This week we look back to the fantasy rankings from April of 2004 - Teemu Selanne struggling in Colorado.
The summer of 2003 reminds me a lot of Lebron James’ infamous “Decision” in 2010. Friends and former teammates Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne had decided they were going to play together. The big question around hockey was what city would land the coveted duo. Ultimately they joined the Colorado Avalanche, creating a virtual super-team that looked almost unbeatable.
Many hockey pundits predicted them to win not one, not two, not three, not four….. ok you get the picture. We all thought they would bring home at least one cup ring if not more in the coming seasons. From a fantasy hockey perspective, Kariya and Selanne were expected to revive some of their spectacular chemistry from years together in Anaheim.
Selanne had just turned 33 in July of 2003 and was coming off of a 28 goal, 64 point campaign for the San Jose Sharks. There were whispers in the fantasy hockey world that he may not be an elite option on the wing anymore. It had been more than three seasons since he averaged a point per game and a full four years since he had surpassed 40 goals.
Even with a slight decline, he and Kariya were joining a team that already featured players like Joe Sakic, Peter Foresberg, Rob Blake and Adam Foote – all of which were either at, or near their physical peak. Secondary options like Alex Tanguay and Milan Hedjuk rounded out what was, at least on paper, the deepest team in the league. Poolies were falling over themselves to draft any and all players in their top six.
The end result for the Avalanche team was mixed – finishing as the fourth seed in the Western Conference but succumbing to the Sharks in 6 games in the second round of the playoffs. For Selanne, it was a disastrous fantasy season, by far the worst statistical output of his career. Teemu ended with 16 goals and 16 assists while playing in 78 games.
In almost all league formats it became hard to trust Selanne anymore. A player who had long been valued for his consistency and ability to fill difficult categories like goals and power play points couldn’t be counted on for either. In April of 2004 Dobber had dropped him all the way down to the 141st position in keeper leagues. Teemu was flanked by fantasy notables such as Peter Schaefer and Sami Kapanen – it was a sad time.
What Selanne would go on to accomplish over the coming decade would provide a valuable lesson for poolies and essentially re-write the rules on valuing superstars in their sunset years. Before delving into that let’s look at some of the other notable players from the rankings…
4. Hossa, Marian
14. Lecavalier, Vincent
18. Iginla, Jarome
40. Hull, Brett
Sometimes I forget exactly how good of a fantasy asset Marian Hossa was during his peak years. In 2004 he was in the midst of a 4 year run that would see him finish with point totals of 80, 82, 82 and 100. Part of me always gets a bit wistful when thinking about him as a Red Wing. It’s difficult to predict how his production would have changed, but I really supported the idea of him, Zetterberg and Datysuk growing old together on the first line. Sigh…
|2||TB||St. Louis, Martin||130.07|
Lecavalier checked in at number 14, as this was before his career high 108 points in 2006-07. Vinny has teased the fantasy world for well over a decade and I’m sure anyone reading this has a story about taking him too early in a draft. Even though he is only 33 years old it’s hard to imagine he’ll ever again be a star.
I included Brett Hull on this list out of sheer astonishment – nearing the age of 40 he was considered a top 40 fantasy player. He had put together a 37 goal, 76 point and 262 shot season in 2002-03 while playing in Detroit. Although he also serves as a cautionary tale, demonstrating just how quickly skills can diminish at that age. He returned in 2005 after the lockout, playing only 5 games for Phoneix before announcing his retirement.
115. Staal, Eric
141. Selanne, Teemu
156. Vanek, Thomas
In fairness to Dobber not many people (ok no one) predicted Staal’s explosion for 100 points and 279 shots in 2005-06. It was a wonky year for fantasy hockey with the new post lockout NHL allowing for more penalties and less obstruction. Since then Staal has settled into a consistent 70 point, 280 shot player with ok penalty minutes. If you drafted him around 100 way back in 2004 you landed a cornerstone piece for very little investment.
Much like Lecavalier, Vanek has been a frustrating player to draft over the years. At times he has looked like a perennial 40 goal man, capable of challenging for the Rocket Richard trophy annually. And then there have been seasons like 2009-10 where he ended with 53 points and 182 shots. Amazingly he is only 29 years old and the move to New York has the potential to rejuvenate his career and add a couple more 40 goal seasons. The big question for fantasy owners is whether or not he signs there long term.
Back to Teemu…
After 2004 when Selanne’s value was at it’s very lowest of his career he entered into a spectacular run of production that would carry forth throughout his mid thirties. Between 2005 and 2007 he posted consecutive 90 plus point seasons, scoring at least 40 goals in both. The following three years he struggled on and off with injuries but remained near a point per game.
In 2010-11 when poolies had once again given up on Selanne he rewarded loyal followers with an 80 point season in only 73 games. This year, at the age of 43, he already has 7 points in 11 games and remains a roster player in most league formats.
So what is the lesson in all of this?
For me, players like Selanne, St.Louis, Hull and others prove that we should never fully discard past superstars. Even if they are coming off of one or two down seasons there is always a chance they bounce back. Maybe that one year was plagued by injury? Maybe an issue with the coaching staff or management? Such a small sample size should never discourage you from taking a chance on a player like Selanne in the mid to late rounds of your draft.
Of course there are exceptions, past stars like Heatley and Lecavalier have proven over an extended period of time that they are no longer key contributors. There are others though, Patrick Sharp, Marian Hossa, or Zdeno Chara that have had lesser seasons.
In 2004 we were all guilty of judging Selanne based on his one horrible year in Colorado where the “super team” model failed to yield results. We thought Teemu, at 33, was done as an elite scorer… as it turns out, he was just getting started.
Darren is a fantasy hockey writer for Dobber Hockey and recently figured out how to use Twitter. You can follow him @FantasyHockeyDK
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