1. Time to sell high on Toronto left wing Jason Blake. Oh, he’s terrific in real life, but there’s a reason he’s owned in only 60 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 81.4 percent of ESPN leagues.
That reason is games like last night: in the Leafs 5-0 road loss to the Sabres, Blake had one shot, no points, and no penalty minutes in 16:52 of ice time.
Even casual fans know Blake (17 goals, 21 assists, +3, 26 PIMs) has one statistical specialty: shots on goal. He is on pace for his fourth straight season of at least 300 shots. That’s special, but alone it does not make him a fantasy commodity.
Blake seemed to be stepping up in the last three weeks. Beginning with a hat trick January 15 at Carolina, Blake notched seven goals and seven assists in an eight-game stretch. Then came last night’s dud in Buffalo.
My advice? Trade him now, while there’s still a perception he has value in categories other than shots.
Blake is not going to change his stripes at age 35. He has scored more than 28 goals only once (in 2006-07, when he scored 40 for the Islanders). He is a source of neither penalty minutes nor assists nor power play points. Moreover, the Leafs are a +/- nightmare. They have surrendered more goals than any team in the NHL. Blake is a respectable +3, but that might change given his circumstances.
Furthermore, left wings are not hard to find: in any 12-team league, there are viable plug-and-play free agents whose production (in all categories but shots) would be comparable to Blake’s. Some examples: Dallas’ Loui Eriksson, Florida’s David Booth, and Calgary’s Rene Bourque. All are owned in under 50 percent of Yahoo! and under 66 percent of ESPN leagues.
2. Wild goalie Josh Harding (1-5-1, 2.03, .933) is the Chester Taylor of fantasy hockey: the backup you must own as a handcuff to the invaluable starter. In this case, that starter is Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (25-16-2, 2.20, .927), who delivered his sixth shutout last night against visiting Anaheim. If you own Backstrom, your fantasy team is a title contender. It behooves you to get Harding now as an insurance policy, even if it means dropping a Blake-level winger. Harding’s ownership levels (14 percent Yahoo!, 18.5 percent ESPN) are too low, considering it’s after the all-star break.
3. Make your best trade offer for Bruins right wing Phil Kessel. Unstoppable for the season’s first three months, Kessel (24 goals, 19 assists, +17, 14 PIMs) has not scored since January 3 and has no points in his last three games. Now’s the time to buy low. Kessel missed six games with mono and is still regaining his stride. When he regains it, he’ll return to form as the premier right wing in fantasy, this side of Jarome Iginla and Marian Hossa.