Fantasy Hockey Mailbag

Life and Fantasy Hockey Mailbag: Vancouver Canucks, Colorado Avalanche, Post-NHL Trade Deadline, Trading Steven Stamkos in a Keeper League

Welcome to the LFH mailbag, where all your burning fantasy questions are answered moderately well by Spencer Plamondon, co-host of the Life and Fantasy Hockey Podcast.

COVID is wreaking havoc on the NHL at the worst time for fantasy managers. This week, two of our questions are related to that – one about Vancouver, the other Colorado. A couple of what-to-do’s that I wish I had better answers for than glorified I-don’t-know’s.

In the money league I co-commission with Kaveh, we’ve tabled a proposal to the teams who’ve made the playoffs that would see this year’s winner get their buy-in back, with the rest of the pot carrying over to next year. That’s the kinda unprecedented sh*t we find ourselves doing this season to try and compensate for COVID. There’s just so much uncertainty and havoc.

Anyway, let’s dive in.

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How do you view rostering Canucks players in the playoffs? With 19 games in 31 days, do you take the quantity of GP as a positive or does fatigue worry you, especially down the stretch if you make it to the semis or finals? – Christopher Walken Himself

A great question from a great man with a great career and even better hair.

So let me start by saying this is just my opinion on the subject. We’re in uncharted territory here, and there’s really no wrong answer to this question. What applies to one team won’t, or wouldn’t, necessarily apply to the next. Some respond better to fatigue than others. One team might benefit from a break in the schedule, the next might never get their feet back under them following it.

With that in mind, I’m treating Canucks players similarly to before their outbreak, which is mostly because I see the potential for it to go either way. I can see how the extra man games could be beneficial, and I can see how they could be detrimental. I’m kinda letting them cancel each other out while keeping a close eye on how the players are performing, knowing there’s a better chance these circumstances lead to struggles than success.

Fatigue is absolutely going to hit them. They’re also still recovering from the effects of COVID, which might compound the fatigue or, god forbid, lead to long-term complications. To top it off, some players aren’t even ready to play yet. So there’s a lot working against this group.

Montreal’s terrible play of late has left the door open a crack for Calgary and Vancouver in the North Division playoff race, and I expect the Canucks to rally around the sh*te circumstances they find themselves in. How far that gets them, I don’t know. But I’ve seen enough Cinderella stories and against-all-odds performances in sports to know the Canucks shouldn’t be written off here, and if they stay in the mix and keep the games meaningful, I think the added man games could be a positive for some of their fantasy performers. I’d imagine even in this scenario, some of their players will struggle, though.

I know this is kind of a nothing answer; I’m not taking a stance other than to say it could go either way. Honestly, I just don’t have the answers. It’s all speculation. The chips are stacked against them, I think that’s pretty fair to say. Does fatigue worry me with them? A bit, for sure.

I guess my advice would be to monitor team & player performance closely so you can make informed decisions based on their output along the way. Fatigue could hit one guy a lot worse than the next, so treat it case by case.

Good luck to you, sir. Leagues will be won and lost to COVID this year. Try to just enjoy the ride and accept the madness.

Vancouver has a wild schedule ahead

Now that the dust from the trade deadline has settled, are there any players whose situation has been negatively affected and should be dropped? – Allan C.

In Boston, LFH darling Nick Ritchie (LW – 17% Y!) comes to mind here. His ice time has gone down since Taylor Hall (LW – 85% Y!) arrived, and while he’s still got his spot on the top PP unit for now, I think that’s probably in jeopardy as well. His production had slowed leading up to the Hall acquisition anyway, so (nearly) all signs point to “Sell” on Nick Ritchie.

Nick Ritchie

In Washington, Conor Sheary (LW/RW – 5% Y!) was having himself a nice little hot streak leading up to the deadline, and while he’s continued to produce since (4PTS, 2PPA in 4GP), his ice time has taken a hit since the arrival of Anthony Mantha (LW/RW – 66% Y!) and I’d expect that to catch up to his point production in short order.

Conor Sheary

With Sam Bennett (C/W – 17% Y!) getting a look centring the second line in Florida, someone stands to lose opportunity, and I’m thinking it may be Alex Wennberg (C/LW – 7% Y!). Then again, despite centring the third line, he logged more ice time than Bennett in Bennett’s debut Saturday, so who knows. Either way, I don’t love Bennett’s odds of cementing himself in the Top 6.

Alex Wennberg

Once Evgeni Malkin (C – 89% Y!) is back, somebody stands to lose their spot to Jeff Carter (C/LW/RW – PIT – 22% Y!) in Pittsburgh, but it remains to be seen when Malkin returns to the lineup. Should he return soon, I think Jason Zucker (RW/LW – 9% Y!) is most likely to get bumped. Jared McCann (C/LW – 43% Y!) is a candidate as well, but he’s gone red hot in Malkin’s absence so I think they’ll probably keep him in his current role.

