Welcome back to Forum Buzz, a column where I review the DobberHockey Forums and weigh in on active, heavily debated, or otherwise relevant threads from the past month, reminding everyone just how great of a resource the Forums are. Pretty much anything might be covered, other than trades and signings, which usually will get their own separate write-ups on the main site and are also covered in the next day’s Ramblings, or questions relating to salary cap issues, which is the domain of Alex MacLean’s weekly Capped column.

 

One change starting this month – to reach the particular Forum thread, click on the “Topic” portion of the question link. That allows you to access the Frozen Tools player pages for those who are mentioned in the questions. With that out of the way, it’s time to dig into the Forums, so sit back and enjoy!

 

Topic #1 – What should be done with Jack Hughes in a one-year league?

Normally the worry when it comes to 18 year-olds like Hughes is them getting worse as the year goes on, by virtue of hitting a rookie wall from the rigors of an 82 game NHL schedule as compared to prior experience. But Hughes has disappointed pretty much from the outset; so could that mean he instead builds momentum – and increases his production – as the season unfolds?

On the plus side, his PP time has been strong and he’s picked up points with the man advantage. Also, as I write this, and dating back to before his recent injury, he’s averaged two SOG per game over the past seven contests. These things having been said, in the first quarter his most frequent linemates were Taylor Hall and Kyle Palmieri. Since then he mainly skated with Jesper Boqvist and Wayne Simmonds, i.e., much worse players, and did not respond by stepping up to be “the guy.” But he could get put back on the top line, as he was in his first game back from injury after the John Hynes firing, which would be a very positive sign. Looming above and beyond everything though is the fact Hughes hasn’t produced despite having an offensive zone starting percentage of 79.2%, which, simply put, is astronomical. What we seem to have in Hughes is a player who can’t score well when he’s taking the ice almost exclusively in the offensive zone and getting minutes on the top PP unit and playing at times with the best his team has to offer. Thus, it might be he’s not ready to thrive in the NHL, which would be quite normal for 18 year-olds, albeit perhaps not for one with the credentials and supposed talent level of Hughes.

Before his return from injury and the coaching change, I’d have said Hughes was a safe drop-in most one-year leagues with over 100 forwards owned; but with John Hynes gone and Hughes immediately back on the top line upon returning from injury, it’s probably best to hold and hope Hughes figures things out. After all, it’s not unheard of for an 18-year-old to start to connect the dots as his rookie season unfolds. One need only hearken back to Steven Stamkos, who only managed 46 points at age 18 but tallied 21 of those 46 points in his last 22 contest then exploded as a sophomore.

 

Topic #2 – Which surprising scorer is more for real, Jean-Gabriel Pageau or Anthony Beauvillier?

Ah, this hearkens back to my time penning Cage Match. I can’t believe it’s been almost a year since my last Cage Match column. But enough reminiscing – onto the question at hand.

No one predicted these two would be producing as they have thus far, but here we are more than a third of the way into the season and both look like good bets for easily setting a career-best in points even though their play has slowed a bit in December. Let’s look at the factors involved to see how they stack up.

Pageau’s SOG rate is a good bit higher than Beauvillier’s, but their overall ice times are virtually identical. Beyond SOG though is shooting percentage; and while both are running higher than normal, It’s Pageau whose rate is severely – and thus unsustainably – elevated, whereas Beauvillier’s, although above what it has been for his career, tracks what he posted for a full season in 2017-18.

There’s also linemates, with Beauvillier forming what has become a steady unit for the Isles with Brock Nelson and Derick Brassard. Pageau, on the other hand, mainly takes the ice with Nick Paul and Connor Brown. Moreover, Beavillier is the one who’s getting regular PP time, plus less shorthanded duty, giving him more scoring opportunities and less non-productive TOI versus Pageau.

Looking at luck metrics, Beauvillier’s team shooting percentage is high but his IPP isn’t, which together paint the picture of him being on a line that gels well and him getting lower points since he’s not used to playing with quality linemates regularly. Where there is a concern, however, is his OZ%, which is 40.7%. It’s difficult to envision Beauvillier having a major breakout if he continues to start so few shifts in the offensive zone. Then again, and as amazing as it might seem, Pageau’s OZ% is actually even lower! Couple that with an extremely high – for him – team shooting percentage, likely due in large part to his personal shooting percentage, and a roughly average IPP for him, and it seems as though luck metrics suggest Pageau’s scoring rate is less sustainable.

