The first games of the season are sloppy with emotions in any year, but that’s even more evident considering the mixed feelings from a lengthy lockout. And that anxiety rises that much more as the stakes are heightened by a condensed schedule.
Still, it’s important to keep this in mind after a fascinating first weekend: winning managers keep a cool head. If having a cool head puts you in position to exploit the hotheads raring to condemn any of Cory Schneider, the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers for a rough start, then even better.
(By the way, it’s not too late to draft up a team on Yahoo. Consult the Rotoworld Draft Guide to make your team as strong - and cool - as possible.)
Merely looking back at the beginning of the 2011-12 season tells you all you need to know about jumping to conclusions.
In case you’ve forgotten, here are a few of the storylines that emerged from the early days of that campaign - which were eventually dismissed: (Sometimes comically, I might add.)
- Gasp, Mike Smith won’t be able to live up to Ilya Bryzgalov’s example! He gave up six goals on Oct. 8 while the Swiss cheese Phoenix Coyotes allowed 52 shots on goal. They’ll regret not paying Ilya Bryzgalov, who clearly avoided the usual growing pains of moving to a new team with a shiny shutout. Surely these two goalies’ fates won’t switch, will they?
- Remember when the Minnesota Wild ran roughshod over the West, confounding stats experts in the process? That’s a great cautionary tale for the league as a whole and the team itself, although their odds of success are greater this season.
- Bruce Boudreau and the Washington Capitals looked bulletproof early in 2011-12 after they began the season on a seven-game winning streak.
That’s just a sample of the knee-jerk opportunities afforded when the sample sizes are especially small.
So, again, take a deep breath and ignore all the jokes and panicking on Twitter. An 0-2 mark doesn’t mean that Rick Nash transplanted the stench of defeat from Columbus to Broadway. On the overly optimistic side, the Wild’s 2-0 opening doesn’t guarantee that their $196 million splurge was worth it.
Still, that doesn’t mean you should bury your head in the sand altogether, either. This is a good time to study who might emerge with bigger roles - whether they’re rookies or players ascending to new heights. Don’t punt on goalies struggling early, but be particularly wary of guys who face a realistic chance of being usurped.
Oh, and of course, read the Daily Dose every weekday morning and Rotoworld everyday. It’s like giving your hockey brain vitamins, folks.
SPEAKING OF USURPING
The Roberto Luongo saga couldn’t end without a little extra drama, right?
Instead of being neatly shipped to Florida, Columbus, Toronto or some other seemingly goalie-needy outpost, Bobby Lou instead factored heavily into the proceedings for the Vancouver Canucks on both nights. Of course, he never would have had that chance if Cory Schneider didn’t get pulled against the Anaheim Ducks.
Not to be a broken record, but a game can’t make or break a guy who received a three-year, $12 million pact. Still, it does underscore a reasonable criticism of drafting Schneider in a prominent position: he remains relatively unproven.
I wouldn’t get overly worried, although Schneider owners have every reason to root for a trade. The longer Luongo stays - and eventually perhaps even wins - the more starts the younger netminder loses. Obviously, this is a situation to monitor, even if it’s not the frenzied mess that many Chicken Littles probably made it out to be.
EDLER SCROLLS/LUPUL LOCKED
This weekend featured two big contract extensions as the Canucks locked up Alexander Edler for six additional seasons while the Toronto Maple Leafs gave Joffrey Lupul a five-year extension.
The fantasy impact doesn’t strike me as wildly significant, although there are a few things to consider. Edler and Lupul owners miss out on the natural motivation of a contract year, although that can vary from player to player and is a subjective influence.
Reading into things more than a bit, re-signing Lupul makes it seem like the Buds might re-up Phil Kessel when they’re allowed to (his deal runs out after 2013-14). Meanwhile, the Canucks now have five defensemen carrying cap hits of $4 million or more, so someone has to go. Many believe Keith Ballard could be a buyout target, but you never know.