Cage Match: John Klingberg vs. Tyson Barrie

by Rick Roos on May 23, 2018


While it was no surprise to see John Klingberg finish among the top five among defensemen in points per game for 2017-18, few poolies would’ve envisioned Tyson Barrie landing at the #2 spot. Have we already seen the best from Klingberg, and what should we expect from Barrie in 2018-19 and beyond? Those questions and more will be settled in this week’s Cage Match, which starts now!

Career Path and Contract Status

Klingberg, who turns 26 in August, was drafted 131st overall in 2010 and earmarked for the minors upon arriving stateside for 2014-15. But when he emerged with 12 points in his first ten AHL contests, that earned him an immediate ticket to Dallas. There he continued his offensive outburst with 40 points in only 65 contests. His upward trajectory continued with 58 points in 2015-16, igniting talk among poolies of him being Erik Karlsson 2.0. Yet then last season he stumbled to “only” 49 points in 80 games before righting his ship big time this season with 67 points, although he did only finish with 19 points in his final 33 games after starting with 48 in his first 49 contests.

Barrie, who turns 27 in July, was also a draft bargain, selected 64th overall in 2009. The AHL likewise proved no match for Barrie, who posted 61 points in 87 games there, leading to him spending the bulk of 2013-14 with Colorado, where he posted 38 points in 64 games. Much like Klingberg, Barrie scoffed at the notion of a sophomore slump, what with 53 points in 80 games for the Avs in 2014-15. From there, however, Barrie saw his totals drop in his next two seasons, first to 49 points and then to only 38 in 2016-17. This season, however, Colorado’s resurgence as a team may have paled in comparison to Barrie’s in fantasy, as he racked up an amazing 57 points in only 68 games and, unlike Klingberg, finished strong with 27 points in 29 games after returning from injury.

Klingberg’s $4.25M cap hit through 2021-22 is among the best bargains in the NHL. Barrie makes about 25% more per season at $5.5M, and will be a UFA after the 2019-20 campaign.

Ice Time
 

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

24:04 (J.K.) – 1st

22:42 (T.B.) – 2nd

3:39 (J.K.) – 1st

3:44 (T.B.) – 1st

1:07 (J.K.) – 7th

0:11 (T.B.) – 10th

2016-17

23:21 (J.K.) – 1st

23:18 (T.B.) – 1st

3:11 (J.K.) – 1st

3:04 (T.B.) – 1st

0:13 (J.K.) – 8th

0:33 (T.B.) – 6th

2015-16

22:41 (J.K.) – 2nd

23:12 (T.B.) – 3rd

3:12 (J.K.) – 1st

3:08 (T.B.) – 1st

0:06 (J.K.) – 8th

0:30 (T.B.) – 7th

2014-15

21:50 (J.K.) – 3rd

21:22 (T.B.) – 2nd

2:56 (J.K.) – 1st

2:58 (T.B.) – 1st

0:09 (J.K.) – 9th

0:12 (T.B.) – 7th


Barrie’s 3:44 per game with the man advantage was tops among all NHL rearguards this past season, with Klingberg’s 3:39 not too far behind. But this is where numbers can be a bit deceiving, as it was Klingberg who was arguably more the unquestioned #1 d-man on the PP for his team.

Why? Because while Barrie saw 90 seconds more power-play time than any other Avs d-man, Klingberg bested the #2 Stars d-man by 2:04! For perspective, only Brent Burns and John Carlson had a larger average power-play time per game gap between themselves and any 60+ game d-man on their team, and they happened to be the only rearguards in the league to equal (Burns) or surpass (Carlson) Klingberg’s 67 points this past season. In contrast, four other d-men (Rasmus Ristolainen, Nick Leddy, Shayne Gostisbehere, Victor Hedman) had between 90 and 120 seconds more average power-play time per game than the next highest 60+ game d-man on their team, and Leddy and Ristolainen failed to best 42 points. Coincidence? Maybe; or maybe not. Either way, Barrie and Klingberg are top power-play dogs, although both play for a team which has at least one top 10 defenseman prospect who could put a damper on their power-play time.

