Cage Match: Has Brad Marchand Surpassed Jamie Benn?

by Rick Roos on January 17, 2018

Has Brad Marchand surpassed Jamie Benn in terms of fantasy value?

Another rarity this week, as a marquee combatant - Jamie Benn - is someone I’ve never covered since I took over Cage Match several years ago. His opponent? Brad Marchand. Has the pendulum officially swung to Marchand being a better fantasy asset than Benn, who only three seasons ago was the Art Ross winner but now is in danger of finishing below the point-per-game mark for the second straight season? Let’s find out – Cage Match stats now!

Career Path and Contract Status

Benn, 28, wasn’t selected until 129th overall in 2007; but after 147 points in 107 WHL games over the next two seasons, he became a Stars regular for 2009-10. After a point-per-every-other-game rookie campaign, he tallied 153 points in 181 games in two injury-affected seasons plus lockout-shortened 2012-13. From there Benn only got better, first posting 79 points, then 87 to capture the Art Ross, then topping that with 89 in 2015-16. But last season he dipped to 69 points in 77 games, igniting concern that perhaps his rugged style of play may have led to him losing a step.

Marchand, 29, was drafted in 2006; and although snagged earlier than Benn (71st overall), his path to the NHL was longer, consisting of more than 100 AHL games before his first full season (2010-11) with the Bs. Until 2016-17, Marchand had an up-and-down NHL tenure, with 144 total points in 203 total games (58-point full season pace) sandwiched between a 41-point first season and 42 points as recently as 2014-15. But in 2015-16 he jumped to 61 points, only to follow that in spectacular fashion with 85 points in 80 games last season.

Both are signed through 2024-25; but Benn’s cap hit ($9.5M) per season is 50 percent more than Marchand’s ($6.125M), making this a one-sided match in cap leagues.

Ice Time (2017-18 stats in this and other tables are current through January 14 games)

Season

Total Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time per game

(rank among team’s forwards)

2017-18

19:25 (J.B.) – 3rd

20:00 (B.M.) – 1st

3:00 (J.B.) – 3rd

3:04 (B.M.) – 3rd

1:20 (J.B.) – 7th

2:01 (B.M.) – 1st

2016-17

19:22 (J.B.) – 1st

19:26 (B.M.) – 1st

3:06 (J.B.) – 3rd

2:41 (B.M.) – 1st

1:27 (J.B.) – 5th

1:53 (B.M.) – 4th

2015-16

20:01 (J.B.) – 1st

18:36 (B.M.) – 4th

3:12 (J.B.) – 2nd

1:28 (B.M.) – 5th

1:34 (J.B.) – 3rd

2:00 (B.M.) – 2nd

2014-15

19:56 (J.B.) – 1st

16:54 (B.M.) – 4th

3:34 (J.B.) – 1st

0:59 (B.M.) – 10th

1:28 (J.B.) – 5th

1:23 (B.M.) – 5th


Benn’s Ice Time dropped last season, and hasn’t rebounded in 2017-18 thus far. While him bleeding Ice Time was bound to occur at some point, it is somewhat surprising to see it happening to a player just two seasons removed from 89 points and who doesn’t turn 29 until this summer. One silver lining is according to Frozen Pool his PP usage percentage – despite lower average PP Time per game - is up slightly, from 59.2% last season to 61.3%.

Also, although 19:25 is still a lot of Ice Time per game, the odds are stacked against someone – even as talented as Benn – being able to score 82+ points without more ice time, especially when 1:20 of it is unproductive SH duty. In fact, among 32 total instances of 82+ point scorers since 2010-11, only four averaged less than 19:25 per game, four of whom were centers and the lone winger (Daniel Sedin in 2010-11) had more non-shorthanded Ice Time than Benn is averaging for 2017-18. In fact, the last time any winger older than Benn is now scored 82+ points while averaging fewer non-shorthanded minutes per game than Benn is thus far for 2017-18 was back in 2006-07, when both Andrew Brunette and Teemu Selanne did so.

Beyond that, Benn is playing for Ken Hitchcock. And although Hitch is not a defense-first coach at the level he was in St. Louis, the reality is in the first full season of each of his four coaching stints no 70+ point player fared better than they did in their prior season, despite that prior season being one that necessitated a coaching change. Long story short, Benn playing under Hitchcock is less likely to benefit Benn’s scoring than playing for a different coach.

