Friday, March 27, 2009

Mining for Waiver Wire Gold

So here we are, right there on the doorstep of the finals this year in fantasy hockey. Its been a fun year so far for most of us, but for the two lucky GM’s who are going into the final bracket its crunch time, so I thought it might be appropriate to address a very important issue for those going to the finals… is it a bad time to clean house? The answer to this is usually a resounding NO! This time of year there are usually a handful of players(maybe more but we will get into that later) who will have more of an impact on your roster than someone who may be a little banged up and getting a few games off because their team has already punched their ticket to the playoffs. The players I am referring to are typically guys that are on teams making a push to try and get into the playoffs and are starting to come on strong, and believe it or not, there are a lot of them out there. These are typically players who might have been drafted, but due to slow starts or a GM stumbling onto a hot rookie or needing to fill a need, got banished to the wire to wait for some savvy GM such as yourself to take full advantage of the situation and pick them up to help them win their respective title. Below is a list of the top 3 players who are available in most Yahoo leagues who are red hot as of posting this.

1.) Rod Brind’Amour- Brindy had a VERY slow start to this season, after being considered one of the most consistent players out there and a perennial late draft pick year in and year out, fell flat on his face for most of this season and left those who picked him wondering why they are keeping him on the roster in December when he only had 15 points. Well folks Brindy is back, and in a big way! Rowdy Roddy has 16 points in his last 12 games, and has been a major part of the Hurricanes recent surge towards the playoffs. Since Erik Cole returned to the ‘Canes, the lines seem to have finally balanced themselves out and Brindy is reaping the benefits. If you are carrying someone like Jason Arnott, who is suffering from a concussion, its time to cut bait if Brindy is out there and keep those roster spots producing instead of wondering how Arnott is feeling on the stationary bike today. Brind’Amour is only owned in 23% of Yahoo leagues and should be considered a solid candidate to pick up for extra point production

2.) Alexei Ponikarovsky- Alex is one of those guys who you maybe had on your roster as a fill in when you had an injured player for a week or 2 and figured he would be an easy guy to cut once your star came back. Well now Alex is starting to tear it up at the end of the season(when, sadly for Leafs fans, it doesn’t matter cause the Leafs are done). Just call Ponikarovsky Mr. March right now because the guy is on FIRE. Alex has put up 15 points in his last 12 games, and in the last 6 games has had two 4 point nights. This guy is definitely worth a look if you need to add some scoring punch to your team for the finals. Ponikarovsky is only owned in 26% of Yahoo leagues so its likely that he is out there and ready to start putting points up for your team instead of wasting away on the wire.

3.) Mikhail Grabovski- Sticking with the theme of Maple Leafs(I swear I am not a fan), Grabovski has turned it on of late, and should be looked at as another dark horse candidate for anyone looking to make fantasy moves and cut a little dead weight heading into their finals. There is a steep drop off in production from the first two players mentioned prior to Micky, but he is still better than nothing if you have players nursing injuries and your not sure when they are going to come back. SOMETHING IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN NOTHING. Grabovski has 11 points in his last 12 games, and that is certainly nothing to turn your nose up at, and it seems he has turned it up in particular in the last 7 games with the bulk of those 11 points coming during that stretch. He could burn out on you and stop producing, so buyer beware, but for now if your struggling with injuries he could be worth a look.

