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Frozen Fantasy: Lead Weights

What does more harm to your fantasy roster – a star who sits out 4-to-6 weeks with an injury or a star who completely underwhelms?

I’ll take an injury any day.

It’s way easier to deal with a major injury than a lead weight on your roster, even if there are no IR spots in your league. We always tend to panic when an injury hits. But it’s way harder to compensate for a lead weight on your roster. Particularly when you drafted that lead weight early.

Martin Brodeur(notes). Dion Phaneuf(notes). Sergei Gonchar(notes). Jay Bouwmeester(notes). Daniel Alfredsson(notes). Jason Spezza(notes) (pre-injury). Ilya Kovalchuk(notes). The list goes on.

It takes stones to sit them.

I have Phaneuf and Spezza in the Friends and Family league. They seemed like a good idea at the time. And I kept Kovy in an auction league as a hedge against inflation.

And every game (or week), I keep thinking these guys will break out. Or recover. Right. And pigs can fly.

You need at least two major overachievers to compensate for every lead-weight star in your lineup. And just how likely is that? At least you can bench or IR injured guys and get some kind of modest production from their replacements. More production than a lot of these underachievers have delivered.

The bigger question is this – when do you drop one of these guys? Can you drop them?

Dion Phaneuf was my fifth-round pick (don’t judge – remember, I was the only person in F & F who ended up in an auto draft). Injury aside, he should be delivering more than one goal and six assists in 23 games. He’s not even Phaneufing anyone any more.

No one will take him in trade but they’d sure nab him off the wire if I dropped him. And the best available replacement on our wire is named Adrian Aucoin(notes).

I’m keeping Phaneuf. I think.

Now let’s take a look at who caught my eye this week.

Bryan Bickell(notes), LW, Chicago (8 percent owned) – Bickell has been lurking on the Hawks’ power forward depth chart for a while but he’s never put it all together … until now. He seems to have figured out how to use his big body without taking stupid penalties and the result has been quietly outstanding since the start of December. He has been held off the score sheet just four times in his last 15 games and has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in that span. He’s worth rolling even without power-pay time.

Matt Carle(notes), D, Philadelphia (23 percent owned) – Carle’s two-helper outburst Thursday extended his point streak to four games and five assists. He’s top-25 on the scoring list from the blue line but he’s only owned in one of every four leagues. What gives? His true shortcoming is his lack of power-play production – every one of his 21 points has come at even strength. But he’s chugging along at a 40-point pace; there has to be value there somewhere.

Steve Downie(notes), RW, Tampa Bay (53 percent owned) – This little pulverizer is back from that ankle injury and already has nine PIMs in his first two games. But as you know, he’s more than just a pretty pugilistic face – he can score. He’s lurking on the wire in almost half of Yahoo! leagues; he’s a multi-category stud who can help you if you need to play catch-up in the sin-bin category.

Johan Hedberg(notes), G, New Jersey (6 percent owned) – Moose hasn’t exactly usurped Martin Brodeur’s throne with his performance; he got the starter’s reins because Marty has, well, sucked. But a starting goalie is a starting goalie, particularly if you’re desperate and you have games to give in net. He might help with spot starts.

Chris Higgins(notes), LW, Florida (2 percent owned) – Wow. Just when we’d all given him up for dead, Higgins started sniping again. He’s a three-time 20-goal scorer whose offense had evaporated the last couple seasons. But right now, he’s on a four-game point streak (three goals, two assists) and has five goals in his last six outings. He’s a great skater who might just be a good mesh with future stud Michael Frolik(notes) (17 percent owned). And best of all, he’s plus-10 on a squad that sits fifth in the Southeast division and 10th in the Eastern conference. He may be a decent short-term roll, particularly if you need some markers.

Steve Kampfer(notes), D, Boston (0 percent owned) – Who? Kampfer has scored a goal in three of the Bruins’ last five games. He’s a mobile, undersized defender who can skate with most forwards – he even rolled there at times during his collegiate career. And he’s not afraid to throw the body despite his 5-foot-10, sub-190-pound frame. He’s way down the B’s list of blue line prospects but I think he’s going to surprise a lot of people.

Jamie Langenbrunner(notes), RW, New Jersey (32 percent owned) – He may be 35 and he may be completely out of favor in the swamp. He’s currently on the trade block and a move is imminent. And pretty much anywhere is better than Jersey. He can still put points on the board, maybe even at a 55-point pace. And you can be sure that he’ll be inspired to stick it to the Devils once he has been moved. He’s a speculative pick right now; what do you have to lose by ditching your least-productive player to see what this guy can give you?

Jamie McBain(notes), D, Carolina (13 percent owned) – McBain is the future of the Canes’ blue line attack but he has scuffled for large parts of this season. But for the next couple games, he’ll get the injured Joni Pitkanen’s(notes) ice time on the power play and that might just result in a couple quick points. You’ll need to roll him off your roster just as fast as you rolled him on – he’s not a long-term option, at least for this season.

