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Frozen Fantasy: The NHL's Area 51

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

Area 51 exists...even the CIA says so. But it's not in Nevada - it's in New York and the center of it lies squarely inside the NHL's Department of Player Safety.

Common sense seems least when it comes to suspensions.

So far, that department has already handed out 51 games as suspensions. Fourteen guys have been suspended. John Scott will make that 15.

But is anybody really "getting it" on either side?

The NHL's - or should I say, Brendan Shanahan's - idea of a "significant suspension" is five games. Seriously? Their approach to determining the length of suspensions fuels conspiracy theorists across the league.

Intent or none? Injury or not? Repeat offender? C''s almost Roswellian.

Then we have the players themselves. They clearly aren't getting it either. None of the five or even 10-game suspensions already handed down have acted as a sock for the stupidity that's been happening on the ice.

Just ask Loui Eriksson.

Oh yeah, I forgot - he's probably in a dark room somewhere and can't reply to our texts. Or maybe aliens abducted him. It might happen...just like John Scott "might" get a significant suspension. But should fantasy owners care about any of this stuff?

You bet your next league title you should care.

The list of victims pulls the air from your lungs. Think Rick Nash, Dan Boyle, Sam Gagner and Niklas Kronwall. Then there are guys like Jack Johnson, Taylor Hall, Daniel Briere, Dustin Penner and Tomas Hertl. And of course, there's Eriksson.

The waiver wire will not spell relief for guys like that. And at the end of the day, we're all fans of the game. There's not much to a game when the best players sit on the IR. Or end up never playing again.

Sadly, there will be more ugly hits to the head and there will be more suspensions. The NHL needs to change the system, increase transparency and provide truly punitive punishments to the perpetrators. Like starting high and doubling the penalty with each next offense. And the next...And the players and their union need to start standing up for the victims instead of appealing rulings for the perpetrators.

Then again, we might find those aliens, too. And they might even be repeat visitors.

Now let's take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Valtteri Filppula, LW/C, Tampa Bay (33 percent owned) - Does anyone else see the irony in Detroit's decision to let Flip walk away, only to sign the Floridian outcast, Stephen Weiss? Don't get me wrong - I like Weiss. I even own him in one of my leagues. But Flip's eight points (four goals, four assists) in nine games are light years ahead of Weiss' two goals in 10 games. I guess Weiss' 37 percent ownership (and dropping) is based on name alone. Seriously, you should swap Flip into your lineup. He could quietly deliver 65-70 points in Tampa Bay. That should make him owned in all but the very shallowest of leagues.

Carter Hutton, G, Nashville (24 percent owned) - Like it or not, Hutton has been thrust into a starting gig in Nashville with news that Pekka Rinne's surgically-repaired hip has some kind of bacterial infection. I own Rinne in two big leagues, but I'm not grabbing Hutton. The system will keep his numbers low, but I think the Preds will make a move for a more experienced netminder if Rinne's absence will be longer than anticipated.

Frans Nielsen, C, NY Islanders (43 percent owned) - Leading the Isles in scoring? Check. Fourteen points in 10 games? Nice. A three-game, seven-point streak? #sizzle. You'd think I was talking about John Tavares, but the hottest man on the Island is none other than the delicious Dane, Frans Nielsen. No wonder he has seen such a huge leap (27%) in ownership this week - he's playing like a man possessed. Of course, this flurry of production won't last - his shooting percentage is two-and-a-half times his career average and he's never scored more than 47 points. But that shouldn't stop you from hitching your wagon to him and enjoying the ride until the wheels fall off. Someone else will get that benefit if you don't do it.

Mathieu Perreault, C, Anaheim (11 percent owned) - Heading into action Friday, Marian Gaborik (96 percent owned) led the Blue Jackets with four goals and five assists. Ditto Perreault and the Ducks, but his ownership was a fraction of Gaborik's. Hmmmm...just saying. Now, Perreault won't ever be as productive as Gaborik, but his start does warrant some fantasy attention. Be sure to check for updates on the wrist ouch he suffered Friday night before you pick him up. You don't need to embarrass yourself by picking up an injured guy off the wire. You'll never hear the end of the chirping.

