Roos Lets Loose: Who is the Fantasy MVP?

by Rick Roos on March 13, 2019

 

Welcome to the second edition of “Forum Buzz,” a column where I dissect popular recent posts from the DobberHockey Forums. Pretty much anything within the forums might be covered, other than trades (those usually will get their own separate write-ups on the site and are also covered in the next day’s Ramblings) and signings (those tend to be dissected in Alex McClean’s weekly Capped column). With that out of the way, let’s dive right in!

 

Topic #1Is it time to give up on Jesse Puljujarvi?

This reminds me of the question about Pavel Zacha from my recent mailbag column, in that it’s asking about a player oozing with upside but who’s struggling more with each passing season. Accordingly, to provide insight about Puljujavi (JP) I’ll need to assess many of the same data points as I did with Zacha.

Let’s start with IPP, or the percentage of points JP received on goals scored while on the ice. The key with IPP is if a player has a nose for scoring and is mainly saddled with poor linemates, his IPP should be high, in turn boding well for him to succeed if he’s put into the right circumstances and/or with the right linemates. In JP’s case, we know he has a mere 38 points in 139 NHL games; but is he doing the best he can under his given circumstances when gauged by IPP? The answer seems to be no, as for 2017-18 and 2018-19 (when he combined to play 111 of his 139 career games thus far) his IPPs were, respectively, 54.1% and 56.3%. Couple that with 5×5 team shooting percentages of 6.64% and 5.83% in those same seasons, and a picture is painted of a player who not only doesn’t help generate offense (hence the low team shooting percentages) but also doesn’t find a way to grab points on the few goals actually scored while he’s on the ice (hence the low IPP).

In cases like these I also like to examine a player’s performance on the PP versus the man advantage minutes he’s received. That’s a bit difficult when it comes to JP, who’s PP Time per game has shrunk from 49 seconds to 45 to 27 in his three seasons. Still, we get some visibility from 2017-18, as that season he played in 68 games while averaging those 45 seconds with the man advantage. Looking at the data though, he didn’t do much with that PP time, seeing the 263rd most PP minutes among forwards yet tying for the 267th most PPPts. Although no one could rightfully expect him to put up boatloads of PPPts given this deployment, he didn’t shine enough to demonstrate he deserved additional PP Time or was capable of doing more with less. In other words, another non-positive sign.

Lastly, we need to examine the extent to which he’s played with talented players, and how he fared. This season he played about 10% of his shifts with Connor McDavid, but in doing so tallied 22% of his points. Last season he played just under 35% of his shifts with McDavid or Leon Draisaitl, but in doing so generated 55% of his points. There are two ways to look at this – (1) he’s only good if propped up by better players, or (2) he could play better if given a fair chance to skate more often with true talent.

Were it not for JP producing well when skating with the best Edmonton forwards, I’d be prepared to write him off completely, especially with him needing to recover from double hip surgery which might lead to him having a slow start and finding his way further into the doghouse. Of course, all of this might be moot inasmuch as he’s a restricted free agent this summer and a viable candidate to be traded given his lack of success and Edmonton’s new GM likely wanting to put his own stamp on the team. Long story short, I wouldn’t give up on JP in a full dynasty league; but in keepers where 200+ forwards are owned, I think you can safely toss him back into the draft pool either to select him again or to let him give one of your other GM’s gray hair.

 

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If you have any questions that you’d like Rick to answer in his next mailbag, please send them to [email protected] or you can find him in the Dobber Forums under the name ‘rizzeedizzee’. Thanks!

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Topic #2Is Evander Kane this season’s fantasy hockey MVP in roto leagues?

Even when he was producing at a lower scoring rate and missing games due to frequent injuries, Kane was fantasy gold with his stat stuffing in the areas of SOG, PIM, and Hits. This season, Kane is poised to produce his highest ever scoring rate and, if he returns soon from injury, play his second most games in any regular season; so does that make him the fantasy hockey MVP of 2018-19? It’s close, but I say no.

No question Kane’s numbers are the stuff roto dreams are made of, as he’s on pace for over two Hits and two PIM per game, more than 3.5 SOG per contest, plus a full season scoring pace of 65 points and a goals per game rate above 0.4. Without considering PIMs, since 1997-98 (when the NHL started tracking Hits) just two other players have met the other criteria in a season while playing 60+ games– Alexander Ovechkin (12 times!) and Jeff O’Neill (back in 2001-02). When factoring in PIM, however, while Ovi also has averaged at least one PIM per game he never averaged 1.5 per game in any of these 12 seasons.

Of course, kitchen sink leagues also tend to count +/- and PPPts, two areas where Kane is far from elite; and some count either Hits or PIM but not both. Are Kane’s deficiencies enough to lose him the 2018-19 fantasy crown? Who else would it go to? Brent Burns is just okay in Hits, decent in Blocks and PIM, but superb in SOG, PPPts, and scoring, to go along with a +16 rating. Or there’s Nikita Kucherov, who’s just okay in PIM and Hits, yet superb in pretty much every other area.

