Normally, my advice is to have Zen-like patience with your players. Martin Brodeur tying the all-time record for losses is evidence that even the best and brightest struggle from time to time.
Here’s the rub: the “best and brightest" is an exclusive group, though. With that in mind, the fun and experimental parts of your roster should be in the depth spots. It’s rarely wise to drop a guy you drafted in the top 50 or so, but what about fringe guys you chose in round 12 (possibly with an adult beverage or seven in your system)?
In the grand scheme of things, it hurts a lot less to make a wild swing for a streaking player if you simply drop a replaceable forward, your worst defenseman or a mediocre goalie to make it happen. I might even recommend low-level changes merely to entertain fantasy owners with a lot of time to kill. (Just make sure that you can quickly tab over to your "work" when your boss approaches your cubicle.)
GO AHEAD AND JUMP ON THE MIKE SMITH BANDWAGON … LIKE, NOW
Almost every fantasy league has a disproportionate amount of stat categories devoted to goalies; some even have half. Maybe that matches up with reality in a way (goalies can make or break a team more than any one skater), but what it really means that owners must stock up on options in net.
Let me bring your attention to a player you should pick up under almost any circumstance, then: Phoenix Coyotes goalie Mike Smith.
Stopping 39 out of 40 shots against the Colorado Avalanche on Nov. 2 could end up being Smith's coming out party to many fantasy owners, so this might be your last chance to snatch him as a free agent. One roster spot is a tiny price to pay if he really does blossom in Dave Tippett’s defensive system. Smith is 5-2-2 in 2011-12 and his overall numbers are impressive, but it’s what he’s done in the last 4 games that should gain your attention. Come to think of it, his save percentage falls in line with what Ilya Bryzgalov managed in his years as the Coyotes' franchise guy, so there's some reason to dream big.
Does that mean that Smitty will be so strong all season long? Most would probably bet "No," but he’s a) clearly the top guy in Phoenix and b) currently available as a free agent in a lot of leagues. This is about as low-risk, high-reward as you get a month into a fantasy season (at least as far as already-established goalies are concerned). Honestly, I don’t care if your team is already strong in net, either. You can never have enough strong goaltending in fantasy hockey, even if one or more of your netminders end up being glorified trade bait.
Ultimately, if the idea of getting Bryzgalov-lite for nothing more than a roster spot doesn’t entice you, then I don’t know what will.