Wayne Simmonds vs. Milan Lucic

by Rick Roos on November 12, 2014
WayneSimmonds

 

Who would you rather own in fantasy hockey – Milan Lucic or Wayne Simmonds? The answer? Right here…

This week’s contest features two of the league’s premier multi-cat wingers – Milan Lucic and Wayne Simmonds. Who’ll be the better performer in 2014-15, and which is poised to help your team more in the coming seasons? Time to find out – this battle begins now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Both players are now 26 and were second round draft picks. Lucic was 18 when selected and in the NHL by 19, while Simmonds lagged a year behind (drafted at 19, NHL debut at 20).

Each embodied the “magical fourth year” concept, where production rises – often dramatically – in a player’s fourth full season, with Lucic tallying 62 points in 79 games following a previous high of 42, while Simmonds had a more modest breakout of 49 points in 82 games, after a previous best of 40. Lucic has since been a model of consistency, posting 61 and 59 points in his two subsequent full seasons, whereas Simmonds has been on a steady climb, with 32 points in 45 games (58 point full season pace) for 2012-13, and then 60 points last season.

Lucic is on the second season of a three year deal paying him $6M/season, while Simmonds is signed through 2018-19 at $3.975M/campaign.

 

Ice Time

All 2014-15 data in all tables is through November 9th (15 games for Lucic, 14 for Simmonds). SH Ice Time isn’t charted, since neither player logs more than a couple of seconds per game.

 

Season

Total Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

2014-15

16:39 (M.L.) – 4th

17:17 (W.S.) – 5th

2:22 (M.L.) – 4th

3:39 (W.S.) – 4th

2013-14

17:22 (M.L.) – 4th

16:46 (W.S.) – 6th

2:20 (M.L.) – 3rd

3:23 (W.S.) – 2nd

2012-13

16:54 (M.L.) – 6th

15:38 (W.S.) – 7th

1:58 (M.L.) – 7th

3:12 (W.S.) – 3rd

2011-12

17:01 (M.L.) – 4th

15:54 (W.S.) – 8th

2:13 (M.L.) – 6th

3:13 (W.S.) – 4th

 

Lucic’s Ice Time in recent season is no surprise, because the Bruins top nine receive comparable even strength Ice Times and the team employs a committee approach on PP1 and PP2. But strangely, his overall Ice Time is down 0:43 seconds from 2013-14 and lower than any of the prior three seasons, albeit with a tiny increase in PP Ice Time. If this continues, it’s not only unlikely that Lucic will be able to suddenly ascend to 65+ points, but he could be in jeopardy of slipping below the 60 point level.

With Simmonds, his total Ice Time continues to rise, and – in what would be a first- it’s poised to be higher than Lucic’s. The big differentiator between them continues to be PP Ice Time, as Simmonds yet again is on pace to see at least a full minute more per game than Lucic. Note that both are in line for their PP Ice Time to increase from their current average, as their teams stand 19th (Philly) and 26th (Boston) in PP opportunities as of November 9th, which is artificially holding down their averages.

Beyond that, and although PP lines are always subject to change, it’s also worth noting that Simmonds is as close to a fixture on Philly’s PP1 as there can be, as noted in this Frozen Pool data, which also clearly shows that Philly – unlike the Bs – has a “true” PP1 forward unit:

 

2014-15

 

61.11%

PP

28 GIROUX,CLAUDE – 10 SCHENN,BRAYDEN – 17 SIMMONDS,WAYNE – 93 VORACEK,JAKUB

28.89%

PP

28 GIROUX,CLAUDE – 40 LECAVALIER,VINCENT – 17 SIMMONDS,WAYNE – 93 VORACEK,JAKUB

 

2013-14

 

78.12%

PP

28 GIROUX,CLAUDE – 19 HARTNELL,SCOTT – 17 SIMMONDS,WAYNE – 93 VORACEK,JAKUB

 

2012-13

 

55.63%

PP

28 GIROUX,CLAUDE – 19 HARTNELL,SCOTT – 17 SIMMONDS,WAYNE – 93 VORACEK,JAKUB

19.24%

PP

28 GIROUX,CLAUDE – 10 SCHENN,BRAYDEN – 17 SIMMONDS,WAYNE – 93 VORACEK,JAKUB

 

Secondary Categories

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2014-15

2.06 (M.L.)

