This week we look back to January 2003 and the fantasy star that was….Petr Nedved.
(wait, that doesn’t sound right...)
If I’m being honest, I didn’t think I would ever write an article on Petr Nedved again. He was relevant for a brief period during the 1990s, but today feels like a vestige of my childhood, one of the many hockey cards I would trade on the playground during recess (when we weren’t playing freeze tag. Man, I miss freeze tag).
Well, it’s 2014, and would you guess who is suddenly relevant in the world of hockey? 42 year old Czech Olympian Petr Nedved.
He was last heard of in the NHL way back in 2008, when he signed a tryout contract for the New York Rangers and was later released before the season started. Interestingly, he hasn’t actually played an NHL game since 2006-07 with the Edmonton Oilers (he had five points in 19 games). The most enduring image I have of Nedved that year was of an aging veteran unable to keep up with the new style of NHL game (faster, less obstruction…etc).
Keep in mind – that was seven years ago.
Factor in some standard aging (he probably hasn’t gotten much better in the roughly 2500 days since) and the fact he’s been playing in the Czech league (not as competitive as the NHL) and we’re likely going to be treated to some painfully poor performances from Mr. Nedved.
And of course the Olympics are in Russia, played on an international ice surface, where skating will be pivotal (remember Nedved’s skating was an issue….seven years ago).
If that wasn’t enough, the story takes an even more alarming turn when you consider that Coyotes forward (and perennial fantasy late round bargain) Radim Vrbata and Flames forward Jiri Hudler were both left off of the National team so that there was room for Nedved. It is akin to naming Rob Zamuner to the 2014 Canadian team because he has more experience then say Matt Duchene or Jamie Benn.
Alright, I’ll end my rant about Petr. I’m sure he’s happy to be going and it will be a fun trip down memory lane for those of us that have been watching hockey the past two decades. You’re probably asking what this has to do with fantasy? Well, there is a connection (or at least I’m trying to make one). With Nedved all over the headlines it got me thinking about his career and why his name was able to endure so long in the sport. I took a long look at his career stats and then rifled through some of Dobber’s old rankings.
It seems that poolies have always had an affinity for Nedved, despite the fact that he really only had one elite season, with the rest of his career stats being average at best. He surpassed 70 points on four occasions, scored more than 30 goals four times, and posted over 40 assists in only three years. It seems that a lot of his celebrity and standing can be traced back to a single, fantastic season, way back in 1995-96 while playing for the Penguins. A quick glance at the other names on that Pittsburgh team gives you an idea of where his production may have come from…
Mario Lemieux – 161 Points
Jaromir Jagr – 149 Points
Ron Francis – 119 Points
All three of those guys will probably be attending Hockey Hall of Fame dinners for the next few decades – safe to say Nedved had some assistance.
He would go on to have a couple more solid fantasy seasons – notably in 1997 (71 points) and 2001 (78 points). However, his value would carry forward long after that. The old set of rankings I examined was from January of 2003. Nedved was ranked 83rd overall, still a mid round pick in most formats. When the rankings came out he was in the midst of a 58 point season, after which he would never again break 20 goals or 50 points in the NHL.
I wonder how much of the mystique of a 99 point season has carried over into his international profile. For a moment he was considered a star in the NHL, does that still carry weight for those naming the Czech team? Even at the rickety age of 42?
There is a lesson in all of this, something we can all be on the lookout for in future pools, let’s call it the Nedved effect. Wherein we overvalue a player based on a single elite season and then perpetually draft him too early for years and years thereafter. A few examples that come to mind are Martin Havlat (77 points in 2008), Jeff Carter (84 points in 2009), and Paul Stastny (although admittedly he had three great years, capped off by 79 points in 2010).
The common trend here is when managers continue to value a player at a perceived level that may not be achievable anymore. Nedved is of course the most obvious example, making an Olympic team this late into his career. But we can see the effect to a smaller degree on a number of fantasy assets; players that we hope will return to their heroic heights that were enjoyed for a very brief period. As always, you need to tread carefully, and think of Nedved next time you reach for a once upon a time star in the mid rounds of your draft.
See you in Sochi, Petr.
Darren is a fantasy hockey writer for Dobber Hockey. You can follow him @FantasyHockeyDK