It is Christmas time—what would be a better gift for a sports fan than for a favorite player (or better yet, a team) to turn their season around?
The Tampa Bay Lightning, LA Kings, and San Jose Sharks aren’t living up to pre-season expectations. How can they improve? They could look elsewhere for the answers, but there are answers right under their nose.
How can other teams improve in the second half? They could look within the organization, or the general manager could open his wallet and buy their fans the ultimate Christmas gift—a UFA.
Who are the answers to your team’s woes?
Jonathan Cheechoo (SJ – RW)
No one has been a bigger bust this year than Jonathan Cheechoo, and that’s why now is the time to buy!
Cheechoo is planning to return from injury this week, and has only managed to scrape together nine points in 28 games (0.32 points-per-game), far off his pace of a point per game over the past two years.
What most fantasy pundits do not realize is that Cheechoo is traditionally a second-half player. Look for him to turn the page over after Christmas and start fresh in the new year.
Over the past two seasons, Cheechoo had 56 points between October and December (.79 PPG) and 106 points after New Years Eve (1.38 PPG).
Cheechoo insists that the double hernia operation he had during the off season has not been troubling him—but the two weeks off he just had to rest a tweaked groin might be exactly what he needed to get back into game shape.
Look for another strong second half from the sniper.
Patrick O'Sullivan (LA – C)
Last week, O’Sullivan lead the league in shots on net, with 19 pucks put on goal.
The good news? Three of them made their way past the goalie.
The better news? One of them was a short-handed marker.
O’Sullivan has been playing both the penalty kill and the powerplay for The Kings, and as a result he’s been on the ice nonstop! In his most recent game, he logged over 25 minutes of ice time; that’s entering Rod Brind’Amour territory!
Of course, he does play for The Kings, so you’ll have to be prepared to take a bit of a +/- hit until they are able to solve their goalie woes.
O'Sullivan has a point in seven of his last eight games, and won’t last long if he’s available in your league. If you’re in a keeper league he has even more value.
Karri Ramo (TB – G)
John Tortorella has been searching for a way to solve his goaltending dilemma all season. The tandem of Johan Holmqvist and Marc Denis has not been playing up to expectations, and thus Tampa is amongst the league leaders in goals against.
Enter Karri Ramo. He had an impressive training camp with the Lightning, but management opted to go with the two goalies they had under contract instead.
Ramo should’ve been called up sooner, but he suffered a sprained ankle in early November, which kept him out of action for a month. As soon as he was back in game shape, he found himself in the NHL.
Ramo won his debut against the Maple Leafs, while suffering a loss to the Hurricanes. However he has been better than his 1-1 record indicates. In those two games, he has only allowed three goals, and has a .955 SV%
Don’t expect Luongo-esque numbers from him all season. Last year, Ramo posted a respectable .906 SV% with the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. He did a little better with a .929 SV% on HPK Hameenlinna in Finland.
Maybe it just took Ramo some time to adjust to the game, or maybe he just got lucky. Regardless, Tortorella will continue to ride the hot glove—and so should you.
Andrew Ladd (CAR – LW)
This week, Carolina fans heard the horrifying news that their prized forward Justin Williams would be out for the remainder of the season with a torn MCL. To make matters worse, Chad LaRose was placed on the IR with a concussion.
How can the Hurricane’s possibly replace these two gritty forwards? I suspect Carolina coach Peter Laviolette will call upon Andrew Ladd to step up.
The former first round pick (4th overall) has battled through injuries in his young career, but appears to be healthy now. Ladd has goals in his last two games, and is in line for a significant increase in ice-time with both Williams and LaRose out.
Now is the time for Ladd to shine.
Ladd had 120 points in 136 games with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, so he certainly is capable—and as an added fantasy bonus, he also spent 286 minutes in the penalty box during that stretch.
Teemu Selanne, Peter Forsberg & Curtis Joseph (UFA)
When the Christmas trade freeze is over, management will begin to look toward the trade deadline.
General managers assess their team’s current position and determine if they will be buyers or sellers. Some managers will opt to build for the future, while others will attempt to make a run for the Cup this year.
How can a team add an all-star to their roster without mortgaging their future?
There are some players who can be had without having to give up roster players or prospects. A manager only needs to negotiate the right price.
Selanne was third in the league in goals scored last season. He still has gas in the tank.
Forsberg has been battling an issue with his foot for years, but rumour out of Sweden is that a doctor has developed a skate brace that can help his ailing ankle.
Joseph has signed on to play at the Spengler Cup, indicating that he’s itching to get back on the ice.
Any one of these unrestricted free agents would make a lovely Christmas gift to their team’s fans.