Don’t grab Wheeler just yet; clearly, Hartnell is back

October 31, 2009

Bruins RW Blake Wheeler was Jim Dandy on Halloween Day, but don't pick him up just yet.

The offensive hero for the Bruins on Halloween day was RW Blake Wheeler, who tallied one goal, one assist, and a +2 in the Bruins 2-0 home win vs. a solid Oilers squad.

You may need help at RW, but do not pick up Wheeler just yet. He only played 11:09, and even counting his two points earned today he only has seven for the season. Until his minutes and points increase, leave him in the free agent pool. But keep him on your radar — it is easy to forget he finished a whopping +36 last season.

And: If you wrote off Flyers LW Scott Hartnell for going scoreless in four straight games from Oct. 8-22, you are not alone. But on Halloween day Hartnell returned to fantasy relevance with a bang, delivering one goal, two assists, three shots on goal, eight penalty minutes, and a +2 in the Flyers 6-1 home drubbing of the Whalers Hurricanes, who fall to 2-7-3. Maybe the Flyers should think about trading for Canes G Cam Ward.

For Hartnell, it was his second straight game with a goal. If you were benching him in deeper leagues to save your LW games for hotter players like Oilers LW Dustin Penner or Stars LW James Neal, it is now officially time to change your ways. That’s not to say you bench Penner or Neal — it’s just to say that Hartnell has returned to “must start” status.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons



A tale of three centers (Connolly, Reinprecht, Peverley)… and Kessel time

October 31, 2009

Yahoo! players need to wake up and add the 21-percent-owned Connolly before it's too late.

1. Sabres C Tim Connolly tallied two goals and one assist in Buffalo’s 3-2 home win vs. Toronto last night. By now, you know the story with TC: point per game when healthy, which is seldom. Alas, savvy ESPN players certainly know the story with him, since he’s 73.3 percent owned by Worldwide Participants. Why he is only 21 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues is a bafflement.

2. Then there’s Panthers C Steven Reinprecht, who netted a natural hat trick in last night’s 6-5 win at Dallas. For fantasy purposes, you can disregard Reinprecht until he does it again. (See how he does tonight at St. Louis.) Reinprecht has never topped 52 points in a season and he is weak in every other fantasy category too. He also plays center, a position of infinite depth in our little game, as evidenced by Connolly’s minute ownership in Yahoo! formats.

3. The center to pick up for next week — especially in head-to-head formats where your lineup is locked after Mondays — is Thrashers C Rich Peverley, who has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his last six games, not to mention six PIMs and four PPPs. The Thrashers are one of four teams who play four times next week, according to the always useful Forecaster from’s Sean Allen. You want points, pick up Peverley, who is owned in only 33 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 47.4 percent of ESPN formats.

And let us close by citing Janet Eagleson’s Frozen Fantasy column, which points out that Leafs RW Phil Kessel (shoulder) is on track to return Tuesday. Remove him from your IR slot or grab him in the 20 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 19.1 percent of ESPN leagues in which he’s still available.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Top 13 Injury Roundup (Luongo, Kovalchuk, Gaborik, Sedin, Savard, Toews, Hossa, Elias, Setoguchi, Pavelski, Booth, Williams, Souray)

October 29, 2009

Canucks G Roberto Luongo is only expected to miss one week.

1. Canucks G Roberto Luongo (ribs) is expected to only miss one week.

2. Thrashers LW Ilya Kovalchuk (broken bone right foot) is out four weeks.

3. Rangers RW Marian Gaborik (right knee) missed last night’s game at the Islanders, a 3-1 loss for the Manhattoes. He has not been ruled out of tomorrow night’s game at Minnesota. If he misses that game, don’t sweat it. Start to sweat if he misses Sunday afternoon’s game when the Bruins hit the Big Apple.

