Ah, the holidays: a time of lists, reckless spending, and themed posts.
It’s time to dust off that aluminum pole from the crawl space, gather friends and family, and celebrate Fantasy Festivus, created by Frank Costanza of “Seinfeld” fame. For more on the sacred event, check out the video at the bottom of this post.
Actually, let’s cut out the feats of strength (maybe check this post for something similar to that?) and go straight to the good stuff: an airing of fantasy hockey grievances.
(“I got a lot of problems with you people.”)
The Montreal Canadiens, in general
Apologies to Phillip Danault, a former Blackhawks forward who’s clearly carving out his niche in Montreal … but it’s not the GREATEST sign when he’s leading your team in scoring, and with 21 points in that.
Claude Julien is a strong tactical coach, yet you could argue that some of his preferences put scorers at a disadvantage. If that’s not enough, GM Marc Bergevin has also stacked the deck against Julien, in part by removing fleeter, puck-moving defensemen for rough-and-tumble types who tend to clog up the works.
Some of it’s bad luck, no doubt.
- We’re getting to the point where it might be time to worry about Max Pacioretty, whose puck luck has been especially troubling. He’s only connected on 5.8 percent of his shots on goal (eight goals on a ridiculous 137 SOG) so far this season.
- Injuries haven’t been kind, with Shea Weber sidelined indefinitely and Carey Price missing an extended period of time.
Still, there are elements of these struggles that are self-inflicted.
It’s still frustrating to see Alex Galchenyuk average just 15:03 TOI per game, being that he’s tied for third in scoring with Brendan Gallagher, another useful forward logging less than 16 minutes per night.
Julien might get angered by turnovers and other mistakes made by offensive-minded players who sometimes fail at trying to make something happen, but what about all of the chances that never happen with more modestly skilled players? This is a frustrating lesson in hockey’s version of “You need to spend money to make money.”
If you’re in an auction league, hopefully you didn’t budget too much for Montreal.
- Brent Burns‘ slow start – Now with six goals and 22 points, Burns has mostly worked his way out of an early-season slump, although he still might not be delivering at the level many expected if they used a third, second, or even first-round pick on the bearded one. But, oh, that start. A guy who scores like a prolific sniper took until Nov. 24, his 21st game of 2017-18, to finally score a goal.
If you traded Burns while he was really slumping, then an extra lump of coal. If you took advantage of his tough times in an advantageous trade, then you’re smart and possibly a good listener.
- Erik Karlsson kinda sorta being human – He’s still awesome, and arguably still the best defenseman in the NHL, but Karlsson’s struggled this season. Maybe the whole “missing part of his ankle” thing limits his scoring?
- Dustin Byfuglien is like those blueliners, only hurt and thus unable to redeem himself.
- Misc. underachievers – Whether it be because of injuries, inconsistency, or both, Ryan Getzlaf, Rasmus Ristolainen, Cam Atkinson, and quite a few others have disappointed us. Shame.
- Matt Duchene – C’mon, Duchene. He’ll start producing more regularly but (fidgets like an impatient child).
- Especially painful plus/minus guys – Look, I agree that plus/minus is a really weak stat, yet most fantasy leagues still use it.
With that in mind, some stars are hurting. Oliver Ekman-Larsson has more minuses (-25) than points (19), sporting the NHL’s worst minus. You can summarize Jack Eichel being on an island in many ways by noting his -13 rating, despite all of his rage and efforts.
Again, you can mostly chalk this stuff up to being on bad teams and also power-play proficiency not helping that category, but it still stings in fantasy.
- The Carolina Hurricanes falling short of the hype – Year after year, this team’s youth entices preseason hype like a puck-based siren call. So far, fantasy owners have been better off filling their ears with beeswax. Scott Darling‘s been a disappointment in particular, going 8-10-6 with an ugly .896 save percentage.
So, consider that an abridged list of grievances; we’d be here all day if every grievance needed to be named.
Surely there are others who’ve burned you this season, however, so shake your fist (or Festivus-themed aluminium pole?) at anyone I missed in the comments. Also feel free to celebrate feats of strength if you’re in a merrier mood.
You don’t even need to pin George’s dad to share your own thoughts. It’s a Festivus miracle!
James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.