Jared Spurgeon vs. T.J. Brodie

by Rick Roos on October 22, 2014
TJBrodie

 

How much better is TJ Brodie to own in fantasy hockey over Jared Spurgeon?

 

It’s that time of year. The autumn air is crisp. Leaves have started to change color and fall. And fantasy hockey GMs realize the team(s) they drafted aren’t the living embodiment of perfection on ice, which means they’re scrambling to plug holes via the waiver wire.

With that in mind, this week’s Cage Match pits T.J. Brodie against Jared Spurgeon – two defensemen who likely were not drafted in most leagues (neither was among the roughly 70 d-men picked in the DobberHockey Experts League draft) but who had posted point per game numbers after the first week of the season, making each a potentially attractive waiver wire target. But which one will help your team more by the end of the season, and beyond? Cage Match is here to tell you all you need to know.

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Spurgeon is a 24 year old who, despite being drafted 156th overall in 2008, went from the WHL to the NHL with just a 23 game AHL pit stop. As an undersized defenseman (listed at just 5’9”), it’s not surprising that Spurgeon’s hallmark in juniors was his offensive prowess; and although he hasn’t taken the NHL by storm scoring-wise, his points output has been climbing. Last season in particular he posted 26 points in 67 games, finishing very strong with eight points in his final 13 regular season contests.

Brodie is also 24, and was taken 114th overall in the same 2008 draft as Spurgeon; however that’s where their similarities largely end. For one, although no one is going to confuse Brodie with Zdeno Chara, he’s several inches taller than Spurgeon; and 2013-14 was Brodie’s first full NHL season, having spent nearly 100 more games in the AHL – spread over the course of the prior three campaigns – than Spurgeon. But Brodie made the most of his opportunity last season in posting 31 points, tying him with some far more well-known defensemen in Dion Phaneuf, Nick Leddy, Jake Gardiner, and Matt Carle.

Spurgeon is on year two of a three year deal with an AAV and Cap Hit of $2.667M and which will leave him as an RFA in 2016. Brodie makes less money this season ($2.125 AAV and Cap Hit), but just inked a new five year deal with a reported $4.65 AAV and Cap Hit. And although Spurgeon is likely to close the gap in 2016-17, odds are that Brodie’s new deal will be richer than what Spurgeon ends up signing.

 

Ice Time

Brodie played only three NHL games in 2010-11, so I won’t bother to include his numbers from that season in this table or the others below.

 

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

2013-14

22:38 (J.S.) – 3rd

24:03 (T.J.B.) – 2nd

2:07 (J.S.) – 2nd

1:46 (T.J.B.) – 4th

2:01 (J.S.) – 3rd

1:57 (T.J.B.) – 3rd

2012-13

21:32 (J.S.) – 3rd

20:13 (T.J.B.) – 4th

3:05 (J.S.) – 2nd

2:01 (T.J.B.) – 3rd

1:19 (J.S.) – 5th

0:35 (T.J.B.) – 6th

2011-12

21:35 (J.S.) – 3rd

16:28 (T.J.B.) – 5th

2:44 (J.S.) – 3rd

1:44 (T.J.B.) – 4th

1:42 (J.S.) – 8th

0:02 (T.J.B.) – 7th

2010-11

15:04 (J.S.) – 7th

1:28 (J.S.) – 3rd

0:16 (J.S.) – 9th

 

There’s not a lot to like about Spurgeon’s data, particularly for 2013-14. Although he established a career high in overall Ice Time he also saw his PP Ice Time drop by nearly a full minute and his SH Ice Time creep above 2:00 for the first time.

To make matters worse, I don’t see either of these trends reversing. For one, the Wild often like to use four forwards on their first PP unit, and there’s no way Spurgeon (or any other Wild d-man) will displace Ryan Suter from the lone rearguard slot on PP1. Beyond that, Spurgeon now has to fight for second unit duty with not only the Wild’s $4.16M man Jonas Brodin, but also with new guy in town – and former 7th overall pick – Matt Dumba, who’s making a strong case to stick with the team and get regular PP Ice Time as well.

