Fantasy Hockey Cage Match: Martin Hanzal vs. Brandon Dubinsky

by Rick Roos on October 28, 2015

 

Which fragile, multi-category stud has more fantasy value – Martin Hanzal or Brandon Dubinsky? Roos has full analysis here…

This week the spotlight is on Brandon Dubinsky and Martin Hanzal. Both are band-aid boys, but when healthy are elite multi-cat producers. Who will benefit your team more? And in particular, is Hanzal’s scorching start for real and what will unfold for Dubinsky under new Blue Jacket coach John Tortorella? Time to find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

Dubinsky was drafted 60th overall by the Rangers in 2004 and was a full time NHLer by 2007-08. All was going well, as Dubinsky increased his scoring rate each of the next three seasons, culminating in 54 points in 77 games for 2010-11. But in 2011-12, with Brad Richards’ arrival and Derek Stepan stepping up, Dubinsky posted 34 points in 77 games, for a worse output than as a rookie. By then the writing was on the wall for Dubinsky with the Blueshirts, and he ended up getting shipped to Columbus as the key piece in bringing Rick Nash to the Big Apple. In three seasons with Columbus, Dubinsky’s has produced at a 57 point full season scoring pace but also missed nearly 30% of Blue Jacket games.

Hanzal was selected 17th overall in the 2005 draft and, like Dubinsky, was in the NHL for good by the 2007-08 campaign. Hanzal played in 72+ games for each of his first three seasons, but never broke the 33 point mark. Interestingly, when he was beset with more injuries he actually managed to produce at a better scoring rate, as although he missed 44 of a possible 212 games from 2011-2014, he nevertheless scored at a 47 point pace when he did play. And in 2014-15, despite missing more than half the season, that pace climbed 53 points.

According to Cap Friendly, Dubinsky is on year one of a six year deal with a $5.85M cap hit, while Hanzal is inked through next season at a more modest $3.1M annual cap hit.

 

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)

2014-15

18:03 (B.D.) – 4th

17:44 (M.H.) – 3rd

1:59 (B.D.) – 6th

2:05 (M.H.) – 5th

2:24 (B.D.) – 2nd

1:19 (M.H.) – 6th

2013-14

18:46 (B.D.) – 1st

18:40 (M.H.) – 3rd

2:36 (B.D.) – 2nd

2:47 (M.H.) – 4th

2:09 (B.D.) – 2nd

1:12 (M.H.) – 5th

2012-13

18:24 (B.D.) – 2nd

18:32 (M.H.) – 4th

2:24 (B.D.) – 4th (tied)

2:57 (M.H.) – 2nd

2:29 (B.D.) – 1st

0:46 (M.H.) – 6th

2011-12

16:16 (B.D.) – 5th

18:26 (M.H.) – 4th

1:46 (B.D.) – 6th

2:56 (M.H.) – 4th

1:15 (B.D.) – 5th (tied)

1:32 (M.H.)- 3rd

 

Before last week, Dubinsky’s 2011-12 could have been disregarded because he was essentially the third line center that season in New York, a fate unlikely to befall him in Columbus due to him having the second highest salary among skaters. But what a difference just seven days can make, as Dubinsky now plays under the same coach – John Tortorella – with whom he had apparently butted heads during that 2011-12 campaign.

 

Of course let’s remember Torts also was at the helm in 2009-10 and 2010-11, when Dubinsky did well; and from a maturity and leadership standpoint, 2015 Dubinsky can’t be compared to his 2011-12 self. Beyond that, Dubinsky actually saw his Ice Time increase in the first two games since Tortorella took over, although those came when anointed #1 center Ryan Johansen was apparently ill.

 

When all is said and done, one has to think Johansen – realistically the most offensively talented Columbus skater – will remain the team’s undisputed #1 center. But what I’d argue is even more consequential than his specific line placement compared to Johansen is whether Dubinsky will once again finish with less than 2:30 per game on the PP and more than 2:00 of SH duty per game, as he did last season. That’s because although there were 59 instances over the past two seasons of forwards who played 70+ games in either campaign while averaging below 2:30 per game on the PP but above 2:00 per game of SH duty, only one of the 59 (Ondrej Palat in 2013-14) managed to score more than 43 points. Accordingly, even before we examine luck-based metrics we have to seriously call into question the sustainability of Dubinsky’s 63 point pace from his injury-shortened 2014-15 season.

