April 13, 2010

In my final Crashing the Net article of the 2009-10 season, I will give my thoughts on who should be the award winners for the just completed fantasy season.

Alexander Ovechkin, F, Captials

For the second straight year the top forward in the game is the Russian dynamo from Washington. Ovechkin finished second in the league in scoring with 109 points, three behind Henrik Sedin, despite suiting up for 10 fewer games. At the same time Ovechkin scored 21 more goals, was better in the plus/minus category (+45 to +35), almost doubled the Canucks' point producer in penalty minutes (89 to 48), and clearly was the more dominating force on special teams with 36 power-play points compared to 27 for Henrik. Sidney Crosby is also worthy of mention given that he scored one more goal than Alexander while tying him with 109 points, but he came up short 18 PIMs and +22 in the plus/minus category resulting in the award being given to Ovechkin.

Mike Green, D, Capitals

Like his teammate, Green repeated as the top fantasy player at his position, though it was a much less difficult decision to make than the one at forward. Green led all blue liners with 19 goals, 57 assists and 76 points. In fact, there were only three other blue liners who had more points than Green had assists (Duncan Keith 69, Drew Doughty 59 and Dan Boyle 58). Green also posted the second best plus/minus in the league at +39 behind only teammate Jeff Schultz (+50). Green was also the only blue liner to record double-digit goals with the man advantage, he had 10, and his total of 35 power-play points also led the way at the position. Green wasn't only the best blue liner in the fantasy game, he was also one of the top-5 overall performers given his dominance over his positional competition.

Ilya Bryzgalov, G, Coyotoes

The debate here could include a whole host of guys including the NHL wins leader (Martin Brodeur), the keeper from the best team in the Western Conference (Evgeni Nabokov), the Sabres main man (Ryan Miller), and the keeper from the surprise team in all of hockey -- Bryzgalov. Let's let the numbers tell this story.

Brodeur: 45-25-6, 2.24 GAA, .916 SV%, 9 shutouts Bryzgalov: 42-20-6, 2.29 GAA, .920 SV%, 8 SO Miller: 41-18-8, 2.22 GAA, .929 SV%, 5 SO Nabokov: 44-16-10, 2.43 GAA, .922 SV%, 3 SO

Brodeur led the group in victories and shutouts, but he also had the most loses and the lowest save percentage. Nabokov had a sublime winning percentage, but he also had the highest GAA and the fewest shutouts. That leaves Bryzgalov and Miller. There are two reasons I went with Bryzgalov. (1) He was certainly cheaper on draft day so I gave him a little boost in value because he was a massive difference maker given his late round draft status. (2) If your league counted shutouts, the three extra white washings that the Coyotes' netminder provided more than made up for the slightly lower save percentage he posted compared to Miller. You didn't go wrong if you rostered any of the four, but my award goes to Bryzgalov as the Goalie of the Year.

Steve Stamkos, F, Lightning

You can't really say that a #1 overall draft pick came out of nowhere, but give that he scored more goals this season (51) than he had points as a rookie (46), you have to tip your hat to the kid. Stamkos, who tied with Crosby for the leagues goal scoring lead, also fired home 24 pucks on the power-play, a total that resulted in him being the only skater in the league with more than 18. Given all of that it's more than fair to say that Stamkos blew past everyone's expectations in year two. Honorable mention in the category goes to Jussi Jokinen who scored seven times last year before erupting for 30 this season with the Hurricanes (he also went from 27 to 65 points), and Steve Downie who likely went undrafted in many leagues this season. All he did was go out and score 22 goals while recording a +14, totals that he augmented quite nicely with a whopping 208 penalty minutes.

Christian Ehrhoff, D, Canucks

I could have gone in the direction of Tyler Myers as he had a special season with 11 goals, 37 assists and a +13 mark as a rookie for the Sabres. However, Ehrhoff scored three more goals, fired 77 more shots on net, had 10 more PIMs, and produced seven more points with the man-advantage. Christian also enjoyed a whopping +26 advantage in the plus/minus category as he finished third at the position in that category. For a guy who had only one season with more than eight goals and had never posted a plus/minus mark above +10, that's one hell of a performance.

