Saturday, April 7, 2007
For a sports fan this time of year is like Christmas, New Years, Thanksgiving and a birthday all wrapped into one. With the start of the baseball season, March Madness, and the Masters, Tivo’s and VCR’s (for those still living in the Stone Age) aren’t being given very many nights off. But out of all of this quality television is there anything more exciting and electrifying than the Stanley Cup Playoffs? By Sunday night the eight play-off spots in each conference will have been decided and fans will begin gearing up for the start of the leagues “second season” that kicks off on Wednesday. Wait a minute, Wednesday? But that’s four day’s from now! What am I suppose to do until than? Good question. My only advice is to find a few friends or a favourite hockey website and get involved in a fantasy hockey pool. The playoffs are a great time of year for all types of fans, but with hockey pools the enjoyment can reach new levels. Trust me; there is nothing better than spending an entire year telling your friends, co-workers and family that you in fact not only predicted that the Carolina Hurricanes would win the Cup, but that Rod Brind’Amour would score twelve goals and add six assists in the process. Although for this years draft I would probably steer clear of Rod and his Hurricanes. But here is a little advice to get you started. Obviously no one needs to be told that Daniel Briere or Joe Thornton are probably good picks to add a few points to your fantasy team over the next few months, so here are two guys that might come in handy in the later rounds of your draft. For now we’ll refer to them as sleepers, but by the end of June your friends might just be referring to you as a genius!
1) Sean Avery, New York Rangers 82GP- 18G- 30A- 48Pts- 174PIM
Can you say Claude Lemieux 2007? There has not been a player acquired at or around the trade deadline that has made a bigger impact on a team than the acquisition of Sean Avery in New York. Prior to the deadline, the Rangers were a team that looked destined for failure, but have since clawed their way back from the dead. Avery is a big reason why. He has proved he can add scoring depth and skill while still irritating everyone from the goalie to the water boy on the opposing team. The way Avery and the Rangers have played over the final month could prove to be very scary for their opposition come Wednesday. With the leagues hottest goaltender and two of the most recognized scoring threats in Jagr and Shanahan, the Rangers are rolling at full steam into the post season and could quickly erase the memory of last years dismal first round exit. But if this team is to achieve any success they will depend on Avery to continue to chip in with both added scoring, and to put it lightly, his “annoyance” towards the opposition’s best players.
Side Note-- since the acquisition of Avery the Rangers have gone 17-5-6 while Avery has managed 8G- 12A- 20Pts- 58PIM over that span.
2) Jason Pominville, Buffalo Sabres 80GP- 33G- 34A- 67Pts- 28PIM
It isn’t a secret that the key to success in any play off pool is to pick guys who will inevitably play the most games when it’s all said and done. Since most people are willing to bet the farm that the Sabres will still be playing hockey well into June, it seems like a safe bet to pick a few guys from the blue and gold. Since Buffalo is hardly a sleeper pick you can be sure that the team’s main stars like Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, and Maxim Afinogenov, will all be picked early in any draft, so here is another alternative. What if I told you that Jason Pominiville has over 30 goals for the Sabres this year? Who in the H-E-double hockey sticks is Jason Pominville you ask? Well he could very well be this year’s best sleeper pick. Ok, well maybe Pominiville isn’t a complete unknown around the league, but you can be sure that come draft day his name could get lost amongst the other star studded players on the Sabres roster. And if the Sabres are still alive in June you can be sure that Pominville will have had a hand in getting them there.
Side Note-- Pominville proved during last years play offs that he can perform at the next level by compiling 5G- 5A- 10pts- 8PIM during his 18 playoff appearances.
So there they are, my two sleeper picks for this years Stanley Cup Playoffs. It’s going to be an exciting few months of hockey leading up to the end of June. The real goal however will not be whether or not your favourite team gets to hoist the Cup in the end, but whether your fantasy team secures you bragging rights for the rest of the year. As a fan the Cup might seem good for an evening, but a fantasy win can bring you happiness for a year. Good luck.