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The Week in Fantasy: Should You Give Up on Players Yet?

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We’re more than a third of the way through the season. Some guys just aren’t going to put up their normal stats this year

NHL: Montreal Canadiens at Detroit Red Wings Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Some teams have played 29 games this year. We’re more than a third of the season. And if you’re like me, you’re getting to the point where you either have to cut bait with disappointing fantasy players now or hope they recover over the rest of the season. This may be the tipping point because you could completely fall out of it if you don’t act now. Or the player could start being themselves tomorrow. How do you know which avenue to take?

If you’re like my team, you have so many disappointing players that a middle of the road strategy may be best. You may be able to cut a few of the more disappointing ones while holding onto some of the only mild disappointments. But this takes a real level of Jim Benning-esque stupidity in drafting your team that only elite fantasy experts such as myself can discover.

Just to get this out of the way: we’re not talking about slight underachievers like Alex Ovechkin being ranked 31 this far into the season. We’re talking about the totally unexpected-might-get-sent-to-the-minors-or-sent-to-Vegas level of play this year. John Tavares and Tyler Seguin don’t fall into that category. Johnny Gaudreau and Dylan Larkin do.

Young players with all-star caliber track records like that are the hardest ones to cut bait with, even this far into the season. They are still entering their scoring primes and presumably should be able to pick it up with better luck as the season goes on. Their bodies aren’t degrading and they’ve done it recently as well.

That gives me hope for the likes of Larkin, who can’t go through an entire season with this few a number of assists, or Gaudreau who’s had bad injury luck and plays for a mostly incompetent team.

Evgeny Kuznetsov is a scarier case as he’s just not generating a ton of shots, so it’s hard to see where exactly the goals are going to come from. You have to keep someone like that who can score 80 points when they’re right. Same with Gaudreau. Larkin is a different case as his upside isn’t as high and his floor is, in return, also lower.

I think that’s what it mostly comes down to. What level of player are we talking here, in terms of young players. You have to keep the Kuznetsov’s and Gaudreau’s around because of what they can do, but if Dylan Larkin plays to his best potential or Max Domi does, what will they end with 40 points this year at these rates? Fifty? You’re missing out on Nick Foligno’s whole season that could easily eclipse that on the off chance these guys immediately start playing like themselves tomorrow.

Veteran players are an entirely different case in some ways, but exactly the same in others. These guys aren’t going to get appreciably better than they have been; in fact, it’s expected that they’ll be worse. But do you think Anze Kopitar or Joe Thornton just completely fell off a cliff? They have to be better right? How much worse can they be?

Zach Parise’s style of play is one that doesn’t lend itself to a long career and he seems to be breaking down, so he’s definitely a cut bait candidate. Unless Jason Spezza gets a new goalie behind him, he’s not going to magically become Patrik Elias on defense to save his +/-. And Andrew Ladd may have to get Ol’ Yeller’d by the Isles’ ownership.

And for the sake of my fantasy team, let’s not talk about Ben Bishop again in this space, ok?

The entire point of this article is that, you should look at the shots your player is generating and his space in the lineup and determine based on that if he’s getting enough chances on his team to possibly recover and play like himself. That’s the advantage the veterans have here. You’re not dropping Thornton or Kopitar or Parise to the fourth line. But it’s not inconceivable to see Shayne Gostisbehere scratched because things like that already happened. That won’t happen to the veterans.

They’ll have a longer leash. Bishop continues to start because he’s a proven veteran. If Andrei Vasilevskiy was putting up Bishop’s stats, he’d have been sent to the AHL and seeing a shrink. But the veterans get to keep playing.

My advice to you then is in turn with this. Stick with Thornton and Kopitar and other veterans who are still going to get their opportunities. But for players like Larkin and other second tier young all-star caliber players, trade high while they still have some value. Before you know it, they could be watching from the press box.

Yes, my team has Larkin, Bishop and half the Colorado Avalanche roster. It hasn’t been a good year.

AATJ Fantasy Standings:

My team rots.

Add of the week: Foligno. He’s available in a lot of leagues and is a must start. I don’t know how Tortorella’s Blue Jackets are good, but there are a lot of things about 2016 I don’t understand.

Drop of the week: Larkin. He’s been water trash this year and this article was a way to express this.

Devils fantasy player of the week: Taylor Hall. He’s back and a beautiful boy we all love once again.