Cage Match: Jacob Trouba or Matt Dumba?

by Rick Roos on March 2, 2016

Who would you rather own – Jacob Trouba or Matt Dumba? Rick Roos with some deep analysis, provides his answer

 

We’re sticking with defensemen again this week, as Jacob Trouba battles Matt Dumba in a flashback to draft day 2012. The two youngsters offer a combination of decent current scoring plus exciting long term potential; but who projects to be the better fantasy own, and is either worth obtaining in keeper leagues given the price they’d likely cost? Time to find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Trouba, who just turned 22, shined in the USHL before being drafted 9th overall in 2012. After Trouba impressed at the University of Michigan in 2012-13, the Jets gladly summoned him to the NHL for the 2013-14 campaign. Over his first two campaigns with Winnipeg, Trouba showed he could play with the big boys, performing well in key situations and posting 51 total points; but he also missed chunks of time each season, managing to play in only 130 contests. For 2015-16, Trouba has seen his scoring pace drop, although on a positive note he’s managed to stay healthy thus far.

Dumba, who doesn’t turn 22 until July, had his name called two spots earlier than Trouba on draft day in 2012. Dumba’s status as a top draft pick was no surprise considering he’d made his WHL debut in his age 15 season then worked his way up to 57 points in 67 games in 2011-12. By 2013-14, Dumba was splitting time between the Wild (two points in 13 games) and the WHL, where his “man among boys” status led to 24 points in 26 games. On the heels of that, and 14 points in 20 early season AHL contests in fall 2014, Dumba played his final 58 games in 2014-15 with the Wild, posting 16 points. This season he’s been with the Wild since day one, taking only 53 games to hit the 16 point mark this time around, and reaching 20 points in just 59 contests.

Per Cap Friendly, both players are on ELCs (counting only $0.894M against the cap per year) expiring after this campaign. How much they stand to earn on their next contract depends on whether they get dealt in the offseason, as has been rumored for both.

 

Ice Time

Season

Total Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen)

PP Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen)

SH Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen

2015-16

21:30 (J.T.) – 3rd

16:30 (M.D.) – 5th

1:03 (J.T.) – 3rd

1:59 (M.D.) – 2nd

2:56 (J.T.) – 2nd

0:08 (M.D.) – 7th

2014-15

23:18 (J.T.) – 3rd

15:00 (M.D.) – 6th

1:56 (J.T.) – 4th

1:34 (M.D.) – 3rd

3:21 (J.T.) – 1st

0:20 (M.D.) – 9th

2013-14

22:26 (J.T.) – 4th

1:58 (J.T.) – 3rd

2:55 (J.T.) – 2nd

 

I thought Trouba’s Ice Time might be down in 2015-16, with Tyler Myers on the team for a full season. Yet the drop has been larger than expected – to 1:04 per game lower than as a rookie. Trouba is simply being leaned upon less – less overall, less on the PP, and less on the PK. And this is occurring despite Toby Enstrom’s Ice Time dropping by over 3:00 and no Jets d-men other than Trouba, Myers, Enstrom, or Dustin Byfuglien averaging more than 15:38 per game. All in all, not a good sign for Trouba if he ends up staying with Winnipeg, where Myers is inked though 2019 and Byfuglien through 2020.

 

The good news for Dumba owners is he’s being almost entirely shielded from SH duty, which in turn means he’s playing only about two minutes less per game than Trouba when removing unproductive SH Ice Time from the equation. And the fact that 12% of Dumba’s Total Ice Time comes with the man advantage (versus 8% for Trouba) certainly doesn’t hurt his production.

 

Unfortunately, the bad news for Dumba falls into the very bad news category, as not only are four other Wild defensemen receiving 20:00+ of Total Ice Time per game, but each is signed through at least 2020! As such, unlike most young and talented defensemen, we can’t assume Dumba will get more and better opportunities as he progresses. The reality might be Dumba’s future production gets somewhat capped by limited Ice Time opportunities, unless he gets traded or the Wild deal one or more of the defensemen currently receiving more minutes than he is.

 

Both players are in the bottom half of d-men for P/60 at 5×5, with Dumba slightly ahead of Trouba (117th among the 176 rearguards who’ve played 500+ minutes at 5×5, versus 123rd for Trouba). But Dumba shines on the PP, sitting 7th in P/60 among the 92 d-men who’ve played 50+ minutes at 5×4 (4th among those with 100+ minutes), while Trouba languishes in 66th. We’ll have to see below if luck has influenced these numbers; but on the surface, this is not encouraging for Trouba owners.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIM

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2015-16

1.01 (J.T.)

0.31 (M.D.)

1.69 (J.T.)

0.92 (M.D.)

2.11 (J.T.)

0.79 (M.D.)

1.69 (J.T.)

1.93 (M.D.)

0.05 (J.T.)

0.17 (M.D.)

2014-15

0.70 (J.T.)

0.39 (M.D.)

1.49 (J.T.)

0.72 (M.D.)

1.84 (J.T.)

0.88 (M.D.)

2.04 (J.T.)

1.48 (M.D.)

0.09 (J.T.)

0.10 (M.D.)

2013-14

0.66 (J.T.)

1.46 (J.T.)

2.03 (J.T.)

1.86 (J.T.)

0.04 (J.T.)

 

Those in multi-cat leagues are already well aware of Trouba’s combination of PIM, Hits, and Blocked Shots, since he’s produced in those categories from day one. And although his scoring has dropped this season, not only is he posting career best outputs in PIM, Hits, and Blocked Shots, but his numbers in those areas put him in a category literally all to himself, as only two other defensemen (Alec Martinez, Erik Johnson) are averaging 1.6+ Hits, 2.1+ Blocked Shots, and 1.5+ SOG per game this season, with neither coming close to Trouba’s PIM per game rate. In fact, the last time any d-man finished a season averaging 1.0+PIM, 1.6+ Hits, 2.1+ Blocked Shots, and 1.5+ SOG per game was way back in 2011-12, when Travis Hamonic accomplished the feat.

 

On the flip side, Trouba has been and remains a drag in PPP. In sharp contrast, Dumba’s main lure is his PPP output, since for the second year in a row if you add Dumba’s PIM, Hits, and Blocked Shots, the result is a total of only two per game, which puts him on the lower end of average among d-men in those areas. Meanwhile, Dumba’s SOG rate for this season has crept up, which is encouraging, while Trouba’s – like his Ice Time – has dropped to the lowest rate of his career thus far.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

Season

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

2015-16

995 (J.T.)

990 (M.D.)

50.1% (J.T.)

57.4% (M.D.)

23.5% (J.T.)

23.3% (M.D.)

50.0% (J.T.)

91.7% (M.D.)

2014-15

987 (J.T.)

1030 (M.D.)

51.2% (J.T.)

58.7% (M.D.)

33.3% (J.T.)

22.5% (M.D.)

35.7% (J.T.)

66.7% (M.D.)

2013-14

995 (J.T.)

47.7% (J.T.)

42.6% (J.T.)

30.0% (J.T.)

 

As feared, Dumba’s 5×4 IPP is stratospherically high, although let’s keep in mind that last season there were five d-men who played 100+ minutes at 5×4 and finished with an 80% or higher 5×4 IPP, while in 2013-14 there were six. The bad news is, when you look at the names of those players (for 2014-15: Victor Hedman, Mark Giordano, Ryan Ellis, Sami Vatanen, John Carlson; for 2013-14: Alec Martinez, James Wisniewski, Shea Weber, Mark Giordano, Patrick Wiercioch, Jakub Kindl) you see that some who weren’t already proven scorers have indeed come back to earth. Thus, while we can’t assume Dumba’s production at 5×4 this season has been a total fluke, we have to realize it’s probably unsustainable and not a predictor of him being on the cusp of a major breakout, especially given his Ice Time hurdles.

 

Meanwhile, Trouba’s IPPs for 2015-16, although low, are not unprecedented. In fact, they add up to slightly more than his IPPs from last season. The reason he’s scoring less is his 5×4 IPP is higher but he’s spending half as much time on the man advantage in 2015-16 as compared to 2014-15. Between that and his slightly lower 5×5 IPP, his production has waned.

 

Since Trouba is often likened to a young John Carlson, let’s compare data from their age 21 NHL seasons to see if Trouba is projecting to follow a similar path. Carlson tallied 32 points in 2011-12, averaging 21:51 of Total Ice Time per game, with 1:25 on the PP and 2:27 shorthanded, which are comparable Ice Times to what Trouba is receiving. Washington averaged 2.76 goals per game that season, which is a bit above Winnipeg’s 2.57 this season thus far, but still not much more. The big difference lies in Carlson’s IPPs, which were 80.0% at 5×4 and 36.5% at 5×5, and Carlson’s OZ%, which was a mere 45.3%.

 

In short, Carlson managed to get himself more involved in the offense while receiving Ice Times that were similar to Trouba’s and despite being saddled with a considerably lower OZ%. In sum, while Trouba is only 22 years old, the data we’re seeing is pretty woeful and doesn’t paint a picture of a player who might morph into a reliable producer any time soon, if ever.

 

 

Who Wins?

 

Clearly this is no contest in multi-cat leagues, where Trouba has unequaled combination of PIM, Hits, and Blocked Shots output, which also happens to amount to more than double what Dumba collectively averages in those categories. And although Dumba has a big edge in PPP, especially this season, we’ve seen that’s being bolstered by at least somewhat unsustainable luck in the form of an over 91% 5×4 IPP.

 

What about points only leagues? If both re-sign with their current teams, then I’ll go with Dumba as the winner since he’s doing more with less. But frankly, I’m not wild about either of them due to where they sit on the depth chart of their teams and how long the players above them are signed for.

 

But beyond that – Trouba’s data and trajectory are especially concerning given how highly regarded he is by poolies (he’s 37% owned in Yahoo leagues, versus only 27% for Dumba) and how discouraging his future looks. After all, Trouba is already receiving the Ice Time (both in general and as compared to the other defensemen on Winnipeg) and OZ% that would seemingly allow him to succeed (as exhibited by data for John Carlson in his age 21 season), yet he’s actually doing worse in his third season than he did in his first two campaigns.

 

Also concerning is the fact that since 2000-01 there have been eight defensemen who, before turning 23, had played 200+ NHL games yet posted fewer than 80 points, which are criteria that Trouba likely will meet by season’s end. Of them, only one turned out to be a legitimate star (Victor Hedman), while for another (Seth Jones), the jury is still out. A couple turned into barely decent fantasy performers (Marc-Edouard Vlasic, Kris Russell), while four – including two, who, like Trouba, were drafted in the top ten overall – ended up never producing well (Luke Schenn, Nick Schultz, Ossi Vaananen, Ladislav Smid). Of course this kind of past data is not probative for the present or future, but it was rather eye opening, at least to me.

 

All things considered, if one were to play the odds, the safest bet might be to “sell high” on Trouba while there still is a lot of hope (and hype) for him to turn into a top player. Then again, if your dynasty team is rebuilding, you might roll the dice and retain him, in hopes he somehow manages to connect all the dots. As for Dumba, he probably isn’t a player you’d want to go out and acquire now either, although he’s a bit less of a must sell, especially since it’s not clear you’d receive good value in return.