Drop the Gloves: Fantasy Enforcer Update
In our Drop the Gloves column we shed the oven mitts, pull the jersey over your head, and pummel you with analysis of the NHL's top enforcers from a fantasy perspective. We also bestow the Fantasy Hockey Standard title belt on the league's top goon, check in on the current contenders for the title, and offer some thoughts and notes on the best of the rest.
Yahoo! and rotisserie leagues regularly reward penalty minutes among the mix of stats, and this column will be useful for finding "pinch hitters" who can provide a boost to your PIM total, but more and more leagues are beginning to set aside a specialized enforcer spot with a separate scoring system just for fighters, and that's where we'll focus our attention.
In classic points-based leagues, we recommend 2 pts/fight and .25/PIM, with nothing for goals or assists. This system allows enforcers to score a reasonable amount of points compared to skaters and goalies, while mirroring the unique and specialized role they play in the NHL. It also ensures that owners are forced to draft one the league's true goons to the position, and not a scorer that happens to take a decent amount of penalties.
1. Zenon Konopka MIN - Konopka retains the title belt early in 2013 based on his body of work the last several years - averaged 25 fights over his last three campaigns, and was the only NHL player to top 300 PIMs in a season over that stretch - but his hold on the top spot is shaky. He's fought twice (12 PIMs) through five games, which is a decent, but considering his statistical dominance in the recent past, fantasy owners are expecting more. The good news is that Konopka is dressing for every game in Minnesota, something that couldn't be said at the end of his tenure in Ottawa last season. Time will tell just how willing the Wild are to let Konopka run Wild (see what we did there?), but if they let him out of the cage each night, he remains the league's most willing combatant.
2. Jared Boll CLB - Boll is the biggest threat to knock Konopka from the top perch, leading the league with four fights (20 PIMs) through five starts. He fought 18 times last season, in spite of only suiting up for 54 games (thanks to a broken foot). Prior to that, he posted four consecutive seasons with 20+ fighting majors. Konopka will have to get busy, otherwise Boll will be sporting the strap by next week.
3. Brandon Prust MTL - Prust was our fifth ranked enforcer coming into 2013, but he moves up thanks to an injury to #3 Zac Rinaldo, and the fact that #2 Derek Dorsett has relinquished his job to Boll as the Blue Jackets' main policeman. Prust has two fights (20 PIMs) thus far with the Habs, and his ability to stay in the lineup assures he'll remain a top fantasy enforcer throughout the season.
4. Colton Orr TOR - Three fights, 15 PIMs, and climbing the rankings. Has a history of injuries and a lot of wear and tear, but if he can keep himself in one piece, he'll be productive.
5. Derek Dorsett CLB - Dorsett led the league in PIMs last season (235), but with Boll healthy, he won't need to answer the bell as often this year. That said, in spite of only one fight so far, he's still mixed it up to the tune of 21 penalty minutes.
6. Shawn Thornton BOS - Last season's leader in fights has just one so far in 2013, but he made the most of it by drawing a misconduct. There's bound to be more where that came from...
7. Richard Clune NAS - Already racked up three fights and 19 PIMs through five games, but his roster spot with the Preds is no guarantee going forward. Registered three consecutive seasons in the AHL with 20+ fights, and he could be a good pick-up for the short-term... maybe longer.
8. Brandon Bollig CHI - Love this guy, he's a beast - 2 fights, 12 PIMs, 3 starts. Problem is, he doesn't see the ice every night, and he could easily be sent down any time. When in the lineup, he takes on all comers - 8 fights in 18 starts last season.
9. Matt Hendricks WAS - One of only four players to notch three fights so far (19 PIMs), but he's unlikely to maintain the pace. He's never had more than 14 fights in a season, and the Caps rely on him for much more than just his fists.
10. B.J. Crombeen TB - Two fights and 18 PIMs in his first five games in Tampa Bay.
David Clarkson NJ - Clarkson drops the gloves on occasion - averaged 10 fights the last three seasons - but he's an excellent all-around hockey player. If you're in a Yahoo! league, he already has 6 points in 4 starts, including 3 on the power-play, and he's also fought once.
Kyle Clifford LA - Clifford has been a huge disappointment thus far (oh... unless you factor in that he leads the Kings in points, with 5). Seriously though, what the...? If you drafted him as an enforcer, you'd no doubt like to see him use his hands for a little more punching and a little less scoring.
Zac Rinaldo PHI - Rinaldo will almost surely find his way back into the top 10, but he suffered a serious cut to his leg and is currently out of commission. Even so, he's ahead of schedule and could return as soon as tonight, meaning he'll be throwing bombs again before we know it.
Ryan Clowe SJ - Clowe won't be challenging for the title belt this season, but you're looking at the NHL's current leader in penalty minutes (37). He doesn't fight enough to make it as an enforcer, but he's certainly a rare asset in roto-leagues.
That's it for now, but be sure to check in through the season for more on the top fantasy enforcers. We'll send you off with our Blades of Steel Fight of the Week (you know you loved that game)!
Aaron Volpatti vs. Matt Beleskey