James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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An oddly fitting change

Monday, March 19, 2012

At this point, you’re likely either in the playoffs (nice work!), trying to psyche yourself up for the consolation rounds (sorry), in a league that’s still determining that (really?) or opening up a new tab to see if you made the playoffs or not (I understand). If you still care about the results, these are the times where you make big decisions to either “dance with the girl who got you there” or maybe gain a little boost on the side. (Hey, if you can’t get away with “infidelity” in fantasy sports, where can you?)




First things first, the Alex Radulov scenario seems like it might actually work out in the favor of the Nashville Predators – and thus opportunistic fantasy owners. It’s important to note that it’s not a sure thing just yet that he’ll be back in the NHL, but just about every logical arrow points in that direction as long as his sticky KHL rights situation is sorted out. (I can’t see why everyone can’t be satisfied in some way; it’s not like his KHL team didn’t get all those great years by bending the rules in the first place, right?)


Looking at the two major fantasy leagues, it seemed possible to add Radulov in ESPN but not quite in Yahoo! yet. (I’m not an “expert” at fighting through the kinks of Yahoo’s system to bring in guys who aren’t quite “available” in the NHL right away, though, so feel free to let me know if I’m totally off-base or if something changes soon.)


During the regular season, I’d say that it’s worth burning a few days of a fringe player’s availability to add a guy like Radulov before anyone else can grab him. Yet I’d wager that Radulov’s unlikely to play before Thursday, though, so it wouldn’t pay to drop a guy right now for him – not when every point counts. (In fact, a Saturday return - if not later - seems just as likely. Believe me, the Predators want him in Nashville more than you can imagine - and way more than you want him on your team[s]. Seriously, just trust me on this one.)


That is especially true if you employ the somewhat despicable but understandable practice of add/dropping like crazy during the playoff weeks. There seems to be something “unsporting” about doing that, but if you’re that cutthroat about it* make sure to follow Michael Finewax’s weekly preview articles in particular. They’ll let you know how many games each team is playing from week-to-week and all those sneaky details, so you can best prepare yourself for dirty, dirty victories.


* - Yes, I’ve done it once to win a league. Yes, it felt tarnished – but I wasn’t going to lose to my friends, right? I wouldn’t do it again, although being busy might have more to do with it than ethics.



In perhaps the funniest bit of news from this weekend, Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Steve Mason wasn’t aware that he could wear form-fitting goalie pads until recently. Such a story would be hard to believe for a CHL team that is severely under-staffed, but an NHL team? With a full-time goalie coach? A goalie just a year away from a contract year? Only Mason and the Blue Jackets could “pull off” such a self-effacing caper.


Here’s the interesting thing, though: whether wearing bigger pads has created a tangible or more of a psychological advantage, Mason’s been playing arguably his best hockey since he won the Calder Trophy. Check out what he’s done since Feb. 11: an 8-4-1 record, with wins against playoff-desperate teams such as the Flames, Kings, Coyotes (twice) and Avalanche. He has a shutout, four one-goal victories and two more when he just allowed two tallies.


Does this mean he’s going to carry this over to next season? So much can change in Columbus that it’s barely worth considering right now - so stay away in keeper leagues, if you were considering that for whatever reason.


Who cares about that right now, though? Mason is available in a ton of leagues right now and is red-hot. There’s no guarantee he’ll keep it up, but can you honestly say that you wouldn’t benefit from a third goalie who might just play like a No. 2 piece through the rest of his season? If you’re goalie-poor, he’s worth a shot. In fact, he might just win you a giggle-inducing fantasy crown.



Congratulations to the St. Louis Blues for being the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season. I picked them to make the postseason, but I won’t claim to be a soothsayer; I reluctantly chose them as a seventh seed because I dug their depth more than anything else. (I will say that this season makes me feel justified in wondering why Ken Hitchcock was jobless for so long, unless you consider some cushy “consultant gig” good enough. Most of us would, but I guarantee you that Hitch was dying to get back behind a bench. Read this great SI article to delve into his transformation as a cuddlier – if smaller – man with a “caveman diet.”)

Anyway, in more direct Blues news, David Backes had an injury scare and might indeed miss some time. The good news is that he didn’t fracture his foot, so it shouldn’t be a major issue. Losing Backes for any amount of time is a major issue for fantasy owners, however, so keep your eyes peeled for updates.



The Philadelphia Flyers managed to blank Sidney Crosby for the first time in his return. Still, with five assists in three contests, his owners probably aren’t complaining. Speaking of owners with little right to complain, Scott Hartnell’s offense has been a little inconsistent, but his two goals from Sunday – including an overtime winner with .9 seconds left – pushed his total to 35 on the season. Oh, he also had six penalty minutes, which shows how sweet an asset he can be – and has been … Jaden Schwartz scored his first goal as a Blues forward/NHL player. If their injuries are more serious, maybe put him on a watch list for the stretch run … Phil Kessel should not be traded. Just thought I’d say it, for the record … Winnipeg Jets fans might want to cool it with the “[blank] is better” chants. They did so with Eric Staal in relation to Jordan; Eric went on to factor into two killer late goals to give the Jets a regulation loss that could just be crushing for a team with a paper-thin margin of error … I think we can put the worries of Evgeni Malkin tailing off with Crosby in the mix to rest. Geno now has a four-point lead for the Art Trophy (88 to Steven Stamkos’ 84) despite playing in seven fewer contests than Stamkos.



Jeff Skinner received a two-game suspension for kicking Scott Nichol. That’s not a misprint … Add Johan Franzen (back) and subtract Pavel Datsyuk from the Red Wings’ ranks of injured players … Taylor Hall may or may not (I’ve read that the word is leaning toward “not”) have suffered a concussion this weekend. Considering Edmonton’s lowly playoff position, he’s not likely to get rushed into action, so you would be wise to consider backup plans … Maxime Talbot’s day-to-day with an upper-body injury … Tomas Vokoun has some sort of lower-body issue … Ryan Callahan and Michael Del Zotto returned for the Rangers this weekend. So did Kris Versteeg with the Panthers, who seem primed to run away with the Southeast Division – relatively speaking, of course. Speaking of which, scoop up Jose Theodore if he’s become available again due to injuries … Andrei Markov doesn’t seem to be dealing with anything serious, but he did take a game off. Montreal has no reason to take risks with him, so perhaps you might want to exercise caution as far as depending upon him too much. (Click here for the full injury list.)

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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