All things considered, I’ll give the edge to Beauvillier. He’s getting more PP Time, playing regularly with talented linemates, and has less discouraging luck metrics. As far as how “for real” their production is, both are in danger of seeing their scoring rates drop because of their OZ%; however, due to the points they’ve already banked, I think both should still be able to set career bests, with Beavillier likely to end up with roughly five more points than Pageau by the end of the season.

 

Topic #3 –In a 12 team league where roughly 250 players are owned but only five players can be kept year to year, who’s the best defenseman to have – Adam Fox, Sami Vatanen, or Filip Hronek?

I can see why these three were compared. You have a highly touted prospect (Fox), versus a former highly touted prospect who looks like he might finally be coming into his own (Vatanen), versus a young player who appears to be getting better and better by the day (Hronek). Fox probably has the best chance to be a home run, whereas Hronek should be better sooner, and Vatanen could finally be capitalizing on an opportunity to show the talent he was thought to have all along.

One key is you’re talking about a league where each team gets to keep about a quarter of its players; so the answer will depend on what one’s other keeper options are. If it’s unlikely any of them will be kept, I’m inclined to go with Hronek, as he’s performing well and now looks to be the go-to option for blueline offense in Detroit, whereas in New York there’s also Tony DeAngelo and Jacob Trouba and in New Jersey, there’s P.K. Subban, Will Butcher, and even Damon Severson.

In fact, seeing all those options in New Jersey makes it difficult to recommend Vatanen, as too much would have to go right for him to outproduce Fox and Hronek. Of the remaining two, I’d go with Hronek unless your fantasy team has the luxury of carrying Fox as a keeper for a season or two before he might explode. Or to put it another way, it most likely makes sense to go with Hronek, who’s showing more sooner. Yes. Fox does have a chance to be more of a special player; but that probably won’t come for a couple of years, giving Hronek the advantage in a pretty limited keeper.

 

Topic #4 – In a 13 team roto league with goalie categories of W, GAA, SV%, and SHO, a GM has Robin Lehner, Matt Murray, John Gibson, and Petr Mrazek and is going to punt on this season. Could Lehner be good enough going forward to allow him to trade two of his other netminders?

Props to this GM for thinking ahead if indeed his team is destined not to win this season. Ideally, he’d want to move not only one of Murray, Gibson and Lehner but also Mrazek, to end up with just the two goalies he’s destined to keep. The question is – should Lehner be moved or kept?

One worry going into this season was whether Lehner was a by-product of a Barry Trotz and Mitch Korn system; so far though, Lehner’s strong play – notably his very high SV% – appears to have allayed that concern. What will still don’t know yet though, is if he could withstand the physical rigors and mental pressures of being a true #1, as like last season he’s in a goalie share. With the other three, they appear to be locked in as #1 goalies on their respective teams, so that uncertainty about Lehner is a factor.

My immediate thought is don’t rush to trade unless someone comes knocking on your door. By being the first to sell one might be able to get a panicked team to overpay and avoid the risk of one of the four getting hurt, which, with Murray and Gibson, is a concern, plus the chance of another team selling its netminder(s) earlier for a better price. But by waiting until the season unfolds further, teams will lose goalies to injury or become more desperate, in which case the price one can get could be higher. Plus it gives you more time to verify that Lehner is indeed for real.

Assuming Lehner doesn’t falter, he’ll have played well enough – between this year and last season- to likely emerge as a true #1 somewhere for 2020-21, probably Chicago, where Corey Crawford will be UFA. Let’s assume that does happen – who should be traded, him, Murray, or Gibson? I think the price one could get for Murray or Gibson would be much better than for Lehner, whom my guess is fantasy teams still will view with skepticism. Perhaps the one to trade then would be Murray, since as was noted in the Forum thread Anaheim plays on a lot of off nights, providing some added roster flexibility.

In sum, I’d trade Murray and Mrazek (great team, but not elite), with the decision being whether to initiate things now, in a little while, later in the season, or even in the offseason. With this being a 13 team league, I’d try to trade one pretty soon and then wait to trade the other. That way no one scoops you, but you also get a chance to really cash in on the standings tighten and injuries happen.

 

Topic #5 – How does one know when they’re truly out of the running in a points-only league?

The question was asked in the context of a one-year league, but I’ll cover keepers too, and both roto and H2H. First off, there is no hard and fast rule or timetable; and you have to balance the risk of calling it a day too soon versus ignoring the obvious. Personally, in roto leagues, I analyze not only where I am in the standings but also what it would take for me to move up, and let’s not forget that if I need my goalies to do well that means perhaps my skaters will fare worse, or vice versa. That’s why trades can be key, as you can try to position yourself to improve in general and concerning the standings.

