Dennis Wideman vs. James Wisniewski

by Rick Roos on March 4, 2015
DennisWideman

 

Why Dennis Wideman is better to own in fantasy hockey than James Wisniewski

Facing off this week are defensemen Dennis Wideman and just traded James Wisniewski. These two blueliners have frustrated poolies with a seemingly unpredictable pattern of good and bad seasons; but is there an explanation for their varying production, and which one is the better own going forward? Time to find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

 

Wideman was selected 241st overall in2003 by the Sabres, but never played an NHL game for them. Instead, he began his career with the Blues after signing as a free agent in 2004. But he didn’t appear on the radar of most poolies until his stint with Boston, where he broke out for 50 points in 2008-09.

Unfortunately, Wideman disappointed those who jumped on his bandwagon, as he didn’t even average 0.5 points per game in his next two seasons (70 points in 151 games), bouncing from Boston to Florida before ending 2010-11 with the Caps. In Washington, he rebounded with 46 points in 82 games for 2011-12, but then laid an egg in his first two seasons with the Flames, to the tune of only 43 points in 92 games prior to this campaign.

Wisniewski also was a later round steal, going 156th overall to Chicago in 2002. Although he never really gained traction in the windy city (tallying only 56 points in 168 games spread over four seasons, three of which saw him bounce between the NHL and AHL), he did see some moderate success (41 points in 86 games) after being dealt to Anaheim in 2009.

What followed was a two season stretch for three different teams (Islanders and Canadiens in 2010-11; Blue Jackets in 2011-12); and although he didn’t play more than 48 contests for any one of those teams, it was his best hockey to that point, with 78 points in only 123 games (52 point full season pace). After a down 2012-13, he posted 51 points in 75 games in 2013-14, which translated to the seventh best points per game production among all d-men that season. But 2014-15 had seen his production fall, which was a factor that helped lead to him being dealt on deadline day to Anaheim.

After this season, both players have two years remaining on their deals according to nhlnumbers.com, with Wideman’s carrying a $5.25M yearly cap hit versus Wisniewski’s $5.5M.

 

 

Ice Time (data in this and other tables reflects games through March 2nd)

 

For Wisniewski, the 2014-15 data (and ranking) is based on his pre-trade games with Columbus.

 

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

2014-15

23:52 (D.W.) – 3rd

21:24 (J.W.) – 3rd

2:57 (D.W.) – 2nd

3:13 (J.W.) – 2nd

1:07 (D.W.) – 3rd (tied)

1:55 (J.W.) – 5th

2013-14

22:41 (D.W.) – 4th

22:37 (J.W.) – 2nd

3:07 (D.W.) – 2nd

3:39 (J.W.) – 1st

1:19 (D.W.) – 5th

1:59 (J.W.) – 3rd

2012-13

25:01 (D.W.) – 2nd

22:49 (J.W.) – 3rd

3:29 (D.W.) – 1st

3:16 (J.W.) – 2nd

2:10 (D.W.) – 3rd

1:30 (J.W.) – 4th (tied)

2011-12

23:54 (D.W.) – 1st

24:47 (J.W.) – 2nd

3:16 (D.W.) – 1st

3:53 (J.W.) – 2nd

1:56 (D.W.) – 3rd

1:49 (J.W.) – 5th

 

Based on this data, it’s hard to explain why Wideman was productive in 2011-12 and this season, yet scored below a 0.5 points per game pace in 2012-13 and 2013-14. Missing nearly of 2013-14 to injury could partially explain his struggles that season; but that still leaves 2012-13 as a major aberration, especially with him having received his highest Total Ice Time, PP Ice Time, and productive Ice Time (i.e., Total Ice Time minus SH Ice Time) of these four campaigns during that particular season. We’ll check below if good luck, bad luck, or both might’ve been factors.

In Wisniewski’s case, we see a disturbing pattern of decreasing Total Ice Time for three straight seasons while he was in Columbus, plus PP Ice Time this season that was on pace to be the lowest of these four campaigns and a SH Ice Time that was nearly the highest. Now that Wisniewski has landed in Anaheim, a kneejerk reaction would be to assume his Ice Time will improve for the rest of this season, since after all the Ducks traded for him so they must see him as a key asset.

