- Cage Match
- Written by Rick Roos
Your votes will decide which of these 32 NHLers wears the crown of most frustrating fantasy hockey player!
It’s that time again loyal readers – yup, welcome to another Cage Match Tournament!! Late last year your votes crowned David Backes the best multi-cat player in the NHL after a hard fought battle that saw him emerge victorious over many heavyweights (and I use that term both figuratively and – for finalist Dustin Byfuglien – quite literally).
Once again it’ll be up to you to determine the “winner” of this tournament. Oh, and the reason I put “winner” in quotes is because the victor might not want to wear his crown with honor, since you’ll be selecting……....THE MOST FRUSTRATING PLAYER TO OWN IN ALL OF FANTASY HOCKEY!
Before we get to the players you’ll be voting on (32 total, broken into four brackets), I’ll first go over player and bracket selection and how voting will work.
Player Selection and the Four Brackets
The first two brackets - one for goalies and another for band-aid boys - were “no brainers” since both are among the greatest sources of frustration in fantasy hockey. The third bracket is for “what have you done for me lately” guys -- players who last achieved significant success two or more seasons ago, yet still tease you into thinking they can match (if not go beyond) that success in the coming season. The final bracket is a wild card -- a “rest of the worst” comprised of players who don’t quite fit into one of the other brackets but still, sadly for them, definitely deserve to be in the mix.
All 32 players are on fantasy radars as of today – that is, you won’t see a guy who’s surely frustrating but only puts up 15 points per year, nor will you see a 23 year old who’s frustrating because so far he’s failed to deliver on expectations. Also, I didn’t include players who most would agree have gone beyond frustrating and are just plain bad (cough cough...Dany Heatley...cough cough). And only those who’ll be age 35 or younger by 12/31/14 were included to account for those in keeper leagues. Lastly, since playoff stats generally don’t count in pools, you won’t see the likes of Marc-Andre Fleury in the mix.
The key is each of these 32 guys is someone where one side of your brain is screaming at you to stay away yet the other side is trying to convince you that he might actually help your team.
How Voting Will Work
Unlike how I organized the multi-cat player tournament, this time I’m not matching players one on one against each other via seeding within their brackets. Instead, you’ll vote for one player in each of the four brackets, with the top two vote totals from each bracket advancing to round two (i.e., the quarterfinals), where they’ll face each other next week in four separate matches.
Then in two weeks, we’ll have the champions from each bracket facing off in the semifinals, with the highest vote getter from the quarterfinals facing the lowest vote getter, and the two middle vote getters doing battle. Then finally we’ll have the championship in three weeks, where the last two left standing will compete to “win” the title of fantasy hockey’s most frustrating player!
Per Dobber, all voting will take place in the General Hockey Chat area of DobberHockey Forums. I’ll put a direct link to vote for each bracket after the list of players in that particular bracket. One last thing – for added objectivity in voting, I’ll alphabetically list the players (by last name) here and in the voting areas.
Bracket #1 – Goalies
Craig Anderson – He put up unmatched numbers for 18 and 24 game stretches in two of the past four seasons. The problem is he’s either been terrible or injured the rest of the time.
Jaroslav Halak – He’s never been subpar long enough to be considered below average, but he’s also never been great enough to be labelled as elite. He’ll be getting what seems like his zillionth fresh start in 2014-15, this time with the Islanders. Will he finally end his frustrations, not to mention ours?
Jimmy Howard – He had a stretch of three out of four season with a.920 or greater SV%. Then Niklas Lidstrom retired. So is Howard now the NHL’s worst really good goalie, or its best mediocre goalie?
Roberto Luongo – First it was his notoriously slow starts, tendency to lose shutouts in the last minute of a game, and ill-timed injuries. Then came his years of awkward coexistence with Cory Schneider. Now he’s back in Florida to live the déjà vu of 40+ shots per game and a rebuilding team in front of him.
Steve Mason –After owners who stuck with him for years had likely finally given up, he goes out and resurrects his career. Beyond that, the unknown also can be frustrating; and Mason could literally win 40 games this season or just as easily lay an egg like he did as a sophomore for Columbus.
Pekka Rinne – He’ll likely come to camp healthy this season, but you have to wonder if he’s now going to have ongoing band-aid boy issues. Plus, his GAA went up and his SV% went down in two straight seasons after 2010-11, which is frustrating, especially if it continues.
Cory Schneider – Why’s he here? How about the fact that he’s still never officially been a true #1 goalie in the NHL? To me, that’s frustrating, as is his head-scratching inability to win shootouts.
Cam Ward – Most everything about Rinne applies to Ward, except his GAA and SV% slide now stands at three straight seasons. And unlike Rinne, Ward also has Anton Khudobin breathing down his neck.
Bracket #2 – Band-Aid Boys
Martin Hanzal – Every year Hanzal seems to play better, contributing a valuable combination of hits and points. The problem is that in his last three full seasons, his games played total has been between 61 and 65. Time for Hanzal to get back to hitting players, instead of the IR list.
Ales Hemsky – Here’s a pop quiz. What was the last season when the first letter of the number of games Hemsky played wasn’t a “t” (as in 20s or 30s) or an “f” (as in 40s or 50s) or an “s”(as in 60s or 70s)? Give up? Try 2005-06, which remains the only season where he played 80+ games.
Nathan Horton – He’s worn three different uniforms in his last nine NHL seasons, although “worn” might not be the best word since he missed 10+ games three times for the Panthers (15+ twice) and, even worse, 35+ games in a season for each of the Bruins and the Blue Jackets.
Kris Letang – I feel bad including him after he dealt with a stroke last season. But the sad truth is, with just one previous 74+ game season he would’ve been here even if he’d stayed healthy for all of 2013-14.
