Sometime around Sunday afternoon and early evening - hopefully not Monday morning, because that would just heighten the bad times - I imagine a huge chunk of the fantasy community let out a loud groan (or, honestly, probably a colorful stream of expletives). In case you missed it, the Pittsburgh Penguins decided to give Sidney Crosby, Chris Kunitz, Brooks Orpik and Olli Maatta the night off under what might have been the false pretense of injuries.
Granted, Maatta (at minimum) does seem to have a legitimate upper-body injury and the Penguins actually squeezed out a 3-2 shootout win for their undermanned troubles.
Besides, you know the borderline-cliche: everyone is hurt during this time of year. Some are even playing through legit injuries, as we often learn when teams finally divulge details after their playoff runs are finished.
Still, fantasy owners lost the best player in the NHL (102 points in 78 games for Crosby) and a guy who might draw Olympic selection doubt but has been an absolute boon in fantasy in Kunitz on the last night of playoff head-to-head matchup weeks. For some, it was the equivalent to a conference final matchup last week, yet others in head-to-head leagues may have even been in a final match (or the first of a two-week series).
Either way, I can only shudder to imagine how many series turned on this decision. So, the question is: how can fantasy owners learn to avoid this?
Well, the short answer is that you can only really hope to limit the chances of such a situation blowing up in your face … or at least limiting the damage of such metaphorical explosions. The longer answer is provided below.
Editor's Note: Rotoworld's partner FanDuel is hosting a $1,000 Fantasy Hockey league for Monday's NHL games. It's just $2 to join and first prize is $200. Starts Monday at 7pm ET. Here's the FanDuel link.
DO YOUR ROTO HOMEWORK
Simply put, if you don’t want to be the victim of last-second changes (or, again, want to at least react with a decent Plan B), you need to actually realize that your guy isn’t going to play that day. To do so, you’ll want to stay on top of things, at least by checking before games typically start.
(This should be easier during the week, as weekends can feature some pretty random start times.)
For one thing, Rotoworld NHL provides a suite of services to keep you up-to-date. You can find everything in various links on the front page, but let me point to a few favorites.
-- The Features Page is more about identifying free agents and other winning strategies, but it’s a wise idea to have these things in mind, anyway. Honestly, I’d recommend making at least a mental note of two lists: 1) guys you’d be willing to drop in this final week for “endgame” purposes (in other words, players you wouldn’t normally get rid of) and 2) free agents who would make good replacements. Naturally, noting if that player is appearing in that given day is a key consideration.
Along with the Dose, the features section includes great columns like The Week Ahead, Waiver Wired, In the Crease and more.
-- The Injuries Section can provide a quick reference for players dealing with ailments.
-- The “Probables” Feed will help you stay on task when it comes to starting goalies. Generally, this is an area that might not be as unusual - beat writers tend to find out which netminders will start earlier in the day - yet I’d still recommend checking in for last-minute changes or announcements.
TWITTER IS YOUR FRIEND
No doubt about, it’s also wise to cross-reference all of that good Rotoworld stuff by checking out Twitter for updates. (In fact, Rotoworld has an NHL feed that links to updates as well as features, including the Dose.)
Beyond that, I’d highly recommend following beat writers for various teams, if not all of them. These are guys who are almost always the ones breaking the news - even the seemingly little things that could be rather significant for fantasy owners - so sometimes those updates can give you just enough time to make necessary alterations.
In a similar vein, official team Twitter feeds can also break important injury/lineup updates before anyone else can (for obvious reasons of access). That’s especially true since many teams have their own equivalent to beat writers.
HANG IN THERE
Look, no one wants to lose to their co-workers, friends and frenemies.
Chances are, you’re in/have been in your fair share of leagues full of randomly generated Internet strangers. Still, for those leagues that really inspire battles for bragging rights or just hold a lot of emotional heft- which, by the way, could also be in those seemingly random groups - chances are that these hits and misses may leave you bummed out.
Still, shake it off, as there’s only so much you can do considering the fact that NHL teams aren’t always the most … forthcoming when it comes to this information.
Basically, this is my way of saying that you shouldn’t act like you’re in a Collective Soul music video over it. After all, no one wants to be in a Collective Soul video. Even Collective Soul doesn’t want to be in a Collective Soul video.