GOALIE HOT SEAT
DALLAS STARS RED HOT
1st Chair: Marty Turco
2nd Chair: Tobias Stephan
Skinny: All signs point to Turco keeping his job. He gives Dallas the best chance to turn things around and even if this is declared a lost season at some point, a goalie change would do more long-term damage than good. That said, ticket holders do deserve the best possible product so if Turco's funk continues we'll at least see a stretch of Stephan starts in the future.
COLUMBUS BLUE JACKETS RED HOT
1st Chair: Steve Mason
2nd Chair: Pascal Leclaire
Skinny: Mason shut out Washington on Saturday, prompting coach Ken Hitchcock to issue a "we have to play him" statement to the Columbus Dispatch. It came with a qualification, of course, as Hitchcock prefaced things with the dreaded "if he keeps this up." That's a lot to ask of a 20-year-old rookie, but fantasy-wise you pretty much have to give the 75-percent available kid a shot. He's been solid in eight starts and it's worth noting that incumbent Leclaire's usefulness has been limited to a few hot streaks in 2007-08.
LOS ANGELES KINGS RED HOT
1st Chair: Jason LaBarbera
2nd Chair: Erik Ersberg
Skinny: LaBarbera starts Monday, while Ersberg gets the call Tuesday in Phoenix. Coach Terry Murray says both will play during a stretch of four games in six days, but won't commit to a rotation going forward. In other words, there's still a No. 1 job to be grabbed here, and it's fair to say it's still up for grabs.
NEW JERSEY DEVILS RED HOT
1st Chair: Scott Clemmensen
2nd Chair: Kevin Weekes
Skinny: Count me among the piranhas who snapped up Weekes, then missed the boat on Clemmensen's emergence. Clemmensen has started six of seven, winning four and giving the Devils no reason to hand the job back to Weekes. Nothing official here yet, but the job is his to lose.
ATLANTA THRASHERS RED HOT
1st Chair: Ondrej Pavelec
2nd Chair: Johan Hedberg
Skinny: A fairly steady timeshare is likely to continue until Kari Lehtonen returns from injury. If Pavelec steps up, and he has shown signs, the Thrashers could look to deal Lehtonen, assuming there are takers. Both of Atlanta's healthy goalies are owned in fewer than five percent of Y! leagues and this is one time I'll give the masses a pass for not jumping on a vacancy.
FLORIDA PANTHERS HOT
1st Chair: Tomas Vokoun
2nd Chair: Craig Anderson
Skinny: Anderson will make his third straight start on Tuesday, just rewards for his shutout win over the Rangers on Sunday. Controvery? "Call it what you want," Anderson told the Miami Herald. For now we'll just call it cause for concern for Vokoun owners. It's a sensible handcuff situation, but does anyone really want to carry two Florida goalies?
ST. LOUIS BLUES HOT
1st Chair: Manny Legace
2nd Chair: Chris Mason
Skinny: Mason's career comfort zone has been as an effective backup, but he and Legace have split the Blues' last six starts. The timeshare is part a product of Mason's success (3 straight wins, 1 shutout) and partly due to scheduling (games on back-to-back nights twice). According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, team officials were a bit ticked at Legace for his "I need some help out there" declaration following Saturday's loss. File this under "worth monitoring," as Legace is still the Blues' best option if they are to remain playoff contenders.
WASHINGTON CAPITALS HOT
1st Chair: Jose Theodore
2nd Chair: Brent Johnson
Skinny: Theodore's shutout Friday did not earn him back-to-back starts. Coach Bruce Boudreau is a man who likes to stick to the plan, it appears. Expect both to see action until one or the other starts performing consistently like a No. 1.
CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS WARM
1st Chair: Cristobal Huet
2nd Chair: Nikolai Khabibulin
Skinny: The headline that Khabibulin had "cemented" his status as No. 1 ran in the Chicago Tribune the same day the Wall crumbled and left the ice against San Jose. He's now "day-to-day" with an injury we surely won't get any details on. Huet probably gets another start or two, but with Anaheim and Detroit ahead on the schedule it'll be tough for him to gain any ground in this battle. That said, he's a freebie in about one-third of Yahoo! leagues, and the worst player on your roster is probably worth the gamble that Khabibulin is out long-term or that Chicago can find a taker for his bloated contract.
VANCOUVER CANUCKS WARM
1st Chair: Curtis Sanford
2nd Chair: Cory Schneider, Roberto Luongo
Skinny: Luongo skated a few laps in full pads Monday, so while we don't have a timetable yet, it looks like he'll be back sooner than later. If you're picking up Sanford or Schneider this week, it's for spot-start purposes, not long-term speculation.
ANAHEIM DUCKS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Jean-Sebastien Giguere
2nd Chair: Jonas Hiller
Skinny: Hiller has been active, starting three of four and allowing only two goals while going 3-0. Giguere won't lose his job, but could continue to cede starts. The 90-percent available Hiller is near the top of the list of ownable backups.
OTTAWA SENATORS LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Alex Auld
2nd Chair: Martin Gerber
Skinny: Curiously, Auld remains a free agent in about one-third of Y! leagues despite making eight straight starts with solid supporting figures (1.94 GAA, .924 save pct. in Nov.). There's more to goalie value than the wins column, folks.
PHOENIX COYOTES LUKEWARM
1st Chair: Ilya Bryzgalov
2nd Chair: Mikael Tellqvist
Skinny: Tellqvist has been the better goalie if late, winning two straight starts and stopping 20 of 21 shots against San Jose in relief of Bryzgalov. We're far from a change atop the depth chart, but Bryzgalov's inconsistency has at least left a crack in the door.
I may be the only California-born rotisserie geek who got his fantasy start in a hockey league. I can't remember the year and my employer wouldn't appreciate me naming the provider, but I can tell you it was long enough ago that I drafted Eric Lindros in the first round and didn't live to regret it. Ballpark it was 1995-96 and it would be several years before I kicked the tires on another fantasy sport. This background information is my way of saying it wasn't going to take much for me to bring the NHL Skinny out of mothballs, but I do appreciate all the emails calling for the return of this weekly rundown. They served as yet another reminder that hockey fans – fantasy owners or otherwise – are unmatched in their passion for their sport.
So here we go. The format remains the same in 2008-09, but for this week only I'm replacing the "Weekend Update" section with a reader's guide. Please forward it to your friends, post it at your local community center or read it verbatim on local cable access – anything to get the word out. I do enjoy your emails. I just wish I had more time to read and reply, and trying to cut down on the volume is Step 1. Next week and going forward I'll lead this column with the top news (fantasy-wise) from the weekend. But first, let's get a few things out of the way …
Reader's Guide: For the uninitiated, a few notes on consuming the Skinny
Goalie Hot Seat: The temperature gauge on the right indicates exactly how much heat the current No. 1 is under while trying to keep his job. Cooking times may vary, but a RED HOT battle implies that the starter is one early shower away from giving way to the No. 2. If things are simmering around the LUKEWARM level, we've got a backup who should be on the fantasy radar, but who isn't likely to permanently unseat the No. 1. Please don't email me asking how I can consider the play of Marty Turco "red hot" of late. He's not red hot. He's the exact opposite, then about 75 percent cooler. It was an awkward moment, but I actually paused before dinner Thursday to give thanks that I have no investment in Turco this season. Also we generally use the WARM designation any time the starter is out with a short-term injury someone else is, you know, keeping his seat warm.
Player Stock Watch: You may find this section most useful in deeper leagues. Sure a few players will go from the bargain bin or stock watch to universal ownership. The goal here is to identify those players as early as possible, yes. But more often the players who are bubbling up will be roster-worthy only in those leagues that require owners to start more than the default two players per forward position. As a public service I'll add that these are the leagues I enjoy the most. When you configure your league next year, try adding a third or forth center and wings to starting lineups. I really think you'll enjoy it. Whenever possible I'll try to specify whether I think a player is rosterable in standard formats, or only in deeper leagues.
Position eligibility, IR status, etc.: Players can earn position eligibility at new positions as the season progresses. Sometimes it's a slam dunk and other times you'd have a better chance moving a struggling franchise from a non-traditional hockey market to a puck-starved city north of the border than getting a little "LW" icon to appear next to a player's name. If you think a player on your roster is getting shafted, feel free to email me. I can pass your requests along to the third-party provider who is currently responsible for these designations. While I can't reply to these inquiries, I will fight the good fight when it looks like a change is justified. As for injured players and IR eligibility, please remember that NHL teams actually trigger this process by placing the player on the IR. I'm not sure what roster loopholes and rule subtleties are at play here, but sometimes teams take their sweet time placing a player on the IR, even when it's clearly a long-term injury. Generally IR eligibility shows up the morning after the transaction is announced. If not, then there's a problem.
Again, thanks for talking me out of scrapping the Skinny. We still plan on feeding the Roto Arcade with regular hockey updates and our friends at RotoWire will be busy, but I'll also do my best to make this a weekly post on Mondays.
BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Kyle Quincey, D, LA – To borrow a phrase from colleague Matt Buser, Quincey is probably better than the worst defenseman on your roster. Truth be told, with 10 points in 13 November games, he probably outperformed your second- and third-best defensemen. He's piling up points on the power-play – seven of his 13 points have come on the power play – and he is staying steady 5-on-5 with a plus-5 rating. Quincey is only 11-percent owned, but if you happened to have missed out, teammate Drew Doughty is a decent fallback option.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
R.J. Umberger, C, CLS – He's got a four-game point streak (1 goal, 3 assists) and is once again centering Rick Nash &nash; at least for now. Derick Brassard slides down and is pointless in his last four.
Manny Fernandez, G, Bos – Fernandez extended his winning streak to six games while making back-to-back starts for the first time this season over the holiday weekend. Tim Thomas' otherworldly efforts make a coup here unlikely, but fantasy owners should be encouraged by the backup's spike in confidence. Couple that with Boston's tendency to score in bunches with Fernandez in goal – the Bs have tallied 32 goals in those six wins – and you've got a No. 2 that should be owned in more than 26-percent of leagues.
Matt D'Agostini, RW, Mon – Here's one of those deep-league advisories. D'Agostini played fewer than 14 minutes but saw time with Christopher Higgins and Saku Koivu in Saturday's win over Buffalo. The club seemed pleased with his 2008-09 debut, and you can see below who's in for a decrease in ice time.
Justin Williams, RW, Car – A winger with 70-point, 70-PIM upside, Williams is just about ready to return to the ice after missing all of camp and the regular season to date with an Achilles injury. According to the News & Observer, Williams (10-percent owned in Yahoo! leagues) could play as early as Thursday against Pittsburgh.
Nathan Oystrick , D, Atl – He's got four points in his last four games, including his first two NHL goals. The rookie is coming off back-to-back 15-goal seasons at the AHL level, so there's some offensive upside here.
Dany Sabourin , G, Pit – The way things are going with established starters this year (Brodeur, Luongo, Nabokov, DiPietro, etc.), you could make a case for forgoing carrying a regular No. 3 goalie, instead rotating in injury replacements as they emerge. Sabourin (21-percent owned) should retain his current value (1.85 GAA, .930 save pct.) through the end of the week while Fleury gets well.
Ryan Malone, LW, TB – He's on Tampa Bay's top line, which partially explains his run of four goals and eight points in five games. Vinny Lecavalier's wing is a nice place to set up shop. Just know that you're getting one of the NHL's streakiest players.
Sergei Kostitsyn, LW, Mon – He's still owned in about 12 percent of Yahoo! leagues, which really calls the dedication of Y! leaguers into question. The decision to cut the winger loose could be made easier if Kostitsyn gets a ticket to the minors, as the Montreal Gazette speculates.
Cam Ward, G, Car – It's his turn to battle a groin injury and the News & Observer says he'll miss "a few games." Backup Michael Leighton is your desperation plug-in, but even with Ward struggling at times this year we don't see this bubbling up to a Hot Seat situation.
Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, San – Those two goals on opening night seem like a distant memory. The lamp has remained dim for Cheech since Oct. 18 and the San Jose Mercury News reports he'll miss a few more games after aggravating an upper body injury. When he does return third-line duty awaits, so we're nearing the cut-ties stage here.
Yahoo! Friends and Family League update
Newcomer Rocky Bonanno from NHL.com leads the pack and is holding steady despite the loss of Martin Brodeur. Looking for a PIM push, team Romig recently added Daniel Carcillo, dropping Martin Havlat who was expendable with Patrick Kane, Devin Setoguchi and Miroslav Satan already on board at right wing. Around the league recent player adds include Matt Hunwick, Jiri Hudler, Joe Pavelski and Marc-Edouard Vlasic.