With nine teams playing four games each, it's OK to pump the brakes a little on players from those two-game teams as you set your lineup, especially considering the Flames' off-ice situation.
When it comes to the Flames on-ice performance, there were already questions about the coaching late last week as the Flames were still mired in a six-game losing streak that included being shutout three times.
Here are the combined statistics of Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan and Elias Lindholm in nine games played since Nov. 9: four goals, five assists and a minus-31 rating. That's embarrassing for a top line.
With the Flames announcing power-play coach Geoff Ward will be the interim head coach, replacing Bill Peters, what would the new coach do with the lines? It's not like there is a lot of wiggle room here for how to construct this depth chart. At most, you can consider sliding Matthew Tkachuk up to spark the top line, but that alone can't pull the team out of a tailspin.
Splitting up Gaudreau and Monahan doesn't make much sense based on last season. Gaudreau and Monahan were one of very few duos to play more than 1,000 minutes together at even strength last season. They also are one of the very few duos (maybe the only one, it's not an easy stat to dig up) to each have double-digit primary assists for the other at even strength. Even Mikko Rantanen and Nathan MacKinnon, Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, and Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point can't claim that from last season. This Flames pair is easily among the top duos in the game based on last season.
They just have to find a way out of the dumps.
The Flames are much more talented than what they've shown, with Gaudreau, Monahan, Lindholm, Tkachuk and Mark Giordano all posting top-60 fantasy hockey value last season. We know they can get the job done. It's just a matter of deciding whether or not you see a way out of this situation that results in on-ice improvements.
Tkachuk has been the one Flame returning value this season for fantasy. All his numbers are on pace to match last season except for his power-play goals - which could still bounce back easily enough.
But should you explore buying Gaudreau, Monahan or Lindholm? Shooting percentage screams a big "yes" to that answer for Gaudreau and Monahan. A massive dip in shooting percentage for a player doesn't guarantee positive regression to come, but it does tell you the player is still getting opportunity and just not capitalizing on it. Gaudreau's five goals on 76 shots is a 6.6 shooting percentage. His career average is 12.4 percent and he was at 14.7 percent last season. Monahan's six goals on 67 shots is 9.0 percent. His career average is 14.7 percent and he was at 16.1 last season.
So long as this team gets its collective head on straight off the ice, I think Gaudreau and Monahan are both buy-low candidates. That mindset can be extended to Lindholm, but I think the swing won't be as impactful since Lindholm is scoring just fine (12 goals on 69 shots). A turnaround for Lindholm would mean more assists and a better plus/minus, which is less dramatic than what we could see from Gaudreau and Monahan.
And what of Giordano? I can't say I was a huge fan for fantasy coming into the season, as I generally don't love paying for career-years that come after a player turns 35. Still, there is going to be some value here as the Flames haven't shown much interest in promoting someone else up the depth chart for the power play. Noah Hanifin is at the perfect point in his development to take on additional offensive responsibilities. He's the first place I'm looking for in fantasy, with Ward in place for now.
Fantasy Forecaster: Dec. 2 to Dec. 8
The four-game teams this week include the Arizona Coyotes, Buffalo Sabres, Chicago Blackhawks, Los Angeles Kings, New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, San Jose Sharks and Vegas Golden Knights.
Monday, Wednesday and Sunday are the days with lighter schedules next week, which singles out the Knights as the first place to look for leagues with daily roster moves. Nate Schmidt and Alex Tuch are two options worth considering, as they are getting token power-play time, but are at least available in many leagues.
For those new to the forecaster chart, here are some explanations: "O" (offense), which is on the left for each game, and "D" (defense), on the right, matchup ratings are based upon a scale from 1 (poor matchup) to 10 (excellent matchup) and are calculated using a formula that evaluates the team's season-to-date statistics, their performance in home/road games depending on where the game is to be played, as well as their opponents' numbers in those categories. The "Ratings" column lists the cumulative rating from 1 to 10 of that week's offensive ("O") and defensive ("D") matchups.
In the notes below, the focus every week will be mainly on players that are available for potential use. Ownership below 50 percent of ESPN leagues is a good generalized cutoff. I'll try to also include players below 10 percent ownership whenever possible to cater to deeper formats.
Colorado Avalanche: Can someone check in on the training staff here and make sure they are OK? Andre Burakovsky was just starting to make us kinda forget about Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog being out of the lineup without timetables, when he joined them on the sidelines this week. But wait, what's this? Rantanen is expected back this weekend? Well isn't that joyous news from a clubhouse that can't seem to pinpoint the severity or extent of any injury. So, one of fantasy hockey's best players will rejoin the Avalanche lineup on the weekend, which means get your shares of Rantanen activated immediately. Last we heard about Landeskog is that he was in a walking boot one day this week and then skating again the next, so who knows what the situation is with the captain. And, of course, there are no specifics for Burakovsky; he's just out with an upper-body injury.
The Avs play the Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens and Boston Bruins, so its not the best schedule ever, but there should still be plenty of scoring. If Burakovsky is back, make sure he's active in your lineup. If he's not back, it likely means Joonas Donskoi should get some run with MacKinnon and Landeskog.
Buffalo Sabres: Rasmus Ristolainen is getting some power-play time while Rasmus Dahlin is sidelined with a concussion, but the more intriguing play might be Brandon Montour. He started the season late due to an injury, but he puts more pucks on the net than the other Sabres defenders. In 11 games, he's taken 28 shots while playing only 18:28 per game. He should be the team's shot leader on the blue line at this pace and an extended absence by Dahlin probably means trying Montour on the top power play eventually.
Meantime, after a brief slump following a hot start, Victor Olofsson has settled into a more consistent pace. He has no multi-point games in November, but has managed a point in nine of 12 contests as his role with Jack Eichel has been steady. He's available in about one-third of leagues.
Charlie Coyle, C, Boston Bruins: The way the Bruins are approaching a lower-body injury with Patrice Bergeron is cause for some concern. He missed two games, played two games and has now missed two games with a suggestion he could be missing more. Obviously a stud when healthy, if this is a groin issue for the 34-year-old, it could linger. Coyle, just inked to an extension, played the most-recent game between Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak - which is a different look than usual. It was David Krejci filling in on the top line for the 8-1 explosion against Montreal, but using Coyle here keeps the Bruins second line intact, so it could be something we see again. Given the questions surrounding Bergeron's health and the potential for Coyle on this top line, I think it's worth being proactive here ... just in case.
Kirby Dach, C, Chicago Blackhawks: Patrick Kane's line has been one of the hottest in the league lately and a job has just opened up. Dylan Strome missed Wednesday's game with a concussion and Dach stepped up to play with Kane and Alex DeBrincat. The 18-year-old Dach has one hot stretch to his resume so far in his rookie campaign, potting seven points in a five-game stretch earlier this month. He's worth keeping an eye on heading into next week if Strome is out for any amount of time.
Sam Gagner has been filling in for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins on the Edmonton Oilers top power-play unit. There hasn't been anything to show for it yet, but when you hit the ice with Draisaitl and McDavid, the sky is the limit.
Lars Eller has been showing quite well with Nicklas Backstrom out of the lineup. His ice time has spiked to close to 20 minutes per game and he has points in two of three that he's played in the top six.
There was a reason we brought Bryan Rust into the top-250 fantasy rankings on Monday. With Sidney Crosby out, Jake Guentzel and Evgeni Malkin are the Pittsburgh Penguins power couple and Rust is there as a beneficiary. Four-point nights like Wednesday are on the table thanks to his top-line role.