Eastern Conference Players Who Dominated Peripheral Stats
In fantasy hockey, there are certain players we consider to be dominant in certain categories. For example, it's a common belief that Alex Ovechkin reigns supreme in goal-scoring, that Patrice Bergeron is a face-off king and that Pittsburgh's elite power-play results in a lot of power-play points for the likes of Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Kris Letang. In this week's Eastern Edge, I tried to find out which players have displayed dominance in peripheral categories (plus/minus, shots, hits, blocks, faceoff wins) over the past few years. Check out last week's article where we looked at offensive categories (goals, assists, points, power-play points).
First, I determined the top-10 players in each category over the last four seasons (19-20, 18-19, 17-18, 16-17). If a player appears in one of the tables throughout this article, it means that they finished in the top-10 of that category at least once over the past four years.
I came up with a 'Dominance Score' to reflect how well a player performed in a particular category. Players were rewarded if they ranked highly within the top-10 (i.e. finishing second in goal scoring would give you more points towards your Dominance Score than finishing eighth in goal scoring) and for making the top-10 in multiple seasons. I did this because both quality and consistency should be considered when assessing dominance in a category. A more detailed view of my point system is shown below:
|NHL Leaderboard Rank||Points Towards Dominance Score|
|Number of Seasons in Top-10||Points Towards Dominance Score|
For each category below, you'll see a table with four main columns. The first column – Rank – essentially tells you which player has been the most dominant in that category over the last few years. It's based on the Dominance Score you see in the right-most column. The third column – NHL Leaderboard Rank – shows you where a player ranked within the top-10 for each of the last four seasons. You'll see a dash if they didn't crack the top-10 that particular year. To give you a quick example, in the Plus/Minus table, you'll see that Hedman finished seventh in 2019-2020 and sixth in 2017-2018.
I've always hated plus/minus as a fantasy hockey category and the results of this experiment only added fuel to the fire.
Over the past four years, not a single player has consistently ranked in the top-10 of plus/minus rankings. For every other category covered in this series (goals, assists, points, power-play points, shots, blocks, hits, faceoff wins), at least a few players have display consistency – cracking the top-10 three or four times in the past four years. In contrast, plus/minus produces a new set of names atop the rankings each season. Victor Hedman is the only player who's made the top-10 multiple times over the last four years – and he's only done it twice.
I think plus/minus takes away from some of the strategy of fantasy hockey because it's so unpredictable from year to year. You can't really plan for it the same way you can plan for other categories and I find it frustrating that the results are mostly out of your control. Sure, you can target players on good teams and avoid players on bad teams, but that still doesn't offer the same level of predictability that exists among other categories.
With all that being said, I also acknowledge that we have our own preferences and some of us might prefer an element of randomness in our fantasy hockey leagues. I mean, part of the fun of fantasy hockey is the unpredictability – things rarely play out exactly how you expected. So, maybe I'm the old man yelling at a cloud here and plus/minus isn't as bad as I'm making it out to be. I will say though, I enjoy fantasy hockey a lot more now that my leagues have stopped counting plus/minus as a category. So maybe try it out and see what you prefer.
As you can see, Ovechkin loves his shots – and I don't mean vodka. The crazy thing is, the table above doesn't even capture how dominant Ovi has been in shot volume throughout his career. Through his 15 seasons in the NHL, Ovechkin has never failed to crack the top-5 of this category. He finished with the most shots in 10 of 11 seasons between 2005 (his rookie campaign) and 2016, with 2011-2012 being the only exception.
It's worth noting that Brendan Gallagher was on pace to crack the top-10 for a third-straight season but a concussion kept him sidelined for too many games. Gallagher is an underrated high-volume shooter and provides lots of value in fantasy leagues that count shots.
|T16||Michael Del Zotto||–||–||5th||–||6|
Now that Tom Wilson has added an element of offense to his game, he's become a much more valuable fantasy hockey asset. He's one of a few players on this list that can put up 50 points alongside 200+ hits and 100+ penalty minutes.
Another player who blends offensive talent with toughness is Brady Tkachuk. This season, the 20-year-old forward ranked third in penalty minutes, second in hits and eighth in shots. He managed an impressive 50-point pace on an Ottawa roster that doesn't exactly possess an abundance of offensive talent. He's going to be a multicategory beast for years to come.
|T13||Calvin de Haan||–||–||–||4th||7|
If you're looking for a less-expensive alternative to Patrice Bergeron, Phillip Danault is your guy. He's defensively responsible and strong in the faceoff circle, so he's earned coach Claude Julien's trust to take draws in all situations. He skates alongside Brendan Gallagher and Tomas Tatar – who may not possess the same offensive flair as David Pastrnak and Brad Marchand – but can score goals nonetheless. Danault remains criminally underrated in fantasy hockey formats but I think he's a really valuable asset that you can steal in the later rounds of your draft.
Claude Giroux's faceoff dominance becomes all the more valuable when you consider his multi-position eligibility in Yahoo leagues. That means you can slot him in as a winger in your fantasy lineup and he can provide faceoff wins in addition to the centers in your lineup.
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