4. No need to think about Canucks LW Daniel Sedin (foot) until November 6 or thereabouts.

5. No need to think about Bruins C Marc Savard (broken left foot) until November 14 or thereabouts.

6. Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews (concussion) did not practice yesterday and is not expected to play tonight at Nashville. He may also miss Friday night’s game vs. Montreal. You need not worry unless he misses the Nov. 5 game at Phoenix.

7. Blackhawks RW Marian Hossa (right shoulder) is practicing. Based on all we have read, the Genius projects the Nov. 15 game vs. the Sharks as his return date.

8. Devils C/LW Patrick Elias (groin) has not yet practiced with the team. He may start doing so next week. Until then, keep him in your IR slot.

9. Sharks RW Devin Setoguchi (leg) has missed the last two games. The Sharks host the Avalanche tomorrow night, and he may be back — check the San Jose Mercury News to see if he returns to practice.

10. Sharks C Joe Pavelski (left foot) has returned to practice. He could return to real games any day now.

11. No need to think about Panthers LW David Booth (concussion) until November 10 or thereabouts.

12. Kings RW Justin Williams (lower body) has missed four straight games. He could return tonight vs. Vancouver. He has practiced this week.

13. Oilers D Sheldon Souray (concussion) still is not skating. No need to think about him until Nov. 5 or thereabouts.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Three to watch for Thursday (Grabner, Morris, Schultz)

October 29, 2009

Every Thursday, the Genius will list three players to monitor for fantasy relevance. As a rule, the players will be owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues.

Player: RW Michael Grabner, Canucks

Ownership: 5 percent Yahoo!, 2.9 percent ESPN.

Tonight: The Canucks visit Los Angeles at 10:30 pm EDT.


Can Canucks RW Michael Grabner continue to kick fantasy ass tonight at Los Angeles?

Optimism: Only 22, the former first-round pick has become a shot machine in his last four games (5, 6, 7, 2). In those games, he has two goals and two assists, all of which were PPPs. Rob Higgins, fantasy expert for the Toronto Sun, recently wrote: “He’s playing with Vancouver’s best all-around forward in Ryan Kesler, on the team’s fastest line and is the Kobe to Kesler’s Shaq. He likes to shoot and can finish. As long as his context is a Top 6 one, in the NHL, he will point enough to help.”

Skepticism: Grabner has done a lot of his scoring by being in the right place at the right time in front of the net. He deserves credit for this knack, but how sustainable is the cherry-picking for a 180-pounder?

Player: D Derek Morris, Bruins

Ownership: 9 percent Yahoo!, 7.1 percent ESPN.

Tonight: The Bruins host the Devils at 7:00 pm EDT.

Optimism: There was a time when Morris — a first-round pick back in 1996 — was a must-own fantasy blueliner. Granted: That time was 2002-03. Still, in his first season with the Avalanche, Morris put up numbers: 11 goals, 37 assists, +16, 68 penalty minutes, 28 power play points (nine goals, 19 assists), and 191 shots on goal. Lately, Bruins fans have glimpsed the Morris vintage. In his last three games, Morris has one goal and four assists, not to mention a +2 and seven shots. It’s no coincidence these three games marked the return of D Dennis Wideman from a left shoulder injury.

Skepticism: Morris has not amassed more than 30 points in a season since 2003-04. He is also no guarantee for PP productivity. Only one of the five points on his recent three-game binge was a PPP.

Player: D Jeff Schultz, Capitals

Ownership: 1 percent Yahoo!, 0.4 percent ESPN.

Tonight: The Capitals visit Atlanta at 7:00 pm EDT.

Optimism: In fantasy football, you want a piece of the Saints. In fantasy hockey, you want a piece of the Capitals, who score 3.56 goals per game (third). Schultz, 23, a first-round pick in 2004, has one goal and four assists in his last three games, not to mention four PIMs and a staggering +5.

Skepticism: Schultz isn’t sniffing the power play and he is averaging fewer than 18:00 of ice time.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Bruins sans Savard, Penguins sans Gonchar, anybody seen Hartnell?

