James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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A wild first playoff week

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

It’s hard to believe that we’re just one week into the 2012 playoffs, but it’s true. Since the first Weekly Dose published, we’ve seen quite a few suspensions, plenty of should-be suspensions that went more or less unpunished and a staggering amount of hatred-tinged behavior. Don’t feel bad if it’s all left your head spinning; Brendan Shanahan & Co.’s decisions haven’t exactly made a lot of sense lately (especially during the postseason.)


I’ll try to discuss some of the bigger suspensions later on in the post – not to mention some of the injuries that have come from them – but it would be more proactive to discuss what might be an even more surprising and bewildering development. In case you haven’t been paying attention for some reason, two legitimate Stanley Cup contenders are on the ropes with 3-0 deficits to deal with: the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Vancouver Canucks and the just-short-of-first-place-in-the-East Pittsburgh Penguins.



As far as the productivity of the two teams, there are a few things to take away. Roberto Luongo was my first pick of the draft and that’s (quite obviously) been a disaster. Cory Schneider started Game 3 and even at this moment, it’s unclear who’s going to play in what might be Vancouver’s final playoff game of 2012. The only thing more disastrous than Luongo’s work is the results for anyone who drafted Daniel Sedin. There were a lot of hints that he’d play through his concussion issues as early as Game 1 or 2, yet it’s starting to look like he might not be ready until next season. That impact isn’t just felt for Sedin owners – it’s likely that many of us would have been less interested in investing in any Canucks – and conversely, more interested in adding Kings such as Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar – if we knew the shooting Sedin would be sitting those games out.



In a weird way, the fact that the Penguins have been brutalized far more than the more-competitive Canucks actually worked into the hands of many Penguins owners (with the obvious exception being anyone who owns Marc-Andre Fleury in a league – he’s been horrific). The first point is obvious: if you can get past some negative plus/minuses, Penguins players generally scored a nice amount of points. The second area of success is all the penalty minutes that have been handed out for the various bits of tomfoolery that happened. James Neal’s Game 3 stat line is a great way to summarize the good and the bad: two goals, one assist, 10 shots on goal and 12 PIM.


That’s the kind of productivity you’d expect from two games or more, which is great because he’s been suspended for Game 4. We’ll see if Neal even makes another appearance; if nothing else, the playoffs have been crazy enough so far that anything seems possible.



There’s a larger point to take away from all this, but it might not be what you’re expecting.


You can ask yourself this question in any fantasy league, really, but it’s especially true in playoff pools. When it comes down to it, you have to ask yourself this: Do I want to COMPETE or WIN?


Ok, obviously the two ideas aren’t mutually exclusive, but hopefully you catch the drift. Depending on your knowledge level, you might know when you’re taking a big risk vs. trying to be safe (aka, accepting a “lower ceiling” for a “higher floor).

Big risk category: Picking a handful of teams you expect to advance and then investing heavily in those players.

Trying to be safe category: Spreading your choices among all 16 teams (or something close to that) so you hedge your bets.


If you invested heavily in the Penguins and/or Canucks, you’re probably feeling pretty bad about the big risk move. You know what, though? Fortune favors the bold, so take heart. For one thing, it’s not totally impossible to imagine those teams coming back. More than anything else, you really had to do it, it just so happens that you chose players from the “wrong” teams. It happens - but at least you weren't timid. It's probably more fun to flame out on an epic level rather than to leave with a whimper.


Hopefully you’re in a shallower league so you can try to salvage things if the two teams get bounced as expected, but even if things didn’t go well, you should hold your heads high.



Your fearless author shouldn’t keep his head too high, however. Remember how I titled my pool guide the “Do as I say, not as I do” guide? I made that exception for a reason: sometimes I do dumb things, especially when things get as busy as they do in the playoffs. Before I expect on that point, here are the results from the Rotoworld Fantasy League’s first week. My pitiful team is in bold.


1. Jimmy Hascup - 123 total points (!)

2. Corey Abbott - 69.50

3. Brian Rosenbaum - 64.80

4. Ryan Dadoun - 61.70

5. Gus Katsaros - 58

6. Jared O - 53.90

7. James' sad little team - 47

8. Michael Finewax - 44.20

9. Marc Lapierre - 37.60

10. Kevin Brown – 32


Whenever I look at those standings, my stomach turns a bit, but not from an “I made the wrong picks” perspective. (Although, to be fair, I’ll probably feel that way if my two top goalies Luongo and Corey Crawford get bounced, which seems increasingly plausible). Instead, it’s from a “How could I not realize that I didn’t properly set my lineup?” standpoint. There are quite a few times when I probably had active players on the bench, but the stat line that will haunt me is Sean Couturier’s April 13 production:


Couturier produced three goals, one assist, a +4 rating and four shots on goal. According to the settings, every goal is worth two points, SOGs are worth .1, assists are one point, a plus/minus is a .5 bonus and a hat trick brings an extra five points. That’s 11 points just for his hat trick + assist, two more for his plus/minus and .4 for those SOGs.


In other words, if Couturier was in my lineup, I’d be in fifth place at 60.4 points – and that’s just one of my facepalm-ish moments from the first week.


The worst part is that being busy wasn’t that effective of an excuse. If I merely clicked the “Auto Lineup Setting” button I didn’t realize existed, I could have had at least a rudimentary lineup set up for me from day-to-day. It’s an important, if painful, lesson that harkens back to that guide: learn your league. Take the time to learn the little facets of new sites that you’ve never used before. If you don’t, you could get burned – like me.


Seriously, I blew it. (Hangs head in shame.)



For a full list of the injuries and suspensions, click here. The goal is to cover the high points, instead, though.


  • Nicklas Backstrom and James Neal both have one-game suspensions to deal with in their respective Game 4’s. It’s pretty amazing that they’re each getting the same punishment when Neal’s crimes seem totally worse, but that’s just the way things are going in the NHL right now.
  • Just look at Matt Carkner receiving merely one game for basically jumping Brian Boyle (and hitting him while he was down!) versus Carl Hagelin elbowing Daniel Alfredsson in the head. Sure, “injury” is a factor – even though it’s absurd to base decisions on that factor because people play hurt during the postseason all the time – but the star quotient is the most unsettling component. And hey, Hagelin isn’t chopped liver, either.
  • You might as well drop Arron Asham (four games) and other guys who faced the heaviest suspensions. That’s especially true because Asham basically brings nothing else to the table.
  • The next big decision will come regarding Raffi Torres, who delivered a horrible hit on Marian Hossa. Hossa was taken off the ice on a stretcher and was shuttled off to an area hospital in an ambulance because of the hit. Hossa would later leave the hospital under his own power, but even Jonathan Toews admitted that Hossa isn’t expected back anytime soon. I’m not saying drop him right away, but it might be wise to develop a contingency plan.
  • Jaroslav Halak is injured, so that gives at least a big short-term boost to Brian Elliott’s value. If he keeps winning, he might be one of the best steals of fantasy – in the playoffs as well.

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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