Ramblings: Pens/Sharks, Justin Faulk, Evander Kane, Trading (June 7)

Michael Clifford

2016-06-06

Pens/Sharks, The Art of Trading, Evander Kane, Justin Faulk, Carolina

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Pittsburgh is now one win away from the fourth Stanley Cup in franchise history after a 3-1 win last night in San Jose.

Ian Cole opened the scoring in Game 4 as a seemingly innocent shot from a bad angle by Phil Kessel went straight off the blocked of Martin Jones, and right onto Cole’s stick. On a one-timer from his strong side, Cole deposited the puck into the half-empty cage for a 1-0 lead. A bad line change by the Sharks left them scrambling, and instead of backing out to cover Cole, Polak loses him in coverage, resulting in a goal against:

Pittsburgh made it 2-0 on a second period power play goal from Evgeni Malkin. Phil Kessel – who is apparently not good enough for Team USA’s World Cup team – found the struggling Penguin at the back door, and San Jose would need to stage a serious comeback.

Melker Karlsson would make things interesting near the mid-point of the third. The puck squirted out to Karlsson in the slot and the shot just couldn’t be squeezed by Matt Murray. After looking pretty much closed down for much of the game, the Sharks were one shot away from bringing us another overtime.

That goal would be inconsequential, though, as Eric Fehr restored the two-goal lead with two minutes left, and the Penguins are now a game away from a Cup win.

One thing I’ve noticed is a lot of people talking about how poor the Sharks look at times in this series, and they haven’t been perfect. But some credit needs to be given to Pittsburgh here. This is a team so deep up front that Kessel is routinely a third liner and no one bats an eye. They are hyper-aggressive, pressuing both puck- and non-puck carriers, which creates a lot of zone sustainability problems for the Sharks. Some credit needs to be given to a team that has probably been the best in hockey over the last six months.

These playoffs have made me wonder what Phil Kessel’s ADP will be next year. He is legitimately a Conn Smythe front-runner. After having a down year points-wise, especially considering the hype of being traded to Pittsburgh, how many rounds have these playoffs taken away from his ADP? That is something I’m interesting in seeing as the drafts start in September.

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There are a couple of players I will be looking for value next year when it comes draft time using on-ice shooting percentage, one of them below (I’ll talk about the other one on Friday). On-ice shooting percentage is simply the rate at which a team scores when a player is on the ice (usually expressed at five-on-five). Extremes tend to regress to the mean, and finding guys with poor on-ice shooting percentages is a decent way to search for value in fantasy.

Evander Kane

The big problem with Kane is a complete inability to stay healthy. He played a full 48-game lockout-shortened season, and since then, he’s played about two-thirds of the regular season games. That is horrific. Also, he is a guy who does shoot from everywhere, as Behind The Net has him as, starting with the 2013-2014 season, the farthest (32.3 feet), second-farthest (33.4 feet), and second-farthest (34.6 feet) average shot distance on his team among forwards. That is why, even if he takes 325 shots, he may not crack 30 goals.

I also think the lustre has finally worn off of him in the eyes of fantasy owners. He was frequently a top-75 pick, this past year dropping to about a 10th round pick, as people drooled at the shot rates and natural gifts of Kane. The injuries, and the fact that he has one season with over 20 goals in seven years, has kind of exposed the player that Kane is.

Understanding how to value this is important. With monster shot totals, and a healthy amount of penalty minutes, Kane doesn’t need to be a 30-goal, 65-point player to be top-100 in roto fantasy. There should be a rebound in his on-ice shooting percentage, which was 256th out of 260 forwards this year, and thus likely a rebound in assists.

Kane has been overvalued pretty much every year since his 30-goal season. Now that he’s had three disappointing years in a row, he should finally be valued correctly. I suspect his ADP will finally be around the 12th-13th round, or later, and at that point, I have no problem taking him.

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Over at the website XNSports.com, I got to know a fellow fantasy writer by the name of C.D. Carter over a number of years. He wrote a book called How to Think Like a Fantasy Football Winner, and I consider it must-read material for anyone that participates in fantasy sports. Despite the title of his book, the lessons contained within go far beyond the realm of fantasy football. There are several lessons that can be applied to fantasy hockey, not the least of which is the problems with trading.

Without giving away too much of the research Mr. Carter did for his book, one of the basic problems that is discussed is that people tend to overvalue their own assets.

This makes sense, right? Most people that have sold a house or a car can probably attest to the fact that they did not get the price that they anticipated. What you think is an $8000 car might only be worth to $6000 to someone else. So either you hold out waiting for that magical offer, or you take less than you originally desired.