October 24, 2009
Bruins C Dennis Wideman is back, and teammate Derek Morris has reaped the fantasy benefits.

Bruins D Dennis Wideman is back, and teammate Derek Morris has reaped the fantasy benefits.

Quick: Which Bruin has scored the most in C Marc Savard’s (foot) absence? LW Steve Begin, who tallied the game-winner Wednesday in Boston’s 3-2 win vs. Nashville and scored the game-tying goal in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss at Philadelphia. Perhaps this isn’t too surprising. Begin seldom skated with Savard anyway; he doesn’t have to adjust to the loss of a gifted pivot.

The other Bruin scoring in Savard’s absence is D Derek Morris, who notched an assist Wednesday and one goal and one helper Thursday. But the Morris streak probably has more to do with the return of D Dennis Wideman (shoulder). Though Wideman did not score in these last two games, he was +1 in each contest and he consumed around 20:00 minutes of ice time. Don’t be surprised if Wideman finally cracks the scoring log when the Bruins visit Ottawa tonight at 7 pm EST.

Last night was the Penguins first game without D Sergei Gonchar (wrist), who like Savard is out four-to-six weeks. The box score didn’t look too different (two goals for Crosby, two assists for Malkin, one helper for Goligoski), except Goligoski played a whopping 26:22 — well above his 21:39 average. Interestingly, it was Crosby who also got a bump in minutes, logging 25:50 (he averages 21:08). We shall see if these playing-time patterns continue tonight with the Penguins hosting the Devils at 7:30 pm EST. Though the Penguins prevailed 3-2 last night against the Panthers, they did fall behind 2-0 in the first and did not score until Crosby’s power play goal in the third.

Some links and quickies before we go:

  • Has anyone seen Flyers LW Scott Hartnell? In his last three games he has not scored, he has no penalty minutes, only four shots on goal, and a -2. The former first-round pick, lest we forget, was a stallion last season, scoring 30 goals and amassing 210 shots on goal and 143 PIMs. In other words: This is a guy you want to trade for.
  • Very quietly, Yahoo! granted Blackhawks C/RW Patrick Sharp the RW eligibility he so richly deserves. What’s funny is that in ESPN formats, Sharp is only eligible at LW.
  • Speaking of Yahoo!, there are some great nuggets in Scott Pianowski’s Red-Light District column from yesterday. My favorite tidbit: His advice to take a shot with Devils RW Nicklas Bergfors (former first-round pick, 20 shots on goal in his last five games including an eight-shot effort Oct. 17).
  • Another Saturday, another great day to consume Sean Allen’s Forecaster. The following teams are playing only twice next week: Kings, Flyers, Flames, Thrashers, and Lightning.
  • The tough questions: Given they are only playing twice, do you bench your mighty Flyers (Carter, Richards, Pronger, Carle), your white-hot Lightning (Malone, Stamkos, St. Louis), your five Kings (Brown, Doughty, Smyth, Kopitar, Williams), your lone Thrasher (Kovalchuk), your solitary Flame (Iginla)?
  • My tough answers: In head-to-head leagues where you are forced to set your lineup Monday, bench all of the above except Kovalchuk, Kopitar, Smyth, Stamkos, Carter, and…amazingly…Malone. The only forwards worth playing in two-game weeks are the ones with hat-trick potential. Otherwise, you are better off rolling with someone like Islanders LW Matt Moulson, who plays four times next week. Moulson is nowhere near (say) Iginla as a player, but he is likely to outproduce him next week since he’s playing four times and Iginla is playing twice.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

Three to watch for Thursday (Bergeron, Demers, Moulson)

October 22, 2009

Not long ago (2005-06), Bruins C Patrice Bergeron tallied 304 shots on goal.

Not long ago (2005-06), Bruins C Patrice Bergeron scored 31 goals and fired 310 shots on goal.

Every Thursday, the Genius will list three players to monitor for fantasy relevance. As a rule, the players will be owned in fewer than 50 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues.

