Cage Match: TJ Oshie vs. Brandon Saad

by Rick Roos on September 23, 2015

Who would you rather own in your league – T.J. Oshie or Brandon Saad? Rick Roos investigates…

 

One of the biggest challenges poolies face is trying to project the production of high profile players who switch teams in the offseason. Guess wrong and you can put your fantasy squad behind the eight ball, while making the correct assessment could provide an all-important leg up on your fellow GMs.

Going into this season, poolies are wondering if T.J. Oshie and Brandon Saad will hit the ground running with their new teams and post career best production this season, or whether, instead, one or both won’t meet expectations. Let’s see what the numbers tell us – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status

Oshie, now 28, was the 24th selection in the 2005 entry draft but opted to stay in college before, in 2008-09, jumping directly into the NHL. Although at first glance it appears Oshie didn’t fare too well in his first three NHL seasons (39, 48, and 34 points), he played in only 182 games, translating to a full season scoring pace of 54 points, which also happens to be what he posted in his fourth campaign. And after amassing 60 and 55 points in the past two seasons, Oshie had emerged as a solid, if unspectacular producer on a very balanced Blues team. And with Oshie now coming to a high powered Capitals team, poolies are upping his value, as reflected in his average draft position on Yahoo being 76.0, versus 82.4 last season.

Saad, who turns 23 next month, was drafted six years after Oshie. And despite his draft position (43rd overall) and the talent and depth on the Blackhawks, Saad was a full-fledged member of the team by 2012-13, and scored at a 50 point full season pace in his three seasons there. And Saad did even better (27 points in 42 games, for a 53 point full season pace) under the pressure cooker of the Stanley Cup Playoffs over the last two seasons, before becoming a cap casualty this summer. Like Oshie, poolies are optimistic about the fantasy impact of Saad’s offseason change of scenery, as his average draft position has risen from 130.6 in 2014-15 Yahoo leagues to 94.6 going into this campaign.

According to Cap Friendly, Oshie is signed through next season at a $4.175M yearly cap hit, while just days after being dealt to Columbus Saad agreed to a six year deal that brings with it a $6M yearly cap hit until 2021.

 

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)

2014-15

18:50 (T.O.) – 2nd

17:15 (B.S.) – 4th

2:21 (T.O.) – 4th (tied)

2:11 (B.S.) – 6th

1:19 (T.O.) – 5th

1:04 (B.S.) – 5th

2013-14

18:59 (T.O.) – 3rd

16:17 (B.S.) – 5th

2:43 (T.O.) – 2nd

1:48 (B.S.) – 7th

1:45 (T.O.) – 4th

0:42 (B.S.) – 7th

2012-13

19:05 (T.O.) – 2nd

16:27 (B.S.) – 5th

2:29 (T.O.) – 3rd

1:31 (B.S.) – 8th

1:38 (T.O.) – 4th

0:51 (B.S.) – 8th

2011-12

19:31 (T.O.) – 2nd

2:28 (T.O.) – 4th

1:48 (T.O.) – 2nd

 

Although this data is based on their tenure with their former teams, there’s still value in assessing it, both to see how their production tied to Ice Time and whether we should expect things to improve, stay the same, or get worse on their new squads.

 

Oshie is at risk of seeing his Total Ice Time drop, especially if he doesn’t find himself on Washington’s PP1. After all, the last time a Caps forward finished above 17:32 per game without more than 3:00 on the PP was Brooks Laich in 2011-12, and Laich’s 18:29 was largely a by-product of a team leading 2:28 per game of SH Ice Time. Speaking of SH Ice Time, there’s concern Oshie could head down a similar path as Laich did that season because Caps forwards will have to absorb the 5:08 per game of SH Ice Time shouldered in 2014-15 by now departed Capitals forwards Joel Ward, Troy Brouwer, and Eric Fehr; and the only other notable new forwards in Washington are Justin Williams and Zach Sill.

 

Based on Columbus trading for Saad and inking him to a $36M deal, it’s clear he’s ticketed to remain a top six fixture. But much like Saad’s days in Chicago, that might not necessarily mean lots of Ice Time, as in the past three seasons no Columbus winger other than Nick Foligno averaged more than the 17:15 per game that Saad had last season. And with Foligno and Scott Hartnell only averaging 2:39 and 2:31 per game respectively on the PP last season, Saad should figure on, at best, a modest increase with the man advantage from the 2:11 he averaged with Chicago in 2014-15.

