Top 10 Fantasy-Related Stories of 2019-20
Every few days, it feels as if there is a new plan on how the NHL is going to continue its season.
The latest rumours have the NHL having its season continue in four cities. However, you can put me in the camp of this season being wiped out. I don't think we will see the season back in any kind of normalcy. The Islanders and Hurricanes both had 14 games left when the season was suspended, and nine other teams had 13 games. That's a lot of make-up games.
If the season does come back, there's probably a truncated finish to the regular season. Which means your regular-season fantasy leagues are probably done with. Now's a good time to look back at the season that was and what were some of the top stories that impacted your fantasy season.
For the record, we're only looking at things that impacted fantasy leagues. While David Ayres defeating the Leafs was a great story, it had no impact on fantasy.
10. Jimmy Howard's awful season
Sometimes, a fantasy general manager will take a chance on a netminder on a bad team hoping to get starts, saves, or even the occasional win if the team surprises. That's one of the reasons why Howard was drafted in 29 per cent of Yahoo leagues last fall. He picked up a win on opening night, and then things went downhill from there. He finished with a 2-23-2 record to go along with a .882 SV % and 4.20 GAA. Even more notable, he went winless in 20 straight games. He is the first netminder since Craig Billington in 1993-94 (with the second-year expansion Senators) to have a season with at least 20 losses, fewer than five wins, a goals against average above 4 and a save percentage below .900.
FamSSJR tweeted this stat to Dobber back on Feb. 17, and it's been mentioned a few times on the site since then, but at the time, Tkachuk was on pace to be the NHL's first-ever 300 shot/300 hit player (although the NHL didn't start keeping tracking of hits until 2005-06 season, so it may have unofficially happened before then). When the league was suspended on March 12, Tkachuk had 303 hits and was on pace for 299 shots. Don't forget that he also had 106 PIM. He's a must-own in banger leagues, and once his offense starts to flourish, you'll be looking at a guarantee first-round pick in leagues with peripherals.
8. The Sharks sink
The Sharks have always been a sought-after squad, but this season you were better off letting someone else waste their picks on the California team. In one of my Yahoo pools, eight Sharks went in the first nine rounds, easily the highest amount of any team, and Evander Kane is the only one who lived up to his billing. First-round pick Brent Burns and second-round pick Erik Karlsson didn't live up to their draft spots. Martin Jones was one of the worst goalies in fantasy and started losing starts to someone who was posting similar numbers. Timo Meier took a big step back in points but still contributed for shots and hits (although he also had an ugly plus/minus). Logan Couture and Tomas Hertl both dropped off in points-per-game pace while battling injuries. And Kevin Labanc taught us to never bet on yourself by signing a short-term, small-money deal.
7. Draisaitl's dominance
So much has been written about Draisaitl's season that there's not much left to say. It felt as the Hart trophy was his to lose by the time the season was suspended, he was leading the league in points by 13 and was in contention for the Richard trophy. His 44 power-play points led the league, and he and Connor McDavid were both on pace to score 50 power-play points. That would have been the first time a player reached 50 in more than a decade, and they would have been the first teammates to reach that mark in the same season since 2005-06 when Ilya Kovalchuk and Marc Savard both reached that mark.
6. Rookie defensemen
It was a great season for rookie defensemen. Quinn Hughes and Cale Makar both hit 50 points. Hughes had a chance to reach 30 power-play points, and would have been the 12th rookie defenseman to do so and the fourth in the last 30 years. Rookie Adam Fox had 42 points, which made this season the first time since 1992-93 that three rookie dmen posted 40 points in the same season.
5. The fall of the veteran defensemen
This past year saw many of the younger players outperform their more veteran counterparts. Brent Burns, P.K. Subban, Erik Karlsson, Mark Giordano, Morgan Rielly and John Klingberg all underperformed. Dustin Byfuglien was taken as the seventh defensemen in many leagues and didn't play a game. Those seven players were among the top 13 taken on average on Yahoo pools. Throw in other underperformers such as Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Jacob Trouba, Matt Dumba, Shayne Gostisbehere and Erik Gustafsson, and you have a year where it didn't make sense to overvalue defensemen.
4. Veteran netminders losing the crease
It was also not a good season to be a veteran netminder. Braden Holtby, Pekka Rinne, Devan Dubnyk, Matt Murray and Henrik Lundqvist all struggled and lost their number one jobs to much younger options for part of the season (Lundqvist, Rinne and possibly Holtby might never get it back). Sergei Bobrovsky was a huge disappointment in Florida after signing that massive contract last summer. Carey Price, Marc-Andre Fleury and Frederik Andersen had similar, but subpar, numbers. Martin Jones was awful as he didn't have the wins to prop up his shortcomings in other categories. Cory Schneider was sent to the AHL after he struggled in October. With netminders no longer starting 65-plus games a season, it's more important than ever to ensure you draft top netminders.
3. Race for the Rocket
This season was shaping up to be one of the best Rocket Richard races we've ever seen. When the season was suspended, Alex Ovechkin and David Pastrnak each had 48 goals, while Auston Matthews had 47. Leon Draisaitl netted 43, and Mika Zibanejad had 41 in only 57 games. My money was on Ovechkin (he had a game in hand and seems to thrive on these kinds of races), but there was a very real possibility we could have seen five 50-goal scorers in the same season. We haven't had that many in a single season since 2005-06.
2. Injuries to top players
I'm not sure if there's ever been a season where saw so many top players miss so much time. Pittsburgh alone injuries to all their key players: Sidney Crosby missed 28 games, Evgeni Malkin missed 14, Kris Letang was knocked out for eight, Patric Hornqvist missed 17, Justin Schultz missed 23 and Jake Guentzel was out for 30. Aside from Pittsburgh, we also saw missed time from Mikko Rantanen, Connor McDavid, Morgan Rielly, Dougie Hamilton, Vladimir Tarasenko, Erik Karlsson, Mika Zibanejad, Mitch Marner, Steven Stamkos, John Tavares, Cale Makar, Logan Couture and a host of others.
At of any top 10 I've ever done, there's never been an easier number one choice. I already talked a little bit about it at the start of the column, but this obviously had had the biggest fantasy impact since the lockouts. You could argue COVID-19 had more of an impact since we were prepared for the work stoppages, and this was more of a shock. This impacted every fantasy league, with some leagues already deciding to shut down for the season instead of waiting to see what the NHL will do. This will also impact leagues next year, especially if there are late playoffs that go into the fall to be followed by an 82-game season.
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