Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fantasy Hockey: The Final Week Approaches

The final week of the Fantasy Hockey season is upon us. The trade deadline is long past and the only source of help is your league's waiver wire. You've got to love this time of year.

It is my sincere hope that my readers are battling it out for their league's championship (in two week final formats) or are on the cusp of getting to the big stage. If so, I am here to provide you with some last minute tidbits which might help you get over the hump and bring home the gold.

As was discussed in an earlier blog, players who win their Fantasy Playoffs are the ones who happen to have the hottest players of the moment on their teams. It is, unfortunately, not about being loyal to the guys who brought you this far. If a hotter current option exists out there, you have to make the move to grab him. Ask the guys who stuck with Sidney Crosby how they're doing right now. You can find them in the Consolation Brackets.

Another point that was brought up was Opportunity i.e which NHL teams will play more games during the week. This tenet is never more crucial than in the playoffs, where there is no tomorrow.

The following teams play four times next week: New York Rangers, New Jersey Devils and St. Louis Blues. I'm going to identify a player on each team that may still be available on your waiver wire and who might provide you with the edge.

St. Louis: Barret Jackman- Jackman has had a pretty disappointing season fantasy-wise, only recording 14 points in 72 games. However, he has been effective lately....6 of those points have come in the last month. He's also accrued 23 penalty minutes in that time period (a nice bonus in leagues that count them).

New Jersey: John Madden- He has quietly put together a 41 point year, matching his career high. Not too shabby for a 3rd line Center who is best known for defensive capabilities. More importantly, he has 3 points in the last six games and is always a threat to get a shorthanded point (which, as everyone probably knows, can be hard to come by. Recording one might just put you over the top in a head to head, category-based matchup.)

New York: Martin Straka- It's unlikely that Straka is available in any but the most shallow leagues, but the time he missed out on earlier this season may have caused some owners to forget about him. That's a shame because he has been absolutely "en fuego" lately. He has 5 points in his last four games, can be slotted as a C or W and is a swell dresser. Okay, I don't know about his fashion sense, but it's hard to deny the guy is getting his points when it matters most to you.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Jets Spread Green Around to Free Agents

Here are some of the players the New York Jets have signed during the Free Agency period and their contracts:

Alan Faneca- 5 years, $40 million

Calvin Pace- 6 years, $42 million

Damien Woody- 5 years, $25 million


Is this the same organization that refused to give Pete Kendall, a senior member of their offensive line and designated "good soldier", a lousy $1 million raise....that he was apparently promised?

I'm not sure what's behind the new largess the Jets are showing. Perhaps they were motivated by their bullying Big Brother Giants winning the Super Bowl and casting an even further shadow over Gang Green. Maybe GM Mike Tannenbaum and Coach Eric Mangini are feeling the weight of a poor season and are attempting to rectify the situation immediately. Maybe Owner Woody Johnson just feels like throwing money around to Anyone and Everyone. (I like this last scenario and want to tell Mr. Johnson that, if he is indeed this generous, he can send me some, care of this blog.)

Whatever the case may be, I'm all for New York improving it's football team. I just question the manner in which they've chosen to do it.

Overpaying for Free Agents is always a dicey proposition. For instance, Alan Faneca has been a Pro Bowl player numerous times in his career. He will likely bring stability to the offensive line and will be a mentor to the young studs D'Brickashaw Ferguson and Nick Mangold. Still, there's no escaping he is on the downside of his fine career. Is it worth $8 million a year to find out that he can't produce like he once did?

How about Calvin Pace? Does having one good season (6.5 sacks with Arizona) translate into a new gig paying $7 million a year? Apparently, it does.

I'm hoping these new acquisitions perform up to the level of their expectations. Otherwise, that is one expensive of carton of eggs that Tannenbaum, Mangini and Johnson will be wiping off their faces.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Exciting News

If you like the content here on Pigskins & Pucks, you'll be happy to know that you can now find more of my work on other sites.

Sports Talk Buzz ( Featured Blogger- New York Jets

E-Sports ( Blogger- New York Islanders

Rumor Me This ( Featured Blogger- New York Islanders

In addition, I have created 4 Facebook Groups which might interest readers looking to get involved in more discussions and to connect with other fans:

Pigskins & Pucks: Football-

Pigskins & Pucks: Hockey

Pigskins & Pucks: Fantasy Football

Pigskins & Pucks: Fantasy Hockey

Friday, March 14, 2008

This "Joke" Isn't Funny Anymore

Colin Campbell, the NHL's Discipline Czar, is an utter joke.

There, I've said it.

Chris Pronger, All Star defenseman for the Stanley Cup defending Anaheim Ducks, stomps on the leg of Vancouver's Ryan Kesler during a game. Here is the videoclip:

As NHL fans may well recall, Chris Simon of the Minnesota Wild engaged in a similar incident earlier this year with Pittsburgh's Jaarko Ruutu. His sentence was a 30 game suspension. Campbell took into account several factors to determine the length of the suspension: Intent to injure, any injury that resulted from the action and prior record of offenses. His ban of Simon was record setting and largely deserved.

Now we come to case of Pronger. Allow me to play Discipline Czar for a moment. I will utilize the same criteria as Campbell used to judge Simon.

1. The intent to injure Kesler in a premeditated fashion is not clear, so I'll cut Pronger a break there. Was there still intent to injure in the heat of the moment? I'd say there is a definitive stomping motion taking place. So , let's call it poor decision making on Pronger's part and move on.

2. Was there any injury resulting from the action? As in the Simon case, no, there was not. Therefore, that cannot weigh too heavily upon my judgement.

