Cage Match: The better fantasy own – Max Pacioretty or Taylor Hall?

by Rick Roos on February 22, 2017

How long has it been since the last Max Pacioretty Cage Match? Long enough that Andrew Ladd was his previous opponent! Facing MaxPac is Taylor Hall, who was covered a bit more recently, but as an Olier. Can Pacioretty stay on pace to achieve his first 70+ point season? Does Hall have what it takes, in New Jersey, to return to the elite production level he briefly showcased in Edmonton? Let’s find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

 

Pacioretty was selected 22nd overall in 2007. From there he played a year in college, then tasted NHL action in 2008-09. Over the next two campaigns, Pacioretty was in a tough spot — too good for the AHL (43 points in 45 games) but unable to find traction in the NHL (38 points in 89 games). That changed in 2011-12, when Pacioretty skyrocketed to 65 points for Montreal. He upped his scoring rate even further in 2012-13 (39 points in 44 games), igniting hope he was poised to be a consistent 70-75+ point scorer. Yet over the last three seasons he’s stayed in the 60-67 points range, and, entering 2016-17 at age 28, had many concerned whether he could take it to the next level. Those fears were compounded when he emerged with only 13 points in his first 22 contests; however, since then he’s put up better than point per game numbers (38 points in 37 games).

Hall, now 25, was one of the quartet of Oilers forwards drafted first overall within the last seven years. And before Connor McDavid arrived, Hall was easily the most successful among the others, as after a very solid 95 points in his first 126 games, Hall posted 130 in his next 120 contests (with only Ryan Getzlaf and Sidney Crosby having a higher scoring average in 100+ contests from 2012-14). Yet poolies who figured the best was yet to come, instead saw him limp to 38 points in 53 games in 2013-14 then produce 65 points last season. In hopes of shoring up their defense, Edmonton shipped Hall to New Jersey for Adam Larsson in July. As a Devil, Hall has found himself again in roughly 65 point territory, fueling concerns that perhaps he peaked early.

Pacioretty’s current deal dings the cap at $4.5M per season and ends after 2018-19, while Hall is inked through 2019-20 with a 33% higher yearly cap hit ($6M per season).

 

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)

2016-17

19:05 (M.P.) – 1st

19:25 (T.H.) – 2nd

2:47 (M.P.) – 2nd

2:52 (T.H.) – 1st

1:02 (M.P.) – 7th

0:16 (T.H.) – 9th

2015-16

18:31 (M.P.) – 1st (tied)

19:12 (T.H.) – 1st

2:55 (M.P.) – 2nd

2:49 (T.H.) – 2nd

1:10 (M.P.) – 8th

0:02 (T.H.) – 13th

2014-15

19:23 (M.P.) – 1st

19:13 (T.H.) – 2nd

2:34 (M.P.) – 1st

2:30 (T.H.) – 4th

1:33 (M.P.) – 6th

0:14 (T.H.) – 10th

2013-14

18:29 (M.P.) – 2nd

20:00 (T.H.) – 2nd

3:01 (M.P.) – 1st

3:10 (T.H.) – 1st

1:03 (M.P.) – 7th

0:22 (T.H.) – 12th

 

Despite never being lower than second among Habs forwards in average Total Ice Time per game, Pacioretty was outside of the overall NHL top 50 among forwards in the same area twice in these four years, and not once within the top 20. Thus, it’s possible that had you stuck Pacioretty on a team which leans on its top line more heavily and doesn’t saddle top players with 1:00+ of non-productive SH Time every year, perhaps he could’ve been a 70+ point player by now. This Ice Time reality also casts some doubt upon him being able to sustain a 70+ point scoring pace for 2016-17, since his Total Ice Time for this season ranks only second among these four campaigns and his PP Time only third.

