Martin Hanzal is one of those players I feel like I would never be able to part with. One of my buddies recently asked me about a trade that involved them sending Hanzal away for a really good player with a top 20 O-rank, and of course I was like, yeah , maybe you should do it. But the more I thought about it, the more I wanted to tell him to keep Hanzal, even against better judgment and the knowledge that Hanzal is notoriously injury-prone. I became very conflicted about my own relationship to Hockey Pool Hanzal. I realized that I probably wouldn’t even be able to give him up for a top five orward, if someone were to be so crazy to offer one.
Like a Pidgey caught at level three outside Pallet Town in Pokemon Red, I grabbed Hanzal off the wire at the very beginning of the season, and we’ve since grown together. And like a cat who brings its sleeping guardian a mouse each morning, Hanzal always seems to deliver. If not points, then it’s a heavy pile of shots or hits or both, and the occasional penalty minute thrown on the floor like steel-wool hairballs.
When Hanzal was injured for a few games earlier in the season, I never once thought about dropping him. Or at least never in a way that wasn’t the way a child sits in church trying not to say things like "Hail Satan" in their heads, repeatedly cutting the phrase short at "Hail—" before it’s too late. Because brains try to mess with relationships that way, and it’s strange, because what happens when these players we’re so weirdly attached to fall to unspecific injury after a long cold stretch? We keep them in our pockets and hope for the best news possible, because they’re a player that’s been to important to the team until that point, because if we drop them, someone in our leagues will drop a waiver to get them, and they’ll recover like superhumans and we’ll never get them back. Worst of all, they’d play against us. Crazy.
Oh, that’s just me?
I’m calling your bluff. We all have a player like that, one who, for some reason, we’re willing to give so much more than they’d ever be able to give us. Someone whose stats are less stats and more just numbers next to a name, unless they’re doing well. Then they’re stats! Even if it were to get really bad, we’d probably just be like, "it’s alright, big fella, next time’s all yours," again and again and again. Someone who you’d get a matching tattoo with, one with a banner that reads, 2013-14 FOR LIFE.
No? Maybe not, but also I don’t believe you. Tell me in the comments below who your Team Best Pal is. And why. Shout it from the rink-tops. Make me feel a little better about it. We’ll have a moment. And if you don’t have an account yet, sign up for free and drop a line. Great, see you there.
PICKUP OF THE WEEK:
Nick Bonino - Anh - C - 30% owned with 13+20=33
It’s hard when your Pickup of the Week plays late the night you have to post a week’s end analysis. On one hand, you could be leaving out a few juicy points that would, if included, make readers jump up and thrust to "Who Let The Dogs Out" in agreement (you guys do that, right?). Or, on the other hand, the player could be a -3 or worse with nothing else but elastic bands across their stat line. Then the same people would be all like, where’d they even find this guy?, and they’d never get the chance to remember that that song exists. I’m only looking out for your best interests.
Regardless, I think we’re in the position to make the call here and now, because Anaheim owns 6 of the week’s top 13 skaters according to Yahoo! rank algorithms, and, again, all before a potentially stat-boosting game tonight versus Detroit. Among them, since last Sunday, Nick Bonino trails only John Tavares, Corey Perry, and James Neal with 2 goals and 5 points (3PPP), a +1 rating, and 13 shots, all alongside a welcome 6 penalty minutes. In his last 6, Boney’s got 3 goals and 8 points. Quick question: how many 4th line centres have 33 points already this season? How many fourth line centres are owned in 30% of leagues? The answer should be zero. But this is one of the reasons why Anaheim is doing so well, because all of their lines are capable, and Bonino and his depth crew of Matt Beleskey and Kyle Palmieri have been earning their keep big time over the last while. So it’s Bonino, and this is also to say that Anaheim is a pretty okay team.
SHALLOW LEAGUE FREE AGENTS and TRADE TARGETS (owned in >50% in Yahoo! leagues)
Jeff Skinner - Car - C,LW,RW - 87% owned with 21+14=35
Skinner is still somehow hotter even than Agent Scully from The X-Files, whether his point streak ended on Friday or not (it did, but he registered 7 shots on goal in the shutout loss). He now has 35 points and 127 shots on goal in 34 games played. And what is C,LW,RW, even? Come on! You remaining 13% are chumps, if you ask me. Actually, I’m sorry, can we trade places? I’ll water your plants, I promise.
