Goldipucks and the Three Skaters: Bubble Keepers

by Rick Roos on July 25, 2018

Just when you thought things couldn’t get even better for Bubble Keeper Week here at DobberHockey, it’s time for an unprecedented offseason Bubble Keeper edition of Goldipucks and the Three Skaters!

The Goldipucks concept is unchanged, with three skaters covered and one declared too hot (i.e., did unsustainably better than he should’ve for 2017-18), another too cold (i.e., did unsustainably worse), and a third “just right” (i.e., produced where he should); but this time the “too hot” player will be the one you probably shouldn’t keep, the “too cold” player the one you probably should keep, and the “just right” player one you can keep or let go based on knowing he should do about the same as 2017-18. Each skater also receives a 1-10 rating, indicating how hot (rated 7-10, where 10 makes him the most unsustainably hot and thus least appealing to keep), cold (rated 1-3, where 1 is the most unsustainably cold and thus most appealing to keep), or just right (rated 4-6, where 5 is the most “just right”) he was.

Our Bubble Keeper skaters are Nick Leddy, Bryan Little, and Brendan Gallagher. Can you guess which one, for 2017-18, was too hot (and thus probably shouldn’t be kept), which too cold (and thus someone you probably should keep), and which just right? Take a stab and then see if you guessed correctly.

Nick Leddy

Despite it being the offseason, there’s been steady buzz surrounding Ryan Pulock, who turned heads by posting 24 points in his final 40 games of 2017-18 then just last week signed a bridge deal that some see as a bargain. With many poolies penciling in the long highly-touted Pulock for a major breakout during 2018-19, the question is what’s to become of Nick Leddy? The short answer is………..……..nothing. He’ll continue to do much the same for the Islanders, and poolies.

As great as Pulock may have looked on the ice and in the scoresheet in the second half, he received over 50% of the team’s available PP time in a mere six of the 68 games he played, ending the season with a 35% PP usage rate. That pales in comparison to Leddy, who, despite Pulock igniting, ended the season at a 63.8% rate and with 14 PPPts, which is in line with his PP scoring average over his past three seasons. Leddy’s OZ% was roughly 50% (as it nearly always is), plus he had 17 secondary assists to 15 primary after a total over the previous two seasons of 34 primary assists and 33 secondary. Two minor diversions from the norm were his IPP was a tad lower than his customary 45% or so, and he saw his SOG rate tick upward a bit.

Leddy might not provide offensive production ala Drew Doughty, Alex Pietrangelo, Victor Hedman or John Carlson, but he’s still as much of a “the guy” type for his team as they are. I’d most closely compare him to Ryan Suter in Minnesota, whom poolies can count on for roughly 45 points each season, with a chance to rise to 50 if everything goes especially well. And just like Leddy has Pulock, Suter had Matt Dumba, who even after finally breaking out didn’t cut into Suter’s production or key usage last season.

Long story short, don’t let the Pulock hype convince you Leddy’s days as a 40-45+ point d-man are over. In fact, based on his rising SOG total, still steady PP usage and assist ratio, but smaller than usual IPP, he might due for a bit of a points uptick for 2018-19. Therefore, in 2017-18 Leddy was JUST RIGHT, and gets a rating of 4.5 to account for the possibility he could see a tad more points in 2018-19 and to underscore the lack of concern that should exist with respect to Pulock.

Bryan Little

Had poolies been told ahead of time that Little – who’d missed 23 and 25 games over the previous two seasons – would suit up for all 82 games in 2017-18 and the Jets would score 27 more goals as a team, chances are they’d have been thrilled at what likely lay ahead for him (and them). Indeed both those things came to fruition, yet Little managed only 43 points, or four fewer than he posted in 59 games in 2016-17! Are his days as a 55+ point fantasy contributor over? I don’t think so, and the numbers seem to back me up.