 

Of course all this was while Michel Therrien was coaching the Habs; however, new coach Claude Julien is not known for not leaning on forwards – even stars – much more than others in the top nine. He also likes to divide PP Time very evenly (only once in any of the five seasons from 2010-11 through 2015-16 did any Bs forward average 3:00+ per game on the PP), so Pacioretty almost assuredly won’t improve in that area. Long story short, and unfortunately for poolies, Pacioretty’s Ice Time situation likely will remain similar to what it’s been.

 

Hall had ample Ice Time in each of his final three seasons with the Oilers; and although indeed his Ice Time numbers were best in 2013-14 (when he had 80 points in 75 games), they were in roughly the same ballpark as 2014-15 and 2015-16. And considering that with the Devils Hall has skated into a similar role and Ice Time situation, yet is producing more like his 2014-15 and 2015-16 self instead of the 2013-14 point per game player, it suggests good luck helped him in 2013-14 rather (or at least more so) than bad luck having perhaps influenced his subsequent production.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2016-17

0.54 (M.P.)

0.36 (T.H.)

0.78 (M.P.)

0.83 (T.H.)

0.37 (M.P.)

0.43 (T.H.)

3.10 (M.P.)

3.34 (T.H.)

0.17 (M.P.)

0.24 (T.H.)

2015-16

0.41 (M.P.)

0.66 (T.H.)

1.24 (M.P.)

1.00 (T.H.)

0.45 (M.P.)

0.61 (T.H.)

3.69 (M.P.)

3.48 (T.H.)

0.20 (M.P.)

0.14 (T.H.)

2014-15

0.40 (M.P.)

0.75 (T.H.)

1.32 (M.P.)

1.26 (T.H.)

0.47 (M.P.)

0.70 (T.H.)

3.77 (M.P.)

2.98 (T.H.)

0.13 (M.P.)

0.11 (T.H.)

2013-14

0.48 (M.P.)

0.58 (T.H.)

0.94 (M.P.)

0.72 (T.H.)

0.45 (M.P.)

0.54 (T.H.)

3.70 (M.P.)

3.33 (T.H.)

0.23 (M.P.)

0.22 (T.H.)

 

Both players are SOG machines, as among forwards with 200+ games played from 2013-14 onward Pacioretty has the 4th highest SOG/game average while Hall stands just below him in 12th. If we look at the other 16 of the top 18 forwards in SOG rate since 2013-14, sure enough five (Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Patrick Kane, Tyler Seguin, John Tavares) had 70+ points or a 70+ point full season scoring pace in each of the last three campaigns; however, for the remainder, among 33 total seasons (i.e., these 11 other players multiplied by the three past seasons each), there were only three instances of 70+ points or 70+ point scoring pace. Could it be that the adage of “shoot more, score more” is less true than poolies thought? I actually think something else is a major influence.

 

Notice that neither Pacioretty nor Hall averaged one PPPt per four games in any of these campaigns. Sure enough, going back to the data from the previous paragraph, among the 30 instances of forwards not achieving 70+ points or a 70+ scoring pace, only five times did someone fail to hit 70+ points/pace despite also averaging 0.25 PPPts per game in the same season, with two of the five being forwards with either a 68 or 69 point/pace. Accordingly, because Pacioretty and Hall both have a track record of non-elite PP scoring, they might be longshots for 70+ point production even though they fire a lot of pucks on net.

 

With respect to their other numbers, both had seen their Hits (and Hall’s Blocks) increase over the past two seasons but are producing noticeably less in 2016-17. While there’s still roughly 25% of the season left to play, chances are they’ll fall short of their recent outputs. And since they’re now older and with less to prove, I wouldn’t count on them rebounding to previous levels in future seasons and can’t rule out their totals dropping even further.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

Team Shooting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2016-17

15.3%(M.P.)

8.5% (T.H.)

8.33% (M.P.)

6.43% (T.H.)

84.6% (M.P.)

86.9% (T.H.)

52.6% (M.P.)

63.2% (T.H.)

61.0% (M.P.)

48.1% (T.H.)

2015-16

9.9% (M.P.)