Nathan MacKinnon - Col - C,RW - 58% owned with 15+14=29
So Nathan MacKinnon is really young and really good. Even Popeye Jones, Colorado-bred Seth Jones’ father, who, like many Colorado sportsfans, must have thought Seth a shoe-in by legacy alone, can’t disagree now. MacKinnon leads all rookies in scoring with those 29 points of his and has tied Tomas Hertl (get well, buddy) for goals with 15, 6 of which he has scored in his last 7 games. MacKinnon is probably owned in 100% of keeper leagues, but he’s proving himself to be a good grab in one-year leagues right now too. He owns 129 shots on goal and is speeding around on Colorado’s 2nd line with the possibly superhuman Matt Duchene. I’m not telling you to go and drop Malkin for him or anything, but I’ll call you a spud if you say he’s not at least worth a look right now.
Paul Stastny - Col - C - 63% owned with 13+21=34
US Olympian and Colorado 1st line centres Paul Stastny has tucked a few great performances under his belt recently. He has 3 goals and 12 points in his last 10 games. 2 of those games were 3 point outings. I’m holding him up in a similar way to MacKinnon, as someone who might be able to fill a new hole or replace a dud in shallow leagues, and someone who is absolutely worth adding in anything less than the shallowest leagues. He is one of the week’s top performers (ranked 9th overall in the last 7 days).
Zach Parise - Min - LW - 98% owned with 15+12=27
It’s been a bit of a disappointing season for one of the best players in the game. Parise has only managed 27 points in 37 games, but we must remember that he had been playing with an improperly healed foot injury for a while before finally curling up on the IR on December 23. All of this means that some Parise owners might have forgotten what kind of a mean-streaking fantasy nutbar Parise can be, and that makes him a good trade target. Buy low if you can. He should skate this week and you should expect a big second half from the grinder/foot massage recipient. Also, can someone please find me the stats on whether or not new fathers player better hockey, please, because double-threat ZP just had a couple of Minnesota twins.
MEDIUM-DEPTH FREE AGENTS and TRADE TARGETS (25-50% ownership in Yahoo! leagues)
Martin Hanzal - Pho - C - 43% owned with 13+19=32
Let me continue. Just kidding. For real now, though, after a short slump Hanzal has come back on the scene with the force of a 6’6", 230 pound Czech monster. For his 41 game season, Hanzal’s all-around beefy numbers still look like this: 32 pts (9 PPP), +1, 49 PIMs, 135 hits, and 114 shots on goal. His 54.8% success rate on the face offs is nothing to beat up on, either. Zooming in on his last 10 games, Hanzal has 4 goals and 9 points to go along with 33 hits and 24 shots. He should be owned in all leagues that count sin bin minutes and hits and we’re best friends.
Vladimir Tarasenko - StL - RW - 49% owned with 15+13=28
Tarasenko doesn’t see the most power play time on the Blues, but he’s certainly making a case for himself. 4 goals and 12 points in his last 9 games with 22 shots and a +8 rating. He and the 2nd line with Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund, who are decent deep options in their own rights, have been looking better than some other teams’ 1st lines. For good reason, Bluesies are becoming rarer and rarer, and Tarasenko won’t be on this side of the 50% divide for long.
Matt Carle - TB - D - 44% owned with 1+21=22
Carle, the first runner up for today’s Pickup of the Week, had 2 assists and a +6 rating in Saturday’s 6-3 victory over Philly, which made me want to high-five myself. This brings his rating to +16 for the season to accompany 22 points. So far, Carle’s ownership has risen 4% this week, which might have something to do with his active 6 game, 8 assist (2PPP) streak, through which he has carried a +8. Let’s be real here and admit how difficult it is to find a point-scoring defenseman with a plus-minus like that, let alone one that might be sitting pretty on your wire right now.
Erik Johnson - Col - D - 46% owned with 7+13=20
Big John hasn’t registered a point in his last two games, but that hardly matters because before that he had 3 goals and 8 points in 9. With 20 points and a +15 rating on the season, Johnson, like Carle, is one of the undervalued defensemen slowly becoming more noticed. Johnson was a sleeper name at the onset of the season, but after he disappointed with a slow start, many people hung him to dry like a homemade salami. He’s now becoming a more widely used fixture, however, and is still worth grabbing. You just have to remind yourself that two games are two games. I know it’s hard sometimes.
Radko Gudas - TB - D - 32% owned with 2+10=12
If you’re like me, every player on your perfect fantasy team looks like Brent Burns did when he strode off the set of History Channel’s Mountain Men and into the 2013-14 season. Someone else to help us with that goal is bearded defenseman Radko Gudas, who has 12 points, a +8 rating, 90 PIMs, 76 blocks, 68 shots, and 152 hits in his 40 game season. Those hits are good for 4th overall in the league and 2nd among d-men behind Cody Franson, although Gudas has a whole 72 PIMs more than the Maple Leaf. Gudas’ 90 minutes are better than any other defensemen, actually, and all that’s been said is even more impressive when you consider that Gudas missed 5 games with a concussion last month. I really believe think that a tough mug like Gudas who can spike your grit stats from the blue line is extremely valuable, especially if you are in deeper leagues where most defensive pickups are hardly useful. He can also reduce the risk of a nabbed forward who might be more of a pig for points and nothing else, at the cost of a middling and/or faltering d-dude.
