That’s actually a good thing as the league continues to showcase speed and puck skills. But in hockey pools that reward penalty minutes, that passivity makes it difficult to pick up points in this always combative category.
Yes, a handful of goons will still drop the gloves at the drop of a puck – George Parros, Jordin Tootoo, Cam Janssen and Matthew Barnaby are four such knuckle-chuckers.
The problem with these pugs is the hurt they put on a fantasy team can be as painful as their punches.
Ideally, the tough guy taking up space on your roster should also put up some points and, as a bonus, do little damage to your plus-minus.
Chris Neil of the Senators is the best of the baddies in that regard.
His 62 penalty minutes put him among the league’s top 10 toughies. He also has eight goals, including three on the power play, and is a tidy plus-6, making him a must-own in all these pools.
Sean Avery is another player normally known for agitating the opposition but he’s also contributing offensively. His 18 points and 75 PIM with the Kings are a solid left-right combination in pools that reward penalty minutes.
Coyotes scrapper Georges Laraque and Avalanche pest Ian Laperriere are also doing what now-retired goons like Tie Domi couldn’t in the so-called new NHL.
Laperriere has eight fighting majors this season while chipping in with 11 points and a plus-4 when not sitting in the penalty box. Laraque has two goals, two majors and 12 points in his last 12 games.
Among free agent defencemen, Shane O’Brien of the Ducks is worth owning in most pools. This big bruiser has eight majors plus 80 total penalty minutes and is a terrific plus-11 with 11 points.
Mike Commodore of the Hurricanes (14 points, plus-six, 58 PIM) is another rugged rearguard with solid all-around stats.
Prime examples of skilled players who also pick up penalty points are Canadiens defenceman Sheldon Souray (24 points, 52 PIM) and Blues forward Keith Tkachuk (22 points, 52 PIM).
So is the Leafs’ Darcy Tucker (26 points, 56 PIM), though after a torrid start to the season he is now mired in a slump that coincides with his team’s tailspin. He only has one goal in his last seven games, all Toronto losses.
Poolies should stay with him, but they can now pull the plug on under-achievers like Alex Steen, Nik Antropov and Matt Stajan.
Decent free-agent replacements can be found in Washington, where forward Matt Pettinger has five goals and eight points in his last six games, and in Chicago, where Martin Havlat has returned and linemate Bryan Smolinski is on a four-game tear with two goals, five points with a plus-5 rating.
Elsewhere, the resurgent Blue Jackets are drawing attention from poolies and two free agents in particular justify waiver picks.
Forward Dan Fritsche has three goals and seven points in the past five games while defenceman Ron Hainsey has six points and a plus-five rating.
Still with Columbus, poolies should latch onto goaltender Fredrik Norrena because starter Pascal Leclaire is out for a while with a leg injury.
Blues goaltender Manny Legace (head injury) is also indefinite. With Curtis Sanford (groin) on the shelf, Jason Bacashihua becomes the starter by default but is only worth claiming by the most desperate of poolies.
Centres Rod Brind’Amour (groin) of the Hurricanes and Peter Forsberg (foot) of the Flyers are tough losses to their pool owners. Reserve them for now.
Poolies can out-right drop Taylor Pyatt, the Canucks’ second-leading goal scorer, who is out with a separated shoulder. Flyers forward Mike Richards and Geoff Sanderson are also expendable because their abdominal injuries require surgery.
Greg Dennis can be reached at cp.pool(at)hotmail.com.
Some suggestions on players to add or avoid in your hockey pool this week:
1. C Viktor Kozlov, Islanders. Scorching streak continues with six-goal week.
2. D Ruslan Salei, Panthers. Five points last week give him 20 on the season.
3. G Dwayne Roloson, Oilers. Two shutouts puts fantasy star back on track.
4. LW Dan Cleary, Wings. Four goals in five games as Detroit finally comes alive.
5. C Bryan Smolinski, Blackhawks. Havlat’s return helps ignite a five-point fire.
1. C Patrick Eaves, Senators. The former first-line centre is now waiver-wire fodder.
2. D Pavel Kubina, Leafs. Seven-game pointless streak coincides with team’s skid.
3. RW Lee Stempniak, Blues. Team is awful and so is he – no goals in 12 straight.
4. RW Scott Mellanby, Thrashers. No points, minus-six in brutal week for 20-year pro.
5. D Zdeno Chara, Bruins. Only Sens fans are happy to see his struggles in Beantown.