("Sleepers, Keepers , Bench'em or Drop'em" is a weekly fantasy hockey column written by Darryl "Dobber" Dobbs, an honest-to-goodness expert on such matters and founder of DobberHockey.com. His column will run on Puck Daddy every Thursday.)
So Andrei Markov(notes) is out for a few months and just like that he has gone from a top five offensive rearguard to your reserve list. It took all of one game for many poolies to lose their top defenseman and some of you are already folding like grandma's laundry.
Are you drunk? No. Well, maybe a little. I am aware that Mara had just 61 points over the last three campaigns, but he had 47 points for Phoenix in the season prior to that. When the other options include Jaroslav "I only show up during contract years" Spacek and Roman "offense go bye-bye" Hamrlik, the Habs will rely more and more on Mr. Mara.
Claude Giroux(notes), Philadelphia Flyers - The only thing that has changed as far as scoring forwards on the Flyers go since March is the fact that James van Riemsdyk(notes) is there. I don't see that as a detriment to Giroux's production in any way shape, or form. He'll have a great year despite the sluggish start.
Jonas Gustavsson(notes), Toronto Maple Leafs - Whether he re-signs in Toronto or not (he probably will), Gustavsson has shown that he is an NHL goaltender. This, despite just one start and several periods (including preseason) of relief - like all fantasy owners, I judge quickly and make snap decisions. He's quick, he's agile and he's outplayed counterpart Vesa Toskala(notes). Although, over the past year or so, that hasn't been a difficult thing to do.
Brooks Laich(notes), Washington Capitals - At 26 he is just entering his prime. I would have figured that for this guy to ever put up the sexy numbers, he would need to land a plum job on Alex Ovechkin's line. That is not the case, but he has carved himself a sweet-ass job on Washington's top power play. So every time Ovechkin scores on the PP, or each time Nicklas Backstrom(notes) dishes a perfect setup - Laich has a three in five shot at stealing a point.
Michael Frolik(notes), Florida Panthers - He's the most dynamic player that Florida has seen since Pavel Bure and I know it's bold to predict him to lead the squad in points this year, but I'm pretty tempted. I will say this - he'll be a Top 20 scorer in the league by 2012. He has 45 points in his last 62 games and he is still only 21.
James Wisniewski(notes), Anaheim Ducks - Another Band-Aid Boy, so proceed with caution, but Wisniewski's offense is underrated in fantasy leagues. Coach Randy Carlyle is accustomed to doling out all the ice time to three defensemen. This leaves the other four to see as much playing time as a 19-year-old on a Ken Hitchcock team. With Chris Pronger(notes) and Francois Beauchemin(notes) gone, this means that Scott Niedermayer(notes), Ryan Whitney(notes) and Wisniewski eat up 28 minutes per game each.
Craig Anderson(notes), Colorado Avalanche - All he needed was a chance. In Florida he got half of one - and didn't disappoint. In Colorado, he'll have all the starts he wants and more. If the Avs get 38 wins this campaign, Anderson will earn 36 of them. Peter Budaj(notes) will do his best Scott Clemmensen(notes) impression and keep the water bottles full, ready to step in both times when needed.
Matt Carle(notes), Philadelphia Flyers- A four-point game always turns my head. Most defensemen take so long to start posting solid numbers that it's hard to stay patient. It's equally hard to tell if one is finally taking that step to the next level, or if he's just teasing. Carle is now seeing more power-play time than Kimmo Timonen(notes) and Braydon Coburn(notes) and as long as that keeps up, he is definitely in the former category.
Jason Demers(notes), San Jose Sharks - A 64-point rearguard in junior, Demers managed just two goals in his first and only season in the AHL. However, Dany Heatley(notes) and Joe Thornton(notes) make for a slight upgrade over Ryan Vesce(notes) and Lukas Kaspar(notes). A sleeper pick for 35-plus points this season.
BENCH 'EM OR DROP 'EM
Rod Brind'Amour(notes), Carolina Hurricanes - He's slowed down before and poolies wrote off Rod the Bod, before a year off thanks to the lockout made him a new man. This year there is no lockout and at 39, even though he could kick my ass and sip on a protein shake at the same time, Father Time has finally caught up to Brindy. He may still get you 45 points, but his 50-point years are behind him. Drop him.
Ryane Clowe(notes), San Jose Sharks - The odd man out of the new and mighty Dany Heatley-Joe Thornton-Devin Setoguchi(notes) line, Clowe has stumbled out of the gate. Now that he lost his talented center Joe Pavelski(notes) for a couple of weeks, things look about as promising as a Vesa Toskala shutout. He'll bounce back and flirt with 50 points, but it doesn't look like things will start rolling anytime soon. Bench him.
Vesa Toskala, Toronto Maple Leafs - Where to begin. Injuries were an excuse last season and "it's still early" makes for a good excuse at the present, but at what point do you admit that he has Jose Theodored his way into mediocrity and stick him on your bench? I'd say - now. A change of scenery could help, but we won't see that until January or February. Bench him.
Andrei Kostitsyn(notes), Montreal Canadiens - As mentioned last week, the Kostitsyn brothers just haven't been the same since their pictures were splashed all over the Montreal media in the spring. While Sergei gets demoted, Andrei puts up goose eggs. Proof - in the four games prior to the February 20 headline, A.K. had seven points. In the 27 regular season and playoff contests since - just four points. Bench him.
Darryl Dobbs is the founder of dobberhockey.com, a fantasy hockey community with over a dozen columnists, a daily blog and in-depth fantasy player rankings. His always accurate opinions can also be found over at The Hockey News in their fantasy section.