Steven Stamkos shared the Rocket Richard Trophy with Sidney Crosby last season after a 51-goal campaign. (Photo by Scott Audette/NHLI via Getty Images)
When a 20-year-old scores 18 points in nine games to start the season, it’s certainly eye-catching. In fact, the hot start by Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos has poolies jacking up their asking price to levels that had previously been reserved for Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin. Does he deserve such an elite place in fantasy hockey? Or is this just crazy talk brought on by a hot run?
Fantasy league managers are a fickle bunch. Some are even arguing Stamkos is a better own in keeper leagues than Malkin. After all, Stamkos is just getting started, while Malkin “only” has nine points in 11 games on the heels of a season that saw his points-per-game average dip to 1.15.
Clearly, the 24-year-old Malkin – who, just 16 months ago, had 36 points in 24 playoff games – is on the decline, whereas Stamkos, whoe tallied 1.16 points per game last year, has absolutely leapfrogged over him. Yes, my tongue is firmly in cheek, for those who struggle with sarcasm.
Stamkos is an elite player. He is absolutely dominating right now. He’s much better than I thought he was, as I initially had his upside at 100 points when he first entered the league. Today, I don’t have a problem bumping that number up to 120. But does that make him one of the Big Four? No.
Ironically, I say this knowing full well that, when the November version of my Keeper League Rankings comes out Monday, Stamkos will sit firmly in fourth place. But there will still be a significant gap between him and the Big Three. If an NHL player reaches the 140-point mark in the next six years, it will be Malkin, Crosby or Ovechkin – not Stamkos. And that, gentle reader, is why Stamkos cannot be given the elite mantle that is a spot with the Big Three. He is the Steve Yzerman to Malkin’s Mario Lemieux. When Yzerman was routinely getting 130 points, Gretzky and Lemieux were getting 180. Today’s statistics would translate those numbers to 110 and 130, but the gap is still there.
So, while injuries and slumps to members of the Big Three could see Stamkos even win a scoring title or three, the fact that his upside isn’t as intriguing as theirs is the very reason he’ll have to settle for a distant No. 4...
Meanwhile, Stamkos’ teammate, Vincent Lecavalier, is struggling. The 30-year-old center has just five points in eight games and poolies are starting to give up on him. There may be something to that. But given the comments I’ve seen online, in my Inbox and on my Twitter feed (@DobberHockey), their reason for bailing – “he’s second fiddle to Stamkos now” – is unequivocally wrong.
In fact, Stamkos was on the ice for four of Lecavalier’s five points. Without Stamkos, I think Lecavalier would have just two or three points right now. The Lightning’s captain still gets just less than 20 minutes of ice time – and five minutes on the power play – per game. So how can he be second fiddle? He can’t. Stamkos is an asset to Lecavalier, not a hindrance.
The real reason for Vinny’s decline is that he’s just not the same player. Wrist and shoulder surgeries have changed him. Shaving even a microsecond off a player’s shot release or slowing the velocity of a shot by even one percent is enough to turn a goal into a save, or a pass into a giveaway. That’s what’s been happening. Can he turn it around? Sure he can – and I think he will. The process will just take longer than I thought.
By the way – from November 3-19, 2007, Lecavalier had 21 points in eight games. Just keeping Stamkos’ streak in perspective...
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.