- Tristan H. Cockcroft, Fantasy
Here's a quick look at some of the biggest developments of the past week in fantasy hockey:
Michal Handzus' season-ending knee injury. His owners might think of this as a painful loss, but the truth is that it's far, far more devastating to the Blackhawks than it could possibly be to his fantasy teams. In fact, as I told a fellow fantasy owner who was lamenting the loss of Handzus on Monday morning, if you can't survive this kind of bad news at this early stage of the season, well, then, isn't all hope lost for your team? It's not that Handzus is a bad player; after all, with eight points (four on the power play) in eight games to finish 2006-07, Handzus has the first season of his career averaging a point per game. Plus, he was a key to Chicago's .500 start -- yes, .500 is a pretty good start for these Blackhawks -- and No. 2 ranking on offense (from a goals per game perspective). But the fact remains that Handzus was still either a late-round draft pick or a free-agent pickup in most leagues, and it's still early enough in the year to replace him in fantasy. Chicago, of course, won't be so lucky. The Blackhawks were already without offensive leader Martin Havlat, lost for two to three weeks to an ankle injury he suffered on Friday, and goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, who broke a finger during warmups on Saturday, not to mention perennial injury risk Tuomo Ruutu. All that's going to do is make it tougher for this team to regain its momentum once guys like Havlat and Ruutu return, which could mean bigger problems for your Chicago players in the important plus/minus category all year. Radim Vrbata and Bryan Smolinski should see more scoring chances, but beyond them, beware.
Evgeni Malkin is for real. Does anything make a fantasy owner happier than getting the "next big thing"? Surely if you were the person lucky enough to land 2005-06's top rookies, Alexander Ovechkin and/or Sidney Crosby, you were pretty pleased, and this year, it's looking like Malkin is nearly equivalent to either of them in talent. He has scored a goal in each of his three games since returning from a dislocated shoulder, and in Monday's practice, he was skating with Crosby and Colby Armstrong on the first line. Malkin sure looks comfortable with the NHL game thus far, and there's no reason to think he can't top 30 goals and 70 points as a rookie, especially on the No. 1 line. (By the way, those Penguins might not be much of a team right now, but watch out in a couple of years...)