Ramblings: The annual Dobby Awards. Also some playoff thoughts, Matthews vs. Marner and more (Apr 08)
Now available – the 13th annual Interactive Playoff Draft List. Order it here, download immediately. I updated this Sunday with the latest and will update it again before the playoffs start. Tons of notes and insight on this list as well as my own picks. If you bought the Ultimate Fantasy Pack in the summer, this will be included in that purchase. It is not included in the Keeper Fantasy Pack. I did update this Sunday morning and I had to update it again in the evening because there was a problem getting goalies to appear. That is fixed now.
First, join my NHL Bracket Challenge – the DobberHockey League of Winners.
Second, join my Dobbernomics playoff game. It’s free, it’s fun, and frankly it’s pretty challenging. You can put in your team right now under a salary cap, and then keep changing them around because transactions are unlimited until the playoffs begin.
For all the hype that Auston Matthews gets and Mitch Marner does not – Marner has kept up with him in production, and this year is out-producing him badly. Yes, injuries…but injuries are a part of a player’s value. Marner doesn’t seem to get hurt, Matthews seems to be a lock for missing 10 games or more just from his style of play. One thing I noticed in reviewing for playoff pools – Marner had nine points in seven games last spring while Matthews had just two. Matthews brings high value as an elite sniper with size and strength in the center position – a rare commodity. But isn’t Patrick Kane a pretty rare commodity, too? Yes, I’m comparing Marner to Kane. Marner deserves more dough than Matthews. Curious to see if he gets it. The reality is, the Leafs need both players.
Marner will out-produce Matthews in 7 of the next 10 years in the season
Marner will out-produce Matthews in 7 of the next 10 years in the postseason.
I have seen Matthews dominate so thoroughly that he has at times been the No.2 player in the entire league. I've also wondered where he is at times. I guess if he can find that gear and hold onto it, I would be wrong. But he has injuries working against him – 70 games of Matthews each year vs. 80 games of Marner? Give me Marner under that arrangement.
You know who they don’t need? William Nylander. I mean, sure you could use a second-line talent with good first-line upside. But they have enough of those and could shed one if it means keeping a top-six character player who brings other things to the table. Since Nylander makes the money he does, logically he would be the best one to shed. Still shaking my head over that “not trading Nylander” comment from Kyle Dubas. Nylander is a great top six forward, perhaps even a first liner. But there are several dozen of him in the league. Most definitely not a rare commodity. And if he costs the team keeping the likes of Andreas Johnsson or Kasperi Kapanen (I won’t even consider them losing Marner over keeping Nylander, I shudder), and prevents the team from acquiring a No3 or 4 D, then that’s too big a sacrifice.
It’s still happening. Mark Stone joining Vegas’ 1B line hasn’t really helped that line, since it was already fairly productive. But it has had a huge impact on the 1A line. William Karlsson, Reilly Smith and Jonathan Marchessault have been red hot over the past month. Since the trade deadline:
Marchessault – 17 points in 19 games (0.89 vs. 0.67 prior to that)
Karlsson – 17 points in 19 games (0.89 vs. 0.62)
Smith – 18 points in 18 games (1.00 vs. 0.63)
Stone – 11 points in 18 games (0.61 vs. 1.05)
Stastny – 17 points in 17 games (1.00 vs. 0.76)
Pacioretty – 8 points in 16 games (0.50 vs. 0.64)
Tuch – 9 points in 19 games (0.47 vs. 0.78)
A lot of this can be explained. Tuch’s dropoff is from his being bumped from the second line. The top line, or 1A, was heavily defended against in the first half, with the opposition shutting them down and thus giving themselves the best chance to win. But with Stone there, how do you focus on anyone else? Stone has the most talent and is the biggest game breaker. How do you put your best shutdown D on the Karlsson line and leave Stone free to do as he will? You can’t. And I’m curious to see if he can step up his game and boost that line’s production in the playoffs. Right now I’m more bullish on the Karlsson line when it comes to drafting in playoff pools.