0.71 (W.S.)

2.73 (M.L.)

2.50 (W.S.)

0.33 (M.L.)

0.50 (W.S.)

1.53 (M.L.)

2.85 (W.S.)

0.26 (M.L.)

0.43 (W.S.)

2013-14

1.13 (M.L.)

1.29 (W.S.)

3.00 (M.L.)

1.61 (W.S.)

0.27 (M.L.)

0.42 (W.S.)

1.91 (M.L.)

2.55 (W.S.)

0.15 (M.L.)

0.29 (W.S.)

2012-13

1.63 (M.L.)

1.82 (W.S.)

3.02 (M.L.)

1.60 (W.S.)

0.34 (M.L.)

0.35 (W.S.)

1.71 (M.L.)

2.44 (W.S.)

0.04 (M.L.)

0.35 (W.S.)

2011-12

1.66 (M.L.)

1.39 (W.S.)

2.48 (M.L.)

1.70 (W.S.)

0.32 (M.L.)

0.41 (W.S.)

1.84 (M.L.)

2.40 (W.S.)

0.13 (M.L.)

0.19 (W.S.)

 

What’s interesting about this data is each player’s own production in at least two of the three most recent prior seasons has been generally consistent. Given this, we definitely can see the influence of short-term variance having led to atypical early 2014-15 numbers (for Simmonds, Hits and PIM; for Lucic, PP Points and PIM) that will ultimately drift back toward normal levels.

Lucic’s past Hits advantage was even wider than I’d guessed it would’ve been, and is important in leagues which count that category. In short, by rostering Lucic you can essentially disregard Hits among one or even two of your other skaters, which in turn gives you highly beneficial flexibility to choose as those skaters players who provide great production in other categories but might otherwise drag down your team in Hits.

But Lucic’s past edge over Simmonds in Hits is essentially mirrored by Simmonds’ in PP Points. If you look at 2012-13, Simmonds finished tied for 15th among forwards in PP Points; and of the forwards who had more PP Points, only two (Alexander Ovechkin and Chris Kunitz) posted more Hits. What’s more, Simmonds’ 16 PP Points were 37% more than the ten PP Points that tied for 60th among forwards in 2012-13, which essentially equals the Hits advantage of Lucic, whose 240 in 2013-14 was 40% more than the 143 Hits that tied for 60th.

Meanwhile, early returns for 2014-15 notwithstanding, Lucic’s track record in PP Points is mediocre at best (and was terrible in 2012-13, although we’ll see below whether that was a case of unsustainable bad luck), whereas Simmonds is consistently well above average in Hits, meaning that Simmonds should provide a fantasy team with a better net benefit if their league counts both Hits and PP Points. And that’s not even factoring in Shots, where Simmonds holds a consistent advantage that’s even wider so far this season.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

Note that 5×4 IPP for 2014-15 isn’t included, as neither player has met the 50 minute minimum, as yet.

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

2014-15

13.0% (M.L.)

17.5% (W.S.)

1007 (M.L.)

1077 (W.S.)

57.1% (M.L.)

57.1% (W.S.)

N/A

46.9% (M.L.)

53.1% (W.S.)

2013-14

15.7% (M.L.)

13.9% (W.S.)

1041 (M.L.)

1020 (W.S.)

68.4% (M.L.)

70.7% (W.S.)

48.0% (M.L.)

54.8% (W.S.)

60.5% (M.L.)

57.3% (W.S.)

2012-13

8.9% (M.L.)

13.6% (W.S.)

1005 (M.L.)

987 (W.S.)

65.7% (M.L.)

78.9% (W.S.)

33.3% (M.L.)

66.7% (W.S.)

57.1% (M.L.)

49.7% (W.S.)

2011-12

17.4% (M.L.)

14.2% (W.S.)

997 (M.L.)

1005 (W.S.)

77.8% (M.L.)

70.7% (W.S.)

42.9% (M.L.)

51.6% (W.S.)

55.1% (M.L.)

57.7% (W.S.)

