PaulStastny

Looking back at January 2008 and one the best young centers in fantasy hockey – Paul Stastny


There are many, many reasons to love fantasy hockey; the draft, hours spent scrolling through box scores, living and dying with a meaningless blocked shot on Tuesday in mid-November. For many of us it has grown from a simple activity to a lifetime hobby.

For me, the best part, the thing that keeps brining me back, is the endless search for the “next” big thing. That feeling of satisfaction when you manage to land a star forward at age 21, just as he makes the leap into the fantasy elite. Knowing that you’ve found an asset who will be a huge part of your team for the next five our more years.

Because fantasy sports is - at its core - unpredictable, we all crave stability. Drafting Crosby in 2007 and knowing that you’ll never have to worry about finding a centerman until 2020. Or taking a flyer on some kid from Sweden named Lundqvist in 2006 - solidifying your goaltending for a decade. We all sleep easier with the comforting knowledge that our roster is secure, manned by players either in or approaching their prime years.

This search for the “next” one is why many of you reading this would have had your heart broken by Paul Stastny. He WAS one of the next ones – until he wasn’t.

His career began with a near point per game season in 2006-2007 – 28 goals and 50 assists in 82 games. Sure, it was the post-lockout NHL that was affording teams countless powerplay opportunities, and Stastny was a beneficiary of that. 31 of his 78 points were scored on the man advantage. Still, finishing 29th in scoring as a red shirt rookie had the fantasy world beaming.

As a follow up he had an even better 2007-2008, ending the year with 24 goals and 47 assists in just 66 games. Extrapolated over a full season he was on pace for a staggering 88 points. There were whispers that Stastny might be developing into one of the 10 best players in hockey. They weren’t wrong.

Understandably, the Avalanche center was shooting up fantasy rankings. In January of 2008 he was 22 years old and already had two seasons with over 70 points. There were of course some warning signs; an over reliance on the powerplay and unsustainably high shooting percentages (15.1% and 17.4%). But it’s hard to temper the expectations of poolies when they’re on their way up the roller coaster. It’s just too much dang fun.

Dobber had done a nice job of balancing reality with potential when he released his rankings in January of 2008. Stastny came in at number 19, just a few slots behind the likes of Zetterberg, Datysuk, St.Louis and Staal. He was in the midst of his coronation as a member of the fantasy elite.

 

1 Sidney Crosby PIT
2 Alexander Ovechkin WAS
3 Vincent Lecavalier TB
4 Evgeni Malkin PIT
5 Joe Thornton SJ
6 Jason Spezza OTT
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 Alfredsson OTT
14 Daniel Briere PHI
15 Eric Staal CAR
16 Martin St. Louis TB
17 Marc Savard BOS
18 Marian Gaborik MIN
19 Paul Stastny COL
20 Ryan Getzlaf ANA
21 Jaromir Jagr NYR
22 Olli Jokinen FLA
23 Zach Parise NJ
24 Daniel Sedin VAN
25 Henrik Sedin VAN
26 Patrick Kane CHI
27 Anze Kopitar LA
28 Brad Richards TB
29 Alexander Radulov NSH
30 Rick Nash CBJ
31 Mats Sundin TOR
32 Mike Richards PHI
33 Mike Ribeiro DAL
34 Paul Kariya STL
35 Thomas Vanek BUF
36 Jonathan Toews CHI
37 Kristian Huselius CGY
38 Cory Stillman CAR
39 Nicklas Backstrom WAS
40 Ales Hemsky EDM
41 Patrick Marleau SJ
42 Alex Tanguay CGY
43 Vaclav Prospal TB
44 Mike Cammalleri LA
45 Scott Gomez NYR
46 Derek Roy BUF
47 Markus Naslund VAN
48 Daymond Langkow CGY
49 Brenden Morrow DAL
50 Joffrey Lupul PHI

 

It was the peak of his powers, at least until that point. The following season brought with it injuries and inconsistency, resulting in only 45 games played and paltry 36 points. He would rebound in 2009-10, posting career highs in assists (59), points (79), and shots on goal (199).

The success wouldn’t last, however. His production over the next few seasons dropped dramatically as the team struggled and he worked to establish his place in the lineup. Point totals of 57, 53, and a pro-rated 49 erased any goodwill he had built up earlier in his career. Many poolies were left holding a depreciating asset with very few options to recoup any value.

Of course there may still be a happy ending.

Last season was a renaissance of sorts. Stastny enjoyed great chemistry with linemate Gabriel Landeskog and once again broke the 60-point plateau. At only 28 years old there is renewed optimism that he can once again be a consistent producer. In an ideal world he would have been able to stay put in Colorado and grow old with their core of emerging stars, but it wasn’t to be. The Avalanche are intent - rightly so -on moving MacKinnon to his natural position of center, meaning there was no room left for Stastny or his forthcoming contract.

News broke yesterday that he had signed a four-year, $28 million dollar contract with the St.Louis Blues. It’s a team in need of an offensive catalyst, someone to get the most out their group of talented wingers. Whether he skates with Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, TJ Oshie, or Alex Steen, there will be plenty of opportunity to perform. There aren’t many 65-point, 180-shot centerman in your hockey pool. And he may very well be one.

Will Stastny ever again reach the heights of top 20 status? Probably not. But on a new team, and with his game rounding into form there is every indication that he has returned the land of fantasy relevance. And that, at the very least, is a step in the right direction for a guy that looked to be heading in the wrong one.

 

Looking Back...at April, 2003 Top Players 
Looking Back...at December, 2008 Top Players 
Looking Back...at February 2009 (Part 2) 


Darren Kennedy is a contributor for DobberHockey and McKeen’s. You can find him on twitter at @fantasyhockeydk or on his couch watching re-runs of Friday Night Lights 


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