Jonathan Quick, Kings

You could make the case for Bryzgalov considering how good he was this year, while Craig Anderson (38 victories, a league leading 2,047 saves), Jimmy Howard (2.26 GAA, 37 wins), Tuukka Rask (the league leader in GAA at 1.97 and save percentage at .931) and Antii Niemi (26-7-4 with a 2.25 GAA, fourth in the league) also deserve to have their names in the mix. In the end though, there is no way you can overlook the fact that the Kings made the playoffs largely on the back of Quick. Why Quick over a guy like Rask who was the league ratio leader, or Howard who was drafted only as a backup option? In this case it came down to wins and the team each man suited up for. Rask started only 39 games, the same total of victories that Quick earned (he appeared in 72 games, third best in the league). There was certainly a chance that someone took Rask on draft day given how good the Bruins were supposed to be or Howard because of the continued strength of the Wings, but did anyone bother with Quick until they had no other option given that he had only 47 games on resume and was being asked to backstop a rather poor team? Oh how times have changed.

Brad Boyes, F, Blues

Over the past two seasons Boyes lit the lamp 76 times, the ninth highest mark in the game. Obviously he was a hot commodity on draft day. Hopefully you weren't the "fortunate one" who rostered him. Boyes dipped to 42 points, a pathetic total for a guy who sniped home 43 goals two seasons ago, and after averaging 38 goals the previous two campaigns he scored a mere 14 times for the Blues. I know, he must have been injured, right? Well, he suited up for all 82 games so you can pretty much throw that line of thought out the window. The truth is that he just stunk, though if you want to point at something to explain why he struggled look no further than the huge reduction he offered in the shooting percentage category (20.8 percent in 2007 to 15.0 last year to 7.1 this season). He'll be undervalued next season if you have the gonads to draft him.

Dion Phaneuf, D, Maple Leafs

This was just about the easiest call on the list as he failed to match his established levels of production in every meaningful category. Phaneuf was traded from the Flames to the Leafs, but it really didn't matter where he was playing this year, he just wasn't very good. Here is a comparison between his average season during his first four years in the league and what he did this year.

2005-08: 16 goals, 35 assists, +4, 30 power-play points and 118 PIMs 2009-10: 12 goals, 20 assists, +1, 16 power-play points and 83 PIMs

There is little data to explain his struggles this season, but the downturn in his production was both shocking and depressing.

Steve Mason, Predators

Unfortunately there are a handful of options in this category. Cristobal Huet was supposed to backstop the Blackhawks to the best record in the Western Conference. He didn't, they cam in second, and he ended the year with a pathetic .895 save percentage. Chris Osgood was supposed to backstop the mighty Red Wings but instead he saw action in only 23 games leading to an awful 7-9-4 mark leaving him four victories short of 400 in his career. Marty Turco rebounded slightly from last season though he played his fewest games since 2002 with 52, failed to win 31 games for the first time since 2001 (he had 22), and posted a 2.72 GAA which was more than fourth tenths above his career mark (2.31). Tim Thomas fell from the Vezina Trophy to the backup role with his own team, but he was still mostly effective with a .915 save percentage and five shutouts. The biggest loser was Mason who fell from a top-10 option in every format to being a goalie many didn't want to even have in their active lineup. Mason saw his shutout total halved from 10 to five, lost 13 victories off his total (down to 20) and piled up eight more loses. He also saw his GAA balloon from 2.29 to a laughable 3.05 -- 36th in the NHL. Not too many teams had much success this season if Mason was their No. 1 netminder.

While the regular season is done we at Fanball.com aren't through with our hockey coverage. Make sure to continue to visit the site as we'll not only have playoff pool information, but we'll also continue to cover the frozen puck until someone hoists Lord Stanley's Cup at the end of the playoffs.

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