Brett Lockwood

In The Crease

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From Worst to First?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

So it happened. You are sitting in the bottom quadrant of your fantasy pool and panic has set in. You look around for signs of life from your first round pick, but get nothing. Your second round pick has come down with a strange ailment on his pinkie finger while your third round pick has as much skill as a bad American Idol contestant. Fear not, it IS POSSIBLE to resurrect your team from the cemetery sideroad. There are a few tips Rotoworld can provide hockey enthusiasts with to help you go from worst to first.

Now of course, most poolies at the bottom of the barrel are rolling their eyes at their squad, clueless as to the rebuilding process. The biggest step to overcoming your deficiencies is realizing that help is needed. If you can see that your team needs help sooner rather than later, you, my friend, will be ahead by a country mile. For our purposes we will discuss the standard league format (which can apply to keeper leagues as well). Those in keeper leagues should read the next few In The Crease articles to pick up more tips. Without further ado, the magical six steps to rebuild your hockey franchise:

1) Underperforming studs

Do not, and I repeat, do NOT get rid of your underperforming studs. Now is not the time to get rid of your superstar first round pick. If you are an Ilya Kovalchuk owner, it would not be wise to ship him for a ridiculously hot Dustin Byfuglien. Stay the course with your horses. They WILL turn it around (Well, they usually do anyways). Selling yourself short on your studs will make your team worse, not better. Trust me on this one.

2) Scooping up value

Your leaguemates may become extremely frustrated with their own draft picks. This scenario provides an incredible opportunity for last place owners to scoop up a project who was dumped to the waiver wire. I have seen talent such as Dion Phaneuf, PK Subban, and Alex Burrows dropped (all of whom have big-time upside this season and beyond). Stash these gems away and watch others' trash turn into your gold.

3) Assessing your team strengths

Look at your team and determine what you have. If, for example, you are starting two stud defensemen but have another capable blue-liner you occasionally rotate in, make a deal Einstein! Trade away your Drew Doughty if you have Duncan Keith and Lubomir Visnovsky as more than adequate replacements. Doughty will fetch you a nice haul while you lose very little on your backend. Identifying strengths and trading them is the only way to climb upwards.

4) Don't do anything too drastic

There is a reason you drafted your team the way you did. Surely you were not expecting your players to underperform , but hey, it is only a quarter of the way through the season. You think the lucky loser who picked up Tim Thomas in the first week is going to remain first in all goaltending categories at the end of the season? Who knows, your stud sleeper may just be on the verge...

5) Assess your goaltenders

Goalies are notorious for being unpredictable at the start of the season. More than likely, if you are in last place, you invested heavily in Marc-Andre Fleury or Miikka Kiprusoff as your go-to-guys. Assess how your goalies have performed and see if there is potential for them to settle down. Take a look at Miikka Kiprusoff, for example. Kipper started the season off terribly, and is 1-2-1 in his last four starts. At first glance this seems like a horrid start but look closer and see a superstar emerging. In the two regulation losses he played fantastic only to be let down by his forwards. In the overtime loss, late penalties contributed to goals he had no chance to stop. His peripherals are climbing steadily, a sign of a nice rebound. Couple that with the Calgary offense figuring out how to score and Kipper looks like a solid bet for the remainder of the season. Take this type of approach in order to assess your own personal situation.

6) Go for the green

In life, sometimes, you just have to take the leap. If there is some deal being proposed to you that could change your team around, go for it. If anything, you should build up the courage and do it for your sanity. A fresh change in players will give you new motivation and hunger to win it all. With that in mind, here are some noteworthy targets:

Ryan Kesler- After a fantastic 2009-10, Kesler has been nearly as good. He is still a very strong skater and is very capable of a big second half.
Jarome Iginla – Iginla looks poised to start scoring goals at the clip he is used to. After a sputtering start to the season, he has been on a tear of late. Snatch him up before it's too late. Do not overpay for his name!

Phil Kessel – Kessel has been a bit of an enigma this season, starting off incredibly hot, then cooling down awfully fast. He is virtually a lock for 40 goals this season, so pick him up while he is at his cheapest.

John Tavares – If you can afford the plus/minus killer, take the leap for fantasy gold. Tavares is just heating up to start the season. You are looking at adding 25 goals and 25 assists for the rest of the season.

***Did you know?***
Jarome Iginla's full birth name is Jarome Arthur-Leigh Adekunle Tig Junior Elvis Iginla? Try saying that three times fast.

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