Whatever creed you do - or don’t - subscribe to, there’s no getting around the fact that this week is in which holiday breaks happen. (Well, unless you’re in The Sect of Lucky College Kid, in which case you have about five or six weeks to bum around, ya bum.*) It’s not a coincidence that the NHL is shutting down on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, after all.
Now, while this is the season of let’s-all-agree-vacation-time-is-good, it’s also a time marked by transportational inconveniences.
Your humble author is constructing this latest column with a belly full of truly substandard “sirloin steak” in Houston, which is notably not the intended destination of today’s travels. Adding insult to intestinal injury, this meal involved taxi cabs and other expenditures that meant I actually seeked out such self-punishment.
Such a plight is far, far lower on the scale of yuletide misery than many others are facing around the world. That being said, I admit that I’m bewildered by the lack of delivery options in such a major city, and this has happened in large burghs other than Houston, too.
Beyond forcing me to mention that delivery options clearly must not have been a make-or-break consideration for Dwight Howard’s free agent rush last summer, this personal hassle really highlights how often we ignore the human aspect of sports. Especially when you consider the enormity of an 82-game schedule.
Seriously, how unfair is it for us to lambaste an athlete for looking lackadaisical a) when we could never live up to such scrutiny if our own work was judged so often by so many and b) the guy might just be flat-out tired.
Not everyone has the same motor. Some guys can continue to slam against a wall like a crash test dummy, grinding out results by sheer will. Others might only feel “good” for about half of a given month. Identifying the guys who can run hot here and there is a lot more rewarding (in fantasy and hockey-watching in general) than it is to poke and prod at weaknesses that may just be imagined. Or at least it’s significantly more festive.
Granted, all of this sentimental talk doesn’t mean change much - if anything - about the Hockey Dose. If a guy hasn’t contributed in any meaningful way over a long haul, I’ll probably tell you to cut him loose, even if he’s the nicest guy with the kindest intentions.
Maybe it’s just the judgmental tone many project while discussing these subjects, then; instead of accusing a guy of having character flaws, perhaps we should focus on the human behind that “character.”
Anyway, enough of that mushy stuff. Let’s transition back to cold calculation/the excellence of execution, shall we?
INJURIES (full list), QUICK HITS SOME SUSPENSION TALK
The injuries and other burning issues from this weekend are significant enough that it’s probably best just to dive right in (at least now that some of the flight delay angst has dissipated).
-- Here’s the most “Marian Gaborik” recap ever: In his first game back since missing 17 games on Saturday, the Columbus Blue Jackets winger suffered a broken collarbone thanks to the freakish circumstances surrounding a seemingly innocuous hit.
At least Nathan Horton may finally debut for Columbus soon …
-- Tomas Hertl’s season may very well be over after he suffered what looks like a knee injury. Call him Sergei Samsonov 2.0 if you please (OK, it sounds like something I would do). Dustin Brown avoided a suspension for the controversial hit. He’s dodged the league’s judgment quite a few times in his productive and combative NHL career ...
-- How many more pushes do fantasy owners need to grab Martin Jones. He’s producing record-tying (and possibly breaking a record or two) work, as he’s 8-0-0 to begin the 2013-14 season.
-- Like Baxter eating an entire cheese wheel in the fridge, I’m more impressed than annoyed by the NHL’s stall tactics regarding Shawn Thornton’s appeal of a 15-game suspension. Thornton was about to miss his seven game when he made his five-hour argument to Gary Bettman. Thornton might not hear Bettman’s decision until after Monday, when the rugged winger will miss his eighth contest.
At this point, it seems clear that the NHL is fine with stretching things out (and thus limiting the upside for Thornton to appeal in the first place). Something tells me the NHLPA would probably vote in favor of skipping Bettman’s biased, inevitably pro-NHL appeal decision and instead favor going straight to an independent arbitrator.
How many games will elapse before an arbitrator can consider his case? The way things are going, it wouldn’t be surprising if that stretches out into 2014. I also wouldn’t be surprised if “the way things are going” are “exactly what Bettman planned.”
-- Roberto Luongo suffered a lower-body injury on Sunday. It’s unclear if this will be something that will keep Luongo out for a lengthy amount of time, but either way, Eddie Lack should at least be on your radar.
The 25-year-old is on a four-game winning streak and hasn't lost a game since Nov. 10. Even better, he's bounced back impressively since allowing four goals in a season debut victory. Overall, he's 6-2-0 with a .928 save percentage and 1.93 GAA. Bobby Lou's the obvious stalwart workhorse here, but Lack's short-term prospects seem promising. Lack is also only owned in nine percent of leagues.
-- While David Backes (concussion) returned sooner than usual by playing for St. Louis on Saturday, it appears that Alexander Steen is now injured. It’s not fair to pull things back to Steen’s injury issues before … although many of us wonder if an ailment was inevitable for the fragile forward.
-- Sergei Gonchar is out 7-10 days with a concussion.
-- It sounds like Jimmy Howard is shooting for a return in the 2014 Winter Classic. It’s too bad that both the Detroit Red Wings and Toronto Maple Leafs seem to be stunning into that outdoor event.
-- Seth Jones took a puck to the face and didn’t return on Saturday. The prominent rookie has seen his ice time plummet each month, cooling down talks that he’s already a valuable fantasy defenseman. It seems like most/all of his reps are going to Roman Josi, who’s worth a look in deeper leagues.
Damien Brunner’s sidelined for about a month right as he was heating up … Josh Gorges has a lower-body injury … Steve Downie’s out 7-10 days, but at least it’s reportedly not a concussion … Shane Doan has “Rocky Mountain disease.” Contrary to many reports, that isn’t something you contract while drinking Coors Light with John Elway as you both listen to John Denver records … Marcus Johansson remains an underrated fantasy forward, but he’s slowed by a lower-body injury.
Programming note: No Doses for Wednesday and Thursday. Yes, I know you’ll miss the cringe-inducing puns, but they’ll be back this coming week ...
* - Is that tone based on jealousy because I always had to slog through some soul-smooshing telemarketing job during what would have been glorious vacation time. NO, HOW DARE YOU FOR MAKING SUCH A GROUNDLESS CLAIM.