Fantasy Hockey: Changing on the Fly, Volume 3
Hey we made it! Our leather anniversary! That's right, welcome to Volume 3! In case you missed Changing on the Fly, Volume 2, this is a weekly article based on JJ Zachariason's "15 Transactions for Week X" and Russell Peddle's "Dozen Dimes."
Both of those article series are worth a read if you are in fantasy football or basketball leagues. Here, we take a look at a few transactions that will help you improve your fantasy hockey team and win your league.
All percent owned stats will be used from Yahoo! leagues, and we'll assume a standard 6x4 scoring system (Goals, Assists, Plus/Minus, Power Play Points, Penalties in Minutes, Shots on Goal; Wins, Goals Against Average, Save Percentage, Shutouts). Transactions are listed in relative order of importance.
Add/Buy Pascal Dupuis, LW/RW (53% owned);
Sell Patric Hornqvist, RW (93% owned) - Pittsburgh Penguins
Friday night, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Pittsburgh Penguins (0.75 nERD) shuffled their line combinations. Patric Hornqvist was moved "down" to a line with Evgeni Malkin and Nick Spaling (boohoohoo, life is rough when you only have Geno as a linemate), while Pascal Dupuis is now skating with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz.
Playing with Crosby, Hornqvist has outplayed his preseason expectations; to start the year he was ranked 96th, and his performance has now placed him 5th. The drop in assignment will most likely affect his output - while an elite player, Malkin is not Crosby and, if you can find a buyer, Hornvqvist would be a good sell.
Conversely, Pascal Dupuis has now just had his role increased. Since scoring twice in his first game on the top line, his fantasy ownership has only jumped from 51% on Thursday night to 53% Sunday, so it seems like the large majority of the fantasy hockey world is asleep at the wheel on this one. Anyone playing with "Sid the Kid" is worth rostering. Go get him now!
Update: Wednesday, the Penguins announced that Pascal Dupuis has been diagnosed with a blood clot in his lung and will be out of the lineup for at least six months while undergoing treatment with blood thinners. This is an obvious blow to owners that added him as result of him being moved to the top line with Crosby; if that's your situation, all you can do is lick your wounds, drop him and move on.
Add Jared Spurgeon, D - Minnesota Wild (15% owned)
At the start of the season, Jared Spurgeon was averaging 0.67 points per game and was starting to gain traction as a viable fantasy hockey option. He then injured his shoulder and missed almost two weeks on the injured reserve. Well, on Thursday night he returned and scored a goal against the hapless Buffalo Sabres and played all 6:12 of the Wild's power play time, scoring a power play goal. If you need help in your 3-4 defenseman spot - and most teams do - give Spurgeon a shot.
Add Jori Lehtera, C - St. Louis Blues (51% owned)
When I wrote about him last week, Jori Lehtera was owned in 14% of Yahoo! leagues; with a hat trick Tuesday and another two assists Thursday, Lehtera has remained red-hot playing with Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko and boosted that number up to over 50%. Lehtera was a popular pre-season sleeper pick and he has made a lot of pundits look smart. If he is still available in your league, grab him while you can.
Sell Vladimir Tarasenko, RW - St. Louis Blues (90% owned)
As of publication, Tarasenko is ranked first (yes, first), ahead of Sidney Crosby (ranked second), in Yahoo! leagues. Prior to the season, they had him ranked 157th; he had an average draft position (ADP) of 164th, after Daniel Alfredsson. Alfredsson hasn't even played this year and will probably retire. But here we are, just over a month into the season and the best fantasy player to own is Vladimir Tarasenko.
Tarasenko is a good player, having a great year (his third in the league), but he will not likely remain in the league's elite forwards for the entire season. Selling high on Tarasenko might not be an easy move, but his value will never be higher.
Drop Alec Martinez, D - Los Angeles Kings (17% owned)
Alec Martinez was having himself a nice season with 7 points in 16 games before going down with a finger injury sustained blocking a shot on Thursday. He went under the knife, and there is no timetable for his return after the surgery. There are plenty of other options out there for defense; owners can safely drop him until his return.
Add Cody Franson, D - Toronto Maple Leafs (41% owned)
Cody Franson is not typically thought of as an offensive defenseman; often he is paired with Dion Phaneuf as a stay-at-home handicap for the times the Leafs' captain gets a little too excited about forcing the issue offensively or when he misses what would have been a massive body check. However, Franson has a seven-game point streak, scoring two goals and adding seven assists over that time. If you are looking to ride a hot hand on defense, go with Franson; he has been racking up the points as of late.
