Fantasy Hockey: Changing on the Fly, Volume 22
If you are still reading this column, now on its 22nd volume, thank you, it has been fun. Also, Congratulations! That probably means your fantasy hockey team is still relevant in your league and you are playing in the semi-finals or finals. Now, let’s take a week at the penultimate week in fantasy hockey and see which transactions might help your team.
Drop Wayne Simmonds, RW – Philadelphia Flyers (73% owned)
Wayne Simmonds has had an outstanding year for the Flyers with 28 goals and 22 assists. Unfortunately, a left leg fracture has sent him home for the remaining of the season. His 50 points will be hard replace, and while the Flyers are all but out of the playoff race, fantasy owners have a real cause for concern.
Ryan White has taken Simmonds' spot on the Flyers power play, and while he would be considered a long shot, the Flyers play back-to-back game Saturday and Sunday this week. He can be a Hail Mary on the weekend.
Add Brian Gionta, RW – Buffalo Sabres (3%)
There isn't much positive to write about the Buffalo Sabres and their pursuit to the bottom for a chance to draft Connor McDavid, but Brian Gionta has been promoted to their top line to replace Tyler Ennis who is out with a shoulder injury. Gionta has four points in his last three games but has his prime is way behind him now.
Early in the week, the Sabres (-1.34 nERD) play the Arizona Coyotes (-1.00 nERD) and the Toronto Maple Leafs (-0.55 nERD) on Monday and Wednesday, both games feature weak teams and an opportunity for even the Sabres to score a few goals for a change. Buffalo also plays a third “off-night” game Friday against the Chicago Blackhawks (0.53 nERD) and finish their week Saturday against the Islanders (0.15 nERD). Early in the week, Gionta could slip into some fantasy lineups and do a little damage.
Drop Kris Letang, D – Pittsburgh Penguins (95%)
Much like the Simmonds injury, this one hurts -- maybe even more so. Kris Letang was concussed Saturday when he was shoved into the boards awkwardly by Shane Doan. Letang spent Saturday night in the hospital being treated for a concussion, and with his long history of injuries, don’t be surprised if we don’t see him again until the playoffs.
Kris Letang out with (another) concussion after Shane Doan hit; Penguins consider putting Daniel Winnik on defense. http://t.co/9Z5FTOuqlP— Yahoo Sports NHL (@YahooSportsNHL) March 29, 2015
Add Yannick Weber, D – Vancouver Canucks (7%)
Before going pointless in Saturday’s 4-3 loss to the Dallas Stars, Yannick Weber had registered six points in his previous five games. Weber isn’t known for his offensive prowess; this year he has a career-high nine goals and 19 points in 58 games. But despite these paltry numbers, Weber is pairing up with Alexander Edler on the Canucks' top power play line and has been hot as of late.
The Canucks play back-to-back games Monday and Tuesday in Nashville and St. Louis. The Canucks and Blues will be motivated to lock up their playoff spots in the Western Conference, so expect a high intensity game Tuesday. Weber can help you in the early part of the week.
Hold Andrew Hammond, G – Ottawa Senators (56%)
Over 3,600 owners jumped off the Hammond-train over the weekend after the young phenom ruined playoff runs for many when he gave up five goals and posted a 8.09 goals against average Thursday against the New York Rangers. Hammond missed Saturday’s game against the Maple Leafs and played the role of backup to Craig Anderson Sunday. The Senators lost both games, and if Hammond is healthy enough to play Tuesday, one would think he would get the nod.
Andrew Hammond has propelled the Senators and many fantasy hockey teams from afterthoughts on the season to contenders for a playoff spot. If he is in net for the Sens, he should be on your roster.
Drop Cam Talbot, G – New York Ranger (56%)
Cam Talbot did his job, replacing the injured Henrik Lundqvist, perfectly. For the season, Talbot has posted a 2.21 goals against average and .926 save percentage in 32 starts while keeping the New York Rangers atop the Metropolitan Division. Lundqvist is now back though, and Talbot will likely only see one more start on the regular season.
Often teams with goalies coming back from an injury will exercise caution with their returning netminder, especially when they already have a playoff spot locked up. Lundqvist’s injury, however, was not a muscle strain, pull or any sort of break: it was a blood vessel injury from taking a puck to the neck and is not something that he is likely to re-injure. The Rangers’ big concern now is to have Lunqvist play and shake the rust off so he will be ready for what they hope is another deep playoff run. With that in mind, Talbot probably won’t play this week and maybe only once next week.
Add Scott Darling, G – Chicago Blackhawks (7%)
As the season winds down, most teams that are heading to the playoffs will want to get the starting goaltenders a break. The Chicago Blackhawks play back-to-back games against Vancouver Canucks and Buffalo Sabres Thursday and Friday. If Scott Darling draws the Sabres game Saturday, he is a great goalie to stream into your lineup.
In 11 games this year, Darling has a tidy 1.84 goals against average and .939 save percentage; the Sabres are the lowest-scoring in the league by any and all metrics. Put those two together and you have an opportunity to profit if the situation arises. Nothing is guaranteed here, but Darling could draw the Canucks Thursday with Corey Crawford playing in Buffalo Friday. Either way, the situation is worth watching.
Drop James Wisniewski, D – Anaheim Ducks (69%)
Before being traded to the Anaheim Ducks, James Wisniewski had 29 points in 56 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since then, Wisniewski has only four assists in nine games and he has been a healthy scratch in two of the past three games.
While his point per game rate isn’t taking a huge hit, Wisniewski has definitely slid down the depth chart and can’t be relied on for the same output. Even if he does get back into the lineup this week, the Ducks only play two games, giving their roster fewer opportunities to contribute.
Add Mark Borowiecki, D – Ottawa Senators (4%)
If your league counts hits, Mark Borowiecki is a great play at the end of this week. The Ottawa Senators play back-to-back games against the Washington Capitals and Toronto Maple Leafs and the Sens are on the brink of a playoff spot they will be putting forward a maximum effort from here on out.
There are only six defensemen that have accumulated 100-plus penalty minutes this year, and out of those six, Borowiecki is third in hits and second in blocked shots.
With four games this week, both Borowiecki and Eric Gryba will have a chance to throw their bodies around and add to those numbers. Stream them in if it makes sense for your settings.
Hold Mark Scheifele, C – Winnipeg Jets (29%)
Normally I would encourage owners dropping a 29% owned player that only has two games in the week. However, if you are on your way to an easy win this week, hold onto Mark Scheifele. Scheifele has 14 goals and 32 assists on the year for a very respectable 0.61 points per game average, so he should contribute in even in only two games.
The big reason to hold onto Scheifele though is that the Jets play four games in the last week of the season, and with a back-to-back next Monday and Tuesday, they will be good players to own for the finals.