Last week, I discussed why I’ll always remember Cristobal Huet as “The guy who thwarted the greatest fantasy team I ever assembled from its rightful” victory. Some may call it a story of great tragedy. Others would delight in my torment. Many others would give us all wedgies for caring.
It seems as if the 2005-06 season brings about a good chunk of unusual stories, which makes sense since it was a) a season that came out of a completely lost year (BETTMAN! GOODENOW! *shakes fist*) and b) it was veritable buffet of penalties.
(I’d say that the ideal mixture is a combination of the two.)
Rotoworld’s Kevin Brown shares his own story from that season, which is a true moment of jarring bad luck and cruel chance. It makes my Cristobal Huet dejection seem even more trivial than it is.
Here’s his story, in full:
A Tale of Fantasy Heartbreak
The year was 2006, although I still remember it vividly. The emotional damage I suffered that year left a lasting impression on me and I have the scars to prove it. Simply retelling the story of that fateful day may lead to nightmares when I next lay down to rest, but it’s a story that needs to be told. After hearing of my tale, you may think I have exaggerated some of the particulars in order to dramatize the story, but the events I’m about to share are all too real.
Our story begins with a younger version of myself, unmarried and without children. My co-manager, Marco, and I were (and still are) managers of the Vandalay Industries franchise in the Neanderthal Hockey League. My Rotoworld colleague Michael Finewax is also a member of this league and he’ll certainly support my claim that it’s the most competitive and demanding league either of us has ever been a part of.
The league is a rotisserie format with 14 owners, starting lineups that go 22 players deep and eight bench spots so 420 NHL players are rostered in total. In short, it’s not for the faint of heart.
Throughout that grueling season, our franchise had gradually pulled away from the pack and we entered the final day of the regular season holding a lead that we had possessed since Christmas. In prior weeks, it wasn’t uncommon for other members of the league to tell us we had sewn up the title, but we knew better than presume anything.
The massive lead we maintained earlier in the year had slowly been fading as our rival, The Howard Bergers, made his ascent up the standings thanks partly to unbelievable seasons from Jonathan Cheechoo and Petr Prucha.
I maintain to this day there were larger forces at work that season, as a trade deadline deal stacked the deck against us when our goaltender, Colorado’s David Aebischer, was traded to the Canadiens in exchange for Jose Theodore, who was on the Bergers’ roster. With that one trade, our team lost the services of a starter since Aebischer took on the role of backup to Cristobal Huet with the Habs, while our opponent made out like a bandit when Theodore was handed the starting assignment with the Avalanche. Nevertheless, we had built up enough of a lead to withstand any challenges – or so we thought.
Let’s fast-forward to the final night of the season.
We entered that day clinging to a one-point lead in the standings as the final games on the calendar were about to be played. With the standings nearly set in stone and our slim lead still intact, there remained one category with the potential for movement in the standings, as our rival trailed the team above him in Save Percentage by a minuscule margin with goaltender Marc-André Fleury slated to play against Toronto that evening.
Those of us at Vandalay HQ were prepared to sit through the Penguins/Maple Leafs contest with fingers crossed, knowing it would be the determining factor for our season, until it was announced that Pittsburgh backup Sebastien Caron was getting the nod in goal. It was Sidney Crosby’s rookie season and the Penguins were terrible so giving their struggling young netminder a reprieve seemed like a nice gesture from the team, but for us it was a gift from the heavens! I prepared to uncork the bubbly, but I thought it would be prudent to wait until the stats were final before I began to celebrate.
As I’m sure you’ve guessed by now, that game didn’t exactly go as planned for us. Thanks to the efforts of such luminaries as John Pohl and Jeremy Williams, Toronto lit the lamp behind Caron five times before the midway point of the second period, causing Pittsburgh coach Michel Therrien to mercifully remove him from the game and send in Fleury to mop up.
The rest, as they say, is history. He faced a grand total of 11 shots the rest of the way, stopping them all, and provided the Howard Bergers just enough to gain one point in the standings and bring him into a tie atop our league standings.
The Neanderthal League Constitution contains a prescribed hierarchy of tiebreaker criteria and though the first two measures (most categories won, head-to-head in each category) failed to anoint a winner, the third tiebreaker (most goals) did and we had been defeated. Of course we knew this already since we had worked through the various permutations in advance and realized we had lost as soon as we dropped into a tie. Our second-place prize was little consolation for the empty feeling in our guts that day.
For days after that season ended, Marco and I would visit our league’s website hoping for a scoring change of some sort that might alter the standings, but it simply wasn’t to be. There was no avoiding the fact we were on the losing end of the most torturous fantasy loss any of us had ever witnessed.
- Kevin Brown.
Now, here's an extended version of quick hits for your fantasy hockey consideration:
While espoused the virtues of playing it safe with Pavel Datsyuk’s knee injury, it appears as if the star is playing on Friday. Hopefully the Detroit Red Wings know better than I do (they do) … Paul Martin returned to the Pittsburgh Penguins’ lineup on Thursday. He scored a power-play game-winning goal and logged 23:46 of ice time. He's not the greatest peripheral guy, so Martin is kind of borderline, but if you're excited about his potential, there are worse defensive options out there ... Drew Doughty suffered what appeared to be a shoulder injury last night. The Los Angeles Kings don't really have much reason to push it with him, so stay tuned for updates about him possibly getting the Toews vacation ... Jonathan Bernier's set to have an MRI for his lower-body injury today. Not good ... Joffrey Lupul appears to be banged up, too, as he was a late scratch on Thursday ... Sounds like there's a slight chance Tomas Hertl could return to the San Jose Sharks for the playoffs. Might be worth a pickup in the dwindling rounds of fantasy playoff pools … Carolina has enough talent to be an upset threat going forward, as the Stars found out last night to a tune of a 4-1 loss ... Sergei Bobrovsky had to relish shutting out the Philadelphia Flyers, an organization that sold on him strangely quickly (or typically, since it's the Flyers) ... Nazem Kadri's had an interestingly mixed season: 19 goals and 49 points, -10 rating and 67 PIM. I'd guess you'd get a split room about whether that's a letdown or an acceptable output following a playing-over-his-head run ... Brent Burns seems worthy of a premium pick. His 23 goals and 46 points (and +25 rating) are solid enough, but when you consider that he hit that mark in 65 GP, it's that much more promising. He's obviously not shy when it comes to shooting (234 SOG in that span), which makes it that much better ... For all the dour moods in Toronto, there's some good news, like James van Riemsdyk confirming his legit power forward status with his 30th goal last night ... Speaking of goals, Eric Staal scored only his 19th of the season on Thursday, giving him one more than his 18 from 2012-13 despite the fact that he's played 74 games to last year's 48. The problem for Carolina is that his value is probably at an all-time low (you never know with NHL GMs), so trading him this offseason might not be as wise as it sounds. (Same with Cam Ward, really.)