But here’s the key beyond Kane’s stats – Burns and Kucherov would’ve cost a poolie far more to acquire (in terms of a draft pick or trade) as compared to Kane. In fact, in Yahoo leagues Kucherov was drafted third overall on average and Burns 18th, versus Kane at 56th overall, making Kane a far better return on investment (ROI) than Burns or Kucherov. But I think Kane isn’t even the 2018-19 ROI MVP – that would go to Morgan Rielly, Jake Guentzel, Mark Giordano, or Elias Lindholm or who were drafted, on average, 106th, 109th, 110th and 145th respectively in Yahoo leagues, with Lindholm being the choice in my opinion due to his draft position and all-around contributions.

Aside from MVP arguments, the question is what to do with Kane in keepers. It boils down to whether you think he’s finally got his head screwed on straight in San Jose and can keep doing what he’s doing for years to come, or instead is on an extended honeymoon not unlike when first with Atlanta/Winnipeg before his injuries plus off-ice and effort issues crept in. My take is, it’s called sell high for a reason. Most likely there’s a GM in your league who’s prepared to pay – probably even overpay – to get Kane on his or her fantasy team in hopes of the same multi-cat contributions but perhaps with even more points. If so, I think you should be able to fashion a trade where you emerge ahead, plus, in doing so, rid yourself of the risks of owning Kane.

 

Topic #3What should poolies do about John Gibson for the rest of the season?

Since his return, Gibson has played quite well, having given up two or fewer goals in four of his previous five games through the weekend; yet as we saw before he went on IR, he was regularly getting shelled and, in doing so, hurting fantasy owners. Given this, is it worth holding onto him, or rolling with another goalie during either the home stretch of your roto league or your H2H playoffs?

One key is the news that emerged about Gibson’s injury. It turns out what apparently kept him out of the lineup was an issue with his teeth that was exacerbated when he collided with a teammate. With his teeth now removed, he should be back to his old self, as opposed to a situation where either he could be prone to reinjury or might still have lingering effects of the injury.

That doesn’t address the issue of the team in front of him – the one which is, among other negatives, the fifth worst at giving up shots per game and seventh worst at PP conversion percentage. The detrimental effect of playing for the 2018-19 Ducks is evident in Gibson’s even strength and PP save percentages being the lowest since he took over as the full time Anaheim goalie in 2016-17.

This having been said, teams like the Ducks often finish strong because of pride but also players realizing there might be serious housecleaning in the offseason, prompting them to step up their game. Even still, it could be an slightly uphill climb in that the Ducks play five of their remaining 11 contests on home ice and have fewer games against the NHL’s worst teams (one versus LA, one against Edmonton, and one against Vancouver) as they do against very good to great squads (two versus Calgary, one against Winnipeg, one versus San Jose), with the rest being against teams that are either borderline playoff teams or slightly worse.

Considering all the data, I’ll say in Gibson I trust. When on top of his game he’s arguably a top five NHL netminder in terms of pure talent. And now apparently 100% healthy and on a Ducks team likely looking to end a disappointing season on a positive note, I believe he should be a top 10 netminder over the remainder of the 2018-19 regular season, which is more than good enough to merit a spot in your roto league’s home stretch or H2H playoffs.

 

Topic #4 Is it worth running with Shayne Gostisbehere or Dougie Hamilton over the remainder of the season instead of Seth Jones?

What this question really was asking is whether Hamilton will finally start to produce his usual gaudy second half numbers and if Ghost will recapture his past magic enough to make either one better to own than Jones over the rest of the 2018-19 campaign. While I usually like to look most at data and comparables in framing my answer, I think this is a great opportunity to illustrate how poolies often fall into the trap of overlooking the bird in the hand in favor of what I’ll refer to as “Fantasy FOMO.”

Jones is quietly elite, having produced not just the 14th most points among all blueliners since the start of the 2017-18 campaign, but also being a great end of season performer in his own right, posting 20 points in his final 16 games to end 2017-18. His problem is he’s caught in that area between being a superstar and merely great – a Steady Eddie, so to speak. In contrast, Hamilton and Ghost are currently underperforming for the season but have both been great at times in the past. Poolies often fall into the trap of being tantalized by these types of players, since there’s a chance to get them for a reduced price and because they don’t want to miss out if they do turn things around – hence Fantasy FOMO.

I’m here to tell you that fantasy FOMO, despite its powerful lure, is not something which should be driving your decision making. It preys on fear and emotion, rather than sound judgment. Fantasy FOMO can rear its ugly heading not just in situations like this, but also cause you to exercise bad judgment in taking unproven talents with supposedly high upside over reliable players all but assured to outperform the potential breakout youngsters. It’s up to you to resist Fantasy FOMO, or at least dig deep enough to see if it equates to rational decision making. In this instance, resisting Fantasy FOMO means going with Jones and his solid track record – including during the late portion of a season – over Ghost/Hamilton, both of whom did indeed play great at times in the past but who look to be in bad situations that make it unlikely – on paper – they’ll revert to their former greatness by the end of 2018-19.

 

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Questions needed for Mailbag column

As a reminder, I’m always seeking questions for my monthly mailbag column, where I answer your fantasy hockey questions. Please continue to send me your questions either by private messaging them to me (rizzeedizzee) via the DobberHockey Forums or by sending an email to [email protected] with “Roos Mailbag” as the subject line.