Every Tuesday during the season, NHL.com fantasy hockey expert Matt Cubeta will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy forwards in his weekly segment: "The Front Line." From updated rankings to players you should keep a close eye on and much more, Cubeta will be your fantasy forwards insider all season long.
As fantasy owners one of the most difficult decisions we're faced with is whether to give up on a player we had high expectations for coming into the season. Not only is it tough to determine whether you should cut ties with that player, but deciding when to do so also is a stressful task.
Last season was tough to gauge because of the 48-game schedule, but forwards like Bobby Ryan, Marian Gaborik and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins all fell short of expectations. In hindsight the ideal situation would have been to sell these players early during their struggles, but that's not an easy thing to do when it's someone you planned on relying on for top-tier production.
I've always preached that anywhere from 10-15 games is a good time to judge a player's start to the season, and now we're at that point.
In an effort to help provide clarification on some of these challenging decisions, I'll take a look at several forwards who haven't lived up to their expectations (excluding injuries). I'll then decide whether I think you should cut the player, trade him -- even if it means not getting close to the value you feel you deserve based on their name -- or stick with him.
(Note: In order to break down several players for you, I've focused this week's piece solely on these types of players, removing this week's trending upward, downward and keep an eye on sections).
The Flyers are a mess and if I had Giroux in any of my leagues I'd be doing my best to deal him. I don't think there's much of a resurgence coming and you can all but guarantee his plus/minus will be a major detriment to your roster. You obviously can't drop a player that was drafted on average with the 16th pick in Yahoo leagues, but you might be able to get another owner to give up something decent for him based on his past seasons performance.
Since the 2008-09 season (excluding last season), the first two months of the season almost never treat Staal kindly. As you can see in the table to the right, Staal traditionally is a slow starter, but once he enters that third month his production takes off (in the 2010-11 campaign Staal's dominant play began one month early, in November). If you don't have him on your team, now's the time to try and acquire him.
Drafted on average in the latter parts of Round 4, Yakupov has been nothing close to what any of us were hoping for. He's still owned in 78 percent of Yahoo leagues and I understand it's tough to part with someone you drafted that early, but I'm guessing you won't be able to trade him to anyone so your best bet is send him to waivers. He has three points and is a minus-12 as his role on the Oilers continues to diminish.
While much of the disappointing fantasy attention has gone to Yakupov, Eberle hasn't been great either. He has 10 points in 15 games but his lack of category coverage makes him a glamour player and not exactly the most valuable fantasy player (currently ranked 271st in Yahoo). Because he's still a popular name and he has decent point production, you should be able to get a solid player via trade. Just remember, Eberle won't have a great plus/minus, he won't record penalty minutes, he doesn't shoot a ton and he only has one power-play point.
After posting 43 points in 48 games last season, Parenteau has four goals and four assists in 13 games this season. Usually good for a nearly a penalty minute per game, he also has just six this season to go along with 18 shots on goal. Things could change soon, though, as the departure of Steve Downie opens a spot for Parenteau to be reunited with Matt Duchene on the team's top line.
While Huberdeau is falling eight spots in my updated forward rankings, I still believe he has the potential to turn things around in Florida. His stat line has been a let-down (three goals, three assists, minus-6 in 14 games), but Huberdeau's average ice time per game and power-play ice time per game are up from last season, so look for him to start getting more scoring opportunities soon.
Marchand is my type of player -- good coverage across all fantasy categories -- but he hasn't covered much of anything this season. While a bump back into the Bruins' top-six thanks to the injury to Loui Eriksson could help him, I'd give him about five more games as a tryout and then cut him if he doesn't improve.
Semin is an interesting player to own because I believe his linemate, Staal, will turn things around, I also think Semin will. However, he has proven to be one of the League's streakiest players and that's why I'm advising you to deal him. The key is you have to make sure you trade him while he's in the middle of a hot steak which is always tough to do because we become attached to players at that point and think they're invincible when they're hot.
The Flyers appear to be headed for a rough season and I want nothing to do with any of their players. If you need penalty minutes Simmonds could still be of some value, but I think you'll be able to find someone off waivers that can put up similar penalty minutes with better point production (try Brandon Dubinsky, Steve Ott or Ryan Malone). As for Voracek, last season is looking more like an aberration than the norm.
Franzen has been a source of consistency throughout the years, usually good for 25-30 goals and 50-60 points when healthy. However, he's 33, has struggled this season (two goals, three assists, minus-2 in 13 games) and could be on the decline, which is why I'd trade him hoping someone else overpays for his last three seasons worth of stats (71 goals, 71 assists, plus-41 in 194 games).
TOP 100 FANTASY FORWARDS
These rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward. The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings -- NR means not ranked in previous rankings. They are based on a standard fantasy league with these offensive categories: G, A, plus/minus, PIMs, PPP, SOG.
