Cage Match Tourney – Defensemen Fallers for 2016-17

Rick Roos


Which defenseman will decline in 2016-17? Vote on these candidates now…


All good things must come to an end, and this week marks the last of what turned out to be very enjoyable – and actively participated in – summer cage match tournaments.

But first, I’d be remiss not to mention that last week your votes resulted in Patrick Kane being named the forward who’ll see his scoring drop the most from 2015-16 to 2016-17 beating Jaromir Jagr by one vote! As has been the case with every tournament so far, the poll thread had great insight and analysis, so be sure to go back and check that out, especially if you voted early and didn’t follow along thereafter. And don’t forget to factor the voting results into preparation for your upcoming fantasy league season. But now, without further ado, onto our final tournament:


Which defenseman will see his scoring drop the most from 2015-16 to 2016-17?

Last but not least, we move onto defensemen decliners – the rearguards who’ll see their scoring drop the most from 2015-16 to 2016-17. Just like with forward fallers we’ll have only one bracket, making this week the finals. Before we get to voting choices, let’s quickly rehash the two important rules.

Rule #1 – You should base your vote on PERCENTAGE drop in scoring, not pure points lost

What I mean by this, is you should cast your vote for the defenseman whose 2016-17 scoring output will represent the biggest percentage reduction as compared to his 2015-16 output. Let’s say you think Brent Burns will score 59 points in 2016-17 and Francois Beauchemin will score 26. That’d mean Burns’ production would have dropped by 21.3% (i.e., 16/75) versus 23.5% for Beauchemin (i.e., 8/34). So if your vote came down to those two players, you should cast it for Beauchemin even though Burns’ drop in scoring – in terms of pure points – was twice as much as Beauchemin’s.

Rule #2 – All “real world” factors should be taken into account

If you think a player will miss time in 2016-17 (e.g., due to injury, rest, being scratched, suspension, etc.), you should factor that into your voting decision. By the same token, if a player is a good bet to play each night, go ahead and assume he’ll suit up for 80+ games. In a similar vein, a player’s team matters (such as how potent its offense might be) as does a player’s spot on the depth chart, how much ice time he’ll get, etc. In short, instincts about “real world” factors out are relevant and should be tied into your voting decision.


Voting Choices (in alphabetical order and with last season’s scoring output)

Francois Beauchemin (34 points in 82 games)

Even looking past Beauchemin’s 34 points being his highest since posting 36 a decade ago, we can’t ignore that in the eight intervening full seasons he scored more than 24 points just twice. Plus, before playing 82 games in 2015-16, he’d suited up for just 134 contests the prior two seasons. Also, the Avs had a 7.14% team shooting percentage with Beauchemin on the ice at 5×5 (tied for 16th among 124 rearguards who skated for 1000+ minutes at 5×5). Moreover, the Avs added Fedor Tyutin and Patrick Wiercioch this offseason, so chances are Beauchemin won’t play close to the 25:04 he did last season, which will only serve to hurt his production.

Brent Burns (75 points in 82 games)

Entering 2016-17, Burns will be 31 years old; and if you think that’s unremarkable, consider there’ve been a total of 30 instances of defensemen age 30 or older posting 65+ points in a season since 1990-91, but only 22 instances if we raise the cutoff to age 31+. Also, in 2014-15 Burns topped his previous career high in PPPts by five (to 24), only to then end up with 30 in 2015-16. Plus, he had over 100 more SOG in 2016-17 compared to 2015-16, and no age 31+ defenseman has fired 300+ SOG in a single season since 1998-99. Lastly, Burns has played 80+ games in consecutive seasons for the first time since 2010-11/2011-12. What happened in 2012-13? He missed 18 of 48 games……

Brian Campbell (31 points in 82 games)

At first glance, Campbell should sleepwalk to 30+ points, right? Not so fast. Campbell is now 37 and might well be on the outside of the top four. Plus, he’ll be hard pressed to get meaningful PP time, with Brent Seabrook and Duncan Keith assuming the lion’s share of man advantage duty. The situation reminds me of Christian Ehrhoff with Pittsburgh in 2014-15, when poolies felt Ehrhoff would be reborn, but instead he posted 14 points in 49 games. Let’s also not forget that although Campbell hasn’t missed a game in five seasons, he only suited up for a total of 133 in his last two campaigns with Chicago.

