This week's Capped dives into what Brad Marchand is actually worth as a fantasy owner.
Our first week of NHL action is in the books, and we are looking ahead to the end of our first head-to-head matchups. As is standard with small sample sizes created by the few games that each team has played, there might be a few managers that are having a slow week and decide it is time to panic. Don’t be one of them. It is a long season, and there are going to be lots of highs and lows. The unpredictability of this game is very well documented. As a great example from the first week of the season, let’s take a look at the discrepancy displayed in Brad Marchand’s first two games.
In his first game, Marchand continued his torrid pace from the World Cup, at Columbus’ expense. He potted two goals, five points, fired off seven shots, and in typical Marchand fashion, didn’t need any power play help to do it. He also only skated for 1:00 of power play time in the game (out of a total of four minutes). Two nights later, he did the complete opposite, and with 3:03 of power play time against the teenaged Toronto Maple Leafs squad, Marchand managed a single power-play assist. He didn’t even have a shot during the game, and went minus one. Which Marchand can we expect moving forward?
Last year Marchand broke out with 37 goals, 61 points and blasted his career high in shots with 250. Previously Marchand’s career highs were 28 goals and 55 points in 2011-2012, with the old career high of 180 shots coming in 2014-2015. The craziest thing about his most recent (breakout) season, is that his shooting percentage was lower than his career average. Marchand scored on 14.8% of his shots last year, which is higher than the league average (generally hovering a little over nine percent). However, Marchand seems to be the type of player that is a lot more efficient with his shots, as his career mark is just a touch over 15%. The rise in Marchand’s stats are a result of a high shooting percentage, and having a much higher volume of shots last year in comparison with his previous seasons. It is a very repeatable feat for Marchand this coming season.
Lining up on the Bruins top line, Marchand is usually centered by Patrice Bergeron, who is just now returning from a mystery lower-body injury. With David Pastrnak seeming to have taken over the top line right wing slot for now, we can get a bit of a sense of how this season may shake out for Marchand. In the three games Marchand has played so far, he has totaled nine shots and two goals. It is a small sample size, but keeping that up over the course of the season would be a total of 246 shots. That is only four off of last year’s total – not bad for consistency. Over the course of the season, this could even out a bit, but it does show that he is continuing to shoot for high volumes. A high shot volume will be the biggest thing that Marchand needs to have his run of success continue through this season.
Looking at the salary factor, Marchand’s current contract of $4,500,000 expires at the end of the season. However, at the beginning of September he signed a deal to stay with the Boston Bruins that sees him making $6,125,000 a year from September of 2017 through to April of 2025. This new deal will turn Marchand from the 29th highest paid left wing in the league, to the seventh highest paid, starting in 2017-18. Marchand’s contract is also slightly front loaded, tapering down from $8,000,000 in the first two years to $4,000,000 in the last year. For those of you in leagues where the NHL salary is counted instead of the actual average, that is going to be a tough pill to swallow for the early years.
Looking at the seventh and eighth highest paid left wings from last year as a comparison, we see Henrik Zetterberg ($6,083,333) and Taylor Hall ($6,000,000), who contributed 50 and 65 points respectively. With another year of around 60 points, Brad Marchand would be fitting right in where it seems he should be for his salary bracket. Tapering his predicted shot count down to just under three a game to be conservative (down from his current 246-shot pace that was shown earlier), we can put Marchand at around 220 shots this season. With a career 15.1% shooting percentage, we would get 33 goals from the Bruins top line left-winger. Add on a nice career average of 25 assists to top off the projections, and Marchand is projecting to be one of the most reliable options at a very shallow left wing position; even providing proper value in salary cap leagues.
Marchand doesn’t only produce points either. There is the bonus of a decent set of peripherals for leagues that count multiple categories. Because Marchand and Bergeron form one of the most defensively responsible forward pairs in the NHL, their plus/minus stats are generally among the league leaders. On top of that, being one of the best pests in the league, Marchand is a very good contributor in leagues that count penalty minutes. He has had 90+ penalty minutes over the last two seasons, and is perfectly on pace to hit the mark again with his four minutes over the first three games. Blocks and hits are about average, and will not hurt your team. Looking at the past few years, I think we can peg his production to be somewhere around 70 hits and 30 blocks, which is very respectable from a forward. The low power-play point totals seem to be the only downside, but with over three minutes of power play ice time over the last two games (and having played more than half of the available power play time on Monday night), it seems as though he may be getting the opportunities this year.
The 28-year-old Marchand looks as though he is just hitting his stride, and likely has a full three or four years left at this level before there is any real tapering off of skill and/or production. It seems as though once players hit 30 years of age, they become poison in a lot of fantasy leagues, and don’t even get traded for full value. It is unfortunate, but it also means that in another two years, he should be easier to acquire, and still have some solid production left in him. For now, the best thing to do is to list him as a hold. No one is going to be selling him for a low price right now, and if you are fortunate enough to own him, you likely won’t get full value in return for his prime years. You don’t have to like him as a person (that said, he did grow on me during the world cup tournament), and you don’t have to like the Bruins, but he is someone that you can draft with confidence over the next few seasons.
Thanks as always for reading. Until next week folks!