One other thing to consider is Klingberg’s scoring dropped down the stretch, whereas Barrie’s rose despite returning from an injury hiatus. Could it be Klingberg’s career high in ice time, of which more than a minute was shorthanded duty after never averaging more than 13 seconds per game on the PK, took a toll on him as the campaign wore on? It’s difficult to know for sure, and it might be a moot issue with Ken Hitchcock not returning as coach in 2018-19; however, one thing we know is Barrie shouldn’t have to contend with overuse or shorthanded duty based on what we saw this season, so the risk of him hitting a similar wall seemingly is not there, which might give him an overall edge in this area.

Klingberg also is in limited company as one of four d-men since 1990-91 to have played in 135+ games while averaging 0.65+ point per game in his first two seasons. The only issue is the other three were Vladimir Malakhov, Marek Zidlicky, and Ryan Whitney, none of whom turned out to be perennial fantasy studs. Could Klingberg be a star that burns bright early, then fizzles like these three? For what it’s worth he now sits at 214 points in 303 career NHL games, for a 0.70 point per game rate well higher than any of those three at such a stage, so perhaps he’s already done enough to push aside this comparison.

Secondary Categories
 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2017-18

0.31 (J.K.)

0.32 (T.B.)

0.53 (J.K.)

0.59 (T.B.)

1.33 (J.K.)

1.16 (T.B.)

2.48 (J.K.)

2.61 (T.B.)

0.28 (J.K.)

0.44 (T.B.)

2016-17

0.42 (J.K.)

0.24 (T.B.)

0.52 (J.K.)

0.43 (T.B.)

1.46 (J.K.)

1.01 (T.B.)

1.55 (J.K.)

2.46 (T.B.)

0.21 (J.K.)

0.13 (T.B.)

2015-16

0.39 (J.K.)

0.39 (T.B.)

0.58 (J.K.)

0.47 (T.B.)

0.89 (J.K.)

1.07 (T.B.)

2.25 (J.K.)

2.20 (T.B.)

0.30 (J.K.)

0.27 (T.B.)

2014-15

0.49 (J.K.)

0.32 (T.B.)

0.83 (J.K.)

1.00 (T.B.)

1.18 (J.K.)

1.12 (T.B.)

1.50 (J.K.)

1.73 (T.B.)

0.18 (J.K.)

0.20 (T.B.)


Barrie’s 30+ PPPts in under 70 games marks the first time that’s occurred for a rearguard since 2009-10, and only seven other d-men have done so since 2000-01. Digging deeper, five of them, like Barrie, averaged 0.80+ points per game in their under 70-game season, with all but one scoring 67+ in at least two other campaigns. Not a predictive stat, but interesting – and encouraging – food for thought.

Still though, Barrie’s 2017-18 PPPt rate appears to be unsustainable on paper. Yet to a certain degree it was due to the Avs as a team finally seeing some PP success. After all, their power-play conversion percentage had been 15%, 18% and 16% in the previous three seasons, and was 21.9% for this past season. Thus, although 0.44 PPPts per game is quite high and unlikely to be repeated, between Barrie having a PPPt rate above one every four games even when the Avs were struggling, plus his clear role as top PP dog, he might only drop to one PPPts every three or so games, which is still quite solid.

Both won’t win you your PIM, Hits, or Blocks categories but also won’t hurt you. In terms of SOG, Barrie has had a clear upward trajectory, perhaps lending more legitimacy – and, therefore, sustainability – to his numbers as compared to Klingberg, who’s been more up and down in this area, plus PPPts. The good news for Klingberg is he doesn’t appear maxed out in either category; however, with four seasons under his belt one would think he’d have seen bigger jumps by now if those jumps were indeed coming, or at least more year-to-year consistency.

Luck-Based Metrics
 

Season

Team Shooting % (5×5)

Individual Points % (IPP)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

Secondary Assists %

2017-18

8.16% (J.K.)

9.25% (T.B.)

54.0% (J.K.)

57.0% (T.B.)

53.0% (J.K.)

61.4% (T.B.)

45% (J.K.)

