Alexei Yashin had 337 goals and 781 points in 850 games with the Senators and Islanders before heading back to Russia in 2007. (Tom Pigeon /Allsport/Getty Images)
As the first decade of the millennium draws to a close, it is fun to take a look back at the 10 years that was. It was the biggest 10 years in the history of fantasy hockey, a pastime that has grown into a full-blown industry.
After pulling out all the old fantasy magazines – not just my own, but several different sources – as well as polling the community over at DobberHockey.com, I have come up with a list of 20 events that had the biggest impact on the game-within-a-game that we love so much. The conclusion of the two-part piece will be posted here next Tuesday, Dec. 29.
20. Jason Allison – From Stud to Dud
From strictly a numbers perspective, poolies don’t know what went wrong here. With 95 points in 2000-01, Allison was tied for fourth in league scoring. At just 26 years, he hadn’t even entered his prime yet and was considered a top-five pick in pretty much every keeper league.
Injuries held him to just 99 games the next two seasons in Los Angeles, but he still had 102 points in that span. Injuries knocked him out for 2003-04 and the lockout followed that. Upon his return, he had 60 points in 66 games for Toronto, yet couldn’t find a job after that.
Poolies don’t care if he looked like he was skating through mud, the fact remains Allison had 162 points in the last 165 games he played. His is a story of a clear-cut casualty of the ‘new’ NHL.
19. Roberto Luongo and Olli Jokinen off to Florida
You could fill half this list with crazy Mike Milbury trades, but only a couple of them really stick out as having a fantasy impact. Luongo became a superstar in Florida, but it could be argued he would have been a similar star on Long Island.
However, Jokinen was really struggling and only blossomed under the heavy hand of ‘Iron’ Mike Keenan. He may very well have played the past few years in Finland had he not jumped from 29 to 65 points in 2002-03.
As for the players coming back to the Islanders – Mark Parrish and Oleg Kvasha – let’s not go there. At least they drafted Rick DiPietro to replace Luongo. Wait a minute…
18. Peter Forsberg in 2001-02
At this point we already knew Forsberg was a Band-Aid Boy, but his unpredictable health turned the fantasy world on its head in April of 2002. After missing the entire campaign, Forsberg joined the Avs and took them to the seventh game of the conference final, notching 27 points in 20 games.
Despite not getting to the Stanley Cup final, his point total still held up and led all players – and swayed quite a few playoff pools in the process. It vaulted him back into top three status in keeper leagues and he didn’t let us down, garnering 106 points the following year. That was his last hurrah for poolies, however, as he never again played more than 60 games in a season.
17. The implications of Martin St-Louis
The small and undrafted St-Louis treaded water for a few years before exploding in 2003-04 and winning the Art Ross and Hart Trophies in the process. His ascent to stardom had poolies (including yours truly) giving longer looks to the likes of Simon Gamache, Brett Sterling and Nathan Gerbe. The fact remains that not only do smaller players need the perfect opportunity, they also need more time. St-Louis was 27 when he surpassed the 40-point mark for the first time.
16. Mike ‘Mr. Lucky’ Knuble
Proof positive line combinations have an impact, Knuble is a key reason why poolies froth at the mouth when a player gets moved to a line with a star, even though it generally only lasts four shifts.
In Knuble’s case, it lasted much longer than that and it happened over and over again. Knuble was 30 and his best season was 35 points. Then he was put on a line with Joe Thornton and tallied 59 points. Later he joined the Flyers and picked up 65 points on a line with Peter Forsberg. This season, he’s enjoyed more than a quarter of his shifts with Alex Ovechkin.
15. He’s great. He’s terrible. He’s great. He’s terrible…
It’s the weirdest anomaly I’ve seen in fantasy hockey. Vinny Prospal is consistently inconsistent – so much so it forms a pattern. Take a look at his offensive numbers this decade:
2001-02 – 55 points
2002-03 – 79 points
2003-04 – 54 points
2005-06 – 80 points
2006-07 – 55 points
2007-08 – 71 points
2008-09 – 45 points
2009-10 – 67 points (pace)
Remarkable. It goes without saying you should trade or drop him after this season.
14. I don’t know…maybe I’ll play…but maybe not
Poolies have had some fun summers recently, trying to figure out what to do about Scott Niedermayer and Mats Sundin. With Niedermayer, you had one of the best defensemen to own in fantasy hockey and he was thinking about retiring. With Sundin, you had a declining star who could still give you a point per game (or so most thought at the time).
Both players took nearly half the 2008-09 season off before deciding they would play – at least with Sundin he was a free agent; the Ducks were really hurt by Niedermayer’s waffling. Poolies were hurt by both delays – they either wasted a roster spot for half a season or lost a good player for nothing. Thankfully, this hasn’t happened since and hopefully won’t happen again. Fantasy hockey is complicated enough.
13. Alexei Yashin for Jason Spezza and Zdeno Chara
Bill Muckalt was also involved and the first round draft pick turned into Jason Spezza, but this is another Milbury trade with fantasy implications. After averaging 91 points the final two seasons in Ottawa, Yashin averaged 70 in his first two seasons with the Islanders.
That hurts enough, but what hurts more is those were his best two seasons on the Island. And what hurts even more is how Chara became a superstar and Spezza became a 90-point player right about when Yashin was stumbling to 66 points in 2005-06.
12. Stacking the deck in Colorado
I’ve never seen poolies scramble to stock up on one team more than the summer of 2003. It was just announced both Teemu Selanne and Paul Kariya signed with Colorado for an absurdly low amount of money. The two stars would join Joe Sakic, Milan Hejduk, Alex Tanguay and Peter Forsberg to lead Colorado to an 82-0 record and 16 playoff wins en route to the Cup.
Or so poolies thought. We’re an excitable bunch us fantasy owners. I’m sure you know the result of that experiment – Selanne and Kariya each posted fewer points than Steve Konowalchuk. The Avs finished 10th overall and were eliminated in the second round.
11. Late-blooming hidden gems
With a salary cap in place, the stars make a pile of money and the rest of the players are starting to shift towards the salary floor. One way of trying to find affordable second-liners is to spend more time studying the undrafted college and European players. They were thought to be physically and mentally mature and could often step right into a lineup within a year or two of being signed.
And don’t think fantasy owners didn’t notice. The likes of Fabian Brunnstrom, Tyler Bozak and Jonas Gustavsson have all garnered headlines, as well as Matt Gilroy, Ville Leino, Dan Sexton and Janne Pesonen to a lesser extent. We have yet to see an impact of fantasy significance from one of these types within two years of being signed, but Dustin Penner, for example, has blossomed in his fourth full season.
Next week – the Top 10 impact events on the fantasy hockey world for the past decade.
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 throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.