Ramblings: Low Plus Minus – Athanasiou, Hronek, Labanc (May 29)
In case you missed it, I wrote about the NHL's return to play plan. This article was intended as a follow-up to Dobber's article from March on the NHL season being paused. Developing a contingency plan to finish a season that was cut short because of a pandemic wasn't something we expected to do when the season started, yet here we are. It's difficult to find a precedent on what to do, so we just have to do the best that we can.
A Twitter follower mentioned that I didn't really cover the combined regular season/playoff pool scenario. Honestly, I've never participated in this type of league, as Dobber has. It's always been one or the other for me, which is why I didn't cover that scenario at length. Something like this could be interesting and exciting, should your league members decide that the shortened 2019-20 season wasn't enough. As I mentioned yesterday, you may need somewhere else to record your league results if Yahoo or ESPN consider your league as completed and you don't. Something like a Google Doc or a forum or another website or document that everyone will have access to would probably work.
Something that will make this type of league particularly unique is the player pool. If you're linking the playoff pool to a regular-season league, you'll have to decide what to do about players that miss the playoffs. In a single-season league, it's fairly straightforward. Drop players from the seven non-playoff teams. Then hold some kind of draft to fill those slots with waiver-wire options from the playoff teams, with the number of picks per team dependent on empty roster slots. I don't like the idea of a free-for-all first come, first serve here, which is how waiver wires normally work. Make it as fair as possible.
Keeper leagues will be a bit more challenging. If there is a way to expand roster sizes to allow for additions, then do it. If you have some kind of minor league roster, allow for easy callups. I don't think a team should be penalized because it has Jack Eichel and Anze Kopitar as its top two centers. If those were the rules in place before COVID-19, then fine, you can leave it that way. Targeting players from playoff teams is already part of the strategy. But if this is a new addition to your league, don't make it easier for some to participate than others.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, you're going to need a contingency plan on anything involving a playoff pool. In other words, what's going to happen if the whole shebang shuts down partway through because of an outbreak? Whoever the leader is at that point wins? X number of games constitutes a season? Scrap the whole thing? Revert to the regular-season results, if you're combining the two seasons? You know that another cancellation (or even a non-restart) is a possibility now, so you HAVE to have a "what-if" outlined to every single participant if you plan to extend your fantasy season.
This might be stating the obvious by now, but the NHL has announced the winners of four awards as a result of the season being completed.
Art Ross Trophy: Leon Draisaitl (110 points)
Presidents' Trophy: Boston Bruins (100 points)
Don't forget that the Fantasy Prospects Report will be released on June 12.
Last Sunday, I mentioned the Detroit Red Wings and how they dominated the league's worst plus-minus numbers. So I thought I'd expand on some of the players with the league's worst plus/minus – not necessarily all Red Wings, though.
Not only are five of 10 of the worst plus minuses current Red Wings players, but also seven of 10 actually played for the Wings this season.
Also interesting is how the first two picks of the 2019 draft also made the top 10 in terms of worst plus-minus. Although plus-minus might be viewed as a flawed statistic, this could be telling as to these two 19-year-olds simply didn't produce enough offense to compensate for the defensive woes that could be age-related to some degree.
I won't engage anyone in a debate on the validity of plus/minus or whether it should be used in fantasy leagues. I will reiterate that it is used in many fantasy leagues, which is why I'll still discuss it here.
After being traded to Edmonton, AA promptly scored a goal and added an assist in his debut. Then he fell into an eight-game slump without even a single point. Over that stretch he took just 12 shots while averaging under 12 minutes a game with a scarce amount of power-play time (20 seconds/game). Unfortunately, his linemates in Edmonton have been Josh Archibald and Riley Sheahan more than they have been Connor McDavid.
AA is an RFA at season's end, which makes him a strong bet to be re-signed. If you believe in the sunk cost model, the fact that the Oilers parted with two second-round picks (and Sam Gagner) for Athanasiou means that he'll be given a shot with one of McDavid or Art Ross winner Leon Draisaitl or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins should bode well for his chances for a rebound from a 39-point pace and a ghastly plus-minus. Consider him a potential deep sleeper for next season, but look elsewhere if he's back on the fourth line.
Don't let negative plus/minus fool you – Hronek led all Red Wings' defensemen with 2:53 in power-play time and 23:54 in overall icetime (18th in the NHL). He might be a prime example of how misleading plus/minus can be, as he clearly fell victim to playing on a bad team. The Wings have a long way to go before they are a .500 team, so Hronek owners could be saddled with double-digit negative plus-minus for another season or two.
Hronek showed signs of being a sleeper in 2019-20 drafts, as he had posted a 0.5 PTS/GP pace over 46 games in 2018-19. He was able to maintain that in 2019-20 with a similar 0.48 PTS/GP pace (31 points in 65 games). With the icetime he receives, he has also been able to fill peripheral categories. Team-wise, he was fourth with 125 SOG, fourth with 105 hits, and second with 74 blocked shots. Right now, if you're going to add a Wings' defenseman, Hronek should be the one to target.
If there was one universal sleeper that fantasy owners were targeting entering the 2019-20 season, it might have been Labanc. What did you have him down for? 60 points? 70 points? More? Well… after all that hype, Labanc turned out to be one of fantasy's biggest busts. He finished with 33 points in 70 games, which would have put him on pace for 39 had the season finished. The Sharks' overall scoring plummeted (no Shark even reached 50 points this season), which had a major impact on Labanc.
It wasn't all bad for Labanc – it just depends on which stats you are looking at. Points were way down, but it was mostly in the form of assists. Labanc's goal total only decreased by three, and over a full season he may have even matched 2018-19's total of 17 goals. Labanc's 176 shots were the highest of his career, and he may have even been able to reach 20 over a full season with better shooting percentage luck. In addition, Labanc's overall icetime increased by two minutes per game, no doubt resulting from openings created by the departures of Joe Pavelski, Joonas Donskoi, and Gustav Nyquist.
Missing Tomas Hertl and Logan Couture for extended periods seemed to hurt everyone else's scoring. With those two centers back in the lineup next season, the Sharks may rebound to some degree. If that happens, there's a strong chance Labanc's point totals will rebound as well. So will his plus/minus.
For more fantasy hockey information, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.
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