Ramblings: Blocking The Shots – Edler, Graves, Giordano (May 1)
Welcome to May, a month in which we are usually well into the Stanley Cup playoffs. Yet here we are. I know, I shouldn't remind you.
Former NHLer Georges Laraque announced on Twitter that he has been diagnosed with COVID-19. All the best to the former Oilers and Canadiens enforcer.
On a lighter note… as it turns out, the "Need More Wine" lady is the 82-year-old mother of Kirk Muller. Small world.
Today we're going to examine players who have dominated the blocked shots category this season. Not surprisingly, the top 100 in this category are all defensemen. A good strategy to consider if your league counts blocked shots is to fill your last defense slot or two with players who holds their own in this category. A blocked shots specialist who doesn't offer much scoring might even be in order if you play in a deep league. Hopefully what you see below will give you some ideas.
Here are the total blocked shots leaders and their blocked shots per 60 amounts, according to Frozen Tools.
A few weeks ago, I covered league leader Oscar Klefbom in the topic of secondary assists, which is why I haven't listed him here. Fellow Oiler Kris Russell might be better known for dominating the blocked shots category, having finished third last season and leading the category in both 2016-17 and 2017-18. If you sort by the blocked shots per 60 category in Frozen Tools, Russell finished 12th among blueliners with 6.6 BkS/60. Because Russell played just 55 games this season, he is outside of the top 30 in total blocked shots this season.
Something to bear in mind if you're considering Russell to help you with blocked shots: He may be on the downswing with the Oilers. His icetime declined from 20:26 in 2018-19 to just 16:47 in 2019-20. With one more season at $4 million and some young defenders ready for a bigger role in E-Town, Russell could also be shopped around this offseason.
Another player on this list that I'd exercise caution on in adding for blocked shots is Andy Greene. Not only does he provide very little offense, but he's also now 37 years old and will be a UFA this offseason. Teams don't exactly line up to sign players with those characteristics, even though Greene is in the top 5 in blocked shots. I did add him late in the season last season to help me with a late-season push with blocked shots, so if he lands somewhere, there could be some usefulness for that single category.
Here's some players that you could consider if your league counts blocked shots.
To a tee, Edler fits the role of a blueliner that you could draft in the late rounds, yet retain all season. Even though his icetime dipped two minutes per game in 2019-20, Edler is still a minute muncher who fits so many roles for the Canucks. That icetime is all in the form of power-play icetime, and it all has to do with Quinn Hughes taking on the first-unit power-play minutes as he should. That has led to a dip in Edler's power-play points this season (17 PPP in 2018-19 to just 7 PPP in 2019-20). Since Hughes has taken the PP1 job and run with it, Edler will only be back there if Hughes is injured.
Despite the decreased power-play usage, Edler still managed to provide his third consecutive season of 30+ points. Based on his points-per-game averages, Edler could be a 40+ point scorer, but injuries have been a long-term issue. Edler will miss at least a handful of games every season, as he has missed at least eight games in each of the past seven seasons. Now that Edler is 34 years old, it won't get any easier, particularly since the Canucks don't have the defensive depth to limit his minutes. When he is active, he'll fill the fantasy categories, though.
Graves burst onto the fantasy scene thanks to his plus/minus, which at this point is at a league-leading plus-40. I'm sure we'll discuss plus/minus at some point, not because I might like it more than you do, but because it's still an often-used fantasy category. If you'd like to know whether Graves' plus/minus is sustainable, it likely isn't. However, it should still be fairly strong considering that the Avalanche appear set to be a Western Conference power for many years to come.
Even though Graves' scoring wasn't spectacular (26 points in 69 games) and his power-play time nonexistent, he brought the peripheral stats in 2019-20. Not only did he lead the Avs in blocked shots, he was also second on the team in hits (112), third in shots on goal (134), and fourth in penalty minutes (45). All of this while finishing sixth in overall icetime (18:57), including fourth among defensemen.
Graves' most frequent defense partner in 2019-20 was rising star Cale Makar, and the two were effective together, being involved in 238 scoring chances for compared to 184 scoring changes against in 5-on-5. Graves will no doubt play the role of the defensive conscience of the pair, yet those peripherals won't be a fluke if his icetime rises. Keep an eye on him if your league counts these categories.
After a seemingly out of nowhere 74 points and a Norris Trophy, Giordano was primed for some sort of regression. It happened and then some, with Giordano's point total down from 0.95 PTS/GP (74 points) in 2018-19 to 0.52 PTS/GP (31 points) in 2019-20. If the regular season happens to continue, Giordano's point total would likely be close to what it was the previous two seasons (38 and 39 points). Overall scoring was down considerably for the Flames, which affected Giordano in a big way.
All of the offense-related totals were down, including plus/minus, shots on goal, and power-play points. At least Giordano was consistent in his blocked shot totals, which he was able to attain because his overall icetime didn't decrease much. Even though Giordano was a bit of a late bloomer, he is now 36 years old, so another 70+ point season seems impossible.
Something for Giordano owners to keep an eye on is the status of UFA-to-be Erik Gustafsson. During his seven games with the Flames, Gustafsson was given a whirl on the first-unit power play (1:41 PPTOI), with Gio moved down to the second unit (0:30 PPTOI). Giordano has been a fixture on the first-unit power play, so his chances of staying there still remain good, even if the Flames re-sign power-play specialist Gustafsson.
Enjoy some retro playoff highlights from 1983… I like the format of this highlight package. The first of two Stanley Cup Finals between the Oilers and Islanders, the two best teams of the 1980s.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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