Reilly Smith vs. Brendan Gallagher

by Rick Roos on March 25, 2015
BrendanGallagher

 

Reilly Smith vs. Brendan Gallagher, and why both may be overrated in fantasy

 

I figured it was about time to pay homage to the NHL’s oldest rivalry – Bruins vs. Habs, so this week’s combatants are RWs Reilly Smith and Brendan Gallagher. Both have enjoyed periods of fantasy success in their young careers, but also have hit bumps in the road. Is either poised to reach the 60-point mark any time soon; and which one will bring more smiles to the faces of poolies? It won’t be O’Reilly vs. Lafleur, but this Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Smith was a third round pick (69th overall) in 2009. And after three years (122 points in 121 games) at college, he had a brief cameo with Dallas in 2012. But following an unremarkable 37 Stars games in 2012-13, Smith was sent to Boston as a non-marquee part of the Loui Eriksson, Tyler Seguin trade.

To most everyone’s the surprise, Smith broke out with 51 points in 82 games for the Bs in 2013-14, which was three more than Eriksson posted in his first 82 Boston games. But 2014-15 has seen Smith’s production wane, as his full season scoring pace has been stuck below 45 points and he was sent a message by being made a healthy scratch on March 21st after recent subpar play.

Gallagher was even more of a hidden gem, as an undersized (listed at 5’9”) prospect drafted 147th overall in 2010. But Gallagher was also in the NHL to stay by 2012-13, posting 28 points to tie for fourth among rookies and ranking him ahead of freshmen Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz, and fellow Montreal rookie Alex Galchenyuk.

Unlike Smith, Gallagher took a step back in 2013-14, posting only 13 more points in nearly double the number of games versus 2012-13. But he’s rebounded in 2014-15, managing to equal his entire 81 game 41 point output from 2013-14 after only 69 games.

Both players will be starting new deals next season, with Gallagher’s six years with an AAV of $3.5M, while Smith’s with the cap-challenged Bruins is two years with an AAV of $3.425M.

 

Ice Time (data in this and other tables reflects games through March 21st)

 

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

15:33 (R.S.) – 7th

16:27 (B.G.) – 4th

1:52 (R.S.) – 7th

2:18 (B.G.) – 2nd

0:00 (R.S.)

0:02 (B.G.) – 14th

2013-14

14:42 (R.S.) – 7th

15:57 (B.G.) – 6th (tied)

1:38 (R.S.) – 8th

2:26 (B.G.) – 4th

0:00 (R.S.)

0:04 (B.G.) – 11th

2012-13

10:55 (R.S.) – 13th

13:51 (B.G.) – 9th

1:01 (R.S.) – 10th

2:21 (B.G.) – 8th

0:23 (R.S.) – 10th

0:00 (B.G.)

 

Smith’s numbers are trending upward, which is always nice to see. But keep in mind he plays for the Bruins, where as of March 24th no fewer than ten different forwards had averaged more than 14:00 per game while having seen action in 15+ contests and nine at least 1:45 per game on the PP while also playing in 15+ contests.

On the surface, that suggests Smith’s upward trend in Ice Time might be coming to an end or at least be nearing its realistic ceiling. Then again, of the five Bs forwards ahead of him in both Total and PP Ice Time, two (Carl Soderberg, Loui Eriksson) will be UFAs within the next two summers and aren’t likely to return to the team. Thus, even if the Bs continue to divide Ice Time evenly and new players are brought in, Smith could find himself among those benefitting from their departures, which will free up lot of Ice Time considering that they currently combine for over 35 minutes per game overall, with 4:25 coming on the PP.

Gallagher’s issue is that his Ice Time might be close to maxed out, and could even decrease. It’s not a case of him being undeserving of his Ice Time; after all, his scoring is up this season in response to additional time. But despite this, he could be vulnerable to losing his “spot.” Keep in mind that the plan had been for P.A. Parenteau to be a top six RW and PP staple, until he laid an egg offensively and had concussion issues. Then at the deadline the Habs acquired Devante Smith-Pelly, who’s a natural RW like Gallagher and brings with him the size and grit that many think has been a key missing ingredient since Erik Cole left Montreal in 2012-13. Pelly could be given strong consideration for a top six role for next season and beyond.

