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Frozen Fantasy: Has Stamkos Already Peaked?

Janet Eagleson

Janet Eagleson is a four-time winner of the Hockey Writer of the Year award from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association.

I have to give credit where credit is due - Don Cherry occasionally says something worthwhile.

Down, boy. I'm not the antichrist.

Cherry is well past his "best-before date." His mispronunciations are epic. His homerism is extreme. Yet Canadians eat him up. Fans, members of the media, upholstery fabric sales people - everyone loves the guy. Hey - I'll admit I'm like a fly to moth every Saturday night, too. Much to my own disgrace.

And last Saturday night, he planted a seed in my head about Steven Stamkos and Martin St Louis. It stuck.

He compared Stamkos to Hall-of-Famer Brett Hull - they share the same ability to find seams and the same laser-like one timer. And the same reliance on an elite set-up man.

Martin St. Louis fed Stamkos the puck for several seasons and Stammer rarely made a mistake with the frozen disc. Ditto Adam Oates, who fed Hull. Stamkos has two Rocket Richard trophies, including one on the back of a 60-goal season. Hull had more than 220 goals, including the elusive 50-in-50, with Oates dishing him the puck.

Oates went on Boston where he also helped Cam Neely to his 50-in-50. Hull continued to score, but at nowhere near the pace he set with his right-handed man.

Will the same thing happen to Stammer?

Don't get me wrong - Brett Hull still finished his career third on the all-time list of goal scorers. But those 741 goals might have been north of 780 had Oates not leave to become a rich boy. Did he go too far? You know it don't matter any way...

Brainworms! Gotcha. Now back on topic.

What will become of Steven Stamkos now that Mighty Mite has moved on? Hull's goals-per-game was around 0.80 when Oates left town; it dropped to 0.49 over the remainder of his career. Sure, there are era differences that make it difficult to make direct comparisons to Stamkos and St. Louis. But what happens if Stammer suffers a similar permanent decline?


Now let's take a look at who caught my eye this week.

T.J. Brodie, D, Calgary (1 percent owned) - I like Brodie. He skates really well, makes crisp passes and can control the power play. Best of all, his game is actually maturing despite playing for the Flames. He had a great game against the Ducks on Wednesday night and was rewarded with two assists, including one shorthanded, and a plus-3 rating. And he followed it up with a helper on the game-tying goal Friday. Every Flame is busting his hump right now to prove he's worthy of a job next year. This increased intensity will result in a few extra wins and that means a few extra points for Brodie. He may help your bottom line. And the bottom spot on your roster. There's not much risk here - you can always drop him in a few games.

Ilya Bryzgalov, G, Minnesota (14 percent owned) - I can't believe I'm doing this. I've been anti-Universe for a while - he's one strangely inconsistent dude and he has historically cut a destructive swath through fantasy stat lines. But at this point in the season, you may need to hitch your future to this guy's spaceship. Niklas Backstrom is done for the season and Josh Harding seems unlikely to return. Young Darcy Kuemper has become the starter in Minny, but Universe is only a two-game skid from getting some consecutive starts. That's a scary thought, but the Wild are determined to hold their playoff berth. He might pull a rabbit out of a hat. Or not. But it bears watching.

Martin Havlat, RW, San Jose (3 percent owned) - Well, well - look who have here. Havlat has been a forgotten man for years. Injuries sure have taken their toll, but remember this - he went to San Jose because he was seemingly a perfect fit for their possession game. He still is. He's finally back from his pelvic injury and he has three goals and an assist in his last four games. Get thee to the wire now. GO! Just don't waste your time if you're in one of my leagues. So there.

Anton Lander, C, Edmonton (0 percent owned) - Lander started Friday night's game on the top line with Taylor Hall and David Perron - now that's a ticket for offense. Maybe. He was drafted for points, but his feet have held him back - his start up is a little like a bald tire on ice. But there's a benefit to that, at least for Lander. Hall will continue to be the first man into the zone and Perron will crash the net. Or vice versa. Regardless, Lander will always be third man in and he certainly can wire it from the high slot. Keep an eye on him. He'll have value if he sticks.

Anders Lee, C, NY Islanders (4 percent owned) - Going once. Going twice. Yah - I've talked about him before, so this will be quick. Eight games. Six goals. Nine points. And a first-line gig. Take it. Don't leave it.

Shawn Matthias, C, Vancouver (1 percent owned) and Jordan Schroeder, C, Vancouver (0 percent owned) - Bu-bye, Ryan Kesler; hello increased ice time. Kesler is gone for several weeks and that shuffles the deck chairs at center out on Canada's left coast. Can either Matthias or Schroeder deliver Kesler's mail? Probably not. They probably can't even reach his mail slot. But the Orcas can't possibly be as bad as they've been since Torts-Gate and that has to mean opportunity...doesn't it? Eyeball them. Schroeder might just end up getting Kesler's power-play time.

Andrej Meszaros, D, Boston (4 percent owned) - Meszaros is Meszaros - slow as molasses in January, but decent when insulated within a highly-structured system. And that's why he's here - Boston's commitment to team defense and its highly structured system will fit him like a glove. He won't necessarily give you reams of points, although the Bruins seem strangely intent on rolling him on the PP. Still, he will inject major life into your plus-minus. I can gain up to three points in one of my leagues with a consistent plus man. And that will put me within two points of second place. Hang on a minute - I have to go pick up Mr. Meszaros.

Tuomo Ruutu, LW/C, New Jersey (3 percent owned) - There was a time when this feisty Finn was one of the most desired young players in fantasy hockey. But his hell bent for leather approach resulted in injury after injury, and surgery after surgery. Carolina flipped him to Jersey and he's actually fitting in well on the top line alongside Jaromir Jagr and Travis Zajac. He's firing shots, hitting guys and putting up the tune of four points in his last three games. Oh yah - he's also maintaining a positive plus-minus. A first-line, multi-category contributor who's available at this point in the season? I'm done talking.

Vladimir Sobotka, C, St. Louis (7 percent owned) - I caught Thursday's Blues-Oilers game and I came away thoroughly impressed with this guy. He'd been out six weeks, but it was like he'd never missed a game. He played 12:51 and in that short time, he dominated the face-off circle, got under his opponents' skin and delivered three points and 12 PIM. It won't always be like this. But he meshed beautifully with T.J. Oshie and Vladamir Tarasenko. And that means plenty of potential production.

Carl Soderberg, LW/C, Boston (10 percent owned) - Soderberg scored 30 goals in his last season in Sweden. He won't get there in the NHL, but he will deliver solid secondary numbers. Right now, he has 37 points in 58 games. That's solid, but not remarkable...until you learn he has 14 of those points, including six goals, in his last 16 games. And almost no-one has noticed. Consider him my gift to you.

Back to Stamkos.

He looks a little lost right now, doesn't he? Sure, he scored a power-play goal Thursday night and added an assist. And yah, he's coming off a fractured tibia that was repaired by surgical insertion of a metal rod. But he's not the same player he was. Yet.

There shouldn't be any long-term issues with the leg - there was no nerve damage. But the damage may have come when 26 left town.

The implications for the Bolts are huge. The impact on fantasy owners will be blunt and painful. How valuable is Stammer if he scores 35-40 goals a year from now on? And what happens at the draft if his true value is more Corey Perry than Sidney Crosby?

Shudder. Again.

Until next week.