Nothing could be more crippling to your fantasy hockey championship hopes than losing an elite defenseman to long-term injury. Those type of players are simply irreplacable, because chances are quite remote that players of comparable fantasy value are available off the waiver wire. This dilemma is way more magnified during this lockout-shortened season, since there simply isn't much time to get your stud blueliner back in the lineup. In the wake of season-ending injuries to Erik Karlsson and ones of the ambiguos week-to-week variety like the shoulder injury that has shelved Tobias Enstrom indefinitely, their respective owners need to act fast. The following are strategies aimed to help owners cope with such a difficult situation.
1. Scour the waiver wire: Your first move is to check which defensemen are available on the wire. While chances are that you won't be able to find any consistent 40+ point d-men ready for the taking, sometimes extenuating circumstances provide us with unseen opportunities. For example, a few days ago, one owner in one of my fantasy leagues accidentally stumbled on to Lubomir Visnovsky, who was dropped at the beginning of the season. Since there was a time when the veteran was contemplating staying in Russia, his free-agent availability went mostly undetected. Getting players of this caliber off the waiver wire is highly unlikely, but for those who have lost an elite defenseman, this the first place to look because you never know.
2. Check the same team: Your next move would be to assess the situation on the team that the defenseman belongs to and whether someone can step up and score at a comparable point-per-game pace. In the case of Karlsson, veteran Sergei Gonchar is the slam-dunk choice to quarterback the Ottawa top power-play unit, and considering his past track record, he would make a great addition to your squad. However, since a player of Gonchar's offensive ability is usually not readily available, you have to explore other options, such as Ottawa rookie Patrick Wiercoch, who has some decent fill-in fantasy value. While Wiercoch has minimal value at the moment, if anything happens to the oft-injured Gonchar, then the 22-year old could be thrust into a more prominent role on the man-advantage. In other words, he is worth stashing away on your bench. In the case of Tobias Enstrom, substitute options such as Zach Bogosian and Paul Postma are available in a large percentage of leagues, simply because they are mostly unknown commodities. However, by doing your homework, you would know that Bogosian did fill in admirably last season for an injured Enstrom and scored most of his 30 points during his absence.The bottom line- whichever defenseman ends up on the top unit alongside Dustin Byfuglien, could be worth starting.
3. Exploring trade options: Another weapon at your disposal would be to identify which position is your strongest and trade from your surplus to fill this position of need. Obviously by now, all of your league owners are well aware that you are in this predicament, so it will not be easy to pull off a lop-sided trade in your favor. However, a smart move would be to target "buy-low" candidates that have 40+ potential, but could be had for cheap because of slow starts. If anyone of these defensemen turn their season around, then you could have offset most, if not all of the lost point production from your injured stud. D-men such Shea Weber, Dion Phaneuf, and Drew Doughty could be excellent trade targets considering their career scoring norms.
These are just a few strategies to utilize when losing your top defenseman to a long-term injury. My best advice is if you find yourself in such a scenario, do not give up. Look for any opportunity to add a player that could minimize such a loss and hope that your areas of strength- whether your forwards or your goaltending- can overcompensate any deficiences on your blueline.