Jonathan Toews vs. Logan Couture

by Rick Roos on January 21, 2015

LoganCouture

 

Jonathan Toews vs. Logan Couture - who is the better fantasy own? Not so fast...

On tap this week is Jonathan Toews versus Logan Couture. Can either one achieve sustained point per game production, or might one or both be in danger of seeing his totals drop in coming seasons? Time to find out, and to pick a winner – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

 

Toews was selected third overall by Chicago in 2006, and has among the most impressive hockey resumes of any 26 year old in recent hockey history (two frozen four appearances in his only two college seasons, gold medals in the 2006 and 2007 WJC, the 2007 IIHF World Championship, and the 2010 and 2014 Olympics, plus Stanley Cups in 2010 and 2013).

In fact, the only knock on Toews (other than his “Captain Serious” personality) has been that his real hockey importance exceeds his fantasy value. And while it’s true his career points total entering this season was 440 in 484 games (74.5 point full season pace), only once has he managed a point per game season, and that was in lockout-shortened 2012-13 (48 points in 47 games), with 57 points in 59 games in 2011-12 marking his second best season scoring pace.

Couture was drafted ninth overall in 2007, but his first full NHL season wasn’t until 2010-11. Like Toews, Couture is seen as imperfect from a fantasy perspective, although in Couture’s case it’s arguably more a case of circumstances beyond his control, as the Sharks continue to rely on Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau (both now age 35) as top liners, leaving Couture waiting to truly become a “the guy” player.

But even with that happening, Couture’s scoring pace has increased in each of his full seasons – from 56 points in 79 games in 2010-11 (58 point full season pace), to 65 in 80 in 2011-12 (66 point pace), to 54 in 65 last season (68 point pace). Plus, if we put those seasons side-by-side with Toews’ first three, they’re fairly comparable (191 points in 222 games for Toews, 175 in 224 for Couture).

Couture’s current deal is paying him $6M per season for the next five, while Toews will begin an eight year contract with an AAV of $10.5M in 2015-16.

 

Ice Time (this and other tables reflect games through January 17)

 

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

19:35 (J.T.) – 2nd

19:14 (L.C.) – 3rd

3:29 (J.T.) – 2nd

3:18 (L.C.) – 2nd

1:28 (J.T.) – 4th

1:27 (L.C.) – 3rd

2013-14

20:28 (J.T.) – 1st

18:56 (L.C.) – 3rd

3:10 (J.T.) – 3rd

3:23 (L.C.) – 4th

1:33 (J.T.) – 3rd

1:21 (L.C.) – 3rd

2012-13

19:20 (J.T.) – 2nd

18:05 (L.C.) – 4th

2:41 (J.T.) – 3rd

3:07 (L.C.) – 3rd

1:25 (J.T.) – 3rd

0:53 (L.C.) – 7th

2011-12

20:50 (J.T.) – 1st

18:33 (L.C.) – 4th

3:16 (J.T.) – 3rd

2:42 (L.C.) – 4th

1:52 (J.T.) – 1st

1:05 (L.C.) – 4th

 

Toews’ numbers surprised me, as I figured he’d not only have more Ice Time but also less season-to-season variance (90 seconds between highest and lowest Total Ice Time; 61 seconds for PP). And beyond that, his Total Ice Time has literally been like a yo-yo, first up, then down, back up, then down again!

At first I thought maybe the yo-yoing was because Toews had less Ice Time in seasons where he dealt with injury; but that wasn’t the case, since he received the highest Total Ice Time per game in 2011-12, which is the season out of these four when he missed the most games. Then I figured it was simply a case of when he played more he scored more, only to find that for these years his lowest Ice Time (both overall and on the PP) coincided with his only point per game output, in 2012-13. Very strange.

But guess what – Couture’s had his fair share of year-to-year variations in Ice Time as well. Only his have been a bit less pronounced, with a 72 second gap between his lowest and highest per game Total Ice Times and 41 seconds for PP Ice Time, and not nearly as yo-yoing.

