Cage Match: John Carlson vs. Drew Doughty

by Rick Roos on August 29, 2018


This week’s battle (John Carlson vs. Drew Doughty) is one I’ve had on my radar for a while, but I had to wait until both inked their next deals. Now that we know they’ll be staying with the only team they’ve ever played for, the question becomes what that will mean in terms of their value for 2018-19 and beyond. Cage Match is here to find out, and starts now!

Career Path and Contract Status

Carlson, 28, was selected 27th overall in 2008 and only needed one more season of juniors (76 point in 59 games) before being thrust into the pro hockey ranks. He succeeded there as well, tallying 39 points in 48 AHL games, leading to him reaching the NHL to stay by age 20. His first four seasons with the Caps fell short of what were high expectations due to his success in juniors and the AHL, as he never bested 37 points. But just as some poolies might have been readying to write him off, he exploded for 55 points in 2014-15 then 39 in only 56 contests in 2015-16. Yet then the pendulum swung all the way back in the other direction, with him managing only 37 points in 72 games in 2016-17. But to say he rebounded big time in 2017-18 would be a significant understatement, as he amassed 68 points to lead NHL rearguards in scoring.

Doughty, also 28, was selected 2nd overall in that same 2008 draft and jumped directly to the NHL, producing a modest 27 points. But he then shocked the fantasy world by more than doubling that tally in posting 59 points as a sophomore. Those who rushed to snag him in keepers were left disappointed, however, as Doughty didn’t even top 40 points again until 2014-15, when he posted 46. Since then he’s been solid overall, rising to 51 points in 2015-16, posting 44 in 2016-17, then, like Carlson, becoming a first time member of the 60+ point club this past season.

Carlson’s freshly inked deal will count $8M against the cap for each of the next eight seasons, whereas Doughty’s cap hit will be $7M this season before his new deal kicks in which will run for eight seasons and ding the cap at a jaw-dropping $11M per campaign.

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)

2017-18

24:47 (J.C.) – 1st

26:50 (D.D.) – 1st

3:42 (J.C.) – 1st

3:09 (D.D.) – 1st

2:38 (J.C.) – 3rd

2:45 (D.D.) – 1st

2016-17

22:43 (J.C.) – 1st

27:09 (D.D.) – 1st

2:39 (J.C.) – 2nd

3:17 (D.D.) – 1st

2:59 (J.C.) – 2nd

2:34 (D.D.) – 1st

2015-16

23:42 (J.C.) – 2nd

28:01 (D.D.) – 1st

3:18 (J.C.) – 1st

3:04 (D.D.) – 1st

2:11 (J.C.) – 4th

2:56 (D.D.) – 1st

2014-15

23:04 (J.C.) – 1st

29:00 (D.D.) – 1st

1:44 (J.C.) – 2nd

3:26 (D.D.) – 1st

2:57 (J.C.) – 1st

2:39 (D.D.) – 1st


Doughty is proof that sometimes less can be more, as although his ice time has dropped three seasons in a row his scoring hasn’t suffered. In fact he produced his best season to date after seeing his total ice time drop by over 2:00 compared to three seasons ago.

Looking at Doughty’s PP and SH ice times, the answer for his 2017-18 scoring jump doesn’t lie there, since those numbers are flat. Some might point to LA changing coaches and opening up its offense; yet the difference wasn’t staggering, as they had 237 goals last season, up quite a bit from 199 in 2016-17 but close to their 218 and 223 tallies in 2014-15 and 2015-16. We’ll look at SOG and PP numbers as well as luck metrics; however, recent success from Doughty could be as simple as him having more gas in the tank at the end of the season. Look no further than 2017-18, when he finished with 19 points in his last 23 games, by far the best fourth quarter output from him over these seasons, and only the second time in these four campaigns in which he had more than a point per every other game in Q4.

Turning to Carlson, he never had the minutes of Doughty, so end of year fatigue likely was not in play. What we see different for 2017-18 is a very large jump in PP minutes. In fact Carlson’s 3:42 per game was second among NHL d-men, trailing only Tyson Barrie, and up by over a minute as compared to his disappointing 2016-17. It also resulted in him taking the ice for 77% of Washington’s man advantage minutes. We’ll look at all metrics for Carlson of course, but most likely it was added PP time which helped put him into the highest echelon of rearguard scorers – that and playing for a productive team, which finished 9th in the NHL in both total goals scored and goals on the PP.

Secondary Categories

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2017-18

0.39 (J.C.)

0.66 (D.D.)

0.57 (J.C.)

1.55 (D.D.)

1.78 (J.C.)

1.56 (D.D.)

2.89 (J.C.)

2.50 (D.D.)

0.40 (J.C.)

0.25 (D.D.)

2016-17

0.13 (J.C.)

0.56 (D.D.)

0.79 (J.C.)

1.57 (D.D.)

1.74 (J.C.)

1.33 (D.D.)

2.46 (J.C.)

2.20 (D.D.)

0.22 (J.C.)

0.23 (D.D.)

2015-16

0.25 (J.C.)

0.63 (D.D.)

0.82 (J.C.)

1.52 (D.D.)

2.03 (J.C.)

1.28 (D.D.)

2.21 (J.C.)

2.40 (D.D.)

0.25 (J.C.)

0.29 (D.D.)

2014-15

0.34 (J.C.)

0.69 (D.D.)

