If someone had asked us what we thought of the upcoming 2021 fantasy hockey season, our initial response would have been- our team would be lucky to get out of the basement.
Much to our surprise and we a guarantee, everyone else, Top of the Rock defied the odds and ran their train to the championship match. 2021 was the first time the franchise produced a winning season and made scoreboard watching an essential part of the day every day.
Let’s take a stroll down memory lane and find out how this season unfolded.
Overall Record and Head to Head Results
The regular season was 12 weeks long, which resulted in an 8-4 record, our first winning season in franchise history. Winning 66% of our matchups kept us in the top spot for several weeks, but ultimately we lost out in the final week of the season and settled for second overall.
Since the league only had twelve teams, we played everyone once, except Horcoff’s Manly Wife, who we faced off on two occasions. They were the only team who beat us twice during the regular season.
Other teams we fell to were GLASS OF MARLEAU and the 2020 league champions Benn Tallon Sens Won. In those combined four losses, we were a paltry 12-24-4, while our numbers against the seven other teams in the league were 50-21-9.
For the first time, Top of the Rock secured a playoff appearance based on their finish in the standings and secured a first-round bye. That meant the boys were headed straight to the semi-finals, which ended up being against their fiercest rivals, Bros Before Ahos. The 5-4 victory was a nailbiter and improved their season record to 2-0 against Bros, giving them a 10-6-3 record.
In the championship, Donkey Kong Country got their revenge on a 9-1-0 victory from week two, mopping up The Rock with a 7-2-1, the worse loss of the season. It was the only time the team failed to secure at least three category wins in any matchup.
The Donkey Kong Country matchups were the best and worse of the season. Despite being 1-1 against the eventual champs, we did win the overall category totals with a nifty 11-8-1 record.
Let’s dig a little deeper into the numbers that matter the most.
Top of the Rock’s weekly averages broke down like this; eight goals, 15 assists, +1, 15 penalty minutes, eight power-play points, and 82 shots on goals. The goalies between the pipes registered just two wins, no shutouts, a 2.69 goals-against average, and a 0.912 save percentage.
Our best numbers in each category were as follows; 18 goals (week one), 29 assists (seven), +15 (seven), 28 penalty minutes (semi-finals), 14 power-play points (one), and 130 shots on goals (one). Our goalies secured a season-high four wins (eleven), a 1.51 goals-against average (three), 0.949 (three), and one shutout (ten).
On the flip side, the worse numbers included just four goals (four), five assists (finals), a -14 rating (eleven), six penalty minutes (five, ten, eleven), three power-play points (three), and 60 shots (five). The worse numbers for the netminders were zero wins (four, eight), a 4.27 goals-against average (eight), and a 0.860 save percentage (eight). The tandem failed to record a shutout in 13 of the 14 weeks.
When our draft ended, Yahoo Fantasy rolled out their annual projections for the league. They initially forecasted us to pile up some high-point totals. However, we failed across the board. The only category we came close to matching the projections was wins, goals-against average, and save percentage.
Player Scoring & Roster Moves
When it came to the main roster, the goal was to have an entire team consisting of Swedish-born players. Unfortunately, the league has a limited supply of Nordic goalies, which left for slim pickings after Jacob Markstrom and Robin Lehner. We settled on Linus Ullmark and a Russian superstar Igor Shesterkin to build our defence around. Ullmark had a rocky season, spending most of his time injured, while Shesterkin could only carry his New York Rangers so far before suffering an injury of his own.
As you will notice, the goalies who suited up for Top of the Rock were the only ones from various countries. Our model wasn’t perfect, yet we did the best we could with what was available. Speaking of available players, here’s how the point totals broke down.
Reigning Conn Smythe award winner Victor Hedman (Tampa Bay) was our best player, racking up an impressive 236 points. He was joined by Gabriel Landeskog (Colorado) as the only player to crack the 200 point barrier. The pair also played in most games, 52 and 44 respectively.
One of the biggest surprises on the roster was Patric Hornqvist and his first season in Florida. A rockstar winger, Hornqvist challenged Landeskog for best player awards week after week.
Twenty-one players suited up for at least one game this past season, and nine of them cracked at least 100 points. The next closest to the century mark was a free agent signing Jonas Brodin (Minnesota), who finished with 98 points. Brodin was one of just nine free-agent signings on the year and outscored two drafted players who played the entire season.
Landeskog had the most goals (17), while Hedman had the most assists (35). The team’s best plus/minus player was again Landeskog, who finished with a +12 rating. Hornqvist collected the most penalty minutes (39), while Hedman had the most power-play points (24). Not to be outdone by his teammates, Hedman also led the way with 134 shots on goal, four better than Filip Forsberg (Nashville).
Not to pick on anyone in particular, but someone ended up putting together a somewhat subpar season despite appearing in 36 games. Vancouver’s Alexander Elder scored no goals, only had four assists to go with 33 penalty minutes. He had a respectable 68 shots on goal; however, his -18 rating was a team worse. Elder ended up as the worse drafted player on the team, who played a minimum of ten games.If anyone wanted to know how we managed to be so successful as a team, they would be pretty puzzled when examining our goalie statistics.