What’s more - in Couture’s case we actually can correlate the uptick in his full season points pace with him receiving greater productive Ice Time (i.e., Total Ice Time minus SH Ice Time) each full season. That correlation is good news in general, but even more so since although Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton are both signed through 2016-17 it stand to reason that their productive Ice Time will continue to drop at least somewhat with each coming campaign (Marleau’s went from 19:00 in 2011-12 down to 18:27 in 2014-15 and Thornton from 19:25 in 2011-12 to 17:48 in 2014-15), leading to Couture indeed seeing his productive Ice Time continue to rise.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIM

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

FOW

(per game)

2014-15

0.59 (J.T.)

0.13 (L.C.)

0.50 (J.T.)

0.80 (L.C.)

0.07 (J.T.)

0.89 (L.C.)

2.36 (J.T.)

3.17 (L.C.)

0.27 (J.T.)

0.30 (L.C.)

11.72 (J.T.)

4.34 (L.C.)

2013-14

0.44 (J.T.)

0.30 (L.C.)

0.38 (J.T.)

0.24 (L.C.)

0.26 (J.T.)

1.04 (L.C.)

2.53 (J.T.)

3.58 (L.C.)

0.19 (J.T.)

0.20 (L.C.)

11.63 (J.T.)

7.37 (L.C.)

2012-13

0.57 (J.T.)

0.08 (L.C.)

0.51 (J.T.)

0.66 (L.C.)

0.34 (J.T.)

1.06 (L.C.)

3.04 (J.T.)

3.14 (L.C.)

0.12 (J.T.)

0.25 (L.C.)

11.89 (J.T.)

5.25 (L.C.)

2011-12

0.47 (J.T.)

0.20 (L.C.)

0.54 (J.T.)

0.52 (L.C.)

0.23 (J.T.)

0.95 (L.C.)

3.13 (J.T.)

3.06 (L.C.)

0.20 (J.T.)

0.32 (L.C.)

11.44 (J.T.)

5.85 (L.C.)

 

Pop quiz – over the past two seasons, how many NHL forwards played in 100 or more total games, averaged one or more Blocked Shots per game in each season, and also managed to score at a 63+ point full season pace each season? The answer is only one – Couture. Granted, some other forwards were in the ballpark, but the point is he’s a top forward in terms of offering both Blocked Shots and scoring.

Meanwhile, Blocked Shots is easily Toews’ worst category, although for what it’s worth he dominates Couture in FOW and has finished in the top five for all the NHL in each of the past two seasons. Plus, unlike Blocked Shots (where 118 defensemen had more than Couture’s 51 in 2012-13), FOW is a forward only category, so Couture’s shortcomings versus Toews in FOW are harder to compensate for via the rest of your fantasy roster as compared to Toews’ in Blocked Shots versus Couture.

Toews also holds a clear edge in PIM over the sometimes Lady Byng-like Couture, while PP Points used to be clearly in Couture’s favor but have evened out of late. Hits have generally been close, with both producing decent to above average numbers – for scorers – aside from 2013-14.

Shots per game is what’s most interesting. Toews’ average has decreased each year; and for the first time, we can see a trend that does appear to correlate at least somewhat to his points output. That’s because in the two charted seasons where he fired three or more shots per game he posted 105 points in 106 games, whereas his point total since then has dipped (107 in 120 games) as his Shots per game has settled well below three. But the good news is that his Shots rate shouldn’t fall much more; and even with the drop that’s already occurred, we can see his scoring hasn’t suffered too much.

With Couture, his Shots per game have been increasing – albeit by a small rate - each full season, just like his Ice Time, and his scoring. Maybe one or more are the by-product(s) of the other(s), but since his Ice Time figures to continue to rise, one would think his Shots would as well, and with that, his points.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO (5x5)

IPP (5x5)

IPP (5x4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5x5)

2014-15

12.5% (J.T.)

11.0% (L.C.)

1025 (J.T.)

1001 (L.C.)

76.7% (J.T.)

75.0% (L.C.)

66.7% (J.T.)

60.0% (L.C.)

57.1% (J.T.)

53.6% (L.C.)

2013-14

14.5% (J.T.)

9.9% (L.C.)

