Cage Match: Ryan McDonagh vs. Anton Stralman

Rick Roos

2016-06-15

Who is the better fantasy own – Ryan McDonagh or Anton Stralman? Full analysis here!

 

After more than 100 Cage Matches, there’s rarely a first for me; but we have one this week in that the two players facing off (defensemen Ryan McDonagh and Anton Stralman) had exactly the same main stat lines last season – nine goals and 25 assists in 73 games. But how will they produce next season, and beyond? Cage Match is here to answer those questions, and more.

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

 

McDonagh, 27, was drafted 12th overall by the Canadiens in 2007 but was packaged to the Rangers (as part of the infamous Scott Gomez deal) in 2009 before signing. After inking a deal with the Blueshirts in summer 2010, McDonagh took the ice for 40 NHL games that season. By 2011-12, he was in the NHL to stay; and in 2013-14 he posted 43 points in 79 games plus 17 in 25 playoff contests. Since then, he’s not lived up to expectations, failing to produce 0.5 points per game in 2014-15 or 2015-16 and missing 20 games between those two seasons.

Stralman, 29, was drafted a year earlier than McDonagh, 216th by Toronto. Despite Stralaman’s draft position, he cracked the Leafs line-up in 2007-08. But he wasn’t able to stay there, and was traded twice in the 2009 offseason, ultimately landing in Columbus. There, Stralman made an immediate splash with 34 points in 73 games; but after dipping to 18 points in 51 games in 2010-11, he found himself a free agent, landing with the Rangers (and McDonagh).

Although Stralman didn’t light up the scoresheet in New York, when he hit the open market in 2014 he was a much-coveted UFA. Since signing with Tampa Bay, he’s been a rare example of someone who produces much better after inking a UFA deal – in his case posting 73 points in 155 games, or 17 more than he’d tallied in his previous four NHL seasons (233 games).

Both players are signed through 2018-19. McDonagh’s deal counts $4.7M against the cap per season, while Stralman’s annual cap hit is just slightly lower ($4.5M).

 

Ice Time

Season

Total Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen)

PP Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen)

SH Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen

2015-16

22:21 (R.M.) – 1st

22:04 (A.S.) – 2nd

1:55 (R.M.) – 3rd

2:55 (A.S.) – 1st

2:38 (R.M.) – 2nd

2:05 (A.S.) – 2nd

2014-15

23:07 (R.M.) – 1st

21:56 (A.S.) – 2nd

2:18 (R.M.) – 3rd

2:28 (A.S.) – 2nd

2:37 (R.M.) – 2nd

2:34 (A.S.) – 4th

2013-14

24:49 (R.M.) – 1st

19:24 (A.S.) – 4th

2:52 (R.M.) – 1st

0:16 (A.S.) – 7th

2:43 (R.M.) – 2nd

1:37 (A.S.) – 4th

2012-13

24:21 (R.M.) – 3rd

18:02 (A.S.) – 5th

0:38 (R.M.) – 6th

1:04 (A.S.) – 4rd

2:41 (R.M.) – 3rd

0:57 (A.S.) – 5th

 

For both players, the past two seasons have been a pretty far cry from where things stood in 2013-14. In Stralman’s case, his Ice Time has risen by nearly 3:00, with virtually all coming with the man advantage. The problem is Stralman’s production hasn’t risen enough given his vastly improved Ice Times.

 

Case in point – in 2015-16, there were 14 defensemen who, like Stralman, played 70+ games averaging at least 22:04 of Total Ice Time per game of which at least 2:55 was spent on the PP, with none of the others failing to produce 0.5 points per game or better for the season (Stralman was at 0.46). But of the ten d-men who played 70+ games while averaging 22:00+ yet only between 2:20 and 2:55 per game on the PP, just three met the 0.5 points per game criteria.

 

What does this mean for Stralman, fantasy-wise? He’s essentially maxed out in terms of PP Time, yet produced in line with those who received up to 30 seconds less with the man advantage per contest. That’s a bad combination. And even had he done well on the PP, it’d be hard to envision him retaining his ample PP Time, which was somehow more than Victor Hedman in 2015-16 and figures to be pared down in future seasons in favor of younger Tampa rearguards (e.g., Anthony DeAngelo, Slater Koekkoek) as well as any defensemen the team adds.

