Slow start. This happens every year. Often they are recruited at the beginning and many of those who tear them down stumble, forcing their respective fantasy directors to make tough decisions. Do you stick with these performers who are famously productive, or do you let them do it in place of other sleeper types or wild cards? More than ever, this contracted – and constantly contracted – campaign leaves little time to pass.
Here’s a list of the first losers, and whether they have a little patience or a nice door.
Give him a minute.
Mika Zibanejad, C/LW, New York Rangers (ranked in 98.2% of ESPN.com leagues): Doesn’t matter to me. Aside from the decision to throw a few passes instead of shooting at the net, last season’s dominant goal scorer, who is getting better by the day, looked a lot like his old face in Wednesday’s defeat to the Bruins. He had a couple of good scoring chances and those are going to start the game. If not, coach Dave Quinn may put Artemi Panarin on the wing of Zibanejad to start the engine. Either way, it probably won’t take long for the Rangers command center to find its rhythm.
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On the other hand, we can expect less from Alexis Lafrenière this season. Look, this kid will definitely become a star, but probably not in the next few weeks. He’ll have a chance to quickly take on the competition of the big New York third division league, to which he belongs. Outside of the goalie/dynamic leagues, the NHL’s first draft pick in the present doesn’t really play a role in fantasy.
Erik Karlsson, D, San Jose Sharks (92.9%): This is not the first time Karlsson’s fantasy managers have been upset by what is always considered an elite defender, and it won’t be the last. Missed games and poor play, largely due to injuries, have been part of Karlsson’s rhythm since he dominated at the height of his career with the Senators. Nevertheless, there is reason to believe (hopefully) that the former two-time Norris trophy winner will cross the line soon. First, he’s feeling really good this season, which is great. Second, there’s the chaotic opening schedule for the Sharks. They haven’t played a home game yet. Some players are more affected by these circumstances than others. The game in San Jose also needs improvement. Having seen a lot of minutes, the 30-year-old blueliner should make a difference quickly. And then dropping Karlsson and bringing in who?
Evgeni Dadonov, RW/LW, Ottawa Senators (59.4%): He is finally among the top six Senators, where he should be. A goal in each of his last two games suggests the winger won’t be returning to the third line anytime soon. Whether Dadonov is facing Brady Tkachuk or Tim Stuttle, the 31-year-old is scoring goals. With the Panthers, he has averaged .81 points per game in the last three campaigns, which is a good number. It’s not uncommon to need some time to get used to a new program. The Sens won’t win much this year, but Brady Tkachuk, Dadonov and Stuttle will still do their best to contribute to fantasy lists.
See also: TEVO TEREVEN, RV/LV, Carolina Hurricanes.
cause for concern
Mark Giordano, D, Calgary Flames (94.7%): Several factors upset my fantasy about Captain Fire. He doesn’t block shots as often as he does in his routine. He skates fewer minutes on the ice. He has scored only one goal and four assists in a dozen games – including only two assists in his last seven games. But what worries me most is that the veteran will be replaced by Rasmus Andersson at the top of the Calgary draw. Competing with Andrew Manjapan and Dillon Dube doesn’t mean skating with Matthew Tkachuk, Johnny Gaudreau and company. It doesn’t mean devaluing Giordano – again, for whom? – But it should be possible to lower expectations. If the fantasy is stronger on any given night, managers can bench the 37-year-old.
Thomas Tatar, LW/RW, Montreal Canadiens (82.1%): The Canadiens have one of the most balanced offensive lines in the NHL. Montreal’s new “second” line scored 34 points in 13 games. On the “third” line, Tyler Toffoli leads the way with nine goals and four assists. A year ago, he was leading his club to production by a wide margin, but now he doesn’t see as many minutes and opportunities to score quality goals. Wednesday’s goal against the Maple Leafs was his first since January 16. He doesn’t put the puck in the net very often. His unit – which also includes Philip Danault and Brendan Gallagher – is usually deployed against the opponent’s front line. No doubt Tartar will still have the occasional productive night, but not as often as a year ago. Don’t get too involved in the lower leagues.
Juice Saros, G, Nashville Predators (70.7%): The Predators are a wreck. There is no greater discrepancy in the entire league than the difference between the quality of the staff on paper and the team’s inability to get the job done on the ice. This club should be much better. They are 27th in the league and are also giving up too many chances on quality. And while Saros can’t be blamed for losing four of their five games lately, he didn’t save his teammates with a stolen victory either. Veteran Pekka Rinne has been better lately. I’ll give the 25-year-old goalie some time before he goes skydiving. Nashville has a less busy schedule the next two weeks – including four games with the Red Wings – that could boost confidence and possibly even save the season.
Tristan Jarry, G, Pittsburgh Penguins (61.8%): In the first fifth of the Penguins’ compact season, Jarry has been a fantastic contractor, but he also has reason to complain about certain circumstances. Pittsburgh’s defense has been badly damaged. The club’s February schedule was marked by an irregular pace due to the league’s COVID protocol. But Jarry’s 3.95 goals-against average and .857 save percentage are also too low.
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In the near future, Pittsburgh will face the Islanders five times and the Capitals four times. It’s time for action. Maybe the new leadership duo, Ron Hextall and Brian Burke, will get on the blue line. Maybe Brian Dumoulin will return sooner than expected. But for now, the clock is ticking for Jarry and perhaps for the entire Pens season. I’ll give him another week before he wins a nice boot.
See also: Mikko Koskinen, G, Edmonton Oilers; Zach Parise, LW, Minnesota Wild, Duncan Keith, D, Chicago Blackhawks.
Jean-Gabriel Pago, C, New York Islanders (60.0%): Pago forms the third row with Lev Komarov and Oliver Wahlstrom. He is averaging more than one shot per game and sees limited minutes on the second row of the power play. The Islanders rank 28th with 2.27 goals per game. When you add it all up, it’s no surprise that Pageau has had just one goal and three assists in 11 games. If blocked shots aren’t a problem, the two-way center should be given up in most leagues for another fancy joker with more upside.
Ryan Graves, D, Colorado Avalanche (62.2%): He plays for the Avs’ third team and has one assist (and a good dab) in 10 games. He has a minus 5 record after a plus 40 record just one season ago. Coach Jared Bednar says he’s not the right player. Unless something changes when the Avalanche return Sunday (hopefully), Graves deserves an immediate kick in the fancy brake.
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