- Rankings Rewind
- Written by Darren Kennedy
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.
|17||Martin St. Louis||TB|
(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.