You can so very clearly see which GMs weren’t thinking ahead and adapting, simply by looking at the overall scoring. Scoring is up this year. By a lot: 3.01 goals per game and that’s up over the 3.00 mark for the first time since 2006.. The top scoring team has 325 goals. Twenty-five teams have at least 225 goals. And then Anaheim, Los Angeles, Dallas, Minnesota and Arizona have fewer than 215? The Ducks didn’t even reach 200? Talk about being caught sleeping. With more of the net being visible thanks to smaller goalie pads, the clutching and grabbing by slower, bigger players no longer works. Now it’s about speed, and puck movement starting at D. Arizona recognizes this and are moving towards it. Minnesota also seems to suddenly get it, based on their Deadline moves. The Ducks have a solid prospect pipeline so there’s still hope there. But what of Los Angeles? Things could actually get worse there before they get better.
This year’s Dobby’s!
Biggest Fantasy Surprise: Erik Gustafsson. Of course. This one is probably unanimous. To hit the 60-point mark as a defenseman when we weren’t even sure if he’d be a regular roster player is pretty fantastic. Six defensemen reached 60 points this season and a virtual unknown was one of them. Runner-Up: Jordan Binnington. Winnington indeed.
Lucky Linemate Award: While much of the prognosticators and journalists were going nuts over Calgary’s signing of James Neal, crowning him a potential comeback player and already christening him as Johnny Gaudreau’s linemate…I held firm on my belief in this year’s winner Elias Lindholm. As a right-shot and a backup centerman who could take faceoffs when needed, it was just too good a fit. Why would Calgary bother making that trade if not to put Lindholm on the big line? I didn’t waver and in fact traded one of my 12 keepers last summer to sub Lindholm as a keeper in his place (Clayton Keller). Just one point in his last nine games prevented him from reaching 80 points (he hit 78). Runner-Up: Cam Atkinson, who also fell short of a milestone, stopping at 69 points thanks to just six points in the last 14 games. He did hit 41 goals though.
Second-Half Stud Award: Patrick Kane’s 59 points in 39 games tied Nikita Kucherov in scoring since January 5. It was also a nice jump from his already-solid first-half pace of 51 points in 42 games. Runner-Up: Sean Couturier, who had 47 points in the last 42 games after starting out with 29 in 38. This was despite managing just three points and going minus-9 in the final seven contests.
Cha-Ching Player Trade Award: Dylan Strome. Six points in 20 games for Arizona, then off to Chicago where he picked up 51 in 58. Runner-Up: Ryan Donato. He had 16 points in 22 games after the trade. But unlike with Strome, we were still fairly comfortable with Donato eventually coming around. The trade just expedited things. Donato ended the season with just one point in seven games and minus-8, so by no means is 2019-20 guaranteed to be “the year” for him.
Second-Half Swoon Award: Patrik Laine had 20 measly points in the last 49 games after starting the season with 30 in 33. Runner-Up: Jeff Skinner was a revelation with 44 points in 45 games to start the year. He was going to demolish his career high of 63 points, no question about it. That is, until he didn’t. Just 19 in his last 37 to finish up with, you guessed it, 63 points. Congrats to anyone who traded either of these players in January.
Fantasy Player of the Year: Andrei Vasilevskiy. It’s not a coincidence that the teams that won each of my leagues that involve goalies, owned Vas. As I noted to one GM when we were discussing the fairness of the goalie points system in that league: “Owning Vasilevskiy under these rules right now is like owning Gretzky in 1986.” He only played 53 games thanks to a broken foot, and yet he still managed 39 wins. If healthy all year, he may have taken a run at 50. He also boasted a 0.925 SV% in an era where goaltenders don’t really do that very often. Runner-Up: Nikita Kucherov, who finished with 128 points, 12 more than the next player and the highest total in 23 years.