As for Marchand, it is not surprising to see a season-over-season increase in PP and Overall Ice Time, and it helps validate his further boost in scoring rate for this season. Also, the additional increases in those Ice Times for 2017-18 should be sustainable, as let’s not forget Bruce Cassidy took over as coach on February 7, 2017, and Marchand played more than his season-long average in 15 of the 25 regular season games that followed.

The question is how long can someone who scores 85+ points for the first time at 28 stay productive, assuming it’s not a one-shot deal (which, based on Marchand’s 100+ point 2017-18 scoring pace thus far, I think we can safely say it won’t be for him). Let’s examine the past player comparables. Including Marchand, there’ve been 127 instances since 2000-01 of a forward posting 85+ points in a season.

But was Marchand an anomaly, having initially hit the threshold at an age when one would think most from the list were on at least their second or third time doing so? It turns out since 2000-01 a total of ten other players registered their first 85+ point season at age 27+: Martin St. Louis, Marc Savard, Bill Guerin, Pavel Datsyuk, Daniel Briere, Olli Jokinen, Martin Straka, Glen Murray, Markus Naslund, and Andy McDonald. What can we discern from them, and can that help forecast what the future might hold for Marchand?

Only two (Guerin and Murray) hit the threshold for the first time at age 30+; not surprisingly their elite production was unsustainable, with neither posting even 70 points in a future season. Of the rest, half (St. Louis, Naslund, Savard and Datsyuk) bested 80+ points more than once again, and even the other four played at a high fantasy level for at least a couple of additional seasons. One key to sustainability seems to be posting 85+ points (or scoring at an 85+ point full season pace) the very next season after first doing so, as three of the four players (Naslund, Savard and Datsyuk) who met that criteria went on to have sustained success, and only one (Jokinen) did not. Given his 100+ point scoring pace for 2017-18 thus far, this bodes well for Marchand being an elite fantasy producer beyond 2017-18.

Secondary Categories

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2017-18

0.70 (J.B.)

1.06 (B.M.)

1.84 (J.B.)

0.42 (B.M.)

0.63 (J.B.)

0.45 (B.M.)

3.07 (J.B.)

2.63 (B.M.)

0.29 (J.B.)

0.33 (B.M.)

2016-17

0.85 (J.B.)

0.95 (B.M.)

1.15 (J.B.)

0.63 (B.M.)

0.61 (J.B.)

0.43 (B.M.)

2.61 (J.B.)

2.82 (B.M.)

0.33 (J.B.)

0.30 (B.M.)

2015-16

0.78 (J.B.)

1.17 (B.M.)

1.90 (J.B.)

0.84 (B.M.)

0.67 (J.B.)

0.45 (B.M.)

3.01 (J.B.)

3.24 (B.M.)

0.36 (J.B.)

0.10 (B.M.)

2014-15

0.78 (J.B.)

1.20 (B.M.)

1.46 (J.B.)

0.93 (B.M.)

0.61 (J.B.)

0.36 (B.M.)

2.08 (J.B.)

2.33 (B.M.)

0.28 (J.B.)

0.02 (B.M.)


While it’s not unexpected to see Marchand’s hits having waned as he has become more of a scorer, his SOG rate is also dropping, which at first glance seems counterintuitive (and concerning) given his higher scoring. But if we look at his goals to assists ratio, it’s clear he’s become focused not just on shooting the puck but passing it as well. Beyond that, his PPPt rate is up from last season to this season; thus, there are no alarm bells here regarding the sustainability of Marchand being an 85+ point player.

Last season Benn’s PPPts rate were his second best among these three campaigns, and this season his SOG rate is on pace to be his best of the four. As such, this doesn’t paint a picture of a player whose talent is drying up. Barring luck metrics influencing things, it could boil down to Dallas’ team scoring, having gone from 257 and 265 goals in 2014-15 and 2015-16 to 222 in 2016-17. This season, despite Hitchcock being at the helm, they’re on pace for 242 goals, which should mean all their higher scoring players – Benn included – could see an associated boost in their output versus 2016-17.

Luck-Based Metrics

Season

Personal Shooting %

Team Shooting % (5x5)

Individual Points % (IPP)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5x5)

Average Shot Distance

Secondary Assists %

2017-18

13.3% (J.B.)

20.7% (B.M.)

10.09% (J.B.)

10.94% (B.M.)

