James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Take advantage of Stars power

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Most people probably don't remember, but the Dallas Stars actually got off to a pretty hot start in 2010-11. They were on top of the Pacific Division for a hearty chunk of time and even held the number one position in the Western Conference before the team fell just short of the playoffs.


With that in mind, it seemed like the team's current four-game road swing would be a big, nasty reality check. While the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings could very well make it just a .500 trip, it's getting increasingly difficult to dismiss the Stars as a team that's just getting lucky bounces after seeing them handle the Washington Capitals with relative ease.


Unfortunately for fantasy owners, the Stars' offense is pretty top-heavy, at least as far as fantasy is concerned. Sure, Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro have their moments (let's not forget the surprising impact of Eric Nystrom, who has four goals), but it's really all about their dual 18-point men Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson.


So the question is: how can fantasy owners hop on the bandwagon? Well, it brings us to a tough thing in the modern NHL: you have to hope that your guy ends up playing alongside those two under-the-radar elites. At the moment, that means making a choice between Steve Ott and Michael Ryder. Let's take a look at the pros and cons for each guy – both of whom are available in a significant chunk of fantasy leagues as of this writing.


OTT: It's easy to call Ott a pest, but he's among the very rare subset of agitators who can really play.


He scored eight points in 11 games lining up with Benn and Eriksson, but Ott's versatility is what makes him so appealing. If you're lucky enough to be in a league with faceoffs (I've always liked that stat because it tends to be wildly predictable in an often chaotic fantasy world), then Ott is a keeper: he's won 54.7 percent of his draws this season. Oh yeah, there's also that "pest" thing again: he piled up 25 PIM in his 11 contests.


On the negative side, Ott is struggling with a hip pointer that knocked him off the first line. The natural worry revolves around whether Ott will be the Trent Green to Michael Ryder's Kurt Warner, to use a rather ridiculous NFL analogy.


RYDER: If you've been following the Daily Dose, you might be aware of my opinion on Ryder already: he's a hot-and-cold winger who can be a force during those high moments and tepid during his slumps. Unlike his harshest critics, I don't think it's all his fault; snipers tend to go through flourishes and dry spells as "puck luck" comes and goes.


Let there be no doubt that puck luck is going his way right now. Ryder has three goals and seven points in his last three games with a staggering +6 rating. Some of that comes from playing with Dallas' dynamic duo, but Ryder is making plenty of plays on his own.


If you're sly like a fox, the best move might be to ride Ryder's hot streak and then switch him out for Ott once the pesky player is good to go. You never know what a coach will do with his lines – especially since the Stars' top group is hotter than an active volcano right now – but Ott's faceoff abilities and general versatility make me more likely to stick with Benn and Eriksson.


Either way, you should absolutely consider the idea of riding the team's considerable star power. Maybe it's surprising, but it's hard to argue that Benn and Eriksson's magic will go away altogether.


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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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