Becker's Dozen: Vanek Vaulting
"Becker's Dozen" is a look at 13 players whose value recently has gone up or down.
Thomas Vanek, LW, Sabres: With 11 goals in his past nine games, there is no hotter scorer than Vanek right now. He is doing it by doing what Sabres fans have been screaming at him to do all season: shooting the [darn] puck. He put 36 shots on net in those nine games (4.0 per game), after averaging only 2.76 per game to that point in the season. Now, I'm not saying he is going to keep scoring at this pace, but as long as he keeps throwing more than three shots per game at opposing goalies, Vanek will resemble the 43-goal scorer he was in 2006-07 more than the disappointing 22-goal scorer he was on pace to be at the onset of February. If anyone's selling, I'm buying.
Jonathan Cheechoo, RW, Sharks: Well, look who finally decided to play hockey! Cheechoo has 25 points this season and rates as one of the biggest busts of the year, but in his past 10 games, he scored seven times, adding two assists. As with Vanek, the secret of Cheechoo's success has been -- and follow along here; this is akin to rocket science -- shooting the puck! Cheecho averaged 5.2 shots in his past 10 games after plodding along at a 2.23-shot pace for the first 43 games of the season. Not surprisingly, Joe Thornton has featured prominently in a number of Cheechoo's goals, but that's good. That's how it used to work, and there's no reason it can't work once again.[+] EnlargePhillip MacCallum/Getty ImagesAntoine Vermette is anchoring a suddenly potent second line in Ottawa.
Antoine Vermette, LW, Senators: The addition of Cory Stillman allows him a quality linemate almost every time he is on the ice. When the Sens want to spread their offense, Vermette and Chris Kelly are joined by either Daniel Alfredsson or Jason Spezza while Stillman fills in on the first line. Vermette has been on the cusp of breaking out for two years, and now he is in his best position to do so.
Chris Neil, RW, Senators: As expected, Neil is looking like the biggest loser in the Stillman trade. He missed Ottawa's most recent game with the flu and spent the previous game on a line with Mike Fisher and Randy Robitaille -- a great checking line, but not so great for padding this slugger's stats. Although he has 19 points to go with his 146 penalty minutes, he has had one goal and no assists so far this month, and that's not likely to take a dramatic turn for the better.
Ryan Malone, LW, Penguins: Malone had 11 points in his past nine games and four multi-point nights in his past six, and is getting plenty of power-play time with Evgeni Malkin. It probably won't last much past Sidney Crosby's return -- there is only so much puck to go around -- so enjoy it while you can and don't feel too bad about throwing him into a trade package to anyone who thinks the return of The Kid will increase his value instead of returning him to the solid-but-unspectacular supporting role he has enjoyed since Crosby's arrival.
Peter Mueller, C, Coyotes: In the six games since his Feb. 5 hat trick, Mueller has been held to four assists and a brutal minus-6, despite the fact that the Coyotes have outscored their opponents 24-14. After a long, slow climb to more than 90 percent ownership by the All-Star break, he has plummeted back to less than 75 percent in just one week. Give the kid a break, and get him back on your roster, post-haste. The Coyotes have a pretty good schedule coming up, and it would be reckless to ignore a kid who has been scoring exactly a point per game since New Year's Eve.
Daniel Carcillo, LW, Coyotes: Perhaps those dropping Mueller were doing so for his teammate? Carcillo, who has been injured and demoted twice so far in 2008, had a goal and an assist in his past two games to go along with 29 penalty minutes. He now has 236 penalty minutes this season, still tops in the league, despite the fact that he has played in only 41 games.[+] EnlargeAndy Devlin/NHLI/Getty ImagesStortini has earned fighting majors in four of his past seven games.
Zack Stortini, RW, Oilers: If you missed out on snagging Carcillo, consider adding Stortini instead. He is available in just about every ESPN.com league, despite the fact that he is third in the NHL in penalty minutes with 151 in 45 games and he has just as many points as runner-up Jared Boll (seven) in 13 fewer games. Honestly, if Boll warrants a 25 percent ownership rate, Stortini should be owned at least that much as well.
Darcy Tucker, RW, Maple Leafs: Tough to pick the biggest bust of the year among the Leafs, but Tucker ranks pretty high on the list. He was drafted, then dropped, in pretty much every ESPN league, but now there are signs of life, both in his game and in his ownership numbers. Toronto has won four of its past six games since hitting rock bottom in an 8-0 loss to the Panthers, and Tucker has scored six times -- twice on the power play, his speciality -- and added an assist. Too little, too late? Perhaps, but if you, like the Leafs, have nowhere to go but up, he is about as cheap an add as you can make right now, with pretty good upside.
Martin Biron, G, Flyers: The Flyers are absolutely reeling right now, losers of eight in a row. While Biron can hardly be blamed for all the losses, the team has given Antero Niittymaki three of the past five starts, including back-to-back starts following a 1-0 loss at Montreal. Neither goalie is really worth anything right now, but there is every chance that if Nittymaki happens to win a couple in a row to snap the team out of its funk, he will be the one getting the lion's share of a 60/40 split.
Peter Forsberg, C, Limbo: Heads up. Forsberg has all but given up on signing with any team this season, so there is no reason to hold on to him anymore. He still is owned in more than 40 percent of ESPN leagues (it was twice that number about a week ago), so consider this a friendly reminder to refresh your roster.
Derek Meech, D, Red Wings:With Brian Rafalski already on injured reserve, it was very interesting to see whom the Wings placed on the power play when Nicklas Lidstrom went down Monday. It was recently recalled Meech, with his now-25 games of NHL experience. He is more of a puck mover than a shooter, but he has drawn some comparisons to Rafalski in the past -- i.e., before Rafalski became a Red Wing -- and he should have a chance to do something while the big boys are out. He grabbed 24:26 minutes of ice time Monday, almost 10 minutes more than his previous season high of 15:23. With the Wings' offense starting to click again, Meech is one to watch Friday against the Flames and Saturday against the Canucks. Be prepared to add.
Alex Burrows, LW, Canucks: He tallied six points in his past nine games. Not bad. His regular linemates are Ryan Kesler and Taylor Pyatt. OK, and he has seen a bit of time with twins Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin. On the Canucks, who hasn't? He also had 61 penalty minutes in his past 10 games. Got your attention now, don't I?
Pete Becker is a senior editor for ESPN.com Fantasy.
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