You need to have a deep, reliable bench if you are going to win a fantasy hockey league, because star players are falling faster than Nicolas Cage’s value in Hollywood.
The secrecy of the NHL can frustrate fantasy hockey owners worse than an inaccurate stat service. 90 percent of the time, you never know what players’ injuries are beyond the dreaded labels of “lower body injury” and “upper body injury.” This late in the season, you do not even get that much information. Now guys are “resting their injuries” without mentioning what the injuries are.
With only two weeks, and fewer than 10 games, to go in the NHL’s regular season, some of the game’s biggest stars and highest scorers are picking the worst possible time to get injured and miss valuable games.
Here are three of the biggest names missing games, and how their situations are ruining the playoff chances of their poor fantasy owners.
Alex Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
Fantasy poolers have been wondering all season long why Ovechkin was barely averaging a point per game when he can normally be penciled in for 100 points.
Now they know.
Ovechkin is scheduled to rest for 7-10 days because of a nagging, undisclosed injury that has supposedly hampered him for a couple months now. It is nice to finally hear that he has been playing hurt. It didn't make much sense that this 50-goal guy could not net 30 goals this year.
Note: I once drafted then-Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells in a fantasy baseball league when he was one of the premier players to own. I assumed Wells would hit 30 home runs and bat .300. He ended up hitting 16 homers and batting a career-low .245/ Then he announced at the end of the season that he had played with a torn shoulder for most of the season.
Ovechkin has not been as brutally bad as Wells was—he is sixth in the league in scoring. I am sure that if you polled his fantasy owners, they would rather have him on the ice for his point-per-game then have to pluck a 35-point player off the waiver wire.
But you have to wonder, if Ovie had taken a couple weeks off to rest earlier in the season, would he have scored more often down the stretch?
Look for rugged role player Jason Chimera to pick up some extra ice time with Ovechkin’s absence. Not only will three more minutes of ice per contest help Chimera’s point output, it will give him more opportunities to hook and hold opponents on his way to the penalty box.
Patrick Sharp, Chicago Blackhawks
Sharp picked a terrible time to break up the hottest line in hockey. His knee injury not only derails his fantasy value for the remainder of the regular season, it might also negatively affect the similarly scorching values of linemates Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews as well.
Chicago is hopeful that Sharp can return in two-to-three weeks, but that will not do his fantasy owners any good unless they draft him in their playoff leagues—if the Blackhawks make the playoffs. There is no center that fantasy poolers can pick up on the waiver wire who can match Sharp’s production, that’s for sure. Sharp is currently tied for fifth in the NHL in goals with 34, and has 68 points in 71 contests.
Looks like the benefactor of Sharp’s misfortune will be lesser-line left wing Viktor Stalberg, who has reportedly practiced on a line with Kane and Toews recently. Normally, I would rather have James Franco hosting my awards show than have Stalberg (22 points in 68 games) on my fantasy team. But if he is going to play with Toews and Kane, he is a must-have if you need a forward during these crucial fantasy weeks.
Justin Williams, Los Angeles Kings
Williams suffers a major injury annually that sidelines him for several weeks or months. He never just gets a day-to-day groin strain or bruised foot. Whenever Williams gets hurt, the X-ray results are usually disastrous. This is why Williams went three straight seasons without playing in 50 games until this season.
Yet Williams almost pulled off the impossible and made it through the entire season injury-free.
Although he had successfully dressed for Los Angeles’ first 73 games, Williams prematurely ended his regular-season campaign by dislocating his shoulder and will not be seen again until the postseason. In the durability department, Williams is not Luc Robitaille.
Williams scored 22 goals, added 35 assists and was plus-14 for the Kings before his untimely demise. So he was one of the better buys among right wings in fantasy pools. His loss will bother his fantasy owners during these couple weeks. But hopefully most knew about his injury history when they acquired him and made sure they kept decent backups at the position on their benches in case the unlucky Williams broke, tore, or dislocated another body part.
Now the pressure is really on newly-acquired Dustin Penner to step up his scoring. The Kings were not a high-scoring team with Williams, and will certainly be below-par in the goals department without him. Penner needs to light the lamp on a consistent basis, and should be treated to extra power-play minutes. Look for his fantasy value to rise.