Goldipucks and the Three Skaters: Bubble Keeper Week – Rasmus Ristolainen, Shea Weber, and Jake Muzzin
For “Roos Lets Loose” to join in the Bubble Keeper festivities, I’m moving up “Goldipucks and the Three Skaters” by one week. For first time readers, or those needing a refresher, this column is a play on the Goldilocks and the Three Bears story, except instead of there being three bowls of porridge I’m covering three skaters – in this case, three Bubble Keeper skaters – and declaring one too hot (i.e., doing unsustainably better than he should), another too cold (i.e., doing unsustainably worse), and a third “just right” (i.e., producing where he should be). I also assign each a 1-10 rating, indicating just how hot (rated 7-10, where 10 is the most unsustainably hot), how cold (rated 1-4, where 1 is the most unsustainably cold), or how “just right” (rated 4-7, where 5.5 is the most “just right”) he is.
The three Bubble Keepers covered here are all defensemen: Rasmus Ristolainen, Shea Weber, and Jake Muzzin. Can you correctly guess which one of the three was too hot, which was too cold, and which was “just right” for 2018-19? Give it your best shot and then read on to see if you nailed it.
Another season, another output between 41 and 45 points for Risto, who’s now been within that range in each of the past four campaigns. So that means we can stop right here and declare him to have been “just right” for 2018-19? Not so fast. As avid readers of this column know, point totals only tell part of the story; and in the case of Ristolainen, they obscure that his production is likely headed in a downward direction for 2019-20.
What we notice from last season is Risto started quite strong, with 26 points in his first 42 games while firing 107 SOG, with fewer than 2 SOG in only nine contests. What’s more – he had 14 games in which he played over 4:00 on the PP, such that ten of those 26 points came on the man advantage. And during all this, he was averaging over 25:00 per game and had nine contests in which he was above the 27:00 mark. In other words, he looked like he was on his way to the breakout that many a poolie had been awaiting.
But then, the second half came. Ristolainen’s scoring dropped to 17 points in 36 games and his ice time to only about 23 minutes per contest, with just one game where he took the ice upwards of 27:00. His PP scoring dropped to seven, which was a wonder considering his PP Time shrank to two minutes a game from upwards of three, and his games with more than 4:00 on the PP dipped to four. As for his SOG, they dropped as well, to 75 in those 36 games, with 17 games of under two SOG.
Whereas normally this could be chalked up to a tale of two halves – where perhaps in the first half he was running hot and in the second half cold, meaning his yearlong totals were just about right – in this case, the difference is the second half saw the emergence of Rasmus Dahlin, who had 24 points in the team’s final 40 games while firing 100 SOG and tallying 12 PPPts. So no – this wasn’t Risto hitting a cold patch over the second half. It was an honest to goodness changing of the guard.
We can’t even look to Risto’s advanced stats for encouragement, as his IPP was 48.3%, the highest of his career to date, and his 6.71% team shooting percentage was slightly above his career average. Even his offensive zone starting percent of 46.2% was the second-highest of his career. If anything, those suggest unsustainably high scoring overall.
Add to all this the fact that Buffalo brought in Colin Miller and Henri Jokiharju this offseason, which should lead to Risto playing tougher minutes and, in turn, struggling, even more, to put points on the board. The one consolation is that Buffalo is a team on the rise, so Risto should “fall into” points even if other Sabres d-men are the ones looked upon for blueline offense.
I’ve said it many times, but fantasy hockey success is far more tied to opportunity and deployment than it is about talent. And although Risto likely could’ve continued the breakout path he was seemingly on during the first half of 2018-19, instead he’ll probably have a 2019-20 which falls short of even his pace from the second half of last season, when he was playing second fiddle to Dahlin, plus now also making room for the likes of Miller and Jokiharju and not having as much good luck smiling upon him. As such, Risto’s 2018-19 was TOO HOT. I’d figure him for roughly 35 points in 2019-20, with perhaps an extra couple due to the likely improvement of the Sabres team. As such, he gets a rating of 7.75.
After a debut season for Montreal where he played 78 contests and tallied 42 points, Weber only managed 84 combined games over the past two seasons but saw a better scoring pace in both (16 points in 26 games for a 50 point full season scoring pace, then 33 points in 58 contests for a 46 point full season scoring pace). So that means we ought to pencil him in for about 45 points this season? Once again, not so fast, as in Weber’s case he should be able to break 50 points for 2019-20.
Looking at Weber’s scoring, it was fairly consistent at 10-12 points per quarter. The big difference was in terms of SOG, as in the fourth quarter he fired a jaw-dropping 75 pucks on net in 20 games. Also, in going back to 2017-18 before he got hurt, he had a first quarter of 60 SOG in 20 games. Together those quarters totalled 135 SOG in 40 games, with 23 points to show for them. Although that doesn’t put him over the 50 point mark in terms of scoring pace, the key is if we examine d-men who, since 2010-11 and at the time age 30+, averaged at least three SOG in a season, there were nine instances, seven of which were by players who had at least 52 points that same season, with the average point total for the nine instances being 61.5 points. So if Weber, who’ll be 34 when the 2019-20 season begins, is still able to fire that many pucks at the net throughout a full campaign, the points should pile up.
Weber also was unlucky over the past two seasons, as despite his injuries he managed to receive the 60th most PP Time among all d-men yet scored only the 71st most PPPts. This after, in the previous four seasons, receiving the tenth most PP Time and scoring the fifth most PPPts. Much of this was likely due to the Habs PP converting on only 13.2% of its chances last season, which has nowhere to go but up, and with Weber being a primary beneficiary.
