This week we take a break from the usual battle to cover a question that’s come to the forefront of fantasy hockey due to the production of Sam Gagner.
Thanks to Gagner’s 60-point scoring pace over his first 45 games – despite averaging only 13:38 of Total Ice Time per contest – he’s been coined hockey’s version of the Designated Hitter (“DH”); and his success has poolies eager to determine whether he might help usher in an era of more teams deploying their own DH. It also has many wondering whether one-dimensional forwards, who previously couldn’t find a place on teams or wouldn’t put up enough points to make it worth rostering them in all but the very deepest fantasy leagues, might be the next successful DH ala Gagner.
So for this week’s Cage Match, I’m doing a deep dive on the concept of the hockey DH. In particular, I’ll look at past examples to see if the DH might have a place in today’s real life and/or fantasy hockey. Then I’ll do a mini-Cage Match to see if Gagner’s 2016-17 production to date is sustainable. Finally, I’ll list forwards who might be able to become successful DHs in the near future. Time to fire up this special Cage Match!
Have Any Past Forwards Produced Well Despite Low Total Ice Time?
I did some digging, and Gagner would enter truly unprecedented territory if he was able to finish with 60+ points this season despite not averaging even 14:00 of Ice Time per game. That’s because according to nhl.com – which has charted Ice Time data since 1997-98 – not only has no player finished with 60+ points despite less than 14:00 of Total Ice Time per game, but just two have done so averaging less than 15:32– Nikita Kucherov (65 points, 14:57 per game in 2014-15) and Andrew Brunette (63 points, 15:00 per game in 2005-06).
If we reduce the points criteria to 55-59 however, we get nine forwards who finished in that range since 1997-98 despite averaging less than 15:00 of Ice Time per game in a season, including three averaging less than 14:00 (Jussi Jokinen – 55 points, 13:34 per game in 2005-06; Jiri Hudler – 57 points, 13:39 per game in 2008-09; Tomas Holmstrom – 59 points, 13:58 per game in 2005-06). If we drop the scoring minimum to 50-54 points and still look at the same time period, that results in 15 players who finished in that range while averaging 15:00 or less per game; yet only two of the 15 averaged under 14:00 per game (Marek Svatos – 50 points (in 61 games), 13:44 per game in 2005-06; Daniel Sedin – 54 points, 13:32 per game in 2003-04). Therefore, since 1997-98 a mere five forwards were able to score 50+ points in a season where they averaged less than 14:00 of Ice Time per game; however, 19 did so while averaging between 14:00 and 15:00 per game.
Here’s a table summarizing these results: