Forgive me for stating the obvious, but severe injuries are among the scariest threats for teams in both the fantasy realm and in reality. All you need to do is ask Ottawa Senators GM Bryan Murray or any Erik Karlsson owner (probably former owner) how devastating it can be to see a top player’s season end in the blink of an eye.
It’s as if your season got in a head-on collision.
Still, if you ask me, sometimes it’s easier to deal with the blunt-force obviousness of such a scenario. If your car is totaled, it’s definitely a disaster (especially if you give your car a thematic nickname like Erik Car-lsson), but there’s no denying the fact that you have to just put that crushed heap of aluminum behind you. The fantasy equivalent comes down to placing Karlsson on the IR (if you’re an optimist with IR slots to spare) or dropping him altogether.
The moments that irk me almost as much are the smaller dings and dents that come from day-to-day injuries, especially ones where those “days” morph into weeks.
In those cases, the “Drop him or keep him?” questions linger like the telltale screech of poorly maintained brakes. In many cases, it’s difficult to tell you have a lemon on your hands until it’s too late.
(Conversely, it hurts that much more if you decide to sell that car only to see someone driving it around town, all shiny-like and renewed.)
AT LEAST PONDER PARTING WAYS
It’s easier to hold onto a banged-up jalopy earlier in the season, however.
In many leagues, people are either in the fantasy hockey championship round or some sort of consolation showdown. (That must explain why guys like Brian Elliott are still widely available. The best 2-4 teams might already have the goaltending that they need while the rest of the league is either a) going through the motions or b) already focused on putting together the best imaginary baseball team they can muster.)
Ultimately, you either have a week or two weeks left,* so it’s your duty to ask a tough question: “Will this guy play in enough games to justify lugging him around on my roster through the games he won’t play?”
Honestly, it’s hard to make an overwhelming argument in favor of keeping a slew of guys with fairly significant injuries. I’m not going to go one-by-one through every team in the league - that would be tedious to read and to research - but here are the factors you should consider:
1. Is he a star? If so, then this decision does get significantly tougher. (Note: I’d almost definitely part ways with Sidney Crosby, though, as he hasn’t even resumed skating yet. Unless you have two weeks left ... then downgrade “95 percent certain” to “85 percent sure.”) Then again, is it better to have 0-2 games with a stellar player or 6-8 with a useful part?
2. Is his team comfortably in a playoff spot/already clearly the division winner? If so, his team will probably handle that situation with kid gloves.
3. Is that team in the cellar instead? In the event that the answer is yes, it’s close to the same pattern as option No. 2, although bad teams sometimes have dumber, more stubborn management so you never know.
4. What’s the nature of the injury? If it sounds anything like a concussion or is a more troubling type of lower-body issue (say, an ankle or groin problem), then these situations can be a lot worse than day-to-day headaches.
5. What is the team saying? Yes, NHL head coaches and GM’s are known for being jerks to fantasy owners when it comes to shrouding every bump and bruise (both big and small) in deeper mystery than a Raymond Chandler yarn, but sometimes they’ll give you hope/provide foreboding details between the lines.
If pondering all five of those possible factors doesn’t inspire you to drop a guy, then maybe he really is worth keeping around. Or maybe you just can’t stand watching that imaginary tow truck drive away with old, helpless Erik Carlsson after the many trips you took together.
Still, having that extra level of courage and killer instinct might just allow you to enjoy a victory lap or two.
Jump for thoughts on this weekend’s events.
* - Unless you’re already done. If that’s the case, you must REALLY like automotive accident analogies. Hey, I’m not complaining, though.
From a fantasy goaltending standpoint, this weekend’s biggest story was probably Brian Elliott attempting to extend his impressive shutout streak.
While that fizzled out early in the second period of the St. Louis Blues’ eventual 2-0 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on Sunday, it’s still quite the accomplishment - and a nice way to introduce one of the most noteworthy half-themes of the weekend. (Elliott can hold his head high, too; the Blackhawks couldn’t score on him soon enough to ruin his bid at the Blues’ all-time shutout streak. He set a new mark with 214 scoreless minutes. That also ended a five-game winning streak for a guy who’s been playing well enough that I’ve practically been screaming his name from mountaintops to get you to add him.)
Because of a day off and that loss to the Windy City’s dominant squad, Elliott didn’t actually get a shutout this weekend. A nice smattering of others did, however:
Henrik Lundqvist finally notched his first one of the season on Saturday, stopping 29 New York Islanders shots in a tense 1-0 OT win for the New York Rangers.
Corey Crawford produced his third goose egg of 2013 by stopping 30 Blues shots in that 2-0 victory on Sunday.
Jimmy Howard stopped 22 out of 22 on Sunday to regain the Detroit Red Wings’ hold on the eighth spot in the West (which the Dallas Stars briefly took thanks to Richard Bachman’s near-perfect play of late).
Jhonas Enroth blanked the slumping Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday, making 29 out of 29 saves. He also only allowed one-goal in another win a day later.
Craig Anderson had a “that’s more like it” performances on Friday, befuddling the New Jersey Devils with a 33-save shutout, marking his first victory since returning from that meddlesome injury.
INJURY NOTES (full list) and QUICK HITS
One guy who’s a real keep/drop conundrum is Joffrey Lupul. The Maple Leafs said he’s “really close” to returning, but what does that mean, exactly? One point I might have neglected to mention before: it’s plausible that you can drop and then add a guy if you change your mind, especially since you might have waiver priority over your opponents (at least the ones who are still paying close attention) ... It sounds like Ilya Kovalchuk won’t play in Monday’s game against Toronto. He’s another tough call because it seems like he’s not that far away, but the Devils might be wiser just to play it safe with their $100 million man ... If the season ended today, Alex Ovechkin would be your Maurice Richard winner with 27 goals ... Mikhail Grabovski, Dave Bolland and Martin Erat were among the players who returned from injuries on Sunday ... Filip Forsberg made his NHL debut. He's a pretty big gamble, but hyped rookies are fun gambles to latch onto, no doubt ... Patrick Sharp's shoulder seems like it might be acting up again. Wait for an update, but at least leave your finger hovering over the trigger on this one ... A knee injury seems to have ended Alex Tanguay's season ... Artem Anisimov was concussed by Charlie Coyle's hit. I'd say drop him since he was already on the margins ... Depending upon whom you ask, Evgeni Malkin's day-to-day either with a shoulder issue or a sun burn. Not likely drop material so far, though the Pittsburgh Penguins have as much incentive to rest guys as anyone in the league ... Tobias Enstrom's middle-body/back problem is now a week-to-week deal. Sadly, it's time to let him go, then.