Looking Ahead 2015: Week Nine

by Mike Schmidt on November 27, 2015

Which teams have the best schedules in fantasy hockey this week?

All fantasy owners need help in the short term AND the long term. The Looking Ahead feature identifies one player to plug into lineups in the short term, a second to invest in for the long term, a third to bench for the coming week and a fourth who will struggle to meet expectations for some time. Without further ado…

The Immediate Fix (Grab this guy and use him for the next several days)

Lee Stempniak, LW/RW, New Jersey (Available in 71 percent of Yahoo leagues) – The 32-year-old winger has managed to amass 16 points in 21 games for the Devils on the young season. This has come as a surprise to the fantasy community, as Stempniak hasn’t exceeded 38 points in any year since 2009-10. However, because the veteran winger is seeing over six more minutes of action per game than he did over the past two seasons, and he’s no longer seeing the majority of his zone starts occur in his own squad’s end of the ice, Stempniak is proving to be useful for fantasy purposes. How long will it last? As long as he’s in the mix for significant action on the power play and is skating on the same line as Mike Cammalleri, acceptable production should be there. Given those circumstances, poolies should consider Stempniak as a short-term add or an injury replacement. New Jersey’s schedule is quite friendly over the course of the next several, so the time has never been better to give this solid veteran a look.  

 

The Building Block (Buy now, sit back and enjoy the production)

Derick Brassard, C, New York (Available in 43 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Why is this guy still available in so many leagues? Sure, New York’s offense isn’t exactly running on all cylinders, but Brassard is:

  • Coming off his first 60-point campaign.
  • Seeing action on the same line as perennial fantasy star Rick Nash and the ever-improving Mats Zuccarello.
  • Entrenched on New York’s top power-play unit.
  • Getting 60 percent of his zone starts in his the offensive end of the ice (which is a career high for him).

He’s no superstar, but Brassard has been a very productive player for the bulk of his two-plus seasons in the Big Apple. Pick him up. Trade for him. Whatever it takes, as 55-60 points is almost a sure thing when all is said and done.

 

The Odd Men Out (Their short-term value is cause for concern)

Any and all Calgary defensemen – A season ago, Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie and Kris “Block Party” Russell were all productive and useful fantasy blueliners. Now? They have COMBINED for 28 points in 101 games played thus far this season for the Flames. None of them are seeing more than three minutes of power-play ice time per game, and Hamilton, Brodie and Russell are seeing less than two per contest. For comparison’s sake, 24 NHL blueliners are at or above three minutes of ice time with the man-advantage so far this season, while 62 are above two. Simply stated, none of these guys can be used with confidence until an injury or a significant change in playing time distribution opens up an opportunity for someone. Stay away for now.

 

The Anchor (He’ll do nothing but disappoint even over the long haul)

Chris Kunitz, LW, Pittsburgh (Owned in 50 percent of Yahoo leagues) – Here’s some “fun” facts about the 36-year-old winger:

  • His point-per-game average has decreased every year since 2012-13 (1.08 in that season to 0.14 so far this year).
  • His shooting percentage has gone down every year since 2012-13 (.161 that year to .077 this season).
  • His average time on ice per game has dropped every year since 2013-14 (19 minutes, 9 seconds that season to 15:40 this year)
  • His shots per game average has decreased every year since 2013-14 (2.79 that year to 1.86 this season)

Kunitz has done (less than) nothing for the Penguins and fantasy owners this year: three goals and no assists in 21 games played. As a result, he’s not playing on the same line as Sidney Crosby. He’s not playing with Evgeni Malkin or Phil Kessel, either. Kunitz is currently skating alongside Beau Bennett and Nick Bonino. That doesn’t bode well for his chances to turn things around in the short term. As for the long term? Here’s what we know: Kunitz’s game is in decline, and he’s not being afforded with the same opportunities and circumstances to produce fantasy-relevant production has he was in years past. Look elsewhere for help on the wing.

 

Love ‘Em (These squads are sure to pay dividends in the coming days)

New York Rangers – The Rangers have been on a roll as of late, winning nine of 11 games during the month of November. Expect that strong play to continue into December, as the squad will play five games between Friday, Nov. 27 and Thursday, Dec. 3 (three of which are at home).There’s nothing not to like about their schedule. The fantasy production will be there. Bet on it.

New Jersey – Here’s a team that’s being surprisingly competitive this year. The Devils still lack for talent at every position but netminder (Cory Schneider and his career .927 save percentage are as legit as it gets), but employing some skaters from this squad could pay dividends in the short term. It’s all about volume, as New Jersey will take to the ice for five games between Friday, Nov. 27 and Friday, Dec. 4.

Nashville – With five games in the first eight days of December, who even cares that three of them are on on the road? Play your Preds.

 

Leave ‘Em (These squads will leave fantasy owners sorely disappointed in the short term)

Washington – Six of this team’s first seven games of the month of December will occur away from the District of Columbia. The squad’s lone home game will be against the always-tough Detroit Red Wings. The Caps are great and all, just don’t expect the usual level of production from Ovechkin, Backstrom and the rest of the crew.

