With fantasy football playoffs under way, it can be hard to concentrate on anything else. I got rid of one league over the weekend. For reasons that made sense to me at one point, I made the league in which I'm the commissioner a point-per-reception league. After going up against Jason Witten (15 receptions) and Wes Welker (nine) in the first round of the playoffs, I smell a rule change coming in 2008. The good news (I guess) is that I'm still alive in the Friends and Family league. I've advanced to the semifinals in football and sit in third in NBA and fourth in NHL. Could be my F&F high-water mark. Let's get to the recap …
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
Things to do Monday: Sign Dustin Byfuglien. He occupied this space one week ago, but perhaps the advice wasn't spelled out clearly enough, because as of Sunday he remained available in 67 percent of Yahoo! leagues. First the raw numbers: Byfuglien has five goals, four assists and eight penalty minutes in his last six games. Over the last month he ranks 11th among defense-eligible players in standard scoring leagues. Now the sales pitch: Only an injury prevented Byfuglien from making the Blackhawks' opening-day roster. When he did finally get called up, he played defense (his natural position). It was from the Chicago blueline that he scored three goals to become the third defenseman in team history to record a hat trick.
Lately, however, Byfuglien has been skating as a forward. And we're not talking a fourth-line assignment that awaits most defensemen-turned-forwards. No, Byfuglien got a prime assignment alongside center Robert Lang and wing Martin Havalt. "I like this [line]," coach Denis Savard told the Chicago Sun-Times. "I like it a lot, actually." Just how long he remains up front remains to be seen. An injury to Jason Williams prompted the move in the first place. But seeing how his size-skill combination has been effective from either position, it appears he's a safe play as a No. 2 or 3 defenseman in most formats.
Forget what I said about: Last week's Market Mover upgrade, Jarret Stoll, was a healthy scratch Friday against the Blues. So much for that. Of course, you never know how guys will react to a benching. … Guillaume Latendresse's audition on Montreal's No. 1 line was short-lived.
One-timers: Kris Beech has five points in five games this season and has been centering Rick Nash on Columbus' No. 1 line in recent games. … Mathieu Dandenault is getting a shot on Montreal's No. 1 line, playing alongside Christopher Higgins and Saku Koivu. … The Edmonton Sun is reporting that Oilers defenseman Sheldon Souray expects to return Tuesday against the Blues. … Alexei Zhitnik amazingly has gone 24 games without a point for the Thrashers. … Alex Auld made his second straight start in net for the Bruins Monday.
BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Shawn Horcoff, C, Edm – I'm cheating here. Horcoff's ownership spiked a bit last week and he's now owned in 54 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Considering I went with a guy owned in less than five percent of leagues last week (Colby Armstrong), I'm giving myself some leeway here. Horcoff's six-game point streak includes four goals and five assists. In the Friends and Family league, I traded Patrick Marleau for Milan Michalek and used Horcoff to fill the void at center. Everyone probably has two productive centers, yes – no way a 30-point wing is still available in about half of leagues – but you can use Horcoff as a depth guy to make a similar move in your league.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Ryan O'Byrne, D, Mon – The good: O'Byrne picked up two assists in his NHL debut Thursday. The not-so-good: The 6-foot-5 defenseman was held off the scoresheet and was a minus-2 in 19 minutes in his Saturday encore. Worth watching, however.
Alexander Semin, LW, Was – A series of injuries landed Semin on Washington's No. 1 line for Friday's loss. Semin (74 percent owned) has a modest two-game point streak. The way things have gone this year for the 2006-07 fantasy darling, just playing in back-to-back games is a victory.
Mark Recchi, RW, Atl – After piling up 27 points on the power play last year, Recchi was on pace for just 11 man-advantage points with the Penguins this season. Considering that Atlanta has the 23rd-ranked power play in the NHL, you have to figure Recchi will get his share of time on special teams with his new employers.
Aaron Voros, LW, Min – He scored his fifth goal of the season Saturday and traded punches with Columbus tough guy Jared Boll. Over the past few weeks Voros has actually been a better points-PIM option than Phoenix scofflaw Daniel Carcillo.
Robert Nilsson, LW, Edm – The 15th-overall pick from the 2003 draft has goals in back-to-back games and points in five straight overall.
Steve Downie, RW, Phi – His lengthy suspension over, Downie joined the Flyers lineup and didn't make much of an impact in two games – he played 4:39 and 5:38. It's easy to dismiss him as a thug due to the suspension, but remember that Downie was a first-round pick in 2005 and he's been compared favorably to Rick Tocchet, a guy who scored 40 goals twice for the Flyers. You'll want to monitor that ice time.
Radim Vrbata, RW, Pho – With a goal Sunday, Vrbata now has six goals in his last seven games. Assuming he keeps firing away – he's gotten four or more shots off in seven of nine – he makes a solid No. 2 RW.
Niklas Kronwall, D, Det – On the radar seemingly forever, Kronwall is having the most productive fantasy stretch of his career with a goal and five assists in six games. He's also a plus-5, a requirement for Red Wings blueliners.
Michael Ryder, RW, Mon – Speaking of press box seating, Ryder was a healthy scratch last week and has tumbled to Montreal's third line when he suit up.
Yahoo! Friends and Family League
Rotowire-McLarney ends FHC-Ryan's long stay atop the standings. I pulled the trigger on the Marleau for Michalek swap and parted ways with Eric Johnson. The Blues' depth on defense makes it all too easy for St. Louis to sit the rookie. He was claimed via waivers, however, so there's obviously some value there. Pens defenseman Kris Letang was on the other side of the transaction. If only those shootout goals counted.