As mentioned earlier, we only employed one Swedish goalie, who managed to suit up for 13 games and collect six wins. Ullmark posted a solid 2.59 GAA, and a team-best 0.920 save % for anyone who played more in double-digit games.
Ullmark’s partner was Shesterkin, who got into 30 games (despite a knee injury) and was the only goalkeeper to collect 14 wins. Shesterkin had a better GAA at 2.49 and came one digit shy of Ullmark’s team-leading number with a 0.919 total.
Some could argue that Pittsburgh’s Casey DeSmith was our best goalie, appearing in four games, winning three and posting microscopic numbers (1.26 GAA & 0.962 save %). But as stated before, he didn’t appear in many games and was the backup’s backup when he signed on.
The bulk of the injury playing time went to Shesterkin’s battery mate, Alexandar Georgiev. The Russian backstop played in eight games but only won two. His GAA was high at 3.90, and his save percentage ended up as the worst out of all the goalies.
Three other goalies got playing time, but none of them could collect wins or shutouts, never mind help the team lower its GAA and save % numbers.
Best & Worse Player Awards
This year’s studs and duds came down to three players, Landeskog (4), Hornqvist (3), and Forsberg (3). Hornqvist and Forsberg won the award on back-to-back occasions while scooping up five of the first seven awards.
Also in the winner circle were Hedman, William Nylander (Toronto), Mika Zibanejad (New York), and Jesper Bratt (New Jersey).
Landeskog and Bratt were the only two players to appear on both the stud and dud lists. Those two found company with frequent offenders like Eriksson Ek (Minnesota), Elias Lindholm (Calgary), Brodin, and Elder as repeat dud winners.
Our best players averaged about 25 points a game while our worse players put up some single digits and averaged just four points a week.
The single highest weekly point total belonged to Landeskog, who scored 32 points in week one. He reached the 30 point mark again in week nine and joined Forsberg, who also scored 30 in week seven. Only Hornqvist managed to secure a stud title without scoring at least 20 points, something he did in week five with just 19.
Several years ago, we realized the importance of bench numbers regarding winning or losing a matchup.
In a fantasy league where you can not alter your lineup after puck drop on Monday evening, these bench numbers can add up real quick. The more points you miss out on, the odds are not in your favour to be successful.
Week one featured the most wasted points with double-digit goals, power-play points and 57 shots on goals. We lost that opening matchup, so imagine the results had we not left those points idle on the pine.
On the other side of the argument, we left a total of six points on the bench during the week four matchup. The boys were victorious that time around, so these points would have had no impact on the final score.
Another thing worth pointing out is the lack of goalie statistics. The team usually employed just two goalies or had a third one on the IR. Sometimes those injured players would come back in the middle of the week, or the third goalie we rostered didn’t have enough games to warrant being in the lineup.
This year, to start another talking point about lineup management, we calculated our official numbers and our bench numbers to see where we could have finished overall.
Added up, Top of the Rock would have been the highest goal-scoring team, along with collecting the most penalty minutes and shots on goals. Those numbers are a far cry from the actual final spots we finished: ninth in goals, followed by seventh in penalty minutes and shots on goal.
Matchups can be won and lost at the beginning or end of the week. Sometimes the scores take a turn for the worse in the middle of the week, and there isn’t enough time to recover.
Since we do not have data from all the fantasy teams we’ve managed over the years, it is tough to officially say that the Top of Rock was our most successful campaign to date. You may wonder how we came to that conclusion; well, the numbers tell the story.
We produced a winning record on six of the seven days of the week, with the other day producing a 0.500 record. We were at our best on Thursday and Sunday, which had a 0.660 winning percentage. Monday was the only day we didn’t win at least 60% of the time, even with a 7-6-1 record.
Top of the Rock went undefeated in only two matchups this season, week six and week eleven, securing a win on all seven days.
The boys were not shut out for any matchups, although they failed to win a single day of the first-week matchup. They won the first five days and then lost the next seven, losing the season’s first matchup.
The best comeback win of the season occurred in the semi-finals against Bros Before Ahos. We were down in the matchup for five days, rallied for a tie after day six and took the matchup after day seven.
Two seasons ago, when we started to track our fantasy statistics, we created a sheet to track our progress or lack thereof regarding our rankings in the league.
After a loss in week one, we sat in 10th place. Winning some weeks after launched us up to 3rd place, the lowest seed we’d play from the rest of the season.
Top of the Rock occupied the top spot in the league in five of the last eight weeks, finishing in second.
Regarding our standings in scoring columns, the boys ranked in double digits at least one point of the season except in goals-against average. The lowest we got in that category was eighth.
Despite the finishes, our best categories were goals (second) and save percentage (third). Although we finished second overall and won a silver medal, we were by far one of the worse teams statistically in our league. Our save percentage numbers were the only category we managed to finish in the top half of the league.
As mentioned earlier in the recap, our goalie statistics were pretty horrible, ranking at or near the bottom of the league week in and week out.
Top of the Rock tried to accomplish the impossible in 2021 to win a fantasy championship with a theme.
We set out on draft to assemble the best team of Swedish-born NHL players and rode their success to a high division finish and a runner-up trophy.
This season will be our last in The Price is Right because we want to participate in league with more lineup freedom, so it seemed only fitting to go out with a bang.
We will see how the Team Sweden idea works in a different league for 2021-22. See you then!