NHL Fantasy Hockey Focus: The Blue-Line Special

Matt SitkoffCorrespondent IJanuary 26, 2010

WASHINGTON - NOVEMBER 13: Brent Burns #8 of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on November 13, 2009 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

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The biggest difference between an average and contending fantasy team could be the most overlooked positions on a fantasy team, the defensemen.

The back-line players that dominant the much-needed categories of plus/minus, power-play points, and penalty minutes are hard to come by but important to have on a successful team.

So in this week’s fantasy focus we will look into some defenders on the waiver wire that could give a boost to your team.


John-Michael Liles, D, Avalanche

The surprising Avalanche are now finally getting the production they expected out of the defender they signed to a huge four-year deal in the offseason.

The 29-year-old Liles has nine points in his last eight games, including an amazing seven of them on the power play. That is a big transformation from being a healthy scratch in early December and missing 12 games due to a shoulder injury in October and November.

Liles is still only owned in about 20 percent of leagues and now is off the trading block, as he will be counted on heavily down the stretch as the Avalanche try to stay in the playoff hunt, which will benefit your fantasy team in your own playoff push.


Brent Burns, D, Wild

Burns is finally back after missing 29 games due to a concussion. The 24-year-old defenseman was on the up rise after a breakout 2007-08 season that saw him score 15 goals and 43 points while playing at a plus-12.

Then came 2008-09, a season season that saw the talented defensemen shuttle between playing forward and suffering a concussion.

Coming off his second big concussion in the last two years, Burns now has the organization and fantasy owners playing it cautious, but keep an eye on this 6'5" former first-round pick.


Denis Grebeshkov, D, Oilers

With word coming out of Edmonton that they are shopping around Sheldon Souray, things look good for Grebeshkov, and the 26-year-old defenseman should be getting some more ice time and become a better fantasy option.

The former first-round pick exploded early this season, with seven points in his first eight games, to only tear his MCL in late December and miss 13 games. 

Now healthy, Grebeshkov has six points in his last 11 games, with three of them coming on the power play. Imagine how much his 2:25 power play TOI/G would increase when Souray is traded in the upcoming months. 

Though the Oilers will be a forgotten team as the season moves toward the playoff push, don’t let this team be a forgotten fantasy commodity. Pick up this slick puck-moving defensemen if he is available in your league.