Becker's Dozen: Sedins rescue Naslund
Every week, "Becker's Dozen" looks at 13 players whose value has recently gone up or down.
Markus Naslund, LW, Canucks: He's back. Or, more appropriately, the Sedin twins have helped shove him back into the fantasy limelight. The former surefire first-rounder hasn't been the same since the lockout, odd considering the rule changes should have played to his benefit. However, it's now evident that Naslund needs some firepower on his line in order to be successful. He's a good player made great by other players, rather than a great player who makes those around him better. There's a huge difference there. Not since his days with Todd Bertuzzi has Naslund been so relevant to us. Naslund has 11 points in his past seven games, including a hat trick against the Minnesota Wild, and as long as he remains the Sedins' wingman, you can expect him to ride along at slightly better than a point-per-game pace with a positive contribution to your plus/minus.
Jason Williams, RW, Blackhawks: As was chronicled by my colleague Sean Allen in "The Box Score Blog," Martin Havlat is back, and spent the entire game Wednesday lined up with Williams and Robert Lang. Now, you can give Lang a little nudge up, but Williams is the real interesting guy here because he has nearly no name value and should be easier to snag in a trade than someone with his point-per-game potential should. Heck, he was almost on that pace before Havlat came back, and his ownership is down 10 percent in standard leagues this week. Go get him.
Martin Straka, LW, Rangers: He's back, and not a moment too soon for his Rangers linemates. After a month out with injury, Straka returned on Nov. 23 and, while he has yet to register a point, you know it's coming since he's on the top line with Jaromir Jagr. His ownership had dropped to the 50 percent range but is now back up to the high-80s. However, that means he's still available in one out of every 10 leagues. It's worth checking on, don't you think?
Brandon Dubinsky, C, Rangers: I mentioned Straka being on the top line with Jagr, and if that clicks, then the third member of that line will benefit as well. That would be, yes, 21-year-old Dubinsky, who hails from Anchorage, Alaska, just like teammate Scott Gomez. Dubinsky only has five points this season and is available in just about every league on ESPN.com, but the Rangers seem committed to keeping him with Jagr while giving him approximately 15 minutes of ice time per game. Four of his five points have come in the past nine games. He's probably more geared to deep leagues and keepers, but keep an eye on him nonetheless, should the Straka-Jagr magic reappear.
Guillaume Latendresse, LW, Canadiens: The Habs have a new top line of Saku Koivu, Christopher Higgins and Latendresse. The 20-year-old has everything going for him in Montreal: he's local (from nearby Ste. Catherine), which goes a long way with the fans, the media and the front office, he has got loads of talent and the team has to give him the opportunity to shine in order to justify the decision to keep him around all year last season, instead of sending him back to Juniors. Well, he scored on his first day on the top line, against the rival Maple Leafs to boot, and it sounds like he'll stick for as long as the combination works. He's unowned in most leagues. You'll want to rectify that in yours, quickly.
Ryan Smyth, LW, Avalanche: Welcome to the maddening rollercoaster that is Smyth fantasy ownership. Smyth has a single assist in his past six games, and is minus-7 in that span with a mere four penalty minutes. He even went four consecutive games in which he only managed a single shot on goal in each. What's worse, he's not even skating with Joe Sakic, having been replaced on the top line by sophomore Andy Richardson in coach Joel Quenneville's latest line-shuffling experiment. The sky is falling! Quick! Trade for him while you can. Heck, you might even get a freebie if you're in one of the 3.1 percent of ESPN leagues where he was dropped. Unconscionable, people. There's no excuse for not riding out a small slump from a veteran scorer such as Smyth. This, too, shall pass.
Ilya Bryzgalov, G, Coyotes: Wow. I'm impressed. I figured Bryzgalov could stop a lot of shots, but I didn't believe his goals-against average could be a real asset or that he'd pile up any wins. I'm still not convinced he can keep this up all season, but while the honeymoon lasts, all the power to him and those who picked him up (his ownership is now more than 90 percent). That said, his .942 save percentage since joining the Coyotes is unsustainable -- so when I say honeymoon, I do mean honeymoon. There will be some tougher times ahead. If you can sell, do so (but don't tell my wife I used that analogy).
Mike Smith, G, Stars: You have to hand it to Smith for creating a goaltending controversy despite backing up a goalie with four consecutive 30-win seasons and a career 2.02 goals-against average. To do that, you really have to show something. The 25-year-old has six wins in eight starts and very solid 2.19 and .916 numbers, and it's likely that he'll be the starting goaltender for the Stars in a few years (but not this year). Turco is still an All-Star goaltender and the Stars are looking at making another deep drive into the playoffs while they still have Mike Modano to lead them. You need a Marty Turco for that, not a young guy with all of 32 games' experience. Remember, Smith's numbers were just as excellent last season, and he played 23 games. He'll exceed that this year, but it won't be enough games to warrant his being a starting goalie in a shallow league.
Andrew Raycroft, G, Maple Leafs: He had his chance, with Vesa Toskala getting off to such a poor start. Raycroft had a good showing in relief of Toskala against the Senators on Nov. 6 and followed that up with a shutout of the Buffalo Sabres on Nov. 9. Since then, though, he has allowed 11 goals in 127 minutes of play (5.20 GAA), including getting pulled eight minutes into a 5-1 defeat at the hands of the Coyotes, the low point in what has been a pretty bad season for the Leafs so far. Sorry, Rayzor, but it's time you were cut from all fantasy teams (and perhaps from the Maple Leafs, too).
Martin Erat, RW, Predators: It took a month, but Erat has finally stepped up and taken on his share of the scoring burden in Nashville. Erat has been red-hot in November, with 15 points and a plus-11 in 11 games, including all seven of his goals this season. He entered the month minus-5 with six assists in 11 games. The true Erat lies somewhere in between the October and November versions, but he is a guy who should see his first-ever 70-point season on the heels of his breakthrough 57-points-in-68-games campaign last season.
Fredrik Norrena, G, Blue Jackets: As we covered a few weeks ago, these ain't your big brother's Blue Jackets. There's actually some value to be had on this team and as Pascal Leclaire showed, even the goalie can be worth your while. Well, the aforementioned Leclaire is injured (again) and Norrena will get to show his stuff against quality -- but beatable -- opponents such as Vancouver, Calgary, Dallas and Colorado in the next week.
Sam Gagner, C, Oilers: It may not be for a top team, but Gagner has found his way to the top line of the Oilers, centering Ales Hemsky and Shawn Horcoff. The Oilers are next-to-last in goals per game and last in power-play efficiency, but all that means is that there's nowhere to go but up. Gagner is a talented player who will be counted on to lead a very good offensive team a few years from now, so if he shows he can hack it as the top dog, the team won't have any incentive to remove him from the role. That said, being given an opportunity and doing something with it are two separate things. Grab Gagner in deeper leagues, but he's still bench material at best in shallow pools.
Robert Nilsson, C, Oilers: Follow the bouncing puck: If Gagner moving up to the top line is good for his value, then Nilsson being dropped from the top line to accommodate the move is, yes, bad for his value. Not that he had done much with the opportunity (five points in 17 games) but it is disappointing, as Nilsson has a lot of talent. Maybe all he needs is a bit more motivation. After all, is it just a coincidence that Nilsson's best game of the season -- a goal and an assist on five shots -- came in his hometown of Calgary earlier this month? OK, probably. I don't know what else to tell you. At least he hasn't been demoted back to Springfield, as he was in mid-October.
Pete Becker is the senior editor for ESPN.com Fantasy
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