Fantasy Hockey: Changing on the Fly, Volume 8
With the Christmas break just around the corner, the teams of the National Hockey League are set to take a short pause this week; there are only four days of games this week. Here is an abbreviated version of Changing on the Fly. In case you missed earlier volumes, this is a weekly article based on JJ Zachariason's "15 Transactions for Week X" and Russell Peddle's "Dozen Dimes."
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 Petr Mrazek, G – Detroit Red Wings (6% owned)
Jimmy Howard’s “lower body injury” does not appear to be serious, and he will most likely be back tending goal for the Red Wings after the Christmas break. In the meantime, Petr Mrazek will start, and Detroit hosts the Sabres Tuesday. Despite being 5-3 in the month of December, the Sabres still sit at the bottom of our power rankings with a dismal -1.09 nERD rating, are 29th in the league with only 1.74 5-on-5 goals for per 60 minutes, and sit dead last with a 37.5 Corsi percentage.
Mrazek has been good this year when given a chance to play. In five games, he has a 2.55 goals against average to go along with a .922 save percentage and three wins. With the short week, Yahoo! has waived the minimum appearances requirements for goaltenders, but in leagues where wins and total saves are counted, Mrazek is a good bet to help your team with an easy matchup against Buffalo.
Drop Anton Stralman, D – Tampa Bay Lightning (51%)
Anton Stralman had a nice start to the season. For the first month, he was collecting close to a point per game while contributing to an explosive Tampa Bay Lightning offense. While his offensive production dropped off in November, Stralman proved useful in fantasy leagues that counted blocked shots.
Now in December, with Victor Hedman back from an injury, Stralman is seeing less primetime minutes, as his numbers have slid.
Stralman is still playing quality minutes for the Lightning but has lost power play time to Jason Garrison, and with the return of Hedman, Stralman can be jettisoned in standard leagues.
Sell Toronto Maple Leafs forwards
This has less to do with their 7-4 loss to the hands of the Flyers on Saturday night as it does with their upcoming schedule. Starting Boxing Day (December 26), the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championships will be held jointly at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto as well as the Bell Centre in Montreal. This means an extended road trip for both the Leafs and Canadiens. Toronto has played 22 home games and 12 road contests. Now the Leafs play 15 of their next 29 matches on the road.
Like most of the league, when measuring points per game, several Leafs have performed better at home than on the road this year.
|Player||Home PPG||Road PPG|
|James van Riemsdyk||0.91||0.82|
This stretch of games, from now until February 6th, will most likely make or break the Leafs’ season. If you can make a lateral move or sell high, it might be the right time to trade off some Maple Leafs.
Buy Jonathan Bernier, G – Toronto Maple Leafs (76%)
Sounds counterintuitive, I know, I just wrote that the Leafs were in for a rough stretch. Logic would dictate that their starting goaltender would be another player to avoid for the next month. Looking into Jonathan Bernier’s split stats tells a different story.
|Past 2 years||GAA||Save %|
With Bernier’s posting an 8.48 goalsagainst average Saturday night against the Flyers, fantasy owners are probably dismayed with the goaltender, and there is a window to acquire him.
Hold Montreal Canadiens
Like the Leafs, the Montreal Canadiens’ home rink is hosting the World Juniors, however their schedule is not quite as harsh for the coming month. They embark on a five-game road trip that straddles the Christmas to New Year’s break but are back in Montreal January 6th for two games before facing Columbus and Ottawa on the road and then coming back for a three-game home stand in mid-late January. All-in-all not that rough, considering they’ve rented out the Bell Centre.
Fringe fantasy assets such as Brendan Gallagher (27% owned), P.A. Parenteau (20%), and David Desharnais (12%) should be avoided for Christmas week, however; the Habs are the only team with only one game on the schedule.
Add Craig Smith, C/RW – Nashville Predators (16%)
James Neal missed Saturday’s match against the Minnesota Wild with an illness (apparently not the mumps). Cue Craig Smith, who slid into his spot on the top line with Filip Forsberg and Mike Ribeiro and contributed immediately with a goal and an assist, logging a season-high 18:44 of ice time.
While it is unknown how long Neal will be out, if it extends to Christmas, Smith will be an excellent addition to fantasy rosters; the Predators play both Monday and Tuesday. Having back-to-back games is a bonus this week when league shuts down Wednesday through Friday.
Sell Martin St. Louis, C/RW – New York Rangers (95%)
Martin St. Louis has had a spectacular career, amassing over 1000 points over 16 seasons after being making his debut as an undrafted free agent by the Calgary Flames in 1998. Now 39, St. Louis is starting to have his age catch up to him; while his shooting percentage is up, his point-per-game production is down.
|Time frame||PPG||Shooting %|
Diving deeper into the numbers shows that St. Louis is 14th among Rangers skaters in Individual Corsi per 60 minutes*.
|Martin St. Louis||14th||8.56|
In fact, St. Louis’ Individual Corsi per 60 minutes is lower than it has ever been. Here are his number post lockout.
As his shooting percentage regresses toward his career mean, St. Louis will likely see his production number decrease unless the Rangers start shooting a heck of a lot more while he is on the ice. Hats off to St. Louis for his career, but when a player’s shooting percentage is up and production is down, it usually spells bad news for the rest of the season.
Add Steve Downie, LW/RW – Pittsburgh Penguins (44%)
Steve Downie is probably one of the most hated players in hockey, and with good reason: his 135 penalty minutes are nearly double anyone else’s. Sometimes to win in fantasy sports you have to put your conscience aside and play the rat. In any league where penalty minutes are counted, Downie is a must-add. He can swing a week just by staying on Santa’s naughty list.
Add Tom Wilson, RW – Washington Capitals (4%)
I have three reasons why you should add Tom Wilson.
First, he is fifth in the league in penalties, racking up 67 minutes spent in the box thinking about what he’s done. Second, he is playing on the Capitals’ top line with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. Third, the Washington Capitals play Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday this week, so there will be opportunity for you to get him in your lineup.
Consider Wilson and poor man’s Downie. He may not have the offensive numbers or rack up as many penalty minutes (but who does?), but playing with Ovechkin and Backstrom, Wilson will pick up random points and will contribute sporadically to your fantasy team. Wilson is a good streaming candidate for when the Capitals have back-to-back games.