44% (T.B.)

2016-17

9.09% (J.K.)

6.74% (T.B.)

41.2% (J.K.)

58.5% (T.B.)

47.9% (J.K.)

56.8% (T.B.)

41% (J.K.)

35% (T.B.)

2015-16

8.42% (J.K.)

8.74% (T.B.)

44.3% (J.K.)

50.5% (T.B.)

51.6% (J.K.)

47.2% (T.B.)

56% (J.K.)

44% (T.B.)

2014-15

9.23% (J.K.)

11.27% (T.B.)

44.4% (J.K.)

51.0% (T.B.)

47.9% (J.K.)

49.0% (T.B.)

38% (J.K.)

56% (T.B.)


There’s a lot to like here for both. Barrie’s IPP has been 50%+ in each of these four seasons, through Colorado’s ups and downs. That consistency shows he has a nose for scoring and is a driver of offense. Beyond that, Barrie’s OZ% rose to 61.4% this past season. I know what you’re thinking – isn’t that a bad thing, since it realistically can’t go much higher? While indeed the chances of it increasing are unlikely, the fact that he succeeded while it was this high, plus the Avs having d-men who can occupy other roles, means it probably won’t go down either. Add to this a somewhat high but still not unreasonable 5×5 team shooting percentage for 2017-18 and Barrie should be able to post 60 points next season if what we saw in Colorado is repeated, with a better chance of rising to 65 points than falling below 55.

For Klingberg, the jump in IPP could either be an unsustainable spike, or a sign that in his magical fourth year he became more dialed into the offense. The fact that it coincided with him shooting more than he ever has suggests, to me, legitimacy, and in turn that his IPP in future seasons could also be above the 50% mark. What’s more, Klingberg had his best season despite his second worst 5×5 team shooting percentage; and although his OZ% was a career high it was in line with previous campaigns and could go up organically now that Ken Hitchcock is no longer at the helm.

Both players get their fair share of secondary assists; however, I think there’s no reason for concern there. For one, they’ve kept things pretty consistent, plus a lot of this comes from each of them being the lone d-man on the power play, where their point shot will often lead indirectly to a goal, as opposed to other d-men who might get a lower secondary assists rate but, at the same time, a lower scoring rate as well.

Who Wins?

Pop quiz – how many more points does Klingberg have than Barrie over the past four seasons? Would you believe only 17 (214 vs. 197)? And that was in not only three more games played than Barrie (303 vs. 300) but also while playing for a team which scored 975 goals in those four seasons (fourth most in the NHL) versus 841 goals for the Avalanche (sixth worst in the NHL over that span). Long story short, Klingberg’s production – despite what might poolies might be immediately inclined to think – has been barely higher than Barrie’s, and at least part of the explanation lies in the far greater offensive success of his team as a whole.

And from the data, my take is chances are both players will score within five points of each other in 2018-19 and likely going forward. As such, the winner in one year leagues comes down to cost vs. value; and given his more high profile past success and finishing tied for second in d-man scoring in 2017-18, I’d venture Klingberg will have a good bit higher cost than Barrie, who, although he had a higher points per game rate than Klingberg, didn’t put up as many pure points and might be less trusted by poolies due to concerns about regression from the Avs or Barrie’s scoring having dropped in two straight seasons prior to 2017-18. Therefore, in non-cap one year leagues I might give a narrow win to Barrie; however, I see no reason to think either of these two is in danger of seeing his total drop below 60 in 2018-19, so grab one or both if you can get him/them at that price.

In keepers though, with Colorado’s prospect talent at D, and Barrie being a UFA after the 2019-20 season, he could well find himself on a new team by then. And although that team will likely pay him enough to ensure he retains his coveted PP minutes, they might also want him to be a more complete defensemen, which could hurt him from a fantasy perspective. Klingberg, on the other hand, is signed for longer and although he too has a prospect D in Julius Honka to contend with, his “spot” on Dallas is likely safer, and, if anything, might stand to approve with Hitchcock no longer the coach. Overall, this might make Klingberg the safer/better choice in keepers.

 

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