Of course, if you’re a team with poor skaters and goalies and in the bottom half of most roto categories in a one-year league, then that likely is too much ground to make up, and, in turn, you’d be best served to punt and trying to improve by making trades. But don’t trade everyone right away, since there can be wisdom in waiting until closer to crunch time, as by then teams should be more desperate and will likely have lost some key players to injury. The risk of, of course, is other teams might consider themselves out of it soon as well, and – as also noted above – you could end up getting scooped. That’s why to to cover your bases you might want to do some deals now, then more as time goes on.

In keepers, you want to be even more liberal about declaring it a lost season, since there is a lot of incentive to deal with anyone of value who won’t be kept. So if you have a 30 player roster but each team keeps only 15 players, you want to end up with those 15 guys and next to nothing more in value. There it pays to trade earlier, but even then not sell off everyone right away, especially if it may not be clear at this point exactly who your keepers will be. Start with definite non-keepers, and go from there.

As for H2H leagues, each week is its own mini-season, which means you probably want to hold on until at least mid-season before you wave the white flag. That being said, every week half the teams win and the other half lose, which in turn means if you’re already truly in too big of a hole you don’t want to wait too long before waving the white flag.

 

Topic #6 –What is Evgeni Malkin’s trade value in a keeper league?

Firth things first, his trade value differs if it’s a roto league vs. H2H since he’s doomed more than his fair share of H2H owners with his propensity to miss time at the end of the regular season, which is when H2H playoffs occur. As such, he’s always going to have lower trade value there. He probably has the most trade value in multicat leagues, due to his SOG, PPPt and even PIM outputs, to go along with, of course, his very high production rate.

Here’s what we know about Malkin – when he’s in the lineup he’s elite, as for his career he has a better than 1.15 points per game cumulative scoring rate and 12 seasons of a point per game or better scoring by age 33. Only seven other forwards had at least that many point per game campaigns by that age and then went on to play at least three more seasons. What happened to them in those additional seasons? Only one failed to record yet another point per game campaign; the rest all had at least two more, and four had three or more. Therefore, based on past comparables, Malkin’s production rate might not be in danger of slowing, especially due to his style of play (size plus finesse) not to mention him having missed as many games as he has actually giving him “fresher legs” than most his age.

The issue with Malkin is he does get hurt nearly every season, as he logged 70+ games in a campaign only twice this decade. So naturally other GMs are going to be hesitant to trade for him. It would be like if a restaurant opened near you and you knew you’d get five-star cuisine from it 80% of the time but 20% of the time you’d get food poisoning. While you’d be enticed to eat there, in the end, might prefer to go instead with a restaurant where you could get merely three- to four-star food but have much less risk of getting food poisoning.

Accordingly, you can forget about trading Malkin straight up for a superstar, that is unless the superstar comes with a comparable injury concern. For example, a deal with Malkin involving Kris Letang, who’s basically like Malkin except a d-man, could be somewhere to start. Or you might consider moving Malkin as part of a package for Patrice Bergeron, who’s become Malkin-like in terms of his health over the past few seasons. If you don’t want to get a certified Band-Aid Boy in return for Malkin, then if you’re looking for a straight-up trade the likelihood is you’ll have to take either someone with a proven track record but less guaranteed production (e.g., Anze Kopitar), or someone with still some injury risk (e.g., Taylor Hall), or someone with less of a track record but also some future potential (e.g., Sean Monahan).

If I’m a Malkin owner intent on trading him, I might try knocking on the door of the Bergeron or Letang owners to see if a deal is there to be made. Otherwise, try to dangle him in trade and see what offers you get in return. It can’t hurt. Or you can just hold and hope he stays healthy while you wait for other GMs to approach you with trade offers.

 

Topic #7 –In a 16 team H2H keep 2 start 6F, 3D, 1G per week with skater categories of G and A (2 points each), PPG, PPA, Hat Trick, SHG, SHA and GWG (1 point each), Jonathan Toews was dropped. Does it make sense to pick him up? Notable other free agents include Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Mats Zuccarello, Josh Anderson, Yanni Gourde, Tyler Johnson, Anthony Cirelli, Joonas Donskoi, Martin Necas, Robby Fabbri, and Anthony Duclair.

No question poolies expected more out of Toews than what he’s done so far, with him having posted 81 points last season and, in doing so, hearkening back to a stretch between 2010 and 2013 when he had 180 points in 186 cumulative games. But let’s not forget that in the three campaigns immediately prior to last season Toews had scored at a cumulative full-season rate of 61 points. Also, last season saw him post his highest team shooting percentage in five campaigns while receiving his highest percentage of offensive zone starts. Also, he set a career-high in SOG.