 

McDonagh’s scoring drop since 2013-14 seems tied to lower PP Time due to the additions of Dan Boyle and Keith Yandle, both of whom are most likely gone. Unfortunately, the cap-challenged Rangers not only will be hard pressed to bring in talented d-men via free agency, but they also don’t have a stocked prospect cabinet, with only Brady Skjei considered a decent near term rearguard prospect.

 

Therefore, the result will almost certainly be McDonagh seeing his 2016-17 Ice Times return to at least 2013-14 levels, meaning team-leading minutes at EV and on the PP. And the good news is if McDonagh once again gets 24:49+ of overall Ice Time and 2:52+ of PP Time per game, he should produce well. After all, in the last two seasons only one defenseman (Ryan Suter in 2014-15) who met or exceeded both of those thresholds in the same season failed to hit the 0.5 points per game mark for that campaign, with the vast majority having a full season scoring pace at or above 45 points.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIM

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2015-16

0.30 (R.M.)

0.27 (A.S.)

1.34 (R.M.)

1.35 (A.S.)

1.89 (R.M.)

1.00 (A.S.)

1.54 (R.M.)

1.74 (A.S.)

0.12 (R.M.)

0.16 (A.S.)

2014-15

0.36 (R.M.)

0.31 (A.S.)

1.08 (R.M.)

1.27 (A.S.)

1.95 (R.M.)

0.94 (A.S.)

2.08 (R.M.)

1.68 (A.S.)

0.17 (R.M.)

0.17 (A.S.)

2013-14

0.46 (R.M.)

0.32 (A.S.)

1.14 (R.M.)

0.92 (A.S.)

1.70 (R.M.)

0.79 (A.S.)

2.30 (R.M.)

1.28 (A.S.)

0.17 (R.M.)

0.00 (A.S.)

2012-13

0.47 (R.M.)

0.33 (A.S.)

1.47 (R.M.)

1.56 (A.S.)

1.66 (R.M.)

0.87 (A.S.)

1.76 (R.M.)

1.37 (A.S.)

0.02 (R.M.)

0.00 (A.S.)

 

Focusing first on numbers which don’t affect production, both players have been trending downward in PIM, although McDonagh’s slide has been more pronounced. On the other hand, McDonagh’s combined Hits and Blocked Shots have held steady at right around three per game, while Stralman’s have been in the 2.2 to 2.5 range in three of these four seasons. Overall, they’re fairly close in these areas, and solid options for multi-cat output plus points.

 

Interestingly, Stralman produced more on the PP than I’d have expected after seeing the data which compared his production to others who received similar or better Ice Time. And although that might bode well for him keeping significant PP Ice Time, it doesn’t paint a bright picture for him as an overall scorer. Of Stralman’s 73 points over the past two seasons, 26 were on the PP (12 of 34 in 2015-16 and 14 of 39 in 2014-15), meaning Stralman did not have more than 25 even strength points in either of his past two seasons.

 

And to be a 40 point scorer on defense, one either needs to be more of a PP monster or also produce well at even strength. Otherwise, the math just isn’t there. And even beyond that, Stralman’s SOG totals are likely too paltry to land him in the 40+ point club, as among the 53 instances of rearguards tallying 40+ points over the past two campaigns, only five were players who averaged lower than Stralman’s SOG rate over that time frame.

 

For McDonagh, although his scoring rate has dropped since 2013-14, only this past season did he dip below two SOG per game and see his PPP rate fall. It’s hard to tell whether this slide is a by-product of him having to take a back seat to Yandle and Boyle and would rebound if, as seems likely, his Ice Time rises back to or even above 2013-14 levels, or whether, instead, this would act as a deterrent to him being able to rejoin 40+ point defensemen ranks. We’ll get a clearer picture from his luck-based metrics over the past three seasons.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

For 2012-13, both Stralman and McDonagh didn’t play the required 50+ minutes for their IPP at 5×4 to be charted. Nevertheless, Stralman’s is 0.0% for that season (plus 2013-14) because he had no PPPs.

Season

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

2015-16

1039 (R.M.)

1013 (A.S.)

42.6% (R.M.)

55.4% (A.S.)

34.8% (R.M.)

40.0% (A.S.)

57.1% (R.M.)

