Read Part I of my Year in Review here. The top five stories and moments of 2012 are counted down - a great player makes his return, fantasy hockey welcomes a new statistic, and more.
5. Sidney Crosby is back… again
Sidney Crosby’s road to recovery dominated headlines for both 2011 and 2012. He first returned to the Pittsburgh lineup against the New York Islanders on November 21st of last year, and he had an immediate impact with four points that night. However, his first return didn’t last long, and he was sidelined after a David Krejci elbow to the head. Crosby didn’t return again until March of 2012.
He suited up for only 22 games this past season, but he managed to record 37 points in that short time. The Penguins, confident in his health, gave him a 12 year, $104.4 million contract extension this past summer. At an $8.7 million cap hit, Sid the Kid will be an absolute bargain for the duration of his career (assuming he can stay healthy).
Crosby has the ability to dominate in so many ways, and that translates over to fantasy hockey pools. He scores goals if Pittsburgh needs him to. He passes the puck better than any other player in the league; outside of perhaps Datsyuk and Henrik Sedin (it is debatable). He plays with a tenacity and an edge that earns him penalty minutes (Pittsburgh may not always like them, but poolies do). He is defensively responsible and a very prolific five-on-five offensive player, which leads to great plus/minus numbers. Simply put, Crosby does it all in real life, and in fantasy hockey, too. He is the main reason why I am so excited about my chances of winning my keeper pool in the near future (my team, the Crosby Show, has been on hiatus for the better part of two years thanks to his injury).
Finding relevant statistics to use in fantasy sports isn't always easy. Baseball lends itself to the use of many statistics thanks to the nature of the sport, and the same could be said for football (different positions require very different statistics) and basketball (a steal is a steal, a rebound is a rebound, and a block is a block). However, in the hockey world, many statistics aren't as accurately measured. One of those statistics is hits. Statisticians from rink to rink around the NHL seem to have different definitions for what constitutes a hit. For example, the New York Ranger players generally receive the benefit of the doubt when it comes to hits with home games.
Some poolies feel that having a statistic that isn't measured precisely across the league takes away from the integrity of fantasy hockey. I, however, disagree. There are many reasons why I like the inclusion of hits in fantasy hockey, and I have seen more and more leagues hop on board over the past year:
Unlike PIM, hits are generally viewed as a "positive" statistic. Meaning that a hit usually contributes positively to a team, whereas a penalty often has the opposite effect. Now there aren't studies that show a direct correlation between hits and team success, but at least it is tracking something that players and teams reward.
And two, tracking hits allows for a wider variety of players to have fantasy value. Suddenly players like Luke Schenn and Brooks Orpik have value in fantasy hockey pools. And many leagues are also starting to record block shots, which places even more of a premium on these gritty defensemen.
Hopefully the NHL and its statisticians can establish a more uniform way of recording hits. It won't be perfect, since hockey is such a fast-paced sport, but it can be improved upon.
3. The Kings run wild on the rest of the NHL
To many hockey fans, the LA Kings emerged out of nowhere before embarking on a dominant Stanley Cup run. However, they started to show signs of being a dominant team as early as January. After changing coaches and acquiring Jeff Carter, the Kings started to find the back of the net with some consistency. They received elite goaltending from Jonathan Quick all season, but they provided him almost no goal support for the first few months.
The Kings were a dominant even strength team, and since NHL referees often swallow their whistles during the playoffs, these teams tend to perform very well in the postseason (Boston and Vancouver were both great even strength teams in 2010-11). The Kings had all of the ingredients necessary for a Cup victory - great goaltending, mobile and tough defensemen, deep and talented forwards, and impressive depth up the middle (led, of course, by Anze Kopitar, who made easy work of the top centers in the Western Conference).
The Kings also benefitted from several cap friendly contracts. Quick signed a massive extension in the offseason, and Brown will be due for a raise in the near future, as well. However, hats off to GM Dean Lombardi for rebuilding his team the right way, and striking while the iron was hot with a pair of bold transactions (acquiring Carter and Mike Richards).
2. The concussion epidemic
It isn’t unique to hockey, and the issue of concussions in sports is only going to become increasingly serious. Even as we find out more and more about concussions, the world’s top doctors still don’t have a great grasp on concussions – what causes them, how to recover from them, and what the long term ramifications are. We saw some of the scary results in the autopsy of Derek Boogaard – his brain was damaged to the extent that had he lived, he would have had full-blown dementia by the time he was 40 or 50 years old.
Until these pro sports leagues start taking concussions seriously (I fear it is going to take a death for that to happen), players are going to continue to play through headaches and bumps and bruises. Awareness is an important first step, but it is just that – the first step.
My recommendations include more transparency and consistency in the punishment process.
1. The lockout
The lockout sucks. Many people have lost their jobs because of it. DobberHockey has been hit hard. Jarome Iginla has lost a combined $14 million thanks to the past two lockouts (and probably 60-80 goals, as well). This lockout, unlike the last one, appears to be driven by ego, greed, and selfishness. The last lockout was a necessity to fix a broken system. And while the current system in the NHL isn’t perfect, the two sides should have figured this thing out a long time ago. Gary Bettman and Don Fehr are both master negotiators, but there are no winners in this battle. The players lost. The league lost. The fans and people employed by hockey lost the most of all. The casual fans are gone. The passionate fans were angry, but now they are apathetic. And the only thing worse than an angry fan is one who doesn’t care at all.
In addition to my regular job as a personal trainer (which I left a few months ago), I started my own sports/fitness blog, AngusCertified. I have enjoyed putting a lot of sweat equity into DobberHockey and watching it grow. The lockout has hurt our business significantly, but that is an unfortunate cost of doing business in an industry which locks out its employees every seven or eight years. That being said, I am confident that this site will once again rise to the top with our incredibly strong team of writers and unrivalled community full of passionate and knowledgeable hockey fans.
My sports writing journey started at DobberHockey way back in 2006, and it has continued to develop over the years. I love sports and I have grown to love writing, too, so the marriage of the two is only natural. Here are some of my favorite pieces from the past year:
Top 10 Keeper League Lists for 2012:
Wishing all of our DobberHockey readers a healthy, happy, and prosperous 2013.