salary cap with them. And don’t even get me started about the Canadian dollar.
Those factors mean fewer jobs for mid-range veteran players. These are the guys who help stabilize most mid-to-large fantasy rosters. NHL rosters will become even more stratified – some high-priced guys, lots of unproven youngsters and only a few in between. The future of fantasy rosters is changing dramatically.
It never hurts to think ahead. I’m all for planning as far in advance as possible. Besides, that’ll help get me through a couple of leagues where my teams are already in the tank.
Now let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.
David Booth, LW, Vancouver (0 percent owned) – Cripes – look who finally arrived from Florida. Never mind that he’s been on Canada’s left coast for a couple years – his game sure hasn’t. But heading into Saturday night, it looks like he’s finally rediscovered his zip. He’s riding a three-game, four-point streak that includes three goals, a plus-5 rating, nine hits and four PIM. That’s about a quarter of his season production in just three games…and he’s played in 59. He has gone from being a one-hit wonder (quite literally, the only thing he’d been doing was hitting) to a multi-category streaker. Give him a try.
Charlie Coyle, RW/C, Minnesota (5 percent owned) – I love this guy, but I think I’ve told you that before. He has everything he needs – size, skill and smarts – to be a stud two-way winger. I won’t belabor my point – he needs to be on my team and yours. Particularly while he’s riding his current four-game, five-point scoring streak. By the way, it includes three goals and 10 hits. Deelish.
Matt Cullen, C, Nashville (3 percent owned) – I dismissed this 37-year-old’s four-point burst last Friday night as a last hurrah from a veteran nearing the end. After all, he has a lot of miles on him (try more than 1,100 games). But that four-point night was the start of a sweet week for Cullen. Heading into Friday, this complementary scorer had three goals, four assists, two PPP, 10 SOG and a plus-5 rating, vaulting him to the No. 2 spot on the Yahoo! player rater. Yeah, I’m not kidding. Snag him and stick him into your lineup. But just don’t overrate him. The streak is nice, but get ready to replace him the moment he stops delivering.
Tomas Tatar, LW/C, Detroit (10 percent owned) – "Hey Tomas, can you turn the music down? It’s 4 a.m.!" Party boy is having a good week on the ice, but a bad one off it. He heads into Saturday against the Leafs with three consecutive two-point games and one eviction notice – it seems he’s a bit too loud for his condo neighbors and he parks in the wrong place. Heaven forbid. The allegations will likely cause problems – he’s renting the condo from teammate Darren Helm and the Wings don’t like messy. But I can’t imagine it’s going to dilute his on-ice cockiness – I mean confidence. Grab him – the life of the party might just inject some juice into your squad.
Glory of Goals
Curtis Glencross, LW, Calgary (6 percent owned) – A lot of fantasy owners have forgotten about this sniper, what with his recent knack for getting injured. But since his recent return from a high ankle sprain, Glencross has quietly delivered eight points, including four goals, in his last eight games. And remarkably, he has somehow managed just a mere minus-1. He’s a solid bet for goals going forward, as long as you can stomach the possible fluctuations in plus-minus.
Zack Kassian, RW, Vancouver (3 percent owned) – Kassian has been a flop in Vancouver. He was brought in to toughen up the front end, but has failed to do much of anything, other than frustrate his coach, fans and fantasy owners alike. So I didn’t really pay much heed when he delivered four assists Sunday in a win over his former squad – I thought it was just one inspired game. Nope. He’s now riding a three-game, six-point streak that includes two goals. It won’t last forever; I honestly wonder if he’ll ever grow into his quote-unquote "potential." But I’ll ride his wave for a few games right now. What’s the worst that can happen? You drop a bumbling, unproductive idiot to get a potentially more productive one?
Alec Martinez, D, Los Angeles (9 percent owned) – Eighteen points in 53 games – that’s pretty ordinary for a blueliner. Until you dive a little deeper, that is. The guy has 11 points, including six goals, in his last 13 games. Yes – 13 bloody games. He also has 24 hits and a plus-5 rating in that same span. Drew Doughty has five points, but just one goal, in that span. And Slava Voynov? Six helpers. I know which guy I want a piece of right now. You should, too -- even if you’re not into Kings.
Matt Donovan, D, NY Islanders (0 percent owned) – I’d pegged Donovan as a rookie sleeper this season, but the guy did more than that – he just went to sleep. But his combo of skill and sandpaper kept him firmly in the corner of my eye. And now he’s finally worth watching. He has five points, including four assists, and 14 PIM in his last six games. Roll the dice. What do you have to lose?
James Sheppard, C, San Jose (0 percent owned) – I’m not really sure what screwed up Sheppard’s life more – being rushed to the NHL or his inability to drive an ATV. Regardless, he’s never delivered offense like a ninth overall pick should. Even this season – he only has 19 points in 60 outings. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find he had eight points (two goals, six assists) in his last 10 games and 13 of those 19 points in his last 17 games. That’s a 63-point pace, and that means he’s fantasy worthy in just about every format. When can you find a 60-point center available for nothing? My point exactly. Go now.
Sean Bergenheim, LW, Florida (1 percent owned) – Wow – this guy really is a shoot first, ask questions later kind of dude. I don’t think he’s ever met a puck he doesn’t like. He missed five games mid-month, but in the four since, he has 16 SOG. And a remarkable 37 in his last 10 games – he even had a whopping 12 in one game. He might pick up another couple goals before season’s end, but that’s just gravy. He’s your man if you need SOG.
Kevin Westgarth, RW, Calgary (0 percent owned) – Brian Burke loves "the proper level of pugnacity, testosterone, and belligerence," and that’s a polite description for this bigfoot. Westgarth doesn’t get much playing time, but he’s making the most of what he does get. He showed off some sweet hands – both scoring and fighting – against the Oil last Saturday. And now all of a sudden, he has three points and 14 PIM, including two fights, in his last four games. Bottom line? He won’t be a complete anchor if you need some pugnacity to power your sin bin.
Back to the future.
Canadian teams aren’t the only ones that are in free fall. Minnesota is playing like they don’t want to get in the playoffs. Anaheim is scuffling. And my Blackhawks had better batten down the hatches – they’ve looked ordinary in their last 10.
Now, those teams aren’t necessarily in a complete free fall. But they don’t need to slide backwards into the playoffs, particularly when you need their boys to carry you to a title.
Remember – it’s hard to win 16 games in the postseason if you have to start by reversing a skid.
Before I go – here’s a quick update on my home Yahoo! league. You know I’m focused on second place. Well, I slid into second this week, but I’m not ready to take a break. Things are way too tight – I need to try to get even further ahead.
Until next week.