Thursday, March 12, 2009

The Puck Stops Here: Good Old Fashioned Donnybrook

Before I jump into fantasy I want to talk about this week’s hot topic in the NHL, fighting. When I say hot, I mean scorching. Even Mike and Mike talked about hockey this week, and catching hockey coverage on ESPN is like seeing a bad car accident. It was horrible to experience, but you can’t look away because it is so rare to witness. I digress; ESPN’s pathetic treatment of hockey is for another article another time.

The conversation began with Tampa Lightning GM, Brian Lawton, stating fighting in hockey is becoming “archaic”. I couldn’t disagree more, but Lawton’s use of the word archaic brings to mind a similar thought, his job should be extinct. Again, I digress. I agree with Toronto Maple Leafs GM, Brian Burke, that fighting isn’t an issue within the game, but is simply discussed as an issue by those outside the game.

Fighting is an integral part of the game; most detractors forget the fact that it is a form of self-policing amongst the players. I couldn’t imagine the type of cheap shots against the superstars if there was no fighting. We wouldn’t ever be able to watch superstars because eliminating a team’s top player would be well worth the two-minute penalty. Sure, some fights are staged or unnecessary, but more often than not, fights are a result of a cheap shot or tempers generally raging.

I also do not understand the argument that fans today aren’t interested in or are turned off by caged violence. Really? I guess that is why MMA is falling on its face, oh wait... I am sorry to break it to you, but we aren’t that different from the Romans who enjoyed watching the Gladiators. Sure, we may order lattes and have hairdressers, but the same carnal desire for structured violence remains.

The only argument I am willing to even consider is that of safety, but I am still not buying it. I agree it is tragic when someone seriously gets injured, but they knew and accepted the risks before stepping on the ice. They are accepting the same risks as getting hit by a slap shot in the face, getting checked from behind, or blind sided by a truck named Brian Campbell. If you ask me, throwing at a defenseless batter is much more archaic than two hockey players agreeing to fight each other with the ability to defend themselves. There is a difference between a NHL fight and other forms of violence in sports. NHL fighting is legitimate and serves a purpose, the other acts are not. Feel free to jump in with your own opinion.

Speaking of fighting, one guy I am keeping an eye on is Dan Carcillo. Carcillo has never thought twice about dropping the gloves and has rewarded fantasy owners with plenty of PIM. Despite all of the PIM, Carcillo is not widely owned because his offensive statistics simply do not justify owning him unless you really need PIM help. However, Carcillo is now playing for a Flyer’s team whose strength is scoring goals. I don’t expect a huge jump in offensive production, but there may be enough of an increase to make him worthwhile. Keep an eye on him, or add him if you need PIM help.

If you are looking for help on the wing, look to the Carolina Hurricanes. Since joining Carolina, Erik Cole has been on fire. Cole has points in three consecutive games including a four point effort on Saturday against the helpless Lightning. He has been reunited on a line with Eric Staal and there is instant chemistry. Add in Cole’s dual win eligibility and Cole should be owned in every league right now. Cole isn’t the only Hurricane winger producing, though. Tuomo Ruutu has six points since Cole joined the Hurricanes and has joined Cole and Staal on the top unit. Ruutu should also be added while the Canes ride this hot streak.

Don’t look now, but Alex Burrows may be blossoming into a viable fantasy option in Vancouver. Burrows has six goals and five assists in his past 10 games, but more importantly he has 25 PIM in that same span. He is no Carcillo when it comes to PIM, but he is one of three players with at least 35 points and 100 PIM. If he can continue this hot streak, Burrows may provide a lift in PIM without killing you in the scoring department. Depending on how badly you need PIM, I would advise grabbing Burrows over Carcillo.

Since surviving the trade deadline, Kari Lehtonen has lead the Atlanta thrashers to three straight victories while stopping 97.8% of the shots against and compiling two shutouts and a 0.67 GAA. Yeah, I know, he plays for Atlanta and has shown glimpses like this before, but he really does look unbelievable. If you are like me and are struggling to find a replacement for Ryan Miller, Lehtonen may be it. He is no Martin Brodeur, but I like him more than more popularly owned goalies like Jon Quick and Brian Elliot. Give Lehtonen and try and see what you can get from him.

Speaking of Ryan Miller, I am not expecting him back anytime soon and you shouldn’t either. If I needed my IR spot, I would be okay with dropping Miller...For the Petr Sykora owners out there, the Penguins report that Sykora participated in the optional skate Wednesday morning and should play against Columbus. Sykora is available in about 30% of the leagues, with how hot the Pens are, I would want Sykora on my team...No you are not reading an old headline, Daniel Briere has injured his groin, again. It doesn’t look to be very serious, but on going groin problems should always be a concern. Tread carefully.

As always feel free to post any comments or questions, I would love to hear what you think about the NHL and fighting. Until next week, The Puck Stops Here.

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Ron said...

What are your thoughts on Paul Martin and Niclas Havelid on D for the Devils? They are putting up good numbers lately and I need another defenseman for my team.

Joe Romano said...

Ron, I apologize for the delay. If those are your two best options, I would certainly go Martin over Havelid. I almost included Martin in my discussion this week, but I wanted to see one more week before making him a must add. Martin has certainly been hot since the second half of February. I would like to know what other options may be available on your waiver wire, but Martin could certainly be a solid 3rd or 4th defenseman. Feel free to post some other options available and I can try and give you a more definite answer. Thanks for the question.