Little’s 5×5 team shooting percentage was 7.6%, or his second lowest since 2010-11; and his IPP, which had been above the “magical” 70% number associated with elite talent for four consecutive seasons, plunged to 58.1%, meaning that had it been his normal rate he’d have been looking at ten more points right there. While it is true his SOG rate was down and his share of PP minutes was below 50% for the second consecutive campaign, the fact that it was sub-50% didn’t stop him from tallying his customary one PP per every five games in 2016-17; and if he’d been at that rate for 2017-18, it would’ve meant another nearly handful of points.

Also, Little had a mere seven points in 20 games following the arrival of Paul Stastny, who’s now a member of the Knights. Moreover, no one was brought in to replace Stastny, suggesting the Jets are content to let Little go back to being second line pivot and he’ll benefit from the points to go with that role. Let’s also keep in mind that from 2012-13 to 2016-17 he cumulatively averaged 0.75 points per game, which, in that time frame, was higher than – among others – James van Riemsdyk, Mikko Koivu Ryan Johansen, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Monahan, Kyle Turris, and, ironically, Stastny. So we’re talking about a player who, although he’ll be 31 in November, has a proven track record to fall back upon.

Best to think of 2017-18 as a year to write off entirely for Little, and pencil him back in for 55 points or perhaps even more if he stays healthy and the Jets continue to fire on all offensive cylinders. This makes Little’s 2017-18 TOO COLD, and, in turn, him someone you should strongly consider keeping. In all, he gets a rating of 1.5 since his scoring total stands to rebound by 10+ points.

Brendan Gallagher

Montreal’s 2017-18 season ruined many a fantasy hockey player’s quest for a title, with nearly all players falling below expectations or, in the case of Shea Weber, missing a huge chunk of the season. Other than Jeff Petry, who clearly benefitted from Weber being out of the line-up, arguably the only other Hab who exceeded expectations was Gallagher, who, like Little, was able to avoid injury woes that plagued him in the past two seasons but unlike Little also established a career best in both goals and points. Naturally poolies are thinking Montreal can’t do much worse in 2018-19, and as they improve Gallagher will see his numbers rise even further, right? Not so fast.

For one, although Gallagher only had 23 assists (compared to 31 goals), his secondary assists rate was his highest since 2013-14, suggesting despite so few assists compared to goals he maybe overachieved in that area. And given his already high rate of goals, chances are if his secondary assists rate would drop he would not expect to get more goals or primary assists, which in turn means fewer points.

Gallagher also established a career high in IPP, which admittedly was a function of having to do more on his own due to playing mainly with subpar linemates like Charles Hudon, Paul Byron, and, before he was traded at the deadline, Tomas Plekanec. Well guess what – things in Montreal have, if anything, gotten worse and Gallagher will again likely have to be the offensive driver on his line and this time around probably won’t be so lucky as to see such a high IPP due to defenses focusing more on him, which in turn also should translate to fewer points.

Also, Gallagher’s personal shooting percentage last season (at 11.2%) higher than it’s been in any full season of his career and marked only the second time it was above 9.4%. And at the risk of splitting hairs a bit, his average shot distance was 25.8, up from 25.2 last year and 23.4 in 2015-16; so he was shooting from farther away yet more shots were resulting in goals. Together this data suggests he lucked into probably a handful of goals he shouldn’t have tallied.

Gallagher is unquestionably good enough to score 54 points in 2018-19, or even more as demonstrated by his 62 point scoring pace a couple of seasons ago. But the reality is he was unsustainably lucky last season and will once again be stuck on a bad – if not even worse – team and with linemates whom he’ll have to carry. That’s why Gallagher was TOO HOT in 2017-18; he gets a rating of 8.5 because it will be a stretch to see him score even in the 50s again during this upcoming season.

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I hope you enjoyed this special offseason return of the Goldipucks column in honor of Bubble Keeper Week here at DobberHockey, and that it provided help in making your keeper decisions on these three players. Look for Goldipucks to start appearing again from time to time once winter rolls around. Until then, be sure to come back each Wednesday for your regular fill of Cage Match, with one more summer Cage Match Tournament coming next week.