61.9% (A.S.)

2014-15

1026 (R.M.)

1001 (A.S.)

45.7% (R.M.)

54.4% (A.S.)

24.1% (R.M.)

30.0% (A.S.)

73.3% (R.M.)

63.6% (A.S.)

2013-14

1002 (R.M.)

991 (A.S.)

47.2% (R.M.)

50.9% (A.S.)

38.2% (R.M.)

25.5% (A.S.)

50.0% (R.M.)

0.0% (A.S.)

2012-13

1003 (R.M.)

1009 (A.S.)

46.8% (R.M.)

57.5% (A.S.)

39.5% (R.M.)

20.5% (A.S.)

N/A (R.M.)

0.0% (A.S.)

 

Stralman’s numbers over the last two seasons are indicative of him not having benefitted from (nor suffered due to) unsustainable effects of luck. The good news is that means he shouldn’t do worse than his past two seasons if he’s able to maintain his Ice Time. The bad news is this also means he wasn’t being held back by bad luck, so if (when?) his Ice Time drops, particularly on the PP, it does seem likely he’d see a dip in production.

 

McDonagh’s numbers are concerning in that his points drop has come despite him having slightly higher combined IPPs in each of the past two seasons, as well as much higher PDO/SPSV. But before getting too concerned, his OZ% also dropped like a stone since 2013-14, likely a direct result of the presence of Boyle (61.5% OZ in 2015-16, 61.8% in 2014-15) and Yandle (67.0% OZ% in 2015-16, 59.0% in 2014-15). With them both probably gone and unlikely to be replaced by comparably one-dimensional d-men, McDonagh’s OZ% seems destined to rebound. That should balance out – if not trump – the lucky effect of his IPPs and PDO/SPSV enough to not stand in the way of McDonagh returning to 40+ point levels.

 

Who Wins?

 

Before reaching a decision, we need to factor in cost vs. value. For 2015-16, McDonagh was drafted, on average, 89th overall in Yahoo leagues, versus 158th for Stralman. And although as of the very end of last season, McDonagh was owned in 82% of Yahoo fantasy leagues, versus just 40% for Stralman, we have to keep in mind Stralman had been injured since late March, so 40% is actually very solid.

 

This suggests Stralman has become more of a known commodity in fantasy and, in turn, his cost will be higher in 2016-17 despite him posting fewer points versus 2014-15. Meanwhile, although McDonagh was still heavily owned and will have an at least somewhat higher cost than he otherwise should due to what I call the “Habs Factor” (i.e., where a player’s cost is disproportionately high due to playing for among the most high profile NHL teams), one would think most poolies would view him as a declining asset due to his failure to hit even 35 points in either of the past two seasons.

 

Yet from what we saw here, McDonagh is a good bet to return to the 40+ point club, whereas Stralman might well not even post 35 points given all the data. As such, I think the scales have tilted enough for McDonagh to win this match.

 

Even still, I’d label McDonagh at best a soft buy for one-year leagues since he still might be drafted too early due to the Habs Factor. Stralman, on the other hand, likely should be avoided in one-year leagues due to his cost at least cataching up to, if not surpassing, his likely value. In keepers, it might be a decent time to make a play for McDonagh, since the Habs Factor looms a bit less large in non-draft settings, while at the same time Stralman might be a decent candidate to sell somewhat high.

 

 

UPCOMING GAMES

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HOT PLAYERS

  Players Team GP G A P
EVGENI MALKIN PIT 5 4 7 11
ADAM FOX NYR 4 1 6 7
JAKUB VORACEK PHI 6 0 10 10
NATHAN MACKINNON COL 5 2 6 8
MIKA ZIBANEJAD NYR 29 25 19 44
NIKITA KUCHEROV T.B 24 16 20 36
KEVIN FIALA MIN 11 9 7 16
EVANDER KANE S.J 7 5 5 10
KYLE CONNOR WPG 7 8 2 10
RYAN NUGENT-HOPKINS EDM 17 8 16 24

LINE COMBOS

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30.4% JACK EICHEL SAM REINHART JEFF SKINNER
24.2% ZEMGUS GIRGENSONS JOHAN LARSSON KYLE OKPOSO
20.1% CURTIS LAZAR WAYNE SIMMONDS JIMMY VESEY

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