This season his SOG rate is back lower; however, his personal shooting percentage is barely more than half his career average, his team shooting percentage is at its lowest rate in his long career and, perhaps most notably, his IPP is under 46.9% after ranging from 65-67% in four of his past six seasons. So clearly he’s snakebit. But is that enough to merit grabbing him, as even assuming his bad luck turns around he probably won’t get you more than a 65-70 point scoring rate over the rest of the season? With that list of free agents available, something tells me each team has several reserves other than the six forwards whom they start. Otherwise, there’d be better names out there to grab. So while the categories aren’t superb for Toews (i.e., no FOW or SOG), given the state of the free-agent pool, plus the likelihood Toews will snap out of this sooner rather than later, I’d grab him and stash him on your bench to have once his unsustainably bad luck ends.

Editor's Note: This response occurred before Toews three-point evening over the weekend. 

 

Topic #8 – In a keeper league with four starting goalies, a GM has, as current starters, Philipp Grubauer, Semyon Varlamov, Juuse Saros, and Darcy Kuemper, plus, in the minors (requirement is <63 NHL games), Mackenzie Blackwood, Alexander Georgiev, Elvis Merzlikins, Cal Petersen, Ian Scott, and Jon Gilles. What should this GM do with Blackwood and Georgiev, who’ll be minors ineligible next season, giving him six goalies for only four slots?

This is an interesting situation, as among the GM’s four current goalies only one is a true 100% starter, in Grubauer. That being said, Kuemper and Varlamov are good enough as 1A goalies to likely want to hold onto until a couple of his younger minors goalies are ready to make the leap. Saros, on the other hand, has seen his game worsen over the past two years even as he gets more starts, which is not a good sign. Sure – Saros might just need to play even more regularly to turn things back around; but whereas he was once thought to be in a similar boat as Tuukka Rask or Cory Schneider when they were younger (i.e., a superb young talent stuck behind an entrenched starter), he’s now far from a lock to be a great goalie, and likely of less value than Blackwood, who could be the #1 in New Jersey for a while, or Georgiev, who might be the starter in Seattle or, if not there, somewhere else.

I think it makes sense for the GM to let those in his/her league know Saros, Georgiev and Blackwood are available, and perhaps even Varlamov and/or Kuemper, and then trade two of the five them rather than lose them for nothing next season. If need be, the GM can also dangle one of his/her younger goalies as a carrot, as it’s generally easier to replace prospect goalies than starters.

 

Topic #8 – In a H2H league with GAA, SV%, W and SO as categories, does it make sense, at least in some cases, to not shoot for the maximum number of goalie starts in a given week?

In the GM’s league, there are these four goalie categories, plus eight skater categories. So volume of goalie starts directly benefits only 20% of the league’s categories, hence the temptation to entertain the idea of not having the maximum number of goalie starts in a given week. But what goalie start strategy makes the most sense?

Scrutinizing match-ups and avoiding “trap” games is one way to go; however, things that look good on paper often don’t turn out so well in actuality. And poring over match-ups can lead to analysis paralysis, where one overthinks things and comes to worse decisions than if one just looked at the week ahead and made informed but not overanalyzed decisions.

Another option is to run goalies out early in the week and then decide what to do from there – that is, if early week stats in GAA and SV% are great, then it might make sense to sit goalies even if it costs you in Wins and SOs, especially since most weeks it won’t be unusual for no goalies in a match-up to get any shutouts, as we’re more than a third of the way through the season and, as I write this, a mere ten goalies have more than a single shutout. So if one netminder gets a shutout and your GAA and SV% are both solid, it might make sense to sit all of your goalies for the rest of the week to lock in the edge in three of the four goalie categories.

Also, for sure one should look at trends occurring for the season thus far. If one has Semyon Varlamov or Thomas Greiss, one can be fairly certain who starts each game in the week due to New York’s strict alternate start rotation. Also, by now one might be able to discern what teams are doing on their back to back games, as some teams will normally start their better goalie against the better team while others might do the opposite. If other observations can be made along these lines, go ahead and base decisions for the week on them.

Long story short, in H2H leagues where more goalie starts, isn’t necessarily the best way to go, there are several ways to approach managing goalies. Try to dig up reliable data and patterns; beyond that, make decisions when looking at match-ups and then on the fly based on early week results.

********

Questions needed for Mailbag column

Be sure to send me questions if you want them included in my monthly mailbag column. You can get them to me by private messaging “rizzeedizzee” via the DobberHockey Forums or by sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.