DEEPER LEAGUE FREE AGENTS (<25% ownership in Yahoo! leagues)
Ondrej Palat - TB - LW - *8% owned with 9+13=22
Ondrej Palat’s recent history earned him the right to a few yawns in Saturday’s point streak-ending outing against Philly, if you ask me. Before that game, Palat had 4 goals and 10 points in an 8 game streak. Those points as well as 20 shots and a +7 over those games. For a guy who’s only 8% owned, having Young Cool New Guy Tyler Johnson and Older Faithful Martin St. Louis as dance partners and such a recent streak is some stuff right there. Palat’s now a +14 on the season with a respectable 75 hits and still-better-than-some 82 shots to round out his recent successes. The Lightning play 5 games this coming week, which means Palat might prove to be one of the better moves you could make at this depth level.
Michael Ryder - NJ - RW - 13% owned with 16+8=24
I remember when Ryder was traded from Dallas to Montreal last winter. The press me him when her arrived at the airport, and he told them that he was in such a rush that he forgot to bring a winter jacket. I was like, Dude, aren’t you from Newfoundland? But coat or not, he warmed up pretty quickly with the Habs and collected 21 points in 27 games with his new team. This year, with a much weaker offensive squad in New Jersey, Ryder only has 24 points in 48 games. However, 16 of those points are goals, 4 of which have come in the last 4 consecutive games. In the last 9 games, Ryder has put up 5 goals and 8 points on a line with fellow Newfoundlander Ryan Clowe, and non-Newfoundlander Adam Henrique. These three also function as the second power play unit. At this pace, Ryder could put away 30 goals, and his shot numbers have increased over this hotter span, too. Hopefully that holds up long enough to help a few teams who need a boost.
Beau Bennett - Pit - LW,RW - 7% owned with 1+2=3
When he returns from his wrist injury, Bennett is slated to line up with Sidney Crosby and Chris Kunitz, which is probably the best gig you can land in the NHL. That’s a big deal if you’re a little weak up front. Bennet’s now working out without a cast and should return within two weeks. Moreover, if you’re really hurting and equally idealistic, Bennett’s three-sentence news updates can make you feel something like this, like you’re in it together, and who doesn’t need that right now? It’s the dead of winter and most of us can’t even find the memory of a beach.
THE MIDNIGHT SPECIALS (<5% owned in Yahoo! leagues)
Matt Beleskey - Anh - LW - 4% owned with 3+9
I mean, if someone were to tell me that Bill Cosby (even the less bouncy Bill Cosby of 2014) was playing on a line with Getz and Perry, I would have found a way to pick him up too. That’s what happened with Beleskey, who enjoyed a couple nights up with the big dogs and looked good while doing it in the midst of a 5 game, 7 point streak that was taken from him in Phoenix Saturday night. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that big Dusty Penner was back up on the top line and recorded both a goal and an assist with 4 shots. This performance might have caused the line-testing Bruce Boudreau to wonder if Penner has his game, and, more importantly for the role, his chemistry with the top guys back. Regardless, Becky has played very well of late no matter where he has played, is a plus-player who shoots the pucks and decks fools, so as long as he is putting up points he is a great player to have in the deepish and deeper leagues. The Anaheim top line situation is something to watch, and Beleskey is a top candidate.
Pat Maroon - Anh - LW - 0% owned with 3+7=10
"Pat Maroon" is one of my favourite names in the NHL. Besides that, he seems like a dude who only had 10 points in 28 games played, which is true, but his game has taken a very useful shift lately. In his last 3 games, Maroon has 3 assists and 3 fighting majors. In his last 4, he’s fought four times. This alone could have landed him the Pickup of the Week honour—if anyone had picked him up. He’s looking good in games and helping things happen on the Ducks’ 2nd line with Mathieu Perreault (6 points in 4 games) and Jakob Silfverberg (3 assists in 4 games). Points are coming, and because any player who starts to wear a shiny shorts under their gear is a must-have in PIMs-valuing formats, if Maroon keeps this grit streak up (we’ll find out tonight), you fight-loving sickos should really give him a real serious look. Or he might beat you up. Oh, and he’s ranked 16th overall on Yahoo! in the last 7 days. Munch dust, other 0%ers.