With the Winter Classic now in the rearview mirror, the hockey world’s collective attention is turning toward the Sochi Olympics as a result of the participating nations having announced their rosters. Let’s delve deeper into this topic and touch on many others in this week’s nuggets.
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This week’s unveilings of the Canadian, Russian, Finnish and Swedish Olympic rosters have already created a stir in the Twitter verse fraught with second-guessing about which players should or should not have been chosen to represent various countries. But as I said in my piece last week, I would like nothing more than to see my fantasy players be excluded from the festivities, instead, giving them a two-week break from the rigors of the NHL schedule prior to the stretch run. I happen to own Martin St. Louis in one of my hometown leagues and James Neal in another so Tuesday’s announcement that they had been left off Team Canada’s squad didn’t exactly have me shedding any tears. There may even be a market inefficiency to be exploited in your league by targeting players who were left out of the Olympics.
Speaking of players who were overlooked for the Sochi Games, is it wrong that I wish Iceland could go full Mighty Ducks (Disney, not Anaheim) on the world and submit a team of misfit players to the Olympics? In my scenario, the renegade Icelanders would offer citizenship to the rest of the world’s best castoffs, icing a lineup that could potentially medal in Russia when you consider this group’s talent as well as their desire to prove their doubters wrong. A top-six group consisting of Claude Giroux, Martin St. Louis, Joe Thornton, Alexander Semin, Bobby Ryan and James Neal would look pretty dangerous, as would a defense corps that consists Brent Seabrook, Dustin Byfuglien, Keith Yandle, Dan Boyle, Kris Letang and Victor Hedman. One can dream, I suppose.
Keeping with the Olympic theme, two of the potential Icelanders discussed above whose stock appears to have been hurt by an early-season slump are Claude Giroux and Alexander Semin. The fact each of these players battled through injury during the pre-season might teach us something about the amount of time we should afford them to shake off the rust and get back to their normal selves. Claude Giroux’s recent hot streak has been well-documented, but consider that he has recorded 19 points in his last 13 games after starting the year with just seven in his first 15 on the heels of an off-season wrist ailment. For his part, Semin’s early-season hand injury likely played a role in his amassing just 10 points in his first 24 contests before embarking on his current stretch of eight points in seven outings. James Neal is the obvious counter-argument to this point, as he seemingly didn’t miss a beat after he missed the season’s first few weeks, but I think he’s the exception that proves the rule. Going forward, I will be making a concerted effort to lower my expectations for players returning from long layoffs, a theory I can test later this season once Steve Stamkos, Zach Parise and Logan Couture return from their injuries.
His minus-13 rating is a signal that he still has some work to do to refine his play in the defensive end, but Taylor Hall’s offensive production this season has occurred rather quietly, if you ask me. Despite missing seven games due to injury near the start of the season, Hall remains just outside the top-15 in league scoring, having accumulated 16 goals and 25 assists. If we combine his last two years, we see that he has recorded 91 points in 84 contests, proving he has arrived as an elite scorer at the NHL level. He may not have the same all-around type of game as John Tavares, but the game-breaker could be one year away from experiencing a Tavares-type jump forward in his production. In short, even though his point totals have been impressive already, I think the 22-year-old still has some room to improve from here.
Bargain Bin Finds
The price is always right when you’re sifting through the bargain bin. As usual, the players listed below are owned in fewer than 20 percent of Yahoo leagues.
Aleksander Barkov (9 percent) – The second overall selection from this year’s entry draft has gradually seen his ice time rise and given who he has to compete with on the Panthers, why shouldn’t it? Only Tomas Fleischmann has recorded more power play minutes among Florida forwards. To boot, he has 12 points in his last 12 games, including an active six-game point streak, yet he’s available in over 90 percent of Yahoo leagues. Go figure.
David Desharnais (11 percent) – Given his general aversion to shooting the puck and his relatively low penalty minute totals, Desharnais isn’t a player I would normally consider in rotisserie formats, but he’s useful in points-only leagues. After a dreadful start to the year he has picked up 14 points in 17 contests since December 1st, six of which have come with the man advantage where Michel Therrien likes to use him.
Patrik Berglund (15 percent) – Berglund is considered by many to be a disappointment since he has never matched the 52 points he amassed as a 22-year-old in 2010-11 and with the litany of talented players currently on the Blues it’s difficult for him to distinguish himself. That said, he seems to have been sparked by a move to left wing from his natural center position, developing instant chemistry with The Vladimirs (Tarasenko and Sobotka). He has registered 10 points in his last eight contests and though he’s not a go-to power play contributor for coach Ken Hitchcock, he does get the occasional stint with the man advantage.