zetts

Looking Back at December 2007 and a player who has decided aging isn’t for him

I wonder if Zetterberg and Malkin get along ok.

They might not. After all, meeting in back-to-back Stanley Cup finals has a way of creating deep rooted rivalries.

Lately I’ve come to think of the two players being intertwined, not only on the ice, through repeated match-ups, but in fantasy hockey, and how they are viewed by the masses. In both cases, they are the sort of ‘kid-brother’ to their more celebrated teammates – Datsyuk and Crosby (I realize Crosby is actually younger than Malkin but SHHhhh, you’re ruining my story here).

Looking back over Zetterberg’s career numbers, he’s the mark of consistency in a hobby that rarely, if ever, offers it. He’s remained close to a point-per-game, with elite powerplay production, a strong pus minus, and close to 300 shots. And he’s done it over nearly a decade.

Still, he’s never quite been accepted as a consistent first or second round pick in most formats. Which is starkly different than how Datsyuk has been treated, even long after the Russian center’s run of 97, 97, 87, and 87 point seasons. Datsyuk’s name, even at the age of 36, continues to carry significant weight, despite a noticeable drop in both points and shots over the past two years.

There are a few reasons for the perceived difference in value. Chiefly among them is Datsyuk’s style of play. He is quite possibly the most entertaining player to watch, even today. His wizardry with the puck and the level at which he thinks the game is on par with the all-time greats. Watching him perform is like sitting in on some sort of hockey master’s class – it’s mesmerizing. You learn things that you didn’t know you always wanted to learn.

Zetterberg, on the other hand, has a more workman-like approach. His hands, while effective, don’t have the same deft touch as number 13. He’s not nearly as likely to show up on highlights or be featured on the cover of magazines. No, instead he just goes about his business – firing almost four shots per game and consistently ending the year with 20 to 25 goals and 45 to 55 assists.

When perusing some of Dobber’s old rankings I came across December of 2007. It caught my eye for two reasons: One, Zetterberg is ranked all the way up at number 11, coming off of 68 points in 63 games during 2006-07. Second, the number of guys ranked ahead of him, many of whom are of a similar vintage, who have since faded from the fantasy elite.

 

Dec Player Team
1 Sidney Crosby PIT
2 Alexander Ovechkin WAS
3 Evgeni Malkin PIT
4 Joe Thornton SJ
5 Jason Spezza OTT
6 Vincent Lecavalier TB
7 Ilya Kovalchuk ATL
8 Dany Heatley OTT
9 Marian Hossa ATL
10 Jarome Iginla CGY
11 Henrik Zetterberg DET
12 Pavel Datsyuk DET
13 Daniel Briere PHI
14 Eric Staal CAR
15 Daniel Alfredsson OTT
16 Jaromir Jagr NYR
17 Martin St. Louis TB
18 Marc Savard BOS
19 Alexander Radulov NSH
20 Marian Gaborik MIN
21 Brad Richards TB
22 Rick Nash CBJ
23 Paul Stastny COL
24 Ryan Getzlaf ANA
25 Daniel Sedin VAN
26 Patrick Kane CHI
27 Henrik Sedin VAN
28 Olli Jokinen FLA
29 Zach Parise NJ
30 Paul Kariya STL
31 Anze Kopitar LA
32 Patrick Marleau SJ
33 Thomas Vanek BUF
34 Simon Gagne PHI
35 Alex Tanguay CGY
36 Justin Williams CAR
37 Ales Hemsky EDM
38 Mats Sundin TOR
39 Joe Sakic COL
40 Cory Stillman CAR
41 Jonathan Toews CHI
42 Mike Cammalleri LA
43 Michael Nylander WAS
44 Vaclav Prospal TB
45 Jonathan Cheechoo SJ
46 Markus Naslund VAN
47 Daymond Langkow CGY
48 Nicklas Backstrom WAS
49 Derek Roy BUF
50 Rod Brind'Amour CAR

 

(I’ve also got to give Dobber a lot of credit for recognizing how well Zetterberg was playing and actually ranking him ABOVE Datsyuk, especially given the fact that shots on goal was not a category under consideration)

Players like Spezza, Lecavalier, Heatley, Iginla, and Briere have all since dropped below him on in the rankings. While the quality of his numbers have always been impressive, it’s their duration that has become a hallmark in recent years. He’ll turn 34 this October, and even at a stage in his career when a substantial decline is expected, Zetterberg is still near his prime production levels.

This isn’t to say there aren’t reasons to take umbrage with his game. He, like virtually every player in your pool, has certain deficiencies, albeit small ones. He can’t be counted on for much more than 35 penalty minutes in a given year. Great for actual hockey, not nearly as much for poolies. His plus minus, while at one time near plus 30 (during Detroit’s years as a contender) has since dropped down, and is a bit more erratic as the team moves through a transition. And of course he’ll never lead your team in hits or blocked shots.

I know I’m guilty of often undervaluing aging superstars that are still providing massive value. I’ve done it in the past with guys like Hossa, Marleau, Sharp, and St.Louis. It’s something that surely happens in a lot of pools. It’s more exciting to take a chance on Matt Duchene or Ryan Johansen than it is to stick with a veteran. In multi-year pools the need to balance both the future and present is certainly understandable. But in one year leagues, where we’re only looking at the next seven months, Zetterberg is still a guy you can comfortably target in the first two rounds.

There are no Zetterberg-ian dekes, and he isn’t the most watched NHLer on You Tube, and that’s OK. A lot has changed since the winter of 2007, but his production, and his place among the very best in fantasy hockey, has not.

Darren Kennedy (@fantasyhockeydk) is a contributor for DobberHockey and McKeen’s. He’ll talk about any player. Except Kovalchuk. Never, ever, Kovalchuk.

 

 

Looking Back...at the rankings from May of 2008

 

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