Fantasy Hockey Mailbag: How to navigate slow starts and early setbacks

Montreal Canadiens forward Cole Caufield. (Ryan Remiorz/CP)

Attention fantasy owners: It’s way too early to even contemplate pressing the panic button.

Last time I checked, you can’t win a fantasy hockey title in October. You can’t lose one, either — unless your roster is littered with Arizona Coyotes, of course.

Disappointed because your star player is under performing? Don’t fret. In general, my two main rules of thumb in fantasy puck are trust your gut and patience is a virtue. There’s no way you can stray from that mentality this early, especially considering we’ve yet to hit the five-game mark in the season.

When it comes to the Sportsnet Fantasy Hockey Pool, the strategy you employ should be a little different, however. Given the strict 30-point cap system, you should constantly be looking to get the best bang for your buck. Instead of rostering cold and overpriced players, it would be wise to take a stab at some value buys. The 3-0-0 San Jose Sharks are one place to look. Hello to everyone in Buffalo, Columbus, and Detroit, respectively, as well! Love some great underdog stories.

Now to your questions:

@MrAlwaysWrite asks: At what point do I consider dropping Caufield after this slow of a start for him and the Canadiens? Or, do I ride it out given his potential?

Caufield is a prime example of an underachieving player that needs to be cut some slack in the early going. After all, he’s only 20; turbulence is expected. Bottom line, the idea of cutting Caufield off your fantasy roster shouldn’t even be crossing your mind at the moment. Ride it out.

@JoshRowlands9 asks: Should I hold onto Suzuki and Grubauer so early?

Yes, on both fronts.

Like his teammate Caufield, it’s easy to forget that Suzuki is just 22. There’s no doubt he’s headed for the bright lights, but along the way, there will be hardships. If anything, I’d view this early season slump as a quality time to buy low on some struggling Canadiens (Caufield, Suzuki, Petry).

As for Grubauer, you need to temper your expectations from the get-go. He’s coming off a career-year, something that happens frequently in pro sports when an athlete is looking to get paid. Additionally, I think that it’s fair to say that the Kraken roster is inferior to that of Colorado’s, a perennial Stanley Cup contender. Translation: There will be ups, there will be downs. I’d stick with Grubauer, just be reasonable with your expectations for the season.

@afundrummer asks: Thoughts on rocking 4 goalies and going down one forward/defencemen?

Yeah, I’m a huge fan of employing that strategy. Honestly, it’s incredible how much the goalie position in the NHL has evolved in the past 20 years or so. Analytics don’t lie, or maybe they do? At any rate, we’re living in a tandem world, and that won’t be changing anytime soon.

Sigh, I miss the days of 70-plus Martin Brodeur starts. You knew what you were getting, game in and game out. At this point, crease management in fantasy hockey has become pretty much a full-time job.

@TFindlay96 asks: Should I be worried about Ehlers?

Absolutely not, he’s just off to a slow start.

In general, the Jets have been brutal, the COVID-19 situation certainly hasn’t helped things, either. There’s no need to worry with Ehlers, the resume and body of work over the years suggest he’ll get back on track very soon. Sit tight.

@SportsIZLif3 asks: I know it’s early but do you have thoughts on J. Toews slow start? Hold? Drop?

I love Toews but I think it’s an easy decision to cut bait. Why the quick hook, you ask? Well, I think you can utilize the centre depth in fantasy hockey to your advantage. There’s no point in waiting around when there are plenty of options just waiting there for you on the waiver wire. Can interest you in some Joel Eriksson Ek?

@mexitcanam asks: Tyler Johnson, give him another couple weeks or drop?

Easy drop on Johnson, too. The 31-year-old went from must-add fantasy file to drop candidate in less than a week, things move swiftly in this modern-day NHL world. Until Johnson demonstrates the ability to stay in Chicago’s top-six full-time, he’s nothing more than a streamer option. You can always circle back down the road. Make the move.

@IslandersLobst1 asks: Marc Andre Fluery or Jacob Markstrom remainder of year? SV%, GAA, Ws, SOs.

Can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’d siding with Markstrom. From a defensive standpoint, I just have more faith in Calgary than I do in Chicago. They’re all over the place. The Flames have Darryl Sutter behind the bench, and you know what that means. It’s a 3-2 league, we’re just living in it.

@Wethenorth316 asks: Should I keep Petr Mrazek?

Definitely. For now, just stash him on your IR until he’s good to go. Mrazek will get plenty of playing time, especially with the Leafs being extremely cautious when it comes to Jack Campbell’s workload.

@yeabones asks: Thoughts on Tarasenko?

Another player off to a slow start. That’s it, that’s all.

For what it’s worth, I thought Tarasenko was outstanding on Wednesday night in Vegas, a game in which he ended up potting the game-winning goal. The Russian winger isn’t even a year removed from significant shoulder surgery; he needs time. All things being equal, I think Tarasenko’s primed for a massive bounce-back campaign.

We’ll see how long it takes the Blues to fulfill his trade request.

@boringname11 asks: Is Seguin taking his sweet time to score ? Drop for Erickson Ek?

Similar to Tarasenko, Seguin’s also coming off a pretty serious injury. In order to make a legitimate assessment, I need to see him play a lot more than just a few games. For a larger scope, hit me up at the 20-game mark to see where Seguin’s at.

@XanderPriceCWC asks: Do I drop Jeff Petry? And if so, do I take John Marino, Moritz Seider, Colin Miller or Gustav Forsling?

Nope, I’d sit tight. All four of those players mentioned pale in comparison to what Petry can offer you. I’m chalking it up to a slow start, there’s only one way to go from here. Be patient.

@dakg asks: What course of action to take to deal with the Kucherov situation?

Toss him on IR and hope for the best. At this point, the Lightning are still trying to determine if Kucherov needs surgery or not. Considering his average draft position (4.4) this season, this injury is a tough pill to swallow for fantasy owners. There’s not much you can do until an update is provided.

@Robertojuan77 asks: Is Trevor Zegras a good fantasy add?

Yes, he is. Like many others, I expect Zegras to contend for the Calder Trophy this season. The run-and-gun Anaheim Ducks have been a lot of fun to watch so far. Not only is Zegras supremely talented, but most importantly, he’s on a retooling Ducks team, so he’ll get plenty of ice this season. Have at it.

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