Of course, the applications to fantasy hockey are obvious. That is why I think having projection models can only help so much. If I’m in an auction keeper league, and I think Mark Scheifele is a $25 player next year, but no one else in the league does, it doesn’t really matter that I think he’s a $25 player. This is where negotiation and compromise can help.

All this is to point out that designing a trade is as much an art as it is a science. Having two sides of similar value is important to a trade, but it’s important to figure out what someone else needs, and judge the scarcity of that need. Does your trade partner need penalty minutes in a roto league? Well, Patrick Maroon may help their squad. But if Steve Ott and Antoine Roussel are on the waiver wire, there is no incentive on the part of your trade partner to make the deal.

Just remember that because dollar value or perceived values of a trade might make it seem fair does not mean that both sides of are equal value. The ability to fill a need – particularly a need that is scarce in availability – is just as important as having similar total projected dollar values.

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Justin Faulk very much looked primed for a monster fantasy season as he posted 14 goals, 30 points, and 110 shots on goal through the first 38 games of the season. Injuries really slowed down his season after that, though, and Faulk had just two goals and seven points from January 1st on. There was some natural regression in there as he was on pace for over 25 power play goals, which is an absurd number for anyone in the league, let alone a defenceman. Despite this, it was a letdown for fantasy owners who thought they would have a stud defenceman in the back half of the season.

It is worth noting that even with the injuries, his per-game marks were more or less on par with the year before, so it’s not like even with the poor second half that there are huge red flags for next year. As long as he’s healthy, he should do well.

The problem, of course, is not with Faulk, but with his goaltenders. Cam Ward’s 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 seasons, along with Anton Khudobin’s 2014-2015 and Eddie Lack’s 2015-2016 seasons, are all in the bottom 30-percent for adjusted save percentage at five-on-five over the last two years. All this has led to Carolina having the second-worst five-on-five save percentage over the last two years, with only Edmonton being worse. It’s no wonder Faulk is a combined minus-41 over these past two seasons.

How to value Justin Faulk is largely a function of the league you are in. Ward is a UFA, and I can’t imagine he’s going to be brought back. The free agent goalie market is filled with a lot of sadness for teams that are relying on that this offseason, with it being basically James Reimer and then a bunch of question marks. Trades can be made, but that is unpredictable at this time.

Those in roto leagues – or point leagues that deduct for minuses – need to be wary of this. Drafting Faulk along with any other number of point producing d-men with bad goalies behind them like Oliver Ekman-Larrson or Dougie Hamilton is a recipe for disaster. Plus/minus is reasonably unpredictable and indicative of almost nothing, but players on teams with bad goalies tend to suffer in this regard. Remember that going into drafts next year.

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To continue with Carolina for a second, after reports came out that it seems as though Las Vegas will have an NHL team for the 2017-2018 season, I thought it was interesting to see this come across my timeline:

Three things about this make me wonder what is really going on here. First, it’s no secret that Carolina ownership is having some problems, namely that their owner is being sued by his sons over their trust (just google that one for more details). Secondly, however, is that the NHL would then lose out on expansion fees that would result in a brand new team from Las Vegas, and I’m sure the NHL isn’t in the habit of not fighting for hundreds of millions of dollars. Third, from a competitive balance issue, simply relocating a team from the East to the West would restore two separate 15-team Conferences, rather than the 16/14 split that has been in use for a few years now.

There is a lot to unpack here. Way too much for this corner of the fantasy world. I have no reasons to doubt Mr. Murphy’s report from those two executives, but be careful to note that the word “could” is a far stretch from the word “would.” There are a couple of reasons why it would make sense for Carolina to sell and relocate to Las Vegas, but I’m sure that is the NHL’s least appetizing decision from a league revenue standpoint.

*Stats from Hockey Reference, Hockey Analysis, War On Ice. Cap information from CapFriendly.com

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
BRAYDEN POINT T.B 17 9 15 24
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 19 6 18 24
PAUL STASTNY VGK 6 2 4 6
JAMIE BENN DAL 18 8 10 18
SHEA THEODORE VGK 4 1 2 3

LINE COMBOS

  Frequency TOR Players
31.6% MITCHELL MARNER AUSTON MATTHEWS JOHN TAVARES
18.4% ZACH HYMAN KASPERI KAPANEN WILLIAM NYLANDER
13.6% ANDREAS JOHNSSON ALEXANDER KERFOOT ILYA MIKHEYEV

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