Clearly, not everyone can be Jaromir Jagr or Joe Thornton. There are players who seem to age like fine wine and remain outstanding fantasy hockey players despite being in their late thirties (or even their forties), but there are many more players who fail to live up to the expectations that come hand-in-hand with their legacies.
It’s easy to point to players like Rick Nash, James van Riemsdyk, Logan Couture, or Carey Price and call them disappointments this past fantasy season because of the time they missed with injury, but there are several star players who missed fewer than 20 games that were also major letdowns to their fantasy managers.
Let’s take a look at three big name veteran players that failed to live up to the expectations that came with them on fantasy draft day back in the fall.
Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings
According to fantasypros.com Zetterberg was the 56th average pick on draft day. With the NHL’s regular season all but over the Swedish star that has been so special in Detroit for so long will finish outside of the top-100 fantasy players this season after being the 39th best player in standard scoring categories in 2014-15. A big part of Zetterberg’s value came with the strength of his team and the Red Wings have been slipping in the last few years.
A minus-14 plus-minus rating dragged down Zetterberg’s fantasy value, but he also scored 18 fewer points than he did last season while playing in 80 games this year. The captain of the Red Wings put up just 13 goals and 35 assists in that time and not even has 20 power play assists could make up for his drop in goal scoring and his poor plus-minus rating on Detroit’s top line.
At 35 years old, and turning 36 next October, the days of Zetterberg being one of the best offensive forwards in the league are likely behind him. Could his power play production improve and help his fantasy value next season? Of course it could, but he’s not getting any younger and now hasn’t had a 20-goal season in five years.
Jiri Hudler, Florida Panthers
Fantasy managers that were counting on a repeat performance from Hudler after his big 2014-15 season were setting themselves up for disappointment.
Hudler was taken, on average, sometime around 65th in most drafts on draft day which means he was taken before Oliver Ekman-Larsson in some leagues. Yikes.
In 70 games with the Flames and Panthers this season Hudler scored just 44 points after posting 76 points in Calgary in 78 games in 2014-15. Missing some time with injury didn’t do anything to help his cause, but unsurprisingly his per-game production dropped significantly this sesaon.
In 2014-15 Hudler was the 44th best player in standard scoring categories thanks to his breakout year.. It was the first time Hudler, now 32 years old, had ever scored 30 goals and it was the first time he had registered more than 37 assists.
He had no business going as high as he did in most drafts in the fall with a sample size of just one great season. All signs point to the pending unrestricted free agent falling significantly on the draft board from where he was taken last fall.
Andrew Ladd, Chicago Blackhawks
The 26th best player in standard scoring categories from last season fell to the 161st this season. A deadline day trade to Chicago at first appeared that it would change Ladd’s sub-par fantasy season, but not even joining one of the best offenses in the league was enough to return the left winger to fantasy hockey stardom.
Ladd, who played 59 games this season as the captain of the Winnipeg Jets, was dragged down in fantasy value by a minus-10 plus-minus rating and a noted drop in his shooting rate. Last season Ladd shot the puck 224 times in 81 games for the Jets. This season he has 175 shots through 76 games and is averaging just two shots a game as a Blackhawk.
Where the pending unrestricted free agent signs this offseason will have a major impact on where he should be drafted next fall for his age 31 season. There are very few left wingers who have been as consistently productive as Ladd has over the last several years and if he finds the right situation he could rebound and return as a top-100 fantasy player in 2016-17.