Fantasy Hockey: Changing on the Fly, Volume 13
The All-Star break is over. Now we can get revved up for the final stretch-drive of regular season hockey before the playoffs. If your team is solid in the standings, then it’s time to look long term. If your team is battling it out for the final postseason berth, then every inch you can gain in every week is important. From here on out, I will try to cover both scenarios and help you win your fantasy hockey leagues.
In case you are new here and missed earlier volumes, this is a weekly article based on JJ Zachariason's "15 Transactions for Week X" and Russell Peddle's "Dozen Dimes," which focus on football and basketball, respectively.
Buy John Tavares, C – New York Islanders (100% owned)
This will definitely be a tough task to accomplish, but you should go out and aim to buy John Tavares. So far this year the New York Islanders have played 26 road games and only 20 matches at home. Those types of numbers are interesting at this time of year because it can predict whether a team or player is going to keep up or fall off their current pace.
In Tavares’ case, having an extra six home games to work with could increase his scoring rate.
Tavares is a point-per-game player, and you’ll probably have to give one up to get him, but now is as good of a time as any to try to take advantage of the schedule and swing some in odds into your favor.
Add Nick Holden, D – Colorado Avalanche (1%)
Not a lot of people have been playing close attention to the Colorado Avalanche these days. Their record is a frustrating 20-18-10, placing them in 10th but just three points out of the Western Conference wild card picture. One of the places they have regressed from last year is their power play. With only a 13.7% success rate and 4.50 goals for per 60 minutes, the Avs rank 28th in the league with the man-advantage.
At the backend of their power play, the Avalanche has used primarily Tyson Barrie and Erik Johnson. That hasn’t quite worked. Now coach Patrick Roy is starting to insert Nick Holden more into that role. Over the past 10 games, the three blueliners are starting to see close to an equal share of the power play deployments.
|Game||Barrie PPTOI||Johnson PPTOI||Holden PPTOI|
Now that Holden is in the conversation for more power play time, he can be a sneaky add for a fantasy back-end. While his numbers have waned this year, we have seen him score near a 0.50 points-per-game place before.
After looking at multiple advanced statistics, it is apparent that the Avalanche are more efficient on the power play with Holden than with either Barrie or Johnson despite his having a lower individual Corsi.
The caveat is that the Avalanche play only two games this week, but Holden is available in almost every league and can be grabbed as a sneaky pickup almost anywhere.
Hold Sergei Bobrovsky, G (92%)
Add Anton Forsberg, G (3%)– Columbus Blue Jackets
Unfortunately for fans in Columbus, they missed one of their hometown heroes at the All-Star Game. Sergei Bobrovsky suffered a groin injury January 21st and appears to be head to the shelf for quite some time.
Kekalainen confirms #CBJ G Sergei Bobrovsky suffered groin injury. This time right side. Last season was left side. "It's gonna be a while."— Aaron Portzline (@Aportzline) January 24, 2015
Bobrovsky has not lived up to expectations this year and his 2.85 goals against average and .913 save percentage puts him outside the top-30 fantasy hockey goaltenders this year. While he is out, look for Curtis McElhinney and Anton Forsberg to battle for playing time. If you are a Bobrovsky owner and can put him on the injury reserve, that move is a no brainer. If possible replacements are sparse on your waiver wire and you must choose between McElhinney or Forsberg, pick Forsberg. He has put up solid 2.04 goals-against average and .927 save percentage for the AHL’s Springfield Falcons and has more upside of the two.
Sell/Drop Carter Hutton, G – Nashville Predators (22%)
It is true that Pekka Rinne is injured and Carter Hutton has started three straight games for the Predators. And it is true that the Predators and their 0.63 nERD are near the top of the NHL standings. And it is true that Hutton played well in his last start against Montreal, letting up only 2 goals on 27 shots. But you do not want Carter Hutton on your fantasy squad.
It was alluded to in our Mid-Season Awards that, despite their strong start, the Predators are an average puck possession team and much of their success is due to Rinne’s league leading performance and save percentage. Nashville sits 16th in the league in Corsi Against per 60 mintute of even strength play and 15th in shorthanded Corsi Against. That means they give up a lot of shots and Hutton will be in tough to live up to the standard that Rinne has set for the Predators.
Nashville is a strong offensive team, so the goals (and therefore the wins) may still be there, but be wary of Hutton. If you own him, chose your matchups wisely or see if you can move him for another short-term solution. Having a below average wreaking havoc on your team goals-against average and save percentage is not the ideal way to win categories and weeks.
