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Frozen Fantasy: If You Can't Beat Them, Torture Them

Janet Eagleson

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

Only one team can win a league. But there are a lot of reasons to keep your foot on the gas even if a title seems out of reach.

The biggest? Torture is fun.

We’re at the point in the season where it’s easy to stop trying, particularly if you’ve decided you’re out of the running. And in standard leagues, some owners just stop making lineup moves entirely.

Resist that urge.

At minimum, your own reputation is at stake. Yahoo! gives out league medals, some of which are based on your activity in the league, and grades your overall fantasy performance. Do you really want to make yourself look bad?

And at maximum, you can torment – and even torture – the leaders in your league. There’s no owner more frightening than the one with the devil-may-care attitude. You’re most dangerous when you have nothing to lose.

You may not be able to catch the leader, but you sure can take points away from them. You might end up making some strange drops and/or trades as a result, but you do it to specifically target one or maybe two categories.

And then you watch them sweat.

There’s no rule that says you have to play nice in any fantasy sandbox. The reality is quite simple – they’d do it to you if the tables were turned. So pick a couple of categories where you can steal points from your closest competitor, preferably someone ahead of you, and start your assault.

You might just be surprised by the torture you inflict. And the fun you have doing it.

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

Mikael Backlund, C, Calgary (3% owned) – Backlund heads into action Saturday with a goal in three of his last four games and the blessing of his coach, Bob Hartley. Why, Bobby Boy says Backlund is his best player, but honestly – how hard can that be on a squad like the Flames? But I digress. Sorry about that. I’m not sure this is the breakout we’ve all be waiting to see. But his eight goals are two from his career mark and that endorsement from his coach appears to be inflating his confidence. That should be good for a few more goals in the immediate future.

Ryane Clowe, RW/LW, New Jersey (10% owned) – It’s official – the slow start and the concussion are completely behind him. It took a few games, but he has found his legs and his touch. And it looks like he’s taking teammates Michael Ryder (14% owned) and Adam Henrique (11% owned) along for the ride. Clowe has managed seven points, including six assists, in his last six games. And his sandpaper style seems to be buying his linemates a little bit of space. His pace will definitely slow, but he may still be able to bring you 16 or 17 more points, along with some decent PIM and hits, over the final 30 games.

Charlie Coyle, RW/C, Minnesota (6% owned) – A miracle has happened in Minnesota and Charlie Coyle is at the center of it. The Wild moved Coyle back to the middle after Mikko Koivu’s surgery and all of a sudden, he’s transformed the decrepit Dany Heatley into an offensive player again. The man deserves a medal. Coyle is the catalyst on a line with Heater and Jason Zucker (see below), and he has five points, including two goals, in his last five games heading into the weekend. A power winger is one thing, but a power center is fantasy gold. His best is yet to come, but he’s a short-term value add right now.

Calvin de Haan, D, NY Islanders (2% owned) – I guess all de Haan needed was an opportunity and a bionic shoulder. I thought he was yet another bad draft choice by the Isles, but his recent five-game, seven-point streak has made me think again. He’s a sweet skater with QB upside who can actually play in his own zone. And right now, he’s delivering solid offense, too. He’ll never be a stud scoring defender, but I think he can be a better Matthew Carle. And there’s almost always a spot on your roster for a guy like that.

David Legwand, C, Nashville (10% owned) – Don’t look now, but Legwand is at it again. The guy has never lived up to his draft position, but he has matured into a mid-50s performer and there’s actually fantasy value in in that...if you can roll him as a forward instead of a center. He picked up three helpers on Tuesday night and then a goal and assist on Thursday. Check your wire. He’s having a better season than either of us thought.

Patrick Maroon, LW, Anaheim (1% owned) – Maroon the goon? Not so fast. Sure, he has 32 PIM in his last six games, but he also has five points, including a couple on the power play, in his last seven. He likes to bruise and fight, but he also has talent – he led the farm club in scoring two years in a row. And the Ducks have him skating on a skill line with Teemu Selanne and Mathieu Perreault. He likes to park in front of the net the way Tomas Holmstrom did in Detroit, except he’s about four inches taller and 30 pounds heavier. Think a slightly lighter Dustin Byfuglien, but with a nastier streak. Maroon is the perfect fit in Anaheim – a tough guy who can really play – and some day, he’ll be a fixture on the second line. Right now, the Ducks are surging and so is he. Can you use a multi-categorical boost, even if he sits out a game here and there? I know I can.

Andrej Meszaros, D, Philadelphia (2% owned) – I’m not a fan – not one little bit. The guy has been sorely overrated ever since his breakout rookie year. Cripes, I have faster feet than he does and that’s saying something. Nine points in his last nine games, including seven in his last five, still aren’t going to make me a fan. But then again, I don’t have to be one to take advantage of that production. Stick him in your lineup.

Tom Sestito, LW, Vancouver (2% owned) – I checked for a definition of meathead and guess who I found? Sesito is a one-dimensional winger whose first, second, third and fourth job is to fight. And then fight some more. His 152 PIM lead the NHL by a wide margin and remarkably, 49 of those came in two games this past week. And in one of those games, he accumulated a mind-numbing 27 PIM when he Bertuzzi-ed Jordan Nolan right off the faceoff. Ice time for that game: one second. There’s no room in the NHL for meatheads like him. But he’s a fantasy asset so long as we continue to count PIM in some of our leagues. Like Meszaros, I don’t have to like him to use him. But this time, I do feel a little dirty about it.

Sami Vatanen, D, Anaheim (2% owned) – Can Vatanen be the next Brian Rafalski or even the pre-2013 version of Tobias Enstrom? This fireplug has the same vision and hockey IQ as those two guys. And now he’s starting to flash the same kind of offensive potential. He had three points – all on the power play – in the Ducks’ smackdown of the Canucks on Thursday night. And he has five points, four of which have come with the man advantage, in his last six games. He won’t be a consistent scorer this season, but it might not be long before he’s the Ducks’ top-scoring defender. Yes, ahead of Cam Fowler. He’s a band-aid right now, but he’s a name to know for next year.

Jason Zucker, LW, Minnesota (0% owned) – You already know Charlie Coyle and Dany Heatley are dripping in pheromones this week. But three’s company, so it should come as no surprise that Zucker is dabbling in a few of those chemicals, too. He may be the lowest point producer of the trio (just two goals in his last six games), but his plus-6 in his last four outings makes him one of fantasy’s best plus-minus plays of the week. Who knew? At this point, you need to be making category plays and he might just give you a cheap single-category boost.

Back to the torture.

It’s a little like a cat with a mouse. You still have enough games to pick away at your opponents and slowly erode their leads. Watch them squirm – they might even panic and drop someone in a desperation move.

You’ll be there to pick up that dropped guy and push their proverbial buttons.

And you’ll give yourself a reason to stay engaged with your fantasy hockey team. After all, there’s no better game to play. And if you can affect the ultimate outcome, why not do it?

Until next week.