This week we look back to February 2004 and a more Datsyukian time
I find that I focus a lot of my fantasy hockey prognosticating on younger players. It seems to be one of the more enjoyable aspects of being a poolie. Hunting the "next big thing", trying to weed through line combinations and scouting reports to understand just how good Ryan Johansen is, or whether or not Kucherov will last long term for Tampa.
With all this time spent on the future, I sometimes overlook the importance of reviewing current stars. I'll expect players like Thornton, Datsyuk, Iginla, or Marleau to produce at their usual clip, ending with decent point totals and strong peripherals. Of course at some point the music has to stop for even the most consistent of producers – as my friend likes to remind me – father time remains undefeated with a record of (insert any number) to 0. The guy must have a mean right hook, or be a southpaw, or something.
The decline of existing fantasy stars is a tough thing to monitor. In some cases a player can legitimately have a down season (new line mates, new system, nagging injury, poor shooting percentage, bad luck…etc) in other cases poor production can signal diminishing physical skills – which is when we start to worry. Of course deciding between the two is difficult. Raise your hand if you thought Teemu Selanne was close to done after 2004 with 32 points in 78 games for Colorado? (I was convinced his days as an elite option were likely over).
This all brings me to the interesting case of Pavel Datsyuk. In addition to being an absolute joy to watch (is there a better pair of hands in sport?) he has also established himself as one the most consistent fantasy options over the past decade. His most impressive run came between 2006 and 2009 when he finished with point totals of 87, 87, 97, 97 and never shot less than 200 times. Since that time he's regularly considered among the top 10-15 forward options on many draft boards.
The question is, should he be today? Or is this a case of some residual value carrying over for a star player?
To get an idea of just how long Datsyuk has been at the forefront of the hockey world I wanted to look back to Dobber's rankings in February of 2004 (image below). At this time the wings center was just breaking into the NHL, but had already established himself as the 15th most valuable skater.