Ramblings: More on Penalty Minutes and Points – Kadri, M. Tkachuk, Kassian (Apr 18)
The divorce papers have finally been signed, and the heartfelt "thank you" messages have been sent. In the final chapter of a messy separation, the Winnipeg Jets and Dustin Byfuglien have agreed to a mutual contract termination. Big Buff is now officially a free agent, so we will find out soon enough whether he will continue his career. That depends on both the extent of any lingering injuries and his desire to continue playing NHL hockey, the latter of which might be a greater factor. I'd have to think that the chances of him returning are slim. If this is it, then it’s been quite a ride for Byfuglien.
You might consider this a fairly brisk news day, as there were not one, but two news stories worth mentioning here. The Columbus Blue Jackets signed Joonas Korpisalo to a two-year contract with an average annual value of $2.8 million.
Fantasy owners might be wondering how this signing affects one Elvis Merzlikins. A quick search and sort at Cap Friendly shows Korpisalo as the 27th-highest paid goalie for next season, similar to the likes of Petr Mrazek, Jonathan Bernier, David Rittich, and Carter Hutton. That ranking will undoubtedly change one way or the other during the offseason, but the cap hit doesn't necessarily suggest that Korpisalo will receive the bulk of the starts.
I won't argue with Dobber that Merzlikins is the better long-term option, but I'd still have to project this to be a 1A/1B situation in the near term (whatever that may be). You may remember Merzlikins playing out of his mind during January. However, don't forget that from November 15 to his December 29 injury, Korpisalo was also red hot, posting an 11-3-3 record with a 2.02 GAA and .928 SV%. Whichever goalie is starting for the Jackets is also doing so in a defensive-friendly system, which also helps.
Today I'll take another question from the comments last week, this one from Lance Glor: Who are the guys in the 70-100 penalty minute range who also produce in other categories?
For my original article, see my Ramblings from last weekend on penalty minutes and their impact in fantasy leagues. As well, I covered this topic at length in the 2019 Fantasy Guide. If you'd purchased yours, go to pages 39-41, where I list 20 players who could provide strong penalty minute totals along with good-to-great scoring numbers. Everything from established options to future prospects is in there. Spoiler alert: One of those options is Byfuglien. I had to submit the article before he took his leave of absence. So I'll change that to 19 options, unless Big Buff returns.
Here is a longer list of penalty minute leaders for this season, inclusive of the 70-100 PIM range. (Actually, I've cheated to allow one player in with 69 penalty minutes, since I'd like to specifically discuss him).
I had already mentioned Evander Kane, Brady Tkachuk, and Tom Wilson in the previous article, so I don't feel the need to reiterate their value again. It's a given that you'd want them in your league that counts PIMs. As well, we already know that Brad Marchand is a high pick in just about any league format, and that is even more the case in a league that counts penalty minutes. (Plus anyone who watches hockey knows that Marchand can earn penalty minutes just by looking at a referee.)
The Leafs needed a change from Kadri, shipping him to Colorado last summer. Many thought the trade would improve his fantasy value, as he would be upgraded from a third-line center in Toronto to a second-line center in Colorado. The trade has helped his overall icetime and power-play time, both of which have increased by about a minute. Has that increased icetime translated to improved fantasy value?
The most noticeable spike was in penalty minutes, which was perhaps because Kadri was given more rope to be himself. Kadri was on pace to record well over 100 PIM, but the league pause combined with his own injury situation left him at what was already a career-high 97 penalty minutes. That penalty minute total may not quite be sustainable, as only about half of those minutes were on minor penalties, while there were only three 5-minute majors. In fact, Kadri didn't even lead his team in minor penalties. Kadri's penalty minute totals have swung wildly throughout his career from 28 PIM in 2014-15 to his total this season.
Kadri's value in multicategory leagues is still higher than in scoring leagues, based on his ability to provide something in numerous categories. He has taken over 200 shots three times in his career, while he was a 30-goal scorer in two of those seasons. The goals have dropped off over the past two seasons, so it might be best to expect around 50 points over a full season going forward. Kadri might seem like a player with a fairly high hits total, but he's finished with under 100 hits over each of the last three seasons. Good hit numbers, but not great.
It wouldn't be fair to mention one Tkachuk without discussing the other. Since his rookie year of 105 penalty minutes, Tkachuk has realized his value to the Flames as a scorer, holding off to less than 80 PIM over each of the last three seasons while leading the Flames in scoring this season. Going forward, he might be an example of a player whose scoring is negatively correlated to his penalty minutes. To put it another way, he will still earn his share of penalty minutes, but that number might not go through the roof as Flames' coaching and management advises him to tone it down, since he clearly can't score from the sin bin.
Fun split this season for Tkachuk:
Penalty minutes vs. EDM and LA: 40 PIM
Penalty minutes vs. everyone else: 34 PIM
In other words, foes like Drew Doughty and Zack Kassian (more on him below) will drive up his penalty minute totals. In case you're wondering if teams have distracted Tkachuk from scoring, that isn't necessarily true. Tkachuk scored four goals and seven points with a plus-9 in eight games against the Oilers and Kings. So for daily league purposes, the more intense the rivalry with Tkachuk and the Flames, the more points and penalty minutes he should collect.
Overall, Tkachuk's scoring is down from last season, but that has also been the case for all the key Flames across the board, including Johnny Gaudreau, Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, and Mark Giordano. At age 22, Tkachuk should continue to be a top-tier option in bangers leagues, regardless of the fortunes of the team around him.
After I mentioned Kassian as a second-tier points/penalty minutes option in the aforementioned Fantasy Guide article, he posts a career high 34 points while spending considerable time on a loaded top line with Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The Oilers' lines were shuffled in the second half, but Kassian managed to remain with McDavid while leading scorer Draisaitl was moved to a line with Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Kailer Yamamoto.
Never mind penalty minutes, Kassian can't accumulate anything while he being suspended. Between the Tkachuk altercation above and the kick to Erik Cernak, Kassian has served nine games' worth of suspensions this season. This is the inherent danger in owning a player like Kassian, Marchand, or Wilson. Marchand has served 19 career games in suspensions for various infractions, while Wilson served a 16-game suspension to start the 2018-19 season. Remember that you don't get the benefit of stashing these players on IR when they're serving suspensions either.
Back to forecasting Kassian. Over a full season, he would have scored 20 goals and 47 points, which is more like the kind of production that was expected of him when he was drafted at 13th overall by the Sabres a decade ago. With 525 games played in his career, Kassian may have less wear and tear on his body than a typical 29-year-old banger, which means he may not hit a wall right away. I'd consider 20 goals and 50 points to be the best-case scenario for Kassian, but he might not finish too far off from that as long as he can stay in the lineup.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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