Last week we took a look at several NBA fantasy league slow starters, and proposed waiver wire options to help plug holes. This week the same analysis is applied to your local hockey pool.
Before you clean house, remember that patience is key in hockey leagues. With the exception of Reggie Sanders' yearly home-run binge no fantasy players produce in streaks quite like those found in your hockey league. Prolonged scoring outages are common. But skilled scorers eventually find themselves among the league leaders.
Take Jaromir Jagr. He was held without a point in eight of Washington's first 11 games. Fantasy owners began exploring their trade options. I put out a few feelers myself. Had I been willing to part with my top goalie, I'd currently be the beneficiary of the 18 points Jagr's scored during his current 11-game scoring streak.
If you own one of the players below – be patient. Move your struggling stars to the bench and use the waiver wire to provide some help while your top guys find their scoring touch or the right line combination.
My All-Letdown Team:
Goalie: Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Anaheim Mighty Ducks
Of the many draft-day dilemmas facing fantasy owners, the most confounding was where to draft Giguere. After selecting Joe Thornton with my first pick, I went shopping for a No. 1 goalie in the second round. With the usual suspects (Brodeur, Turco, Hasek, Lalime, Belfour) already gone, the name staring at me as the clock ticked down was Giguere.
If you're thinking I got what I deserved for drafting a playoff fluke – save it. Jiggy's regular-season numbers were outstanding a year ago and solid the previous. The question haunting me was whether I wanted to buy into this Anaheim team as a club that can carry a No. 1 fantasy goalie. I pulled the trigger on Giguere. My fears, it appears, have been validated.
After an awful October (3.14 GAA, .893 Save Pct.), his numbers evened out a bit in November. Giguere's .920 save percentage last month matched his season total from the previous two seasons. But the magic is gone. Giguere has lost four games in overtime and tied another in his last 10 starts. Those were wins a year ago.
Help: Recently acquired Miikka Kiprusoff, who won his first two starts for Calgary, allowing just one goal in each game. Holding him responsible for the six goals he then allowed to Colorado is like benching a Washington Generals forward after allowing a triple-double to Meadowlark Lemon. Kiprusoff will be given every chance to unseat Jamie McLennan as the team's No. 1 netminder.
Another guy to scan the wire for is San Jose's Vesa Toskala. He's unbeaten in his last seven starts and his season GAA and save percentages are outstanding. Remember, it was an injury to Steve Shields that allowed Evgeni Nabokov to inherit the starting job in 2000. With Nabby ailing and the Sharks flirting with first in the Pacific, another inheritance by injury may be in the works.
Forward: Mario Lemieux, Pittsburgh Penguins
Like Giguere, Lemieux was a guy I tried to talk myself out of drafting. The voice in my head asked: Who else is going to give you 91 points? And what about all those power play goals and assists – 45 points with the man advantage when you do the math ... Thankfully, Lemieux was gone in my draft before those whispers turned to orders.
I'm still wincing a bit. Nearly every Pittsburgh player's fantasy value is directly tied to Lemieux's health. Martin Straka, whom I drafted late hoping for some power-play punch, has been worthless. Dick Tarnstrom has shown life of late but has disappointed. Speedster Konstantin Koltsov has been without his dream line mate. Get well soon, Mario.
Forward: Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Patience is not a common characteristic of your typical fantasy owner. In my leagues, it generally takes about a week of any season for someone to declare himself the champion. In about half that time, a couple of owners will conclude that this isn't their year. We don't like to wait for production.
That brings us to Iginla. As we turn the calendar into December, Iginla is looking for his first goal at home. He's also yet to tally on the power play. The former 50-goal scorer is on pace for 16 goals this year.
Yet there is reason for hope. Last year Iginla limped through November with only five goals and finished the year with 35.
Forward: Mike Modano, Dallas Stars
Not much makes sense in the Pacific Division. San Jose is tied for first place and leads the division in goals scored. The defending Western Conference champions would be the No. 8 seed if the playoffs began today. The hottest player in the division, Ladislav Nagy, has never scored more than 57 points in a season.
Nothing is more perplexing than the start of Modano. Over the past seven seasons Modano has averaged a plus 24 rating. This year, Modano is a minus 14, better than only the aforementioned Marty Straka in the entire league. He's also well below the point-per-game pace we've grown accustomed to over the past five seasons.
Help: Hot forwards are too numerous to mention. When you are ready to look for help, search your available player list and filter the players by stats over the last week or month. For starters, Marco Sturm has six goals and eight points in San Jose's last eight games.
Ales Hemsky figures to be the prime beneficiary of Adam Oates' debut in Edmonton. No widely available player has been hotter in the last week than New York's Martin Rucinsky (eight points in four games).
Defenseman: Andy Delmore, Buffalo Sabres
Four seasons ago, Delmore came out of nowhere to score five goals in the playoffs for Philadelphia. Last year as a member of the Nashville Predators, he led all National Hockey League blue liners with 18 goals. Defenseman scoring is to fantasy hockey what saves and stolen bases are to baseball leagues, so Delmore was a hot commodity on draft day.
Unless your league is configured with healthy scratches as a scoring category, Delmore has been a total bust. He has watched more games (six) than he has scored a point in (one). In two years with Nashville, he averaged 2.25 shots per game. This year he's snapped off just 20 shots in 19 games. Delmore was brought to Buffalo to invigorate the team's power play, but he's yet to record a point with a man advantage.
Defenseman: Tom Poti, New York Rangers
After setting career highs in points (48), assists (37) and power-play points (21) in his first full season with the Rangers, Poti found himself among the top 15 defensemen selected on draft day. Now he finds himself in the midst of a seven-game pointless streak – and fantasy owners are left wondering where the return is on their investment.
It's too soon to waive Poti, but your bench is the best short-term home for him. A quick turnaround is unlikely. After spending much of the early going paired with Greg de Vries or Brian Leetch, Poti now finds himself skating along side Darius Kasparaitis. That is not a good sign. His ice time totals of late are not encouraging, either.
Help: In San Jose, one young defenseman is showing potential and another is finally fulfilling his promise. Since returning from a shift in the minor leagues, rookie Christian Ehrhoff has four points in six games. Just nine games into his career, the German has displayed a forward's speed and a willingness to jump into the play.
Brad Stuart's development has been hampered by injury and a holdout. After a slow start this year, Stuart has eight points in San Jose's last 10 games. Not surprisingly, the Sharks have lost only two of those contests. Stuart should be added immediately while Ehrhoff is a watch-list guy for the immediate future.
Next week the fantasy calendar demands a return to football, so we'll analyze matchups against team defenses to determine whether they really matter when setting our lineups for the playoffs.