The first ever IceHL season is officially over. I'd like to send a very sincere congratulations to Steve Sonricker and his Alaska Huskies.
Goaltending was the difference in this league and the Huskies proved it by winning on the backs of Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne and Corey Crawford. That's a fantastic trio of goaltenders for any fantasy hockey team, not to mention one in a 20-team league. This allowed Alaska to go on an historic winning streak of 17 straight match-ups despite having a group of forwards and defensemen who were not as deep as other teams around the league.
Let's break it down and compare that to my team, the California Wave. What we see is almost the exact opposite philosophy with similar results. The Wave did finish 4th overall and did have a 7 week win streak down the stretch. I would say that the forward group that the Wave had was probably the deepest in all of the IceHL. Alex Ovechkin and Patrick Sharp were great all year. We had a solid seasons from Nathan Horton, Brad Boyes and (surprise, suprise) Derick Brassard. And then we had a dominant group of forwards down the stretch. Patrick Marleau, Ilya Kovalchuk, and Michael Grabner were phenomenal. And Brian Rolston and Jason Pominville were no slouches either.
Our defense was possibly slightly above average. Zdeno Chara had a good year, and Keith Yandle broke out for a huge year and probably led the team to a few wins. From there, you could look at the other D spots in one of 2 ways: good luck because of decent production from a rotating cast, OR bad luck because of the potential depth we could have had. Injuries and real-life coaching decisions took away what could have been good fantasy seasons for Andrei Markov, Ed Jovanovski, Justin Braun, Grant Clitsome and Mike Commodore (Yes, Commodore! He was averaging about 2 IceHL points per game for the Wave.)
And then we get to goaltending... Going in to the year, I thought the Wave were set. I saw that goalie wins as a category were worth 5 points each, and I knew that would be the difference-maker in the league. I set my pre-draft rankings with the top 10 goaltenders in my top 15 picks, figuring that's where I'd go. I did, however, keep a few players above that group of goaltenders: Ovechkin, Crosby, Malkin, Stamkos. So of course, I ended up with the #1 overall pick and much weaker goaltenders. Oh well, that's just one of the perils of an auto-draft.
Anyway, we still ended up with Marty Turco, Dan Ellis and Steve Mason. I thought that would be more than enough. All 3 were going to be starters for what could be good teams. In fact, I thought we had goalies to spare, so we traded Mason for Nathan Horton early on. We ended up picking up Brent Johnson and he had good, if limited, season. Things were looking good.
Unfortunately, I forgot that Turco sucks (Haha, this is coming from a life-long Sharks fan, after all). Ellis was underwhelming for the majority of the year, however, did turn it on once he made it to Anaheim. Speaking of Anaheim, we even picked up Jonas Hiller in the playoffs as insurance. I'd be guaranteed to get the Anaheim starts, right? No. Ray Emery had to get starts down the stretch. To make matters worse, Emery was owned by our playoff opponents, the Saskatoon Sharpshooters. There's a slight chance that could have been the difference in that match-up (Although Emery only ended up with 6.6 points in the week and we lost by.. a bit more than that).
So the Wave ended up finishing 4th in a league of 20. I'd say that's something to be proud of, and hopefully, I'll get a chance to improve on that next year. I want to thank all of the followers of the IceHL, the other managers, the logo designers (especially JFred for making an awesome California Wave logo) and, of course, Chris Smith for giving me this opportunity and making this all possible.
And with that, it's time for my WAVE goodbye.