At this point, Erik Karlsson’s season-ending injury remains the biggest loss of the 2013 fantasy season. Chances are, that remains the largest stomach punch landed, but Friday unfortunately presented a contender.
In one thunderous collision with Erik Gudbranson, Evgeni Malkin owners saw an easy first-round pick (frequently a number one overall guy) enjoy something in common with his equally paid teammate Sidney Crosby: he got a concussion.
As is usual with brain injuries, the true damage is cloudy. (Sadly, it appears Geno’s short-term memory is too; that’s one of the symptoms the Penguins finally acknowledged late on Sunday after being wishy-washy about the whole thing earlier on.)
What we do know is that Malkin won’t be available for the Penguins three-game road trip, which begins on Tuesday. Now, there have been times when players hop on the later portion of such a tour, but it’s doubtful this is the case. Really, if he’s back by their next game in Pittsburgh (on March 4 against the Tampa Bay Lightning), then we’d all let out a sigh of relief.* It could very well last for a long time … we’ll just have to wait and see.
If the injury is fairly long-lasting, it would obviously be a significant blow to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ fortunes. Yet in a weird way, one could argue that fantasy owners might get hit as hard (in a fake way) because Dan Bylsma & Co. have been through this rodeo before. From your perspective, you lost the very first piece of your foundation.
Malkin has been a little disappointing, at least on the scale of a guy who might have gone first overall. About the only thing to root for today (or soon) is for Malkin to be placed on the injured reserve so you can make some adjustments. That could happen since the team’s just-about ruled him out for the trip. We’ll find out soon enough.
There is one other thing to consider: other Penguins forwards. Let’s take a quick look.
Sidney Crosby - He’ll be fine, aside from maybe a marginal loss on the power play. The guy has six three-point games in the month of February. Crazy.
James Neal - While Crosby’s linemates have steadily been Chris Kunitz and Pascal Dupuis, Neal has (quite logically) remained with the guy who helped him become a power forward who was drafted in the first 2-3 rounds. (Note: I drafted him in a deep league second round.)
Neal should be fine. One of the only guys in the NHL who can send him pillow-soft one-timers not named Evgeni Malkin happens to be Sidney Crosby. Heck, Crosby might be ecstatic to have a guy who can finish his chances on the kind of scale he hasn’t seen since Marian Hossa interned with his team one summer. It’s more likely that one of Crosby’s other wingers will lose out.
Chris Kunitz - I don’t expect Kunitz to be the odd man out, although honestly, it could be both him and Dupuis in a rotation the way line changes work. (Neal could actually get bumped if they need to spread the offense out, actually.)
Even if he does, Kunitz has been a month-plus steal. While his PIMs are marginally disappointing, he’s still getting hits and has seven goals and 21 points. His propensity to do the dirty work makes me think he’ll be the one running shotgun with Crosby and Neal more often.
Pascal Dupuis - Considering the fact that Kunitz has nine more points this season, it’s reasonable to assume my inkling is pretty strong. While he’s less bombastic about it, he can be a dirty work guy too, so he’s got a shot.
Again, this is speculation, so don’t jump off a pier based on this (and one game of evidence).
Take a tour of the rest of the league’s business after the jump.
* - Unless he comes back too soon, of course. Then we’ll utter a wail of dismay, aside from a few people with an unhealthy hatred for the Penguins.