This week we look back to April 2003 and the fantasy dominance that was Colorado’s Peter Forsberg.
There is an old adage in fantasy hockey that says “don’t worry about the early rounds; they’ll take care of themselves”.
The rationale for this is that rounds one through three are littered with top tier players, so whether you end up with Zetterberg or Toews or whomever, the difference is minor. Where poolies can have a significant impact is in the mid to late rounds, where nabbing Justin Williams while someone else is picking Martin Havlat can swing the pendulum mightily.
At the draft table I can understand this line of thinking; although, when it comes to a keeper league managing your top players is pivotal. These are your biggest assets, the guys that will ultimately determine your team’s fate in the long run.
Leading up to any draft I devote the majority of my time to preparing a sound mid to late round strategy, but once the season starts I focus more and more on the stars. One miscue move can derail your roster for years, sending an injured Jason Spezza for a young Devin Setoguchi, deciding that Rob Brown is a solid long term bet, or building your goalie core around Jim Carey.
Keeping all this in mind, let’s look back at Dobber’s player rankings in April of 2003…
|April 2003 Rankings - Top 50|
The top two rated skaters were Swedish countrymen Marcus Naslund and Peter Forsberg. They finished number one and two in scoring for 2002-2003. Naslund put together an impressive 48 goals, 56 assists for 104 points while with Vancouver. Forsberg took home the Art Ross trophy for Colorado, finishing with 29 goals, 77 assists, and a total of 106 points.
The top end rankings contained a number of players that would continue to be elite keepers in the following three seasons.
3. Joe Thornton
4. Jaromir Jagr
7. Marian Hossa
25. Joe Sakic
For years we have all bemoaned Joe Thornton’s lack of shooting (150-170 a year), but he has always been a fantastic source of points and power play production. His point totals in the four years following April of 2003 were 73, 125, 114, and 96. Even in the present day, at 34 years old, Joe is a reliable 70 point centerman with a positive plus minus and north of 20 power play points.
Hossa would go on to join Kovalchuk in Atlanta, where he had back-to-back seasons of 92 and 100 points. Amazingly he shot more than 340 times in both years. In recent years Marian has dealt with numerous injuries, including nagging groin problems and a Raffi Torres flying head shot. However, his production, when healthy, is still amongst the very best in the league (2011-12 – 29G, 48A, 77PTS +18, 248 shots)
In 2003 Sakic was coming off a shortened season in which he only played 58 games, finishing with 58 points. This likely explains his drop to 25 in the overall rankings. Between 2003 and 2006 Burnaby Joe would post 87, 87 and 100 points – remaining an elite fantasy asset into his mid 30s.
87. Pavel Datsyuk
89. Henrik Sedin
92. Jason Spezza
118. Rick Nash
130. Daniel Sedin
In 2002-2003 Datsyuk had shown some signs of being an elite player, finishing with an impressive plus 20 rating and 51 points in 64 games. Over the next five seasons he would average 87.2 points and cement himself as one of the most durable and consistent fantasy producers. That’s a lot of value in the seventh or eighth round of your draft.
We’ll collectively have to forgive Dobber for not forecasting the Sedin brothers to blossom into the behemoth point machines they would become. In 2002-2003 Daniel and Henrik combined for only 70 points. Beginning in 2005 the twins would begin what has been a near decade long run as point per game players. In multi format leagues, where Daniel’s shot production (approximately 230-250) moves him past Henrik he was a top five draft choice for multiple seasons. Not bad for a guy you might have taken at 130.
At the time of these rankings Jason Spezza had just completed his rookie season, compiling 21 points in 33 games. Where his game took huge strides forward was playing in for the AHL’s Binghamton Senators during the 2004 lockout. Spezza finished with 117 points leading the league in scoring. His following three NHL seasons saw him finish with 90, 87, and 92 points playing alongside Alfredsson and Heatley. When it comes to elite level draft pedigree I never like to let forwards fall too far on draft day. Spezza was a second overall pick in the 2001 entry draft and would have been an incredible fantasy steal at number 92.
After reviewing these rankings the name that really sticks with me is Peter Forsberg. He had just won his only Art Ross and Hart trophies and posted his second season of more than 100 points (the first was 116 in 1996). The fantasy value of Forsberg in your pool at this time would have been astronomical, a 29 year old superstar power forward who was arguably the most valuable fantasy player around.
The downside was of course this – Peter was almost 30 years of age and had sat out the entire previous season, 2001-2002, to let his body heal from various injuries. He had only once played in more than 80 games and was famous for his grueling, physical style of fore-checking.
Asking poolies in April of 2003 to seriously consider trading Forsberg would have been met with more than a couple Spockian eyebrow raises, but with the benefit of hindsight it would have been the correct move. Peter was at the pinnacle of his value, and when you factored in age and health concerns it was unlikely he could maintain elite production for multiple seasons.
Herein lies the possible lesson we can take from this set of rankings – proper asset management of your star players. If you owned Forsberg and decided to flip him in the summer of 2003 the return would have truly been a windfall - a combination of draft choices, a star player, and veteran depth. A package like that would have laid the foundation for your keeper team moving forward.
For those that decided to stick with Forsberg, the next eight years would be a frustrating combination of injuries, bouncing between Philadelphia, Nashville, Colorado and the Swedish Elite League. Peter would never again play in more than 60 games in a single season nor surpass the 75 point mark.
It is of course easy to glean a lesson such as this sitting in 2013 with the benefit of knowing what would befall Forsberg. But the lesson can be applied more broadly to our fantasy teams today and in the future.
There will come a time when Sidney Crosby or Alex Ovechkin will be 32 or 33 years old, coming off of another prolific season and looking poised to repeat it over and over for all eternity. They may in fact do so, being the next Martin St. Louis or Teemu Selanne where their thirties are filled with elite production. However, as a prudent fantasy general manager, it’s your job to manage assets and explore all opportunities. Sometimes this may even involve trading your prized superstar at the height of his powers.
Darren is a fantasy hockey writer and devoted twitterite (if that’s a word). You can follow him @TMA_Hockey_blog
Previous Rankings Rewind:
|Looking Back...at April, 2010 Top Prospects|