At this point in the fantasy (post)season, there aren’t many certainties.
I mean, sure, there are certain mostly irrelevant narratives that still hold true. The clearest one: that people will find a way to disparage Alex Ovechkin’s accomplishments with an almost total disregard for context, fairness or the impressive nature of a giving feat.
(In Tuesday’s case, Ovechkin likely became the only player to cross the 50-goal barrier.. He has at least that many goals in five seasons already, at the age of 28. Go ahead and take a moment to feel a crushing sense of underachievement if you’d like … *pauses with you*)
Even with the occasional and possibly xenophobic scapegoating to fall back on, this time in the fantasy season remains bewildering. Honestly, there might come a time when the fantasy hockey calendar ends a week-or-so sooner than the NHL regular season concludes - much like how fantasy football almost always ties things up before many players receive a little vacation during Week 17 - as I cannot help but wonder about how many championships may be determined by one coach’s preference for rhythm versus another bench boss’ urge to keep his high mileage stars fresh.
(Full disclosure: while I don’t like to see fantasy owners get slighted based on the arbitrary whims of coaches, I would absolutely rest my star players rather than risking them to injuries in games that would be meaningless to my team.)
The bottom line is that it’s difficult to tell how injured Ben Bishop and David Backes are, not to mention guys who have been on the mend longer that just last night. There’s little we can do but lap up the bread crumbs beat writers can provide (Erik Erlendsson’s impression is that Bishop is injured fairly significantly, for one.)
The best we can do is try to prepare for the worst, or at least the uncertain. With a precious few Dose entries remaining until the regular season is over - hey, the good news* is that there will be two per week in the playoffs, which means double the postseason punmanship!* - I’ll do my best to help you out in the stretch run.
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Here’s a quick guide that may help you in a bind or prepare a few escape hatch plans if you want to prepare for a potential bind.
DON’T JUST DIP YOUR TOES IN THE WATER
-- I think it’s wise to come up with your own system of tiebreakers when weighing comparable contributors. For instance: at this late in the game, you might want to pick a player or goalie whose team has three games left (the max for any team) over someone who only has two remaining.
-- Years ago, I thought of a GENIUS idea to note teams that often played on "off" days - aka the generally last populated days of the week from a quantity of games standpoint - and then realized that no one in their right mind would do such a thing. This week is a little goofy because Sunday actually has more games than Saturday, so I'll ignore the weekend and look at a few teams who play on Wednesday and/or Friday, so you can shamelessly squeeze every drop out of these remaining days.
Wednesday games: Anaheim, Calgary, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Detroit, Los Angeles, Montreal, Pittsburgh and San Jose.
Friday games: Calgary (also Wed), Carolina, Chicago (also Wed), Colorado, Columbus (also Wed), Dallas (also Wed), Detroit (also Wed), New Jersey, NY Islanders, St. Louis, San Jose (also Wed), Tampa Bay, Washington and Winnipeg.
If you're so deep into a battle with a hated/beloved friend or co-worker, you may be in a mode in which you're adding and dropping to your league's maximum. If that's the case, why leave players on your bench during heavily saturated days and have extra empty spots during lighter ones?
EDUCATED GUESSES ON REST VS. PRIDE VS. ?
Now, here’s where things get subjective: how can we tell when a coach might pull a Dan Bylsma and rest just about everyone out of the blue? You’re not going to like the general answer: we can’t know for sure. Still, we can make reasonable guesses, as long as we also stay up to date on who might fall out of one category or rise to a different one.
I’ll leave some interpretation up to you.
Teams that may be in cruise control (little room upward, already in playoffs): the Boston Bruins are wisely resting people and still winning, which could make Chad Johnson a neat pickup. Pittsburgh is essentially guaranteed second in the East and have been battered by injuries so they’re wisely playing it safe. Chicago could conceivably fight for home-ice advantage in the playoffs, but considering last season's long playoff run, this year's injuries and added Olympic mileage, they might be better off resting (especially since, astonishingly, their first round opponents could suddenly end up being the Blues). You'd think the Los Angeles Kings would "relax" a bit with a clear spot at third in the Pacific, yet I'm not so sure. The Minnesota Wild actually could be an interesting sudden resting team, as they can't go any higher than the top wild card spot but can't lose it either; they might want to rest Ryan Suter and other high minutes guys, yet I still like Ilya Bryzgalov finishing strong with the injuries around him (though the Wild only have two games left).
Teams fighting fiercely/semi-fiercely: The Washington Capitals and New Jersey Devils need to win out, so they're good add options ... for a little while. If their slim hopes fade, they might go into "sleep mode." The Detroit Red Wings and Columbus Blue Jackets are in strong positions to thwart those aforementioned East bubble teams. Avoiding the Boston Bruins might inspire them to fight for seeding, too. The New York Rangers and Philadelphia Flyers battle for seeding in the Metro while Montreal and Tampa Bay do the same in the Atlantic.
Out West, the top teams suddenly have less motivation to drift as the top seed and top divisional spots now seem far more up for grabs. There's more reason to add St. Louis, Colorado, Anaheim and (to a lesser extent) San Jose players than I expected this deep into the season. Meanwhile, the Dallas Stars don't have enough breathing room to relax as the Phoenix Coyotes chase them for the final West spot, although if Dallas still has a two-point lead, they won't have to sweat this season's finale in Phoenix because they have significant tiebreaker advantages.
Pride vs. drifting off peacefully: When it comes to recently eliminated teams, I’d guess it comes down to a) how much fear there is for firing and b) coach-by-coach philosophy. Choice B is difficult to decipher, but my guess is that Carolina, the Islanders, Buffalo, Vancouver, Winnipeg and Edmonton are hot garbage while Ottawa, Florida, Nashville and Calgary might show a little pride. Toronto is the wild card because ... well, the Maple Leafs are always the wild card, aren't they?
With two Dose posts left this week, I hope to give you more information and provide more insight. I thought today might be a good day to lay out some concepts to keep in mind whether you’re add/dropping today or even the weekend.
No doubt about it, though: this is a time in which there’s more than a little luck and guesswork.
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* - Goodness of news may vary per lover and loather of the hockey DD.