Every season there are guys who get off to slow starts, and you curse yourself for picking them in your draft, or holding on to them while all the hot starters get snapped up from the free agent pile. Let’s take a look at some of the bigger disappointments thus far and what their prognosis is for the rest of the season.
Jarome Iginla, RW
I know we have been saying this for a while now, but the end may be near for one of the best players of the last decade. Unless he turns things around dramatically, this will be the third straight season that Iginla’s numbers have suffered a precipitous drop. Anytime you are almost 20% of the way through the season and the negative number indicating your +/- is almost as big as your point total, there is cause for concern. My best guess is that Iginla is finished as an impact fantasy option, but there is one ray of hope – he is still shooting the puck. His 3.13 shots per game is the same as last year, with the difference being they are only finding twine 4.3% of the time, an unsustainably low rate. As long as he keeps firing away, 30 goals should be a lock. That being said, if you can dump him on an unsuspecting opponent based on his name, don’t hesitate to pull the trigger.
Ilya Kovalchuk, LW
It seems like Kovalchuk’s name has dominated the airwaves for the last several months, and unfortunately for fantasy owners it is not because of spectacular on ice play. Despite potting the game-winner in OT against the lowly Oilers last night, Kovalchuk is still sitting at 9 points in 16 games. Those of you who read my occasional article on here know that I love my stats, but Kovalchuk is a perfect example of why sometimes they just don’t work very well in hockey. My model had him pegged for 48 goals this year, an estimate which I completely disregarded. That projection was based off stats accumulated almost exclusively in Atlanta, a team that plays a much different system, and also does not take into account the motivation, or lack thereof, of a player who just signed up for 15 years of job security. He was covered in red flags for me at the start of the year (#2 on my do not draft list after Henrik Sedin), but I couldn’t bring myself to warn the masses without substantial proof. He will still be a very useful fantasy option, but I think the days of flirting with 50 goals are long gone. Proceed at your own risk.
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Drew Doughty, D
Up until the start of this season, the top two picks of the 2008 draft (Doughty and Steven Stamkos) had followed remarkably similar paths in their young NHL careers. Both had their struggles as rookies and then exploded into superstars in their sophomore years. So far in 2010, these paths have diverged. Stamkos is leading the league in goals and points while Doughty has been injured and inconsistent, at least for fantasy owners. In 8 games, Doughty has only made it on the scoresheet once, a secondary assist against Calgary on October 10th. However, hope is not lost. Doughty is the anchor of a fantastic LA Kings team that is first in the Western conference and has allowed the fewest goals as well. For anybody that expected another monster 60 point, +20 season, I think you may disappointed, but at the end of the season Doughty’s stats should be better than anyone’s this side of Mike Green. It would be silly to sell now while his value is at an all-time low, so just ride out the rough patch.
Marc-Andre Fleury, G
This one is especially sweet for me. In my mind, Fleury is part of a very special trifecta of players. Him, Vincent Lecavalier and Rick Nash are the three most overrated fantasy hockey players out there. I feel bad for Nash because he is a supremely talented player in a bad situation, but the fact is, Fleury just isn’t that good. Ignoring the draft pedigree, which is borderline useless for goalies anyways, there is very little that qualifies Fleury to be thought of as highly as he is. One of the biggest indicators of a goalies talent is shutouts. Yes, they are of course dependant on the style of play the team employs, but great goalies will steal one from time to time no matter what their teammates are playing like. Do you know how many shutouts Fleury has since March 25, 2009? One. That is a span of 80 regular season starts in which he has only blanked his opponents once, all while playing for one of the most dominant teams in the league. I don’t know what the market is like for him out there, but I would hazard a guess that at this point he and his .860 SV% are virtually untradeable. Try to flip him once he gets his starting job back.
There are of course many other players that could be added to this list, so feel free to discuss in the comments.