James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Breaks of the Game

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Upon hearing Wednesday’s big bad news, I couldn’t help but wonder if we’d witnessed the birth of the next great perpetual injury disappointment.

In case you missed it, Ryan Kesler suffered a broken foot. He’ll need four-to-six weeks to recover, which in the worst case scenario, is dangerously close to the rest of the 2013 season. (Especially considering how poorly things have gone for him when he’s rushed back from serious ailments before.)

The former Selke winner didn’t blow the doors off fantasy-wise in his precious few seven games, but his versatility, the quality team around him and his high ceiling made him an exciting add for many owners. I’ll admit I was in that group in one deep league with very limited IR slots. (That limited amount of IR spots also explains why I glumly dropped Kesler for bland old Jay Bouwmeester on Wednesday.)

For my money, Kesler wasn’t quite at the “you should know better” level injury-risk-wise if you picked him up in mid-February or so. Sadly, it might be time to nudge him all the way into that category after this bit of bad luck.

At 28, he’s approaching the age where players see their bodies start to slip (while hoping that their accrued knowledge and self-confidence can make up the difference). By no means does that indicate he’s relegated to the Injury Bermuda Triangle with Ales Hemsky, Martin Havlat and others, yet that is becoming the worry.

I feel the most sorrow for owners who used a semi-valuable to valuable pick on Kesler, waited patiently as he rehabbed, excitedly activated him and then watched him get hurt again two miserable weeks later.

Fantasy hockey owners almost always have to take on injury gambles, but let’s admit it: fragility (or a lack thereof) is the biggest tiebreaker of them all. (It almost hurts to admit, but it's even more important than contract year determination.)


Players don’t always get to debut with their new teams in the first available game following a trade, yet in a short season, it’s a nice little treat that Michael Ryder and Simon Gagne got to play right away for their respective teams. (Bonus No. 3: Erik Cole is expected to suit up for the Dallas Stars tonight.)

If you had to give Ryder a grade for his first game - which really isn’t too fair - it would be an Incomplete. He had a -1 rating while failing to register a shot on goal in 14:34 of ice time. That might seem awful, but the guy didn’t even get to practice with new teammates.

It’s too early to say for sure, but my inkling that he’d take a substantial loss in the “linemates” department was accurate for at least one night. According to Chris Nichols’ line combos, Ryder skated with Alex Galchenyuk and Lars Eller on the third line and second power play group.

It’s quite possible that’s a makeshift setup; after all, every coach mixes and matches line combos nowadays anyway. Still, I’d strongly consider selling high on Ryder if you can.

(If you don’t trade him, don’t drop him for a scrub, though. It’s early, but I do think he’s peaking.)


Meanwhile, Simon Gagne’s return to Philadelphia was actually indeed quite triumphant.

He had a goal on the PP, which is obviously great, but his overall activity was especially heartening. The 32-year-old winger received a solid 16 minutes of ice time, with an encouraging four shots on goal.

Don’t expect him to resemble the guy who crossed the 40-goal plateau twice during his Flyers days, but do expect a bump up. He skated with Sean Couturier and Max Talbot (who also scored his first goal of the season) on Philly’s third line. In a lot of ways Gagne’s situation seems pretty similar to Ryder’s, but the main difference is that one is watching his hope rise while the other was planted in a lesser situation.

Expect Erik Cole to get a nice boost, possibly starting on Thursday.

Jump for a “natural” and more from the NHL.

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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.
Email :James O'Brien

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