Cage Match: Shea Weber vs. Mark Giordano

by Rick Roos on April 6, 2016

Who is the better fantasy own? Taking in-depth look at Shea Weber and Mark Giordano…

 

A key question always facing fantasy GMs is whether established stars will continue to produce. After all, as they age, many top players can morph from fantasy force to liability, sometimes within the space of just one season. With that in mind, this week’s battle is Shea Weber (30 years old) vs. Mark Giordano (32). Who is the better own, and can either continue to produce stellar numbers much longer? Let’s find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Weber was drafted 49th overall in 2003 and, after a 28 game cameo in 2005-06, was in the NHL to stay by 2006-07. Since then, he’s posted 15+ goals and 40+ points in all eight seasons where he’s played 70+ games. To put that in perspective, during this same time frame no other d-man has accomplished the feat more than four times. On the other hand, both previous seasons when Weber managed 50+ points, his total in the next campaign slipped by 10+ points, so he’s been a bit of a fantasy tease.

Giordano went undrafted, and in 2004 signed a minor league deal with Calgary. He made a brief NHL cameo in 2005-06, followed by posting 15 points in 48 games for the Flames in 2006-07. Unable to agree on contract terms, Giordano landed in Russia for 2007-08 before returning, only to post a similarly poor scoring pace (19 points in 58 contests) in 2008-09.

The next two campaigns saw Giordano’s production increase – to 30 points in 81 games, followed by 43 in 82. Unfortunately, he didn’t even match that 43 point output in his next 108 games spread over two seasons. But since 2013-14 Giordano has delivered elite production, with the fourth highest points per game average among d-men who played 150+ collective contests (Weber is tied for tenth); yet he also missed more than 15 games in both 2013-14 and 2014-15.

Weber is four years into his legendary 14 year deal, which has a $7.85M per year cap hit and drops from a $14M AAV this season to $12M for 2016-17 and 2017-18. Giordano signed a six year extension last summer that kicks in for 2016-17 and carries a yearly cap hit and AAV of $6.75M per season.

 

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

25:22 (S.W.) – 2nd

24:49 (M.G.) – 2nd

3:05 (S.W.) – 1st (tied)

3:10 (M.G.) – 1st

2:51 (S.W.) – 1st

2:21 (M.G.) – 2nd

2014-15

26:22 (S.W.) – 2nd

25:10 (M.G.) – 2nd

3:05 (S.W.) – 2nd

3:10 (M.G.) – 1st

2:27 (S.W.) – 1st

2:07 (M.G.) – 1st

2013-14

26:54 (S.W.) – 1st

25:14 (M.G.) – 1st

3:07 (S.W.) – 1st

3:26 (M.G.) – 1st

2:36 (S.W.) – 1st

2:38 (M.G.) – 2nd

2012-13

25:55 (S.W.) – 1st

23:09 (M.G.) – 3rd

3:41 (S.W.) – 1st

2:10 (M.G.) – 2nd

1:55 (S.W.) – 4th

2:43 (M.G.) – 2nd

 

I wasn’t expecting surprises, and sure enough nothing is too concerning. What stood out most was the shrinking gap between PP and SH Ice Time for Weber, who, since 2012-13, has disadvantageously seen his per game SH duty increase by 0:56 while his PP Time decreased by 0:36.

 

Also, although Total Ice Time for 2015-16 is down for both compared to their past two seasons (more so for Weber than Giordano), percentage-wise the drop is small, so I’d hesitate to label it a problem – not yet at least. And it might even be a long term blessing for poolies who own them in a keeper. After all, we’ve seen with other top defensemen who play a similar style (e.g., Zdeno Chara, Niklas Kronwall) that not dropping Ice Time in one’s early 30s can later contribute to a sudden and major step down in production. Therefore, poolies should embrace this development, especially since it’s yet to affect their scoring and they’re still both getting more than enough minutes to continue to produce well.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIM

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2015-16

0.35 (S.W.)

0.63 (M.G.)

2.22 (S.W.)

0.81 (M.G.)

2.05 (S.W.)

2.36 (M.G.)

2.43 (S.W.)

2.62 (M.G.)

0.31 (S.W.)

0.22 (M.G.)

2014-15

0.92 (S.W.)

0.60 (M.G.)

2.13 (S.W.)

0.96 (M.G.)

1.88 (S.W.)

2.10 (M.G.)

3.04 (S.W.)

2.57 (M.G.)

0.19 (S.W.)

0.23 (M.G.)

2013-14

0.66 (S.W.)

0.98 (M.G.)

2.14 (S.W.)

1.14 (M.G.)

2.19 (S.W.)

1.61 (M.G.)

2.48 (S.W.)

2.81 (M.G.)

0.33 (S.W.)

0.31 (M.G.)

2012-13

1.00 (S.W.)

0.85 (M.G.)

2.33 (S.W.)

1.38 (M.G.)

1.87 (S.W.)

1.98 (M.G.)

2.58 (S.W.)

1.23 (M.G.)

0.25 (S.W.)

0.06 (M.G.)

 

Giordano has more numbers trending downward over the past couple of seasons, namely PIM, PPP, and Hits. The good news is what he’s lost in Hits he’s more than compensated for in Blocks, so if your league has both as categories it’s a net gain. Also, 2015-16 is the first full season since 2011-12 that Giordano didn’t miss at least 18 games, so if the price for his good health is a bit lower Hits and PIM, poolies would gladly accept that tradeoff.

 

At first glance, Giordano’s downward trend in PPP seems more difficult to brush off, especially since next season Calgary will still have Dennis Wideman, T.J. Brodie, and Dougie Hamilton in the PP mix. And although Wideman’s deal ends in 2016-17, Brodie and Hamilton are signed through 2020 and 2021 respectively. But of the four, only Brodie and Giordano are right shooting, and Giordano likely would remain a better option than Brodie on PP1 due to Brodie’s very low SOG. Therefore, Giordano probably is not at risk of seeing his PP Ice Time (or, in turn, his PPP) drop further.