Fantasy Rookie of the Year: Jordan Winnington. I wrestled with this one for a long time because I’m a huge Elias Pettersson fan and feel he will be an elite player. As in – Top 5 in the league. Meanwhile, Binnington could Jim Carrey his way out of the NHL and become this massive bust. But we’ll always remember this year. In the end, I asked myself – which rookie did the most to help a fantasy owner win. And frankly, Winnington turned more than a few fantasy squads around on his own this year. So even though I would much sooner own Runner-Up Pettersson and Honorable Mention Rasmus Dahlin by a wide, wide, ridiculously wide margin in keeper leagues – Binnington has to be the ROY in fantasy hockey.
Fourth Year Magic Award: Dylan Larkin teased in Year 3 with 63 points and then took another huge step this season with 73. This is quite the feat when you consider that no other Detroit player reached 55. Runner-Up: Max Domi jumped from 45 points in his third year to 72. He was a big reason why the Habs made it to Game 81 before finally being eliminated from the playoffs.
The Power-Play Crutch: Keith Yandle wins this one because nobody relied more heavily on the man advantage for his production than the Florida defenseman. He had just 23 points at even strength, but a whopping 39 on the power play. Nobody was even close to that ratio here. Runner-Up, and a distant one: Mike Hoffman who was at 35 for ES and 35 on the PP.
I hope you enjoyed this year’s Dobby’s!
Two other players I looked at for a fantasy boost after being traded: Tanner Pearson (the second time he was dealt), Jordan Weal (the second time he was dealt) and Jared McCann. In 19 games with Vancouver, Pearson had 12 points. Not great, but still quite the improvement. It looks even better, though, when you see that he ended the year with nine points in nine games. He showed great chemistry with Bo Horvat towards the end and I think he can get back to that 45-to-55 potential we saw in him earlier.
Jordan Weal has teased us at the end of the season like this before. And the last time he did it, he was set to become a UFA and earned himself a two-year, one-way contract. I think his progress was derailed by the Flyers lucking into the draft lottery win and adding Nolan Patrick to the lineup. It nudged Weal down the roster and he hasn’t done much of anything since. Here he is, set to become a UFA again and he ends things in Montreal with eight points in nine games. What kind of contract he earns from that should determine how much of a chance he will get. And to be fair – he had plenty of top-six opportunities in Arizona, but couldn’t find the chemistry. He is clearly a guy who will lean on chemistry with a talented player for his points.
And McCann, of course, had that wonderful run as Sidney Crosby’s linemate and picking up 10 points in eight games just after the deadline. But the magic seemed to vanish as he managed just four points in the final 12 contests. Next year could almost be considered his fourth (he played 29 games in 2016-17), so that definitely nudges me towards drafting him in the summer as a sleeper pick. He has played 244 career games so it’s right in that wheelhouse for a breakout.
I didn’t know that Joe Thornton had 29 points in his last 33 games. He’s sailing into the postseason truly on a roll and if you like the Sharks to go deep, you may want to nudge him up your playoff draft lists.
The reason I am not a big fan of Alex Nylander in keeper leagues – injuries. He had himself a nice season this year taking a big step forward in his pro career after a couple of steps backward. But he had a different injury wipe out two of his training camps, back-to-back, and then finally getting an opportunity with Buffalo that looks as though he is there to stay – and he gets hurt again. If every time he gets some sort of opportunity or gets on a role he suffers an injury, he’s never going to get going. There are too many other prospects to roll the dice on, so I’ll leave the younger Nylander to someone else.
I just realized I’m kinda trashing on both Nylander brothers today. Time to write something nice: Both have tremendous upside and I really like William as a potential first-liner – no matter what team he plays for. In fact I think it’s better for both him and the Leafs if he went somewhere else. He would flourish elsewhere, and they would address some serious needs. I also don’t rule out Alex as a potential top sixer, to be clear what I wrote above was that other GMs can take a chance on him, I will look at other prospects who aren’t getting hurt.
See you next Monday. Good luck in your playoff pool drafts, and that link again for the Draft List is here.