But that would appear to be an incorrect assumption. For one – Sami Vatanen only averaged 3:20 per game on the PP and no other Duck blueliner is averaging more than 2:28 per game, so Wisniewski figures to get no gains there despite Vatanen still likely to be on the shelf for at least a couple of weeks after Wisniewski returns from his current foot injury. And Wisniewski’s 19:29 of productive Ice Time for 2014-15 is higher than any Ducks blueliner except Vatanen, who only averages 19:50.

Thus, not only is Wisniewski unlikely to be walking into better Ice Time for the remainder of 2014-15, but the situation figures to get worse next season as the Ducks will likely lean even more on its trio of young blueliners in Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Hampus Lindholm, leaving Wisniewski’s Ice Time to drop much like it did on Columbus in response to the emergence of David Savard and Kevin Connauton.

 

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2014-15

0.46 (D.W.)

0.60 (J.W.)

1.19 (D.W.)

1.76 (J.W.)

2.23 (D.W.)

1.23 (J.W.)

2.05 (D.W.)

2.26 (J.W.)

0.21 (D.W.)

0.25 (J.W.)

2013-14

0.39 (D.W.)

0.81 (J.W.)

1.34 (D.W.)

1.34 (J.W.)

1.63 (D.W.)

0.97 (J.W.)

2.12 (D.W.)

2.21 (J.W.)

0.08 (D.W.)

0.37 (J.W.)

2012-13

0.26 (D.W.)

0.50 (J.W.)

0.87 (D.W.)

1.76 (J.W.)

2.17 (D.W.)

1.60 (J.W.)

2.04 (D.W.)

2.06 (J.W.)

0.28 (D.W.)

0.16 (J.W.)

2011-12

0.56 (D.W.)

0.77 (J.W.)

1.38 (D.W.)

1.04 (J.W.)

1.61 (D.W.)

1.54 (J.W.)

2.13 (D.W.)

2.06 (J.W.)

0.24 (D.W.)

0.25 (J.W.)

 

The mystery deepens for Wideman, as his Shots have been flat and his highest PP Points per game output came in one of his two down seasons (2012-13). Beyond that, we see he’s a solid multi-cat contributor who can normally be expected to contribute not only about one PIM per two games and more than one Hit per game, but also significant Blocked Shots, where he sits ninth overall for 2014-15 thus far and finished 19th in 2012-13.

Wisniewski is no slouch in most of these categories either, generally averaging between two or three Hits plus Blocks per game. His Shots per game also has been pretty consistent, but not his PP Points, where during 2013-14 he produced more than one per every three games, resulting in 28 PP Points (third among all NHL d-men) and a scoring rate of 5.59 points per 60 minutes of 5×4 (fifth among the 85 defensemen who played 100+ minutes of 5×4 that season). While we haven’t seen Wisniewski’s 5×4 IPP for 2013-14, it’s looking more and more like we can expect it to have been unsustainably high.

 

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

PDO (5×5)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

2014-15

1012 (D.W.)

983 (J.W.)

50.1% (D.W.)

53.0% (J.W.)

43.2% (D.W.)

36.4% (J.W.)

66.7% (D.W.)

57.1% (J.W.)

2013-14

972 (D.W.)

998 (J.W.)

62.2% (D.W.)

49.8% (J.W.)

45.2% (D.W.)

38.3% (J.W.)

33.3% (D.W.)

82.8% (J.W.)

2012-13

972 (D.W.)

1011 (J.W.)

45.5% (D.W.)

53.3% (J.W.)

21.6% (D.W.)

35.0% (J.W.)

78.6% (D.W.)

50.0% (J.W.)

2011-12

997 (D.W.)

987 (J.W.)

49.0% (D.W.)

48.1% (J.W.)

36.5% (D.W.)

42.9% (J.W.)

66.7% (D.W.)

72.7% (J.W.)