Calgary – Simply stated, this team just doesn’t play very much in early December. The Flames will hit the ice just twice in the month’s first seven days. That’s simply not enough action for fantasy owners. Almost every other team in the league has a more advantageous schedule during that same stretch of time.

Pittsburgh – Ugh. This team has been a disaster for fantasy so far this year. Now Sidney Crosby and the rest of the Pens open the month of December with four straight games on the West Coast. Wins (along with goals, assists and other fantasy stats) will be difficult to come by for this team.

Friday, November 27 to Thursday, December 3

Best Bets

New York Rangers 5.26 – five games – three at home

Detroit 4.73 – four games – all at home

Nashville 4.67 – four games – three at home

Montreal 4.16 – four games – three at home

Minnesota 4.16 – four games – three at home

Steer Clear

Boston 2.00 – two games – NYR and EDM

Los Angeles 2.05 – two games – CHI and VAN

San Jose 2.05 – two games – CGY and PIT

St. Louis 2.21 – two games – NYR and LAK

Columbus 2.66 – three games – two on road

Saturday, November 28 to Friday, December 4

Best Bets

New York Rangers 4.31 – four games – three at home

Edmonton 4.15 – four games – PIT, TOR, BOS and DAL

New York Islanders 4.10 – four games – three at home

Arizona 4.09 – four games – OTT, NSH, DET and BUF

New Jersey 4.02 – four games – MTL, COL, CAR and PHI

Steer Clear

Washington 1.85 – two games – both on road

Tampa Bay 1.86 – two games – NYI and ANA

Boston 1.95 – two games – both on road

Los Angeles 2.05 – two games -CHI and VAN

Carolina 2.06 – two games – NYR and NJD

Sunday, November 29 to Saturday, December 5

Best Bets

Detroit 4.62 – four games – all at home

New York Islanders 4.10 – four games – three at home

Vancouver 3.82 – four games – ANA, LAK, DAL and BOS

Florida 3.80 – four games – DET, STL, NSH and CBJ

Toronto 3.72 – four games – EDM, WPG, MIN and STL

Steer Clear

Washington 1.66 – two games – both on road

Chicago 1.84 – two games – MIN and OTT

Tampa Bay 1.85 – two games – both on road

Pittsburgh 1.90 – two games – both on road

Los Angeles 2.10 – two games – VAN and PIT

Monday, November 30 to Sunday, December 6

Best Bets

Edmonton 4.45  – four games – three at home

New Jersey 4.42 – four games – three at home

Anaheim 4.31 – four games – all at home

New York Rangers 4.21 – four games – three at home

Carolina 4.16 – four games – three at home

Steer Clear

Washington 1.66 – two games – both on road

Calgary 2.15 – two games – DAL and BOS

Pittsburgh 2.71 – three games – all on road

Tampa Bay 2.71 – three games – all on road

Chicago 2.84 – three games – MIN, OTT and WPG

Tuesday, December 1 to Monday, December 7

Best Bets

New Jersey 4.42 – four games – three at home

Nashville 4.41 – four games – ARI, FLA, DET and BOS

Buffalo 4.30 – four games – DET, ARI, EDM and VAN

Minnesota 4.26 – four games – CHI, TOR and COLx2

Vancouver 4.22 – four games – three at home

Steer Clear

Washington 1.66 – two games – both on road

Calgary 2.15 – two games – DAL and BOS

Toronto 2.61 – three games – all on road

Pittsburgh 2.71 – three games – all on road

Tampa Bay 2.71 – three games – all on road

Wednesday, December 2 to Tuesday, December 8

Best Bets

New Jersey 4.35 – four games – CAR, PHI, FLA and TOR

Carolina 4.25 – four games – three at home

Nashville 4.01 – four games – FLA, DET, BOS and CHI

Arizona 3.99 – four games – DET, BUF, CAR and STL

New York Islanders 3.99 – four games – NYR, STL, OTT and PHI

Steer Clear

Pittsburgh 1.66 – two games – both on road

Montreal 1.90 – two games – WAS and CAR

Calgary 2.21 – two games – BOS and SJS

Colorado 2.60 – three games – two on road

Tampa Bay 2.71 – three games – all on road

Thursday, December 3 to Wednesday, December 9

Best Bets

Vancouver  4.36 – four games – all at home

New Jersey 4.35 – four games – CAR, PHI, FLA and TOR

Carolina 4.25 – four games – three at home

Nashville 4.01 – four games – FLA, DET, BOS and CHI

Arizona 3.99 – four games – DET, BUF, CAR and STL

Steer Clear

Winnipeg 1.80 – two games – WAS and CHI

Tampa Bay 1.90 – two games – both on road

Anaheim 2.15 – two games – SJS and PIT

Calgary 2.21 – two games – BOS and SJS

Pittsburgh 2.71 – three games – all on road