Stuck at the bottom of your fantasy league’s standings? Or has the injury bug already bitten your team?
Fret not, the season is young and there’s plenty of time to catch up. Resist the temptation to make panic moves and rather practice patience. That doesn’t mean sit on your hands and do nothing, but don’t overdo it either.
Take a deep breath, tweak your roster if need be and stick to your guns when the trade bandits inevitably attempt to pick the pockets of those down on their luck. Even if you’re in a keeper league, it’s still way too early to go into “sell” mode as most leagues will have at least 18 more weeks remaining before playoffs — counting the current week — which means we aren’t even a sixth of the way through the regular season.
Selling, in my opinion, shouldn’t enter your mindset until at least five weeks are in the books. And even then, you’d need to have suffered at least four blowout losses and be WAY behind. Staying the course is typically the better option because, as we all know, anything can happen come playoffs — in real life, and in fantasy too.
Now, if you’re a distant last at the end of November in a points-only rotisserie league that doesn’t allow roster changes, you’re probably there to stay. And it’ll be a LONG rest of the season. Even in those plain-Jane leagues, a 20- to 30-point deficit after 2.5 weeks really isn’t that much ground to make up. It could amount to a “good” weekend, assuming the league has 10 to 20 teams of 10 to 20 players each. By no means is it an insurmountable hole at this point.
If roster changes are allowed, even if limited, whether that may be waiver claims or trades, there is absolutely no excuse for throwing in the towel this early. Sure, you might need to work a little harder — or smarter — than your peers to climb the standings and change your fortunes, but that’s half the fun and half the battle.
Chances are your league is set up for basement dwellers to have first dibs on the waiver wire, so start there and capitalize on your claims whenever possible. If a hot-shot AHL star is getting called up to the big show, he shouldn’t end up on the first-place team’s roster — well, not unless your claims are first-come, first-serve. If there’s a pecking order, based on reverse order of standings as per usual, then you need to be active in adding these kind of talents. The same goes for players returning from injury that may have been dropped as a result, you need to swoop in and scoop them up to help close that gap. Always remember to maximize your games played as well — that’s an underrated element of fantasy hockey that often makes the difference from week to week, and in the grand scheme of things.
When it comes to trades, be careful and be calculated. If you are sending out proposals, be sure to only target players you really want on your team. Not players that you are lukewarm about, or those offers will end up getting accepted much to your chagrin. And you will almost certainly leave better options on the table. If your league has an “On The Block” feature, use that resource regularly. Express who is available from your team and what you are looking for in return. Don’t just settle for the first half decent offer sent your way, or you’ll again regret it. Play some hard ball and don’t be afraid to stand pat if the right deals aren’t presenting themselves. They will, eventually, so bide your time and keep plugging away.
Keep on, keepin’ on — and don’t give up. Nobody likes a quitter, and you won’t likely be welcomed back to the league next season if you give up any time soon, or at all.
Yes, it sucks if you just lost your top defenceman in Zdeno Chara for more than a month — albeit not as much as it sucks for Boston. Or if you were banking on either or, even worse, both of the Staal brothers, Eric and Jordan. Or heaven forbid, Nathan Horton, who sounds closer to retiring than making a fantasy impact. Injuries really do take their toll, but they are part of the game and you just have to roll with the punches and continue forging ahead.
I’m speaking from experience on all these fronts, although I did make a desperation move last week that is already looking like a foolish one. In case you missed it, I packaged four assets to acquire Cam Ward in hopes he could return to form, but so far, not so good.
Granted, those goals clearly weren’t Ward’s fault, but they all count the same in fantasy — and a loss is a loss. So perhaps I’m also trying to learn from my own mistakes, or make sure you don’t make the same blunders.
I’m off to a bad, make that brutal start in both my keeper leagues, buried in the bottom five among 20 and 28 teams, respectively. This, despite entering the season very optimistic about my chances of winning top-five prize money in both. These are head-to-head formats with 20- and 22-week schedules — we are a little over halfway through Week 3 in each — so although I’m sporting a pair of 0-2 records, it’s not the end of the world. Not yet, anyway.
That said, this is feeling like a must-win weekend and, fortunately for me, I’m tied in one matchup and clinging to a slim lead in the other, so (knock on wood) it’s looking promising to find that elusive win column come Sunday night.
In my main keeper, where I double as a commissioner having started the league in the summer of 2010, I’ve lost to two fellow prize-money contenders, including our three-time defending regular-season champion and current standings leader (AGAIN). To be honest, given my dire goaltending situation, I’ve actually held my own in the other categories to make them respectable defeats — earning 15 of a possible 40 points from 6-3-1 and 6-4-0 setbacks. Like I said, not the end of the world. If I could pull away from my current 4-4-2 deadlock to prevail against this 25-point club, then I’d be right back in the thick of things, in the middle of the pack. That’s a big IF, though, with none of the 10 categories locked up in my favour and the 2 goalie categories looking like losses (AGAIN).