Sell Darcy Kuemper, G (74% owned);
Add Josh Harding, G (26% owned) - Minnesota Wild
A year after missing most of the 2012-13 season after being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, Josh Harding started the 2013-14 season playing the best hockey of his career In 29 games before January 1, Harding had 18 Wins, a 1.66 goals against average, and a .933 save percentage. A change in medication during the New Year took Harding off the ice for the remainder of the season. He was ready to come back to start this year but reportedly kicked a wall, broke his foot, and subsequently was suspended by the Wild. Monday, Harding was on the ice for practice for the first time and, while there is no definite timeline for his return, Harding is worth stashing if you are in a deep league or if you have an injured reserve spot to spare.
All that being said, Darcy Kuemper has been the unchallenged starter in Minnesota while Harding has been out, having started 12 of the Wild's 15 games. The only major blemish on his season was Thursday night's game against the Buffalo Sabres when he let in the first two shots he faced and then was pulled for Niklas Backstrom. (1,916 Yahoo! owners panicked Friday and dropped Kuemper. An overreaction.) Backstrom has been respectable in his limited time this year; in four appearances he has posted 2 wins with a goals against average of 2.33 and a save percentage of .897. However, his ultra-light workload is not worth rostering for any league except for the odd spot-start.
When Harding comes back, the Wild's crease is about to get crowded, and a trade may be in the making. But until that time, it is a fluid situation worth monitoring
Update:Monday afternoon, The Minnesota Wild lifted his team suspension and placed Harding on waivers. It's unclear if he will be picked up by another team, but it's certain that he is going to be sent to the AHL to get some much needed playing time after being out for almost a year. For Kuemper, that means keep him on your roster if you own him. For Harding, keep an eye on the situation. Harding is a very talented goaltender and could compete for a starting job wherever he ends up.
Hold Justin Abdelkader, LW/RW - Detroit Red Wings (33% owned)
Justin Abdelkader has been another popular player for owners to jump the ship on this past week with 2,140 drops over the past few days. With the injury to Pavel Datsyuk, Abdelkader has been playing with Tomas Tatar and Riley Sheahan - not exactly the stars Henrik Zetterberg and Gustav Nyquist that he was skating with earlier in the year. However, Datsyuk's injury does not appear to be serious, and Abdelkader is still skating on the Red Wings' top power play unit. When Datsyuk is back, there will surely be another line shuffle, and he will end up with better talent; if you can afford to be patient, keep him on your roster. If not, be ready to pounce when Datsyuk is healthy again.
Sell/Drop Tommy Wingels, RW - San Jose Sharks (41% owned)
On the surface, Tommy Wingels appears to be a viable fantasy option. His 10 points over the first 20 games of the season have been a pleasant surprise, and he was producing well while playing on the San Jose Sharks' first two lines. As of late, Sharks coach, Todd McLellan, has shuffled their lines, and Wingels is in a scoring slump.
In the past seven games, he only has one assist to show for his efforts, and it should be noted that Wingels has never scored more than 38 points in any of the three previous seasons. If you added him early in the season and reaped the benefits, good for you. Right now he is ranked 86th in Yahoo! leagues, but that number will likely trend in the wrong direction; try to work out a trade trade if you can find some value, if not it may be time to cut your ties and move on.
Buy Patrick Kane, RW - Chicago Blackhawks (100% owned)
With 4 goals and 6 assists in 16 games Patrick Kane has had a very "un-Patrick-Kane-like" start to the season. Prorated to 82 games, Kane would finish with only 51 points. However, the Blackhawks winger has too much talent to remain at that pedestrian pace for the whole schedule. While Kane's career shooting percentage is 11.5, this year Kane is finding the back of the net on only 8.7 percent of his shots. The puck will start finding holes for Kane's shots, and his shooting percentage will regress towards the mean. If you can find a willing trade partner and you have the right piece, Kane is the perfect buy-low candidate.
Hold Eric Staal, C - Carolina Hurricanes (92% owned)
Since the beginning of the season, there have been trade rumors surrounding Eric Staal. Whether they'll ever come to fruition remains to be seen. However, one thing is for certain: no matter where he could end up, he will be in a better situation than with the Carolina Hurricanes. Staal has played with, for the most part, a combination of Jiri Tlusty, Jeff Skinner, and/or Alexander Semin, none of which inspire promising future results.
When healthy, Stall has not had a bad year; he has scored 8 points in 11 games for 0.73 points per game. But that is off his career pace of 0.89 points per game. Between his minus-4 plus/minus (that will surely plummet playing for the Hurricanes, whose nERD is -0.53) and his early season injury, Staal would be a tough sell to any owners in a trade. The best plan of action would be to hold him on your roster and just take what you can get from this declining former All-Star; he will be of use to your team, but you have to temper expectations.