Who is the better fantasy own – Victor Hedman… or P.K. Subban? Cage Match!

by Rick Roos on March 8, 2017
  • Roos Lets Loose
  • Who is the better fantasy own – Victor Hedman… or P.K. Subban? Cage Match!

 

Believe it or not, I’ve never covered P.K. Subban since I took over this column in 2013. Mainly that was due to what I saw as lack of comparable opponents; however, with Victor Hedman’s superb 2016-17, they seem well aligned to do battle. Are we at a crossroads where Hedman becomes a fixture among the NHL’s very best producing rearguards, while Subban takes a step down within the ranks? Time to find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

 

Hedman, now 26, was drafted 2nd overall in 2009 and landed directly in the NHL. Although poolies probably weren’t expecting him to put up elite numbers right away, I’m guessing most also wouldn’t have envisioned just how much he struggled and for how long, as Hedman stood at only 89 points after his first 258 NHL games. Then seemingly out of the blue, he exploded for 55 points in only 75 games in 2013-14. Over the past two seasons he’s produced at a collective 51 point scoring rate, which wasn’t exactly a step back but also was somewhat of a disappointment all things considered. For 2016-17, Hedman is racking up points at an unprecedented rate that has him poised to blow past his previous career high and land in the 65+ point range with a realistic opportunity at 70+ given his point per game production stretching back to December.

Subban, 27, was a second round steal in 2007 by the Habs, who dazzled in his next two OHL seasons with a combination of grit and scoring. After proving himself with 53 AHL points in 2009-10, Subban was tabbed for the NHL in 2010-11, where he managed 72 points in his first 158 contests, which, combined with 241 PIM and 402 SOG, had poolies plenty excited. From there, they were downright giddy, as he produced at a 60 point rate over his next four campaigns though last season. Yet there were whispers of Monteal’s brass/coaches growing weary of Subban’s playing style, and sure enough longstanding trade rumors came true when Subban was swapped for Shea Weber last summer. In Nashville, Subban started slow and got injured, but has played point per game hockey from February onward.

Hedman is on the final year of his previous $4M per season deal, then begins an eight-year deal with a yearly cap hit of $7.875M, which is a step down from Subban’s $9M per year through 2021-22.

 

Ice Time

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

2016-17

24:19 (V.H.) – 1st

24:17 (PKS) – 2nd

3:00 (V.H.) – 1st

2:36 (PKS) – 2nd

2:14 (V.H.) – 2nd

2:09 (PKS) – 4th

2015-16

23:03 (V.H.) – 1st

26:21 (PKS) – 1st

2:36 (V.H.) – 2nd

4:36 (PKS) – 1st

2:00 (V.H.) – 3rd

2:20 (PKS) – 2nd (tied)

2014-15

22:41 (V.H.) – 1st

26:12 (PKS) – 1st

2:30 (V.H.) – 1st

3:41 (PKS) – 1st

2:23 (V.H.) – 2nd

2:09 (PKS) – 4th

2013-14

22:26 (V.H.) – 1st

24:36 (PKS) – 2nd

2:29 (V.H.) – 1st

4:39 (PKS) – 1st

2:09 (V.H.) – 3rd

0:40 (PKS) – 8th

 

Unlike other #1 defensemen I’ve covered recently, Hedman is seeing more Ice Time this season versus previous campaigns. That being said, his year-to-year Ice Times have been seemingly too consistent to explain his higher scoring in 2013-14 and big jump for 2016-17. Also, Hedman’s 24:19 per game average for 2016-17 is less than that of all but one of the 23 instances of defensemen scoring 65+ points in a season since 2000-01 and all but five of the 38 instances of d-men scoring 60+ points within the same time frame. Beyond that, his 3:00 of PP Time per game ranks him outside of the top 20 among d-men for this season. Thus, although we’ll need to look at his luck-metrics and areas like SOG and PPPt rate, it’s not clear Hedman’s situation lends itself to continued 60-65+ point production.

