Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Cheer up, Cardinals fans. You'll always have the Blues to root for.
If you're choosing now to stumble on the St. Louis Blues, your timing is impeccable. They're off to their best start since 2003 (7-1-2).
As you might expect, this article is about Alexander Steen. And if we're being honest with each other, you probably knew this was coming.
Headline-wise, it's a gold mine. Just think of the possibilities. "Head of Steen," "Steen Saver," "Gaining Steen," "Amaze-Steen." The puns are just endless. And I didn't even use those ones.
Word play aside, Steen is deserving of our attention for another reason. He's the NHL's leading scorer with 11 goals in his first 10 contests. That puts the 29-year-old on pace for a Gretzky-like 90 goals this season.
Wait, did I just say a 29-year-old is leading the league in scoring? But that's impossible!
Think again. Last season's NHL points leader was none other than 38-year-old Martin St. Louis. So the myth that only youngsters can put up big numbers is just that ... a myth.
Steen, who was just awarded player of the month honors for October (I assume he'll receive at least two complimentary gift cards to Tim Horton's as compensation), isn't a household name or even a one bedroom apartment name yet. Right now, he's just ... a name.
For fantasy owners, that can be a lot to handle. And as irrational as it may be to collectively snub our noses at one of the game's best, I get it. We're a skeptical bunch in the fantasy community. It's not something to be proud of, but that's the way it is.
Certainly, Steen isn't the easiest guy to figure out. He's not new to the league (this is his ninth season) yet he's never had a season quite like this. And at the same time, Steen has still had some pretty good seasons (24 goals in 2010 and 20 in 2011). It kind of reminds me of Robert California's take on the Black Eyed Peas, "It's rock and roll for people who don't like rock and roll. It's rap for people who don't like rap. It's pop for people who don't like pop."
Steen embodies all of the things that confuse fantasy owners the most. He's good, bad, young and old all at the same time. What we're left with is a red- hot left wing who may or may not be the NHL's version of Fergie.
While others will point to what Steen hasn't done in his career, I look at what he has done. In 2011-12, Steen produced 15 goals and 13 assists. If a concussion hadn't limited him to 43 games that season, Steen would have been on pace for 29 goals and 25 assists. At the time of his injury, his plus/minus rating was an incredible plus-24.
Basically, Steen already had his breakout season but we all forgot about it because of the concussion. Even during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season, Steen flashed his potential with 27 points in 40 contests.
What I like about Steen isn't the goals but how he's been scoring them. Unlike rookie Tomas Hertl who put together a four-goal game before hanging fantasy owners out to dry, Steen's production has been relentlessly steady. He's scored in every game this year but one (a 6-2 loss to San Jose on Oct. 15th). If given the choice, I'd much rather have a consistent scorer than a boom-or- bust type like Hertl.
Steen also benefits from strong linemates in high-scoring David Backes (six goals, five assists) and assist-oriented T.J. Oshie (two goals, eight assists). As long as those two are on the front line with Steen, the goal opportunities aren't going to go away.
It's also encouraging that Steen is playing big minutes. In 10 games, he's logged an average ice time of nearly 21 minutes per game (20:45). That ranks sixth among all NHL wings. Obviously, it doesn't take a rocket scientist (or probably any type of scientist) to figure out that more ice time leads to more scoring opportunities.
And though it may be a bit unusual for Steen to have his best season at age 29, it's definitely not unprecedented. Henrik Sedin had his breakout campaign for Vancouver at that age (112 points in 2009-10) while Mike Knuble didn't put together his first 50-point campaign until he was 30. Brian Rafalski (59 points at 35) and Markus Naslund (career-high 104 points at age 29) were also late bloomers.
So calm all that fluke talk. Whoever you are, Alexander Steen, I believe in you. Fantasy owners should too.
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