Player: C Patrice Bergeron, Bruins

Ownership: 20 percent Yahoo!, 9.4 percent ESPN.

Tonight: The Bruins play in Philadelphia at 7:00 pm EST, the second of back-to-back games for them.

Optimism: Bergeron, 24, has two goals and two assists in his last four games. In last night’s 3-2 victory vs. Nashville, Bergeron scored the game-tying goal and logged 18:35 of ice time — his second highest total of the season. He is in line for more ice time — and power play chances — with C Marc Savard (foot) on the shelf for four-to-six weeks. It is easy to forget that in 2005-06, Bergeron amassed 73 points in 81 games (31 goals, 42 assists), including 29 power play points (12 goals, 17 assists). He also fired 310 shots on goal.

Skepticism: Bergeron has not been a fantasy factor in his last three seasons. Blame injuries, blame dirty hits, the bottom line is he hasn’t racked up numbers worthy of a fantasy roster spot. His teammate, C David Krejci, is a better player and a more viable candidate to inherit Savard’s ice time and numbers.

Player: D Jason Demers, Sharks

Ownership: 12 percent Yahoo!, 5.6 percent ESPN.

Tonight: The Sharks have flown across the country to battle the Lightning in Tampa at 7:30 pm EST.

Optimism: The object of’s Victoria Matiash’s fantasy affection, Demers has posted two assists in each of has least two games, three of which came on the power play as the Sharks devoured the New York metro area. (A 4-1 win at the Islanders last Saturday, followed by a 7-3 demolition of the Rangers on Monday.) All told, Demers has seven assists in seven games — tying him with Flyers D Matt Carle for the lead among blueliners.

Skepticism: Demers averages fewer than 18:00 per game in ice time. He has only launched six shots on goal this season. That’s right: just six. Finally, let’s not forget: He is a 21-year-old rookie. There’s no fantasy track record here. As hot as Demers is, you cannot rule out a severe slump in the second half. Whether he is even NHL-ready is still an open question.

Player: LW Matt Moulson, Islanders

Ownership: 33 percent Yahoo!, 35.1 percent ESPN.

Tonight: The Islanders visit Montreal for a 7:00 pm showdown.

Optimism: With goals in four straight, including one in last night’s 4-3 shootout win vs. Carolina, Moulson is flying out of free agent pools. He now has eight points in seven games (five goals, three assists), not to mention six PIMs and 29 shots. Did we mention he skates with C John Tavares?

Skepticism: The Islanders are 1-3-3. So Moulson’s impressive +2 may not last. Also, the kid turns 26 on November 1 — certainly not too old to burst onto the NHL scene, but perhaps old enough for us to pose the question of whether he has the germ of point-per-game greatness in him. A ninth-round pick back in 2003, Moulson has never played a full NHL season.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

A word on Savard

October 21, 2009

Bruins C Marc Savard (foot) is out 4-6 weeks, but fantasy owners should wait a few games before dropping his teammates.

Bruins C Marc Savard (foot) is out four-to-six weeks, but fantasy owners should wait a few games before dropping his teammates.

Matt Kalman of ESPNBoston and The Bruins Blog reports that Bruins C Marc Savard has been placed on Long Term Injured reserve with a broken left foot.

According to the Bruins, Savard is expected to miss four-to-six weeks.

Do not even think about dropping him; he is the rare fantasy center worth holding onto for a prolonged absence.

The players you should downgrade are RW Michael Ryder and LW Marco Sturm, who are the biggest beneficiaries of Savard’s passing magic.

But do not drop Ryder or Sturm just yet. Wait to see how the Bruins play tonight at 7pm, hosting the Predators, who will be without C Jason Arnott (arm). If the Bruins are deep at any position, it is center. And it is possible Ryder and Sturm will produce if they find themselves flanking C David Krejci or C Patrice Bergeron in the weeks to come.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons