Ramblings: Updates on Hedman, Raanta, Tkachuk; Line Shuffling; Early Shot Rates – November 8

Michael Clifford



The Edmonton Oilers will retain the services of Milan Lucic as the forward was fined, not suspended, for his, let’s call it “play,” on Tampa Bay’s Mathieu Joseph on Tuesday night. If you’re in a league with hits and PIMs, Lucic won’t miss a minute. If you’re in a league without hits and PIMs, why do you still have Lucic on your roster?


The Florida Panthers have juggled their lines in their last couple practices. Frank Vatrano has moved up while Nick Bjugstad has moved down:



That Bjugstad is seeing a demotion to the third line isn’t a surprise given his performance so far this year – you’ll see his name later. But seeing Vatrano on the second line is a beautiful thing. He’s kind of a favourite of some people (present company included) ‘round these parts.


Brady Tkachuk has been skating in a regular jersey for Ottawa in their last couple of practices, including yesterday. It appears he’s on the verge of returning. Let’s hope he can pick up where he left off, at least to some degree.


The Coyotes placed goalie Antti Raanta on the injured reserve. He will miss at least the next three games as a result. Expect two of those starts to go to Darcy Kuemper with the third to whomever they recall because they have a back-to-back this weekend.


The Red Wings welcomed Andrea Athanasiou back to practice yesterday. He had skated a couple days ago on his own recovering from a lower-body injury but now seems on the verge of returning. He had four goals and six points in 11 games before the injury.


The return of Victor Hedman inches closer as he participated in non-contact drills with the Lightning in practice on Wednesday. Up next would be contact drills and then the return to the lineup.  


As I mentioned in my piece on Joel Quenneville’s firing, the power play would be the first area Jeremy Colliton would need to address, and he’s at least changing things up:



With those forwards on that first unit, I would assume it’ll be a heavily-used top unit. We shall see.

In that same practice, Brandon Saad was skating on the third line then this happened:



Just when he was turning his season around. Nothing further after practice other than he went to the dentist.


Both Tyson Jost and Sven Andrighetto are close to returning for the Avs. It’ll be interesting to see if either gets a spot on the top PP unit where both had spent some time this season. Samuel Girard, by the way, took over the top PP spot from Tyson Barrie.


TJ Oshie had a rough Wednesday night for the Capitals. Early in the third period, he took an uncalled high stick from Penguins defenceman Olli Maatta that went under his visor and cut him on the inside of the nose. The cut looked literally an inch away from his eye. He missed the rest of the period but returned for the second.

Near the mid-point of the third period, Oshie took a hit from Evgeni Malkin that got Malkin a five-minute for head contact and ejected from the game. There’s no doubt about head contact, but it kind of looked like Oshie just ran into Malkin:



Anyway, Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin both scored for their respective teams and that’s what led to a 1-1 tie heading to overtime.

Or so we thought. 

With 74 seconds left in the game, Oshie got a pass cutting through the seam and put it in the cage to seasl the 2-1 win for Washington. Almost poetic, in a way. 


The Predators got a hat trick from Colton Sissons (seriously) that led them to a 4-1 win over the Avalanche. Ryan Hartman tallied the other marker while Matt Calvert replied on the power play for Colorado.

As mentioned elsewhere, Sam Girard took over the top PP spot from Tyson Barrie and that immediately paid dividends as he had the primary assist on Calvert’s goal. Barrie only received 17:16 in ice time. Something to keep an eye on.


Ryan Miller stopped 37 of 39 shots and Ryan Getzlaf scored in the third period to help the Ducks topple the Flames 3-2. Anaheim also got goals from Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg. Matthew Tkachuk (PP) and Mark Jankowski (SH) marked for the Flames.

Josh Manson returned to the Ducks lineup and managed an assist with two shots in over 23 minutes of ice time.

Rickard Rakell was back on the top line for Anaheim while James Neal joined the Tkachuk/Backlund duo on the second line for Calgary.


A couple days ago in these Ramblings I discussed a few players whose shot rates had increased significant from last year. Of course, we’re still *just* five weeks into the season so some things could change, however it’s worth pointing out certain players to see whether their production is something that could be sustained or not.

For this season, I’m limiting players with at least 125 minutes played at all strengths, with the time on ice limit for 2017-18 being 750 minutes. All data from Natural Stat Trick.

Here are the 20 biggest declines:

As we did on Tuesday, let’s discuss a few of these names.


Ryan Pulock

That Nick Leddy is also on this list is not a huge surprise. The Islanders, as a team, has seen their shot rate decline by nearly 20 percent from last year. This is the effect of losing John Tavares and bringing in Barry Trotz. Seeing both blue liners in decline should be expected given the changes with the team.

