Ten players you should be worried about in fantasy hockey…
In last week’s top 10 list, we focused on players where there was no cause for concern. The season is too young, small sample size, yada yada yada.
This week, we throw the small sample size argument out the door, and look at guys who you should be worried about. Whether they have a tendency to start off hot before cooling down, they play for a bad team or they’re not playing with the linemates we thought they would, the fantasy owners of these 10 guys could be in for long seasons.
Here are the top 10 guys you should be worried about.
10. Brad Marchand
Last year, I wrote a Friday Forensics column about Marchand and his slow start. At the time, he had just two goals and five points in his first 15 games before recovering for a 50-point season. This year, he has just one goal and three points in his first 10 games. But his slow starts are concerning, and I’m not a believer that he can keep going on torrid scoring paces to get to 50 points. Knowing he can go into prolonged poor-scoring streaks is disconcerting, and eventually, they’re going to be longer and longer. Poolies are an impatient bunch, and not being able to count on a 50-point player to show consistency is pretty worrying.
9. Cody Hodgson
Truthfully, this list could be littered with Sabres and Hurricanes, but Hodgson has been pretty disappointing in his career after being a fantasy prospect darling. After a surprising trade from Vancouver to Buffalo in 2012, Hodgson has been underwhelming. With the Sabres, Hodgson has just 39 goals and 88 points in 149 games (that’s a 48-point pace over a full 82-game season). Since Hodgson doesn’t contribute in a lot of peripheral categories, poolies draft him for his offence. But with his offence drying up (just two points in nine games this year), he’s just not worth rostering.
8. Cam Ward
Everyone is pretty much aware that Cam Ward is no longer a viable NHL goalie, and hasn’t been for a couple of seasons. In three Yahoo pools I am in, Ward was taken in just one of them, in round 24 of a 10-person 26-round pool that starts three goalies (and that silly GM was me, but it was an autodraft pick). Ward’s numbers are just horrific: 0-2-1 record, .829 save percentage and 4.24 GAA. With Carolina looking worse than Buffalo this year, it’s hard to see any scenario where Ward becomes a top-30 goalie.
Stewart always seemed like he should have turned into Milan Lucic. He could score, hit, fight and was in a great situation with Colorado and St. Louis. But somehow, he finds himself in Buffalo, where he doesn’t contribute anything fantasy-relevant. In nine games this season, Stewart has just one assist, is a minus-four and has just four penalty minutes and 12 hits. He’s not even fighting, which is an easy way to rack up pims. With Buffalo expected to be horrible this season, the chances of him being fantasy relevant anytime soon is pretty low.
6. Mike Smith
In Smith’s first year with Arizona (then Phoenix), Smith was a sensation, finishing with a 38-18-10 record, .930 save percentage, and 2.21 GAA. In the two-plus seasons since, Smith is 44-36-15 with a .911 save percentage and 2.68 goals against average. This year has been exceptionally bad, with a 2-3 record (those two wins coming against Florida and Edmonton), .867 save percentage and a 3.80 GAA. What makes Smith owners worry is how strong the Western conference is, and how weak Arizona is.
5. Henrik Sedin
I’ve never been a big believer in the Sedins. They benefitted greatly from crazy-high offensive zone starts. And since that number has been decreasing the past number of years, so have the points. Now it may sound strange to have Sedin on this list the way he has started the season, but let’s look at things realistically here. Sedin has basically been beating up on the NHL’s weaker teams so far. Six of his 10 points came in the team’s first three games against the Flames and the Oilers (who they played twice). And last year, Sedin also started off hot, scoring nine points in his first seven games (identical to this year), and 20 in his first 17 games before the wheels fell off. As the schedule wears on, the competition gets tougher, his point-per-game pace will start to decrease dramatically as well.
Much was expected from Halak and the Islanders this season. And while the Islanders offence hasn’t disappointed (they lead the league in goals), Halak hasn’t been that great. Halak has just a 3-2 record, and a .893 save percentage and 3.38 goals against average (both career worsts). If that wasn’t bad enough, backup Chad Johnson has started three games as well (3-0 record, .891 save percentage, 3.00 GAA). So while neither goalie can get it done in New York, head coach Jack Capuano seems happy enough to spit the duties for now. Throw in the inevitable annual Halak trip to the IR, and there’s plenty to be worried about.
Really, you could have chosen Mike instead of Brad for this list, but the new-Chicago forward came into the season with a lot of hype. Early speculation was that Richards was would be playing on the second line with Patrick Kane, plus on the second power play unit. None of that has worked out. Richards has been stuck on the third line, playing mostly with Bryan Bickell, Ben Smith, and Brandon Saad. And he averages just 2:17 power play time per game, seventh on the team among forwards. Richards is no longer a viable fantasy option.
While it may be too early to call Huberdeau a bust, he’s quickly heading in that direction. Huberdeau followed a Calder win in 2013 with a nine-goal, 28-point season last year. And he’s looking even worse this year. So far, he has just one goal and one assist in seven games. He is getting lots of opportunity (he gets more power play time than any other forward), but Huberdeau hasn’t been able to turn a successful junior career into long-term NHL success. Of course, when Brad Boyes, Sean Bergenheim and Jussi Jokinen are your best offensive options, there’s not a lot of great leadership for Huberdeau to learn from.
One of my initial surprising season candidates, injuries are the main cause for worry for Semin owners, and for once, it’s not Semin’s injuries causing the headaches. Eric Staal and Jordan Staal are both on injured reserve, and Jeff Skinner just came back from a concussion. Andrej Sekera and Ryan Murphy are banged up. In the last three games, Semin’s top linemates have been Jiri Tlusty, Riley Nash and Victor Rask. If the Hurricanes can’t get healthier quick, then Semin’s production is going to continue to suffer.
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