And despite the fact that Minnesota had the 27th ranked penalty kill last season (compared to 18th in 2012-13 and 15th in 2011-12) to coincide with Spurgeon’s SH Ice Time increasing, the reality is that with his continued development will come more defensive responsibility. That, in turn, means there’s a better chance of Spurgeon seeing similar (or even more) SH Ice Time duty in 2014-15 than there is of it shrinking back below 2:00 per game.

But guess what – Brodie’s data isn’t great either. We can see that although his overall Ice Time rocketed upward over the past two seasons, his PP Ice Time actually went down more than 10% from 2012-13 to 2013-14 while his SH Ice Time more than tripled.

Brodie’s Ice Time should be closely watched during 2014-15, especially on the PP, what with the offensive-minded Dennis Wideman returning to the fold from injury. If somehow Brodie isn’t able to average even 2:00 per game on the PP, it would essentially act as a de facto points ceiling, as last season only one defenseman (Brent Seabrook) managed to score more than 34 points while averaging less than 2:00 on the PP. This is a concern for Spurgeon too, as he barely cleared the 2:00 hurdle last season.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2013-14

0.24 (J.S.)

0.24 (T.J.B.)

1.19 (J.S.)

0.71 (T.J.B.)

1.59 (J.S.)

1.60 (T.J.B.)

1.35 (J.S.)

1.28 (T.J.B.)

0.10 (J.S.)

0.08 (T.J.B.)

2012-13

0.10 (J.S.)

0.17 (T.J.B.)

1.18 (J.S.)

0.51 (T.J.B.)

1.41 (J.S.)

1.57 (T.J.B.)

1.71 (J.S.)

0.93 (T.J.B.)

0.18 (J.S.)

0.12 (T.J.B.)

2011-12

0.08 (J.S.)

0.26 (T.J.B.)

0.51 (J.S.)

0.79 (T.J.B.)

1.35 (J.S.)

0.70 (T.J.B.)

1.31 (J.S.)

0.81 (T.J.B.)

0.17 (J.S.)

0.11 (T.J.B.)

2010-11

0.03 (J.S.)

0.70 (J.S.)

0.85 (J.S.)

0.71 (J.S.)

0.11 (J.S.)

 

There’s a lot of similarity in their data; and unfortunately most of it shows they don’t do a lot to help fantasy teams in multi-cat leagues. For example, while each has established himself as a reliable Blocked Shots contributor, neither will help your team at all in terms of PIM or Shots. Spurgeon is a better option for Hits, having doubled his per game average in going from 2011-12 to 2012-13 and then holding steady in 2013-14, which bodes well for him being able to continue that pace.

Their PP points output has tracked their PP Ice Time, which is somewhat good news in that if – and that is an if – they manage to reclaim more regular PP Ice Time they should see their PP points increase. It also would help if their teams fared better with the man advantage, as Calgary was 24th last season and Minnesota 16th.

But it’s important to go back to Shots, since low per game averages like those posted by both players last season does act as a point ceiling. In fact, looking at defensemen who averaged 1.4 Shots per game or fewer in the past three full seasons, only one (Niklas Kronwall in 2013-14) scored 40+ points. And if you’re keeping track so far, that’s the second potential points ceiling concern for both players.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

PDO (5×5)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

2013-14

1026 (J.S.)

990 (T.J.B.)

52.4% (J.S.)

41.9% (T.J.B.)

26.4% (J.S.)

29.8% (T.J.B.)

32.1% (J.S.)

33.3% (T.J.B.)

2012-13

998 (J.S.)

968 (T.J.B.)

53.4% (J.S.)

47.9% (T.J.B.)

18.2% (J.S.)

20.8% (T.J.B.)

22.7% (J.S.)

25.0% (T.J.B.)

2011-12

1013 (J.S.)

1009 (T.J.B.)

45.0% (J.S.)

51.9% (T.J.B.)

30.0% (J.S.)

22.6% (T.J.B.)

33.3% (J.S.)

25.8% (T.J.B.)

2010-11

995 (J.S.)

