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On the 'D'-fence: Fantasy GMs prepare for deadline

by Brian Metzer
Every Tuesday during the season, Correspondent Brian Metzer will provide you with an in-depth analysis of fantasy defensemen in our weekly segment: "On the 'D'-fence." From updated defensemen rankings to guys you should keep a close eye on and much more, Metzer will be your fantasy d-man expert all season long.

The National Hockey League's trading deadline is just 13 days away and it is universally looked at as a holiday of sorts for hockey fans. The rabid masses want to see what their respective teams will do to bolster their rosters as they make a run toward championship glory. It is also a chance for those who follow teams that may not be in contention to hope for better things down the line in the form of prospects, picks and a chance to make a run next year.


These modified re-rankings are based on expectations of the season going forward (including injuries). The plus or minus for each player is movement based on our most recent rankings from last week. (NR means not ranked in previous rankings.)
*was listed on IR in last week's rankings

Players that dropped out of
previous rankings: Jordan Leopold, Corey Potter, Marc Staal

Players on IR: Chris Pronger, Joni Pitkanen, Andrei Markov, Mike Green, Nikita Nikitin
The same holds true in the fantasy hockey world where many leagues share the NHL's trading deadline or see theirs fall shortly thereafter. This is your chance as a team manager to tweak your roster for that same run toward glory or to start your rebuild for next season, and there are a handful of very effective defensemen that you just might be able to get on the cheap if you are the wheeling and dealing type.

The Columbus Blue Jackets are thought to be sellers as the deadline approaches and that could also hold true with fantasy owners who possess their players, so it may behoove you to check in with the team that owns the rights to James Wisniewski. Sure, he has had a pretty horrid season since arriving in the Buckeye State, but that was mainly due to injuries which seem to be behind him. Wisniewski has already picked up 3 points (1G-2A) since returning to the Blue Jackets' lineup on Saturday and could be a strong play down the stretch, as he notched 14 points over his final 22 games last season.

Mark Giordano is another guy who has dealt with injuries this season, but he been back in the Flames' lineup for several weeks and is starting to look like himself. He is not putting up a ton of points yet, but the Flames have been playing some inspired hockey and Giordano is a part of that. He has just 2 assists in his last five games, but could be primed to break out, as the Toronto native finished last season with 15 points (3G-12A) in his final 18 games -- huge production for a rearguard, and the type that could win a lot of fantasy matches.

The Anaheim Ducks had been enduring a season on par with the Blue Jackets; however, what seems to be flying under the radar for many is their 12-2-3 record over their past 17 games. A big part of that success has been the play of Lubomir Visnovsky, who is staying incognito based on injuries and the fact that his numbers won't approach the astronomical totals of one year ago. The Slovakian rearguard has very quietly been collecting points in bunches, to the tune of .71 points per game over the aforementioned 17-game stretch. It is worth noting that he notched 22 points (9G-13A) during March/April one year ago.

Last, but definitely not least, is John-Michael Liles, who has recently returned from a concussion that kept him out for 16 games. Liles was a huge part of the Maples Leafs' early-season success, as he helped Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul and company score in bunches with great breakout passes and slick work at the top of their then umbrella power play. He is still working himself back into form and hasn't notched a point since returning, but we feel that he will be effective down the stretch. Of the players we mentioned today, he is probably the easiest to attain, but could pay similar dividends.

Have you been active in the trade market ahead of the deadline? Were your moves successful? Share some deals with us in the comments section, we'd love to hear them!


Kris Letang -- Sure, we probably don't have to tell you that Letang is on the move up our rankings, after all he spent the early stages of the season in the top spot until suffering a concussion, but he is on fire. Letang answered a recent five-game drought with a 6-point (3G-3A) explosion in two weekend wins, and he has the luxury of playing with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal. You may soon be able to add in Sidney Crosby, which elevates him even more. Letang has the potential to be the top-scoring rearguard the rest of the way.

Dustin Byfuglien -- Yes, another big name, but he is finally getting it going after returning to the Jets' lineup six games ago. He will hurt you a bit in the plus-minus department, but he has notched 4 points (2G-2A) in his last two games, pushing his total to 6 since returning. He plays a ton of minutes at even strength and on the power play, shoots the puck a ton and should be in your lineups.

James Wisniewski -- We mentioned Wisniewski above, but wanted to reiterate his stretch run value here. He is healthy and immediately slots in as the Blue Jackets' top offensive d-man. He has posted 3 points (1G-2A), 2 shots on goal and registered a plus-2 since returning to the lineup, and he is owned in just 41 percent of Yahoo! Standard leagues. Go and get him.


Sheldon Souray -- Sadly, the feel-good vibe that surrounded Souray in the fantasy realm early in the season is long gone. He has notched just 2 assists in 2012 and just 5 points since Nov. 8. When you mix in the fact that he is currently dealing with a foot injury that leaves him in “day-to-day” limbo, it is definitely time to move on.

Corey Potter -- Potter was a fantasy darling through the early stages of the season, but has since cooled significantly. Sure, he spent some time on the shelf, but he is now seeing his offensive opportunities sapped by a re-invigorated Ryan Whitney. Potter has just 3 points since Jan. 5.

Tomas Kaberle -- It still makes little sense to us that a guy who used to score 40 or more points with regularity has fallen on such hard times, but he has. Kaberle still gets opportunities on the Montreal power play, but isn't making an impact. He has just 2 assists since Jan. 25, has registered a minus-6 for February and has just 5 shots on goal over his last 10 games.


Fedor Tyutin -- Tyutin has been mentioned here at times this season, but hasn't gotten a ton of praise. That could be changing. He has been hot as of late, notching 5 points (1G-4A) over his last four games, and should get a boost by the return of James Wisniewski, who will flank him on the Blue Jackets' power play. Tyutin now has 24 points (4G-20A) on the season and could finish somewhere in the 35-point range if things keep going this way for him.

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