With a little more than a month left in the NHL regular season, decisions become tougher and need to be a lot bolder if you want to stay in the running for a fantasy championship. Example: Do you drop Marc Savard?
Diagnosed with a Grade II concussion after being blindsided by Matt Cooke on Sunday, the Boston Bruins' star playmaker will miss -- at a bare minimum -- another week. However, experienced fantasy owners who watched the hit have likely dropped Savard already. Concussions are the trickiest and most unpredictable of injuries, and any timetable is nothing more than an optimistic guess at this point. Remember when David Booth was hit by Mike Richards in October and would be out "a couple of weeks"? Well, a couple of weeks ended up being the entire months of November, December and January. Savard could be back in a little over a week and play in 10-12 more games, but he could just as easily miss the rest of the season. We just don't know.
So in any league with limited bench space and no injured reserve, you have to make a tough decision right now. If you hold on to him for a week before it's revealed he will miss the rest of the season, that could mean upwards of five lost games of production from a replacement player. With only 15 games left for some teams, five games is a lot.
But what if he is OK and comes back in time to play the final 10 games? Certainly 10 games from Savard would be better than 15 from many options on the waiver wire. Yeah, his return is a possibility and it's why the decision isn't easy. It's the type of decision that could go a long way to breaking a close call in your standings, though.
Top 100 forwards
Note: Sean Allen's top 100 forwards are ranked for their expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on, not on the statistics that have already been accrued. ESPN standard stats include goals, assists, power-play goals, shots on goal, plus/minus, penalty minutes and average time on ice. Last week's ranking is indicated in parentheses.
1. Alex Ovechkin, LW, Was (1)
2. Sidney Crosby, C, Pit (2)
3. Dany Heatley, RW, SJ (3)
4. Marian Gaborik, RW, NYR (4)
5. Patrick Marleau, C, SJ (5)
6. Evgeni Malkin, C, Pit (6)
7. Nicklas Backstrom, C, Was (7)
8. Zach Parise, LW, NJ (8)
9. Henrik Sedin, C, Van (9)
10. Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, NJ (10)
11. Mike Richards, C, Phi (11)
12. Steven Stamkos, C, TB (15)
13. Joe Thornton, C, SJ (12)
14. Anze Kopitar, C, LA (13)
15. Daniel Sedin, LW, Van (14)
16. Jarome Iginla, RW, Cgy (17)
17. Corey Perry, RW, Anh (16)
18. Rick Nash, LW, Cls (18)
19. Eric Staal, C, Car (19)
20. Alexander Semin, LW, Was (20)
21. Bobby Ryan, RW, Anh (21)
22. Patrick Kane, RW, Chi (22)
23. Jeff Carter, C, Phi (23)
24. Alex Burrows, C, Van (24)
25. Ryan Getzlaf, C, Anh (25)
26. Jonathan Toews, C, Chi (26)
27. Steve Downie, RW, TB (43)
28. Pavel Datsyuk, C, Det (27)
29. Ryan Kesler, C, Van (28)
30. Marian Hossa, RW, Chi (29)
31. Paul Stastny, C, Col (30)
32. Loui Eriksson, LW, Dal (31)
33. Brad Richards, C, Dal (33)
34. Mikko Koivu, C, Min (34)
35. Henrik Zetterberg, C, Det (35)
36. Brooks Laich, C, Was (36)
37. Martin St. Louis, RW, TB (37)
38. Brenden Morrow, LW, Dal (32)
39. Vincent Lecavalier, C, TB (38)
40. Chris Kunitz, LW, Pit (NR)
41. Ryan Malone, LW, TB (39)
42. Guillaume Latendresse, RW, Min (81)
43. Patrick Sharp, C, Chi (40)
44. Tim Connolly, C, Buf (41)
45. Olli Jokinen, C, NYR (42)
46. Tomas Plekanec, C, Mon (44)
47. Scott Hartnell, RW, Phi (45)
48. Ryan Smyth, LW, LA (46)
49. Chris Stewart, RW, Col (61)
50. Travis Zajac, C, NJ (49)
51. Mike Knuble, RW, Was (50)
52. Shane Doan, RW, Pho (51)
53. Daniel Alfredsson, RW, Ott (52)
54. Mason Raymond, LW, Van (56)
55. Scott Gomez, C, Mon (NR)
56. Bill Guerin, RW, Pit (57)
57. Brian Gionta, RW, Mon (66)
58. Jamie Langenbrunner, RW, NJ (59)
59. Stephen Weiss, C, Fla (60)
60. Patrik Elias, LW, NJ (62)
61. Patric Hornqvist, RW, Nsh (63)
62. Wojtek Wolski, LW, Pho (64)
63. Jason Arnott, C, Nsh (65)
64. David Booth, LW, Fla (NR)
65. Ryane Clowe, RW, SJ (67)
66. Joe Pavelski, C, SJ (68)
67. Paul Kariya, LW, StL (NR)
68. Jason Spezza, C, Ott (70)
69. Andrew Brunette, LW, Min (72)
70. Benoit Pouliot, LW, Mon (NR)
71. Thomas Vanek, LW, Buf (73)
72. Teemu Selanne, RW, Anh (75)
73. Jussi Jokinen, LW, Car (76)
74. David Backes, C, StL (77)
75. Alexei Ponikarovsky, LW, Pit (NR)
76. Simon Gagne, LW, Phi (93)
77. Rene Bourque, LW, Cgy (82)
78. Kris Versteeg, RW, Chi (83)
79. Jason Pominville, RW, Buf (84)
80. Alexei Kovalev, RW, Ott (80)
81. Dustin Brown, RW, LA (86)
82. Nik Antropov, RW, Atl (87)
83. Alexander Steen, LW, StL (NR)
84. Nathan Horton, RW, Fla (54)
85. Ray Whitney, LW, Car (88)
86. Matt Duchene, C, Col (97)
87. Vaclav Prospal, C, NYR (69)
88. Maxim Afinogenov, RW, Atl (89)
89. Troy Brouwer, RW, Chi (90)
90. Mike Ribeiro, C, Dal (91)
91. Martin Havlat, LW, Min (55)
92. Radim Vrbata, RW, Pho (92)
93. Ryan Callahan, RW, NYR (94)
94. Claude Giroux, RW, Phi (NR)
95. Wayne Simmonds, RW, LA (95)
96. Johan Franzen, C, Det (96)
97. Jordan Staal, C, Pit (98)
98. Tomas Fleischmann, RW/C, Was (99)
99. Niclas Bergfors, RW, NJ (NR)
100. Mike Cammalleri, LW, Mon (74)
I plan for the worst when it comes to concussions, so I would drop Savard, but that doesn't mean it's the right decision. I'm certainly no doctor; I'm just speaking from fantasy experience. Whatever decision you make, just make sure you take a stand. As the season winds down, every decision goes under a microscope and every stat counts for a larger percentage of what's left over.
