Even during an unusual 48-game season, Sunday presented a real oddball run of hockey.
Sure, it began predictably enough. The Boston Bruins beat up on the failed Florida Panthers and the New York Rangers extinguished the New Jersey Devils’ dismal playoff hopes like they were smooshing a spent cigarette to start off the festivities. Things got a little weird after that in the games that really mattered (Anaheim-Edmonton and Carolina-Tampa Bay were generally irrelevant), though.
The considerable combination of upsets and spoiler moments - look, it was already clear that the Minnesota Wild were struggling, but losing to the Calgary Flames by a lopsided score of 4-1 was certainly unexpected - got me thinking about how a season’s closing month (in this case, probably 1-2 weeks) can enormously impact fantasy races.
LONG STORY JORTS
Specifically, it made me realize that while the realist strains* of many cellar dwelling teams are confronted with the strange reality of rooting against their beloved tribes, fantasy owners must be delighted when a team puts its foot down and embraces the role of the spoiler. It’s probably like following a $50 bill in a long-abandoned pair of jorts.**
Anyway, all those thoughts about present tense players in lost causes grinding out victories for their present-tense gains (note: don’t sign Jean-Sebastien Giguere if you think there’s even a slight chance that you’ll be a position where losing is more beneficial than winning) made me ponder: which players keep chugging along even as their teams are in states of disrepair?
With that, I decided to put together The All-Tank Team.
The standard is simple: who are the best fantasy performers on teams that are out of the mix? (“Out of the mix” is based on my opinion of a squad’s chances; the Phoenix Coyotes are the most competitive team that I consider “eligible” while East teams No. 10-15 can join because they’ve been officially eliminated.)
I’m weighing these players by their production during the last 30 days. While I acknowledge that most teams probably thought they had at least a slight chance of making it that far back, 14 days can present a really weak sample size of games.
Feel free to construct your Two Week Wonders list, though. Anyway, let’s get cracking.
Oh, and I’ve also decided to impose a limit of two players per team after pondering a one player maximum. If you need additional guidance on teams that might generally show a little more life, ponder a combination of factors including a) how crazy and reactionary ownership is (thus pressuring people to try to fight for their jobs) b) how much is being spent on salaries (kind of a sequel to the last point) and c) the team’s record in the last 10 games (teams like the Nashville Predators are dreaming of blue chip prospects right now).
(Actually, one more note: I’m putting two wingers on here instead of a LW and a RW because various services put them in one or more spots. I have confidence that you’ll persevere.)
WINGER: Taylor Hall: 9G, 10A, +5, four PIM, five PPP, 60 SOG and eight hits.
CENTER: Claude Giroux: 4G, 14A, even rating, 10 PIM, six PPP, 41 SOG and 26 hits.
WINGER: Martin St. Louis: 6G, 10A, -3, eight PIM, seven PPP, 32 SOG and nine hits.
DEFENSE 1: Christian Ehrhoff: 2G, 6A, even rating, 10 PIM, five PPP, 32 SOG and 17 hits.
DEFENSE 2: Keith Yandle: 4G, 4A, +4, 12 PIM, one PPP, 33 SOG and six hits.
GOALIE: Devan Dubnyk: five wins, 2.27 GAA, .927 save percentage, one shutout and 292 saves.
(Obviously guys like Steven Stamkos are hovering, too, but the above group had some of the best numbers.)
SOME HONORABLE MENTIONS
Note: the focus is on guys who have been playing well AND might be available (less than 75 percent owned) in this quick section. They still have to be on sinking/hopeless teams, though.
Jiri Tlusty (61 percent owned) - Plenty left to prove, usually lines up with Eric Staal and Alexander Semin, 16 points in the last 30 days.
Radim Vrbata (37 percent owned) - A genuine offensive asset who's had some tough luck here and there but remains one of - if not the - best offensive options that the Coyotes have.
Michael Cammalleri (43 percent owned) - Hey, someone has to score in Calgary. He's fairly versatile, especially in Yahoo leagues where he's C/LW eligible. Don't trip over yourself trying to get him, but he's worthy of consideration, at least.
David Clarkson (69 percent owned) - His points production finally dried up after he surprised some by starting this season hot, but even when he isn't scoring, he's usually doing something. He really helps in peripheral areas (27 PIM, 62 SOG and 26 hits in 30 days) that can allow you to win close head-to-head battles.
Matt Carle (55 percent owned) - With 10 points in the last 30 days, he's showing potential to be the type of guy who mop up valuable filler assists on a team with great high-end talent. His peripherals leave a lot to be desired, though.
Dennis Wideman (67 percent owned) - An injury risk, but intriguing largely because of his scoring ability and the woeful state of the Flames. Best if you're open with punting plus/minus (-7 in 30 days), though.
Ben Bishop (45 percent owned) - Faces more of a threat to lose starts now that Anders Lindback has returned, but he's intriguing nonetheless. Not too shabby start considering how bad Tampa Bay is.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere (10 percent owned) - Hey, he's 3-0-2 in his last five games. A hot final week isn't out of the question (though I'd look at, say, 65 percent-owned Brian Elliott before Giguere, Bishop and plenty of other options first ...)
Jump for assorted bits.
* - Some are larger and/or more vocal than others ...
** - I originally spelled that ridiculous word splice “jhorts,” but apparently the Internet Dictionary People have determined that the H is superfluous. Personally, I think it’s funnier that way, but who am I to jhudge?
INJURIES (full list)
Hopefully this goes without saying, but in almost cases where the word “surgery” gets bandied about, it’s time to drop that player. In other words, dump Ryan Nugent-Hopkins right now. It would be pretty shocking if we see Nathan Horton and Zach Bogosian before the playoffs get going (if applicable). The undersized center’s season is over. Dmitry Kulikov’s season is just about over while Jose Theodore won’t make his hopeful start or two for Florida, either. The same goes for Curtis Glencross (who underwent an MCL procedure).
Hopefully you didn’t have Drew Miller in the first place, but if he’s on your roster, make that belated upgrade and count your lucky stars that your team has been strong enough to carry the gray-haired forward so close to the finish line.
James Neal and Evgeni Malkin continue to practice so ... hopefully your league allows you to stash them on the IR. Really, that goes for a lot of the borderline (injury, not talent) guys. I’d be tempted to dump a great-but-inactive player for a peripheral-filler, although it can be a case-by-case thing. Just remember that you don’t get a bonus for keeping guys you’ve had the whole time; “What have you done for me lately?” and “What can you for me this week?” are the only questions that truly matter.
Ilya Kovalchuk seems fine after returning from a shoulder injury. He played two games this weekend. Sure, fantasy owners grimaced when he grimaced during a trip to the penalty box on Sunday, but he seems OK ... Jaromir Jagr scored the game-winner for Boston on Sunday, giving him the 118th GWG of his outstanding career. It's not all merely about the past, though, as he has eight points in nine games with Boston ... Steve Stamkos still has a shot at the Maurice Richard Trophy as he notched Goal 28. Still, Alex Ovechkin will be hard to catch at 30 (and possibly more by the end of the week) ... Hopefully you trust Derek Stepan at this point ... If you just need quantity, Joey MacDonald might just be the guy - for a week ... Congrats to the Toronto Maple Leafs for clinching their first playoff berth since 2004 (which I believe was when I lost the last scraplets of my innocence.)