Ramblings: Pietrangelo to UFA? Answering Roto Rankings Questions About Plus/Minus, Toews (Sept 19)

Ian Gooding


According to Darren Dreger, contract talks between the St. Louis Blues and Alex Pietrangelo have broken off to the point that the Blues have told their star defenseman to pursue free agency.

I had assumed that the Blues had viewed Pietrangelo as a true foundational piece, so I'm surprised that it's gotten to this point. The Blues were probably confident that they could re-sign Pietrangelo when they traded for and signed Justin Faulk to his seven-year, $6.5 million AAV extension that kicks in next season. However, don't forget about Brayden Schenn's eight-year, $6.5 million AAV extension also possibly getting in the way. The Blues aren't helping their chances by not being completely transparent about their offer, either.

The chances of Pietrangelo returning to the Blues are still higher than zero, since anything can happen between now and October 9. However, Pietrangelo keeper owners will now ponder what his role and fantasy value will be like as a Maple Leaf… or a Golden Knight… or any other team that has the need for a defenseman (who doesn't?) along with the necessary cap space.


In case you were wondering if Jared McCann would fit into Pittsburgh's future plans, the Penguins signed him to a two-year, $2.94 AAV contract on Friday. McCann had his best NHL season in 2019-20, scoring 35 points (14g-21a) in 66 games. McCann's fantasy value will be stronger if he can be used on the wing on the top 6, but he's more likely to slot in as a third-line center again. His line combination history shows that he's been used all over the Penguins' lineup, which makes his projections that more difficult to determine and not necessarily steady throughout the season.


Daniel Sprong has re-signed with Washington to a two-year contract with a $725,000 AAV. If you didn't know that Sprong is now with the Capitals, it's because he was traded at the deadline and only played in the AHL after the trade. Sprong is only 23, but so far he is looking like a quadruple-A player (to borrow a baseball term) – strong minor league numbers, but having trouble solidifying an NHL role. If he could ever make his way into the Capitals' top 6, then we might have something to talk about.    


The Minnesota Wild made it official – Mikko Koivu won't return to the Wild next season. I wouldn't be surprised to see another team sign the 37-year-old as a depth piece. He's been with the Wild for so long, it will be hard to imagine him in any other team's uniform. Not long after he retires, you'll probably forget that he played for Team X that signs him this offseason.


So there will be an awards show after all. The five remaining NHL awards will be announced in an awards show on Monday at 6:30 p.m. ET. These awards include the Calder, Hart, Norris, Lindsay, and Vezina – in other words, the big ones. Perhaps as a thank you to Edmonton for hosting the return to play, Oilers greats Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Grant Fuhr, and Paul Coffey will be announcing the winners.


Just as they have every round starting with the play-in tournament, the Dobber writers have made their Stanley Cup Final picks. Not just the winner and the number of games, but also predictions on the Conn Smythe Trophy winner.

My own pick (which I swear other writers did not ask me about before making their own) was the Lightning in 6 games with Victor Hedman winning the Conn Smythe. My rationale is simple: Tampa Bay is the more talented team, at least on paper. They possess better high-end scoring and a defense that is strong enough.

I'll admit that I haven't picked Dallas in any playoff round, but they've proven me wrong three times. At least two other writers have admitted to doing the same, so I know I'm not the only one. Having picked the Lightning, I wouldn't be surprised if the Stars win simply based on the war of attrition. Brayden Point is clearly hobbled, and we don't know if Steven Stamkos can return at all. The only significant Stars injury is Ben Bishop, and we know that they haven't skipped a beat with Anton Khudobin to replace him.


As you might already be aware, the Top 100 Roto Rankings for September were published earlier this week. They're single-season rankings designed for those who play in multicategory leagues. If that doesn't quite describe the type of league you play in, or you're looking for something more specific, then go to the overall Hockey Rankings page for overall keeper league rankings, rankings by position, prospect rankings, and even salary cap league rankings.

Recently I saw some questions on Twitter about the rankings, where I try to provide a short response. I'll take this opportunity to expand on my answers in more detail.