 

Meanwhile, although Hanzal’s productive ice time slipped last season, he was back above 18:30 per game this season before leaving Monday’s game with an apparent injury. As for his dip in PP Ice Time in 2014-15, the Coyotes received 230 PP opportunities, which was down 18% compared to 2013-14. Plus, it might have been that the Coyotes were leaning on their better players – like Hanzal – somewhat less in hopes of tanking their way to a top two pick. And although it’s still early, one pattern that has continued into 2015-16 and bears watching is Hanzal’s SH Ice Time creeping back upwards.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

FOW

(per game)

2014-15

0.91 (B.D.)

0.83 (M.H.)

3.23 (B.D.)

2.83 (M.H.)

0.23 (B.D.)

0.48 (M.H.)

2.12 (B.D.)

2.29 (M.H.)

0.15 (B.D.)

0.11 (M.H.)

9.27 (B.D.)

9.35 (M.H.)

2013-14

1.29 (B.D.)

1.12 (M.H.)

3.08 (B.D.)

3.07 (M.H.)

0.51 (B.D.)

0.57 (M.H.)

2.48 (B.D.)

2.60 (M.H.)

0.13 (B.D.)

0.20 (M.H.)

7.71 (B.D.)

9.21 (M.H.)

2012-13

2.62 (B.D.)

0.61 (M.H.)

2.20 (B.D.)

2.56 (M.H.)

0.58 (B.D.)

0.43 (M.H.)

1.72 (B.D.)

2.38 (M.H.)

0.24 (B.D.)

0.18 (M.H.)

8.82 (B.D.)

7.64 (M.H.)

2011-12

1.43 (B.D.)

0.98 (M.H.)

2.69 (B.D.)

3.73 (M.H.)

0.46 (B.D.)

0.50 (M.H.)

1.82 (B.D.)

2.26 (M.H.)

0.02 (B.D.)

0.17 (M.H.)

2.66 (B.D.)

8.91 (M.H.)

 

Dubinsky has flip-flopped in his PIM and Hits production, posting his two highest Hits outputs but also his two lowest PIM totals (for this four season window) in 2013-14 and 2014-15. As for Hanzal, his PIM averages have held fairly steady during these four seasons, while his Hits cratered in 2012-13 but have since climbed back upward. Things are pretty even in FOW and SOG, and, when looking at the last three seasons since Dubinsky has been in Columbus, in PPP. We’ll have to see below if Hanzal was unlucky on the PP last season, or perhaps just a casualty of the offensively-challenged 2014-15 Coyotes squad.

 

It bears emphasizing that these are two very elite multi-cat players. Looking at 2013-14 (i.e., the last season both played 65+ games) , there were only three forwards who had 70+ PIM, 200+ Hits, and 500+ FOW – Dubinsky, Hanzal, and multi-cat legend David Backes. One key is Dubinsky has Yahoo eligibility at both C and LW, versus Hanzal at C only. This is significant in leagues with FOW, since Dubinsky can give you FOW, plus other excellent multi-cat contributions, while occupying your LW slot.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2014-15

13.0% (B.D.)

9.4% (M.H.)

1018 (B.D.)

990 (M.H.)

76.7% (B.D.)

77.3% (M.H.)

100.0% (B.D.)

50.0% (M.H.)

47.0% (B.D.)

52.8% (M.H.)

2013-14

8.5% (B.D.)

8.9% (M.H.)

1012 (B.D.)

981 (M.H.)

74.4% (B.D.)

83.3% (M.H.)

42.1% (B.D.)

52.6% (M.H.)

45.5% (B.D.)

50.2% (M.H.)

2012-13

4.0% (B.D.)

11.8% (M.H.)

1021 (B.D.)

1010 (M.H.)

71.4% (B.D.)

61.9% (M.H.)

66.7% (B.D.)

60.0% (M.H.)

50.7% (B.D.)

62.4% (M.H.)

2011-12

7.1% (B.D.)

5.5% (M.H.)

1015 (B.D.)

1019 (M.H.)

66.7% (B.D.)

56.8% (M.H.)

21.4% (B.D.)

61.1% (M.H.)

41.8% (B.D.)

50.5% (M.H.)

 

Sure enough, Dubinsky’s combined IPPs for 2014-15 were stratospherically high and he also posted his highest ever Shooting % (his career average is 9.4%). Had those metrics instead been merely the average of what they were in 2012-13 and 2013-14, his production would’ve been cut by nearly a third, to only 25 points in 47 games, translating to a lowly 44 point full season scoring pace befitting someone with his undesirable PP and SH Ice Times.