Zdeno Chara (37 points in 80 games)

There was hope Chara discovered the fountain of youth last season after he stood at 27 points in 47 games. But father time had other ideas, leading to Chara posting only ten in his final 33 contests. Also, despite him not tallying a PPPt in 28 of his last 29 games, he still managed to get a point on 69.2% of the PPGs scored while he was on the ice overall, suggesting he could actually do worse in terms of PPPts going forward. The Bs still must rely heavily on Chara; but because he’s no longer the 27+ minute per game warrior he once was, his offensive minutes will be the ones to further diminish; and with that, so too will his scoring.

Drew Doughty (51 points in 82 games)

Poolies drinking the Doughty kool-aid can point to the fact that he previously posted 59 points and that his 51 in 2015-16 was part of a trend that saw his scoring increase each of the last two seasons. But he tallied five more points in 2015-16 than 2014-15 despite firing 10% fewer SOG and a drop in PP time from 3:26 per game to 3:03. The explanation lies in unsustainable luck, as Doughty not only boasted a 7.1% personal shooting % (his highest since 2010-11), but also received a point on a jaw dropping 88.5% of goals scored while he was on the ice at 5×4. Had he only matched his 53.6% rate from 2014-15, he’d have tallied nine fewer PPPts, which might give us a clue as to what we should expect for 2016-17.

Mark Giordano (56 points in 82 games)

As great as Giordano’s 56 points last season look, his full season pace in each of the prior two campaigns was actually over 60. Beyond that, his personal shooting percentage was his highest since 2009-10. And although Giordano’s status as Calgary’s top d-man isn’t in question, the team has improving T.J. Brodie and Dougie Hamilton, plus, for now, Dennis Wideman; so unlike most true #1 rearguards, he has guys around him capable of syphoning away points. Then there’s the elephant in the room, namely last season marking the first time Giordano played more than 64 games since 2010-11.

Shayne Gostisbehere (46 points in 64 games)

Although Gostisbehere seems to be on the fast track to stardom, consider that of seven defensemen who posted 45+ points as a rookie since the 1990-91 more than half – including HOFers Rob Blake and Nicklas Lidstrom – saw their point total drop as a sophomore. Plus, as Mark Streit found his footing late in the season, (11 points in his last 22 regular season games), Gostisbehere faltered, with only 11 in 23. And who’s to say what the effects on Ghost will be if, as suspected, Ivan Provorov cracks the NHL line-up this season?

Erik Karlsson (82 points in 82 games)

There are only two reasons Karlsson, who’s scored 105 points in his last 105 games, is a choice. First is injuries happen; and he’s managed to dodge them for three straight seasons. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the thinking is new coach Guy Boucher will install a system which will revise the team’s approach and, in the process, reign in Karlsson at least somewhat.

Nick Leddy (40 points in 81 games)

Although Leddy saw his point total climb in each of his first two Islander campaigns, much of that arguably occurred because the Isles had no other viable option for rearguard scoring. But with Ryan Pulock poised to step in, Leddy could see his productive minutes diminish, including on the PP, where Leddy tallied 19 points in 2015-16 (seven more than his previous high). Plus, even if Leddy still commands decent PP time, he could see his production shrink, what with him lucking into 5.2 points per 60 minutes at 5×4, which was 13th among 100 defensemen who skated 100+ minutes at 5×4 last season and represented a large jump from his 3.93 rate for 2014-15.

Kris Letang (67 points in 71 games)

You know Letang is a Band-Aid Boy when he plays 71 games and his owners are relieved! But that’s the reality with Letang, who’d missed an average of 27 games per campaign over the previous four seasons. There really isn’t more to say than that.

Andrei Markov (44 points in 82 games)

Speaking of defensemen Band-Aid Boys, if you want to know the frustration Letang owners had gone through prior to this season, get in a time machine, travel back to 2009 to 2011, and find a Markov owner. But a funny thing happened since then – Markov has pulled off as close to a Band-Aid Boy 180 as there could be, missing a combined three games in four seasons. But with Markov there’s also added concern due to his age (turning 38 in December) and the fact that amid his 44 points last season was a stretch of seven in 29 games. What happens if that long lull is a sign of things to come?

Dmitri Orlov (29 points in 82 games)

With Orlov, not only is there concern he could revert to his Band-Aid Boy ways, but also added worry because, in posting 29 points last season, he benefitted from the fact that the Caps had a 9.76% team shooting percentage while he was on the ice (second highest among all 124 defensemen who played 1000+ minutes at 5×5 last season). Also, what will happen to Orlov’s role (and, thus, his scoring) if John Carlson doesn’t miss a quarter of the season like he did in 2015-16?