Jason Zucker

Lastly, somebody is going to lose ice time in Long Island with the arrival of Kyle Palmieri (LW/RW – 44% Y!), it’s just not super clear who yet with Josh Bailey (LW/RW – 10% Y!) sidelined. Their forward lines right now make it pretty hard to sort through – Zajac is centring the first line and Michael Dal Colle is at LW on the second. Even once it does become clear, though, it’s not likely to displace an established name given that Palmieri is filling the hole left by losing Anders Lee to a season-ending knee injury

The lack of big name players is obviously a reflection of a pretty slow deadline. It’s interesting, the biggest names moved (Hall, Palmieri, Mantha) were all underperforming significantly as fantasy players this year. All three were available in a lot of leagues, so at least the slow deadline yielded some bidding wars over big-name reclamation projects in our realm.

Silver linings, baby.

What do I do now that the playoffs are on and Colorado is sidelined? Do I drop guys? Do I hang on and hope? – Thomas B.

Editor’s note: Author was mistakenly under the impression the entire Avalanche team would be sidelined through this week. If all goes well and the team plays Thursday as planned, absolutely hold your star talent.

Man, another tough COVID-related question.

I guess it depends on how valuable the Colorado players you have are to your team – to a certain extent, anyway.

I think for starters, the best approach is to drop any player who’s not a key contributor for the best warm body you can find on waivers. For key contributors, you’ve got some really tough decisions to make. If you’ve got multiple, I’d look at how many man games you’re projected to have and see if it’s in the same realm as your opponent. If it’s not, you need to seriously look at dropping your guys for players on the waiver wire. That way, at least you’ve got a fighting chance.

Even if you win, though, your star players will probably be poached off waivers by managers who can afford to stash them. So not only would you be looking at winning two more playoff games without your stars, you may actually end up facing them in your matchup(s). Fun, right?

If you’ve got a high scoring team and you’re not projected to get creamed in man games for the week, you can always stash your Avs players and see how your team performs without them. If you pull ahead comfortably, great. Problem solved. If it’s close, that’s not necessarily bad, either. Gives you some runway to decide if it’s necessary. If you’re behind and it’s not particularly close, like I said, it’s time to cut bait and make a desperate push.

The downside to taking the wait-and-see approach is that your opponent could end up beating you by a small enough margin that you would’ve won had you dropped your key players for replacements sooner. At some point, you do have to say “fuck it” and drop your best players if the alternative is being eliminated, though. That’s the bottom line. When’s the right time to do that? That’s preference and/or dumb luck. What’s your tolerance for risk?

A random, sidebar piece of advice: take screenshots of your fantasy team before dropping roster-worthy players. Yahoo! shows your rosters from previous seasons but only in their final form, so whoever you’ve got at the end of the year, that’s who you see listed. Having the screenshot is a nice way to remember what your team actually looked like at its best.

The Colorado Avalanche, in better times

I have Stamkos in a keeper league with a salary cap and I’m in the midst of rebuilding. Do I keep him? – Kris J.G.

Kris’ roster
Kris’ protection list

So fair warning: I’ve actually never been in a keeper league before. Next year will be my first, and it looks like the most godd*mn fun thing ever so I’m excited. I’ve been eyeballing keeper leagues for like 15 years. Now that they’ve gone mainstream, it’s time to get in on the action.

I’ll do my best to answer with the limited knowledge I have.

I’d trade him, if I were in your shoes. You’re in a rebuild, he’s injury prone and he’s 31 years old. His value ain’t getting higher from here, but it’s still high enough that he should net you a really nice return. I’d be patient, though. I’d take the Joe Sakic-Matt Duchane approach. Let the league know he’s available for the right price, but hold him into next year if the right deal doesn’t come along. Looking at your forward group, there’s nobody irreplaceable you could protect instead of Stamkos, anyway. No rush.

Time to move Stammer to a contender so he can compete for another fantasy title

As far as what constitutes a “really nice return”, that’s where my lack of keeper experience holds me back. I’m not quite sure how players/prospects/picks are valued relative to each other in keeper leagues.

I’d be targeting players like the Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere or the Devils’ Jack Hughes as part of the package you get in return – young players with star potential who came into the league with a whimper when a “bang” was expected. Lafreniere’s had a difficult rookie year, but he’ll bridge the gap in time. Hughes has been much, much improved this season, and his underlying numbers are strong. His point production isn’t a full reflection of his play this year. If you can find a manager who’s undervaluing these types of players, pounce.

Jack Hughes (left), Alexis Lafreniere (right)

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