 

Hanzal had his best luck in 2012-13, during which he posted his highest career Shooting % and received by far his highest OZ%. Yet his full season scoring pace was only 48 points, which is within 10% of his pace in each of these other three seasons. That can be explained by Hanzal’s very similar IPPs and Ice Times, and it raises red flags about his hot start to 2015-16, as although it’s logical to justify Hanzal’s improved production by pointing to him finally sharing the ice with offensively gifted linemates (Max Domi and Anthony Duclair), we cannot ignore four years of very uniform data which strongly suggests that Hanzal will not be able to maintain anywhere near his early point per game pace.

 

Who Wins?

 

When I selected this match roughly a week ago, I realized there might be a coaching change before the column went live. I also figured Dubinsky’s role would be largely unaffected – that is, he’d stay in the top six but not be deployed more than Ryan Johansen. Based on how Tortorella has used him in two games through the weekend, Dubinsky’s role might actually increase, and there is a precedent for how this type of situation might unfold. In 2012-13, Henrik Sedin was Vancouver’s #1 center and had average Ice Times of 19:20 Total; 3:33 PP; 0:09 SH, compared to Ryan Kesler’s 18:57; 3:17 PP; 1:51 SH. Under new coach Tortorella in 2013-14, Sedin saw his Total Ice Time rise to 20:40 but his PP Ice Time drop to 3:27 and his SH duty increase to 0:59, while Kesler saw across the board increases to 21:48; 3:29 PP; 2:12 SH.

 

While an analogy of Johansen is to Sedin like Dubinsky is to Kesler isn’t perfect, it does exemplify that Torts is not afraid to favor more well-rounded players (like Kesler and Dubinsky) over flashier offensive players (like Sedin and Johansen). But guess what – that’s a red herring, since regardless of what line Dubinsky plays on he’s all but assured to finish with more than 2:00 of SH Ice Time but less than 2:30 of PP Ice Time just like he did in 2014-15. And in that case Dubinsky would be hard pressed to top 45 points, not just because of NHL data for dozens of forwards in 2013-14 and 2014-15 but also in view of Dubinsky’s numbers from last season being inflated by unsustainable good luck.

 

As for Hanzal, even if he comes back to earth – as should be expected based on his collective stats from the past four seasons and the reality that players don’t generally break out at age 28 – he should still end up with a 55+ point scoring pace thanks to his point per game rate over the first month of the season. Accordingly, he wins this match in one-year leagues, where I’d still nevertheless label him – along with Dubinsky – as sell highs. Try to trade Dubinsky while his Ice Time and profile are raised, and see if you can somehow turn Hanzal into a buy low player who’ll give you 55 production going forward.

 

I’ll note that I had finished this column just before Hanzal was hurt on Monday night. Early word suggests his injury is “day-to-day,” but this is a sobering reminder that Hanzal is about as brittle as they come…..except as compared to someone like Dubinsky, who’s every bit as fragile. Even though Hanzal’s current injury will derail or at least temporarily pause his hot start, unless it stretches into weeks or causes him to lose his coveted spot with Domi and Duclair, it doesn’t change the outcome of this match for one year leagues.

 

For keepers, Dubinsky should be avoided, since future seasons should be more of the same roughly 45 points that I’m expecting for 2015-16, plus the even greater potential for injury once a “rough and tumble” like him player hits age 30. I’d also hesitate to invest in Hanzal, not only because the cost might be too high if, as expected, he finishes with a 55+ point scoring pace range this season, but also due to the same added injury potential as the years go by. 

 

 

 

 

2 responses to “Fantasy Hockey Cage Match: Martin Hanzal vs. Brandon Dubinsky”

  1. Jeffrey Yopyk says:

    Great matchup. I had both of these players in my 30 team multi-cat dynasty league last season and had to trade one this summer. I ended up trading Hanzal because I like Dubinsky better going forward since we count PP and SH TOI/game in addition to G, A, +/-, Hits, Blocked Shots and Takeaways.

    There is a correction that you should make though as Dubinsky is actually Columbus' highest paid center. Johansen is making $4M for this season and next while Dubinsky is making $5.85M for the next 6 years. I am no mathemagician but I am pretty sure that $5.85M is quite a bit more than $4M.

    • Rick Roos says:

      Thanks very much for the feedback, and I'm glad you liked the match-up. I was right and wrong about Dubinsky's salary.  He is indeed the team's second highest paid forward, but it's Saad – not Johansen – who's number one.  I'll fix the article now.