9.1% (T.H.)

7.53% (M.P.)

8.66% (T.H.)

77.5% (M.P.)

84.2% (T.H.)

62.5% (M.P.)

60.0% (T.H.)

57.6% (M.P.)

52.7% (T.H.)

2014-15

12.3% (M.P.)

8.9% (T.H.)

8.87% (M.P.)

9.63% (T.H.)

80.8% (M.P.)

72.2% (T.H.)

58.8% (M.P.)

50.0% (T.H.)

58.9% (M.P.)

55.7% (T.H.)

2013-14

14.4% (M.P.)

10.8% (T.H.)

8.95% (M.P.)

9.93% (T.H.)

71.7% (M.P.)

98.1% (T.H.)

65.2% (M.P.)

57.1% (T.H.)

53.9% (M.P.)

56.7% (T.H.)

 

Hall’s 5×5 IPP for 2013-14 means he got a point on 53 of the 54 goals scored while he was on the ice at 5×5! But here’s the thing – although there’s no denying a 98.1% IPP at 5×5 almost assuredly cannot be repeated, I wouldn’t go so far as to label it a complete fluke. After all, this season Hall is on pace to have a 5×5 IPP of 84.2% or higher for the third season out of the last four. To put that in context, over the past three seasons there’ve been a total of 783 instances of forwards playing 750+ minutes in a season, and only 31 of the 783 featured a 5×5 IPP of 84.2% or greater and each of the 31 was a different player. In other words, no player had a 5×5 IPP of 84.2%+ in even two of the last three seasons, yet Hall is poised to do so for the third time in four years! In short, Hall finds a way to factor into scoring like truly no one else in today’s NHL.

 

Also, Hall is on a 65 point pace for 2016-17 despite a less than 50% OZ% for the only time in these four seasons. And beyond that – his 6.43% team shooting % at 5×5 ranks him 232nd among 282 forwards who’ve played 500+ minutes at 5×5 this season, and only one player (Claude Giroux) scored more than 65 points in 2015-16 despite a 5×5 team shooting % of less than 7.22%. Thus, Hall has lots of room for better luck; but if his luck doesn’t improve, then clearly he’ll be fighting an uphill battle to produce well.

 

For Pacioretty, the question is what these numbers tell us about his current 70+ point pace, especially factoring in his 60-67 point seasons. On the whole, there’s a shot he can finally clear that 70+ point hurdle in 2016-17; however, I don’t see the picture of a 75 point player now or down the road.

 

Why not? In none of the past three seasons was he victimized by bad luck overall. And this season, it’s a mixed bag, with a higher than normal Personal Shooting % but a lower team shooting %, plus a higher than usual 5×5 IPP yet a somewhat lower 5×4 IPP. Also, his OZ% is a bit high, but not by much compared to past campaigns. All told, he could still hit 70+ points for 2016-17; yet given his Ice Time limitations (which, as noted above, shouldn’t improve under new coach Claude Julien) and his PPPt tendencies, he simply is not a good bet for much more than 70 this season or in future campaigns.

 

Who Wins?

 

For one-year leagues, Hall narrowly wins since at worst he should continue with 65+ point scoring and could even improve if he sees a bump in his woeful 5×5 team shooting %. In other words, Hall is doing very well despite strong headwinds; so if those winds die down, he should do even better.

 

In keepers, both players are not helped by the team they play for, with Pacioretty not getting great Ice Time in Montreal and Hall not having a talented supporting cast of forwards in New Jersey. That being said, Hall is several years younger. I’ll go with Hall as the winner since his move to New Jersey caused poolies to significantly devalue him – more so than deserved. Meanwhile, Pacioretty stars on one of the marquee teams of the NHL, which boosts his cost to somewhat of an undeserved extent. After all, I don’t call it the “Habs Effect” for nothing. And be wary if seeking to acquire either one, since with their PPPt struggles, they’re not good bets to produce elite numbers in future seasons.

 

 

 

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