If you are curious, Savard fell off the top 100 this week with news of his concussion. It's also possible that Savard wouldn't have been in the top 100 even if healthy.
Note about top 100
You really have to start remembering that there is only a month left. There are some wild swings up and down the list this week, and it's a product of the number of games left. Remember that this list is "ranked by expected performance in ESPN standard leagues from this point on." Dustin Penner did some great things earlier this season and managed to stay on the list in hopes he could recapture the magic, but with 17 games and the Edmonton Oilers mired in mediocrity, Penner slides right off.
There are many other examples of wild swings this week, and expect them to get crazier as the season "from this point on" gets shorter.
Rising and falling
New recruits (debuting between 40 and 94): Chris Kunitz leads a pack of eight players who make significant debuts on the top 100 this week. I'll use this chance to explain one more time why a guy like Kunitz can jump over 60 spots on the board: It's all about the streaks from here on out. Stringing together 82 solid games is no easy feat -- even 30 is a Herculean effort. But a 15-game outburst? That's pretty doable. Kunitz is back on the ice, healthy, winging Sidney Crosby, and getting power-play time while Bill Guerin is nursing his back. He's been a streaky player in his career, but with only 16 games left for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Kunitz can keep it together. Two-thirds of the Montreal Canadiens' top line -- Scott Gomez and Benoit Pouliot -- make their debuts at 55 and 70, respectively. David Booth, Paul Kariya, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Alexander Steen and Claude Giroux are also back on the list.
Minnesota Wild swings (Havlat down 36; Latendresse up 39): The biggest movers of the week, both up and down, for players already within the top 100 are Minnesota Wild linemates. Guillaume Latendresse would be on a 45-goal scoring pace, had he been playing with the Wild all season (21 goals in 38 games). Meanwhile, Havlat has taken a backseat to Latendresse since coming together on the same line. This is simply a switching of fortunes because Latendresse is the one earning the fantasy accolades with his goals and shots.
• Consider picking up Peter Mueller now that he's with the Colorado Avalanche. Mueller has carried over a point streak from his stint with the Phoenix Coyotes and has three assists in his first two games with the Avalanche. He's playing the second line with Matt Duchene and Ryan Stoa, and he's on the first power-play unit with Duchene, Paul Stastny and Chris Stewart.
• After sticking together as a line for Team Canada during the Olympics, Dany Heatley, Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau have been split up by San Jose Sharks coach Todd McLellan. The player for fantasy owners to target is the discarded Devin Setoguchi, as he returns on a line with Thornton and Heatley, where he played briefly early this season. Setoguchi has a pair of goals in three games back on the top line. Marleau remains almost as valuable as he was with the stacked line, as he's skating with Ryane Clowe and Joe Pavelski.
• Wojtek Wolski has been just as solid with the Phoenix Coyotes as he had been with the Colorado Avalanche. He has two goals and three points in two games since moving at the deadline, including a game winner against his former team the day of the deadline. Wolski is skating with Shane Doan and Matthew Lombardi and should continue to have value.
• The New Jersey Devils didn't swing a deal for a puck-moving defenseman at the deadline (say what you will of Martin Skoula), so why bother using one? The Devils' first power-play unit has consisted of five forwards lately: Ilya Kovalchuk, Jamie Langenbrunner, Zach Parise, Travis Zajac and Brian Rolston.
• The Vancouver Canucks' top power-play unit now consists of Slovakian Olympic hero Pavol Demitra, Mikael Samuelsson and the Sedin twins. Remember, Demitra is playing on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Mason Raymond, while Samuelsson is now getting third-line minutes. Demitra is the one to own.
• Calgary Flames coach Brent Sutter finally changed up his lines to take all the new players into account. Jarome Iginla has found some chemistry with Matt Stajan and Rene Bourque (who was finally separated from Daymond Langkow and Nigel Dawes). The trio make up the first line and the first power-play unit.
Sean Allen is a fantasy analyst for ESPN.com. He is the 2008 and 2009 Fantasy Sports Writers Association, Hockey Writer of the Year. You can e-mail him here