With Horton out, who scores?

January 29, 2010

Panthers RW Nathan Horton is out for five more weeks. Who will pick up the scoring slack?

Panthers RW Nathan Horton (fractured left tibia) is expected to miss five more weeks. Florida has now played twice in his absence.

Interestingly, the Panthers have won both games. Still, there are signs of a scoring slump.

For the season, Florida averages 2.61 goals per game, placing them in the middle of the NHL pack (16th). However, in each of these wins — 2-0 vs. Toronto Jan. 23 and 2-1 vs. Montreal Jan. 26 — the Panthers scored only twice.

Throughout the season, the line of Horton (17 goals, 29 assists), C Stephen Weiss (19 goals, 25 assists) and LW Michael Frolik (13 goals, 17 assists) has carried the Panthers attack. (Though Frolik is listed as a C/RW in both ESPN and Yahoo! fantasy formats, the box-score reality is that he has skated and scored all year with Horton and Weiss.)

In the 2-0 win vs. Toronto, both Frolik and Weiss tallied assists. On Florida’s first goal, Weiss and D Dennis Seidenberg helped LW Cory Stillman on a power play. On Florida’s second goal, Frolik and C Gregory Campbell set up LW Kenndal McArdle.

So, after one game sans Horton, the short list of Wally Pipp candidates was Seidenberg, Stillman, Campbell and McArdle. Alas, none of this mighty quartet cracked the score sheet in Florida’s 2-1 win vs. Montreal. It was C Shawn Matthias who scored both Panthers goals, the first of which came on a third-period penalty shot (and thus was unassisted). On his second goal, the assists went to RW Michael Repik and C/LW Dominic Moore.

In other words, it was a march of fantasy no-names.

And so, after two games sans Horton, here’s what we know:

1. While nine different Panthers registered a point, not a single Panther scored in both of the games.

2. The Panthers visit Washington Friday night, so there’s no reason any of them should be in your lineup anyway. You can safely return Frolik, Weiss and G Tomas Vokoun to your lineup Sunday, when Florida hosts the Islanders.

3. If there’s a fantasy commodity on the Panthers to monitor, it’s LW Rostislav Olesz. Dobber called him out on Yahoo! last week, writing:

“His bigger-than-deserved contract alone is reason enough to keep an eye on him. If the team thinks so highly of Olesz, then it goes without saying that he’ll get his chances. He has six points, six PIM and is a plus-4 in his last six contests, making him one of the better wingers to own in the past two weeks. He has the talent to keep up a similar pace, albeit slightly slower.”

Granted: Olesz (13 goals, 13 assists) is no star and he has not scored in his last four contests. But he has continued to put shots on net — 130 this season and at least two in each of those last four games. And he gets ice time: at least 15:00 per match. He has pedigree — seventh overall pick in 2004 — and he is only 24 years old.

More pertinent to fantasy players, he is only 0.6 percent owned in ESPN and three percent owned in Yahoo! formats. No need to pick him up yet, but keep an eye on him to post numbers while Horton’s gone.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Buy low on Krejci

January 23, 2010

The hockey world has forgotten the might of Bruins C David Krejci (51 assists, +37 last season).

The hockey world — fantasy and otherwise — is down on the Boston Bruins.

Justifiably so: Following Thursday’s 3-2 home setback to the hardly mighty Jackets, Boston had lost six straight and seven of eight. A team once ticketed for a No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and sneaky Cup contention is now on the verge of missing the playoffs.

What are the fantasy ramifications of the Bruins’ slump?

The main one is the availability of Bruins C David Krejci, who is now only 46 percent owned in Yahoo! leagues and 82.3 percent owned in ESPN formats.

Aside from his stellar 2008-09 numbers (22 goals, 51 assists, +37, 19 PPP), Krejci (for my money) passes the “naked eye” test as a playmaker. Much like banged up teammate Marc Savard (partially torn right MCL), Krejci (at his best) is the hockey equivalent of a point guard with superb anticipation, feeding pinpoint passes at opportune moments to open teammates.

But this year, Krejci — slowed by early season recovery from a hip problem and a recent lower-body malady that sidelined him from the 2-1 win at San Jose Jan. 14– has not been the same. He only has 18 assists in 46 games.

That’s why now is the time to buy low — or snag him if he’s a free agent.

Also, Savard has skated well in practice lately. He is slated to return for the Jan. 29 tilt at Buffalo. But it would not shock The Genius if he returned this weekend — perhaps even as soon as Saturday’s game vs. Ottawa. (But please, take note: that is just our sourceless speculation.)

Whenever Savard returns, he will join the offensively challenged Bruins’ top line, giving Krejci more of a chance to post numbers against opposing scrubs. All the more reason to roll the dice on a Krejci pickup.

Here’s the other reason: Quietly, even against opponents’ top lines, Krejci has posted numbers. Despite the Bruins’ slump, Krejci has six assists and one goal in his last nine contests. And as our boy Matt Kalman reports, Krejci missed a wide-open net in Thursday’s 3-2 loss — and he regrets it.

No, he’s not setting the world on fire, but he is warming up. In the previous six games, he had gone scoreless. For little or no risk, he is well worth your fantasy dime. How many other 50-assist guys can you acquire on the cheap?