3. Does Chris Pronger have a prior record of suspensions? You bet he does. In fact, he has been suspended SEVEN times in his career for on-ice incidents.

So, in my assumed role as NHL Discipline Czar, I've weighed all the evidence and now hand down my sentence: 15 games. My rationale? Even though Pronger's incident does not appear to be premeditated like Simon's was, a player must be held accountable for his actions.

Campbell's real-life sentence? Nothing. Not ONE single game.

What message does the man they call "Soupy" deliver here? It's okay to stomp on another player as long as it happened in the heat of battle? There is one set of rules for enforcers and marginal players (Simon, Jesse Boulerice, Steve Downie...etc) and another for All-Stars?

I'm not even going to dignify the official NHL party line that there "wasn't enough video evidence to make a determination." Maybe they ought to simply look at the same Youtube clip I've provided here.

Campbell has shown that he has no problem handing out lengthy suspensions for violent acts that resulted in injuries (the aforementioned Boulerice and Downie incidents as well as Scott Hartnell....hmmm....all these players are Philadelphia Flyers....Coincidence?) What he has now also shown is that he is spineless when it comes to allocating the same punishments to superstars of the league.

He ought to be immediately removed from office. The league has entrusted their reputation to this weak little excuse for a man and I, for one, am sick of the bias he has flagrantly exhibited.

Campbell Must Go!

The joke is now old.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Winning your Fantasy Hockey League Playoffs

That special time of the year has arrived for Fantasy Hockey players...the Playoffs. Hopefully, you've made wise decisions all season long and find yourself in the hotly contested tournament to grab all the glory.

Here's something I've noticed in all my years playing head to head Fantasy Hockey: You must have a different mindset than you had in the regular season in order to win. There are no more games against negligent owners who fail to field a proper lineup for the week or incompetent ones who don't know Johan Franzen from Johan Sebastian Bach. You are now playing against the creme de la creme of your league....and you need the edge to beat them.

I am your Edge.

Here are three things that you must do in order to fortify your squad for the next 2-3 weeks in order to win.

1. Find the Hot Hand- Fantasy Hockey, like Life, is all about timing and, as a wise man once said, "Timing is everything." Your roster may have gotten you this far, but there's no guarantee they will keep performing over the next few weeks. You have to tweak the lineup if you want to win by searching your league's waiver wire and identifying the players who are currently riding that hot streak. Scott Walker, for instance, has 9 points in his last 8 games, including two game winning goals. Grab him and others like him now and watch them perform for you...or let someone else snatch them up and enjoy your first round exit.

2. Find your Role Players- Every year at the NHL's Trade Deadline, some contending team overpays for a gritty forward or power play quarterback to shore up their weaknesses. You need to do it too. All season long, you've been looking for the best possible players, well rounded in all areas. Now, you have to look for "Specialists", a guy whose game is disproportionately strong in one area. If you're lacking in PIM, you'll likely find Adam Burish or Jared Boll on the wire because all they provide is major penalties. Go get them. The Shorthanded Points column is often the hardest to attain points in. However, there's a good chance that a gentleman named Eric Perrin (and his 8 SHP) is probably available to you in your league. Assess your team's strengths and dilute them slightly in order to gain overall balance.

3. Make sure they'll play- A very important and often overlooked factor in the Fantasy Hockey playoffs: How many NHL games does your roster have scheduled over the next two weeks? Pittsburgh, Columbus and Dallas all are playing just two games each this week. Their players can't score for you if they're not on the ice, can they? You need to sit down, look at the team schedules and figure out if you're going to be holding the short end of the stick. If so, now is the time to act.

Follow these three tenets and you'll have an excellent chance of being crowned your league's winner. Best of luck...unless you play me.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Farewell Brett

Though the major focus of this blog right now is on hockey, I'd be remiss if I didn't take a moment to honor the retirement of one of football's greatest players and a true gentleman, Brett Favre.

I imagine there are an awful lot of testimonials being written about Brett now that he has formally announced he is leaving the game. I honestly cannot think of an individual more deserving of such tributes.

He is the current holder of many quarterbacking records, including : Most career passing touchdowns, most career passing yards and most career completions. He has been voted to the Pro Bowl 9 times. He is also a legendary "Ironman": His streak of 253 consecutive starts by a quarterback is truly mindboggling.

However impressive these stats are, though, they don't begin to scratch the surface of what an outstanding player Favre was. His "come from behind" heroics thrilled millions of fans as did his Gunslinger mentality. He was as mentally tough a player as ever lived. No matter how many interceptions he threw (he is the career leader in that category as well, by the way), he always came back the next series determined to succeed. His Never Say Die attitude inspired teammates and allowed them to believe that, no matter the score, having Favre as their leader always gave them a chance to win.

He endured quite a few hardships along the way, but instead of surrendering to the grief, he channelled that negative energy and found a way to turn it into a positive performance on the field. What football fan could ever forget the game against the Oakland Raiders on December 22,2003? A day after his father passed away, Brett threw for 399 yards and four touchdowns to lead his team to a 41-7 victory.

More than anything else, I feel the enduring image that fans will have emblazoned on their minds when they think of Favre is one of him sprinting downfield to celebrate with teammates after throwing a touchdown pass. The pure joy he exhibited was an inspirational message to people of all walks of life. Passion like that cannot be taught. It is that same passion, coupled with a great deal of talent, that allowed him to achieve what he did. He is a role model that every spoiled, pompous millionaire football player who thinks he's bigger than the game ought to consider emulating.

Fare well in your retirement, Brett. The game will miss it's greatest ambassador.