("Sleepers, Keepers , Bench'em or Drop'em" is a weekly fantasy hockey column written by Darryl "Dobber" Dobbs, an honest-to-goodness expert on such matters and founder of DobberHockey.com. His column will run on Puck Daddy every Thursday.)
If you claim to have predicted any of the below players to perform as poorly or as well as they have been this season, then I'll claim that you dipped into some of Uncle Jerry's special rice crispy squares. Nobody called what we've been seeing from these guys to date, but at least their statistics are starting to fall into a range that can help poolies and stat junkies (same thing) sleep at night.
Stats must right themselves...
Jason Spezza(notes), Ottawa Senators - Many of you figure that the loss of Dany Heatley(notes) has seriously damaged the potential of Spezza. I agree with that, but also take another viewpoint: the loss of Spezza has seriously damaged the potential of Heatley. Granted, that last statement makes me look about as intelligent as a Cola CEO suggesting a new kind of fruity taste added to the formula is a good thing, but hear me out. Heatley, of course, landed on his feet with an even better centerman in Joe Thornton(notes) - "serious damage" averted. Imagine if it was Shawn Horcoff(notes) instead, though. And imagine if Spezza had Ilya Kovalchuk(notes) on his wing to replace Heatley. That's essentially what happened with these two, but in reverse.
They are both elite, 100-point players (yes, Spezza too) who are still 90-point players even with mediocre linemates. However, Spezza was producing at a 40-point pace prior to his injury, making my stance look extremely stupid. But he has come back from the knee injury with a new attitude: shoot. The result has been 10 goals and 14 points in 11 games. I expect 23 to 26 points in the final 19 games and a close to 90-point season next year. Make it 100 if he gets a Heatley-caliber winger. Someone just needed to turn on the light switch. It's on now.
Marc Savard(notes), Boston Bruins - Another proven point-per-game-plus guy who has hit a run of bad luck. The 31-year-old has been the victim of a broken foot, a sprained knee and linemates that have been so bad that the GM actually thought Miro Satan was an upgrade. The result has been the 31-year-old's weakest output in seven years.
Savard has nine points in nine games since returning from his latest injury and with the Bruins turning things around he should be a good bet for 25 in the final 22, giving him 56 in 59 games. Next year he'll be back hovering around 80.
Pavel Datsyuk(notes), Detroit Red Wings - Another reliable star who, 50 games in, looked as though getting to 55 points would be a struggle. But the Red Wings' injury woes are finally behind them and some scoring depth is back. Datsyuk is now freed up to produce the numbers again and it shows - 12 points in 10 games. He'll get 25 in the final 21 contests to finish with 74 points. That's still pretty ugly for a player who has averaged over 90 points in each of the last four seasons, but it's much better than it was.
Jeff Carter(notes), Philadelphia Flyers - It's not often that a player follows up a breakout year with a bust at the ripe old age of 25, but Carter was well on his way to doing just that. He had just 27 points in 36 games (62-point pace). Again, as with Datsyuk and Savard, it was just a matter of the team turning things back around. Or did the teams turn things back around because of the turnaround of these guys? Whether you believe in the chicken coming first, or you believe in the egg, the fact is that these three guys are now rolling.
Carter has 25 in his last 24 contests and should be good to come close to that in the final 22. That would give him 77, which is not that far off of last year's mark.
Coming down to Earth...
What the hell is up with these guys? Fifty games into the season and each one of them were still on pace to finish at least 30 points higher than any preseason prognosticator had them pegged. It made about as much sense as Horcoff making $5 million-plus per year. Fortunately, things are finally slipping back towards the expected statistical range and my brain can untwist itself from trying to come up with a logical explanation.
As for Horcoff, he can still buy and sell me each time he's on the ice for a goal against - and he's a minus-29. There's no logical explanation here.
Henrik and Daniel Sedin(notes), Vancouver Canucks - It's kind of amusing how the twins have been on the same team in my two keeper leagues since they were drafted. Through about a dozen fantasy trades, they have remained together. Their production this year, though, has been anything but funny. At the 52 game mark, Henrik was on pace for 120 points and Daniel would have been right there with him were it not for a knee injury. Incidentally, it was that knee injury that finally split these two up in one of my leagues.
Their current 14-game road swing is slowly bringing things back into line. Eight games into it and Henrik is now tracking for 106 points - and falling. That pace will slip to below 100 in the end.
Brad Richards(notes), Dallas Stars - Since 2006, his point totals have Jonathan Cheechooed downwards. Only instead of sucking his way to the AHL, ‘the other' Richards has come back in a huge way. Still, when a player declines from 91 points to 70 to 62 to 48, even taking into account the injuries, it's hard to understand the 97-point pace he was on at the 54-game mark. All it took was a run of nine points in 12 games to bring his prorated final total down to a more palatable 89 points.
Dustin Penner(notes), Edmonton Oilers - The big galoot was finally showing some of the potential that Kevin Lowe (unfathomably) saw in him when he signed him away from Anaheim. But even Lowe couldn't possibly believe that Penner had the potential to tally 90 points. Now Dustin Penner is playing a little more like Fred Penner, managing just 11 points in his last 29 games. He should still make it to 60 this season, but that shouldn't stop you from laughing at the moron in your league who hung onto him at the 40-game mark believing he was a superstar.
Wojtek Wolski(notes), Colorado Avalanche - He had 36 points in his first 37 games, which had many poolies doing a double-take. It's not that Wolski doesn't have the talent to get a point per game - he does. But we didn't even get a sniff of this in his first three campaigns. Furthermore, Wolski is softer than Pascal Dupuis(notes) with two broken shoulders, so you would think that the coach would tire of that. Fantasy owners don't mind when a player turns his game around dramatically, but Wolski was a new man altogether.
With 11 points in his last 24 games, the inconsistent Wolski of old has returned. It was a nice step forward this season, so it won't be as shocking if he were to carry it on a little longer in 2010-11.