Concussions causing headaches in fantasy hockey

by Mike Corcoran on January 5, 2012 @ 18:02:57 PDT

 


A hot and troublesome storyline around the National Hockey League this year has been concussions and the effects it is having on players. It also has wreaked havoc on the fantasy hockey world.


The league's best player remains sidelined with post-concussion issues

Pittsburgh Penguins star Sidney Crosby has been dealing with his concussion and his subsequent absence, recovery, absence again, and the ongoing recovery has really changed the way hockey players in general deal with concussions.

So what do you do if you find one of your star players is diagnosed with a concussion? Who are the key players that have been affected by concussions and who are the players stepping up in their place? These are some of the guys that you may want to try to go get, whether through trade or the waiver wire:

Fantasy headache 1: Sidney Crosby, Center, Pittsburgh Penguins

Crosby has been the face of the concussion epidemic. The good news, from a fantasy perspective, is that fantasy hockey players knew coming into this season that Crosby was not going to start the season healthy and were able to plan accordingly. It looked like fantasy owners were going to get some relief with Crosby and probably even got excited about his return, which saw 12 points in eight games. Unfortunately, Crosby owners were quickly disappointed once again when concussion like symptoms returned in early December.

The one player that has stepped up in Crosby's absence and is worth consideration of acquiring if you are a Crosby owner is Jordan Staal. Staal has filled in nicely in the role Crosby vacated. While no one can replace Crosby's level of fantasy production, Staal has held his own with 15 goals and 21 points in 33 games.

Fantasy headache 2: Jeff Skinner, Center, Carolina Hurricanes

Last year's Calder Memorial Trophy (top rookie) winner, Skinner, only played in 18 games this season before suffering his injury in the first week of September. In that time, Skinner was averaging just under a point a game and was a bright spot on a struggling Carolina Hurricanes team.

One player to look at in trying to replace Skinner on fantasy teams is Brandon Sutter. The center that is known more for his defensive play rather than having offensive upside has shown a scoring touch of late, with three goals in his last five games. While he will never bring what Skinner provided to fantasy squads, he is worth a look for those hoping that Skinner's injury is more of a short-term injury rather than a long-term one.

Fantasy headache 3: Chris Pronger, Defenseman, Philadelphia Flyers

The marquee defenseman's status is not up for debate; he is out for the rest of the year with what the Flyers have classified as "severe post-concussion syndrome" and has left many fantasy teams with a gaping hole after only playing in 13 games this year.

The one Flyer who may benefit the most from Pronger's absence from a fantasy perspective may be Braydon Coburn. Coburn has a goal and nine assists through 36 games; he is on pace to surpass his point totals of 16 and 19 over the previous two seasons respectively.

These are just some examples of players that are taking their time returning from concussion injuries, but there are plenty of examples of players who have suffered concussions and returned to their lineup. Claude Giroux, Milan Milhalek and Mike Richards all come to mind as players who were diagnosed with a concussion but did not miss much time. So as a fantasy hockey owner, it is important to not overreact when a player gets diagnosed - obviously the severity of it, like any other type of injury, will play a big role and each player is different. Players who have suffered multiple concussions over time are also more apt to have lingering problems and longer-term issues.

While concussions will most likely continue to be a an issue moving forward, planning ahead and responding quickly to an announcement of your star player sustaining one will go a long way towards helping your team stay above water until you can get your stars back into the lineup - or make that big trade to compensate.

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About Mike Corcoran

Mike Corcoran joined KFFL in 2011 as their senior fantasy hockey writer. The Tarrytown, New York, native hosts a hockey radio show on ESPN Radio in Tampa, and covers the Tampa Bay Lightning professionally.

You can follow Mike on Twitter @MikeCorcoranNHL


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