1 Sidney Crosby, Penguins (same)
2 Steven Stamkos, Lightning (+1)
3 Alex Ovechkin, Capitals (-1)
4 John Tavares, Islanders (same)
5 Corey Perry, Ducks (same)
6 Evgeni Malkin, Penguins (same)
7 Pavel Datsyuk, Red Wings (same)
8 Jonathan Toews, Blackhawks (same)
9 Daniel Sedin, Canucks (+5)
10 Henrik Zetterberg, Red Wings (-1)
11 Phil Kessel, Maple Leafs (+2)
12 Patrick Kane, Blackhawks (-2)
13 Henrik Sedin, Canucks (+2)
14 Ryan Getzlaf, Ducks (-2)
15 Chris Kunitz, Penguins (+4)
16 Zach Parise, Wild (-5)
17 Logan Couture, Sharks (same)
18 Martin St. Louis, Lightning (-2)
19 Nicklas Backstrom, Capitals (+1)
20 Anze Kopitar, Kings (+1)
21 Matt Duchene, Avalanche (+1)
22 David Backes, Blues (+4)
23 Jason Spezza, Senators (+2)
24 Patrick Marleau, Sharks (same)
25 Joe Pavelski, Sharks (+3)
26 Tyler Seguin, Stars (+1)
27 Evander Kane, Jets (-9) DTD
28 Eric Staal, Hurricanes (-5)
29 Bobby Ryan, Senators (+2)
30 Thomas Vanek, Islanders (+3)
31 Marian Gaborik, Blue Jackets (-2)
32 Joffrey Lupul, Maple Leafs (same)
33 Jamie Benn, Stars (+2)
34 Joe Thornton, Sharks (same)
35 Claude Giroux, Flyers (-5)
36 Marian Hossa, Blackhawks (+4)
37 Milan Lucic, Bruins (same)
38 Patrick Sharp, Blackhawks (+1)
39 Alexander Steen, Blues (+9)
40 Jarome Iginla, Bruins (-2)
41 Matt Moulson, Sabres (same)
42 Ryan Kesler, Canucks (same)
43 James van Riemsdyk, Maple Leafs (+1)
44 Derek Stepan, Rangers (+5)
45 Max Pacioretty, Canadiens (NR)*
46 Nazem Kadri, Maple Leafs (+1)
47 Gabriel Landeskog, Avalanche (+4)
48 Jordan Eberle, Oilers (-12)
49 David Krejci, Bruins (+8)
50 Mike Ribeiro, Coyotes (-2)
51 Jason Pominville, Wild (+12)
52 Justin Williams, Kings (+15)
53 Mikko Koivu, Wild (+2)
54 Alexander Semin, Hurricanes (-1)
55 Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Oilers (-3)
56 Andrew Ladd, Jets (same)
57 Patrice Bergeron, Bruins (-3)
58 Radim Vrbata, Coyotes (+1)
59 Tomas Hertl, Sharks (-1)
60 PA Parenteau, Avalanche (+4)
61 Pascal Dupuis, Penguins (-1)
62 Nathan MacKinnon, Avalanche (+7)
63 Cody Hodgson, Sabres (+3)
64 Tomas Plekanec, Canadiens (+11)
65 Brad Richards, Rangers (+7)
66 Tomas Fleischmann, Panthers (+7)
67 T.J. Oshie, Blues (+4)
68 Dustin Brown, Kings (+2)
69 Daniel Alfredsson, Red Wings (+8)
70 Johan Franzen, Red Wings (-2) DTD
71 Kyle Turris, Senators (+12)
72 Wayne Simmonds, Flyers (-11)
73 Jonathan Huberdeau, Panthers (-8)
74 Mike Richards, Kings (+8)
75 Kyle Okposo, Islanders (+17)
76 Ryan Callahan, Rangers (NR)*
77 Brandon Dubinsky, Blue Jackets (+2)
78 Vincent Lecavalier, Flyers (-2) DTD
79 Frans Nielsen, Islanders (+8)
80 Mike Cammalleri, Flames (+5)
81 Nail Yakupov, Oilers (-3)
82 Brad Marchand, Bruins (-1)
83 Jakub Voracek, Flyers (-9)
84 Chris Stewart, Blues (same)
85 Alex Killorn, Lightning (NR)
86 Paul Stastny, Avalanche (NR)
87 Chris Kreider, Rangers (NR)
88 Patrik Elias, Devils (same) DTD
89 Mikhail Grabovski, Capitals (+5)
90 Blake Wheeler, Jets (-1)
91 Sam Gagner, Oilers (NR)*
92 Carl Hagelin, Rangers (NR)
93 Alexandre Burrows, Canucks (-2)
94 Jiri Hudler, Flames (same)
95 Jaromir Jagr, Devils (same)
96 Alex Galchenyuk, Canadiens (-3)
97 Martin Hanzal, Coyotes (+1)
98 Bryan Little, Jets (+2)
99 Brendan Gallagher, Canadiens (NR)
100 Mikael Granlund, Wild (NR)
* Appeared on injured list last week
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