You might have already been preparing for the worst with Dougie Hamilton, yet the news is still difficult to hear anyway. Hamilton underwent surgery for a broken left fibula on Friday and will be out indefinitely. Based on what I’ve read about broken fibulas, the timeline for recovery could be anywhere from several weeks to what would amount to be the rest of the regular season.
If you want a best case-scenario, Jason Zucker only missed about a month with a fractured fibula, recently returning to the Wild lineup. Speaking from my own experience with fractured lower legs, though, I fractured my tibia (the other, larger lower-leg bone) while playing soccer in high school, and it took me nearly three months to be cleared for physical activity.
What to do with Hamilton depends on what type of league you’re in. If you have an IR slot, you’ll likely soon be able to place him there. If you’re in a shallow league with no IR slots like my son’s “kids league” has (my mistake for not putting IR in), then you can probably drop him outright, as much as he’s been carrying the load for many a fantasy defense. My son was able to pick up Oliver Ekman-Larsson, for what it’s worth.
I own Hamilton in one industry roto league (a keep four league). Within hours of the injury news, I received a trade offer for Keith Yandle. Between the Hamilton injury and Tuukka Rask’s concussion this week alone, first place is probably going to be out of reach for me. The other owner is in a similar place in the standings, and he has already decided to focus on stockpiling potential keepers for next season. So I decided to follow his strategy and retain Hamilton, since I tentatively have him in mind as one of my four keepers for next season. Coincidentally, this other owner and I (along with a third owner) tied for first in the league last season.
As far as how things went for the Hurricanes in their first full game without Hamilton, they took a 2-1 home loss to the struggling Ducks on Friday. It was Jaccob Slavin, and not Jake Gardiner as I had predicted, who took on the first-unit power-play minutes on the blueline. This might seem a bit out of nowhere, as Slavin has averaged a meager 11 seconds per game of power-play time this season. And he’s now suddenly on the first unit? Huh.
Slavin will also replace Hamilton at the All-Star Game. Despite the low prior power-play time and zero power-play points as a result, Slavin has a plus/minus almost as high as Hamilton’s to go with a decent shot total and a team-leading total in blocked shots. Add the power-play time in and he could be a decent fantasy contributor if he can stick around on the first unit.
Both Slavin and Brett Pesce logged 25 minutes in a game that went into overtime, so expect their icetime to increase while Hamilton is out. Gardiner, who remained on the second-unit power play, has already seen a bump in icetime in spite of his defensive woes (which have manifested into a minus-21 rating this season). Gardiner logged nearly 22 minutes on Friday, about five and a half minutes above his season average. As I mentioned yesterday, I added him in the league where I own Hamilton. He’s still only 11 percent owned in Yahoo leagues.
As predicted, the Tampa Bay/Winnipeg game turned out to be a high-scoring game… for one of the teams. Anthony Cirelli scored his first career hat trick in helping power the Lightning to a 7-1 victory in the Peg. The 22-year-old center now has points in three consecutive games to go with a plus-5. This after a six-game stretch without a point. Ondrej Palat assisted on all three of Cirelli’s goals, and like Palat, earned a plus-3 in this game.
Nikita Kucherov also scored twice for the Bolts, giving him back-to-back games with two goals and five goals over his last three games. Since January 9, no player has taken more shots than Kucherov (31 SOG in 6 GP). Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point each assisted on both of Kucherov’s goals.
If Stamkos and Kucherov were approaching me on a 2-on-0, I'd probably just walk out of the net and quit. pic.twitter.com/41dbUrVKdG
— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) January 18, 2020
Andrei Vasilevskiy picked up another win, which is now his tenth in a row. Over that span (since December 23), he has posted a stellar 1.69 GAA and .946 SV%. The last seven wins have also been quality starts. Now there’s the goalie you were expecting to draft. If you bought low, then good on you.
