Ramblings: Cap leagues; playoff draft strategy; line combinations – July 8

Michael Clifford

2020-07-08

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the 2020 Dobber Hockey Prospects Report is now available in our Dobber Shop! It has detailed profiles on players that will be getting drafted sometime this year, as well as in-depth looks at each team's prospect pipeline. It truly is a cornucopia of prospect goodness, and it doesn't just look at this year's crop, or this year's projections. It has everything that readers need to get the leg up on their league mates, so don't delay and grab your copy now!

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I wanted to re-up this article by our Alex MacLean one more time. It covers expected future contract values based on draft slotting, which could be very useful information for those taking part in cap leagues. Alex put a lot of work into it and the end product shows. Please give it a read, even if you're not in a cap league. You may be next year!

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Ian's Ramblings over the weekend really got me thinking on playoff draft strategy. We've often talked these last few months about the difference between drafting a team that has a bye and a team that has to play their way in. One side may get an extra five games to rack the points, but it's also much harder to win five series in a row than it is to win four. That balance needs to be struck.

I did notice that mostly guys from the teams with byes went in the first round of his draft. In fact, only seven of the first 20 picks were from play-in teams, and they're the guys you'd expect (McDavid, Draisaitl, Crosby etc.).

One thing I will say: even lopsided playoffs matchups are 3/1 odds. The absolute worst playoff teams still win a quarter of the time. Just remember that when blindly imagining Pittsburgh routing Montreal 3-0 or Edmonton steamrolling Chicago. (I'm still not sure what the optimal strategy is, but one thing I would for sure avoid, if possible, is picking players from two different play-in teams.)

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The more I think about the play-ins, the more I think we'll be flying blind when it comes to line combinations.

Given that teams will (hopefully) be prioritizing limited contact, I don't imagine that morning skates will be a regular thing. That's where we usually get our lineups for the evening, and it allows us to set our lineups, be it for DFS or season-long/playoffs. Sometimes we have to wait for warmups themselves, absent a morning skate.

Well, without media in the bubble, we may not get that. Each team's "content creator" may do something like that, but it may not be until minutes before lineups lock, which isn't a lot of help. We're going to need to figure something out here.

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A good read over at The Athletic about the Joe Nieuwendyk-Jarome Iginla trade from what seems like another lifetime. This obviously had a huge impact on both franchises and looking back at what ifs surrounding this deal is a lot of fun, considering its huge impact.

I'm a sucker for these types of articles. The behind-the-scenes stuff on trades and signings, I find, is a much under-served community. Once trades go through, all that's left is to argue about results. Rather, discussing what went into the trade, as well as the alternative, is a nice insight into how players are evaluated.

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One more from The Athletic: young players Seattle should target, from their prospect analyst Corey Pronman. I just wanted to mention it because there's a non-zero chance we get the expansion draft before we get the 2020-21 regular season.

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The earlier point about line combinations got me thinking that I should review line combinations before this whole things kicks off. Surely, we're going to get some information in this regard once teams are together, but a little bit of homework can't hurt.

We'll be getting the line combinations from Dobber Tools and for the most part focusing on the final 10 games before the league was suspended.

 

Tampa Bay

Remember that Steven Stamkos was injured when the season was suspended, so how this all works out is TBD. With that said, by far their most-used line combinations in the final 10 games before the break read as such:

  • Palat-Point-Kucherov
  • Killorn-Cirelli-Coleman

It's worth noting that Stamkos had been skating a fair amount with Point and Kucherov this year, so sliding him onto that top line and moving Palat down to the third line wouldn't really take much shuffling. Or Stamkos to one, Palat to two, and Killorn to three.

It's also worth noting that the new Cirelli line, with Coleman on the wing, was used primarily in a shutdown role in their second-to-last home game before the break, a home tilt against the Bruins. An educated guess would say that with Stamkos back, they'll stack the top line and use them in a non-shutdown role, leaving that to Cirelli and company.

 

Dallas

In the weeks before the league was suspended, the Stars' most frequent line combination saw a top line of Benn-Seguin-Perry. I get that people want to buy into a Tyler Seguin turnaround, seeing as he put up his worst season (by pace) since he got to Dallas, but those aren't the line mates to do it. The Stars play a deliberately slow pace for a reason and getting saddled with two past-their-prime wingers isn't the key to this treasure hunt.

It's also necessary to note that they had largely gone with stacking the top PP unit with Radulov-Seguin-Benn-Pavelski. There had been times that guys like Hintz and Dickinson moved up, but this is what they had settled on for the stretch run.

Therein lies the problem. The known guys are going to get the PP time – or at least they look like they should – but the 5-on-5 line combinations and pace of play greatly limit upside. I understand wanting to pick from teams that have a bye, but honestly, I'd rather stack guys from Carolina or something.

Buyer beware.

 

Philadelphia

Aside from line combinations, it sometimes feels Philadelphia is the team that is left out of the conversation, right? There are eight teams with byes, and the Flyers are one of them. At the break, the team had a .645 save percentage, sixth in the league. They were one of the top teams in the NHL, and it seems all we talk about is Colorado getting healthy, Edmonton getting a second line, Boston/Toronto potentially matching up again, and so on. Maybe Flyers fans like it that way?

Anyway, when the league was suspended, by far the line the team was running the most was Giroux-Couturier-Voracek. They weren't being hard-matched, though, so they shouldn't exclusively be held in a shutdown role.

After that, things get muddled, but one pair that played often together was Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny. Their left winger rotated – Joel Farabee and Scott Laughton being the two most popular – but those two stayed together. On top of that, Konecny was stapled to the top PP unit alongside their top even strength line. When everyone else is loading up on lesser teams and lesser players, maybe take advantage of a Flyers team without much fanfare? Might I interest you in one slightly used Konecny?

 

Vegas

Remember that, as we approached the break, the top two Vegas centres had basically been switched compared to what they had been most of the prior season and a half: Paul Stastny was between Jonathan Marchessault and Reilly Smith, and William Karlsson was skating in the middle of Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone (before his injury). That is the top-6 I'm assuming we'll get once they hit the ice after the play-ins.

That line of Pacioretty-Stone-Karlsson was beyond sublime. In 104 minutes together at 5-on-5, they controlled 61 percent of the shot attempts, 65.6 percent of the expected goals, and 65.5 percent of the actual goals. Those are just absolutely bonkers numbers. They also just shot 5.8 percent together, which means they have a lot more to give. That is, quite frankly, quite scary.

The power play line combinations were a little jumbled, but there were a couple consistencies: Reilly Smith was largely left off the top unit. Marchessault-Stone-Pacioretty were a common trio, with Karlsson and Stastny rotating in. Just remember when doing drafts that Smith may not be as high on the power-play pecking order.

 

We'll visit the other teams with byes tomorrow.08

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

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LINE COMBOS

  Frequency WSH Players
13.9% EVGENY KUZNETSOV ALEX OVECHKIN TOM WILSON
10.9% NIC DOWD CARL HAGELIN GARNET HATHAWAY
10.9% NICKLAS BACKSTROM JAKUB VRANA TOM WILSON

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