James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Ales' Roto Wonderland?

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’d like to think that the Hockey Daily Dose shifted into “playoff mode” this week.


Now, this is the Hockey version of the Daily Dose’s first season at Rotoworld (well, at least the first one written by me – perhaps someone else did it too years ago but I just don't know it … you know what? Let’s just move on), so what exactly “playoff mode” would be wasn’t too obvious. With that in mind, I came up with a simple idea – not a rule – for each column: try to come up with a player worth adding who might be available (or at least debate the potential value of a guy who might be on the wire).


Before I get to the “new” player to look at, I thought it would be a cover the most important thing - even if it's far from a new subject.



OK, let me fire the gun for you sprinters – I can tell from your metaphorical twitching of your muscles that you’re anxious – because it looks like the race for Alexander Radulov is ready to start. The word late last night/very early this morning is that he arrived in Nashville via plane and will practice with the Predators sometime this morning/afternoon/yougetitwhenevertheypractice.


I can’t out-and-out guarantee that he’ll play on Thursday, but just about every logical indication is that he will. With that in mind, you might as well go ahead and drop some fringe player for Radulov now – particularly if your league allows you to do so. Note as I'm about to publish this: Puck Puck Goose pointed out on Twitter that Yahoo has made Radulov available to add, although he won't clear waivers until March 24. That means you won't benefit from whatever adrenaline-soaked work he'll produce in his debut, but there is good news: the Predators play on Saturday the 24th (home vs. the Winnipeg Jets) and on Sunday the 25th (at the Chicago Blackhawks). With that in mind, he could give you two day's worth of stats, which could be very valuable in H2H leagues with one-week opening playoff rounds.


As far as I can tell, Radulov is already available in ESPN - in fact, I added him to make sure it works and it seems to go just fine. So if you're in ESPN, go ahead and do it now - even if he won't play until tomorrow.


In fact, just stick to this advice unless your offense is amazing: get Radulov whenever you can. If you’re in a league where he’s already for the taking, simply drop a fringe guy – preferably one who isn’t playing tonight if he’d normally be in your lineup, because every point does matter – and get him right now. As in, open a new tab and come back to the DD after you’re the new owner of the Radulov (and whatever rad-related pun that you’d naturally change your team name to after doing so).


Did you add him (if you could) or at least throw a waiver wire Hail Mary? Good for you. (Note: if Yahoo makes like the NHL and grants Radulov an exception to be available on Thursday after all, I'll let you know in tomorrow's column. Hey, we can dream, can't we?)



OK, well, I’ll admit that Radulov talk actually got a bit complicated and took up more space than expected there, but you might just have to get used to reading about him a lot this week. (Call it RAD week if you want to be cute and/or make a really slender reference to the “Fallout” video game series.)


Anyway, here’s my “debatable late add option” discussion point for Wednesday: Edmonton Oilers Ales Hemsky.



Hemsky is basically a right-handed Martin Havlat with a lighter resume. The Czech-born winger is only 28 years old, but he’s weathered a storm of injuries in his frustrating career. Hemsky played just 47 games last season, a laughable/sad 27 in 2009-10 and can max out at 69 this season. (By comparison, missing "just" 26 games in three seasons from 2006-07 through 08-09 seems like a medical breakthrough.)


We might need to come up with a cutesy injury nickname for Hemsky. Do you prefer Ow-les or Al-glass? OK, those are both horrible.



Anyway, with a hat trick and an assist last night, Hemsky finally justified the “if he was healthy” side of his argument after not really even doing that much this season. (You'd think he'd at least have the indecency to tease.) Before Tuesday, Hemsky had just 30 points in 59 games and went pointless in seven consecutive games. Yet now he has five in two contests, with four goals, inspiring the question: is he worth the short-term risk?


Well, one thing you need to know is that goal-scoring isn’t Hemsky’s bag under almost all circumstances. Hemsky’s career average is .56 assists per game, which takes up a huge chunk of his .77 point-per-game average. Before this season, he averaged .6 - .72 assists per game every year since the lockout.




Hemsky doesn’t take many shots, he’s unlikely to help you in plus/minus (career-worst -17) and probably won’t make a mark with PIM either. Hemsky's also a little disappointing on the PP. He has five PP points this season, had nine in 2010-11 and eight in 2009-10.




With all those negatives in mind, Hemsky does have a few things going for him. The injury risk is reduced in a shorter span – if he gets hurt, just drop him without flinching. His talent is undeniable – Hemsky was the 13th overall pick of 2001 NHL Entry Draft – and you can just see that. There’s something to be said for the excitement of adding a guy who’s actually good, right?


But really, he’s useful if you just want points – obviously mainly assists, unless he’s really going to continue his goal streak.


I’d say “No,” but can’t blame you if you give him a shot. It’s exciting to add a guy as talented as him – it just so happens that he doesn’t bring much variety to the table.



Speaking of playoff-mode guys, it was a good and bad night for the Monday and Tuesday suggestions.


One of my favorite mantras is to “pull the Band-Aid off right away” rather than dragging out painful moments and decisions, so let’s get to the bad start first. Steve Mason didn’t make me look very smart last night, allowing five goals – quite a few ugly ones – in a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. He also didn’t look great on paper against the Vancouver Canucks two games ago, allowing four tallies in a loss. I still wouldn’t totally give up on him simply because he’s shown progress and goalies are especially tough to come by, but I wouldn’t be offended if you cut bait either.


On the brighter side, pumping up Martin Havlat in Tuesday's Dose made me look a litlte less foolish – and he looked great on the tail-end of the back-to-back nights to boot. Havlat was involved in both of the San Jose Sharks’ goals in a downright pathetic 5-2 loss to the Los Angeles Kings, collecting a goal and an assist. After a scoreless return, Havlat has three consecutive two-point performances and looks like the only Sharks player genuinely interested in, you know, making the playoffs. Fresh legs don’t hurt and maybe inflate his actual value, but who cares?


Speaking of the Sharks making the playoffs, click here for a detailed look at how things changed in the West.

Make the jump for milestone talk, great work by the Pittsburgh Penguins, quick hits and injury bits.

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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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