And let’s not kid ourselves – the NHL is still a league that favors size. Although as of March 21st there were 21 RWs who’d outscored Gallagher so far this season and 34 RWs receiving more average Total Ice Time per game than Gallagher, only one who’s less than 5’11’’ tall had both outscored and received more Total Ice Time than Gallagher, and that’s fading veteran Martin St. Louis. Thus, despite his long-term deal and successful production to date, it’s possible that Gallagher could be pushed aside – literally and figuratively – for a less diminutive player at some point in the not too distant future.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2014-15

0.25 (R.S.)

0.42 (B.G.)

0.95 (R.S.)

0.54 (B.G.)

0.52 (R.S.)

0.54 (B.G.)

1.76 (R.S.)

2.98 (B.G.)

0.12 (R.S.)

0.09 (B.G.)

2013-14

0.17 (R.S.)

0.90 (B.G.)

0.77 (R.S.)

0.47 (B.G.)

0.17 (R.S.)

0.44 (B.G.)

1.78 (R.S.)

2.60 (B.G.)

0.17 (R.S.)

0.11 (B.G.)

2012-13

0.21 (R.S.)

0.75 (B.G.)

0.48 (R.S.)

1.00 (B.G.)

0.16 (R.S.)

0.75 (B.G.)

0.92 (R.S.)

2.66 (B.G.)

0.00 (R.S.)

0.09 (B.G.)

 

Since coming to Boston, Smith’s secondary category numbers have held fairly steady (Shots, PP Points) or improved (PIM, Hits, Blocked Shots). Don’t get me wrong – he’s not going to win you a multi-cat league singlehandedly; however, at this point you pretty much know what you’ll get from him and I’d say that there’s a better chance for his output to keep improving or holding steady in most categories versus going down.

Meanwhile, Gallagher’s numbers are troubling in several areas. For one, his Hits and PIM are both down by about 50% from his rookie totals, and his Blocked Shots have been dialed back as well. But not even producing one PP point per ten games despite receiving the second most PP Ice Time among Habs forwards might be his most disconcerting stat.

Sure – an argument could be made that his PP struggles are due at least in part to the Habs having the fifth worst PP conversion percentage in the NHL this season; however, his production was just as poor last season when the team was 19th. Plus, both Tomas Plekanec and Alex Galchenyuk have more PP points than him despite the fact that each receives less PP Ice Time per game than him. The concern becomes Gallagher’s prime PP duty might be fleeting, in which case it would be hard to picture him ever flirting with 60 points in a season – sort of like what’s happened to Smith’s teammate Brad Marchand.

That all having been said, Gallagher also boasts a Shots per game rate that not only puts him in the top 40 among NHL forwards for this season, but also suggests that he has room for higher production, since of the nine RWs who had higher Shots per game rates than him as of March 21st only one (Patric Hornqvist) hasn’t posted at least 60 points within at least one of the last three seasons.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

Note that Smith’s 2012-13 5×4 IPP isn’t charted since he didn’t meet the 50 minute minimum.

 

Season

Personal Shooting %

PDO (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2014-15

9.6% (R.S.)

9.6% (B.G.)

1000 (R.S.)

1036 (B.G.)

58.1% (R.S.)

69.0% (B.G.)

69.2% (R.S.)

46.7% (B.G.)

51.0% (R.S.)

55.5% (B.G.)

2013-14

13.7% (R.S.)

9.0% (B.G.)

1034 (R.S.)

1001 (B.G.)

60.0% (R.S.)

70.5% (B.G.)

63.6% (R.S.)

36.4% (B.G.)

52.2% (R.S.)

50.2% (B.G.)

2012-13

8.8% (R.S.)

12.8% (B.G.)

1004 (R.S.)

985 (B.G.)

90.0% (R.S.)

68.6% (B.G.)

N/A (R.S.)

57.1% (B.G.)

57.1% (R.S.)

66.0% (B.G.)