Lee Stempniak, LW/RW, Calgary (17 percent owned) - Stempy might just be on one of the quietest five-game point streak (three goals, two assists) in the NHL. He took a big jump in ownership this week, but a lot of fantasy owners are playing the avoidance game with the Flames. They do suck, after all. He's worn the inconsistent nametag throughout his career, so don't expect season-long miracles. But he certainly has immediate value, particularly with eligibility on both flanks.


Michael Bournival, LW, Montreal (2 percent owned) - Lightning, meet bottle. Bournival came to Quebec in the 2010 deal that sent Ryan O'Byrne to Colorado and he didn't exactly impress in the AHL last year. Try 30 points in 69 games. But he's found an early groove with the Habs this season and is riding a four-game, five-point (two goals, three assists) streak heading into action Saturday. The pedigree is OK, but he's not this good. He might help if you need a spicy, short-term boost to your squad for a few days.


Chris Higgins, LW, Vancouver (5 percent owned) - Higgins drained his fourth goal in his last seven games on Friday night against the Blues. No biggie, right? Well, not when you look at the number of shots this guy fires. Heading into Friday night, Higgs had fired 46 shots on opposing nets. Yes, 46 - that's a whopping 377-shot pace. He won't keep it up, but he will get more scoring opportunities as long as coach John Tortorella sticks to his guns and keeps the Sedin twins separated. Higgs will surely benefit from the playmaking skill of Henrik.


Erik Gudbranson, D, Florida (2 percent owned) - Big things were expected of Gudbranson after he went on an offensive tear this preseason, but it took him 11 games to register his first point of the season. Ouch. So much for that breakout. And his plus-minus hangs like an anchor. But the guy plays snot-nosed hockey and that means he can help in the meathead categories. His two fights Friday boost his season tally to 40 PIMs and that puts him on pace to register 300 on the season. Yes - 300. Some points will come, so stash him if you can withstand a beating in plus-minus.

Marcus Johansson, LW/C, Washington (20 percent owned) - Need assists? Then Johansson is your man. He has 10 in 10 games and he's now riding shotgun on the Caps' first line. Yep, that means he and Nicklas Backstrom are setting up the white hot Alexander Ovechkin. Yum! So why are four of every five leagues sleeping on this guy? Sure, some leagues are small - I'll give you that. But I suspect it's because Johansson is the most one-dimensional playmakers in the league. He contributes in one category and that's pretty much it. Cripes, he has as many assists as he has bloody shots on net. Still, he'll probably start to produce more on the power play at some point, so add him now and wait for him to add a dimension to his Flat Stanley approach.


Justin Peters, G, Carolina (5 percent owned) - It's like Groundhog Day for this once-promising butterfly goalie. You see, he got his first taste of NHL action in 2009-10 when the Canes lost Cam Ward to injury (that time is was the leg laceration). And now, he has been thrust into starting minutes with yet another Ward injury (and an Anton Khudobin ouch, too). So what can you expect? Peters is 27 and on the final year of a two-year contract, so he'll be motivated to play well to ink a new deal. But he stunk the joint out last season (19 GP, 4-11-1, 3.46, .891) in Carolina and he'll be lucky to win half of his starts before Khudobin returns. This is one of those moments where you're better off rolling an empty goalie spot (or an injured guy if your league mates don't winge) than attach this anchor to your cumulative categories. He might really hurt you.

Back to Scott.

He's suspended indefinitely. But will he become a symbol for changing the game?

Yes, if Brendan Shanahan grows some coconuts. No, if things go the way I expect them to go.

Area 51 is about to grow. Aliens are among us.

Until next week.