1003 (J.T.)

1018 (L.C.)

66.7% (J.T.)

68.2% (L.C.)

51.7% (J.T.)

52.2% (L.C.)

63.9% (J.T.)

46.0% (L.C.)

2012-13

16.1% (J.T.)

13.9% (L.C.)

1048 (J.T.)

1012 (L.C.)

81.4% (J.T.)

82.8% (L.C.)

50.0% (J.T.)

66.7% (L.C.)

55.1% (J.T.)

50.2% (L.C.)

2011-12

15.7% (J.T.)

12.6% (L.C.)

993 (J.T.)

988 (L.C.)

73.5% (J.T.)

86.5% (L.C.)

66.7% (J.T.)

81.2% (L.C.)

64.7% (J.T.)

56.2% (L.C.)

 

There’s some unsettling data here for Toews, as not only has his Shots per game average decreased each year (which we saw above), but his personal shooting % has over the past two seasons as well. While one or the other could be disregarded by itself, the combination of the two is troubling and would not only suggest that a return to point per game scoring is unlikely, but a drop in scoring rate might be realistic. Even still – when I say “drop” I mean only to a 70+ point level, as opposed to his normal 75+, since Toews seems all but immune to dipping below 70 given his talent and role.

Beyond that, things are pretty vanilla for both players. Both have posted fairly consistent and reasonable Offensive Zone Starting %, and only once did either end up with a PDO outside of the 970-1030 “normal” range (Toews in 2012-13) or a 5x4 IPP above 70% (Couture in 2011-12), and in neither case did the aberration coincide with their most productive season. Couture’s IPP at 5x5 in his early seasons was quite high; but that had a lot to do with him playing with the likes of Ryan Clowe and Martin Havlat, which meant points flowed through him. Now his IPP at 5x5 is down somewhat, because he has better linemates who are more likely to share in points but who also help create a lot more scoring, for a net gain to Couture’s output.

Seeing this data, we can be fairly confident that other than with Toews’ shooting %, luck doesn’t appear to have unsustainably influenced either player’s stats for good or bad.

 

Value and Injuries

 

Toews is eligible in Yahoo leagues as C only (which many feel is the worst positional qualification in fantasy hockey, since talent runs so deep at center), while Couture is both C and LW eligible. Despite this, Toews was selected 37th overall and Couture 39th in the DobberHockey Experts League Draft. It was a similar situation in Yahoo leagues, as on average Toews was the tenth center-eligible player taken (the fourth with C only eligibility), while Couture was the 14th. Thus, their value is pretty comparable.

Only three times in seven seasons has Toews missed two or fewer games, although for what it’s worth the only two campaigns where he missed 18+ games weren’t recent (2011-12, and his rookie year of 2007-08). Prior to last season, when he missed 17 games, Couture had only missed three total games in the prior three seasons. All things considered, neither player is a big risk in this area.

 

Who Wins?

 

There were no major bombshells in this Cage Match, and both players are safe fantasy bets overall.

Toews is among the most WYSIWYG player in the NHL, as his year-to-year production has been very consistent, even when there’s been some variation – both positive and negative – in his metrics. That being said, his Shots per game and personal shooting percentage have both fallen over the past two years, when his point production has slid a bit as well. The net effect is a return to 80+ points is not likely, although a drop below 70 probably isn’t in the cards either.

Couture is showing a small but steady upward trend in productive Ice Time and Shots per Game, and, with that, in scoring as well. Between that already having occurred and the likelihood that Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton’s importance (and productive Ice Time) with the Sharks will continue to decline - albeit slowly - Couture should be able to continue improving, likely passing the scoring pace of Toews within two seasons, if not earlier.

In the end, the verdict is for the remainder of 2014-15 campaign and into next season, Toews is the choice – but barely - in points-only one-year leagues or those with heavy weighting of FOW. For those of you in leagues that place a premium on Blocked Shots or multi-positional eligibility (e.g., if you have a very short bench), Couture is the winner even now. Couture also prevails in nearly all keepers given the likelihood that he outpoints Toews within two seasons, if not earlier.

 

 

 

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