53.7% (J.S.)

25.0% (J.S.)

31.3% (J.S.)

 

Nothing here points to excessively good or bad luck having significantly affected either player. In fact, their 2013-14 IPPs fall roughly in the middle of the pack among defensemen who played 100+ minutes at 5×4 and 1000+ minutes at 5×5. In turn, that means there’s realistic room for improvement for both.

And although Spurgeon’s 1026 PDO for 2013-14 stands out, it actually was only 16 points above Minnesota’s 1010 team value. What’s more, four of the six Minnesota d-men who played in 50+ games had a PDO of 1017 or greater at 5×5.

For offensive zone starting % in 2013-14, Spurgeon finished 42nd among the 174 d-men who played 50+ games, with Brodie landing all the way down in 168th place. The good news is Brodie was still able to post 31 points; however, in 2013-14 fewer than a handful of rearguards were able to post 40+ points (Andrei Markov, Shea Weber, Roman Josi) despite finishing with an offensive zone starting % lower than 45%. And as for Spurgeon, it should benefit his stats if he continues to stay above 50%; however, his increasing SH Ice Time seems to suggest his percentage might start to fall, and, in doing so, negatively affect his scoring.

 

 

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Value and Injury History

Brodie was not among the top 100 defensemen drafted in Yahoo leagues, while Spurgeon was picked as roughly the 80th d-man. Fast forward to now, however, and Brodie is % owned in more than six times as many Yahoo leagues as Spurgeon, although much of that is due to the Wild’s early light schedule.

When it comes to injuries, Spurgeon has rightfully earned a spot as a “Band-Aid Boy Trainee”, having missed 12, nine, and 15 games in the past three seasons. On the other hand, Brodie has stayed largely healthy of late, playing in 81 games last season and 82 between the NHL and AHL in 2012-13.

 

Who Wins?

Brodie wins this battle – no doubt. Oh, and for the record – that would’ve been my conclusion even without him having continued his scorching start, which had him still at point per game levels after seven games, compared to Spurgeon having cooled off in week two.

One key is that although Brodie also had a six points in six game stretch last season, this time he’s fired 16 Shots on goal in seven games, compared to just three total Shots during his 2013-14 streak. But one downside is his PDO (1097 at 5×5), IPP (50% at 5×5), and Shooting % (18.8%) numbers are all far above normal levels, and thus bound to fall, along with his points output.

Even still, another significant benefit to Brodie – especially for those in keeper leagues – is that Wideman and Kris Russell are viable candidates to get traded before their deals end, respectively, after 2015-16 and 2016-17, leaving Brodie as an undisputed top guy very soon, with the main benefit likely coming in the form of a major uptick in PP Ice Time (the two have combined to receive over 5:00 per game in 2014-15 so far).

Meanwhile, Spurgeon’s apparent continued unwillingness to shoot the puck (just five Shots through four games), and both the talent and long term contract status of Minnesota blueliners, will work against him being able to become even a 35-40 point guy in the near future.

But for those of you in one year leagues – we’re fast approaching the point where Brodie becomes a guy whom you owe it to yourself to trade. For one, you probably got him for nothing or next to nothing, so your ROI will be huge. And not only are his luck-based metrics off the charts right now, but the reality is that last season saw only four teams with two rearguards who scored more than 40 points (and only one for 2011-12), so Brodie has his work cut out for him to surpass that threshold given Calgary’s offense and Mark Giordano still being the team’s undisputed #1 d-man.

Given this, it’s best to try and flip Brodie to get a proven asset who’s started slow (maybe Ryan McDonagh or James Wisniewski) or even to plug a hole at another position in your line-up, in which case you can replace him with a guy from the waiver wire – maybe Spurgeon, since in the end he should finish within 5-10 points of Brodie this season.

Of course if you’re lucky enough to have Brodie in a keeper league – enjoy the ride, but don’t turn a deaf ear entirely toward trade offers, since just maybe someone will believe the hype and be willing to overpay enough (50+ point level) to make it so you have no choice but to move Brodie at this time.

 

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