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Posted - 12/18/2007 :  13:22:18  Show Profile
By Fantasy Fanatics

Similar to frenzied Christmas shoppers, fantasy hockey owners are dying to find bargains, either via trade, or if really lucky, the waiver wire. In either case, the fantasy manager is taking a leap of faith that the player in question will somehow overcome his horrific start and make their original owner pay for their lack of faith and patience.

Let's start with goalies. Calgary netminder Miikka Kiprusoff is off to the worst start of his career and has yet to pull himself out of the stats basement. He currently ranks 31st amongst active goalies with a 2.85GAA and still hasn't recorded a single shutout. With 30 games now under his belt, it's a safe bet that many of his owners that pinned their entire season's success on him are now willing to trade him away cheap. This is a great time to step in and pay less than market value on a former Vezina winner.

Another goalie that is worth picking up off the sale rack is Pittsburgh's Marc-Andre Fleury. Expectations of both the Penguins and Fleury were significant this season, and both have gotten off to less than stellar starts. Fleury was supposed to play like a former #1 overall draft pick, buoyed by an improved team that signed veteran defenseman Darryl Sydor to help stabilize their defense. Instead, Fleury has struggled all season, benched mid-game several times already. With a 32nd ranked GAA of 2.90 and only 9 wins, he's made a lot of his fantasy owners grind their teeth. Now is the time for rival owners to swoop in and fleece that owner for a much lower price. Like the underachieving Penguins, expect Fleury to escape their early season doldrums.

Two more goalies to consider are Buffalo's Ryan Miller and Florida's Tomas Vokoun, ranked 25th and 26th respectively in GAA at 2.67 and 2.68. Both teams have improved as the season has worn on, but due to their lousy stats, may have fantasy owners with itchy trigger fingers.

As for forwards, there are no shortage of disappointing players that merit consideration to be rescued from the scrap heap, led by a couple of underachieving San Jose Sharks.

San Jose Sharks RW Jonathan Cheechoo was supposed to be a shoo-in playing alongside such an elite center as Joe Thornton. Coming of a 50 goal season two years ago followed by a respectable 69 points last year, he was undoubtedly a high draft pick in every draft. After 28 games, he ranks as one of the biggest letdowns of the fantasy season. With 4 goals and 5 assists in 28 games that's not going to cut it for such a high draft pick. Not surprisingly, San Jose coach Ron Wilson demoted Cheechoo from the top line. Cheechoo is too gifted a goal scorer to stay in this prolonged a slump. Find that impatient owner and make the deal. You'll never pay less than you will now.

Teammate Patrick Marleau is another candidate for bargain hunters. He had two consecutive terrific seasons in 2005-06 and 06-07, scoring 78 and 86 points respectively. Regretfully, this season has been a nightmare for the team captain, who has struggled to bulge the twine - he's recorded 13 points in the club's first 28 games. He's also dealing with trade rumors, which is never easy on a player that is supposed to be their leader.

Two more forwards that are off to very slow starts but remain potentially valuable commodities include Anaheim center Andy McDonald and Montreal right winger Michael Ryder. McDonald has averaged over 80 points in each of his last two seasons, yet currently has compiled only 16 points in 32 games. He's bound to pick up the pace, especially as the Ducks add Scott Niedermayer back into the mix. Their power play will become a force to be reckoned with, and McDonald is one of the anchors up front on that unit. Ryder posted 30 goal seasons the last two years, but seemingly has lead in his hands this year with an ugly 3 goals in 28 games. He's off to such a terrible start that you may not even need to trade for him, just pick him up off waivers if one of your opponents has called it quits on Ryder.

Happy hunting and Happy Holidays!

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