A Sports Illustrated NHL players poll found that many in the league consider Dion Phaneuf to be the most overrated player, which generated some classic Brian Burke responses.
In a way, the claim makes some sense. Phaneuf burst onto the scene as a rookie with the Calgary Flames, looking primed to be the next Chris Pronger/Scott Stevens. Video game covers, B-list celebrity lovers and a Norris Trophy nomination came very early in his career, but the secret was that the Flames seemed to shield the young defenseman from tougher assignments. Phaneuf lavished in easier matchups and plum power play assignments, but once his big contract came, it seemed like the good times stopped rolling.
Even so, Phaneuf found himself in one of the most prominent positions in the sport as he became the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs. That designation and his healthy salary might explain why other players don’t really hold him in the highest esteem.
That being said, fantasy hockey is not a realm where Phaneuf has been overrated – at least not lately.
Phaneuf’s draft position probably varied by region (my guess is he went higher in leagues with more Canadian owners), but generally speaking, it was unlikely that he’d be the first defenseman you drafted unless you almost totally disregarded the position. With that in mind, it’s quite possible that he was underrated in fantasy circles. Phaneuf has 28 points, a decent +2 rating, 47 useful PIM and 119 shots in 42 games this season. That point total places him sixth overall among blueliners and his peripheral stats land him a few strides short of Zdeno Chara’s level, but place him firmly in the Dustin Byfuglien/Kevin Bieksa camp this season.
Since Phaneuf has almost certainly been a steal in fantasy, it got me thinking: who is the most overrated player in fantasy? Here are a few leading candidates/groups.
LOWER CASE CAPITALS
The Washington Capitals probably own the “most overrated team” category. Alex Ovechkin had a putrid start and while he’s really been coming on strong lately, fantasy owners likely expected him to play this way all season long. Mike Green has been plagued by injuries to a worrisome degree. Tomas Vokoun has been a big letdown although he’s showing signs of being the guy who went high in drafts, especially with his 30-save shutout against Pittsburgh last night. There’s no sense beating the dead Alexander Semin horse at this point, either.
The Capitals have let down owners the most, but two teams aren’t far behind.
First we have the Anaheim Ducks. It’s not surprising that Corey Perry isn’t matching his Hart Trophy run as most of us (I’d like to believe) expected him to come back to reality a bit after playing over his head. Ryan Getzlaf had injury issues last season so many of us expected big things but he’s instead been a big disappointment. Bobby Ryan has been downright impotent offensively during disturbing stretches of this season and Jonas Hiller proved to be an even riskier pick than expected. Lubomir Visnovsky is following a career year with a season he’d like to forget, as well.
The last team that truly burned owners in a big way (more medium-sized and smaller examples later in this post) falls under the “Should have known better” category. The Columbus Blue Jackets have been lousy in 2011-12, as Jeff Carter is fighting off injuries, James Wisniewski is just a mess and Rick Nash isn’t even leading the team in scoring. Don't even get fantasy owners started on Steve Mason ...
THE CROSBY GAMBLE
Mike Green isn’t the only guy whose season has been derailed by injuries. Only the most stubborn fantasy owners will deny that they’d like a “take back” on whenever they drafted Sidney Crosby. It’s not fair to say he’s really overrated because he wowed just about everyone on his comeback, but with that return lasting just eight games, he clearly went too high in most (if not all) drafts.
OK, there might be a case to make for the Buffalo Sabres being overrated, as just about everyone not named Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville has fallen short of their marks, with Ryan Miller arguably hurting owners the most … What’s the deal with Drew Doughty this season? The Kings might be another team worth mentioning, although it’s unlikely that people expended too high a pick on someone like Simon Gagne at this point … the Montreal Canadiens are probably the last team really worth mentioning as a disappointment, especially if you drafted Andrei Markov before it was clear he wouldn’t get to play (Ouch).
So if you had to name one player as the most overrated in fantasy hockey this season, who would it be? Sadly, there are obviously a lot of choices.
The New Jersey Devils might go from mediocre to “kind of decent” if they accept the reality that the guy wearing Martin Brodeur’s equipment is an older, less reliable version of the fellow who helped them win three Stanley Cups … Say what you will about Ilya Kovalchuk; he’s delivering pretty nicely fantasy-wise again … One more Burke/Leafs thought: he’s in the market for a short-term upgrade this season. The Leafs offense can be pretty explosive, so that might be a good thing if someone lands in Toronto … The Pittsburgh Penguins might be in free fall mode, as they’ve gone 0-6-0 in their last six games with just six goals scored.
Brian Gionta could be out for the rest of the season with a bicep injury … Crosby should start skating this weekend. Exciting, I know … Nicklas Backstrom’s concussion issues are still a bit worrisome, to be honest … Mike Ribeiro might try to play through an MCL tear. That doesn’t sound like a good idea … Travis Zajac will miss a few weeks as he hasn’t shaken off his Achilles issues yet … In case you missed it, Pierre-Marc Bouchard is fighting off concussions, again … In good news from the frequently concussed department, the Colorado Avalanche activated Peter Mueller from the IR. I cannot help but worry that his career is in serious danger, but it would be fantastic to see him come back and fulfill his significant promise … It looks like Erik Karlsson’s upper-body injury isn’t very serious as he might return soon. In fact, he might even be back tonight, so keep an eye on Rotoworld updates. (Click here for the full injury list.)