 

Subban is clearly trending much worse in Nashville. Compared to 2015-16 he’s skating two minutes less per game, with literally all the lost time being on the PP. And Nashville is rolling with a PP1 unit of four forwards, plus Roman Josi, leaving Subban on less than ideal PP2 with Mike Fisher, Calle Jarnkrok and Colin Wilson. The reality is Nashville has among the best rearguard cores, with top dog Roman Josi, plus very capable Ryan Ellis and Mattias Ekholm. This is in contrast to Montreal’s defense, which didn’t have as many talented or offensively-skilled d-men. Also, all of Ellis, Ekholm, and Josi are signed through at least 2019, so barring a trade the Ice Time situation might not improve for Subban before then.

 

All that having been said, Subban’s Ice Time is still quite good overall, and now essentially on a par with Hedman. The big question is whether Subban’s huge drop in PP Time (and being slotted on PP2) has resulted in a negative effect on his PP output, and we’ll look at that in the next section.

 

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIM

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2016-17

0.70 (V.H.)

0.89 (PKS)

1.11 (V.H.)

1.22 (PKS)

1.69 (V.H.)

1.55 (PKS)

2.06 (V.H.)

2.38 (PKS)

0.41 (V.H.)

0.26 (PKS)

2015-16

0.59 (V.H.)

1.10 (PKS)

0.79 (V.H.)

1.50 (PKS)

1.69 (V.H.)

1.17 (PKS)

2.30 (V.H.)

2.59 (PKS)

0.14 (V.H.)

0.35 (PKS)

2014-15

0.67 (V.H.)

0.90 (PKS)

0.86 (V.H.)

1.18 (PKS)

1.86 (V.H.)

1.73 (PKS)

1.95 (V.H.)

2.07 (PKS)

0.18 (V.H.)

0.25 (PKS)

2013-14

0.70 (V.H.)

0.98 (PKS)

1.13 (V.H.)

1.64 (PKS)

1.33 (V.H.)

1.52 (PKS)

2.18 (V.H.)

2.48 (PKS)

0.18 (V.H.)

0.29 (PKS)

 

I was expecting Subban to be head and shoulders above Hedman in all areas, yet that’s not so. Don’t get me wrong – Subban is still a nearly unparalleled asset in kitchen sink fantasy leagues, as he’s in range of averaging 1+ PIM, 1+ Hit, 1+, Block, and 2.5+ SOG for the second season in a row, and the only other defenseman who did this even once in any of the past three seasons was Dustin Byfuglien in 2015-16.

 

Yet Hedman holds his own in most areas, especially this season. Where concern arises, however, is Hedman’s PPPt rate for this season is more than DOUBLE what it had been in any of these past seasons despite only a modest increase in PP Time. He’s on pace for 32 PPP this season, and no NHL defenseman has managed over 30 in a campaign since 2013-14. That screams unsustainable.

 

Moreover, like his Ice Time, Hedman’s SOG rate is not on a par with those of other elite d-men. Only four of the 24 instances of rearguards scoring 65+ points (and only seven of the 38 instances of 60+ points) since 2000-01 occurring despite a SOG rate less than that of Hedman for 2016-17.

 

Meanwhile, Subban, despite lower production, is still shooting the puck. On top of that, his PPPt rate, although down, hasn’t exactly cratered. Seeing this, plus knowing his Ice Time is still solid in the grand scheme of things, I’d be surprised if Subban hasn’t been plagued by at least some unsustainable bad luck this season.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Team Shooting% (5×5)

Offensive Zone Starting % (5×5)

IPP (5×5)

IPP (5×4)

2016-17

8.35% (V.H.)

6.88% (PKS)

56.7% (V.H.)

49.7% (PKS)

53.5% (V.H.)

50.0% (PKS)

73.3% (V.H.)

73.3% (PKS)

2015-16

8.25% (V.H.)

9.38% (PKS)

55.8% (V.H.)

52.5% (PKS)

46.7% (V.H.)

39.7% (PKS)

75.0% (V.H.)

66.7% (PKS)

2014-15

11.65% (V.H.)

