It is not often that I begin my fantasy hockey report with women’s hockey. However I felt it was appropriate to begin this weekly report analyzing the greatest Canadian women’s hockey player over the last decade in Hayley Wickenheiser.
Wickenheiser announced her retirement from hockey this past Friday and was honoured in an excellent ceremony prior to the Calgary Flames/Edmonton Oilers game at Rogers Place in Edmonton on Saturday.
Wickenheiser will go down in history with some extremely impressive numbers. In the most important women’s hockey tournament on the planet—the Olympic Winter Games, Wickenheiser had 18 goals and 33 assists for 51 points in 26 games. Wickenheiser also had 86 points in 61 games in the Women’s World Hockey Championship, 134 points in 68 games at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level and 155 points in 51 games in the Western Women’s Hockey League.
You cannot belittle Wickenheiser’s statistical greatness, however one cannot ignore one significant factor when analyzing her statistics. You have to realize the overall level of competition that the North American teams have played over the years has not been strong outside this continent. Most European nations have not shown the same level of commitment to women’s hockey, as they have to men’s hockey, and in effect the women’s game faltered when Wickenheiser was in her prime.
Wickenheiser also had the fortune of playing for the Oval X-Treme of the Western Women’s Hockey League. The X-Treme were by far the best organization in western Canada, and had significant more talent and resources to complement Hayley than the other teams in the league.
That said, there has been no stronger trailblazer in trying to improve the women’s game than Wickenheiser. Her level of commitment in trying to globalize women’s hockey deserves high praise and respect. However you just need to wonder what Wickenheiser’s statistics could have looked like If she played for Sweden, Russia or Finland. Could she have maintained her multi-point per game pace? Could she have led a European nation to a gold medal? We will never know. Wickenheiser is the greatest women’s hockey player ever, but it is easier to be statistically dominant when the team around you is excellent as well.
In NHL news, notables who went on the injury reserve this week are Pittsburgh Penguins defenseman Kris Letang, Nashville Predators defenseman Roman Josi and New York Rangers goaltender Antti Raanta. Letang and Josi are marvelous fantasy blueliners, and their loss will be a significant blow to any fantasy hockey team. Raanta meanwhile has been solid for the Rangers, highlighted by a goals against average of 2.23 and a save percentage of .923. Raanta is also clearly the Rangers goaltender of the future, as the team has given Henrik Lundqvist fewer starts at this point of the season than years past.
This past week, the best fantasy hockey player was Nicklas Backstrom of the Washington Capitals, who had three goals and seven assists for ten points in only four games. Finally in weekly leagues for January 16-22, stay away from the Philadelphia Flyers’ players as they only play twice.