Ramblings: Cy Young Candidates in Hockey – Acciari, Pageau, Neal (Mar 20)
I hope you're doing well and managing to adjust to these difficult times. Not just with the lack of hockey, but also other changes to your day-to-day life, whatever they may be. Who knows, maybe you've even been able to pull out a positive or two from this situation. For me, that involves being able to work from home instead of a long commute to my day job, which has resulted in more time with my kids and more time to ride my bike (50 km since Sunday). I've also been watching some games that were played when I was very young (see my Twitter timeline for the specific games).
As long as there are folks interested in what we have to say here, we'll continue to write. It may not be 100 percent fantasy hockey for the time being, but I'll try to make it interesting.
You've probably heard tons of different ideas of how the NHL should resume its season – if it is able to. Finish the regular season, or head straight into the playoffs? Push the start date of the 2020-21 season ahead? Expand or reduce the number of teams? For some reason I have this goofy idea of allowing all 31 teams into the playoffs while adding an extra round. You'd need 32 teams for that, so give the league leader in points (Boston) a first-round bye. Make it by conference or by the entire league, I don't care. Because why not. I'd totally love to see it, although I know the NHL won't do it.
This is a fantasy hockey website, so I'll attempt to make these Ramblings topical. As I mentioned last week, if you're looking to get your stats fix, head over to Frozen Tools and look for a report to run through the Report Generator. If the report you're curious about isn't there, you can easily export it to Excel and perform your own calculations.
For example, I was curious about "Cy Young award winners" in hockey for the 2019-20 season. In case you're not familiar with that term, these are players whose statlines resemble a star baseball pitcher who has many more wins than losses. In hockey, that would be considerably more goals than assists. Among the majority of hockey players, the opposite is true, given the frequency of goals that have second assists.
From the Report Generator, here are players with at least 15 goals this season, sorted by goals per assist (G/A):
I won't dissect every player, but instead the players that have a higher-than-normal shooting percentage. These are players who could experience a downturn in goals going forward. As a group, these players didn't have a higher-than-expected 5-on-5 shooting percentage, although many had a higher-than-average overall shooting percentage.
You may also notice that there were a few players below that experienced some unsustainable good luck hitting the twine at various points this season. I'll focus on three specific players that fit that category.
And the Cy Young Award goes to…Acciari, who reached the all-important 20-win mark (or in his case, 20 goals) with the second-highest proportion of goals per assists. You may remember that Acciari, who had previously never scored more than ten goals in a season, went on quite a run from mid-December to early January, scoring 12 goals in 12 games. That run was kicked off by back-to-back hat tricks on December 16 and 20.
Since January 12, Acciari scored just three goals with four assists in his last 25 games. However, you may now be wondering if there's been a benefit to Acciari since Vincent Trocheck's departure. Since the Trocheck trade, Acciari has scored a single goal over his last seven games. His power-play time has remained virtually nil during that time, although his overall icetime has been nearly a minute higher than his season average.
You can probably go back to valuing Acciari to what he was before the hot streak, which is another way of saying he holds very little value in pure scoring leagues. Since he leads the Panthers in hits (121) and finished with over 200 hits last season, you could make a case for him in deep bangers leagues.
Pageau had already reached a career high in goals (24) even before his inevitable trade from Ottawa in late February. He had scored the majority of those goals (16) over his first 29 games in which he had been shooting an incredibly high 22.2 percent. This from a player who had shot below 10 percent in multiple previous seasons. Fantasy owners had noticed the goals and were riding the Pageau train for as long as possible, though a decline seemed inevitable.
Since then, Pageau has cooled off with just ten goals over his past 36 games, which still prorates to a 20-goal pace. That includes two goals and no assists in seven games as an Islander, skating mainly with various players, most recently Leo Komarov and Anthony Beauvillier. His overall icetime has remained constant, although his power-play time has increased as an Islander. If you're wondering how that could have happened, the Islanders' offense is barely better than that of the Senators.
Pageau is still owned in 62 percent of Yahoo leagues, which seems a bit high for my liking. Beauvillier is a player who could be on the rise, so Pageau might be in a decent place for another 20-goal season if the two can form chemistry. However, I have a feeling that the defensively conscious Barry Trotz is more likely to use Pageau in a shutdown/defensive faceoff role behind Mathew Barzal and Brock Nelson, as he had been deployed in Ottawa. For that reason, Pageau's ceiling is that of a player you could fill out your roster with in a non-shallow league.
Remember back in October when it appeared that the Oilers would be the runaway winner of the Neal/Milan Lucic swap of bad contracts? Nine of Neal's 19 goals were scored over the first eight games of the season. Since that period, Neal has scored 10 goals over 47 games. You could see that decline coming from a mile away.
The most alarming stat of all? Neal has not scored a goal in the calendar year of 2020. Yes, that was interrupted by injury, but that's a stretch of 13 games that Neal has suited up for in which he hasn't scored a goal. He's barely produced for fantasy teams during that time, adding just four assists with barely over a shot per game (19 SOG). This in spite of considerable time on the Connor McDavid line (although granted, it wasn't the Oilers' truly hot Leon Draisaitl line).
If regular season play resumes at some point, Neal (28 percent owned in Yahoo leagues) would be a player to cut bait on. He has most recently been skating on a line with Alex Chiasson and Jujhar Khaira, who aren't going to drive scoring on their own. Going forward, you can probably treat him as a boom-or-bust option that can probably be dropped at the earliest sign of a slump.
One other thing: Given his minus-20, I was curious to find out how many Draisaitl hat tricks Neal had attained this season. The answer: zero. Draisaitl (5) and McDavid (3) are the only Oilers to earn DHTs this season.
Chat with you tomorrow. For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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