PROGRAMMING NOTE: This is the 2013 season’s final edition of the Daily Dose, emphasis on daily. There will be weekly versions in the postseason, however, so don’t worry too much about a dangerous loss of bad puns and (hopefully) useful fantasy hockey analysis.
For casual hockey fans, this 48-game season probably felt like a blur. More hardcore ones - and certain beleaguered Rotoworld column writers - might just consider this season “long” in a way.
To make a rather arduous analogy, a normal NHL season is like a cross-country road trip in an RV. It’s devastatingly, tediously long ... but at least you have all that extra legroom. On the other hand, this season was like a tour of the Pacific Northwest with your family packed into a sedan. Sure, it’s a much shorter trip, but each (week in hockey terms/hour involving kids bickering in the backseats) is that much tougher.
Either way, the journey is over* so it’s time to get out of the vehicle and stretch our legs a bit. Feel refreshed? Good. Now allow me a little time to reflect on this odd ride.
Simply put, the condensed schedule often did away with things that felt like old hat.
For example: usually, Mondays, Wednesdays and some Fridays are the “light” nights. While it’s true that those evenings still tend to be lighter, plenty of them have been heavy in action.
As far as I can tell, the shortened season didn’t add THAT much to the injury toll. Sure, there might have been more by a few boring decimal points per night/week/month, but it didn’t seem like it caused many epidemics.
(Fans of teams that were hit by wave after wave of ailment are probably looking at me with frowns and arms folded all passive-aggressive style.)
Beyond the more day-to-day stuff, the worst development is that the shame of the lockout didn’t shock the NHL into improving the quality of play in any noticeable way. Actually, the only difference people really picked up on was that officiating continues to slide further and further to the Dead Puck Era dreck that the league apparently only fights to avoid when the entire business is in enormous trouble.
A SMALL BAND OF SCORERS
I’ve railed on this issue countless times lately, so I won’t go any further than showing you how the NHL’s top nine** scorers’ seasons would look like over an 82-game campaign. I’ll even include Sidney Crosby despite the disturbing possibility that he won’t hit the 82-game season very often in his career ...
Martin St. Louis - 58 points in 47 GP; if 82 GP: 101 points
Steve Stamkos - 56 points in 47 GP; if 82 GP: 98 points
Sidney Crosby - 56 points in 36 GP; if 82 GP: 130 points
Alex Ovechkin - 54 points in 47 GP; if 82 GP: 94 points
Patrick Kane - 54 points in 46 GP; if 82 GP: 96 points
Phil Kessel - 51 points in 47 GP; if 82 GP: 89 points
Eric Staal - 51 points in 47 GP; if 82 GP: 89 points
Chris Kunitz - 50 points in 47 GP; if 82 GP: 87 points
Nicklas Backstrom - 48 points in 47 GP; 84 points
So, if the top players maintained their 2013 season paces, there would be just two 100+ point guys and that’s assuming Crosby would play enough games to hit the century mark. Only three of the remaining players would broach 90 points, too.
There are more sophisticated ways to show that scoring is in the toilet, but that might just be the scariest. Get it together, NHL.
Let’s lighten the mood with some things I’ll remember from 2013.
LASTING IMPRESSIONS, FLEXIBLE INTERPRETATIONS
If 2013 teaches anything, it’s that we might not “know” as much as we think we did. Sometimes. Maybe.
Still, my overarching bit of advice from this season is simple: this is a shorter campaign and, for that reason, it’s far more likely to mislead you into assuming that hot month(s) mean strong careers. Be careful.
RANDOM ACCESS MEMORIES
Anyway, here are a few things that I’ll remember - if not weigh heavily - about the wacky 2013 season:
People really DID forgive the NHL for the agonizing lockout. I’m still wrestling with whether or not it’s better or worse that such an immediate embrace happened. (It’s certainly not strictly bad or good.)
The San Jose Sharks got lucky in some areas, no doubt, but I think the team’s approaches serve fantasy lessons. They experimented boldly, but they did so with a guy who wasn’t getting it done with Brent Burns. Doug Wilson made tank-like moves by jettisoning Ryane Clowe and Douglas Murray for fantastic packages. Heck, even adding a loathsome figure like Raffi Torres is a lesson that you don’t have to love everyone on your fantasy team for your squad to be successful. (Torres can eat it, though.)
I wouldn’t say that I’ve been a loud supporter of Sergei Bobrovsky, but I’ve had a soft spot for BOB since he carved out a nice win total in his rookie year. Still, I didn’t see this amazing, Vezina-caliber season coming. It’s worth noting that he’s fighting for a contract and hasn’t been doing this for THAT long, so just be careful in next year’s draft. Still, if you’re in a situation where he can be your No. 2 guy in the right spot, why not give him a shot? It’s a great story however you slice it.
While one game hasn’t changed the fact that I’m concerned about bringing Erik Karlsson back into the lineup, his work before the injury cemented the fact that he’s a downright special player. When you consider the gap between Karlsson and every other fantasy defensemen, it really isn’t crazy to give him a long look late in a first round or sometime in the second round in deeper leagues. The guy just drives an incredible amount of pucks in the opposition’s direction. You know how Mike Green was an interesting early draft choice before injuries really wrecked him? Barring something horrific happening between now and October, I think Karlsson is what we always wanted Green to be.
It’s hard to shake Devan Dubnyk’s zany season. That 13-16-6 makes him mediocre in fantasy terms, but that .920 save percentage is enchanting. Keep an eye on the hard-luck goalie, even if the small sample size criticism is still fair enough.
INJURY NOTES (full list) and QUICK HITS
Alexander Semin’s season is over. Hey, getting 44 points out of him in 44 games is still probably better than many people expected, I bet. One of my favorite obvious value picks this year alongside fellow over-bashed sniper Jeff Carter ... How long will it take for James Reimer’s name to show up on “most underrated goalies” lists? One of the best steals in the draft had his fourth shutout of 2013, pushing his record to 19-7-5 ... The New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators clinched spots. The Winnipeg Jets and Dallas Stars are toast. The Detroit Red Wings, Minnesota Wild and Columbus Blue Jackets remain in a battle for the West’s final two spots. Note this when you consider who might scratch healthy players either to rest up for the playoffs or to wave the white flag ... Ryane Clowe left Thursday’s game with a mystery injury ... Will it be Cory Schneider or Roberto Luongo in the Canucks’ last contest? I wish I could tell you ... Sidney Crosby being cleared to practice is noteworthy mainly for playoff pool reasons. Keep abreast of updates on his condition, as that could be one of the most important situations between now and whenever you might set up your postseason leagues.
* - OK, technically there’s Friday and Saturday, but in terms of the Daily Dose being a M-F joint, it’s over.
** - Why top nine? Because a few players are tied at 47 points and I think it would be tedious to go that far when the point is already pretty obvious.