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The Real Spiel: Crosby can alter fantasy landscape

by Sergei J. Feldman
Given the complex, never-steady landscape of fantasy hockey, each week, Fantasy Insider Sergei Feldman will give you The Real Spiel on some of the quirks and trends that permeated your week of fantasy hockey by way of in-depth analysis.


Breaking news: There's no breaking news about the return of Sidney Crosby. There is, however, speculation as to when the Pittsburgh Penguins superstar may be ready to go. Earlier this week -- with the Penguins in the midst of a five-day break from game play, an opportunity for the team captain to practice with his squad and absorb some contact -- coach Dan Bylsma announced Crosby would not join the club for the team's back-to-back rendezvous with Dallas and Carolina. Still, many are pointing to Tuesday as a possible return date, when Colorado visits Consol Energy Center. Whether Tuesday will be the day many have waited for, Crosby's return figures to happen sooner rather than later, a move that can alter the fantasy-hockey landscape. Moreover, the date is not the only unknown when it comes to Crosby. Which Crosby will return to the ice also remains to be seen. Is it worth breaking the bank to land Crosby?

Here's The Real Spiel:

Fantasy hockey is all about the numbers, right? So how enticing is it to break up your roster to land a player that brings you zero goals, assists, points, shots, PIMs, plus-minus and hits? Very. Before Crosby suffered his concussion last January, he was in a league of his own, amassing 66 points in just 41 games. Unlike a knee injury, where a player might lose his explosiveness or breakaway speed or a hand injury, where a quick release could be impacted, Crosby still figures to have his speed, skill and tenacity in his bag of tricks. What's more, suppose he doesn't play to a 66 point in 41-game pace -- Crosby will still be one of the more productive across-the-board producers. Consider not only his individual skills, but his surrounding cast, too. Evgeni Malkin is poised for a strong bounce-back season, while James Neal is emerging as a bona fide goal-scoring threat. Meanwhile, Chris Kunitz, Steve Sullivan, Jordan Staal and Tyler Kennedy are more than adequate complementary pieces. Bottom line is, when Crosby returns to the ice, do what you can to make sure he does so as a member of your squad.


Last year, Tyler Seguin's rookie campaign came and went. Sure it included an impressive playoff performance and Stanley Cup victory, but for a second-overall draft selection, 11 goals and 22 points in 74 games can be considered disappointing. Not anymore. Seguin has been more of a monster than Jonas Gustavsson in his sophomore season and is one of the primary reasons the defending champion Boston Bruins have been able to bounce back from a sluggish start. Despite all the success so far, Seguin is still young enough and inexperienced enough to hit a wall. Is Seguin poised to show he's ready to become a star in the League earlier than expected?

Here's The Real Spiel:

Tyler Seguin
Center - BOS
GOALS: 11 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 20
SOG: 48 | +/-: 14
Whether you're a rookie or a veteran, skilled or gritty, 11 goals in 15 games means you're a pretty good player. Seguin, therefore, is a pretty good player. The sixth-ranked goal-scorer also has 20 points on his 2011-12 resume and has the highest plus-minus rating at plus-14. It's hard to ignore those figures and 84% ownership in standard Yahoo! leagues is one indication. What Seguin lacks in hits or PIMs he makes up with consistency. Seguin is currently riding a six-game point streak, in which he's amassed 11 points. Night in, night out, Seguin is the best player on the ice and he's showing there's still ample room for growth. Make sure he grows on your team.


The Dallas Stars are one of the League's best teams and one of the main reasons, aside from the play of netminder Kari Lehtonen, is the play of Jamie Benn. The 22-year-old left wing has been a factor most every shift for the Stars through 16 games. What's more, he's been able to produce offensively and in other relevant fantasy categories without yet being the goal-scoring force everyone knows he can be. Is it worth it to shoot for this Star?

Here's The Real Spiel:

Jamie Benn
Left Wing - DAL
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 14 | PTS: 19
SOG: 44 | +/-: 7
Benn has played two seasons in the NHL and has scored 22 goals twice. If there's a difference to point to, it's that in his rookie season, he played 82 games and recorded 41 points, while his second season saw a jump to 56 points in just 69 games. Benn's healthy and ready to improve for a third straight season, it seems. Often times, when a player who can score struggles to do so, other aspects of his game take a hit. That hasn't been the case for the 6-foot-2, 205-pound winger. Through 16 games, Benn only has five goals, but he's been able to collect 14 assists--good for sixth best in the League, a plus-7 rating, 25 PIMs and 44 shots. The point is, on an off night, Benn will be there for your team if you're fortunate enough to have him on your roster


Since 2007-08, Kris Versteeg has played for four clubs. Finally, after signing with the Florida Panthers this past offseason, it appears the 25-year-old right wing has found a home in the NHL. The crafty player has been a point-per-game player for the Panthers so far and has been a key factor for the club's impressive play through 15 games. He's also been able to make the players around him better night in, night out. Is 15 games enough of a sample size to conclude that Versteeg is here to stay as a fantasy hockey contributor?

Kris Versteeg
Right Wing - FLA
GOALS: 8 | ASST: 9 | PTS: 17
SOG: 44 | +/-: 7
Here's The Real Spiel:

While he won't be confused with some of the elite all-around fantasy players, Versteeg's value on any fantasy club is real. Despite being juggled around from team to team in recent years, Versteeg has put up 20-plus goals in three consecutive seasons, including a 53-point outing in 2008-09. With the way he's been playing, it appears Versteeg can have a career-year in every scoring category. So far, the 5-foot-11 winger has himself eight goals, nine assists and 17 points to go along with a plus-7 rating, eight PIMs and 44 shots. He's also coming off a hat trick, four-point night. While those numbers aren't especially breathtaking, they often mean the difference between victory and defeat for your fantasy clubs. Make sure they mean victory for your team.


Over the years, the Buffalo Sabres have developed a reputation for being an in-your-face, black and blue, hard-working hockey team. It's still the case, but this year, there's a little more glitter to their game. While goalie Ryan Miller will impress with the dazzling saves -- though they've been few and far between of late -- forward Thomas Vanek will get the most attention when it comes to the offensive side of things. But in the last week, the spotlight ought to be on center Derek Roy, as the 28-year-old has done nothing but contribute in four straight games before his streak ended Saturday night. In the NHL, everyone can have an impressive stint here and there. Is Roy's a fluke or a glimpse into the kind of season fantasy owners could expect?

Derek Roy
Center - BUF
GOALS: 5 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 12
SOG: 37 | +/-: -1
Here's The Real Spiel:

Roy has four 20-plus goal seasons on his resume, including an 81-point season in 2007-08. Clearly, he knows how to produce at the highest level. But since that career year, Roy's production has steadily declined for three years. At this point, it seems Roy's value as a fantasy hockey player is as a depth option. While he's been hot of late, consider that before a the recent four-game point streak, in which he collected eight points, he had a six-game pointless streak. It's too early to label Roy a must-have fantasy player, but there's no doubt he can help any team in a depth capacity.
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