Hold/Buy Tomas Hertl, LW – San Jose Sharks (38%)
Normally, when a player gets demoted to the minors, it means death to his fantasy value, but in Tomas Hertl’s case, it might actually help. Prior to the All-Star break the Sharks sent Hertl and other eligible teammates to the American Hockey League.
The Sharks’ intentions are two-fold. First, sending down Hertl (and DeMelo) help them save space on their salary cap, and Hertl has suffered from the proverbial sophomore slump. In getting him some extra ice-time, against a weaker competition, the Sharks are hoping to jolt some energy into his disappointing season.
Regardless of their primary reason, it is clear that the plan is to recall Hertl for Thursday’s game against Anaheim. San Jose has been playing Hertl at center recently, and if they continue to give him time at the faceoff dot in when they recommence he could gain dual eligibility, which would make him more flexible and a more attractive addition to a fantasy roster. If you held onto Hertl this long, you are probably in a deep league and should keep him to see how this plays out; if he is on your waiver wire, keep a close eye on him. Maybe some time in the AHL is all he needed.
Add/Buy Tomas Plekanec, C – Montreal Canadiens (52%)
One of the mysteries of this year’s fantasy hockey season is why Tomas Plekanec is under owned. With 13 goals and 19 assists, Plekanec has been the second-most valuable forward on the league’s most popular team. One would think that fantasy owners would jump at a 0.71 point-per-game player, but they haven’t.
Montreal plays four games this week so here is your chance to grab Plekanec and ride him for the next little while. There shouldn’t be too much fear of regression, Plekanec’s 9.8% shooting percentage is right in line with his career mark of 10.7% and none of his advanced statistics jump out as “red flags,” everything seems normal.
The biggest difference between Plekanec of this year and Plekanec of last year is how coach Michel Therrien is using him; Plekanec is seeing his Offensive Zone Starts increase back to previous levels and it is paying dividends for both him and the Habs.
Drop Clarke MacArthur, LW – Ottawa Senators (43%)
Clarke MacArthur has had another mediocre season for the Ottawa Senators. With 13 goals and 11 assists in 45 games before the All-Star break, MacArthur is producing at a 0.53 points-per-game pace; that is definitely “ok,” but it is really nothing to write home about. During the past few years, MacArthur has flirted with fantasy relevancy but has never really been a consistent enough to earn a permanent roster spot.
The Senators only play two games in this shortened week and there are plenty of “Clarke MacArthurs” that can contribute around 0.50 points-per-game left on waiver wires. Think short-term with these players. If someone in your league scoops him up after you drop him, you’ll find someone else just as productive.
Add Andre Burakovsky, C/LW – Washington Capitals (4%)
Getting the opportunity to play with Alex Ovechkin is one of the most enviable opportunities that a player can receive. At the moment, Andre Burakovsky is the lucky member of the Washington Capitals to skate with Ovie and Nicklas Backstrom. Both Ovechkin and Backstrom make Burakovsky a better player and he sees more time on the right side of the puck when he is on the ice with them versus on the ice with other teammates.
|Burakovsky 5-on-5||Time on Ice||GF60||CF60|
The Capitals play four games this week, so there is a lot of opportunity for Burakovsky to contribute immediately after the All-Star Break; he’ll be a good play this week.
Drop Jake Muzzin, D – Los Angeles Kings (51%)
Add the Los Angeles Kings to the group of teams that only play two games in the week following the All-Star break. That means you should probably jettison your borderline-useful Kings for this week and aim for quantity over quality.
While his 22 points in 41 games is a respectable 0.54 points per game, there is most likely an equal valued replacement on most waiver wires for Jake Muzzin. If you are battling for a playoff spot, just a few extra games played could make the difference between a win or a loss.
Add Paul Martin, D – Pittsburgh Penguins (4%)
Surprise, surprise, Kris Letang is injured…again. The Penguins haven’t announced anything official, but the thought is that Letang has suffered a concussion. The timeline for his return is immediately evident but with Olli Maatta and Simon Despres both hurting, that leaves Paul Martin as the only defenseman on the Penguins power play.
Martin is no longer an elite offensive defenseman, but there is a history of him quarterbacking power plays. Despite not having any power play points yet and only two goals and eight assists on the year, Martin should be a worthwhile add as long as he is the pointman on the man-advantage.