Joffrey Lupul – After posting point per game stats in 2011-12, he proceeded to score 23 fewer points in just three fewer games during 2013-14. But first and foremost Lupul is a band-aid boy, with four seasons of 25+ missed games and, since 2008-09, no season of even 70+ games played.
Jeff Skinner – As a rookie, Skinner played in all 82 games and won the Calder Trophy. His award winning skills have been very much on display ever since, but not often enough, what with an average of 11+ games missed in his three seasons since his inaugural campaign.
Jason Spezza – Maybe the warmer weather of Dallas will help Spezza stay healthy, or at least more so than 15+ games missed in five of his ten full seasons, and 20+ missed in three of his past five.
Alex Steen – What’s not to love about the success story that is Alex Steen? Here’s something - how about a Hemsky-like streak of no 80+ game seasons since 2006-07?
Bracket #3 – The “What Have You Done for Me Lately” Guys
As noted above, I limited this to players who most still consider fantasy worthy. That means you won’t see Todd Bertuzzi, Brian Gionta, or Scott Gomez here, although each had that one amazing season that hasn’t come close to being duplicated. And you also won’t see the likes of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin Havlat, or Brad Richards, even though – believe it or not – each finished in the top 25 in scoring at least once in the last six full NHL seasons, since most agree that each is unlikely to reach anything close to his prior level of output again, whereas for one reason or another I think you can more realistically envision that happening for the eight guys listed below.
Jeff Carter – You need to look past the point per game stats that Carter posted in the 2013-14 playoffs and focus instead on a high of just 66 points since he tallied 84 in 2008-09.
Mike Green – It was a toss-up as to whether I’d put him here or with the band-aid boys. But in the end a 50% drop from 76 points in 2009-10 to a mere 38 last season led to him being in this group.
Rick Nash – Many had visions of Nash easily exceeding his 79 point career high from 2008-09 once he came to the Rangers. Fast forward to now, and there were actually whispers that Nash – not Brad Richards – was the one who should’ve been bought out by New York.
Zach Parise – It seems longer ago than 2008-09 that Parise tallied 94 points in 82 games, especially when you consider that with the Wild he’s posted exactly that many points……but in 33 more games!
Dion Phaneuf – How excited would you be to have a defenseman on your roster who’s not even 30 and, in his career, had four straight seasons of 47 or more points? What if I told you that player was Dion Phaneuf, who’s only topped 31 points once since the last of those 47+ point seasons in 2008-09?
Daniel Sedin – His 47 points in 2013-14 actually would’ve put him tied for twelfth in scoring…….if he was a defenseman! The 104 points he scored in 2010-11 might as well have been from 2000-01 the way he looked last season.
Alex Semin – for a two season stretch from 2008 to 2010, Semin scored an incredible 163 points in 135 games. But other than a point per game year in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign (a contract year for him – big shock!), he hasn’t come anywhere close to those numbers again.
Eric Staal – If only Staal had scored 99 points back in 2005-06. But no, he hit the century mark and left an indelible impression on poolies. That, plus the fact that he still won’t yet be age 30 when the puck drops for the 2014-15 season, gives us hope year after year that he’ll challenge that mark again.
Bracket #4 – The Rest of the Worst
Patrik Berglund – What’s big, gets lots of ice time, but never manages to produce? No joke - after cracking the 0.5 points per game mark in two of his first three seasons, Berglund has now failed to do so in each of his last two full campaigns. Yet after the Blues recently rewarded him with a new three year deal, we’ll be left yet again to wonder if this will be the year he explodes.
Ryan Clowe – With 45 points in 80+ games maybe you’re wondering why Clowe makes the list. Well, how about if I tell you that was spread across all of 2012-13 and 2013-14?! Yet he’s still only 31 and a few years removed from 75+ games for three straight seasons, tallying 57+ points in two of the three.
David Desharnais – he’s like a human sine wave in that he’s either way up (60 points in 2011-12, 51 points in his final 60 games for 2013-14) or way down (pretty much the rest of his NHL career). Which version of Desharnais will show up for 2014-15 and beyond? Guess wrong and you’re probably be among the most frustrated GMs in your league.
Steve Downie – In 2009-10 Downie amazed with 46 points in 79 games while amassing 208 PIM. In the next two seasons he managed to see his games played, points scored, and PIM all decrease. Things have continued to go downhill from there, although his new contract with the Pens raises hopes yet again.
Tobias Enstrom – His career has seen him go from healthy and productive (2009-10, 2010-11), to productive but not healthy (2011-12 and 2012-13), to healthy but not productive (2013-14). Which version of Enstrom will take the ice for 2014-15? Guess wrong and you can go ahead and book your one way ticket to Frustrationville.
Marian Gaborik – his recent run of health in two of the past three seasons took him out of the band-aid boy group for the moment; but that plus his past years of up and down production are enough to gain him entry into this wild card category.
Dustin Penner – just when everyone was finally ready to write off Penner’s 63 points in 2009-10 as a total fluke, he goes and posts 32 in 49 games with Anaheim last season. But then he morphs back into a one man punch line for the Capitals to finish the 2013-14 campaign. Sadly, as long as he keeps getting chances we’ll keep drafting him and hoping.
Ryan Suter – I covered this in a recent Cage Match column, but you’d think that someone who plays literally half of every game would get you better than 40-something points per year and wouldn’t fall short in so many secondary categories like hits and blocked shots. And what makes matters worse is Suter’s propensity to start nearly every season red hot and then run into a brick wall.
Voting will close on Monday July 14th, so be sure to vote for all brackets by then! See you next week for Round two – the Quarterfinals!