Many awards are headed Thomas's way after his stellar season.
When it comes to hockey, especially fantasy hockey, you have to be prepared for anything.
The NHL’s regular season definitely created a plethora of shock and surprises for fantasy hockey owners. From backup goalies turning in Vezina-worthy performances, to superstars being stalled with sudden and serious injuries, fantasy owners were cross-checked by a number of events that most people could have never predicted.
Here is a look at fantasy hockey’s 10 biggest surprises during the 2010-11 season
Remember when free-agent acquisition Marty Turco was slated to take over for Stanley Cup stalwart Antti Niemi? Well, Turco turned out to be a human sieve who probably ruined the hopes of millions of fantasy owners, and Crawford became the main man between the Hawks’ pipes.
Crawford ranks in the top 15 in goals-against average, save percentage and victories. He has turned the Blackhawks around after a disastrous start and is leading them into the playoffs and his fantasy poolers into the money. Crawford has now established himself as a possible keeper in fantasy leagues for next season.
After an injury-plagued 2009-10 season where Lucic only managed 20 points in 50 games, this power forward had one of the best bounce-back seasons and became one of the most well-rounded players in fantasy hockey.
You wanted goals? Lucic has 30 of them. You wanted points? He has 60. You needed penalty minutes? He has gooned up 117 PIM. You needed a positive plus-minus? His plus-30 is pretty darn helpful. Lucic is the total package and should be a fantasy force for years to come.
Green burned fantasy owners this season worse than any four-alarm blaze. He was pegged by most fantasy publications as the best defenseman to own in fantasy hockey, coming off a year where he led all rearguards with 76 points while being a monster in plus-minus (plus-39) and power-play goals (10 ppg) as well.
But the first or second-round pick fantasy owners spent on grabbing Green was wasted. He only scored eight goals and 16 assists in 49 games, and he has not played in a month due to concussion-like symptoms. He has had other injury issues and personal problems that have kept him off the ice before his latest ailment, too.
Take solace if you own Green in a keeper league. Hopefully he suffers no long-term effects from his concussion and can be the Comeback Player of the Year in 2011-12. But if Green’s inconsistency and injuries cost you dearly this season, it is a hard pill to swallow.
How many fantasy poolers figured Yandle would be in the top four in scoring among defensemen? Probably the same amount that picked VCU to end up in the NCAA’s college basketball Final Four.
This has been a season where several blueliners scored more points than in prior years, and Yandle tops the list of improvers. Phoenix’s steady, 25-minutes-per-night man has dependably put up points on most nights, scoring 59 points in 79 games. He has superb ice smarts and always seems to make perfect passes that eventually lead to goals for his teammates.
Selanne ranks right up there with Jane Seymour, Susan Lucci and Bob Costas in the people-who-never-age department. Father Time has never been able to check Selanne. Even at age 40, this dinosaur is still “The Finnish Flash.”
Selanne has 76 points in 68 contests and is in the top 10 in scoring. He has not slowed down one mile per hour, nor has he lost any steam off his wrist shot. Not many fantasy poolers could have guessed that Selanne would have averaged more points per game this season than Alex Ovechkin.
Considering Thomas won the Vezina Trophy two years ago, you would think that a super season would not be such a surprise. But coming into the 2010-11 campaign, Thomas was, at best, looking like he would split the starts in Boston with Tuukka Rask and, at worst, was either going to be traded or carrying Rask’s pads for him as Rask’s backup.
Not only has Thomas wrested the starting goalie gig away from Rask, he is leading the NHL in goals-against-average and save percentage and is on his way to another Vezina. Thomas could also possibly be the first netminder to win the Hart Memorial Trophy since Jose Theodore did in 2001-02.
Fantasy owners were not falling over themselves to draft MacArthur before the season. His biggest claim to fantasy fame came the year before when he scored a career-high 35 points while posting a career-low minus-16 rating. When Toronto signed him before the season started the fantasy hockey community let out a collective yawn.
So MacArthur hopped on the left flank on Toronto’s top line at the onset and never skated off of it. The 25-year-old set new career-highs across the board in every major offensive category—goals, assists, points, power-play goals—and has not suffered a scoring slump or had a poor month the whole way.
Tanguay might have gone undrafted in my fantasy leagues back in September. He only scored 37 points with Tampa Bay the season before and looked like he had lost two steps, not just one. But a change of scenery usually helps a player's fantasy value—if he isn't washed-up—and a uniform change did the trick for Tanguay, too.
Tanguay has 63 points and has played primarily with Calgary captain Jarome Iginla all season. Considering this is the best Tanguay has done since the 2006-07 season when he scored a career-high 81 points—with Calgary—this proves hockey players can go home again.
This hulking hero from Chicago’s Stanley Cup run was a beast along the boards and a nuisance in front of the net when he played on the wing for the Hawks in last year’s playoffs. When he was traded to Atlanta in the offseason, though, fantasy owners were not sure what he would become, or what position he would play.
Atlanta shifted Byfuglien back to defense and the rest is history. Byfuglien is scoring more from the back than he ever did up front. He leads all defensemen with 20 goals (eight on the power play) and has scored 53 points overall, more than premier puck carriers like San Jose’s Dan Boyle, Chicago’s Duncan Keith and Los Angeles’ Drew Doughty. Size matters in this case.
Crosby did not have an Eric Lindros-like skull entering the season, yet two freak hits within a week's span derailed the dreams of millions of fantasy owners who thought he would skate them towards league titles and prize money.
Crosby was leading the league with 66 points in 41 games at the time of his successive head shots, and he has not been heard from since. And if Crosby owners figured picking up Jordan Staal would soften the blow, it did not work. Staal’s 28 points in 40 games are not Crosbyesque.
When you draft the No. 1 player in fantasy hockey and he only plays half the season, chances are your fantasy team will end up in deeper trouble than Lindsay Lohan in a jewelry store. The NHL and fantasy hockey need Crosby to return to normal and be 100 percent heading into next season.