The top 10 early-season statistical anomalies.
Every time I look at statistics, there are always neat little gems that jump out at me. A player who is normally a low plus-minus all of a sudden is high. Or a guy who never fights is all of sudden near the top of the NHL leaderboard for penalty minutes.
Taking advantage of that in your league is key. I remember a Yahoo one-year roto pool I was in many moons ago. It was back in 2004, near the end of Steve Yzerman’s career. Nine games into the season, Yzerman collected 34 penalty minutes in a game against Nashville. Even though he had a solid start to the season, all of a sudden, Yzerman was one of the top-ranked Yahoo players because of his high PIM total. So I traded him while his value was the highest it was going to get, all because of that one game. I won that league by 0.5 points.
Seeing Yzerman at the top of the penalty leaderboard was definitely a surprise to anyone who followed hockey.
Many of the guys below may be seeing an inflated sense of value in fantasy hockey because of a category or two. But not all of the players on the list are there because of positive contributions. There are a couple of players who are surprising because their numbers are so low.
Maybe they are anomalies. After all, we’re still dealing with about 10 to 12 games for most teams. Or maybe it’s a sign of things to come for the rest of the season.
With that being said, here are the top 10 surprising stats so far this season. Note: All stats unless otherwise stated are before last night’s games finished.
10. Josh Gorges
While the fact the Gorges is leading the league in blocked shots isn’t surprising, it’s the amount of blocked shots that deserve a further look. While he’s led the league in blocked shots before (he had 250 back in 2011-12), this year he’s putting on a clinic. The NHL has never had a player block 300 shots in a season. The record is 273 by Anton Volchenkov back in 2006-07. Right now, Gorges is on pace for 353. Not only can he be the first ever 300-shot blocker, he has an outside chance of 400, a pace he was on until early this week.
Halak makes this list just because he’s been so underwhelming. Many expected him to take control of the Islanders crease, and give them the type of goaltending they’ve been lacking for the last 15 years. Instead, Halak has put up some of the worst numbers in the league. The most surprising number is his goals against average, at 3.44. That’s about a goal higher per game than most expected. While everyone figured his numbers would be a little worst with the Islanders than they have been with the Blues, that’s still a crazy high number.
8. Jonas Hiller
While many expected Calgary to finish near the bottom of the standings, their goaltending has been a saviour this season. Hiller is one of the most surprising goalies this season, so far with a 1.82 GAA (third among goalies starting six games) and a .941 GAA (tied for second among goalies with six starts). The goals against average is surprising, as it’s about 0.6 below what he had last year with a much better Anaheim team.
A lot of poolies don’t like the shorthanded category because it can be so random, but that doesn’t take away from Toffoli’s accomplishments. Toffoli has scored three shorties this year (to put that in perspective, no other NHL team has even scored three shorthanded goals), all while averaging just 1:08 shorthanded ice time per game (eighth on the team among forwards). Last season, while averaging 1:34 shorthanded time per game in 62 games, Toffoli had no shorthanded points at all.
When you look at the NHL shot leaders, you see a lot of familiar names: Claude Giroux, Steven Stamkos, Zach Parise, and Alex Ovechkin. But one name really jumps out as not belonging. Tommy Wingels. Wingels has 47 shots so far, tied for third in the league and only five shots back of first. Wingels isn’t going to keep taking four shots a game, but in the meantime, if your league counts shots, enjoy the extra boost while you can.
If you took a poll of poolies before the season began of who would lead in assists 10 games into the season, Johnson probably would not have been a top 75 pick. But yet he has 13 assists in 12 games, tied with Jakub Voracek. But with Voracek you could expect it, since he plays with Claude Giroux. And what’s amazing about Johnson is that he’s done it without Steven Stamkos, as the two rarely play together.
With all due respect to Darcy Kuemper, Fleury’s three shutouts are more surprising of any goalie because of the team in front of him (not exactly known as playing defence first), and the fact that Fleury isn’t exactly a shutout machine. In his previous nine full seasons, Fleury has averaged exactly three shutouts a season. Fleury has started nine of the team’s 10 games, and is even getting the nod against weaker teams. His .931 save percentage and 1.89 goals against (both career highs by a significant bit) are also a bit of a shock.
3. Brent Burns
A lot of poolies lamented the loss of Burns as a forward when the Sharks decided to move him back to defence. But the move has made Burns even more valuable as he can contribute more from the defence position. Surprisingly, Burns has excelled at defence, even more than anyone could have imagined. He leads the league in points for defence with 13, and is four points ahead of the group in second.
2. Ryan Getzlaf
While he may be an elite player, Getzlaf has been a horrible faceoff guy for years.
2013-14: 49 per cent
2012-13: 48 per cent
2011-12: 47.2 per cent
2010-11: 45.8 per cent
2009-10: 47.4 per cent
That’s just brutal, especially since he takes more faceoffs on the Ducks than any other player. But this year, it’s like he’s been possessed by Guy Carbonneau. Getzlaf so far is at 57.9 per cent, 11th-best in the league. That’s a turnaround that no one saw coming.
Last season, Ekman-Larsson was a minus-four, which was the first time he’s been a minus-player in his five-year career. That’s why it’s so shocking that he has been so bad this season. After last night’s game, he was a minus-13 through 11 games, worst in the league. Even though he has eight points, only two of them are at even strength, which doesn’t help. Neither does Mike Smith, whose goaltending numbers are among the worst in the league.
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