P.A. Parenteau(notes), RW, N.Y. Islanders (9 percent owned) – Parenteau is a career journeyman who has never found a fit in the NHL; that is, until he landed on the Island of Misfit Toys. This guy can score – he was a consistent point-per-game player in the AHL. And he has been flashing some of that skill since mid-December. He has points in six of his last eight games (four goals, four assists) and half of those came on the power play. He’s developing some chemistry with John Tavares(notes) (82 percent owned) and that can only be good for both of them. Cripes, it sure has been lately. I nabbed him for one of my head-to-head leagues and I’m eyeballing him for a couple others. You should take a look, too.

Rich Peverley(notes), C, Atlanta (17 percent owned) – Peverley looked lost heading into 2011. He’d gone seven games without a point and he’d racked up a brutal minus-seven rating in those same games. But something happened when the clock struck New Year’s – maybe he made a resolution to shoot more. He has fired 12 shots in two games to start 2011 (for comparison, he had 15 shots for the entire month of October) and it has resulted in three goals. He can’t carry the world on his shoulders but he’s the kind of player who can thrive with top linemates. It’s just a hunch but I think he could be a guy who brings it in the second half. I picked him up just in case.

James Reimer(notes), G, Toronto (2 percent owned) – Reimer is a big, talented netminder. And while he won’t be in the bigs for long, he does have the ability to string together a couple of impressive starts that can help all of your goalie categories. Don’t believe me? I grabbed and activated Cedric Desjardins of the Bolts last week, and ended up with two wins and great boosts to my save percentage and goals-against average before I dumped him three days later. AHL call-ups are always eager to prove their worth; Reimer has the talent to do it. And it’s not like Jonas Gustavsson(notes) (36 percent owned) has been a brick wall. Or Jean-Sebastian Giguere (21 percent owned) has been healthy.

Dwayne Roloson(notes), G, Tampa Bay (41 percent owned) – Dr. Jekyll or Mr. Hyde? It was a tale of two goaltenders this week – a shutout in his debut (the first-ever by a Bolt twine tender) and then a complete undressing Wednesday night at the hands of the Pens. So which is it? It’s somewhere in between but I think it’s a whole lot closer to his first game as a Bolt than his second – he’s playing behind a much better team than he was last week. His ownership has skyrocketed since I recommended him two weeks ago (from seven to 41 percent). But there are still plenty of leagues where he’s available. He’ll help you.

Ryan Suter(notes), D, Nashville (39 percent owned) – Suter is the John Deere of defensemen – the most reliable money can buy. He’s ultra low maintenance, works hard and has a heavy shot. He picked up two helpers Thursday night to run his point streak to three games and four helpers. And he has 18 points in just 29 games – that’ll give him 44 points on the season if he keeps up his current pace. Guess who I'd rather have than Mr. Phaneuf …

Scottie Upshall(notes), RW, Phoenix (5 percent owned) – Guess who’s Shane Doan’s(notes) linemate? Yep, this pesky and talented energy winger is riding on the coattails of one of the hottest guys in the NHL. Upshall isn’t just a pretty face, though – this guy was on a breakout campaign last year before he blew out his knee at the end of last January. He started slowly this year – 12 points in 34 games – before his recent four-game, seven-point scoring streak. He’s always an injury risk – that’s the challenge with little guys who think they’re power forwards. But I smell a sweet second half as long as he can stay healthy.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic(notes), D, San Jose (5 percent owned) – Vlasic is a quiet, conservative defender who started the season on a 27-game point slump. So why is he here? He has quietly put up eight points in his last 14 games including three in his last four. He won’t put you over the top but he won’t sink you, either.

James Wisniewski(notes), D, Montreal (70 percent owned) – Wiz is the perfect fit for Montreal – he’s now the go-to guy on the PP on a team bound for the playoffs. He needs to be owned in all but the shallowest of leagues. And he might even be worth a look in those. Check your wire and see if someone has been sleeping on him.

Keep an eye on …

T.J. Oshie(notes), C, St. Louis (18 percent owned) – Oshie is still a couple weeks away but he’s definitely a guy you should have on your radar. He’s a talent who’ll deliver great numbers in all categories once he returns. After all, he was on a career pace before he went down. At worst, he’ll put a major spark into the entire Blues’ lineup.

Back to the lead weights.

It’s midseason. When would you cut bait on these guys?

A buddy of mine sat Martin Brodeur two weeks ago and hasn’t looked back. This week, he even rolled an injured netminder who “might” be back this week instead of Marty. But he hasn’t sat Kovalchuk. Yet.

It’s a tough call. I hope I have his stones, sooner rather than later.

Until next week.

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