It’s going to be an uphill battle in that league, regardless of my week 3 result. My roster is hurting with no fewer than 6 players presently sidelined by injury: F Josh Bailey (broken hand), F Dany Heatley (groin), F Zac Rinaldo (upper-body), F Barclay Goodrow (hand), D Dmitry Orlov (wrist) and G Viktor Fasth (groin). We only have 2 IR spots available, so I’m losing out on a lot of games played by having four injured players taking up roster spots. They aren’t impact players per se — not on a team that features Sidney Crosby, Tyler Seguin, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Erik Karlsson and Oliver Ekman-Larsson as my go-to guys — but they are still better than any waiver-wire alternatives, so I’ll probably hang onto most (or possibly all) of them until they are healthy and hopefully contributing again. Heatley, Goodrow and Orlov haven’t even made their season debuts, so I’d like to at least give them that opportunity, with all three expected to suit up in the next couple weeks. It also doesn’t help that I’m carrying a couple healthy scratches in Matt Frattin and Brad Hunt, plus the still unsigned Martin Brodeur on my 30-man roster. Scott Clemmensen hasn’t got into a game for New Jersey yet either, so that’s 10 essentially inactive players, and Magnus Paajarvi was in the same boat until finally getting into the St. Louis lineup earlier this week because of injuries to players ahead of him on the Blues’ forward depth chart. Not to mention none of my 7 prospects — including Colton Sissons, Joel Armia and Oscar Kelfbom — are currently in the NHL, so that puts some serious pressure on those aforementioned stars to carry the load.
It’s a lot of heavy lifting, no doubt, but they have been doing their part. No complaints there, well other than the lost game for Karlsson due to the Ottawa tragedy on Wednesday that postponed a Senators-Leafs clash. I still get two more games from Karlsson this weekend, so hopefully he can bring his A-game and steal both defence categories, maybe even one of the two special-teams categories, although my opponent has been wheeling and dealing this week to upgrade his blue-line by acquiring Brent Burns and Jay Bouwmeester, so that will be easier said than done.
In my new keeper, which I just joined this off-season and am still getting accustomed to the different scoring system, it’s been even more frustrating. I got blown out by a title favourite in the opener, but dropped a close contest to a team I probably should have beat (on paper) in week 2 and now I’m barely beating a blatant bottom-feeder in week 3. I’m ahead 65.3 to 53.2 in this hybrid roto H2H format featuring 24 scoring categories, but that 12-point spread could disappear with as little as one defence goal (worth 7 points) and one goalie win (5 points). The set-up is a bit complicated, at times confusing, but it still adds up to a lot of fun. And I’ll obviously be having more fun if my team starts winning sooner than later.
I don’t own my first-round pick in next year’s rookie draft, having traded it straight up for Brandon Dubinsky just days before he suffered a pre-season abdominal injury that required surgery and will keep him sidelined into late November. That was a big blow to my starting lineup given Dubinsky’s multi-stat potential, but it’ll hurt even more to see that pick turn into somebody like Dylan Strome or Mathew Barzal in the top 10 when I figured it would be, worst-case scenario, in the 15 to 20 range after Dubinsky’s addition. At least I won’t be having nightmares of it becoming Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel because there are a couple truly terrible teams in this league.
My team shouldn’t be terrible, and I’m certainly looking forward to rematching my week 2 opponent already in week 4 due to a scheduling quirk. I feel quite confident I can earn that split, which will hopefully be my second straight win to even my record and give me some much-needed momentum going forward.
Problem is, my team has been underachieving right from Patrick Kane down to Andrej Meszaros, who inexplicably ended up a healthy scratch among Buffalo’s defence. Even Kari Lehtonen allowed six goals in an overtime defeat to Philadelphia last Saturday that cost me that week 2 victory. But he bounced back to beat Vancouver and Kane scored two goals in his most recent game, so those are positive signs.
Of the 15 trades I’ve made to date in overhauling my roster, I can’t say I’m overly proud of any of them. There are a handful of break-even deals, but no real clear-cut wins, and a few lopsided losses so far. I expected much more out of Mika Zibanejad, who is still somehow pointless, Craig Smith and Dougie Hamilton, who should get a bigger role with the Bruins now that Chara is out. Those three have promising enough futures, but they are all I have to show for Ryan Getzlaf and Carl Soderberg, who have both been lighting it up in the present. I also paid a premium to land Horton under the assumption he’d be reporting for training camp fully healthy for the first time in a long time. I got Horton and Ryan Ellis in exchange for Mike Ribeiro, Joel Ward, Tom Gilbert, prospects Frank Corrado and Austin Watson, plus a second-round pick. I flipped Ellis and two other picks for Lehtonen, but Horton is holding down the fort on my IR, which has room for five wounded players in that league.
As much as the Hockey Gods haven’t helped matters, I’ve admittedly taken steps backwards due to mismanagement in taking over a team that finished fifth overall last season. The previous GM got the snowball of bad karma going by shipping out P.K. Subban for next-to-nothing just prior to pulling the plug, a parting gift for one of his real-life buddies that couldn’t be undone. When I took the reins, I picked up several “depth” defencemen, then decided to stick with Meszaros, Gilbert, who I had reacquired, and John-Michael Liles rather than Trevor Daley and Anton Stralman, who I sent packing for picks and mediocre-at-best prospects. Regrettable to say the least.
Sadly, we can’t turn back time in fantasy hockey. We must move on and make the best of our current situations, which I’m trying to do in both leagues. As I’ve said before, and will probably say again, it’s a long season — a marathon, not a sprint — so suck it up and swallow your pride if things aren’t going according to script so far. There could very well be better times ahead, starting this weekend, so just sit back, hold on and enjoy the ride. Oh, and don’t forget: Patience over panic.
Larry Fisher is a sports reporter for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.
Larry Fisher is a senior writer and head scout for The Hockey Writers, having been an at-large contributor for THW since August 2014. Fisher covers both the NHL and the WHL, specializing in prospects and NHL draft content, including his annual mock drafts that date back to 2012. Fisher has also been a beat writer for the WHL’s Kelowna Rockets since 2008, formerly working as a sports reporter/editor for The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada from 2008-2019. Follow him on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.