The Winter Olympics are over, so now it’s time for fantasy hockey – NHL style – and what better way to resume action than with a “Wake Up, Wings!” campaign
In case any of us have forgotten, there are 13 teams in the Western Conference battling for eight playoff spots. And though the Wings are in 8th place in the conference standings at the moment, only six points separate #7 Nashville and #13 Minnesota in the playoff race.
How does the fantasy hockey enthusiast benefit during the race for a playoff spot?
To make the playoffs, players have to play well for their teams. And if they play well, their fantasy hockey statistics climb. And if their hockey statistics climb and they are on your team, you become a very happy fantasy team owner.
How much happiness can you expect if you have a Red Wing on your roster? Well, let’s review the Detroit fantasy hockey report card
As you can see, the Detroit Red Wings have been a model of consistency this season. Unfortunately, rhey have been consistently average.The victory over Colorado Monday night was a step forward, but the loss to Vancouver last night was a step backward. So the message to our hockey team is clear – “Wake Up, Wings!”
“Winged Wheelers to Watch”: Defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom scored the game-winning goal against Colorado and was one of the best defensemen in the NHL before the Winter Olympics. He was the league leader defensively in fantasy “head-to-head” scoring for the month of January with a 4.7 FPPG average. One of the reasons the Wings can secure a playoff spot is Lidstrom is a “lead by example” captain who expects to win.
Johan Franzen is back and the Wings need him to score like he did at the end of last season and in the 2009 playoffs. The good news is Franzen showed flashes of last year’s play in the Olympics. The uncertain news is whether he can play consistently after a long layoff due to injury.
And either Pavel Datsyuk or Henrik Zetterberg needs to catch fire with plenty of goals and assists. Both players have 17 goals. Datsyuk has 35 assists and Zetterberg has 33. If either forward goes on a scoring streak, it will pay dividends in the chase for a playoff spot and for their fantasy team owner.
“Steady and Ready Red Wings”: We saw how valuable Brian Rafalski was to Team USA in the Winter Olympics and he’s equally important to the Red Wings. If the Wings hope to battle for the Stanley Cup, Rafalski must maintain his season-long consistency. He seems up to the task, because he’s is an elite group of fantasy defensemen that stay on the “+” side of the “+/-” ratings.
The second tier of fantasy forwards on the Wings – Todd Bertuzzi, Dan Cleary and Tomas Holmstrom – also need to pick up their games. They are averaging 30 points per player, but some added goal scoring from one or all three forwards could make a difference in the quest for the playoffs.
And we cannot forget goaltending. Jimmy Howard cannot have any more games like he had against the Canucks. He needs to be the same hot goaltender that caught some fantasy team owners’ attention earlier this season.
“Bench some Red Wings”: Since his return from a kneecap injury, defenseman Jonathan Ericsson has struggled. If Andreas Lilja is ready to contribute more on the ice, then Ericsson will have to deal with more bench time.
At forward, Justin Abdelkader has a -11 “+/-“ rating and unfornately he’s been at that level for most of the season. Abdelkader may end up as the odd man out at left wing.
For an in depth look at the Wings, I recommend you read the articles written by Detroit Red Wings Examiner Mike Mouat.
Which Red Wings do you believe will soar or plummet during the race for the playoffs? Here’s your opportunity to share your opinions and expertise with me and other fantasy sports enthusiasts. You can submit your comments by choosing to “Comment” on this story or email me at [email protected]
Next Fantasy Hockey article: It will be report card #10.