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Frozen Fantasy: Free Fall

Janet Eagleson

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

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, thereís 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 isnít just those teams circling the drain. Those teams are taking TV revenues and the salary cap with them. And donít 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 Ė 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. Iím all for planning as far in advance as possible. Besides, thatíll help get me through a couple of leagues where my teams are already in the tank.

Now letís take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Multi-Category Goodness

David Booth, LW, Vancouver (0 percent owned) Ė Cripes Ė look who finally arrived from Florida. Never mind that heís been on Canadaís left coast for a couple years Ė his game sure hasnít. But heading into Saturday night, it looks like heís finally rediscovered his zip. Heís riding a three-game, four-point streak that includes three goals, a plus-5 rating, nine hits and four PIM. Thatís about a quarter of his season production in just three gamesÖand heís played in 59. He has gone from being a one-hit wonder (quite literally, the only thing heíd been doing was hitting) to a multi-category streaker. Give him a try.

Charlie Coyle, RW/C, Minnesota (5 percent owned) Ė I love this guy, but I think Iíve told you that before. He has everything he needs Ė size, skill and smarts Ė to be a stud two-way winger. I wonít belabor my point Ė he needs to be on my team and yours. Particularly while heís 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) Ė I dismissed this 37-year-oldís 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, Iím not kidding. Snag him and stick him into your lineup. But just donít 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) Ė "Hey Tomas, can you turn the music down? Itís 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 Ė it seems heís a bit too loud for his condo neighbors and he parks in the wrong place. Heaven forbid. The allegations will likely cause problems Ė heís renting the condo from teammate Darren Helm and the Wings donít like messy. But I canít imagine itís going to dilute his on-ice cockiness Ė I mean confidence. Grab him Ė the life of the party might just inject some juice into your squad.

Glory of Goals

Curtis Glencross, LW, Calgary (6 percent owned) Ė 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. Heís 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) Ė 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 didnít really pay much heed when he delivered four assists Sunday in a win over his former squad Ė I thought it was just one inspired game. Nope. Heís now riding a three-game, six-point streak that includes two goals. It wonít last forever; I honestly wonder if heíll ever grow into his quote-unquote "potential." But Iíll ride his wave for a few games right now. Whatís 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) Ė Eighteen points in 53 games Ė thatís 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 Ė 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 youíre not into Kings.

Assist Me!

Matt Donovan, D, NY Islanders (0 percent owned) Ė Iíd pegged Donovan as a rookie sleeper this season, but the guy did more than that Ė he just went to sleep. But his combo of skill and sandpaper kept him firmly in the corner of my eye. And now heís 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) Ė Iím not really sure what screwed up Sheppardís life more Ė being rushed to the NHL or his inability to drive an ATV. Regardless, heís never delivered offense like a ninth overall pick should. Even this season Ė he only has 19 points in 60 outings. But dig a little deeper and youíll 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. Thatís a 63-point pace, and that means heís fantasy worthy in just about every format. When can you find a 60-point center available for nothing? My point exactly. Go now.

Need shots?

Sean Bergenheim, LW, Florida (1 percent owned) Ė Wow Ė this guy really is a shoot first, ask questions later kind of dude. I donít think heís ever met a puck he doesnít 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 Ė he even had a whopping 12 in one game. He might pick up another couple goals before seasonís end, but thatís just gravy. Heís your man if you need SOG.

Pylon Points

Kevin Westgarth, RW, Calgary (0 percent owned) Ė Brian Burke loves "the proper level of pugnacity, testosterone, and belligerence," and thatís a polite description for this bigfoot. Westgarth doesnít get much playing time, but heís making the most of what he does get. He showed off some sweet hands Ė both scoring and fighting Ė 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 wonít be a complete anchor if you need some pugnacity to power your sin bin.

Back to the future.

Canadian teams arenít the only ones that are in free fall. Minnesota is playing like they donít want to get in the playoffs. Anaheim is scuffling. And my Blackhawks had better batten down the hatches Ė theyíve looked ordinary in their last 10.

Now, those teams arenít necessarily in a complete free fall. But they donít need to slide backwards into the playoffs, particularly when you need their boys to carry you to a title.

Remember Ė itís hard to win 16 games in the postseason if you have to start by reversing a skid.

Before I go Ė hereís a quick update on my home Yahoo! league. You know Iím focused on second place. Well, I slid into second this week, but Iím not ready to take a break. Things are way too tight Ė I need to try to get even further ahead.

Until next week.