James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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On Brawls and busted Byfuglien

Monday, April 02, 2012


BREAKING: Before you do anything, you might want to prepare for the possibility of replacing Dustin Byfuglien - as much as that might be possible this late in the game. This morning’s reports indicate that the big, uniquely peripheral-friendly blueliner could be shut down for the season. The Winnipeg Jets don’t have anything to play for, so it certainly makes sense. It's a scary potential situation for his owners, but just beware.

 

Now to your regularly scheduled Daily Dose fun:

 

***

 

As I watched the Pittsburgh Penguins and Philadelphia Flyers engage in a rather senseless line brawl – even based on the already shoddy standards of logic that usually justify line brawls (not that I’m complaining) – I almost had a really pertinent fantasy hockey-related thought. Then Tony Granato and Peter Laviolette showed their better-than-my-own senses of balance by standing on their respective benches to scream each other at the time-honored tradition of hockey coaches yelling at one another.

 

(Quick aside; what do you prefer: a good old-fashioned goalie fight or a yelling match between head coaches – aka the suited men who are supposed to act like “adults?” Without knowing the exact back story of each given incident and the general awesomeness of a specific squabble, seeing bench bosses nearly come to blows is the bigger treat for me. It’s sort of like watching the football coach and principal get into a very real, very personal argument – only Laviolette and Granato probably never made you run up a hill whenever you missed a block. Um, theoretically.)

 

While both of those in-parenthesis situations are pretty spectacular bits of entertainment, they’re not pertinent to fantasy owners. For instance, by some sad oversight, you don’t even get a bonus when a goalie slashes a forward trying to screen him with the added penalty minutes.

 

I kind of lied about not thinking in fantasy terms, though - and not just because Evgeni Malkin's garbage time goal made me imagine random Malkin owners spazzing out all across the globe.

 

Nope, for some fantasy owners, Sunday’s most beautiful site wasn’t Laviolette and Granato nearly jumping into Pierre McGuire’s between-the-benches spot to get in a fight of their own. Instead, it came for all the filler-type players who pumped up your penalty minute stats. Checking the box score, here were the real “winners” of the fight fest, in the form of the penalty summary:

 

Zac Rinaldo

Misconduct

10:00

Brayden Schenn

Unsportsmanlike conduct

2:00

Wayne Simmonds

Fighting

5:00

Matt Niskanen

Unsportsmanlike conduct

2:00

Marc-Andre Bourdon

Unsportsmanlike conduct

2:00

Deryk Engelland

Fighting

5:00

Arron Asham

Unsportsmanlike conduct

2:00

Craig Adams

Unsportsmanlike conduct

2:00

Joe Vitale

Unsportsmanlike conduct

2:00

Arron Asham

Misconduct

10:00

Brayden Schenn

Roughing

2:00

Danny Briere

Unsportsmanlike conduct

2:00

Pavel Kubina

Unsportsmanlike conduct

2:00

 

Depending on your perspective, the catalyst for the brawl was either a Joe Vitale hit on Danny Briere during that shift or a Brayden Schenn cross-check on Sidney Crosby earlier in the third period. The other interesting thing to note is that Asham didn’t appear to get an instigator penalty, which gives him a much better chance of avoiding a suspension for his indiscretions. (Personally, I don’t think it would be outrageous to hand him one.)


The ultimate messages are as follows:

  • As far as the regular season is concerned, if you need penalty minutes in what would have to be the final weekend of any league (if yours hasn’t been decided yet, naturally), the April 7 match between the Penguins and Flyers seems like one of the most obvious ones for penalty minutes in a long time. Then again, it will be the last day of the regular season, so both teams might want to avoid possible suspensions right before their playoff series begins. Tensions have a higher potential to boil over if home ice is on the line on Saturday, though. Keep your eye on minor league goon call-ups because that's a neon light pointing to PIMS - or a siren call that makes you waste a roster spot, depending on how that might go.
  • Beyond that clear game, look for rivalry matches. That's always a good PIM strategy, but it might be worth applying that extra layer of detail during this week in particular – especially when it comes to contests between two teams that have a history of pugilism and something to play for. (Check out the week ahead for a great sense of what’s coming up.)
  • Fantasy hockey always has a sense of randomness to it, but this week – and really, the last few in general – are especially prone to the whims of teams who have something to play for vs. ones that don’t. Some cellar teams might acknowledge the tanking opportunity (The Islanders looked pretty flat on Sunday) while others could continue to revel in the chance to spoil things for other teams (The Wild are on a seemingly ill-advised hot streak while the Blue Jackets are enjoying their time now that the bottom spot is clinched). A big chunk of teams either were eliminated or clinched divisions/berths over the weekend, so now it’s all about seeding – aside from the lower seeds and the relatively lowly Pacific and undeniably lowly Southeast Division races.
  • Again, it’s going to be a little weird. Stay focused on last-minute scratches and teams resting players during the final week. For example: the Senators played without Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson yesterday, opening the door for Kyle Turris to produce a surprising four-point game - with a whopping eight shots, no less.

 

If you’re in a league that’s still going through its final days, it’s all about navigating the minefields that come with end-of-the-season business. With a combination of Rotoworld’s updates, features and the DD, hopefully you can stick with the ups and downs and win it all.

 

Even if if the road is paved with randomness.


QUICK HITS

 

Sixth seeds might be surprisingly likely to sit players. The Devils and especially Blackhawks are pretty much locked-in where they are, so take heed. The Blues, Rangers and Canucks are jostling for first seed positioning and/or Presidents’ Trophy goodness, but don’t be shocked if they play it safe, either … Steven Stamkos might be the only Lightning player (ignoring the fantasy-irrelevant scrubs fighting for a future job) with anything to play for. He’s shooting for 60 goals (he needs four in four games) and also broke the NHL single-season record for OT goals with his fifth. Overall, he has 11 GWGs, tied for first overall with – get this – Radim Vrbata … Speaking of Phoenix Coyotes, Ray Whitney scored the 1,000th point of his career while Mike Smith continues to make a claim for the bargain bin Hall of Fame … Nikitia Nikitin is on a hot streak. Bonus points for inheriting the title of “La Femme Nikita” puns from Nikita FilatovMarian Gaborik has been a great injury gamble – this season, at least. He reached the 40-goal mark this weekend. Just be careful in the next draft because less cautious owners will pump up his value – maybe even to excessively risky levels.


INJURY SNIPES

 

Again, the feeling is that Tomas Vokoun won’t do you any good until next season. Keep an eye on him then, though; he might be a nice steal since his reputation likely took a hit after a tough 2011-12 … The Kings sure could use Jeff Carter, but it sounds like he’s out for at least the regular season … Nicklas Grossmann (extra n recently acknowledged) was banged up in the Flyers-Penguins game, but not during the brawl. His lost is likely a bigger deal for Ilya Bryzgalov and Sergei Bobrovsky than anything else … Speaking of which, I’d bet that Bobrovsky will get most of – if not all – of the Flyers remaining starts, even if that’s not seemingly the company line. Philly is hard to follow in the injury area, though, so just take caution … Mikhail Grabovski and Jonas Gustavsson are banged up for Toronto. You might want to apply the Dustin Byfuglien rule on that one. (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 two years. Follow him on Twitter.
Email :James O'Brien



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