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


The best trade in fantasy hockey history

January 21, 2010

With Canadiens LW Andrei Kostitsyn, above, out until Mar. 2, teammate Benoit Pouliot (owned in fewer than 7 percent of Yahoo! and ESPN leagues) has picked up the slack.

Sure, the game of the night is Washington’s visit to Pittsburgh. A clash of Eastern Conference heavyweights and all that.

But in fantasy land, the teams we’re watching are Montreal (tied for ninth in the conference as of Thursday) and Minnesota (tied for 12th in the Western Conference).

On Jan. 23, we’ll have reached the two-month anniversary of a landmark trade between these teams.

Incredibly, the two players swapped for each other — Minnesota RW/LW Guillaume Latendresse (14 percent owned in ESPN, 31 percent in Yahoo!) and Montreal LW Benoit Pouliot (1.1 percent ESPN, 6 percent Yahoo!) — remain radically underowned.

Why this is, I cannot fathom.

In his 25 games with the Wild, Latendresse, 22, has totaled 13 goals and six assists with a +6, not to mention 63 shots on goal. He next plays tonight vs. Detroit.

In his 13 games with the Canadiens, Pouliot, 23, has totaled eight goals and one assist with a +2, not to mention 15 penalty minutes and 37 shots on goal. He next plays Friday night at New Jersey. And he has more than picked up the scoring slack for wounded teammate LW Andrei Kostitsyn (knee).

Which of the two youngsters is more valuable? It depends on your needs. Pouliot, the fourth overall pick in 2005, stands 6-foot-4 and brings penalty minutes to the table. Latendresse, a second-round pick in 2005, is not a banger, but he is eligible at RW.

Bottom line: both players should be more highly owned, especially when you consider their last eight games. For Latendresse, the totals are seven goals and five assists. For Pouliot, the totals are six goals and one assist — and those 15 PIMs.

Here at The Genius, we ask this question all the time but we must ask again: Would you rather retain your No. 4 defenseman, or take a stab at greatness?

Grab Latendresse and/or Pouliot now, before the rest of your league awakens.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Raiding — and ducking — the Capitals

January 16, 2010

Capitals D Jeff Schultz, all six-foot-six of him, leads the NHL in +/- (+27).

If you own one of the fantasy cogs of the Maple Leafs D — Ian White, Tomas Kaberle or Francois Beauchemin — then you felt the wrath of the Capitals on Friday night.

White (-4), Kaberle (-2) and Beauchemin (-2) saw their already awful +/- worsen as the Caps cruised to a 6-1 home win.

It is always wise to bench your goalies against the Caps, whose 3.63 goals per game lead the NHL by a wide margin (the Blackhawks are next at 3.16).

We have reached the point, however, where it’s wise to bench your D against the Caps. If you own any Flyers blueliners, be warned: Philadelphia visits Washington on Sunday at 3:00 pm.

In their last six games, the Caps (5-1) have scored 31 goals: 4, 5, 8, 4, 4 and 6. Of these 31 goals, 23 came at even strength. And that’s why opponents of the Caps have seen their +/- plummet.

On the flip side, investing in the Caps D is a great way to bolster your own +/-. Former first-round pick Jeff Schultz (available in 96 percent of Yahoo! and 96.4 percent of ESPN leagues) leads the entire NHL at +27. He also has four assists in his last five games, making him even more worthy of an immediate add. In the past month, the 23-year-old ranks No. 46 in Yahoo! and No. 33 in ESPN among all defensemen.

Then there’s his teammate, Tom Poti. Though Poti’s +12 isn’t as gaudy as Schultz’s, Poti’s career resume and overall fantasy numbers make him a better across-the-board add. In the last month, Poti has tallied two goals, six assists, +8 and 14 penalty minutes. These numbers have made him the No. 2o D in Yahoo! and No. 19 D in ESPN during this span.

Still, Poti’s ownership levels are staggeringly low: He is rostered in only 4 percent of Yahoo! and 4.9 percent of ESPN leagues. When you consider what Poti, 32, has accomplished in his 12-year career — three  seasons with 10 or more goals, consistent penalty minutes and power play productivity — it is a wonder how the fantasy community has ignored him in 2009-10.

Trading for Caps D Mike Green is next to impossible. But if you pick up his teammates, you’ll reap plenty of fantasy benefits between now and the end of the campaign.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Josh Bailey, hero in a long line of heroes

January 13, 2010

Islanders C Josh Bailey, with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in his last seven games, is playing up to his first-round pedigree.

Want to walk through (recent) hockey history? Check out the Wikipedia stub of Islanders first-round picks.

Here’s a sampling: Potvin; Gillies; Bossy; D. Sutter; B. Sutter; LaFontaine; Bertuzzi; Luongo.

Into this long line of Long Island legends has stepped C Josh Bailey, the ninth overall pick in 2008.

Overshadowed earlier this season by teammate C John Tavares — the first overall pick in 2009 — Bailey has been the most productive offensive player in the NHL since the calendar flipped to 2010.