 

Some of Weber’s numbers have bounced around year to year. The good news is that through it all, his Hits + Blocks have held steady at just above four per game, which is beyond elite when coupled with his scoring and puts him at 25% more per game than Giordano’s slightly improved current total. PIM are a different story, as Weber’s much lower totals for two of the past three seasons seem to signify that he’s likely done being a top producer in that category. Oddly, last season saw Weber’s SOG total spike while his PPP plunged. We’ll have to see if luck (good or bad) had an influence.

 

It’s disconcerting for Weber’s SOG per game average to be below 2.5 per game in two of the past three seasons, because for aging d-men that can be the first sign of production declines. For example, within the past four seasons five now 31+ year old rearguards (Mark Streit, Andrei Markov, James Wisniewski, Brian Campbell and Toby Enstrom) all managed to post 50+ points at least once despite at the same time averaging fewer than 2.5 SOG per game. Of course, as poolies well know, since then each has seen his production fade at least somewhat (or considerably). Thus, although this is not a reason to panic, it reinforces that Weber has likely peaked and might start seeing his scoring slip sooner rather than later.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

Season

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

2015-16

989 (S.W.)

988 (M.G.)

50.3% (S.W.)

49.5% (M.G.)

41.7% (S.W.)

45.8% (M.G.)

67.7% (S.W.)

53.3% (M.G.)

2014-15

1010 (S.W.)

1014 (M.G.)

46.3% (S.W.)

43.1% (M.G.)

40.3% (S.W.)

52.4% (M.G.)

73.7% (S.W.)

86.7% (M.G.)

2013-14

999 (S.W.)

994 (M.G.)

43.7% (S.W.)

44.1% (M.G.)

37.9% (S.W.)

47.8% (M.G.)

82.8% (S.W.)

82.6% (M.G.)

2012-13

1001 (S.W.)

986 (M.G.)

42.6% (S.W.)

41.0% (M.G.)

36.7% (S.W.)

19.5% (M.G.)

66.7% (S.W.)

15.4% (M.G.)

 

Their 2015-16 data should be encouraging to poolies. One key is both had by far their highest OZ% out of any of these four campaigns, yet not an unsustainably high OZ%. Rather, their 2015-16 OZ% seems to show their teams realize that as they’re aging their role needs to change somewhat. Thus, although we saw above that the gap between their PP and SH Ice Times is shrinking, their rising OZ% should be able to offset negative effects stemming from such a situation.

 

Beyond that, 5×4 IPP for 2015-16 was below what each posted in either of the past two seasons, particularly for Giordano. If Weber’s had been the average of his prior two campaigns, that would’ve translated to three additional points, which would put him at 52 on the season (representing, at age 30, his second best career scoring pace). With Giordano, if his 5×4 IPP was at the average of his past two campaigns, he’d have received a whopping nine more points, putting him at 62 for 2015-16 and making him one of only four active d-men to post 62+ points in at least one of the past five full seasons.

 

 

Who Wins?

 

Before making a final decision, it makes sense to consider cost vs. value. Before the season began, Giordano ranked 35th in Yahoo leagues (3rd best among d-men) vs. 50th (8th best) for Weber. Fast forward to now, and the ranking gap between then has nearly doubled, as Giordano stands 71st (12th best among defensemen) compared to 97th for Weber (14th best).

 

That locks in my decision for Giordano. At this point, he’s not only more productive than Weber, but the huge edge Weber held in multi-cat leagues has shrank due to Weber’s downward trend in PIM as well as Giordano making net gains in Hits + Blocks.

 

In picking Giordano, I’m not ignoring his Band-Aid Boy status or him being nearly two years older than Weber. In both areas, things seem better than they might otherwise appear. For example, Giordano’s combined PIM and Hits this season were the lowest of his career, and voila – he avoided injury major injury for the first time in four full seasons. So although that was perhaps a coincidence, it also could bode well for his health in upcoming campaigns. Also, despite being 22 months older than Weber, Giordano’s body has less NHL mileage than Weber’s, with Gordano having played under 600 career NHL games including playoffs, compared to over 800 for Weber.

 

Also, if bad luck had not frowned upon Giordano, he could realistically be as high as 62 points right now, which is otherworldly for a d-man in today’s NHL. Plus, that translates to a 0.78 points per game scoring pace, which means even if Giordano manages to play in only 70 games, he could still realistically post 55 points in those contests, giving him a higher output than Weber has produced in all but one season.

 

With Weber, a major concern for poolies is his sub-2.5 SOG per game for the second time in three seasons. As we saw above, once an older defensemen stops shooting the puck a lot, then at best that’s usually the beginning of the end of him being a threat for 50 point production, while at worst if could forecast an imminent and drastic decline in production to far below expectations.

 

If you have either player in a keeper and you figure to compete for a championship soon, you likely should hold onto them and hope a decline doesn’t come since they’re simply too difficult to replace. Otherwise, you might look into selling, especially Weber, since although you won’t get a huge return due to their ages, you avoid the risk of retaining them past their expiration date, when you’d be hard pressed to trade them for any semblance of their current value.

 

For 2016-17 one year leagues, keep in mind that although each was ranked among the top 50 NHLers (and top 8 d-men) in the pre-season, both have seen their rankings drop considerably despite having very productive seasons. Thus, neither one is likely to represent very good cost vs. value asset; and accordingly, you might be best served letting someone else in your leagues draft them, since the best you’ll get is roughly what you’d pay for, while if somehow they do decline, you could end up having severely overpaid.