Welcome back to another week of The Waiver Wire. Last week was quite the short week with some players only playing a game or two due to Thanksgiving. To those who celebrate, I hope you enjoyed stuffing your faces with turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, etc. and for those of you that traveled, I hope you did so safely. Because of this gleeful mood I am in, I don't feel like writing about disappointments. Instead, I am going to talk about five things that I am thankful for regarding Fantasy Hockey.
The Crosby Effect
This is quite a simple concept that can make a huge difference in many fantasy leagues. When an average player, is on a line with an elite player, the average player, from a fantasy perspective, becomes above average. This can be changed for when a good player is on a line with an elite player, the good player looks great, etc. A couple really great examples of this are Patric Hornqvist and Ryan Callahan. Patric Hornqvist is a pretty good hockey player. From an offensive perspective, it's tough to be on a team that has such a defense first mentality as the Trotz Era Predators had. He managed to score 30 goals once, and twenty three other times with a high in points of 53 in a full (ish) season. This season, While seeing a lot of time with Crosby or Malkin, he has 11-14-25 in 23 games. That's quite the jump. That's what happens when you put a good player, in an offensive system with an elite player. Ryan Callahan was in a similar situation playing under the defense first system of Torts for a lot of his time. I see him as nothing more than a second liner who can kill penalties. His high in points was 54, but he has also had trouble staying healthy. This year, he's 11-10-21 in 19 games while spending a bunch of time with Steven Stamkos. Callahan is a grinder type who plants himself in front of the net and plays a very good complimentary roll to Stamkos. These are players that can be drafted late, and have huge impacts.
Average goalies on good teams
Anytime I get to talk about how I believe Marc-Andre Fleury is this generation's Osgood, I do. MAF has a career save percentage of .911 and although he has had a few years that have been really good, overall, in my opinion, he's an average goalie. Sure, he has a couple Cups. Thanks Sid and Malkin!! When you put this average goaltender on a very good team, then you get a goalie who can give you a lot of wins. This can be tricky come draft time. Is King Hank a better goaltender than MAF? Yep. Is he particularly better in fantasy? Maybe, but maybe not. Brian Elliott is another prime example of an average goaltender on a good team. If you have either of these goalies, you are probably pretty thankful that you do (except Elliott is now hurt).
The tracking of "defensive" statistics
If you are in a league that doesn't track hits, blocks, faceoff wins, etc. then I feel bad for you. Being in a league with a bunch of different statistics followed beyond the glamorous goals, assists, power play points, etc. is a very different experience. It gives you more than one strategy to win and means that you need to plan against your opponents. In those leagues, players such as Leo Komarov, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Martin and Robyn Regehr can be just as useful as Alex Tanguay, Jason Spezza, and the Sedins. For me, this makes fantasy hockey even more fun. You get to learn who the grinders are on other teams. You get to learn more about hockey and gain knowledge about lesser known players on the third and fourth lines or that last defensive pairing.
The urge to watch your players
If you're an Avs fan, and all you watch are Avalanche games, that is totally cool. If your prerogative is to watch 82 games a year, plus playoffs, and that's what being a fan is means to you, that's great. For me, fantasy hockey pushes me to watch even more games, because I am invested in my players. Last week, I watched Calgary vs Arizona. I doubt many hockey fans would want to ever watch these two teams play, let alone play each other. But I was in the midst of a comeback, and have Hudler, Brodie, Wideman and Oliver Ekman-Larsson on my team. This injected a sense of excitement whenever I saw 24, 6 or 7 in white and 23 in burgundy/maroon/whatever color the Coyotes officially wear. I found myself rooting for players that weren't on the Avalanche, and to me, this makes hockey even more exciting. I have very many players that I like on other teams because I watch their games, and sometimes interviews just because they are on my fantasy team.
Learning how to say last names
How often did your head explode during Stastny's career by hearing announcers pronounce his name like Stozshnee? The NHL his given me all the practice in the world in how to say names with roots in Finnish, Swedish, Russian, French, German, Austrian, and pretty much every other European country that you can think of. Being thankful for something like this may sound silly, but I work in a job where I interact with a lot of people. As we all know, most people have last names. Many of them not being Smith and Johnson. It helps me not alienate customers if I already know how to pronounce their last name. Sometimes, it even surprises them enough that it starts the conversation on a good note, rather than a lousy note of having to correct the pronunciation of your last name. Beyond pronunciations, I'm sure some of us have gotten pet names from Avalanche players (and sometimes kids' names). It's never a bad resource to turn to.
So that's what I'm thankful for in this season. Let me know what you are thankful for so far in this fantasy hockey season!