The A-Hole Impact….
The waiver wire is a funny place, in that it is a lot like going to a discount store, you never know what your going to find there. This time of year, this is especially true because of the A-Hole impact. What I mean by this is that every year it seems in most leagues there is one guy who is such a sore loser that he decided to cut half of his team in an effort to let everyone else in the league know he is having a temper tantrum over losing. GM’s who are still in it would be wise to check the wire everyday to see if one of our immature friends(or just some jerk in public leagues) decides to dump big names to show his immaturity. After all, its better for you to get to these guys first, instead of your potential finals opponent. As I write this I am counting my fortunes as I managed to pick up Travis Zajac AND Chris Kunitz in a league where this happened, and it only cost me the underachieving Mats Sundin and Dustin Byfuglien. Not bad shakes if you ask me, and these are two players that should have an IMMEDIATE impact on my roster for the duration of the season. To those who read this by the way… PLEASE don’t be the A-Hole in your league that does what I mentioned before. Show some poise and composure and accept the fact that at the end there can only be one winner, and there is after all next year. Don’t show your friends just how much of an A-Hole you can be through this… if your really peeved, wait for them to get drunk and shave their eyebrows when they are passed out, that way your still an A-Hole but your not a bitter one.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

So your out of the playoffs. What's next?

OK, so your season did not quite go the way that you planned it, and by now the disappointment is surely starting to set in, another season by the wayside. Well don't wallow in your sorrows too long, because now is the time to start preparing for next season. Its very important to learn where things went wrong this season, and to do that you must start from the beginning, and by this i speak of the draft. The draft is often where seasons are won and lost, and i am not just speaking about the choices we make in the first 5 rounds either. Its easy to pick a Malkin, Ovechkin, Crosby, etc.... its who we pick in rounds 10 and beyond that often shape and determine how far we go as the season progresses and ultimately whether or not we win the big prize at the end of the season. Drafts are a funny animal, and if you are in a league with all the same people over many years you can use previous history to determine who is going to take who in which round, and what position each GM likes to shore up as each draft round progresses. Below is a list of common mistakes GM's make during the draft and things that can be done to help us learn from our mistakes.

Drafting the wrong goaltender

This is a common mistake, and one that i see quite frequently in public leagues. Many GM's see a goaltender such as Carey Price this season, or Ray Emery the previous season, and think that they will only grow stronger from the past years experience, only to be played for a fool. Players like Price or an Emery are easy to spot, and if we look we can see that these are players that, even though they had great success their first year, began to fade down the stretch. GM's should not be disappointed when these goalies repeat the same performance the next year, and should take this mistake as a lesson for the coming year that when in doubt, try to take a perennial work horse, like Nabokov, Kipprusoff, or a Brodeur to be their go to guy, and leave the Carey Price's of the world to be 2nd string at best. Furthermore, there are always goalies who are just plain injury prone, and the top of this list of fragile tenders should be Marc-Andre Fleury. I personally made the mistake last season of Drafting Fleury to be my top guy figuring he would take me to the top with a strong offense and a great back line to support him. Well when he was shelved for 4 months during the season because of an ankle injury only swift action on the waiver wire saved my season. It should be known however that Fleury did play a big part in helping me win a championship down the stretch with his phenomenal finish last year. However, fragile guys need to be treated as such and should not be counted on to be the go to guy on any roster. This list also includes Jose ThreeOrMore(Theodore), Marty Biron, and Rick DiPietro. Buyer beware friends...... buyer beware.

