Commentary

Grand Theft Roto: Power plays, plus/minus and PIMS

Updated: January 29, 2008, 1:56 PM ET
By Sean Allen | Special to ESPN.com

Before we get down to business, go check and see if Teemu Selanne is available in your league. As of 7 p.m. ET Monday night, he was still available in 8.9 percent of ESPN leagues. So you never know. You also can go ahead and drop Brandon Bochenski and put some extra stock into Chris Kunitz and Doug Weight. In fact, Weight is available in 80 percent of ESPN leagues and just inherited a No. 1 right winger. Coach Randy Carlyle would be remiss to break up the combination of Todd Bertuzzi, Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, so it is all but a guarantee that Selanne plays with Weight and Kunitz.

I'm going to steal a page from my Open Ice columns that appear Friday here on ESPN.com. It's about time you start looking at individual categories that can swing you up a few points in the standings. In Open Ice, I regularly break down which players off the waiver wire could help you with penalty minutes, power-play points and plus/minus. But sometimes help off the wire isn't enough, and you need to trade for someone who can really make an impact. I will note each player's ownership in ESPN leagues, as some of them might even be available on the wire. But in competitive medium-sized leagues, these guys all should be owned.

Penalty minutes

Chris Neil
Andre Ringuette/Getty ImagesChris Neil might not be much of a scorer, but he's a penalty-minute horse.
Chris Neil, RW, Senators (56 percent): I was actually quite surprised to see Neil has just 56 percent ownership. He's a traditional monster when it comes to giving you penalty minutes without leaving a void in your roster in the other categories. Playing with the underrated Mike Fisher, Neil should be able to contribute just less than a half-point per game, all while racking up well more than two penalty minutes per game. Neil also ranks seventh among Ottawa forwards in power-play time per game, which means he will get time on the second unit while Heatley is out. Most owners who have Neil are conscientious about penalty minutes and probably have been doing quite well in that category. Look for their weakness and offer someone who could help them in that category. Make sure to point out how you are specifically helping them when you make the offer.

Sean Avery, RW, Rangers (83 percent): Avery's injuries this season should make him someone you can buy on the cheap. His owners haven't been getting much contribution this season from Avery, so they likely can be talked into parting with him. Avery is one of the best points/PIMs combinations over the previous two NHL seasons, and with 30 games remaining, I expect him to get at least 20 points and 75 penalty minutes. As an added bonus, Avery has been playing on a line with the red-hot Jaromir Jagr and Martin Straka. I wouldn't hesitate to give up a lower-tier No. 1 right winger to get Avery if I needed PIMs.

Jared Boll, RW, Blue Jackets (33 percent): Back in October, I called for Boll to be among the league leaders in penalty minutes, and if not for the freaky output from Daniel Carcillo, he would be. Like Neil, the Boll's owners should be doing well in penalty minutes, so just look for what they need help with and make an offer.

Side note: Daniel Carcillo, LW, Coyotes (64 percent): The Coyotes brought up Carcillo from the AHL, and he should be ready to go this week. His sprained knee is healed, and he looked good in his two-game rehab with the San Antonio Rampage, notching a goal and an assist.

Plus/minus

Jason Arnott, C, Predators (100 percent): While he is not going to come cheap, Arnott is a bit under the radar as far as No. 1 centers go. He is so ingrained in many fantasy owners' minds as a strong No. 2 center that he might come a little cheaper than he should. J.P. Dumont is on his annual tear, and Arnott has been a beneficiary as his regular linemate. Add Alexander Radulov as the final piece of the trio and Nashville has a very dangerous line that does most of its damage at even strength. That is the key here, because most of the time when they score, they get a plus-1 next to their names. During this line's red-hot January, Arnott has 13 points and only three have been on the power play. That gives him a plus-10 for 12 January games.

Niklas Kronwall, D, Red Wings (98 percent): Kronwall has become the uber-defender he was supposed to become a few years ago. His breakout has been noted by most fantasy players, judging by his ownership percentage. Playing with defensive defenseman Andreas Lilja, the duo can shut down just about anybody in their own zone. Thanks to Detroit's stellar goaltending and terrific offense, Kronwall has turned into a plus/minus machine. In 26 games since Dec. 1, Kronwall has had a plus rating in 13 of them and had a minus rating in only two. Over that span, he is a plus-17. Clearly something has clicked for the young defenseman. Even with a slow start in the first two months of the season, Kronwall is a No. 2 defenseman. I'm here telling you he is now a No. 1, even though the numbers don't say it yet.

Side note: Rob Blake, D, Kings (100 percent): The murmurs have begun about Blake being traded to Detroit after Chris Chelios was stumping for him in The Detroit News. Obviously, Blake would be a monster if this happened, so keep that in mind while looking for plus/minus.

Power-play points

[+] EnlargeAlexei Kovalev
Andy Marlin/Getty ImagesAlexei Kovalev won't come cheap, but he's a big-time scorer.
Alexei Kovalev, RW, Canadiens (100 percent): He'll cost a pretty penny in trade, but Kovalev is the magic man on the best power play in the league. If you need to make a move in this category, he is the best player to get. Only Sergei Gonchar has more power-play points this season, and Kovalev has been surprisingly consistent with his output, as his monthly totals (7, 7, 6, 6) indicate.

Ed Jovanovski, D, Coyotes (100 percent): The Coyotes are an emerging powerhouse on offense, and Jovanovski is the king of their power play. Phoenix is still a dirty word for some fantasy owners who haven't jumped on board, so Jovo-Cop might be someone to try and pry away.

Total package

Scott Hartnell, LW, Flyers (100 percent): If you need help everywhere, go out and trade for Hartnell. I think he is going to be a top-five fantasy contributor for the rest of the season. I could name only about 10 players I would rather have for the rest of the season, but it shouldn't cost that much to get him. Offer up a No. 2 forward and see if you can swing a deal for him. As far as the categories we have discussed, Hartnell has a plus-6, 30 penalty minutes and eight power-play points over the past month alone.

Sean Allen is a fantasy baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.

Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He was the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Hockey Writer of the Year. You can tweet him @seanard.

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