James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Beware the Band-aids

Friday, January 11, 2013

Typically, when someone dreams of what real-life sports would be like if they were more like video games, people imagine the beauty of the “Reset” button. Call me a romantic, but there’s a different feature that would be far more beautiful: turning injuries “off.”

Imagine, for a second, if Bobby Orr’s knees never failed him. What if Mario Lemieux didn’t rotate chemotherapy sessions and back pains with individual trophies? Even imagining modern examples like Marc Savard’s depressing concussion issues (and Rick DiPietro’s tragic existence) set one’s heart aflutter.

There’s something poetic about the fact that an athlete’s body can be both his greatest asset and detriment, but fantasy owners don’t feel that way when their rosters are impacted by someone’s wonky groin.

And oh, will there be wonky groins …

With that in mind, Rotoworld implores you to at least take frequently injured players into account when you sign up and eventually draft your super-team at Yahoo.  Oh, and if you want some extra help assembling that squad, the Rotoworld Draft Guide should do the trick.

Here is a list of some of the guys to watch out for.

First things first: noteworthy dinged up players who aren’t frequently offenders:

Anze Kopitar (day-to-day), Rick Nash (supposedly 100 percent), Derek Roy (offseason surgery), Tuomo Ruutu (just had season-ending surgery), Nicklas Backstrom (mystery injury), Claude Giroux (neck, should be OK but at least keep an eye out), Danny Briere (wrist) and Willie Mitchell. Click here for Rotoworld’s full injury list.

Now, onto the regularly injured notables, or as I like to call them: the Ishouldaknownbetters.

Sidney Crosby - (Ducks a tomato.) So, you have the third or fourth pick in the draft. Do you go with Crosby or a safer, lower-ceiling pick? I say pick Crosby, just realize he does carry enormous risks. Concussion sufferers tend to suffer more concussions. It’s a vicious cycle.

The condensed schedule plays against him, yet a long lockout break probably did him some good. I’d draft Evgeni Malkin before Crosby, if it comes down to it, though.

Marian Gaborik - Veteran fantasy owners know all too well the feast or famine presence that is Gaborik. He’s actually been relatively healthy for the New York Rangers - even playing in an unfathomable 82 games last season - but the grim health reaper always hangs over his head. The lockout allowed him enough time (allegedly) to recover from shoulder surgery, yet you know what you’re getting into with Gabby.

Kari Lehtonen - The once-perpetual injury headache in Atlanta has now just been susceptible to wear-and-tear in Dallas, but the “2013” season could be full of landmines. It remains to be seen how No. 1 netminders will be handled in a halted schedule; if the Stars lean on him even more, the risks just increase.

Mike Green - Here’s a tough question: where should Green go in drafts? Even eternal optimists have to be a bit stymied by his last two seasons. He put up a pitiful seven points in 32 games in 2011-12 after what seemed like an all-time low (24 points in 49 games) in 2010-11. He averaged just 21:03 minutes per game last season. Even the Washington Capitals wondered if he'd ever be the same.

Let's say this: if you pick up, people should say "Oh no, I forgot about Green!" instead of "Haha, you picked Green already?" Actually, just stay away.

Alexander Semin - Ah, Green’s (former) partner in scapegoating crime. Depending upon which corner of the hockey world you were in, you could find someone to blame Semin for just about anything. The problem is that Semin’s had similar on-paper struggles (though not as extreme) as Green the past two seasons.

Normally, I’d get on my contract year soapbox, but Semin’s been on that kick for a while now. Instead, I think a change of scenery will do him well - as long as the Carolina Hurricanes give him a real chance to unleash that all-world shot.

Rick DiPietro - He claims he’s “bright-eyed and bushy-tailed,” which I believe is a scientific term for “healthy.” Still, you’re not going to get suckered in by Ricky D, are you? I’d say keep him on your watch list and nothing more.

Ryan Kesler - Look, he’s not on the same regrettable scale as some of these guys but … two consecutive off-seasons rife with surgery/surgeries worries me. He's still in the recovery process, too, so who knows how abbreviated his abbreviated season will even be?

Simon Gagne - For most of the guys on this list, I’m imploring you to “pump the brakes.” In the case of Gagne: at least keep him on your radar. The Los Angeles Kings now boast a deep offense, so if Dustin Penner floats like Dustin Penner floats and Justin Williams gets injured, Gagne could have a sneaky contract year. Of course, that depends on a bigger IF: will Gagne himself be healthy? The odds are against him, but the gains could be stealthily strong.

That doesn’t mean draft him high - or even at all, depending - but keep an eye on the struggling sniper.

Marian Hossa - He’s been cleared from Raffi Torres-induced concussion issues, but oh what a brutal hit that was. Just be careful, especially since there’s a lot mileage on those 33-year-old legs.

Nathan Horton - Another concussion question mark after a rough 2012, Horton does have the contract year factor in his favor. Still, keep in mind that although he had a magnificent 2011 playoff run, he’s never topped 62 points in his NHL career.

J.S. Giguere and Semyon Varlamov - Are you bullish on the Colorado Avalanche? That’s not outrageous, just note that both of their netminders tend to be on the mend. A hand-cuffing might be in order in that scenario.

Ales Hemsky - It’s hard not to like his game; for years he’s been one of the few good things going for the Oilers offensively. Still, he’s Gaborikian in his fragility. He might be worth a late-round gamble, just be ready to drop him if The Usual happens.

Martin Havlat - See: Hemsky, Ales. Although his ceiling could be higher on a team that still has some serious offensive talent in San Jose.

Peter Mueller - The Florida Panthers are hoping they’re making a low-risk, high-reward gamble with another dented-can Colorado Avalanche exile. Mueller’s skills are certainly tantalizing, but he’s missed a haunting amount of hockey. Keep him on your early pick-up radar.

Andrei Markov - Is he really healthy? It’s tough to believe it, although he could be a serious asset if he’s somehow over his issues. Treat him like Hemsky: an intriguing guy to consider when you’re going through late-in-the-draft dart throws.

Sami Salo - The Wile E. Coyote of hockey isn’t getting younger.

Tim Connolly - Not worth the trouble, which is sad because he does have talent.

Chris Pronger - Stay way. Stay far away.

Kimmo Timonen - He’s getting awfully long in the tooth, but with Matt Carle gone and Pronger sidelined, he could rack up some nice numbers. Just don’t draft him early.

Jaromir Jagr, Ray Whitney, Daniel Alfredsson, Martin Brodeur and Teemu Selanne - These big names provide a siren call that’s not only rooted in nostalgia, but their ages make them risky. Don’t let your heart or sense of whimsy overwhelm their appropriate places in a given draft, but don’t ignore them totally, either.

Any key omissions? Feel free to contact me on Twitter or via e-mail (both listed below).

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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