Ten weeks to go everyone! Time to get your points while the fire is nice & hot. Tonight, we'll start the final segment of the season, the lead-up towards the big finish in both pools. It's so very exciting.
Of course, first of all, we'll have to go through the trade deadline festivities, which will start in Week Twenty-Three and come to an end on March 4th, which is a Wednesday. That will be the last of the big name players making their moves, which may or may not have an effect on how the season finishes in either pool. The anxiety is beginning to mount, especially for those teams on the brink of elimination and are in need of some added help.
Going into Week Nineteen in the Draft, we have already made our final trades of the year, having gone through the second Waiver Draft of the season, which will hopefully improve every team, except for our leader, John B., who hasn't made a trade yet this year. Remarkable. He will go into the final ten weeks with a 25-point lead on Peter, 26 on Jeremy and 35 on Clayton. Will the lead widdle down to nothing after all three chasing teams made moves? That will be a storyline worth chasing through the rest of the year.
All of the Waiver trades may tighten up the race again for the money, which was awfully tight, only a few weeks ago. There is some tight play, seeing only 9 points separating 5th from 8th, and then another 9 points separating 8th and 9th. If the Waiver trades are good, we should see all these teams come back together a bit for the stretch run. Hopefully, it's good and exciting for the rest of the year.
Well, despite Peter Forsberg's public announcement that he won't be joining the NHL this season, there still seems to be a lot of support for him to comeback, according to last week's poll. 6 out of 9 votes had supported the idea, one way or another, of Forsberg returning, 3 of which thought he'd be a good fit for their favourite team. The other 3 votes suggested that he stay home and forget about returning. This summer could be somewhat intriguing, waiting for Forsberg's decision on whether or not he'll come back to the league and then where he'll sign if he does. Hopefully, it doesn't work out to a Mats Sundin type circus and we can be rid of all the speculation early on.
Would you believe that last season, the poll heading into February was asking where you thought Peter Forsberg would sign? That's kind of funny. This time around, I think I'll ask about the potential unrestricted free agents that are due to be free to the market in Detroit. Which one would you rather have sign with your team in the summer?
It was a pretty remarkable week for scoring, despite it being the last one with the potentially dropped players in the Draft. There was 424 points registered in the week, which isn't a very high week, but it was a very polarized week, with a big difference from the top to the bottom. At the top this week, with 38 points and firmer grasp on third place, is Jeremy. This is Jeremy's second M&S award this year, his first coming back in Week Twelve, where he scored 39 points in the week.
His weekly triumph also capped off an amazing second 9-week segment of the season, where he finished tops with 272 points since the first Waiver Draft and he managed to snag a couple new players to help him climb to the pinnacle of the Draft. Before the players of the first Waiver Draft were active, Jeremy was in 9th spot with 196 points, but his huge segment with new players has vaulted him into third. What will his new players do for him in the final ten weeks?
Having big weeks for Jeremy this week were Pierre-Marc Bouchard (7 points), Ryan Miller (6), Derek Roy (4) and Nikolai Khabibulin (4). There was only one active player with zero points in the week and he won't be dropped heading into Week Nineteen, but who would really want to drop Shea Weber now anyways? Alex Steen and Paul Martin will be Jeremy's drops this week and they each finished off their service with a point.
For his weekly win, Jeremy gets a retro Jarome Iginla card from OPC, which looks really cool. For Week Nineteen, the weekly prize will be a Marc Staal retro card, with it's basic set card as well. Two cards in one shot! What a deal.
It was another big week for Neil on the Sheet, as he moved up three more positions to 24th spot, thanks to a week-high of 73 points in Week Eighteen. Neil has been climbing the ranks of the Sheet pool, thanks to making a couple trades earlier in the year, to ensure that a couple of his top players are making the best of their opportunity for him. This is Neil's second 70+ point week in the last three, as the week before the All-Star break was also a good one for him. His players have now really started to pick up the pace. Having a big week for Neil was Evgeni Nabokov (8 points), Sidney Crosby (8) and Scott Niedermayer (7). Neil also had a good number of players with 4 and 3 points, which certainly adds up through the week.
On the opposite side of the scale, there are some teams really looking forward to having their new Waiver Draft pick-ups made available and Dennis should be one of them. Unfortunately for Dennis, he only managed to snag 12 points in the week, which is a poor follow-up to his 11 points the week before. Dennis only made one switch at the Waiver Draft and that was to pick up Martin Brodeur, banking on a quick return to the Devils line-up here after his bicep injury. It was a tough week for Dennis, whose team has been dealing with plenty of injuries, as Pavol Demitra, Sam Gagner and Doug Weight were all shelved at some point in the week due to injury. Dennis' best player in the week was Joe Pavelski, who did finish the week with 3 points, but that surely isn't enough. We can only hope for a decent finish for Dennis, who is mired in 16th position.
On the Basement side of the Sheet, it was a tough week for Shaunna, who finished with a near week-low of 35 points, still 2 better than the actual week-low, but for a little flavour to the Basement, I thought we would highlight somebody new. She did also drop three positions, to 35th in the standings, just like a couple other teams in the pool, so it totally isn't just arbitrary that I picked her. Shaunna has yet to have made any of her seven trades this season, which is a good reason as to why she is ranked so low... you have to make good use of your trades in a year.