His unluckiness also extended to his IPP, which was 47.8% last season after averaging 52.7% over his first two seasons with the Habs and only once being below 47.8% since 2013-14. Had his IPP been closer to its usual number he’d have gained at least a couple to perhaps even a handful of points. Also, with the Habs adding Ben Chiarot, some of the defensive pressure that might have fallen to Weber due to the departure of Jordie Benn might go instead to Chiarot, allowing Weber to continue to direct at least some of his focus on scoring, where the team realizes he can be of significant help, especially since Jeff Petry’s production dropped with each quarter, culminating in just six points in his final 20 games.
Overall, Weber’s 2018-19 was TOO COLD, and he should be looked upon for more scoring in 2019-20 due to a rebound in his PP production and his often blistering SOG pace during the past two seasons. Accordingly, Weber’s rating is 3.0, to account for him likely getting 50+ points in 2019-20.
After setting a career-high of 42 points in just 74 games for the Kings in 2017-18, Muzzin was slumping with 21 points in 50 games before being dished to the Maple Leafs, where he finished with 16 points in 30 games. So should we expect Muzzin to duplicate his performance with the Leafs and finish with roughly a point per every other game, or instead end up closer to his season-long 37 points? Based on the data, it’s Muzzin’s total for 2018-19 that looks like it’s more in line with his likely output for 2019-20.
Before this past season, Muzzin had three times scored 40+ points; but in his two other full seasons, he failed to even cross the 30 point threshold. Can we discern patterns in those seasons which could clue us into what to expect from him in 2019-20? In truth, not really; he had 13 or 14 PPPts in his 40+ point seasons, but he also had ten in a 28 point campaign. And although his highest SOG total did come in a 40+ point campaign, his next highest total was when he posted 28 and his second-lowest SOG output came in his 2017-18 career-best season. It’s not ice time either, as while there too his high-water mark came in a 40+ point campaign, he had almost a minute more ice time in his 28 point season than he did when he posted 42 points.
Where the answer seemingly lies is with the Kings as a team, since in the seasons when Muzzin topped 40 points LA scored 237, 223, and 218 goals, versus 198 and 199 in the two campaigns where he failed to even tally 30 points. So in essence, Muzzin was mostly the same player but ran hot when his team did. So is that good news considering the Leafs scored 286 goals last season and figure to be at least as good in 2019-20? The answer is yes, but not in the same way for Muzzin in Toronto as it was when he was in LA.
One key is Toronto has Morgan Rielly and Tyson Barrie in the fold, with Rielly a #1 d-man who does it all, and Barrie an offensive catalyst. It is entirely possible both will top 60 points next season, which would not be good news for Muzzin. That’s because the only time in the last 20 years a team had two 60+ point d-men in the same season was, ironically, the 2005-06 Leafs, for whom Bryan McCabe posted 68 points and Tomas Kaberle 67. Care to guess the point total of the third-highest scoring d-man for Toronto that season? Try Ken Klee with…………….a whopping 15. And if you go back further, far more often than not when two defensemen pile on the points there’s no room for a third to break 40 as well.
So could Muzzin be the exception, rather than the rule? I think he’ll be neither, as he’ll end up right near his 37 points from last season. When we look at Muzzin’s scoring as a Leaf, he had two games of three points, both of which saw him log over 1:30 on the PP, which we know won’t happen this coming season given the addition of Barrie, who figures to more than makeup for the PP Time that will be made available by the departure of Jake Gardiner. Without that PP Time, Muzzin will still score, but it will be a case – like it was in LA – of the rising tide of the Toronto offense lifting his boat. And this time – unlike when he was in LA – while Toronto will score more goals than LA ever did, Muzzin won’t have the PP Time to also allow him to get 13 or 14 PPPts.
Muzzin also set a career-low in offensive zone starting % last season, at just 44.6%, which amazingly marked the sixth straight season his OZ% declined. The difference was that it had never been below 51.9% previously, so this drop was consequential and likely a sign of things to come for his tenure as a Leaf. Even still, Muzzin managed 63 SOG in his 30 games with Toronto, showing he was still dialled into the offense, as further demonstrated by his 45.1% IPP, which was only slightly below his career average of 47% before last season. That should help him continue to hit the score sheet even as his PP time dries up and his OZ% remains low.
Although no longer with LA, Muzzin yet again will abide by the rising tide lifts all boats model, except in this case it won’t be lifting him as high given his subpar deployment and lack of PP Time as compared to his days as a King. When all is said and done though, he’ll be on the Leafs, for whom goals will pile up. Accordingly, his 2019-20 scoring rate won’t match what it was during his partial 2018-19 with the Leafs, but instead will be on a par with his 37 points for all of 2018-19. As such, Muzzin’s 2018-19 was JUST RIGHT, although not for the reasons one would normally expect. He gets assigned a rating of 5.75, as he might be closer to 35 points because his low OZ% and PP Time might drag him down a bit more than Toronto’s offense will prop him up.
After a delay for Bubble Keeper Week, it’s mailbag time again in seven days. Although I’m all set for questions this time, I can always use more for future editions; so please go ahead and send them to me in one of two ways: (1) by private messaging them to me (rizzeedizzee) via the DobberHockey Forums, or (2) by sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.
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