James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Are platoons worh the hassle?

Friday, November 18, 2011

A few years ago, goalie tandems (or “platoons”) were becoming increasingly common in the NHL. That was great for teams who didn’t want to spend big money on one risky goalie, but it was occasionally a nightmare for fantasy owners. (That was an especially troubling problem when it wasn’t as common to have Internet access on phones; especially secretive/indecisive teams could change their starters while most people were stuck in rush hour traffic.)


So far in 2011-12, there really aren’t that many mysteries in net, at least in the big picture. Most of the top jobs are locked down by a clear top starter, which is great news for people who drafted successful franchise guys but troubling for people hoping for waiver wire help.


I’ll get to the New York Islanders’ conundrum later on, but the St. Louis Blues’ situation is the most interesting because there could be some serious spoils for the victor of Jaroslav Halak vs. Brian Elliott.


Elliott has been outstanding this season, with a great win-loss record (7-1-0) and fantastic individual numbers. Halak hasn’t been great over the long haul, but he certainly seems heartened by Ken Hitchcock’s addition; the Slovakian netminder is 2-0-1 with just three goals allowed in his three games under Hitch.


As I’ve discussed, the Blues have invested far more money in Halak, so he’s likely to get the benefit of the doubt (and then some). That being said, Elliott’s results have been so impressive that the Blues would be foolish to ignore his great work just because his paycheck is smaller.


It makes for a challenging situation for fantasy owners who have little choice but to venture into this difficult scenario. Perhaps the Blues will keep this up, but it’s far too early to say that they are a good enough team that it’s wise to own both goalies.


Personally, I’d choose Halak if all things are even, but it’s not outrageous to ride out this situation with Elliott for at least a bit longer. He’s been producing great results for nothing but a roster spot for opportunistic owners, so why not give it at least a few games before you cut the cord?



The Islanders are possibly the only other team without a clear starter (at least if the Columbus Blue Jackets continue their trend of turning a blind eye to Steve Mason’s struggles), but it seems pretty clear to me that you’re best off staying away until the smoke clears. Even then, the Isles don’t seem primed to take that big step in the positive direction that many onlookers were clamoring for.


Evgeni Nabokov went down in the first period of Thursday night’s game, leaving the door open for Rick DiPietro to get a win that I doubt many fantasy owners enjoyed. Nabby hasn’t done much to bolster his trade value in Long Island, but coming down with a groin injury (which will be re-evaluated today) won’t help matters either.



Jaromir Jagr only played 1:22 of the Philadelphia Flyers’ 2-1 win against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday. Jagr suffered from a “lower-body injury” and didn’t return. It’s unclear how much time he will miss, but at 39 years old, he isn’t likely to bounce back from nagging issues as quickly as he once did. Stick with Rotoworld for updates because it would be a shame if Jagr missed a few games after building up such a nice amount of chemistry with Claude Giroux.



Is Nikolai Khabibulin tumbling back down to reality? The surprise goalie of the season is now on a three-game losing streak. Tom Renney decided to pull Khabibulin during the first intermission last night after he allowed four goals on just seven shots, including two goals on the first two shots he faced.


It’s probably not fair to cast him aside after three tough losses, especially since he won six games in a row before he started stumbling. Still, if there’s a chance you can sell high on him for a goalie with a higher ceiling or better team, now might be your last chance.



Ilya Bryzgalov faced his former team in the Phoenix Coyotes and came out on top, but fantasy owners received benefits from both netminders on Thursday. Breezy got the win while Mike Smith made 40 saves to keep the Coyotes in the game. In a way it captures the current mood of the free agent situation: Bryzgalov is finding a nice home in Philly but the ‘Yotes haven’t really missed a beat with a cheaper option in Smith.



If Milan Michalek and/or Niklas Backstrom are free agents in your league for whatever inexplicable reason, absolutely pick them up. Michalek continues to produce high point totals riding shotgun with Jason Spezza while Backstrom is taking advantage of much better team play around him … Is Jeff Carter asking to be traded? The one thing that’s for sure is that fantasy owners wish they could have had a mulligan on what was almost certainly a high pick in most drafts … Martin Erat has four of his nine points in the last two games, so the Nashville Predators’ $6 million man might be worth a free agent add … Marc-Edouard Vlasic is an underrated defenseman, but don’t expect him to be too big of a scorer despite his four-point night … Evander Kane has four points in his last two games, pushing his season total to a solid 13. Keep him on your radar if you’re looking for help on the wing … Curtis Sanford looked good for the Blue Jackets in a shootout loss, for whatever that’s worth.



Ryan Kesler seems primed to play with a banged up shoulder this weekend. With seven points in 12 games, one might argue that he hasn’t been quite right after off-season surgery, anyway … Michael Frolik is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury … More bad news for the Oilers: Michael Frolik is day-to-day with back problems … Mike Green isn’t making much progress, which can’t be great news for the struggling Washington Capitals. (Click here for the full injury list.)


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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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