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Karlsson shows the way

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Michael Finewax looks at the top leaders in ice time in The Power Play Report

“Patience is a virtue” is one of those well-worn phrases that can seem sage-like when they’re beneficial and merely a half-truth when inappropriate. (What kind of movie would “8 Mile” be if Eminem was SO patient that he missed his “moment to own it,” I must ask ...?)

In more than a few instances, I’ve recommended that fantasy owners practice patience when it came to star players struggling mightily, but ultimately the stakes are very low.


Sure, getting teased by your friends/frenemies/co-workers/nemeses and archenemies is a huge bummer. Still, your short-sightedness will only hurt your chance in a single-season league that probably didn’t cost much money to enter (if any) and potential millions of fans won’t think of you as the type who would draft Sam Bowie over Michael Jordan (or Alexandre Daigle instead of Chris Pronger, to keep it hockey-specific).

The most damaging moments of hastiness come when a sports franchise - or even one overly powerful GM or coach - lets a young superstar risk his career for short-term gains.

Sports fans love moments like Kirk Gibson hitting that home run on a leg and a half. In a gutsy sport like hockey, it’s practically part of the job description to play despite ailments that would cripple the effectiveness of athletes in less physically demanding sports and to shrug off pain that would torment and beguile Average Joe.

Such manliness can come at a cost, however.


Other sports provide glaring examples. You merely need to look back at the NFL’s most recent postseason to see a moment where short-term gains (even questionable short-term gains, at that) put arguably the most sensational offensive talent the league’s seen since Barry Sanders in grave danger of becoming merely another Nice Player.

In case you didn’t catch it yet, I’m talking about Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan foolishly allowing Robert Griffin III to determine his game-readiness in the face of serious knee/leg worries. (I say knee/leg because there were multiple worries by the end of that ugly evening against the Seattle Seahawks.)

While it’s easy to beat up on Shanahan with the hindsight of a severe injury in mind, the warning signs were as glaring as a damaged knee encased in ice. As you may remember, RG III’s leg gave out from underneath him a sickening scene and now the Redskins must hope against hope that the preternatural talent can beat the one-in-a-million odds and bounce back as strong as ever like Adrian Peterson before him.

All, for what? To see if a wild card could win a game or two? While the NFL has seen its share of upstarts win surprising championships, it still seems like a foolish gamble.


RG III is just one of many cautionary tales* that makes me deeply worried about Erik Karlsson’s shockingly quick return from a torn Achilles tendon. In case you haven’t heard, the Ottawa Senators are essentially leaving it up to the stupendous Swede to decide if he’s ready to play on Thursday.

As the linked PHT post notes, Karlsson would return 71 days after Matt Cooke’s nefarious skate blade cut that vulnerable spot. The most optimistic windows for his return pointed toward three-to-six months (aka 90 days minimum), so that means he would return nearly three weeks early than the best case scenario.



Look, I’m not a doctor, let alone one who’s taken a look at Karlsson. So maybe I’m just being a worry wart who scribbles down notes of the guys who came back soon only to regret it. These are superb physical specimens we’re talking about, after all.

Still, the Karlsson-RG III parallels are making my stomach turn a bit. Both were born in 1990. Both have phenomenal instincts that lead you to believe that they’ll be strong players even when their world-class speed subsides to merely superior quickness ... but you’d rather have them take your breath away with that blazing acceleration as long as possible. Each player won a major award in their respective leagues and both have a tendency to win over fans of rival teams.**

And like Griffin III, Karlsson’s team doesn’t seem particularly capable of a deep run.

Look, I think Paul MacLean is a world-class coach and the team’s goaltending has been outstanding. It’s tough to knock the overall work ethic, either.

Still, if your mortgage or life was on the line, how many teams would you choose over the Senators to win the Cup? As great as Karlsson is, it’s unlikely that he pushes them to contender status. Especially if he’s lost a few mph off his fastball.

Big gambles should at least carry the potential for big rewards, and I just don’t see it for the Senators.


All that aside, if you’re wondering if Karlsson’s worth adding if he’s been dropped in your league ... YES, SWEET MERCY, YES. Add him the second it’s clear he’ll play (if it happens) today.

The mere IDEA of Karlsson is worth more than about 80 percent of fantasy defensemen alone.

Jump for scattered NHL thoughts.

* - Another good example is Brandon Roy, who was allowed to hastily enter the 2010 playoffs on a Portland Trail Blazers team that didn’t really have a shot at going deep in the postseason that year. Roy’s career (and wonky knees) never had a chance after that.

** - 1. If you don’t enjoy what Karlsson does just because he occasionally embarrasses your Bruins/Leafs/etc., you’re a cold human. 2. I’m a New York Giants fan but I was OUTRAGED that Shanahan would risk RG III’s health for his day-to-day ego lubrication. Honestly, I’m getting worked up again about it ...


Well, in maybe the most predictable suspension of the season, the NHL handed Dustin Brown a two-game unpaid vacation for his elbow on Minnesota Wild winger Jason Pominville (whose status seems day-to-day at the moment).

It’s not so much about the punishment fitting or not fitting “the crime.” Instead, it’s about a laughable league disciplinary wing that allows itself to be pushed around by outside influences to the point of being just about as aimless and pathetic as it ever was.

Brendan Shanahan might be more video-friendly and accessible than Colin Campbell, but it’s still a matter of “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.”

(Obviously drop Brown right now.)


The Phoenix Coyotes were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs on Wednesday, but the scrappy team couldn’t transition immediately to “tank mode.” (The Edmonton Oilers just snicker “Amateurs.”)

One guy who won’t punt the last games of the season away either way is Mike Smith, which is fabulous news for his fantasy owners. He still has his next contract - probably his biggest one - to earn as a pending unrestricted free agent.

It’s been an up-and-down season and a couple extra nice games might not force GMs to run for their wallets much quicker, but throwing another win or two - or better yet, a shutout - might move the needle ever-so-slightly.

His owners wouldn’t mind.


It looks like Roberto Luongo will play for the Canucks on Thursday, if not the last two games. Cory Schneider seems to have a lower-body injury, although hopefully it’s just a matter of resting him for the playoffs ... Ray Emery suffered a lower-body injury last night, but at least he got the win. The takeaway is that if this is a noteworthy issue, that opens the door that much wider for Corey Crawford, already Chicago’s No.1. In other words, feel more empowered to draft Crawford in playoff pools ... Want a dark horse goalie for next season? Consider making Devan Dubnyk your third guy. Despite a sub-.500 record, he managed a very nice .920 save percentage. If new GM Craig MacTavish manages to make the Oilers more than a team that merely seems appealing in Potential Dreamland, big DD could be a steal ... Brent Burns scored his ninth goal as a forward. That move seemed to work out fairly well for the Sharks, eh? ... Just when Johan Franzen was heating up, he’s day-to-day with an undisclosed issue (aka being Johan Franzen) ... Ryan Whitney is day-to-day with a leg injury ... Brooks Orpik is day-to-day with a lower-body issue, because a Penguins player hasn't been newly wounded in a while ... Barret Jackman is day-to-day with an ankle issue.

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