East: A new mindset for ranking defensemen

by Cam Metz on June 5, 2018


Mike Clifford has used the ramblings to elaborate on the league wide trends recently.  One piece specifically (HERE  and HERE) about scoring from the backend caught by eye, because I’ve had this gut feeling that I’ve been ranking defenseman incorrectly.   Mike’s piece all but solidified that thought – imagine playing in a league where you value faceoff wins.  If a defenseman were to actually get called into the faceoff dot and then actually won the draw he’d statistically have a massive value gain compared to others in his position.  

What I mean by that is, if you use some basic statistics where you value the average of a sample set and compare each number to that sample, a player with 1 faceoff win looks a lot better than the population who has 0 faceoff wins.  The next realization, which is easier to see with faceoff wins, is that the player actually does not provide your team with any real value. 

So let’s move this idea towards goals – does a defenseman who scores eight goals tangentially have that much less value than someone who scores 11?  I know that the numbers as a whole would say absolutely – the difference of three goals with a population that has a mean of 11 for the entire year has entirely too much additional value.  

I believe this in the point where all the number jockeys need to take a step back and look closer at the way Roto categories are deployed and ranked for player value.   So just like my new way of ranking PIM next year, (in case you missed that article it can be found HERE) I’m going to be ranking D much differently next year, I’m going to pivot away from goal scoring as a big emphasis in my rankings for defenseman. 

I’ve mentioned before that you need to think very carefully how to value specific categories and how they apply to each position in your league.  I think the lack of goal production from the backend that has been seen over the last year does not mean that we are bound for a positive regression to the mean.  As Mike Clifford has stated adjusting to this new reality before your league mates will provide you with a definitive advantage.

Rather than ranking the defenseman for next year in the East, because there is a lot of player movement about to happen, I wanted to lay out the framework for this new mindset.   Imagine a 22 week fantasy season.  In a typical league that starts four defenseman you are going to have between 40 and 56 defenseman rostered.  Interestingly enough there were 56 defenseman who provided greater that 30 points in 2017-2018; I suppose this is exhibit A in why Steve Laidlaw advocates riding the hot hand with fourth defenseman if you do not have a serviceable player for that last roster spot.

Ivan Provorov scored 17 goals last year; this roughly amounts to a value of 2.7 if you use some statistics to compare him to his peers.  In a typical G, A, PPP, PIM, SOG league his overall value is around four which was nicely helped by his growing shot total.  Here’s the problem more than half of his value is coming from goal totals when in reality his overall contributions are not that beneficial compared to Victor Hedman who also scored 17 goals.   Again it’s seen that creating player value from only one category coverage, especially a category that in a 22 week season may not be covered each week is not very sustainable roto strategy. 

I know that not everyone is out there running advanced statistics on previous year stats or next year’s projections, but even without statistics you can see how looking at scoring from defenseman, unless they are the unusual freakish nature of Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson, is not really that helpful.

That being said what does this all mean? ASSISTS

Developing the mindset that you are not going to chase goals from the backend changes the entire draft strategy of going D heavy.  You can find so much more value by placing less weight on goal scoring that you can easily pick up assists later in the draft with defenseman like: Nick Leddy, Ryan Suter, Jake Gardiner, and Alex Edler.

I know someone is bound to say that I’m letting someone else draft a scarce position that is going to give them an advantage as a whole over my team – but if they are taking 17 goal Hedman in the second round and I can take Tyler Seguin, Leon Draisaitl, or Phil Kessel that’s 13 more goals that they need to find with bench players, and even less if I can find a defenseman that puts up 8 goals in the 9th round.  I know they’ll find some goals that could make this a push situation but scoring goals consistently is more fun than waiting for your D to intermittently prop up your goal totals.

Later this summer I’ll refer to this article when ranking D in the East.

Quite frankly I’m embarrassed to say that I’ve been ranking D wrong for a while. 


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