 

And there we have it – Wisniewski’s 2013-14 IPP tied him for second in the entire NHL among the 85 rearguards who played 100+ minutes at 5×4. Not only that – it would’ve put him 8th among forwards who played at least 100 minutes at 5×4 that season!

And the statistical impact was significant, since it meant Wisniewski had a point on 24 of 29 goals scored while he was on the ice for 5×4 (his other four PP points came at 5×3 or 4×3). If his IPP at 5×4 had been 60% (i.e., the average of what it was in these other three seasons), then his PP Points would’ve dipped by seven, and with that his season output from 51 points to only 44, which is much closer to his 42.8 points scoring pace over the other three seasons.

Wideman’s numbers continue to confound, as all that really sticks out are his 62.2% Offensive Zone Starting % in 2013-14, which was sixth highest among d-men who played 40+ games, and his 78.6% IPP at 5×4 in 2013-14, which was 11th among d-men who played 50+ minutes at 5×4 that season. But those two seasons were his two least productive among these four!

One interesting note about Wideman is that with the emergence of T.J. Brodie in 2014-15 as a top pairing defender to go along with Mark Giordano, those two are shouldering tougher minutes that might’ve otherwise gone to Wideman. Look no further than their Offensive Zone Starting percentages for the 2014-15 season, as Giordano’s is down to 42.5% (from 44.1% in 2013-14) and Brodie’s is 41.7% (from 41.9% in 2013-14). There’s no reason to think these trends will reverse next season, which in turn means we should see Wideman’s Offensive Zone Starting % remain above 50% as Calgary continues to lean on Brodie and Mark Giordano to occupy a key shutdown role.

 

 

Value and Injuries

 

In Yahoo leagues, Wisniewski was drafted, on average, as the 22nd defenseman, compared to 51st for Wideman. Fast forward to now and both are owned in 71% of Yahoo leagues; but it’s been somewhat of a flip-flop in ranking, with Wisniewski now rated 40th and Wideman 26th. We can expect Wisniewski’s ownership numbers to get a bump in the aftermath of his trade to Anaheim, resulting in him having a higher perceived value as well.

Wideman has missed more than seven games in a season once (in 2013-14) since his rookie campaign. But he’s no iron man either, as his average number of games played in his first six seasons was 75.5. As for Wisniewski, he’s every bit a Band-Aid Boy, as only twice has he ever missed fewer than 11 games in a season and since becoming an NHL regular in 2007-08 he’s missed an average of 18 games per season. But with any luck, he’ll only miss ten or so this year between the five Blue Jacket games he sat out and his current injury, which is projected to only cost him a week or two.

 

 

Who Wins?

 

This match is an example of how fantasy value can hinge other players. The emergence of T.J. Brodie has led to best of both worlds type of situation for Wideman in that he’s still been able to maintain coveted PP Ice Time yet now has an easier role at 5×5. In contrast, Wisniewski – an injury-prone rearguard who lucked into his 2013-14 output and now has a higher perceived value than deserved – had begun to take on a much lesser role with Columbus due to strong play from their younger defensemen, and will likely have to deal with more of the same in Anaheim. Wideman is the winner in all league formats.

If you own Wisniewski in a keeper league, you’ll want to seriously consider flipping him before the start of next season. As we saw from the data above, he’s is a 40-45 point player when luck isn’t smiling upon him; and that’s if – always a big if in his case – he manages to stay healthy for anything resembling a full season. Given that he was just dealt to a team that gets a lot of fantasy attention, which will help inflate Wisniewski’s perceived value, you’d likely be best served seizing upon post-trade hype to deal him before next season, when the Ducks figure to prioritize giving even more productive minutes to the likes of Fowler, Vatanen, and Lindholm over Wisnewski.

As for Wideman, it would be hard not to at least explore selling high if he manages to post 50 points this season, since the chances of him doing that again on Calgary are low. But you can’t be faulted for holding onto him instead, as he looks to be a decent bet for 45 points per season while on this Calgary team and he’s not given the fantasy respect he deserves, which means you likely won’t get proper value for him in return.