In 1999, the popular EA Sports video game franchise “Madden” began featuring star NFL players on the cover of their annually produced game. Since Garrison Hearst made the cover of Madden 1999, featured players have routinely under-performed or suffered serious injuries in the following season. This perplexing phenomenon became known has the “Madden Curse“.
Unfortunately for NHL players, hockey too has its own “Madden Curse.” While it has yet to make the mainstream, the Kevin Roche Curse is as real as you and I. Over the past five seasons, at least one marquee player has fallen from my fantasy starting lineup into the depths of injury and despair.
Am I being dramatic? Admittedly yes. At the very least, take a moment to consider my resume for vexing players: 2009-10 Marc Savard, 2010-11 Evgeni Malkin, 2011-12 Sidney Crosby, 2012-13 Erik Karlsson , 2013-14 Pekka Rinne. Thankfully Pekka Rinne appears to only be sidelined for 4 weeks.
Nonetheless, his fantasy owners are scrambling for a damage control goal tender. While you can, grab Carter Hutton. The Predator’s interim starter has turned aside 59 of the 61 pucks he’s seen in the young season.
The Kevin Roche Curse has ruined my lineup for years. However, it has forced me to identify players who can shine when injury (unfortunately) gives them the opportunity to prove themselves. Hutton is just one example of a relative unknown getting his shot as a starter. Here are 3 more recent injuries with a high fantasy impact, and the players who are looking to produce in their absence.
Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins
Last night, Buffalo hit man John Scott gave Loui Eriksson his own version of the people’s elbow in a 4-2 game. Eriksson was helped off the ice by teammates and spent the night in Buffalo. Much to the dismay of Bruins fans, Eriksson has officially been ruled out indefinitely with….you guessed it. A concussion.
Loui had been playing on the Bruins’ second line with Patrice Bergeron centering him and his former Stars teammate Reilly Smith. Smith recently jumped over the second line mainstay Brad Marchand due to the little ball of hate’s slow start.
Marchand has began to respond to his demotion, recording a beauty of an assist on Dougie Hamilton’s goal last night, which can be seen just before the 2:00 mark of this video. Look for Marchand to rejoin the second line and get on the score sheet tonight against the Sharks. Marshy is only 63% owned in Yahoo! leagues; find a way to pick him off the waiver wire or unleash him from his spot on your bench.
Taylor Hall, Edmonton Oilers
Taylor Hall banged knees along the boards with Eric Gryba on Saturday and appeared to be shaken up. He stayed in the game briefly, then left after his knee gave way while following through on a shot. Hall will be watching his 3-6-1 Oilers from the press level for the next 4 weeks.
There is never an easy way to replace your emotional leader and third leading scorer. For the time being, Nail Yakupov is peaking his head out of Dallas Eakins’ dog house and into a spot on the first line. Yakupov’s name has been mentioned in heaps of trade rumors following his very public benching.
Now it is Nail’s time to step up and return to the moments of brilliance he showed us as a rookie last year. Playing alongside Jordan Eberle and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Yakupov is +3 with an assist in essentially one and a half games. Nail was likely riding your fantasy team’s bench just like he was in Edmonton, so give him the start this week.
Ryan Callahan, New York Rangers
— Henrik Lundqvist (@hlundqvist35) April 2, 2013
Neither the tweeter nor the subject of this tweet will be playing tonight against the sputtering Flyers. For Lundqvist, he is out with an undisclosed injury and appears to be day-to-day. “Captain Cally” on the other hand will be missing significant time with a broken thumb.
Callahan is no stranger to playing with injuries. He remianed in the game after breaking his leg while blocking a howitzer from Zdeno Chara. He also played the entirety of last season with a nagging labrum injury. After undergoing a successful surgery for that labrum, Ryan Callahan finds himself on the trainer’s table once again.
Alain Vigneault’s Rangers are currently without 3 of their top 6 forwards. Rick Nash continues to nurse his concussion back to health. Carl Hagelin has yet to play this season after his shoulder surgery. Enter Chris Kreider.
Chris Kreider’s Rangers career has been nothing short of a roller coaster ride. As a rookie he potted an overtime game-winner in the playoffs only to see himself fall back down to the AHL two seasons later. Kreider returns the Rangers top line Thursday night playing with Brad Richards and Derek Stepan.
Expect Kreider to do everything he can to stay in the show. Don’t act on him just yet, but keep him on the radar. He clearly has the skill set to belong in the NHL, he just needs to put it into practice like he did in college.
Another Ranger Back in the Mix?
Speaking of Carl Hagelin, guess who has his eyes on an October 29 return to the lineup? It appears that Hagelin has finally shaken his labrum injury. His stint on the Long Term Injury Reserve expires on that Tuesday.
Hagelin is quoted here as saying “all you need is one good battle” to regain confidence after an injury like his. After being cleared for contact a week ago, Hags feels ready to get back on the ice.
Hagelin impressed Rangers staff and fans alike with his 38 point rookie season. After a disappointing campaign last season, expect him to return with a purpose. The former Michigan Wolverine (thanks Pierre!) is owned in less than 10% of Yahoo! fantasy leagues. That is criminal. Hagelin has the speed and desire to contribute the minute he returns to action.
Kevin Roche is a lead writer for fantasy hockey with THW. He is a passionate hockey fan and pond hockey enthusiast who attends Clemson University in South Carolina. Kevin will graduate with an engineering degree in 2014, but he will continue to do what he loves after graduation: write about hockey.