James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Background on Backups

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Add-before-you-read: the majority of this column focuses on backups who are risky adds. Before you read it, do me a favor and pick up Jakub Voracek if he’s available. Scroll if you need the reasons (then please start from “Being …”).

Being self-aware is important in many facets of life. If you ask me, it’s wise to be self-aware about what kind of fantasy hockey owner you are.

Some people are tweakers. They like to adjust their lineups on a week-to-week basis, riding hot streaks and keeping an eye on guys who are on the verge of potential breakthrough seasons. It takes plenty of skill and more than a little bit of luck to ride those currents to victory over the long haul. This can be a really fun way to play, even if it requires some serious commitment.

Not everyone’s like that, and there’s nothing wrong with going the more patient (or even hands-off) route. Really, being stoic can often come in handy; stat-leaning folks will quickly point out players regress to the mean, but the flip side is that cold streakers can warm up, too. Tweakers aren’t always the most stoic of general managers, and sometimes that might lead to an overreaction or two.

(Look at Shea Weber. As frustrating as his tough start has been - especially for his real life team, which paid him a bucket full of money to keep him away from the Philadelphia Flyers - he now has a two-game goal-scoring streak.)

My advice is to mostly take the measured approach, even if you’re really into it, but tweak away at the nonessential parts of your team. How large your fringe group depends on your stomach for risk, the number of teams in your league, the quality of waiver wire options and plenty of other factors.

That awareness is key to what has been a developing theme in the last few days: intriguing backups.


Viktor Fasth has risen beyond the level of backup, even if there’s always the chance that Jonas Hiller - who returned from injury on Monday to a 3-2 win - could always take the job back. Let’s take a few glances at some of the other guys who’ve made some noise lately.


Ben Scrivens - When you earn two shutouts in a row, it's bound to turn some heads. In the case of Scrivens, it's not just a matter of a guy whose defense carried him the whole way; he blanked the Ottawa Senators (34 saves) and Florida Panthers (37 saves) while making plenty of stops. While the AHL obviously doesn't provide the same level of competition as the NHL, it's promising that Scrivens excelled with the Toronto Marlies in recent times.

Honestly, when you look at his game log this season, Scrivens only really had one “bad” game when he allowed five goals in a loss against the New York Islanders.

Theoretically, Scrivens is in a perfect situation to steal the top spot in Toronto. There are significant factors working against him, though.

For one thing, the Maple Leafs admitted they still want to add a veteran goalie. Could that guy be Roberto Luongo? Even if it isn’t, there are plenty of intriguing candidates who might fit that bill, too.

Beyond that, look at how remarkably similar his stats are compared to starter (or 1a/1b) James Reimer:

Reimer: 6-3-0, 2.31 GAA, .929 save percentage, one shutout
Scrivens: 4-3-0, 1.93 GAA, .939 save percentage, two shutouts

The 26-year-old netminder is one of the most appealing backups available in about 60 percent of Yahoo leagues. He’s a solid buy, just know the risks and intriguing variables.

Ben Bishop - Obviously, one strong game shouldn’t get people too excited. If things get hairy for the underpowered Ottawa Senators, though, Bishop could receive quite a few more reps than if Craig Anderson drags them forward as a scrappy playoff contender. Let that play out before touching him, then.


Moving on, we have a backup I added in a league where my team is especially goalie-barren: Ray Emery. The Chicago Blackhawks’ No. 2 goalie is 5-0-0 with a 2.17 GAA and .929 save percentage.

At the least, Emery is a nice short-term guy with Corey Crawford healing up. Maybe Joel Quenneville will decide to run with Emery a little longer as the team keeps winning? Perhaps a great record could earn more starts in the future as the trust builds?

Those questions make Emery enticing, probably the most of the reasonably available backups, but don’t forget the risk factors. His hip problems could flare up. He’s not that far removed from struggling mightily. Oh, and before Crawford was hurt, Emery didn't see action for a week (Feb. 7, then the 15th).

Still, I like his situation enough to shed a fringe guy.


It’s not crazy to be a little excited about Jake Allen. He’s on a three-game winning streak on a St. Louis Blues team that many people believed would be a serious Stanley Cup contender. His numbers haven’t been great overall, but he even has a highlight-reel save on his NHL resume already. (Don’t forget about Ken Hitchcock’s way with surprise goalies such as Steve Mason and Brian Elliott, either.)

Still, there are enough red flags that only managers in especially deep leagues should really consider adding him beyond a week-to-week basis.

Jaroslav Halak is on the verge of being healthy. Elliott, even with his 2013 struggles, is coming off an All-Star season. That means Allen will face one, if not two substantial hurdles to becoming a fixture.

In other words, only add Allen if you’re willing to tweak later. Maybe sooner than you’d like.


Oh, come on, you’re not taking Peter Budaj too seriously, are you? I mean, I admire the guy for justifying his NHL existence, but Carey Price will get a ton of starts once his tummy feels better.

Overall? Emery, Scrivens and Allen are intriguing. Whoever you choose - if anyone - just be ready to drop them when the time is right. And don’t get too attached.


One possible pickup who’s not a goalie but promising enough to be worthy of a mention above the quick hits: Jakub Voracek. He’s only owned in 45 percent of Yahoo leagues despite having 15 points in 17 games this season. Before you mock owners in 55 percent of leagues, you should do two things: 1) give him an add and 2) note how hot he’s been lately.

In the last 10 games, Voracek has 12 points. In the last two, he has five.

Maybe Scott Hartnell’s pending return will ruin the party, but Peter Laviolette’s high-flying system has helped a lot of players max out their scoring potential. Philly also made a substantial investment in him this offseason. At minimum, he’s a guy you should add and probably be fairly excited about.

(Don’t expect point-per-game production overall from a former 50-ish point guy either, though.)


From the must be a misprint files: Patric Hornqvist had 12(!) shots on goal in his return on Monday. It’s seriously hard to believe that’s true, especially since none of them beat Semyon Varlamov … Hey, Phil Kessel scored again. Still worried about him? … Boy, the Matt Duchene-P.A. Parenteau-Jamie McGinn line is really heating up. If you can grab McGinn (assuming Parenteau isn’t available), do it; he’s a nice peripheral guy who’s been having bad puck luck for quite some time … Ouch: Tobias Enstrom is expected to miss at least a couple weeks … Apparently there are some Stephen Weiss trade rumors going around. Interesting … Carolina has all kinds of injury issues. Jeff Skinner might be concussed. Joni Pitkanen, Tim Gleason and Tim Brent are day-to-day with lower-body injuries … Brian Strait was placed on the IR with a broken ankle … Darroll Powe is out with a possible concussion of his own … Eric Staal’s 11-game point streak is over, but his owners shouldn’t complain … Cam Fowler might start skating again soon.

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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