You've gotta get rid of plus/minus from the rankings. It's too team-based.

I won't defend the validity of plus/minus here. There have been countless instances of a good player on a bad team with horrible plus/minus, and vice-versa. It isn't fair to the player, and he often becomes an unfortunate punchline. For example, Filip Hronek may be a worthwhile investment on your blueline, but his minus-38 from playing on a historically bad Red Wings team made him look far worse than he really is.

The important point I want to make here is that even though plus/minus is flawed in this age of analytics, it is still being used in a ton of fantasy leagues. Maybe not yours, because you might be ahead of the curve. However, it's used in default Yahoo leagues, where many league owners don't change the settings. It's used in multiple leagues of mine, even experts leagues. In one of my leagues, I asked owners about changing settings to remove plus/minus and penalty minutes. I only received one response, which was to the effect of let's leave things the way they are. For every league owner that screams for the need to banish plus/minus forever, there are about ten more that are indifferent to it.

I've had a few questions on what methodology I use to rank players, so I'll let you in on something. I don't place as much emphasis on plus-minus as I do scoring categories such as goals or assists. However, plus-minus is a deciding factor if there are two players with basically the same scoring totals while other peripherals balance out. Don't worry, I'm not going to use it to rank Ryan Graves ahead of Dylan Larkin.

This is not the first time I've had this discussion, and I have a feeling that it won't be the last. If Yahoo decides to remove it as a default stat, I will certainly rethink including it. To be honest, if I were to remove it, the rankings probably wouldn't look much different. Also remember that strong teams will usually have a higher concentration of strong players, and strong players will "usually" have good plus/minus anyway. It's the exceptions to the rule that stand out.

One other point to that: Eric Daoust of Frozen Tools reminded me that without plus/minus, there would be no Draisaitl Hat Tricks. So there's that.

Where do you have Jonathan Toews ranked in the Top 100?

When you create a Top 100 list, there isn't an easy cutoff point as to whether a player is in or out. You may have seen players in the top 100 of your league over the last few years that you can't find in the Top 100 Roto Rankings. Toews was probably in that category in your league over that time. He was even in the Top 100 Roto Rankings at one time too. He certainly at least fits in as a player on the bubble. I should also mention that he is ranked #90 on Dobber's Top 300 Skaters

I'll use the easiest and most important valuator to start, which is points-per-game production. Last season, Toews produced at a 0.86 PTS/GP pace. Considering that his production over the previous two seasons was 0.99 and 0.70, that's probably a reasonable projection (or something slightly lower given his age) going into 2020-21. That places him at a similar pace to players such as William Nylander, David Perron, Mike Hoffman, Ryan O'Reilly, and Sean Couturier. Interestingly enough, the latter two are Selke Trophy winners, just like Toews.

A closer examination of peripherals shows that Toews finished around 70th in shots on goal (172) last season. He's not a high-volume shooter, but it could be worse. However, he finished outside of the top 150 with just eight power-play points last season. Only a handful of Top 100 Roto players had the same or worse power-play totals, which often had to do with injury. Toews did score 23 PPP the season before, so meeting in the middle would result in a total just inside the top 100 in the league.

I can remember removing Toews from the Top 100 early in 2019-20 after a relatively slow start (just two points in his first 11 games). I hadn't been inclined to move him back for two reasons:

1. His point total was relatively assist-heavy. Toews finished 2019-20 with under 20 goals, although he may have reached that mark had the season not been paused.

2. He plays at a deep center position. If two players have roughly the same value, and one is a center and the other is a winger, then take the winger. Center is the easiest position to find scoring help, especially in leagues that don't allow players to have multiple forward positions.

For those reasons, I've tried to be careful not to overvalue Toews. Having said that, his scoring holds up well enough to the point where I will consider moving Toews back onto the Roto Rankings. If you think he is a more suitable Top 100 player than someone else currently in the rankings, please feel free to share.


Enjoy Game 1 of the final. For more fantasy hockey discussion, or to reach out to me, you can follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.


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