All the same, despite exceeding five minutes per game in TOI in addition to last year’s number, Pulock’s shots per game are down nearly a full shot from last year (0.85 to be exact). That is a huge disappointment for anyone who bought into his progression in 2017-18 (present company included).

And here’s the final nail in the coffin: despite an on-ice shooting percentage of 11.7 percent (it was 9.3 percent last year), Pulock is on pace to barely crack the 30-point plateau. That’s how bad the Islanders are at generating shots.

Now, because of how bad his team is and how many minutes he plays, Pulock will be in line for big hits and shot block totals. He could easily crack triple-digits in both categories so he’s still valuable in leagues that count those peripherals. In leagues without real-time stats, though, he can probably be dropped. As always, explore trade avenues first but I imagine he won’t bring much back at this point.


Pavel Buchnevich

I thought a new coach would help settle the role of Buchnevich after being moved up and down (and out) of the lineup so much by Alain Vigneault. Once again, it has been proven that I need to stop thinking.

David Quinn hasn’t been any better with Buchnevich’s role on the team, having used him, quite literally, on all four lines so far this year, as well as relegating him to the press box. The crash in shots per game, despite roughly the same amount of ice time per game as last year, has led him to landing 1.25 shots per game on target. That’s what we would have expected from Joe Thornton or Henrik Sedin a couple years ago, not Pavel Buchnevich in the year 2018.

(Apologies to the guy I told like three weeks ago to hold Buchnevich over Kevin Labanc. That one isn’t working out well.)

This was supposed to be the year of some stability with the Rangers but that’s been far from the case. Basically, other than Mika Zibanejad centering the top line and Henrik Lundqvist getting the majority of starts, nothing has been a constant. Everyone from Mats Zuccarello to Chris Kreider to Jesper Fast to Neal Pionk to Kevin Shattenkirk has seen their roles fluctuate, sometime significantly, and we’re just over a month into the season. This kind of uncertainty is awful for fantasy and Buchnevich has been a casualty because of it. He’s a bench option in 12-team leagues at best right now.


Jeff Skinner

Not all declines are created equal! Despite his shot rate being considerably lower than last year, a rise in ice time of about a minute per game (most have which has been additional PP time) has meant pretty much a constant shots/game rate from last year (3.33 vs. 3.38). Given that he has 9 goals and 16 points in 15 games, I’m guessing fantasy owners are not complaining about a tiny decline in shot rate.

Skinner is shooting 18 percent, which would be a career-high for him. But he does have seasons over 12 percent, 13 percent, and 14 percent to his name. Does he score 50 this year? Probably not. Does he cruise past 30? Barring injury, I would think so.

Remember that just because a player’s shot rate is declining that it’s not inherently bad. An increase in ice time or change in deployment can change mitigate a lot of issues arising from a dropping shot rate. Skinner is the exception.


Kevin Fiala

On the other hand, the start to Fiala’s season is a concern. His ice time has been constant from last year but his shot rates have declined to the point where his 82-game pace is under 150 shots on goal. That’s very bad for a guy some people pegged for a breakout (myself included).

Nashville, as a team, is shooting a little under 10 percent less often than they did last year. That’s why there are multiple Predators on this list, including Ryan Ellis. Fiala, though, is a bigger problem because his issues have led to his playing on the fourth line and being threatened with a healthy scratch. He’s essentially getting the Buchnevich treatment.

The silver lining from Viktor Arvidsson’s injury is that it has opened the door for Fiala to play his way to a more prominent role. It’s why I’m not giving up on him yet. He still should be relegated to bench duties in 12-team roto leagues, though.


Brent Burns

I just wanted to casually mention Brent Burns because even as his individual shot rate has cratered – over 4 shots per game last year to under 2.7 so far this year – his production has been as good as could be hoped for. Maybe he doesn’t push 30 goals again, but if he managed 15 goals and 65 assists, will anyone really be angry with that?

It’s fascinating because his 5v5 shot and TOI rates have declined and yet because of the potency of the Sharks, his production has increased. His IPP is normal and his on-ice shooting percentage is normal. In other words, even if he sees a small power play point decline for the rest of the season, his five-on-five production rates should remain fairly constant as long as the Sharks keep shooting and scoring as they are with him on the ice right now, which is a distinct possibility.

All this is to say that even with Burns’s shot decline, he’s a very real threat to be a point-per-game player this year. That’s about as much as we can ask for from any fantasy defenceman.


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