0.90 (J.C.)

1.86 (D.D.)

2.44 (J.C.)

1.75 (D.D.)

2.35 (J.C.)

2.64 (D.D.)

0.19 (J.C.)

0.19 (D.D.)


The eye-catching number is Carlson’s 2017-18 PPPt per game rate, which was nearly double his average from these three other seasons. But before we rush to declare it wholly unsustainable let’s recall, as was noted above, his power-play time per game was considerably higher than in any of these three previous seasons. Beyond that, he had 62 SOG with the man advantage, compared to just 30 in 2014-15, 33 in 2015-16 and 50 in 2016-17.

So not only was Carlson taking the ice for more power-play minutes, but he was more active while out there. In all, Carlson did probably luck into more PPPts per game than one can safely assume he’d produce again, but less so than it would first appear. What’s more, if he continues to get this type of PP deployment and be as active in terms of PP SOG, it’s probably safe to say he could land at one PPPt per every three games, which, if we do the math, would mean a drop of six PPPts from last season and would still keep him – assuming his luck metrics are otherwise solid – in the “rarified air” of 60+ points.

On the other hand, one would be hard pressed to pinpoint Doughty’s 2017-18 as a campaign in which he posted 15% more points than his next highest output among these three seasons, and 25% higher than the other two. After all, his SOG and PP scoring were within his normal ranges. Between this and LA’s lack of a major uptick in scoring, it’s looking more like unsustainable luck might be the explanation for Doughty’s jump into 60+ point territory after averaging 46 over the previous three seasons.

As for multi-cat stats, Doughty has the edge, especially in PIM. Carlson holds his own though and is an asset in the other categories; however, his days as of producing 3-3.5 hits + blocks look to a casualty of his increased scoring, since he’s now closer to 2-2.5 per game. Doughty too has lost some of his luster in hits and blocks, but last season saw an uptick to bring him back above a combined three per game.

Luck-Based Metrics

Season

Team Shooting % (5×5)

Individual Points % (IPP)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

Secondary Assists %

2017-18

9.38% (J.C.)

8.65% (D.D.)

53.5% (J.C.)

45.5% (D.D.)

49.0% (J.C.)

49.0% (D.D.)

51% (J.C.)

50% (D.D.)

2016-17

9.04% (J.C.)

6.46% (D.D.)

46.3% (J.C.)

44.4% (D.D.)

50.4% (J.C.)

53.7% (D.D.)

35% (J.C.)

50% (D.D.)

2015-16

8.02% (J.C.)

6.58% (D.D.)

50.6% (J.C.)

48.6% (D.D.)

49.2% (J.C.)

56.9% (D.D.)

45% (J.C.)

51% (D.D.)

2014-15

8.92% (J.C.)

7.03% (D.D.)

57.3% (J.C.)

38.8% (D.D.)

50.8% (J.C.)

53.5% (D.D.)

44% (J.C.)

46% (D.D.)


Finally we see some reasoning behind Doughty’s scoring gains in 2017-18, as his 5×5 team shooting percentage went from the 6.46%-7.03% range of the previous three seasons all the way up to 8.65%. Of course that raises two questions – why now, and was it a one year blip in the radar? One can’t ignore that it coincided with the arrival of a new coach with a new approach that did result in more goals, albeit not heaps of additional goals. Another possibility is Doughty knew that the Kings would be looking to extend him and upped his offensive effort level to help sweeten whatever deal he’d get. I do think Doughty prioritized defense in years past – hence the lower team shooting percentage – and perhaps did so less this season. I’d expect him to be more likely revert to his former ways, especially with each of his other luck metrics being very consistent with past campaigns. Long story short – don’t expect another 60 point season from Doughty; however, 50-55 is realistic on the “new look” Kings.

With Carlson, this data is most helpful in explaining his poor 2016-17, as his average IPP in the other three seasons was 53.8. Had his IPP been 53.8 in 2016-17 he’d have totaled 43 points in 72 games, for a scoring pace of 49, which would’ve been more in keeping with these other seasons. We also see that although Carlson’s 5×5 team shooting percentage for 2017-18 was elevated, it was far more in line with his other three seasons than Doughty’s. That said, Carlson also received some additional secondary assists compared to past seasons, although that could be a result of firing more SOG on the power play, and shouldn’t be looked at as being as unsustainable as would otherwise appear.

In all, the data reinforces that although Carlson’s 68-point output is unlikely to be repeated, let alone bested, he could still stay in the 55-60 point range. I’d also say it supports the idea that he has a better chance to creep above 60 than to fall below 55, whereas I’d say Doughty has as much of a chance (if not more of a chance) of seeing his future season totals dip below 50 as to rise again above 55.

Who Wins?

Truth be told, I think both players upped their game somewhat last season in order to land the highest possible contract. With the ink on both their deals now dry, they could come back to earth – the magic question being by how much. As noted, I think Carlson should land in the 55-60 range, while Doughty is a safer bet for 50-55. That makes Carlson the winner not just outright but also due to Doughty having more name recognition and fame, which in turn drive up his cost to obtain, whether in draft or trade.

Both might be players to avoid in one-year leagues due to other poolies thinking they’re in line to repeat what we saw from them last season. In keepers, they also might be soft sells in order to capitalize on the inflated value likely assigned to them by your fellow GMs, although if you hold you shouldn’t be too disappointed given what we saw in the data.