Although it’s not as popular as football or baseball, fantasy hockey has its fair share of armchair general managers across the internet.
From daily fantasy leagues to weekly head to head and rotisserie formats, fantasy hockey has its share of players that keeps on growing on a yearly basis. With many owners taking part in their league drafts, now is as good a time as any to reveal the latest Throwback Thursday top 10: the best fantasy hockey seasons.
Choosing the 10 fantasy hockey players for this list was not easy. So in full disclosure, some stats (like goals, assists, hits and shots on goal) were weighed more than others (plus/minus rating, penalty minutes and average time on ice per game). That should be it, right? Well, for good measure I also decided to add goalies to the list. In this instance, wins, goals against average, save percentage, shutouts and games played were included.
This list will go as far back as 1981 – the year of the first known fantasy hockey league, and players can only appear once. So with that in mind, here are the top 10 fantasy hockey seasons of all time.
10. Chris Pronger 1999-2000 (14 G, 48 A, 92 PIM, 192 SOG +52, 30:14 time on ice per game)
Fourteen goals and 48 assists does not sound like anything to write home about when making a list for all-time great seasons, even from a fantasy hockey perspective. But when factoring in some of the other categories like shots on goal, hits (which I could not find for any player prior to the 2005-06 season) and average time on ice, it’s hard to ignore Chris Pronger’s 1999-2000 season with the St. Louis Blues.
Additionally, Pronger added 26 points on the power play while playing very solid in his own end. Pronger earned a Norris Trophy and became the first defenseman since the great Bobby Orr to win the Hart Trophy. He also captained the Blues to the best record in the NHL.
While the Blues were shockingly eliminated by the San Jose Sharks in seven games, Pronger’s impact during the regular season couldn’t be ignored. And in fantasy hockey, regular season hockey is all that matters.
9. Tim Thomas 2010-11 (35 wins, 2.00 GAA, .938 SV%, 9 SO, 57 games played)
After suffering a hip injury that derailed much of his 2009-10 season, Tim Thomas’ status as an elite goaltender was very much in question. The year before his epic 2010-11 season, he was considered a late round draft pick for fantasy owners, at best.
Those owners who drafted him, or happened to snag him off waivers really benefitted as Thomas delivered one of the best goaltending clinics in NHL history. What kept him from creeping up the list, though, was he only played in 57 games.
Still his impact couldn’t be ignored as he posted the highest save percentage in league history – at the time – and captured the Vezina Trophy as the leagues top goalie.
In a year where Henrik Sedin captured the Hart Trophy, Sidney Crosby was the one who made a bigger impact for fantasy owners. With career highs in goals, shots and penalty minutes, owners reveled in Crosby’s best fantasy season to date.
Say what you want about Crosby personally, but fantasy hockey players should have no hesitation to draft Crosby if they’re given the opportunity.
7. Steven Stamkos 2011-12 (60 G, 37 A, 66 PIM, 303 SOG, 109 hits, +7, 22:01 TOI/g)
In another instance where the Hart Trophy winner was left off this list in Evgeni Malkin, Steven Stamkos gets the nod and the seventh spot for his efforts during the 2011-12 season.
Fresh off an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals, many projected big things for Stamkos and the Lightning entering the 2011-12 campaign. Although the Bolts couldn’t repeat the same success and missed the playoffs entirely, Stamkos was one of a few players from the team worth grabbing on your fantasy team. And with good reason as he tallied career highs in goals, points, shots and plus/minus. Add in his 109 hits and you have yourself a pretty well-rounded player, which is always good even from a fantasy hockey standpoint.
The second and last goaltender to make this list is Dominik Hasek, who captured his second straight Vezina Trophy during the 1998-99 season. There’s an argument that his 1997-98 could’ve made the list in comparison as he tallied more wins (33), shutouts (13) and appeared in more games (73). But his 1.87 goals against average and his .937 save percentage – at the time an NHL record – was slightly enough to trump his 1997-98 campaign.
Here’s the best of Dominik Hasek, with a little entertainment and a lack of a singing voice in between.
Joe Thornton led the league in scoring during the 2005-06 season and captured his first and only Hart Trophy to date. But I’ve always put stock into goals a little more than assists, especially in rotisserie leagues, and that’s where Jagr gets the nod.
During his 2005-06 campaign, Jagr posted 123 points, good for second most in his career, and fired 368 shots. He was a true threat whenever he touched the puck and was also lethal on the power play as he compiled 24 goals and 28 assists with the man advantage.
Most of all, Jagr, along with a young phenom at the time named Henrik Lundqvist, helped spark the Rangers to their first postseason appearance in nearly a decade.
4. Alexander Ovechkin 2007-08 (65 G, 47 A, 40 PIM, 446 SOG, 220 hits, +28, 23:06 TOI/g)
The Caps superstar showed signs of brilliance in his first two seasons tallying 98 goals and 100 assists in his first two seasons. It wasn’t until Bruce Boudreau replaced now P-Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy early on in the 2007-08 season where Ovechkin really flourished.
With highlight reel goals coming daily (seemingly), Ovechkin dazzled fantasy hockey owners everywhere while posting career highs in goals and points (112) in his third season. Unlike Crosby, a comparison that will forever live on between the two, Ovechkin likes to get physical and his 220 hits added an extra element.
For years Crosby and Ovechkin have been selected with the first two picks. Even as they age, that shouldn’t change even with the likes of Stamkos and Malkin.
3. Paul Coffey 1985-86 (48 G, 90 A, 120 PIM, 307 SOG, +61)
In a time where the Oilers were lighting it up on a daily basis, defenseman Paul Coffey was one who wouldn’t shy away from joining the rush and play some pretty good defense as well. That was evident in the 1985-86 season, where Coffey tallied the most goals among defensemen in NHL history.
Coffey wasn’t afraid to get his hands dirty, either, as seen with his 120 penalty minutes that season. But perhaps the most impressive stat of that year – especially for a defenseman – were his nine shorthanded goals.
2. Mario Lemieux 1988-89 (85 G, 114 A, 100 PIM, 313 SOG, +41)
Wayne Gretzky (more on him in a bit) took the game of hockey to a new level when he arrived on the NHL scene. Mario Lemieux, whom many considered his predecessor, was right on his heels at the end of the 1980’s, and his 1988-89 season solidified that.
Coming off his first Hart Trophy in 1987-88, Lemieux delivered one heck of an encore performance. Super Mario had everyone dazzling in his best all-around season with career highs in goals, assists, points, penalty minutes, power play goals (31) and shorthanded points (18). Lemieux finished second behind the “Great One” in the Hart Trophy race, but from a fantasy perspective, he earns the second spot on this list.
1. Wayne Gretzky 1981-82 (92 G, 120 A, 26 PIM, 369 SOG, +81)
It would be foolish to not have the greatest individual season in history as the best fantasy hockey season of all time. The only word to describe Gretzky’s 1981-82 campaign – one that included 50 goals in 39 games – was great.
In fact, here is a tribute video since any more words really don’t do justice.
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