Looking Back…at May, 2004 Top Players
Looking back to May of 2004 and Martin St.Louis as the most valuable asset in fantasy hockey
St. Louis must feel a lot like Rodney Dangerfield these days, no matter what he does he 'can't get no respect.' Despite coming off of an Art Ross winning season at the age of 37 and producing near or above a point per game the last 11 years there are still those in the fantasy world who are unsure about him.
Since the Stamkos injury last week there has been a lot of talk on twitter centered around the value of St.Louis. How will his point totals be affected without Stamkos? Can the Bolts' power play continue to be 16th in the league? How will he respond to being the focal point of opposition schemes?
I've owned St.Louis at a number of different junctures of his career and as a result have learned that he is quite possibly the most consistent player around. Yes, he is 38 years old and at some point father time will force him to either slow down or retire. However, that doesn't appear to be this season and perhaps not next year either.
Will the loss of Stamkos hurt the Lightning and their chances of making the playoffs? Of course it will. He is a sublime talent and there is no way to spin his loss into anything but a colossal hole for Tampa to fill. That said, an individual's fantasy hockey value can stray significantly from the worth of a team in the NHL standings – Marty St.Louis is such a case.
In this week's post I wanted to dig back through the rankings and examine St.Louis in the year 2004. At this time Stamkos was only a teenager, while he had firmly established himself as one of the pre-eminent fantasy assets in any draft. At the time there was speculation that Vincent Lecavalier was the driving force behind St.Louis' success, a strong, soft-handed centerman who was helping buoy Marty's numbers. Now, watching the much younger Lecavalier fade into a supporting role we're left to wonder if St.Louis' greatness was underappreciated, if he was in fact the true offensive catalyst on Tampa Bay's 2004 championship team.
Coming into 2013-14 he had surpassed 90 points (pro-rated over 82 games) in three of the previous four seasons. Through this year he has amassed 20 points through the first 20 games and looks likely to challenge the 90 point plateau again.
Way back in May of 2004 as the NHL plunged towards a full season lockout St.Louis had just put together a 38-goal, 94-point, 212-shot season and was considered a virtual coin flip with Ilya Kovalchuk for the number one spot.
|2||TB||St. Louis, Martin|
I'll expand more on St.Louis below, but first let's look at some of the other notable players from that year…
9. Jagr, Jaromir
14. Iginla, Jarome
27. Marleau, Patrick
Jagr had just posted his third consecutive season in the 70s – questions were being asked about his long term value and whether he was still a top 10 player. I have to give a lot of credit to Dobber for keeping him at number nine, as Jaromir would rebound with a 123-point, 368-shot campaign in 2005-06 followed by 96 points the following year. Great value for a guy you might have scooped at the end of the first round.
Patrick Marleau had yet to establish himself in 2004, but had posted back-to-back 28 goal, 57 point seasons between 2002 and 2004. His production vastly improved after the lockout, jumping to 34 goals and 86 points. It's funny how that year came to shape a lot of his career thereafter. Fantasy owners have long compared his production to that of a point per game player, which he is not, at least not consistently. Today, at age 34, he has settled into the 60 point range with very strong peripherals playing in San Jose – still a valuable commodity in your pool.
136. Vrbata, Radim
175. Williams, Justin
180. Chara, Zdeno
Part of me is a bit saddened by Vrbata's emergence the past three or so seasons, he is no longer the best kept secret in the NHL. Way back in 2004 he was a long shot to even stay in the league, drafted in the seventh round (212th) by the Colorado Avalanche. He would end up bouncing around a number of teams during the 2000s before eventually landing with the Coyotes full time. He has quietly turned himself into what appears to be a reliable 60 point producer with north of 240 shots. I generally shy away from late bloomers, guys don't develop until their early 30s, but Radim is a rare exception to the rule.
In 2004 Williams' career high for points was 40, while playing for Philadelphia in 2001-02. That changed quickly after the lockout when he shocked poolies and ended with 76 points and 255 shots on net. Where his career arc really got interesting was the four seasons between 2007 and 2010, where he was injured almost as often as he was healthy. He became a prototypical 'bad-aid boy' and has been discarded in a number of pools. Amazingly, he's been a model of near perfect health the past three seasons and is once again a top 75 option in most formats.
Back to St.Louis…
The one discouraging trend with Marty the past few seasons has been his declining shot totals. During his peak seasons he could reliably be counted on for between 240 and 260. However, with his advancing years those totals have seen a dip – 185 and 191 (pro-rated over 82 games).
This is not uncommon with star players when they age; it becomes increasingly difficult to get to the prime shooting areas of the ice and they take on a more secondary role within the offence. With St.Louis it is likely a bit of both, he's now 38 years old and is playing on a line with the game's premier scorer, meaning a number of his shot attempts are deferred.
Therein lies the silver lining for his fantasy mangers over the next three or four months. With Stamkos sidelined St.Louis will be forced to take on an even greater role at even strength and on the power play.
Through 20 games he has fired 46 pucks on net (2.3 per game), which equates to 188 over a full season, in line with his career trajectory. I am hoping that these numbers will trend up over the coming 30 games, moving closer to three shots per game.
Ultimately what this week's rankings remind us is that St.Louis is a far cry from the Matt Moulson and Chris Kunitz's of fantasy hockey, in many ways he actually makes star players better. The combination of his recent success and an increased role in Tampa's offence has me believing that his output will remain consistent even without #91 down the middle.
Darren is a fantasy hockey writer for DobberHockey. You can follow him @FantasyHockeyDK
Recent Rankings Rewind:
|Fantasy Hockey Player Rankings – April, 2004|
|Looking Back…at December, 2002 Top Players|
|Looking Back…at April, 2003 Top Players|
|Looking Back…at April, 2010 Top Prospects|
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