 

If this was a year ago, there’d be concern that Simmonds’ 58 point pace in 2012-13 was accompanied by a big jump in IPPs, just as there normally would be upon seeing his 1077 PDO for 2014-15 so far. But we see that he produced even better last season despite drops in both IPPs; plus, while it’s true that his offensive zone starting percentage was much higher in 2013-14 compared to 2012-13, he had a similar percentage in 2011-12. And his 1077 PDO is offset in part (if not as a whole) by a much lower 5×5 IPP. In short, all of Simmonds’ data isn’t concerning when taken as a whole; and not only does it fail to suggest he was unsustainably lucky in 2013-14, but he also might even have realistic room to improve somewhat upon the 60 points he posted last season.

As for Lucic, in fairness his 1041 PDO for 2013-14 is not as concerning as it looks, since the Bs led the league with a 1025 team PDO last season. And his personal shooting percentage has always been high (14.8% for his career), so seeing 15.7% for last season isn’t worrisome.

On the flip side, Lucic’s offensive zone starting % was the 7th highest among forwards who played 80+ games last season, which means there’s nowhere to go from there but down (and early returns for 2014-15 show a steep decline). And we can see that his 5×4 IPP has been consistently below 50%, which is not good at all; in fact, his 48.0% 5×4 IPP for 2013-14 only ranked him 154th out of the 202 forwards who played 100+ minutes at 5×4.

All things considered, with his Ice Time and Shots averages down thus far this season, along with his lower 5×5 IPP and Offensive Zone Starting %, it’s no wonder Lucic sits at only a 49 point scoring pace after 15 games. And while some of these metrics will likely improve over the course of the season, it does emphasize that Lucic might be hard pressed to even produce his normal 60ish points.

 

Value

In the DobberHockey Experts League Draft, Lucic was selected 66th overall, while Simmonds went 58th. It was a similar story in Yahoo drafts, with Lucic going 78th overall and Simmonds 61st. And as of November 9th, Simmonds held an edge in Yahoo ownership (96% versus Lucic’s 91%). Note that both have only single position eligibility (Lucic at LW, Simmonds at RW).

The question is – what’s the reasoning behind these numbers? I think it’s a case of Lucic’s perceived value being higher than Simmonds’ and less reflective of Lucic’s actual value. This is due to Lucic’s years of sustained production (in both points and Hits) and being a “highlight reel” type of player, versus Simmonds, who, despite his steady climb in recent production, hasn’t garnered comprable attention, mainly due to the presence of higher profile Flyer forwards in Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek (and previously, Scott Hartnell).

 

Who Wins?

Even in non-cap leagues Simmonds wins this match quite convincingly. With Lucic, we can’t tell for sure if he’s simply a player who doesn’t shoot much and has poor to barely average PP production, or whether instead those factors are due to the Boston system. But guess what – we don’t need to know why it’s happening, only that it’s been happening for a while and, based on early returns for 2014-15, could even get worse, which in turn would make it difficult for Lucic to even post his normal 60 points this season.

Meanwhile, Simmonds’ points increases over the past two seasons have come without the influence of unsustainable luck overall. And with his excellent Shots average and his Ice Time/linemates on the PP, it’s hard to envision him finishing below 60 points for any season in the foreseeable future. Plus, he’s producing well enough at even strength for 65 points to be within realistic reach, especially if he stays on a line with Giroux and Voracek. And don’t forget – with Simmonds you also get excellent output in Hits and PIM.

Of course you have to consider things based on the actual categories in your league. If somehow you count Hits but not PP Points and/or Shots, then Lucic is the better own, although you’ll probably have to pay so much more for him (both because of the categories and, as noted above, his perceived value) that it might not give your team a net benefit.

The big question is what to do with Lucic in keeper leagues. He’s set to be a UFA after next season, and even if he was to leave the Bruins (unlikely, if I had to guess) it’s not clear whether he’d do better on another team, since as I noted above his production is a bit of a “chicken and egg” dilemma in that you can’t tell whether he’d improve on another team or whether being on the Bs is actually benefitting him. Either way, given his high perceived value and concerns about sustained Ice Time and production while he remains a Bruin through 2015-16, I think it’s worth exploring options to trade Lucic now while you can still command a hefty return.

 

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