In fantasy hockey, 30 games mean little. A team that’s last can still win the league, while the team leading could fall to the basement. All it takes is several players getting hot and others getting cold over the second half.
Often these players are on the same NHL team and their hot streak is the result of the team picking it up. Or did the team pick things up as a result of the players getting hot?
Regardless of the chicken vs. the egg stance, these things do happen and pools are sometimes won and lost as a result.
I'll put on my psychic's hat, or headdress, or whatever it is that psychics wear, and bring you my six teams that will either turn it around or dial it down.
On The Rise
This is my favorite team to stock up on in the second half, particularly because Eric Staal is money in the bank for a second-half surge. I once traded a red-hot young player with upside (I won't get into names, but it rhymes with Brerrick Dassard) as the key part of the package for a stumbling Staal in early December and pretty much won the league thanks to that move. Twice I've acquired Staal in December and both times it paid off.
Staal's surge in 2011-12 was 45 in the second half after just 25 in the first. The domino effect saw Jiri Tlusty also come on strong. Interestingly enough, Jordan Staal also had a hot second half while with the Penguins that year, tallying 29 points in the last 29 games. The Hurricanes are doing OK in terms of wins and losses this season, but they're not scoring goals. My theory is that though the wins may not improve any, the offense should.
Defenseman Andrej Sekera, who has eight points in his past seven games, is another player to target.
It's too little, too late for the Oilers who now sit 27th in the league. They've posted a reasonable record of 6-3-1 in their past 10, but their nightmarish first 21 games already sealed their playoff fate. Taylor Hall and Sam Gagner, however, have already recovered from their annual injuries and goaltender Devan Dubnyk has put his traditionally weak first month behind him.
At this point I would be targeting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gagner and Justin Schultz as “buy low” players in anticipation of a strong second half. I would also go after Dubnyk as a No. 4 goaltender, since he'll have his share of good weeks going forward. When he has to work for that No. 1 job, his numbers are much better. And with Ilya Bryzgalov around, Dubnyk will have to work for it.
I would sit on Dubnyk until Christmas and if he shows some fantasy value I would then either trade him for a higher return or deal my No. 3 goalie for a higher return and bump Dubnyk up to No. 3.
Columbus Blue Jackets
This is strictly a hunch based on the fact that last season the Blue Jackets were terrible after 20 games, but then nearly got themselves into the playoffs by the end. The players are underachieving offensively, with only Ryan Johansen on pace to top 60 points. Most of us figured Columbus would struggle in the new conference, but we didn't see quite this big a falloff coming.
Target Nathan Horton, Brandon Dubinsky, Artem Anisimov, Cam Atkinson, Jack Johnson (unless your league counts plus-minus) and Ryan Murray. Sergei Bobrovsky is due back in the New Year, but I would consider targeting him in trade talks if he can be put on IR.
Horton is at least a month away, but his return, along with Marian Gaborik's, will give the Jackets two-thirds of a first line.
On The Decline
The record is a little ridiculous, sure, but of more concern to me is the craziness of individual player stats. Ryan Getzlaf on pace for more than 90 points? Doubtful. Dustin Penner reaching 60? No.
Toss in the fact that no NHL team has played more games than Anaheim (therefore fewer games left) and there is every reason to believe that now is the time to sell on some of these guys.
The Habs are 9-0-1 in their past 10 and obviously that's not going to continue. Every team has hot and cold spurts and Montreal's inflated record is the result of the current hot one. This is a playoff team. But a top-three team in the Eastern Conference? My head isn't there.
None of the skaters on the squad are overachieving, so projecting a slowdown or a "sell high" can't be done. The Canadiens have been scoring by committee and if anything, that has meant several players are actually below expectations, such as Max Pacioretty and David Desharnais.
The goaltenders are posting numbers above their heads, however, due to the coaching system. And I say this not to slight Carey Price, but let's face it: Peter Budaj's numbers are equally as impressive and that tells me it's not all goaltending. It's system-based. And defensively I would expect the numbers to adjust. Price is a sell high.
San Jose Sharks
After San Jose's 10-1-1 start, the Sharks have been 9-5-4, which is a little closer to their pay grade. The high-scoring forwards are already starting to slow down and we see it every year from this team. Don't forget that last year, Patrick Marleau had nine goals in his first five games before hitting a wall.
Right now, all of San Jose's top players should be shopped around your league and make sure the return you get will perform better going forward. Because:
- Joe Thornton is on pace for 87 points and he'll probably end up closer to 78.
- Logan Couture is on pace for 79 points and he'll end up in the low 70s.
- Marleau is on pace for 77, but he'll be lucky to reach 70.
- Joe Pavelski is on pace for 74, but his career high is 66.
- Rookie Tomas Hertl pro-rates to 63 points, but if you take his production after the first three games (16 points in 27 games) and his pace is actually closer to 50.
The Senators will improve in terms of wins and losses, but offensively they’re about where they should be. It's goaltending that has been killing them and that's the part that will improve. Craig Anderson is still doomed to finish with terrible numbers, but they will be a lot better than they are now.
Dallas, Colorado and St. Louis are the only teams to have played just 28 games. Vancouver, Minnesota, Anaheim and Chicago are the only teams to have played 32 games.
Looking for the perfect Fantasy Guide to supplement your THN Ultimate Pool Guide? Take a look at Dobber's eighth annual Fantasy Hockey Guide!
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.