64.5% (J.B.)

82.0% (B.M.)

49.6% (J.B.)

56.0% (B.M.)

27.5 (J.B.)

26.8 (B.M.)

63% (J.B.)

26% (B.M.)

2016-17

12.9% (J.B.)

17.3% (B.M.)

7.06% (J.B.)

8.02% (B.M.)

77.5% (J.B.)

73.3% (B.M.)

47.8% (J.B.)

54.7% (B.M.)

28.6 (J.B.)

27.6 (B.M.)

39% (J.B.)

50% (B.M.)

2015-16

16.6% (J.B.)

14.8% (B.M.)

8.91% (J.B.)

7.94% (B.M.)

69.5% (J.B.)

75.3% (B.M.)

54.2% (J.B.)

46.8% (B.M.)

26.4 (J.B.)

31.9 (B.M.)

46% (J.B.)

37% (B.M.)

2014-15

13.8% (J.B.)

13.3% (B.M.)

10.58% (J.B.)

6.94% (B.M.)

71.9% (J.B.)

68.9% (B.M.)

54.0% (J.B.)

49.5% (B.M.)

29.1 (J.B.)

33.0 (B.M.)

38% (J.B.)

22% (B.M.)


These numbers further validate Marchand’s ascent. He had a healthy IPP even when not a scorer, which is always a good sign. Also, while Marchand’s IPP has jumped quite a bit in 2017-18, that has been in proportion to linemate Patrice Bergeron’s dropping, and signifies Bergeron – who is unquestionably a team player – ceding offensive leadership to Marchand.

Marchand’s OZ% is also climbing, further justifying his scoring jump. Beyond that, his ASD has been dropping with each season, meaning he is indeed becoming more selective with his shooting and, in turn, more of an assists-oriented player. While that is not ideal in terms of goal or SOG totals, poolies should take consolation in that his scoring rates could stay higher longer this way, since pure goal scorers are more at risk of a steeper production drop in their 30s than pass first players. Look no further than Guerin and Murray.

And although Marchand’s low secondary assist percentage would normally suggest he could score at an even higher rate, his IPP being above 80% mitigates against that somewhat, as does his elevated team shooting and personal shooting percentages. Still, what that simply means is Marchand is not as safe a bet to produce at his current 100+ scoring rate as he in the 85-90 range.

As for Benn, his struggles last season coincided with a team shooting percentage that wasn’t just his lowest since at least 2010-11, but only his second time below 9.15% and only the third time not at 10.12%+. This season he’s back to his norm in that area, but one concern is his secondary assists percentage being much higher than in the past. For that number to return to its normal level, he will need primary assists, which do not grow on trees. Also, him getting more secondary assists than usual could be a sign of him indeed slowing down despite other indicators like SOG and IPP seemingly still going strong.

Who Wins?

It’s Marchand. Between his excellence now stretching into two seasons, plus past player comparables, he has officially – and sustainably – morphed from pesky gnat to a full-on NHL and fantasy star.

As for Benn, I think poolies have soured on him a bit more than deserved, as he still is poised to produce solid numbers, especially in multi-cat leagues. Yet under Ken Hitchcock, the main offensive focus seems to be shifting to Tyler Seguin. Between that leading to curbed ice time for Benn, plus Benn’s somewhat concerning secondary assists percentage, his days as a point-per-game producer could well be over. And although he could still be a consistent 70-75+ point producer for several seasons to come, that would not be good value given his likely cost in draft/trade owing to his past status as a fantasy superstar.

 

  • Ed Dolle

    I am not a poolie.

    • Rick Roos

      Little known fact – I’m only half-poolie, on my mother’s side

      • Ed Dolle

        LOL. Ok, you got me there.

  • starz31

    As an Isles fan who lives in Boston, I do still try and go to a few Bruins games a year. This is anecdotal, but watching Marchand pre-game really is something. You can just tell this guy has another offensive level than most players, he’s working on the ice before the rest of the team, stays on it longer than most, and is heavily focused on stick-work, passing, and shot placement. But you can just see how talented he is compared to his teammates. I think it just further compliments the numbers above of just how offensively-gifted Marchand is and how much perception towards him has changed from being a pest to being one of the elite players in the league.

    • Rick Roos

      Who knew that channeling that “little ball of hate” energy into scoring instead of being a nuisance would reveal one of the most talented players in the league. Simply amazing.