Big Name, New Team

Sometimes, a change of address isn't exactly what the doctor ordered. This year just before and during the UFA signing period many players changed teams, and some of the changes made fantasy players take notice and get excited about players that they may not have shown up on their drafting radar before. The best examples of these types of players can be found with 3 specific names; Ryan Malone, Miroslav Satan, and Brian Rolston. All of these players jumped ship, it seemed for greener pastures and for better line mates. In the case of Ryan Malone, it seemed the moon and the stars aligned for him, he signed in Tampa Bay, and was poised to play on a line with Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis. WHAT COULD BE BETTER? Surely his numbers would soar playing with such superior talent. Well if you took Mr. Malone in your draft, consider your pick wasted, because not only did he under-perform when paired with the big 2 of Lecavalier and St. Louis, but he was demoted as low as the 3rd line this season to play with such studs as Matt Pettinger and Evgeny Artyukhin. Malone, in his defense does have 24 goals and 41 points to his credit, and has turned it up at the end of the season now that the pressure is off, but lets really look at reality here. Malone was most likely taken in the first 10 rounds in most leagues because most owners saw the potential for a 70 point plus season playing with the likes of Lecavalier. If Malone was drafted in the top ten, well having 41 points with 3 weeks left in the season, would have to be called an enormous disappointment. Next is the case of Miroslav Satan. Owners were drooling and tripping over themselves to get there hands on Satan this season because he was with the Penguins, and was going to skate with Sidney Crosby. All whining jokes aside, i think i could probably put up 40 points skating on a wing with Crosby... yeah he is that good. Well its any one's guess what happened to him this season, but Satan might be the second biggest bust in all of fantasy this season. Satan has dropped so low he is playing in the AHL right now... THE AHL. This was a consensus pick among many in the know, and really who could blame them? The potential was there with his new team, and with his new line mates, and he failed miserably. Satan will probably not have a job in the NHL next season so it will be easy for GM's to resist... but this kind of pick is a good spot to start for many GM's to see where they went wrong. The last case is Brian Rolston. Rolston was the poster boy for consistency and was a guy that put up points across all formats especially those ever elusive short-handed points(should your league score for them). Well it started out looking like a marriage made in heaven, after all Rollie was playing between Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta in a puck possession system, and on top of that was penciled in as the point man for the power play. Well 8 games in tragedy struck and Rolston went feet first into the boards in Atlanta, and suffered a high-ankle sprain. Subsequently Rolston missed the next 7 weeks. Not too bad though, as he was still back in December so there was still plenty of time to pile on the points down the stretch, which can only be a good thing as who wouldn't want to get a guy like Rolston back for the second half of their fantasy season. Well, those who stashed Rolston on the IR were rewarded with him returning to the team to play with David Clarkson and Bobby Holik. What a bummer doesn't quite express how many owners felt, but i am sure there are many four letter words that would. Rolston has continued to depress owners since, totalling a measly 27 points in 54 games this season and only 14 points on the power play. This has to be the epitome of fantasy busts this season, as many owners(myself included) expected him to crack 60 points, with at least half of those points coming on special teams. Rolston has risen on the depth chart of late, rising back to his original line with Patrik Elias and Brian Gionta and has become a more reliable fantasy option in the last 2 weeks, but for a player who is usually picked in the first ten rounds, this guy has been nothing short of a complete disaster for fantasy owners.

Heart(and groin, and knee, and shoulder, and back, and ankle) Of Glass

Some players are just plain fragile. Like a politician lying to you, you can almost guarantee certain guys are going to get hurt during the year and usually for decent stretches. Unfortunately sometimes these guys are just too talented to stay away from, and despite the danger get drafted anyway often times higher than they should. No player fits this mantle better than Marian Gaborik. Talk about potential, this guy can score from all angles, and does it almost at will it seems. Yet every year he misses big stretches of time because of one injury or another, leaving his owners to debate whether to stash him on the IR or just cut their losses and try to pick up some production off the waiver wire. Gaborik isn't the only one though, as the list of fragile freddies is long and storied and contains some of the best talent in the game. Names to watch for in terms of being injury prone; Marian Gaborik, Sidney Crosby, Rick DiPietro, Martin Havlat(i am shocked he played as many games this season as he has already), Jason Arnott, Alexander Semin, etc. If you haven't noticed this list contains some of the premier talent in the NHL, and unfortunately injuries are a very real part of the game of hockey so they must be accounted for in the fantasy game as well. The best way to combat the loss of your season because of these guys isn't just to avoid taking them, because given the opportunity why would you NOT take a Crosby or a Semin, but to pad your roster with steady performers who are not as injury prone to help pick up the inevitable slack. Players like Marc Savard(who often flies under the radar), Jerome Iginla, and the Sedin twins are often players who are good at avoiding the injury bug and can put up solid numbers and keep your team in the hunt until your fragile star returns.

I hope you enjoyed this first post, and I welcome you to check back weekly for more from me and hopefully we can conquer your fantasy leagues together!