With the 2011 NHL trade deadline approaching quickly, many fantasy GMs run into their own dilemmas at their deadline, especially if it’s a deep keeper league. Is it time to sell the veterans for some youth? Is it better to move a few young pieces and bring in that proven veteran with a few years left in hopes of winning a league title? What type of player should I be investing in? While these might sound like relatively easy decisions, most will concur they are not.
In the “new” NHL, there’s been a huge increase of valuation in young players, both in the NHL and fantasy hockey. We’ve all been victim of the game. We see a kid tear up every league as he makes his way to the show, only to display flurries of dominance, instead of the pure dominance we expected and hoped for. This feeling will more often than not prevent us from trading that player and we often times expect the same out of the NHL GM who owns the rights to this kid. Many times, that’s actually not the case though.
Just for fun, I decided to analyze rookie scoring since 2006-07. I wanted to look at all seasons since the lockout, but had trouble locating this data for the 05-06 season. In most seasons, I looked at the top 10 scorers, though in three seasons, I took the top 11. Of the 53 players who met this criteria, 14 (26%) have been “traded.” Just to clear up my data, I broadened the definition of “trade” to include leaving current contract and going to Europe (Alexander Radulov) and I only counted one trade per player.
In the rookie season, success is tricky to gauge. Many times there is a combination of adrenaline and surprise (for opposing players) that leads to successful campaigns. The sophomore slump is often attributed to the rest of the league becoming acclimated to the player and learning how to defend, in addition to key minutes and opportunities becoming scarcer for the sophomore. As the player continues to develop, he’ll either cement himself into a specific role on the team, struggle to do so constantly until he’s finally moved, or allow another player to bring the same attributes he is to the table. Essentially, he turns into a huge part of the team (i.e. Travis Zajac, Anze Kopitar) or he meets one of the latter two criteria listed above.
Take Wojtek Wolski for example. Wolski burst on to the scene in Colorado with extremely high hopes and finished fourth in rookie scoring in 2006-07 (50 in 76 games). He struggled the next two seasons to take the next step with Stastny, Hejduk, Sakic, Smyth, and others cutting into key minutes. By year four, the Avs were ready to move on, trading Wolski to Phoenix.