The Islanders have played five times in the new year, going 4-1 and upping their overall record to 20-19-8. They’re now tied for 8th in the East. They have scored at least three goals in each of the five games. And Bailey, 20, has keyed this newfound offensive prowess. His totals for the five game stretch: three goals, seven assists, +5. Moreover, four of the five games were multi-point efforts for him.

Is it a fluke? Absolutely not. For one thing, there’s Bailey’s pedigree to fall back on. For another, he has scored in binges before. In the five-game stretch from Nov. 20-27, he lit the lamp in four of five matches.

What’s not to like? Well, Bailey is a center, so it might be tough to roster him if you’ve devoted your C slots to undroppable forces such as Henrik Sedin or Jonathan Toews.

Also, Bailey does not contribute in three key categories: shots on goal, penalty minutes and power play points. His power play prowess may be improving though: Bailey has three PPPs in his last two contests.

However, Bailey bandwagon jumpers need to remember that from Nov. 11 to Dec. 21, he went 18 games without a PPP. That time frame is significant; it overlaps with his previous four-goals-in-five-games binge from Nov. 20-27. All four of those goals came at even strength.

And so, insofar as fantasy hockey is a game you win by rostering scorers who also contribute in other statistical categories, Bailey may not be the wisest center to add.

Still, his recent scoring binge — 12 points in seven games since Dec. 29 — makes him worth monitoring (if not outright adding) in all formats. He is still available in a whopping 96 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 97 percent of ESPN games. Get him on your rosters or start scanning those Islanders box scores — starting Saturday night vs. Buffalo.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Time to drop Tavares? Plus thoughts on Tyler Myers

January 9, 2010

Long time, no score: It's seven games and counting without a point for Islanders C John Tavares.

The Islanders scored three goals in Friday night’s 4-3 loss at Dallas. For the seventh straight game, rookie sensation C John Tavares had nothing to do with the scoring.

Since Tavares is a center and a rookie, a drought like this warrants a simple question: Is he still worth a fantasy roster spot, especially with studs like Sabres D Tyler Myers (more on him later) available in many free agent pools?

Here at The Genius, we’ve always used the rookie season of second-year Lightning C Steven Stamkos as a comparison post for Tavares.

It is worth noting that Stamkos, as a rookie, did not hit a wall. Yes, he went through an eight-game scoring drought in November, 2008, and another five-game drought in January, 2009. But beginning with his hat trick Feb. 17, he scored 17 goals and eight assists in his final 26 games.

Whether Tavares is as good as Stamkos is an open question. But the pertinent facts here are (1) Stamkos did not hit a rookie wall; (2) Stamkos managed to produce down the stretch as a rookie pivot on a losing team.

Conclusion: Don’t drop Tavares just yet. In fact, now’s the time to acquire him on the cheap.  The Islanders visit Phoenix Saturday night at 8:00 pm, and this could be the game where Tavares starts to turn it around.

Meanwhile: Sabres D Tyler Myers, 19, had the sort of game Friday night that gets everyone’s fantasy attention: two goals and one assist, all on the power play, plus four shots on goal.

He has now scored in five of his last six. He has 20 assists on the season, leading all rookies. Standing 6-8, weighing a lithe 222, Myers recalls a young Zdeno Chara. So there’s all the more urgency to add him in keeper leagues, where he can be a mainstay of fantasy blue lines for the next 10 seasons.

For all his upside, for all his present-day value, for all his hype as a rookie sensation, Myers is owned in only 28 percent of Yahoo! leagues and 31 percent of ESPN formats. Why is this? Probably because of his 28-game goal-less streak from Nov. 6 to Jan. 3.

The Sabres next host the Avalanche  Saturday night at 7:00 pm EST. One more good game from Myers and you may lose the chance to add him to your roster.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons


Don’t You Forget About Me (Johan Franzen, getting closer)

January 7, 2010

Red Wings RW Johan Franzen, demi-god of the playoffs, is available in far too many fantasy leagues.

Let’s take a quick trip back to last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Red Wings RW Johan Franzen tallied 12 goals, 11 assists and 72 shots on goal in 23 games.

He was so dominant, he seemed like a safe bet to break out in 2009-10, especially because his regular season (34 goals, 25 assists, 246 shots) revealed plenty of promise.

Then Franzen went and tore his left ACL three games into this season.

Projected to miss four months, Franzen was dropped by many owners who’d spent a top-50 draft pick on him. As of Jan. 7, Franzen was available in 33.5 percent of ESPN leagues (where he is eligible at both C and RW) and 42 percent of Yahoo! formats (RW only).

The Genius is here to tell you: Grab Franzen if he’s still available. Originally projected to be out until March, Franzen may be ready to return in February. In fact, he’s already skating.

Rotowire recently dispatched the following report: “Franzen (knee) skated with his teammates on Tuesday morning, but is unsure if he’ll be able to return before the Olympics on Feb. 15, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“‘It’s only a pregame skate, so it’s not that hard, no battling, only up and down (the ice) and shoot a little bit,’ Franzen said. ‘Felt pretty good.’ Franzen was initially ticketed for a return in early March, but if things progress better than expected, he may be able to return a few weeks sooner.”

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons