Thank you, Texas Longhorns. Originally I was dismayed when my NCAA tournament bracket went up in smoke Sunday, but upon reflection, as I sit in second, second and third in three Yahoo! fantasy hockey leagues (confession: I'm languishing in ninth out of 12 in my fourth league, the TalentedMrRoto.com ICE experts league), I realized I can do without the distraction of a deep tournament run. One might say there's not much you can do in the final 10 games other than let things play out, but you'd be surprised what the timely acquisition of a goon or a young call-up can do to the standings. Stay active. Make a few Hail Mary – or should I say, stretch pass – moves. Nothing to lose at this point. Here's a quick update on what happened while you were knee deep in brackets and green beer.
WEEKEND UPDATE: Need-to-know info from the past few days
Two great pieces of news out of Dallas this weekend. First, Mike Modano scored a power-play goal Saturday to pass Joe Mullen for most goals scored by a U.S.-born player with 503. The milestone goal came near the end of a season conspicuous for its dearth of American scorers. You won't find a single natural-born Yank in the top 45 in points. I seriously doubt that this is keeping fans away, but the league needs to continue building a fan base, and part of recruiting new customers is getting kids in skates. Kids play sports to emulate their idols and in the States they're more likely to relate to Erik Johnson than Henrik Zetterberg. Kids watch, then they play, then they teach. That's the progression. Let's hope guys like Johnson and Chris Drury can inspire the next wave of great American scorers.
Oh, and one other note about Modano's goal: Unlike previous seasons, it actually has some fantasy relevance. Historically a universally owned player, Modano is actually available in about 30 percent of Yahoo! leagues. Sunday's assist extended his point streak to five games (5 goals, 2 assists). The Stars are getting healthy, so he should have a big final three weeks. The other Lone Star development was the return of left wing Brendan Morrow, who missed 33 games with a wrist injury. Morrow wasted little time making an impact with a goal in Sunday's 5-4 win. He now has 21 points in 30 games. As long as you member that Morrow – at least the version of Morrow that wears the captain's "C" – no longer takes penalties in bunches, you could do worse in your No. 2 left wing slot over the final 10 games of the season.
In keeping with the buy-American theme, the Rangers have called up a New York native who's threatening to become the most famous Callahan since young Tommy moved half a million brake pads. Ryan Callahan ranked fourth in the AHL with 35 goals in 60 games when the injury-depleted Rangers summoned him to New York. Already folks in New York are wondering if Tom Renney and the Blueshirts brass waited too long and let the team fall too far in the playoff race before calling on youngsters like Callahan and centerman Brandon Dubinsky.
Heck, even today we're not 100 percent sure the Rangers have committed to a youth movement. Something has to give when Brendan Shanahan returns to the lineup Wednesday. Though it's unlikely that Callahan, who registered seven shots and mixed in a fighting major while scoring his first two NHL goals Saturday, will be returned to Norfolk, he could see his ice time diminish. Assuming he does stick and gets 10-15 minutes, we will at least get a look at the kid to gauge his value for 2007-08 drafts. What we know is that he can skate, finish and play with grit (his prep work included a 50-goal, 100-PIM season in the OHL). What we don't know is how that translates at the NHL level, but we may get a hint between now and the end of the regular season.
One-timers: Chicago center Jeff Hamilton has nine points and five power-play points in his last five games. … Columbus center Sergei Fedorov has been playing a lot of defense lately for coach Ken Hitchcock, which would be helpful if he was defense-eligible in fantasy leagues. … Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger is due to return March 26, giving owners who have signed Francois Beachemin and Ric Jackman another two games to reap the benefits.
BARGAIN BIN: Top player available in 50 percent of Yahoo! leagues
Kyle Calder, LW, Det – Remember back when the Red Wings couldn't get production from anyone not named Zetterberg, Datsyuk or Holmstrom? Robert Lang was a huge bust and Jiri Hudler was an asset only in the niche world of very deep Central Division-only leagues. Well that has all changed now and in one of the biggest surprises of this fantasy season the catalyst was Philly castoff Kyle Calder. In the nine games since the deal, Calder has two goals, eight assists and a plus-7 rating (he's still working off the minus-31 from Philadelphia. In the same span, Lang (20 percent availability) has four goals and eight assists and Hudler, the biggest surprise, has five goals and three assists.
MARKET MOVERS: Charting player values
Drew Stafford, RW, Buf – A holdover here from a few weeks ago, Stafford is still going. He picked up two goals Thursday, an assist Friday and his ninth goal Sunday.
Dustin Brown, LW, LA – Depending on what the Kings are able to pull off in free agency, Brown could be a solid sleeper pick in 2007-08 drafts. For now he's a viable No. 2 left wing option in deeper leagues. Brown picked up two assists and another four penalty minutes Sunday, extending his points potpourri to five games (2 goals, 5 assists, 14 penalty minutes).
Todd Bertuzzi, RW, Det – According to the Detroit Free Press, Bertuzzi could make his Red Wings debut as early as Thursday against Columbus, but definitely by March 26 against the Ducks. No word yet on exactly who he will line up with, but as Henrik Zetterberg is still out with back issues, he'll certainly land on one of the top two lines.
Olaf Kolzig, G, Was – In three starts since returning from a month on the IR, Kolzig has two wins, a 1.62 goals-against and a .952 save percentage. The Caps finish with a tough schedule, but if you absolutely need some games in goal, you'll find Kolzig available in about half of all Yahoo! leagues.
Robert Nilsson, C, Edm – The Oilers gave Nilsson a call because Shawn Horcoff was battling the flu, then kept him in the lineup two nights later when Horcoff was healthy enough to play. That says something. The Oilers, who scored a total of six goals in their previous eight games, must have enjoyed seeing Nilsson light the lamp Thursday.
David Clarkson, RW, NJ – His short-term value is tied to the health of guys like Gionta, Elias and Madden, who have missed action lately. Saturday he skated with Zach Parise and Travis Zajac and picked up a goal, an assist and two penalty minutes. As he's been a 200-plus PIM guy in the AHL, he could be a Ryane Clowe-type for as long as the Devils need 15 minutes a game out of him.
Jeff Cowan, LW, Van – Cowan was promoted to Vancouver's power play for Thursday's win over St. Louis. He failed to register a point over the weekend, but for the month has eight points and 35 penalty minutes in nine March games. You can visit Wikipedia to see why they're calling him Cowan the Brabarian. Gotta love the Internet.
Patrick O'Sullivan, C, LA – The biggest barrier O'Sullivan faces in making a fantasy impact in March is the fact that he's a center, and by now most owners have a pair of productive pivots and are probably inching toward the games-played limit there. That said, owners looking for center help should take note of O'Sullivan's five-game point streak (1 goal, 6 assists, 4 power-play points). The same dilemma applies to Washington centerman Tomas Fleischmann. Throw Columbus' Geoff Platt in there, too.
Martin Straka, LW, NYR – Saturday's game was his 10th straight without a point. To make matters worse, he left the game with a leg injury.
Glen Murray, RW, Bos – The Boston Herald is reporting that Murray will be shut down for the rest of the season as the Bruins take a guarded approach to his groin injury.
Markus Naslund, RW, Van – Naslund was benched for back-to-back power plays in Saturday's key game against the Red Wings. Could be the spark he needs, but for now he's riding a five-game pointless streak.
Yahoo! Friends and Family League
A few disturbing developments here. First, Bill Guerin scores five goals in four games after I cut him loose. I had actually told a few co-workers he'd probably break out with a hat trick eventually, but I was ahead of my games-played pace at RW so I let him go. Next, Jean-Sebastien Giguere started to struggle and Vesa Toskala returned to challenge Evgeni Nabokov for time in San Jose's net. Really couldn't have been a worse week for me in this league. Shouldn't have been surprised at all to see Paul Stastny's scoring streak come to an end the first day I activated him. I really hate fantasy sports.