 

Here we see more bad news for Gallagher, as his personal shooting % and 5×4 IPP have been lousy for both his full seasons. Although as we saw above he’s firing tons of SOG, he’s now sustained a personal shooting percentage below 10% for two straight seasons. And of those nine RWs who stood above him in average Shots per game, only three were also below 10% in shooting % – Kyle Okposo, Marian Hossa, and Jason Pominville, with the latter two – like MSL – being veterans on the downside of their careers.

Moreover, Gallagher’s lousy 5×4 IPP (tied for 142nd among 176 forwards who’d received 100+ minutes at 5×4) reinforces that it’s hard to see how the Habs will be encouraged to continue giving Gallagher prime PP duty. Again, this conjures memories of Marchand, who received 2:09 per game in the PP in 2011-12 and 1:44 in 2012-13, then plunged to 0:29 in 2013-14. Marchand’s IPP at 5×4 was 42.9% in 2011-12 and 50.0% in 2012-13. And while no one expects Gallagher to plummet all the way down to 0:29 per game on the PP next season, a drop could be in the cards.

Things are very different for Smith, where, if anything, his 5×4 IPP makes a case for him deserving more PP Ice Time, as he ranked fourth among Boston forwards who played 50+ minutes at 5×4 in 2013-14 and ranks second for 2014-15. And although Smith’s PDO for 2013-14 is outside of the “normal” range of 970-1030, it was fourth highest among Boston forwards and Boston had a team PDO of 1025, so 1034 isn’t as suggestive of unsustainable good luck as it would otherwise seem. Plus, Gallagher’s 1036 for 2014-15 is even higher.

Offensive Zone starting % also favors Smith, for the simple fact that Gallagher saw his production go into reverse in 2013-14 when his percentage dropped from 66.0% to 50.2%. And although he’s rebounded in 2014-15, it’s not clear whether he’ll be gifted with 55.5% or higher in coming seasons, which is a concern since we don’t truly know if he can produce with less than that number.

 

Ownership and Value

Both players are RW-only eligible in Yahoo league and were valued nearly the same prior to the season, as evidenced by Smith being drafted 53rd among RW-eligible players and Gallagher 54th. Fast forward to now, and Gallagher his ranked 30th among RWs and is owned in 48% of Yahoo leagues, while Smith remains outside of the top 50 and is owned by only 17% of poolies.

Overall, this isn’t surprising given Gallagher’s strong season and Smith’s poorer than expected output.

 

Who Wins?

The winner is “not Gallagher.” Notice I didn’t say Smith prevails, and that’s because Gallagher simply lost by a wider amount. In truth, I’m not sold on owning either guy for next season.

For Gallagher, we saw that all but one of the RWs with better Ice Time and production than him are at least 5’11’’, making it anecdotally less likely that Gallagher will see his output improve down the road. But beyond that, he’s not a very accurate shooter and his PP output is very poor. Those are things that realistically could lead to him being pushed down the depth chart in coming years, hurting his production in the process. Sure, Gallagher is signed to a six year deal; however we’ve seen teams not hesitate to deemphasize many players who make well more than the $3.5M he’ll average once his deal starts to kick in next season.

In contrast, Smith has carved out a decent niche in Boston, at least until his recent healthy scratch. And as players who are seeing more Ice Time than Smith leave town, that should allow him to hold his spot and might even lead to him seeing some benefit (e.g., on the PP, where he’s shown a very healthy IPP in somewhat limited duty).

If you have Gallagher in a keeper, consider trying to package him in a deal this offseason out of concern that his stats could dip for any of the many reasons I listed. In one year leagues, let someone else draft Gallagher since he’ll be selected with 55 points in mind but might not even get 50.

Meanwhile, best to take a wait and see approach with Smith in one year leagues. If he’s back in Boston’s good graces and sees a bump in Ice Time due to Carl Soderberg’s likely departure, then you might want to grab him off the waiver wire. If you have Smith in a keeper, then you basically want to hold and hope for the best, and consider that his stats won’t be too different than Gallagher’s were in 2013-14, and we see how he’s rebounded in 2014-15.

 

 

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