It's another tough week to choose the Player of the Week honours, as three players finished the week with 8 points and there were also several candidates who were close with 7 points a piece. This week, it comes down to a top forward and two goaltenders, all deserving of the honour. I think for this occasion, I will just throw a dart at the wall and see who comes up.
It doesn't look like Sidney Crosby wants to be completely outdone by his teammate in the scoring race this season, as he was one player who managed to put up 8 points in the week. Crosby, a Draft pick of Chris', couldn't help his team win all four games they played in the week, but he did manage to get at least a point in every game, with the team going 1-2-1 in Week Eighteen. Crosby's best performance, a goal and 3 assists, came in the team's 6-2 win over the Rangers on Wednesday, but that was as good as it got. Team defense isn't a stat worth celebrating in the pool, but it is what is lacking in Pittsburgh and the team is showing it with their lack of wins. If they were able to win those games, it would be Marc-Andre Fleury's name you would see up here instead.
Well, it doesn't get much colder than the play in Vancouver at the minute. The team just can't win at all, which puts a pretty cold stamp on Roberto Luongo, who has yet to win since his return from his groin injury. The Canucks play only two games in Week Nineteen, which may give the team enough time to practice their skills and hopefully pull out some sort of miracle down the stretch. Right now, it's freezing on the coast and there are plenty of players making their pool team suffer because of it.
Other News and Notes
It looks like there is a certain level of disappointment in Erik Christensen in Atlanta this season, as he hasn't been the diamond-in-the-rough the Thrashers were hoping for when they acquired him from Pittsburgh at the deadline last year. Christensen, a Box 24 forward, was a healthy scratch again on Saturday night for the Thrashers and this wasn't the first time either. Christensen only has 15 points in 36 games for Atlanta, which is hardly good work for what they expected of him, so he may find himself as a scratch again here soon.
It was back to the press box for Craig Adams on Saturday, as Kris Versteeg returned to the line-up after a finger injury. Adams is the extra forward on the team this year, doing well to fill in for injuries, as there have been a few in Chicago, but he can't seem to earn himself a regular spot with the rest of the youngsters on the team. The Box 7 forward continues to have little or no fantasy value this year.
The Stars called Fabian Brunnstrom back up from the minors after a conditioning stint in the AHL, but he seemed to catch a bit of a flu bug while he was down there, so he wasn't able to play on Saturday after his call-up. The off-season signing has not lived up to his hype, but will get another shot at making a name for himself, once he's ready to get back on the ice after this bout of the flu.
The Red Wings didn't bring Tomas Holmstrom with the team on Saturday for their weekend matinee against the Capitals. Holmstrom was suffering from a sore groin, so they were cautious in their approach with the big Swedish winger. There is no word on whether or not he'll be ready for Detroit's next game this week.
We are still awaiting word, but it looks like terrible news for the Canadiens, as they may have lost Robert Lang for the season. Lang suffered a leg/ankle injury, which could possibly be an Achilles tendon injury and if that is the case, then it would mean 'curtains' for Lang, which is terrible news for Derek in the Draft, as this comes a day too late from the Waiver Draft. An update will be provided when news comes down the line.
After the trade of Dan Fritsche to Minnesota, that put some more pressure on Petr Prucha, who will now be the odd-man out of the Rangers' line-up, if he isn't playing well enough to be in the top 12. Prucha has played himself into a regular position this year, after being somewhat of a constant scratch, but he keeps on teetering the ice and the press box, which can't be good for his confidence. Prucha has also been in the midst of a lot of trade rumours, which may play out a bit better for him, when it comes to getting more ice-time.
The flu hit the Flyers' blueline on Saturday night, as both Braydon Coburn (Box 27) and Randy Jones (Box 28) each sat out the game in St. Louis with the bug. It should be safe to assume that both players will be back in the line-up right away, but the team will likely have to keep them away from the other players, just to make sure no one else catches it and misses time. The two offensive defenders were missed, as the Flyers were shut out 4-0.
It was a long time coming for Andy Wozniewski, who has been sitting in the AHL all season. Wozniewski was called up on Saturday night, after the game against Philadelphia, as he wasn't on the line-up sheet at all. Now whether or not he figures into a game is yet to be seen, but the Box 14 defenseman has finally moved off the top of the injury/news page since he was sent down in October.
With the long-term injury to Tomas Kaberle, it looks like Anton Stralman will be back up with the team for a little while. This comes as bad news for John P., who dropped him last week, assuming that he'll be in the minors for a longer period of time. With Kaberle out, it looks like Stralman may get to see a good portion of power play time for Toronto, which sort of feels like a knife in the side, getting jiggled around for added effect.
Click here to see an updated injury page.
Hockey Night in Canada
It's a regular doubleheader this coming Saturday on CBC, but surprisingly, both Alberta teams go early in the afternoon and neither are being carried by CBC to make it a tripleheader. How queer. Anyways, the early game is yet another match-up between the Maple Leafs and Canadiens. We'll see two new acquisitions from the second Waiver Draft in this game, both Jason Blake and Alex Ponikarovsky. In the late game, the struggling Canucks are going to have to deal with the Blackhawks, which isn't going to be easy for the Canucks. Two more new Waiver Draft picks will try and get points in their first HNIC as active players this season. Both Mats Sundin and Cam Barker will now count in the Draft this season, which gives some teams another couple reasons to watch.