Looking Back at Alex Ovechkin and how he’s - somewhat surprisingly - becoming underrated in fantasy hockey.
This isn’t your older brother’s Alex Ovechkin.
Gone are the years of 50 goals and 110 points. Replaced with up and down goal totals to go along with a middling Washington team devoid of consistent secondary scoring. A downturn was inevitable, especially for a scorer entering his late twenties.
What has surprised me, though, is how far he has slid in the eyes of some poolies. While his numbers are far from ‘vintage’ Ovechkin, they’re only considered poor when compared against his own gaudy resume. When stacked up against his peers he is still arguably the most valuable asset in the majority of formats.
Take 2013-14 an example: first in goals and shots, eighth in points, and second in powerplay production. If you’re in a league that has instituted hits, he is one of a select few star players that actually contribute, finishing 22nd among forwards with 204. He is, to put it plainly – a machine.
And yet the rankings this summer don’t seem to reflect his dominate numbers. I don’t want to specifically call-out certain outlets, since I know firsthand how difficult it is to put together concise rankings. The second they are published people like me are rifling through them looking for inaccuracies. You really can’t keep everyone content. Suffice it to say, Ovechkin has been routinely left outside of the top four or five.
Yes, his plus minus was historically bad last year. Matching weather forecasts in the arctic circle. If your league includes it as a category he certainly hurt you. But it’s unfair to label him as a poor defensive forward based solely on one year worth of data. He’s the same guy that has recorded plus ratings of 28, 45, 8, and 24 at different times in his career. Plus minus is, by and large, a flawed statistic when evaluating individuals. It’s very useful when looking at teams overall, and Washington was not good at keeping pucks out of their own net.
So I wanted to use this week’s column to think back to a simpler time. When Ovechkin was unanimously regarded as the near perfect fantasy hockey specimen. It was a heck of a fun time to draft you’re your older brother remembers it well. Here are Dobber’s top 50 rankings from May of 2008:
|18||Martin St. Louis||TB|
A couple quick notes on these. I sometimes forget just how highly ranked Jason Spezza was. Have to wonder how he and Heatley’s career arcs would have developed had they been able to grow old together.
Back to Ovechkin. In spring of 2008 he was in the midst of a 65 goal, 112 point, 446 shot season. It would be his second time surpassing 50 goals and 100 points over the course of three seasons. In fairness to Dobber, his rankings explicitly state they are for ‘points only.’ Which helps to explain why Crosby was able to hold down the top spot despite being noticeably less well rounded in multi-category formats.
I can remember our keeper league at the time legitimately considering whether a “no Ovechkin rule” was warranted. He was shooting one and half times more than the next closet guy and was a virtual lock for 50 goals and 40 powerplay points. We ultimately left him in the draft, reasoning that since ‘hits’ weren’t included the rest of us at least had a fighting chance of winning.
A lot of the talk this summer has centered on the fact that he is becoming increasingly reliant on the man advantage to pad his totals. And that’s true, to a degree. He’ll be 29 years old in September and isn’t quite the same dominating, physical force he was five or six years ago. But I almost look at his difficulties producing at five-on-five as an opportunity. He scored 51 goals with virtually zero help from his linemates, on a Capitals team that was 13th in goals per game. Can you imagine what his numbers would look like with a bit more puck luck at evens and a better supporting cast?
If Washington can improve, even modestly, in 2014-15, and Ovechkin’s linemates shoot at a percentage higher than 3.8%, then we could be looking at something special. Is 60, or even 65 goals possible? Maybe. There is plenty of room to push upward from last season.
A scary thought if you don’t own the first overall pick.
|Looking Back...at April, 2003 Top Players|
Darren Kennedy (@fantasyhockeydk) is a contributor for DobberHockey and Mckeen’s. He’ll talk about anything and everything… except Kovalchuk. Never, ever, Kovalchuk.