 

And those hoping to see Saad shed unproductive SH Ice Time shouldn’t hold their breath, as Columbus will have to replace the 6:31 of SH Ice Time per game that now ex Blue Jackets Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu, and Brian Gibbons ate up. And although a chunk of that figures to land on fellow new arrival Gregory Campbell’s lap, chances are Saad will see his SH Ice Time climb, perhaps quite a bit.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2014-15

0.65 (T.O.)

0.14 (B.S.)

1.37 (T.O.)

0.64 (B.S.)

0.54 (T.O.)

0.35 (B.S.)

2.25 (T.O.)

2.47 (B.S.)

0.18 (T.O.)

0.12 (B.S.)

2013-14

0.53 (T.O.)

0.25 (B.S.)

0.97 (T.O.)

0.61 (B.S.)

0.68 (T.O.)

0.25 (B.S.)

1.92 (T.O.)

2.04 (B.S.)

0.19 (T.O.)

0.11 (B.S.)

2012-13

0.50 (T.O.)

0.26 (B.S.)

1.10 (T.O.)

0.89 (B.S.)

0.80 (T.O.)

0.26 (B.S.)

2.16 (T.O.)

2.13 (B.S.)

0.33 (T.O.)

0.06 (B.S.)

2011-12

0.62 (T.O.)

1.62 (T.O.)

0.56 (T.O.)

2.35 (T.O.)

0.20 (T.O.)

 

Although some of these numbers – particularly situational ones line SOG and PP Points – could change quite a bit based on both players going to new teams and situations, it’s less likely that player-based stats like PIM, Hits, and Blocked Shots end up much different than in past years. That’s bad news for those who own Saad in a multi-cat league, as Oshie’s worst outputs in PIM, Hits and Blocked Shots over these four seasons were still better than Saad’s best.

 

It’s somewhat odd that Oshie’s most productive season (2013-14) came when his Shots per game total was its lowest; and since his 2013-14 PP Points output was in line with his normal rate of one per five games, it might be a case of unsustainable luck having smiled upon him. As for Oshie’s 0.33 PP Points per game rate in 2012-13, that looks to be an outlier due to playing just 30 games that season.

 

Saad’s PP output was woeful during his entire Blackhawk career. And looking at Frozen Pool, that can’t be blamed entirely on poor linemates, as Marian Hossa was a constant and last season Saad also was out there quite a bit with Jonathan Toews:

 

2014-15

19.56%

PP

81 HOSSA,MARIAN – 20 SAAD,BRANDON – 65 SHAW,ANDREW – 19 TOEWS,JONATHAN

19.01%

PP

29 BICKELL,BRYAN – 81 HOSSA,MARIAN – 91 RICHARDS,BRAD – 20 SAAD,BRANDON

8.59%

PP

81 HOSSA,MARIAN – 91 RICHARDS,BRAD – 20 SAAD,BRANDON – 65 SHAW,ANDREW

8.23%

PP

81 HOSSA,MARIAN – 88 KANE,PATRICK – 20 SAAD,BRANDON – 19 TOEWS,JONATHAN

 

2013-14

35.31%

PP

81 HOSSA,MARIAN – 20 SAAD,BRANDON – 23 VERSTEEG,KRIS

9.95%

PP

81 HOSSA,MARIAN – 37 PIRRI,BRANDON – 20 SAAD,BRANDON

8.06%

PP

81 HOSSA,MARIAN – 20 SAAD,BRANDON – 65 SHAW,ANDREW

 

Saad likely won’t be in the mix for the Columbus PP1, which was nearly always comprised of Ryan Johanson, Scott Hartnell, and Nick Foligno and met with success (the team’s PP% was 5th highest in the NHL, and Johanson and Foligno both tied for tenth among forwards in PPP). Instead, Saad figures to occupy a similar PP2 role as he had in Chicago, but with Blue Jackets forwards around him (like Brandon Dubinsky, Boone Jenner and/or Cam Atkinson) arguably not as offensively talented as Toews or Hossa.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO/SPSV (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2014-15

11.7% T.O.)

11.3% (B.S.)

1015 (T.O.)

1010 (B.S.)

70.9% (T.O.)

80.9% (B.S.)

54.2% (T.O.)

52.9% (B.S.)

44.8% (T.O.)

57.7% (B.S.)

2013-14

13.8% (T.O.)

11.9% (B.S.)

1014 (T.O.)

996 (B.S.)

76.0% (T.O.)

58.2% (B.S.)

44.4% (T.O.)

72.7% (B.S.)

49.5% (T.O.)

63.7% (B.S.)

2012-13

10.8% (T.O.)

10.2% (B.S.)

956 (T.O.)

1030 (B.S.)

70.0% (T.O.)

66.7% (B.S.)

100% (T.O.)

42.9% (B.S.)

44.9% (T.O.)

56.5% (B.S.)

2011-12

10.1% (T.O.)

1008 (T.O.)

77.3% (T.O.)

58.3% (T.O.)

45.9% (T.O.)

 

Oshie’s 55 point scoring tendency looks more impressive considering his average OZ% during these past four seasons was 46.2%. And Oshie figures to be in for a big OZ% jump, as essentially the entire Caps top six (including Troy Brouwer, who’s left via the Oshie trade) had an OZ% between 55.6% and 59.3%. Plus, the one season where Oshie had just a bit higher OZ% of 49.5%, he responded with 60 points.

 

But on the other hand, it’s been five seasons since any Caps forward not named Alex Ovechkin or Nicklas Backstrom tallied even 55 points. And back then it was Alex Semin in his prime, who I think everyone can agree would never be confused with the Oshie of today. In other words, even if it stands to reason that Oshie could see his production increase due to an improved OZ%, that might not translate into a points increase, especially, as noted above, if he can’t find his way onto the team’s PP1.

 

The issue with Saad is his full season 5×4 IPP plus his 5×5 IPP were more than 120; and on top of that, his average OZ% was 60.7%. Just looking at last season, his 80.9% IPP ranked him 14th among 121 forwards who played 1000+ minutes at 5×5, while his 57.7% OZ% put him 58th out of 307 forwards who played 60+ games. And in 2013-14, his 63.7% OZ% put him tenth among the 302 forwards who played 60+ contests, while his 5×4 IPP was 38th best among the 202 forwards who skated for 100+ minutes at 5×4.

 

And although being able to even have a high IPP on a deep and elite team like Chicago speaks to Saad’s talent and suggests he could have similar IPPs on Columbus, the issue there is the Blue Jackets scored 28 fewer goals than the Blackhawks over the past two seasons, which means more of the same for Saad might not translate to better production, especially since he’ll likely see his OZ% plummet, what with no Columbus forward who played 60+ games last season having an OZ% greater than 50.3%.

 

Who Wins?

 

For me, two things tilt the scales slightly toward Oshie winning this match in one year leagues. The first is OZ%, as Saad only produced at a 50 point pace in Chicago even though he had such a high OZ%, while Oshie managed consistent 55 point scoring despite only once having an OZ% above 45.9%. And Saad could see his OZ% drop significantly, while Oshie’s could rise as much – if not more – than Saad’s will fall. Beyond that, even if Saad plays with Johanson and Foligno at even strength (as has been rumored), he’s all but guaranteed not to land on Columbus’ PP1, whereas Oshie at least stands a chance to occupy a much coveted spot on PP1 for the Caps.

 

In the end, both players are likely to finish at or near their previous norms, namely about 55 points for Oshie and 50 for Saad, but with Saad less likely to exceed 50 than Oshie could be to post 55-60. Given that, and where they’re being drafted on average, both should be avoided in one year leagues in favor of winger-eligible players who’ll likely provide better value for their cost than either Saad or Oshie, e.g., Radim Vrbata (average draft position on Yahoo of 120.8), Patrick Hornqvist (120.7), Ondrej Palat (111.2), and Jaden Schwartz (107.8) to name a few.

 

It’s a tougher call in keeper leagues, since Saad being nearly six years younger than Oshie looms large. But one key is Oshie gets to reap the possible benefits of being in Washington for two more seasons then becomes a UFA at the age of 30, when he’ll likely be coveted and well paid, thus all but ensuring he’ll be able to maintain a key spot on any team. Meanwhile, Saad’s outlook is less clear, to an extent where I’d be very wary of targeting him in a keeper at this time.