Bryan Rust scored his 20th goal of the season and added an assist on Sidney Crosby’s overtime winner on Friday – both on the power play. Rust’s 20 goals are a career high… which he has accomplished in just 33 games. Say what you want about him, but he’s made the most of his opportunity. Only 11 players have a higher points-per-game pace this season, with stars like Crosby, Kucherov, and Auston Matthews all slightly behind Rust in that category.
So is he due for a regression? Unfortunately for Rust owners, many of the advanced stats say so. His 5-on-5 shooting percentage currently sits at 12.8%, significantly higher than the 6-8% throughout his career. His overall shooting percentage, points/60, and PDO are also higher than normal. If you’re about to say “yeah, but he has better linemates than last season”, keep in mind that his most frequent linemates last season by far were Crosby and Jake Guentzel. Rust has significantly more power-play time than last season, with the power-play time yielding 12 of his 42 points.
Keep running with Rust while he’s hot, but don’t be afraid to pull the trigger on a trade for a more established option. A quick search on one-for-one deals on Yahoo shows Rust being traded for multicategory studs Max Pacioretty and Tom Wilson as well as the now-injured William Karlsson, just to give you a ballpark figure on what a possible return would be.
On Friday, David Backes was waived by the Bruins, the necessary step to be able to send him to the AHL. Backes was a multicategory stud at one time, but it looks like wear and tear have caught up to the now-35-year-old. He’s had a history of concussions, so he could decide to retire soon. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but that 2016 free agent class sure hasn’t aged well.
Time for a fantasy hockey public service announcement. Bye weeks start next week for teams, which will mean that some of your players will not play from Monday to Wednesday next week. The All-Star break runs from Thursday to Sunday, then games resume for some teams the following Monday.
The first week of the bye weeks might be particularly problematic. Although many head-to-head leagues will combine these two weeks in the interest of fairness, some will not. I thought I’d bring this up now so that you have some time to check your roster next week and plan ahead as needed.
Here is a list of teams that do not play at all next week (Monday-Sunday): Anaheim, Arizona, Buffalo, Calgary, Dallas, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Montreal, Nashville, New Jersey, Ottawa, San Jose, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Vancouver, Washington
Teams with one game: Boston, Carolina, Chicago, Colorado, Columbus, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Vegas
Teams with two games: Detroit, Florida, Minnesota, Winnipeg
Obviously, you’ll want to target players from teams that play two games for this segmented week, even if your league’s two weeks are combined. This means that you might be targeting a player like a Noel Acciari or an Eric Staal for two games, even if you expect them to hit a dry spell because of shooting percentage regression.
There’s only one confirmed Saturday starter, according to Goalie Post.
I guess https://t.co/PKKYDRzu0G
— Average Time on Ice (@avgtimeonice) January 17, 2020
Just to put this into context, Ilya Samsonov (almost called him Sergei – thank heaven I try to proofread) has started the past two games for the Capitals, winning both. Braden Holtby started the previous two games, losing both. This is not a back-to-back situation, so at what point does Todd Reirden feel confident enough to let Samsonov, who is having a much better season than Holtby, have a run with the starting goalie job?
The more this goes on, the more I think the Capitals let Holtby walk in free agency. Some team will salivate about having a former Vezina Trophy and Stanley Cup winner who has made saves like the one below and offer him the earth, moon, and stars – maybe not a contract like the big three of Vasilevskiy, Sergei Bobrovsky, or Carey Price, but one that will be regrettable later. Not just because it’s free agency, but because goalies are so volatile.
The 2010s provided saves we will never forget, but there was one that stood out from the rest.
In game two, of the 2018 Stanley Cup Final, @Capitals goalie Braden Holtby made a save that will live FOREVER.
Which save was your favorite? pic.twitter.com/5ZUMQDQ2Vd
— NHL on NBC (@NHLonNBCSports) January 16, 2020
For more, see “By the numbers: Why teams shouldn’t pay top dollar for goalies” by Dom Luszczyszyn of The Athletic (subscription required).
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me directly, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.