We're just over two weeks into the 2011-12 regular season, which means we're also just over two weeks into the fantasy hockey season.
Some of you are on top of the world—undefeated through the first two weeks and racking up points like it's your job, which is ironic because it's not (your actual job).
And the some of you are down in the dumps—winless through two weeks with an injured first-round pick or too many Blue Jackets, which is also ironic because Columbus is winless too.
Wherever you're at in the standings, you have to remind yourself it's still very early in the season and a lot can change between now and April. To make sure you're team is still in the hunt for a fantasy title come spring, here are five questions you have to ask yourself and answer...before it's too late.
(Author's note: Keep in mind this is being looked at from a fantasy hockey perspective. Just because I mention a guy only has a couple of points doesn't mean I think he's a bad hockey player.)
If somebody tried to argue that David Steckel was a better player than Paul Stastny, you would probably slap them (and yes, I'm aware it's Gabriel Landeskog in the photo above). There is no world in which Steckel has as much talent as Stastny (or even Landeskog for that matter). However, there are fantasy leagues where the Leafs centerman could provide just as much, if not more value.
"What am I talking about," you ask? The better question is, "How well do you know your league?" What are the stat categories? How many points do you get for each?
Steckel is third in the league with 94 wins in 153 tries at the dot (61.4 percent)—that's pretty darn good. In an ESPN fantasy hockey that counts faceoff wins, Steckel (despite his lack of points) has more points than Anze Kopitar, Claude Giroux and John Tavares.
Now, in no way am I saying offer up Tavares, Giroux or Kopitar straight up for David Steckel. My point is that you have to understand your league and how the point system operates. It may be as wacky as the BCS in college football, but if you want to win your league, there's no point in complaining about it.
I participated in quite a few drafts this year, and in just about all of them goalies went early. But more often than not, goaltending statistics are a minority portion of a matchup, so the question is:
How much do you value those stats?
Henrik Lundqvist, Roberto Luongo, Tomas Vokoun, Ilya Bryzgalov and Carey Price were the usual suspects in the early rounds. Some have held true to their draft status (King Henrik) while others have come out flat (as in flat tires for Roberto Luongo).
But in looking at the NHL goaltending leaders in the early going, there are some surprise names at the top.
Oilers netminder Nikolai Khabibulin spent the same amount of time in offseason behind bars as he did between the pipes, but he leads the league in goals against average (0.72). Meanwhile, Kari Lehtonen plays for a Dallas team that was supposed to be bad. That hasn't kept him from starting the year 6-0-0 with a 1.72 GAA. Both of 'Bulin and Lehtonen were either taken toward the end of the draft or off the waiver wire.
With those two and other waiver options like Mathieu Garon likely available, would you want to deal a goalie that was ranked higher preseason to help fill another need? It all depends on how much you value the men in the mask.
Instant gratification. That's what the world is all about, isn't it? But it goes without saying in sports, especially in fantasy, you aren't always going to be gratified right away. So the question becomes:
How long are you willing to wait through a rough start? Some examples...
Patric Hornqvist: In six games played the former 30-goal scorer has given nothing...literally. No goals, no assists and a minus-3 rating.
Sabres forward Tyler Ennis left Saturday's game against the Lightning with an ankle injury, but he wasn't exactly present before that (based on stats). In seven games, he is also scoreless. Before the year began he was ranked higher than Shane Doan (3 G, 5 A), Jordan Staal (5 G, 3 A) and his Buffalo teammate Jason Pominville (2 G, 7 A) by Yahoo! Sports.
Other slow statistical starts?
Despite the Red Wings' early success, Henrik Zetterberg has only one goal and one assist in six games. P.K. Subban (0 G, 2 A, minus-6), David Krejci (1 G, 0 A, minus-5), Erik Cole (0 G, 1 A, minus-3), Brent Seabrook (0 G, 1 A, minus-1) and Evander Kane (1 G, 0 A, minus-3) have all been a bit slow out of the gate offensively.
How much patience do you have?
Following up on the slow starts: are you willing to drop one for a fast start?
Subban or Seabrook for Marc-Andre Bergeron or Sami Salo?
It can be a tough question to ask sometimes, especially in competitive leagues with 12 or more teams. Subban was supposed to lead the charge in Montreal with the departure of James Wisniewski and the uncertainty of Andrei Markov, but hasn't lived up to the hype so far in this young season.
If you're waving goodbye to Jamie McBain or Kevin Bieksa, that's one thing, but make sure you look at every factor—ice time, position on special teams' ladder, linemates or health—before you click the "drop" button.
Through seven games Phil Kessel has eight goals and six assists totaling 14 points. Beastly numbers. His linemate, Joffrey Lupul, has eight points (four goals, four assists) to start off his year.
Jason Spezza has 11 points in eight games for the Senators. James Neal is tied with Kessel for the league lead in goals—he has nine points so far for the Penguins.
And how about the youngsters? Tyler Seguin (3 G, 6 A), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (5 G, 2 A) and Gabriel Landeskog (4 G, 1 A) have all been fantasy sparks so far in 2011-12.
On the other hand Evgeni Malkin, Drew Doughty and Jeff Carter are banged up. Zetterberg, Dan Boyle and Chris Stewart have been somewhat pedestrian. So are you selling high or going to the garage sell?
Last year, Ryan Kesler had just four points in October, while Andrew Ladd was playing at a point per game clip in a new role with the Thrashers. They represented a buy-low and sell-high target, respectively.
If you believe Kessel is the real deal (or if you're Leafs fan), then other team owners will have a hard time prying him off your roster. But if you think the Leafs will fade as the fall goes on—like they did last year—then now might be a good time to take home a good haul.
Either way, it's a gamble. So you have to ask yourself...do ya' feel lucky?
Follow Stephen Nelson on Twitter: @Stephen__Nelson