Rasmus Ristolainen (41 points in 82 games)

His inclusion on this list isn’t so much because his 41 points in 2015-16 were outrageous. The concern lies in 2016-17 marking the addition of Dmitri Kulikov, plus an opportunity for Cody Franson and Zach Bogosian to play more than the combined 123 games they suited up for in 2016-17. When the dust settles on 2016-17, it’s possible Ristolainen, whom Buffalo will rely upon to shoulder the very toughest minutes, will take on an even more defensively-oriented role, with lower points to show for it.

Andrej Sekera (30 points in 81 games)

A lot of what was said about Ristolainen applies to Sekera too, except with an arguably even more talented newcomer (Adam Larsson) and two younger up-and-comers set to play a full season (Oscar Klefbom, Darnell Nurse). There still should be a place in the top four for Sekera; but chances are he’ll be looked upon far less for offensive contribution. And let’s not overlook that prior to playing 81 contests last season, Sekera’s average number of games missed per season since 2010-11 had been 14.4, so the potential for missed time due to injury looms large.

Brent Seabrook (49 points in 81 games)

Red flags are raised by Seabrook’s career high 49 points – at age 31 – last season, as since scoring 48 points in 2010-11 he’d only once tallied more than 34. Plus, his 25 PPPts last season were five more than he amassed in 2010-11, and just one less than in his prior 164 games. Plus, even if Seabrook is re-installed on Chicago’s PP1, things still might turn out so well. After all, Seabrook’s 5×4 PDO was tops among 100 defensemen who skated 100+ minutes at 5×4 last season, and the team’s 18.52% shooting percentage while he was on the ice at 5×4 was second highest among the 100.

Ryan Suter (51 points in 82 games)

With 51 points last season, Suter set a career high – by five points – at age 31, which also marked only the third time he scored 40+ points since 2008-09. Some explanation comes when looking at his 21 PPPts from last season (which, although not a career best, was nearly double his output from 2014-15) as well as his 188 SOG (38 more than he tallied in each of the past two seasons). Chance are those numbers aren’t sustainable, nor, therefore, is Suter’s late career breakout.

Marc-Edouard Vlasic (39 points in 67 games)

At first, the justification for Vlasic’s breakout seems clear, as his ten PPPts was two more than he posted, combined, in the previous five seasons. But if you thought Vlasic’s 39 points were too good to be true, it turns out there’s ample data supporting your instincts. For starters, among 124 d-men who skated 1000+ minutes at 5×5 last season, his 1.21 points per 60 minutes put him 8th, him receiving points on 42.9% of the goals scored by his team put him 17th, and his team’s 7.32 shooting percentage while he was on the ice put him 14th. Beyond that – his 17.28% team shooting percentage ranked him third among 100 d-men who skated 100+ minutes at 5×4 last season. So for Vlasic to come close to repeating his output from 2015-16, not only must he receive comparable 5×4 time, but significant good luck will need to smile upon him at 5×5 and 5×4 yet again. Ask yourself if you see those things happening.

Shea Weber (51 points in 78 games)

Including Weber on this list boils down to “what if” factors (what if he’s not the same player without Roman Josi; what if he wilts under the Montreal spotlight and accompanying expectations, etc.) plus genuine concern due to Weber’s 51 points last season occurring when – at age 30 – he bested his career high in PPGs and had only six less PPGs in 78 games as in his previous 205 contests. Plus, his SOG rate was the lowest since his first full season (back in 2006-07), while his personal shooting percentage was in double digits for only the second time since that same 2006-07 campaign.

Click Here To Vote


How Voting Will Work and Deadline to Vote

As noted above, this is the finals – there’s no next week for these guys. And as we saw last week, one vote can make a difference! In keeping with past weeks, you can vote for multiple players, although I also encourage you to pick just one if you feel confident in doing so.

Here again is the voting link. Voting will be open into Monday August 22nd, so cast your ballot before it’s too late. While you’re there, please use the accompanying forum thread to discuss why you voted the way you did. So far there have been outstanding comments in the tournament threads, and I – as well as your fellow DobberHockey-ites – would love for that to continue this time around.

See you here next week, when we’ll go back to the usual cage match head-to-head format – but with a slight twist, in that it will be a match inspired by the results of one of these tournaments!




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