Capped: Avoiding Early-Season Overreactions

by Alexander MacLean on October 4, 2018
  • Capped
  • Capped: Avoiding Early-Season Overreactions

 

Welcome all. We survived the summer, and hockey is finally back. One memorable night already in the books and we here at Dobber Hockey are here to keep you up to date all season long.

 

****

It is still not too late to get the DobberHockey 2018-2019 Fantasy guide. If you have a late draft, this cap put you over the top, meanwhile for those already settled into their teams, the projections can help keep your expectations grounded when players get off to hot starts. The guide also includes a heads up on injuries to keep an eye on, scheduling quirks to take advantage of, as well as upside and likely outputs for players, giving you a better projected baseline on future value for keeper leagues.

 

****

Speaking of making sure we keep our expectations grounded, that’s what we are going to focus on today. In salary cap leagues especially, managers get themselves into trouble early in the season by overreacting to the smallest tidbit of news, or one three-point game from a journeyman third-line forward.

The first thing to do is take the pre-season stats and throw them out the window. Burn the pages if you must but forget about them however you can manage it. The numbers themselves aren’t evil,but taking them as gospel without looking at the context will do more harm than good to your fantasy team.

For example, Ty Rattie is not scoring over 200 points, Jacob Slavin isn’t going to score 160 points, and Evgeni Malkin is certainly going to score at a pace better than 50 points.

The end of October is probably the first time you want to start looking at sample sizes this coming season. Last year, by that point, the scoring race saw some of the surprise names drop out, replaced by those that kept up the pace all season long. Looking at the FrozenTools scoring report for the first two weeks of last season (here), we can see that the leaderboard was littered with names who just couldn’t keep up with the big guns. Bryan Rust, Ryan Hartman, Brandon Saad, and Mike Green to name some of the higher ones. All four of those players were scoring at a full season pace of 103 points or more, none of them hit the 40-point mark. All four were big targets early on, especially Hartman and Rust because of their smaller cap hits.

By the end of the season, the only player to finish in the top 25 scorers to be making less than $4 million (ELCs excluded), was William Karlsson, whose breakout for the Vegas Golden Knights will not be matched by anyone this season. The two seasons before that also saw only one each, Mikael Granlund in 2016-2017, and Jaromir Jagr the year before that. Opportunity can be earned for the young players, but in the end, the contract wins out.

In the preseason, there were three players to meet the above criteria of a top 25 scorer with a cap hit under $4 million. The three were Andreas Athanasiou (six points in four games), Valentin Zykov (six points in four games), and everyone’s favourite, Ty Rattie (11 points in four games!).

Let’s take a quick look at each:

 

Ty Rattie (RW) – Edmonton Oilers

Cap Hit: $800,000 with one year remaining

Rattie lit up the preseason in a way he never has at the NHL level before. He had two excellent seasons in junior, so the scoring isn’t completely new, but when your career high in points is nine, in a career high 14 games played as a 25-year-old, you’re not taking the traditional route to superstardom.

Here’s why we shouldn’t be getting too excited about Rattie and his scoring binge while flanking McDavid during the preseason. During the 2017-2018 preseason, McDavid’s most common linemates were Patrick Maroon and Jesse Puljujarvi.

 

*From the FrozenTools line combo page

 

Both of these wingers finished with McDavid as their most frequent linemate, however they finished with a combined 63 points (20 for Puljujarvi and 43 for Maroon).  

It’s all well and good to expect a career high in points for Rattie this season, but don’t pay for 80 points when he’s likely going to land in a similar range to Maroon’s 43 points last season.

 

Valentin Zykov (LW) – Carolina Hurricanes

Cap Hit: $675,000 with two years remaining

This is where the context comes into play. Zykov managed to score his preseason points while dragging Phillip Di Giuseppe around the ice (as his most common linemate). He scored his seven points in 10 games last year playing mostly with Sebastian Aho and Teuvo Teravainen. No slouches in their own right, but also not on the same level as McDavid. The thing is, Zykov was more of a driver while playing with them than anything. He put up a ridiculously high IPP of 87.5%, meaning he was involved in almost every single goal scored while he was on the ice.

He is my pick to be the one player in the top-25 for league wide scoring, while making less than $4 million on a standard contract. Rather than spend your assets on Ty Rattie, take a ride on the Zykov train for the next two years. Much cheaper ticket, and a comparatively smooth ride.

 

Andreas Athanasiou (C) – Detroit Red Wings

Cap Hit: $3,000,000 with two years remaining

Athanasiou has proven a little more than the first two features to this point in his career. In fact, he has more career points than the other two combined. So why does his preseason scoring binge not come with any enthusiasm from fantasy owners? Again, it’s all about the context.

The Detroit Red Wings are expected to be one of the worst teams in the league this year and may end up competing with the Ottawa Senators for the most anemic offence in the league. Aside from the top line of Dylan Larkin, Anthony Mantha, and Tyler Bertuzzi, it is going to be a fantasy wasteland in Motor City.

With Athanasiou’s three most frequent pre-season linemates showing as the slow-footed Thomas Vanek, the demoted Filip Zadina, and the even slower Justin Abdelkader, it’s tough to see the upside over the course of a full season. Expect status quo this coming season, with his breakout coming in his magical fourth full season in 2019-2020.

 

****

What then can we keep in mind to make sure we don’t get sucked into the early season itchy trigger fingers? Here’s a few key points to keep in mind when making decisions.

 

  1. It’s all about the contract. Opportunity is the biggest proponent of success outside of the star players, and opportunity is presented more often to those with the bigger contracts because teams don’t want their signings to look bad. If a player on a bigger contract is slumping, more often than not you can ride it out, as the opportunities will keep coming. If a player on a smaller deal is comes out of the gate with some early scoring, they will have to do twice as much to keep the bigger contracts at bay.

 

  1. Don’t throw away those preseason predictions. When evaluating a trade offer early in the season, it is all too easy to be sold by a player’s hot start, selling off your better player who flopped off the starting line. For the first few weeks of the season (at least until mid-October), keep those pre-season predictions on hand as the better evaluation tool.

 

  1. Use your resources. Take advantage of the resources around you. Keep up to date on the news so you aren’t acquiring an injured player or a youngster who is about to get sent down. Run your trade offers and signings by the group consensus in the DobberHockey Forums, and keep checking in every day for more news and insight. Often the masses will see some things that the individual thought train doesn’t even consider.

 

****

As an extra caution, the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins each play on both of the first two nights of the regular season (October third and fourth). Meanwhile, some teams with other top fantasy assets such as the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Edmonton Oilers, don’t play their second game until the 11th of October. Don’t be caught unaware by scheduling imbalances when some players start jumping up the scoring leaderboard.

 

****

Speaking of jumping up the leaderboard, with Washington annihilating Boston, this is your first test to not immediately start trading away (for example) Leon Draisaitl for T.J. Oshie, based solely on one game.

 

****

Lastly, if you missed the Capped summer “buy and sell” series covering each NHL team, analyzing one player to buy, and one to sell (links to parts one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven), check them out for some added insight on a few undervalued and overvalued players heading into this season (links to parts one, two, three, four, five, six, and seven). 

 

****

All cap related info is courtesy of Capfriendly. All player data was pulled from FrozenTools.

From the thought of taking advantage of your resources, I have a blank slate regarding article topics for the next few weeks, so if there is something salary cap related that you could like me to cover, chime in below in the comments.

 

Thanks for reading. As always, you can find me on twitter @alexdmaclean.