Fantasy Hockey: Year of the injury

In this week's Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1, we assess the enormous toll that injuries to key players have taken on poolies this season and dole out advice on how to make the most of your injury replacements.
The Oilers lost Taylor Hall, their leading scorer and rookie of the year candidate, for the season after he suffered a high ankle sprain during a fight last week. ((John Ulan/Canadian Press))

You sometimes hear the NHL season described as a war of attrition, and perhaps this has never seemed more accurate than now.

The scary injuries suffered by Montreal's Max Pacioretty this week at the hands of Boston's Zdeno Chara and a rinkside stanchion were just the latest in a gruelling campaign marked by a mountain of injuries to notable players.

In this week's Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1, we assess the toll big injuries have taken on poolies and dole out some advice on how to make the most of your injury replacements.

Plus, we give our thoughts on some moves to consider this week in your league.

Looking for a league? Try CBC's Hockey Night in Canada Fantasy Pool  presented by Kia. A new car is up for grabs. Or try the Crown Royal Star Selector in-game pool. You could win a trip to an HNIC game.

Like what you see in this column? Follow Jordan and Jesse on Twitter.

All stats are through Tuesday.

1. How big an impact have injuries had on the fantasy landscape?

Key players currently injured

 Player Injury Date Return
 Parise Knee Oct 31 Indefinite
 D. Roy Quad Dec 24 Out
 Crosby Head Jan 6 Indefinite
 Edler Back Jan 26 8-12wks
 Malkin Knee Feb 5 Out
 Alfredsson Back Feb 7 Indefinite
 Malone Abdomen Feb 10 6-8wks
 Hiller Head Feb 16 Indefinite
 M. Koivu Finger   Feb 19 Indefinite
 M. Green Head Feb 25 Indefinite
 T. Hall Ankle Mar 3 Out

Compiled by J. Shifman

Jesse: I can't remember a year in which so many key players went down. In my league, three of the 10 first-round picks have missed huge chunks of time. Evgeni Malkin is out for the season with a knee injury, Zach Parise has only an outside shot of returning after hurting his knee on Oct. 30, and no one's sure whether Sidney Crosby  will make it back from a concussion that's kept him out since Jan. 6. All told, the 10 first-rounders in my league have missed a combined 123 games (although one guy picked the ever-brittle Alex Semin, so he had to see those 15 games coming). That's an average of 12 games missed per player, and with the typical team having played 67 games so far, that means our 10 top picks have missed an average of 18 per cent of their clubs' games.

So how can fantasy owners ensure injuries won't wreck their season? It's more important than ever to seek out durable players (though Parise hadn't missed more than one game in any of his first five seasons, so you never know) and stay up on every team's depth chart. That way you can strike quickly on the waiver wire for the guy who's about to step into an injury void and get more power-play time or skate with better linemates.

Jordan: By my count, at least 25 premier players are currently out with injuries (see the above chart for some notables). One team that was just recently hit hard by the injury bug is Edmonton. After Dustin Penner was traded away to the Kings at the deadline, the bulk of the offence was expected to come from the likes of Ales Hemsky and Taylor Hall. But that won’t be the case going forward, since both players have gone down with injuries.

One player who seems to have picked up some of the slack and could continue to fill the void is Sam Gagner, who has essentially become the go-to guy for the Oilers. Owned in just 16 per cent of Yahoo! leagues, Gagner has five points and two power-play goals in his last four games. If Edmonton’s last few games are any indication, Gagner and teammate Andrew Cogliano  will likely get most of the ice time among forwards. Cogliano is owned in one per cent of Yahoo! leagues and has three points in his last three games.

2. Who's your drop of the week?

Jordan: Injured just over a week ago after taking a Jason Spezza slapshot off the foot, it now appears that Milan Michalek  is out for the season. And what a disappointing season it was. From 2006-09, Michalek averaged 24 goals and 59 points per season with the Sharks. In 2006-07 alone, he had 11 power-play goals, 15 power-play assists and nine game-winners. Last season (his first with the Senators) he had just 34 points but still managed 22 goals in 66 games.

This season, what should have been a rebound year for the 27-year-old turned out to be just as unproductive as his team's campaign. Now that a broken foot appears to have ended Michalek's season, here are what could be his final numbers: 16 goals, 29 points, one PPG, three PPAs and a minus-12 rating.

Jesse: I want to bid a fond farewell (with best wishes for a speedy recovery) to Pacioretty, who was my add of the week three weeks ago but now appears to be done for the season after Tuesday's controversial hit by Chara. Since I advised fantasy owners on Feb. 17 to scoop up Pacioretty, he'd notched four goals in nine games to reach 14 on the season, and it looked like that total might climb as he saw time with Montreal's top line. Now, he's just the latest victim of the Campigotto Fantasy Curse©, which also notably struck Tomas Fleischmann earlier this season. After I advocated for picking him up, Fleischmann morphed into a point-a-game player with the Avalanche before his season was cut short in January by blood clots. It's becoming clear that if I tell fantasy players to pick you up, be afraid. Be very afraid.

Jordan: I can confirm the existence of the CFC. First, Jesse single-handedly ruined the seasons of not only Fleischmann, but also Zach Parise and Evgeni Malkin, whom he touted earlier this season. Then, in the same column in which he recommended Pacioretty, I looked at the stellar play of Brendan Morrison. Now Morrison may be out for the season with a knee injury. He was cursed by proxy! Way to go, Campigotto.

3. Who's your add of the week?

Jesse: With the above in mind, I advise all fantasy owners to immediately trade for Eric Staal and Cam Ward. With Carolina chasing my Buffalo Sabres for the final playoff spot in the East, it's time to see if I can put the CFC to work for me for a change.

Jordan: Staying with the injury theme, just look at the defencemen who have gone down over the past few months: Ryan Whitney, Andrei Markov, Brian Rafalski, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Dan Boyle and Mike Green are all out with various ailments. With that in mind, I direct your attention to Andrej Sekera  of the Sabres. After being benched for three games in February, Sekera came back with a vengeance. Until Tuesday night, he had a five-game point streak in which he scored two goals and 10 points with a plus-6 rating. He may not be your long-term answer, but who doesn’t want a quick fix to their blue-line heading into the playoffs in head-to-head leagues?