8.77% (PKS)

61.0% (V.H.)

50.0% (PKS)

35.7% (V.H.)

44.9% (PKS)

90.0% (V.H.)

62.1% (PKS)

2013-14

8.74% (V.H.)

7.97% (PKS)

55.7% (V.H.)

46.7% (PKS)

58.2% (V.H.)

39.3% (PKS)

61.9% (V.H.)

52.8% (PKS)

 

Right away we see Subban’s 5×5 Team Shooting % is very low, putting him 100th among 141 d-men who’ve played 750+ minutes at 5×5 this season. But before we reflexively blame his lower production on bad luck, his IPPs are both well higher this season than in any of his three previous campaigns. So is it a wash, with the scales tilted neither toward unsustainable good or bad luck?

 

Although there’s an unsustainably lower percentage of goals being scored while he’s been on the ice at 5×5 this season, at the same time he’s tallied a point not only on more of those goals than normal but also more 5×4 goals as well. In fact, if Subban’s IPPs for 2016-17 were instead the average of what they’d been over the previous three campaigns (i.e., 41.3% at 5×5 and 60.5% at 5×4) then he’d lose five of his 2016-17 points. Is that enough to compensate for the points he’s been denied due to his far lower than normal 5×5 Team Shooting percentage?

 

Subban is most likely factoring into the scoring more with the man advantage because he’s taking the ice with less talented forwards. Thus, if he stays on PP2, chances are his 5×4 IPP will continue to be elevated. If instead he returns to a PP1 role, he could still produce just as well (if not better) despite a lower IPP due to higher overall production of the PP1 unit versus PP2. And looking at his 5×5 IPP vs. his 5×5 Team Shooting %, the latter should realistically improve because of the type of game Subban plays (demonstrated by his past data) and the fact that he’ll get to play with all Nashville forwards at even strength, not just the weaker ones whom he’s “stuck with” on PP2. As such, my take is Subban’s 2016-17 output does seem to have been weighed down by at least somewhat unsustainable bad luck overall.

 

As for Hedman, I was as surprised as you likely are in seeing that his 2016-17 data doesn’t paint the picture of unsustainable production. In fact, three of these four metrics for this season are lower than in two of the past three seasons, and the fourth (his 5×5 IPP) is only second highest. In other words, no 2016-17 luck metric for Hedman is higher than in any of his past three seasons. To me, this means not only can he stay above 65 points for 2016-17, but poolies should be able to pencil him in for 60-65+ point scoring in future seasons.

 

Who Wins?

 

Avid readers of this column know I don’t often make predictions; however, from where I sit Victor Hedman has officially, and sustainably, arrived among the elitest of elite fantasy d-men. Granted, he’d already produced above a 50 point pace over the last three campaigns; however, as he’s truly entering his prime and finally receiving more productive Ice Time, he’s seemingly made himself a member of the fantasy defensemen “big three” with Brent Burns and Erik Karlsson (or big four if you can look past the Band-Aid Boy status of Kris Letang). He wins this match, especially since poolies are likely to be still somewhat skeptical that Hedman can be counted upon for this type of production year in and year out. I liken Hedman’s 2016-17 to Brent Burns’ 2014-15 campaign, as even in 2015 drafts Burns could be had for a price less than that of a true 60+ point rearguard.

 

Then there’s Subban, whose situation in Nashville is similar to that of Hedman in Tampa Bay before this season. By that I mean last season Hedman had plenty of minutes but found himself not on PP1 (that role went to Anton Stralman). As a result, Hedman had a points ceiling. Of course Roman Josi is head and shoulders above Stralman and thus could provide a PP1 roadblock for Subban for many seasons.

 

Yet the data nevertheless suggests Subban could still be a 55+ point player as a Pred, which makes sense given his tremendous talent. Whether that makes him a buy low is league-specific, since in some cases poolies may have soured enough to be willing to let Subban go for lower than his true value, while in others his “name” and larger than life persona and style might keep his cost too high, even now.