Brett Lockwood

In The Crease

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Time to Throw in the Towel?

Monday, February 28, 2011

One of the most difficult questions for fantasy pool enthusiasts to answer is: when do you throw in the towel and start to re-build for next season? I will attempt to answer that question in this week's In the Crease. Keep in mind this advice applies only to those in keeper leagues. Obviously if you are in a one-year league quitting is NOT an option.

Those in keeper leagues know how valuable draft picks and solid value keepers can be for success. At this point in the NHL season, it is necessary to take a critical look at the standings and see where you stand. Are you trailing the goals category by 15? Assists category by 12? Can you realistically gain enough points to make yourself a contender? If you haven't been able to make a dent in the lead already, you are unlikely to make a push in the waning months of the season. It is now the stretch run, when top-tier teams are looking to get that one big boost to propel themselves into a championship squad. Come on now, be realistic...can you actually make up enough ground?

Here is a list of the last four Art Ross Trophy winners and how they performed in March and April, respectively. Remember, these guys were the top scorers in the league for their year.
Henrik Sedin – 32 points in 21 games 2010-11
Evgeni Malkin – 24 points in 19 games 2009-10
Alex Ovechkin – 29 points in 17 games 2008-09
Sidney Crosby – 23 points in 20 games 2007-08

These guys were the top of their crop and still did not put up heroic enough numbers to make a huge fantasy difference. Do you think you can best the next couple of guys above you in the standings when the best player in the league is averaging barely over a point per game (see Malkin and Crosby above)? If you had the best player in the league you STILL might not make it to your desired destination. Now is the best time to determine your fate for this season.

If you have assessed your situation and determined you are out of the running, I am not suggesting you throw your season away. Instead, I am suggesting you plan for the future to make next season a much more pleasant one. You most definitely have assets, so move them for cheaper, younger talent that has more potential. An aging Vincent Lecavalier is a prime example. Captain Vinny has been playing out of his mind of late, with 14 points in his last 9 games. Surely somebody in the running will want his services, and quite frankly, you do not need him at this point. Lecavalier is approaching 31 years of age and is no longer a scoring champion. Would it not be wise to package him up and get a few solid draft choices (or young talent)? A recent trade in an league saw Vincent Lecavalier shipped for Tyler Seguin and a second round pick. That's the perfect deal for a struggling team to make, with Seguin a future all star and Lecavalier rendered useless this season for a bottom-feeder. Do not wait for your aging, productive assets to be worthless, come trade deadline day!

Another important consideration is how valuable your players will be next season. In a standard keeper system, wherein each team is able to secure five players, some decisions will have to be made now for the future. Is Michael Cammalleri (coming off a shoulder injury) worth a look in 2011-2012? How about Marian Gaborik, a guy who has had his most disappointing season ever? Start to formulate a game plan for your keeper selections now. It is highly important to take into account age, potential, and what a player is worth at this precise moment. Perhaps Cammalleri would fetch more now than he would be worth next season, making him a good trading option. Test the waters and send out some offers. Only then you will understand your keeper situation a bit better. A player is only worth what somebody will pay for him.

The last bit of advice I can give pertains to young potential studs. In standard leagues, where you keep five players every year, is it worth it to hold onto a guy like Seguin? There is every indication that he will turn into a superstar, but perhaps it won't come for a few years. Can you afford to waste one of your valuable keeper selections on the promise of a highly touted prospect? Consider the upside of having a player for the rest of his career if he becomes a stud. Steve Stamkos had a very Seguin-esque rookie season and look at him now. Of course there are exceptions, like Taylor Hall, who is already putting up keeper-like numbers and remains a no-brainer keeper. Players like Seguin, Tyler Ennis, and Jeff Skinner are going to be close calls, come selection time. In the end, would you rather have Seguin (who you could keep for the rest of his NHL career if he becomes a stud) or take a flier on Marian Gaborik staying healthy? I'll take the former, thank you.

***Did you know?***

Vincent Lecavalier was once the youngest captain in NHL history at 19 years and 314 days. Since then he was passed by Sidney Crosby who did it at the age of 19 years, 9 months and 24 days. Before Lecavalier, Steve Yzerman had the record, having been named captain at 21 years, 5 months old.

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