This week for the fantasy fix, I am going to focus on something every fantasy hockey manager dreads: injuries.
One of the biggest dilemmas for Fantasy Hockey managers is what to do when the injury bug hits your team. Nothing can bring a fantasy season to a halt than one of your stars going down with a bad injury. There also remains certain stigma with discussing fantasy implications after someone is injured. Part of playing fantasy sports is reacting to and accounting for injuries, but bringing the subject up after an injury is the quickest way to be labeled a “terrible person” by some people. So let’s put all that aside here and take a look how to deal with injuries during your fantasy hockey season. A consensus number 1 pick like Steven Stamkos can become nearly worthless in fantasy hockey overnight. So what do you do if you spent that #1 pick on Stamkos, only to lose him for the majority of the remaining season?
What Do I do!?
Well first, after you have yourself a good cry, you must come to terms with what has happened and try to make the best of an awful situation. That includes assessing your league’s format and rules. If you are in a keeper league, you cannot drop a player like Stamkos. Stamkos is the type of player you build your keeper franchise around, so dropping him for a waiver wire pickup is not an option. Next, take a look at whether your league has an IR spot. This is not included in ESPN standard leagues, but a lot of custom leagues do have an IR spot. My fun league with my friends has one IR spot, whereas the FanSided league does not.
If you are in luck and do have the IR spot as an option, store your injured player there and pick the best available player off the waiver wire (more on that later). If there is not an IR spot, or it is already filled by another player, you have a decision to make. In the best case scenario, Stamkos is back for the Olympics. That is months from now. In a standard one year league, you cannot afford to hold someone on your bench for that long. Your best option is to drop Stamkos and just wait and see if he makes it back this season. As soon as you hear news that indicated he is close to returning, go back to the waiver wire, hopefully he will still be there. While you are risking having someone else pick him up, they will also have to store him on the bench, wasting a roster spot. Holding on to an injured player who is projected to be out for a long period, simply because you are afraid someone will claim him, is not a sound strategy.
Short Term Injuries
What about a less catastrophic injury, like Marian Gaborik or Matt Duchene? In those cases, it is best to look at the projected return dates and assess if it is worth waiting for. Duchene has been great for a hot Avalanche team this season, so I elected to hold onto him in my fun league. Marian Gaborik has been awful in both real life and fantasy hockey, so I elected to drop him in both of my leagues. In my fun league, he was occupying my IR spot, so I dropped him and put Duchene on the IR so I could pick someone else up.
The key to reacting to injuries is minimizing your point loss and managing your assets / projecting how long someone will actually be out. A few days or a couple of weeks is something you can make up for. When a player is going to miss months, then it is time to part ways.
Working the Waiver Wire
When deciding who to pick up off the waiver wire, I do not simply look at who has been a hot pick up lately. Instead, I take a look at a players overall performance for the season, as well as their last 5, 15, and 30 days. A player on a hot streak is good for a temporary 3-5 game fill in, but if you are looking for a permanent fill in, then more research is needed. In the case of Stamkos, you are better off taking a look at who is going to step up in his place. Valterri Filppula was projected to fill in the Center spot for Stamkos, and is now owned in 100% of ESPN standard leagues. His production has seen an uptick since Stamkos’ injury. When a player goes down long term, there is always someone there to fill in the void left in the roster.
Steve Ott (BUF F): While not much of a weapon on offense, Ott provides plenty of hits and penalty minutes. While he will not make up for the scoring void left by a Stamkos, in the case of someone like Marian Gaborik, Ott will provide a steady stream of points. Even when healthy, Gaborik has not been producing on offense. A well rounded player like Ott can produce points utilizing the other categories, whereas Gaborik relies mainly on scoring.
Tyler Toffoli (LA RW,C): Since being called up from the AHL, Toffoli has tallied a goal or an assist in 6 out of 9 games played. He is on a hot streak, so he is a good temporary fill in option, as the “beginner’s luck” may wear off at any moment.
Martin Brodeur (NJ G): I mentioned Brodeur in my goalie post, but with a few goaltenders down with an injury, he is also relevant in this post. Brodeur is on a 5 game winning streak and that includes 2 shutouts. He is owned in 95% of leagues at this time, so if you are looking for an injury fill in, now is the time to act. Brodeur appears to be the best long term option for a goalie fill in.
Steve Mason (PHI G): If Brodeur has already been claimed in your league, Steve Mason may be available, but he is owned in 97% of leagues. Someway, somehow, Steve Mason is once again relevant in fantasy hockey. There is always the risk that the floor drops out from under Mason and he goes back to his former self that all Jackets fans are familiar, but for now he makes a good fill in option as well.