10 players in the Eastern Conference trending down.
With just over a dozen games remaining on the schedule, the NHL regular season is nearing its end and with that comes the end of our hockey pools. Many of us are currently in head-to-head playoffs with little or no ability to make further changes while others still have the ability to add and drop beyond the trade deadline. Obviously, if you still have any ability to tweak your roster it is essential to take full advantage of this ability.
Today we will focus mainly on one-year leagues where it is championship or bust for all participating owners. Considering this is the end of the league there is no reason to over-invest in slumping players in anticipation of an eventual turnaround. This is it. You have to make the best decision right now and there is little margin for error.
With that said, here are 10 players in the Eastern Conference who are trending in the wrong direction at the moment. Some should be dropped now while others are still productive enough to keep around despite their struggles.
Mike Green (Detroit)
In recent years Green has been fairly reliable as a productive defenseman who can be drafted a bit later. He still missed around 10 games per year but usually hovers above 0.5 points per game which leads to an impressive final total. This year has been more of the same but things have gone south recently as Green has but two points over his last 12 contests. Simply put the Red Wings lack offensive firepower which makes it difficult for Green to post outstanding numbers and it will also make him prone to slumps like the one he is in right now. He is difficult to replace in points-only but in multi-category you can safely ditch him if you want to use his roster spot to focus on categories where you need immediate production.
Jonathan Huberdeau (Florida)
After returning from injury red-hot Huberdeau has slowed down significantly with just two points in his last five while his average ice time during this stretch is down to 17:24 (20:50 in the previous five). It is far too early to panic considering he has yet to go multiple games without a point this year but it is a good reminder that his outstanding play was likely unsustainable. While Huberdeau has star potential his career-high is 59 points. With the recent setback his points-per-game rate (0.81) is now close to last year’s 0.78. He is definitely worth owning in all formats down the stretch – just keep your expectations in check.
Anthony Mantha (Detroit)
After starting his first full NHL campaign on fire, Mantha has just two points in his last six and has been a healthy scratch the last two contests. Long-term this is not a concern as Mantha has shown plenty of positive signs this year and his team has a huge need for his skill set. However, in the short-term you cannot afford to wait for this to play out. Swap out Mantha and start riding hot streaks such as Michael Frolik or Conor Sheary. In fact, Mantha’s teammate Gustav Nyquist might be available and would be worth a look. Despite his own struggles Nyquist has a history producing in the NHL so it should not be a surprise to see him have success again.
T.J. Oshie (Washington)
Prior to missing four games recently with an upper-body injury Oshie was having one of his best years statistically. Since his return he has just two points in five games. As with Huberdeau, the recent tough stretch is not a cause for panic but rather a reminder that Oshie was playing well above his usual pace and was due to slow down. Now that the Capitals have come back down to earth as a team look for most of its players including Oshie to have a more ordinary finish to the campaign. With that said, give it a few more games before you think about dropping him in any league.
Jeff Petry (Montreal)
At times Petry can heat up and look like a potential 40-point defenseman and at other times he can go ice-cold for long stretches. Over his last 19 games he has gone without a point in 17 of them. Without a top-pairing role or a spot on the top power-play unit it is almost impossible to contribute at a high level consistently despite his average ice time of more than 22 minutes per game. In a points-only league Petry should have been dropped by now in exchange for a similar option not in the midst of a huge slump. However, in multi-category leagues it may not be wise to ditch him just yet. Beyond the points, Petry offers a ton of shots, hits and blocks which keeps his value high. Unless your league is shallow and there are great alternatives available it may be wiser to stick it out with him and hope he turns it around.
Alexander Radulov (Montreal)
Radulov has had a very successful return to the NHL but has cooled off of late with just four points in his past 10, with all of his points coming in one game. To make matters worse he missed 10 games during this slump with a lower-body injury. As with the other high-scoring options, Radulov should be productive down the stretch considering how badly the Canadiens need his offense. He will be relied on heavily and given top-line minutes both at even strength and on the power play. With that said, if the slump continues a few more games and you have good options on the wire then by all means make the swap to make sure you do not fall out of the race.
Brady Skjei (New York Rangers)
Skjei has had an impressive rookie campaign with 32 points in 69 games thus far. Even more impressive is the fact he has had success despite third-pairing minutes and no spot on the top power-play unit. With just one point in his last six you have to wonder if Skjei has hit the rookie wall. It is worth noting the Rangers recently added Brendan Smith to the blueline and are giving him 22 minutes per game. Add in the fact that Kevin Klein and Dan Girardi are still on the sidelines and there will not be many minutes left to help Skjei rebound down the stretch. Unless you are in a very deep league with nothing on the wire you can probably do better than Skjei for the final handful of games.
Frank Vatrano (Boston)
Vatrano enjoyed a lot of success when first called up to Boston back in December but has been a non-factor of late with one point in his last seven. At this point he finds himself in the bottom-six despite a recent injury to Ryan Spooner. Taking Vatrano’s potential spot in the top-six is Drew Stafford who was acquired at the trade deadline. With the veteran being favored for the time being Vatrano has next to no value for the stretch run and can be safely dropped for a forward on a hot streak – perhaps Stafford himself is available on your waiver wire.
Alexander Wennberg (Columbus)
Wennberg has been outstanding this year posting first-line-center numbers for the majority of the schedule. With that said he was producing above his means and has come back down to earth with just one point in his last eight. Unfortunately, getting out of this mess will not be easy. Unless you are in a very shallow league the problem is finding a better option on the wire. Even if you find a hot player on the wire it is only a matter of time before Wennberg gets back on track given his history and the talent on the wings in Columbus.
Mika Zibanejad (New York Rangers)
Earlier this year Zibanejad looked like he could be in the midst of a major breakout campaign. However, since returning from injury in January he has just 12 points in 25 games. The Rangers have spread out the scoring and own two other centers in Derek Stepan and Kevin Hayes who are also highly-productive. This setup makes it difficult for individuals to stand out and be at their best so it will be difficult for Zibanejad to bounce back in the final weeks. The sample of games is large enough to show us he is not in a great position to succeed for the time being. Drop him if you have not already done so.
Follow me on Twitter @DH_EricDaoust.
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