And the Award for Best Fantasy Defenseman is…

by Cam Robinson on May 12, 2017

 

Brent Burns - USA TODAY Sports Images

 

In Part 1 of our look at some of the best fantasy blue liners from 2016-17, we were led down a winding path from Winnipeg’s brutal back end and Dustin Byfuglien’s stabilizing presence, all the way to sunny Tampa Bay where Victor Hedman transformed from potential stud, to megastar in the span of one season. Both were worthy candidates for the Erik Karlsson Trophy as the top fantasy blue liner, but this week we dig into the final two.

 

**

 

Runner up…

 

Erik Karlsson

 

It seems silly to not just hand over the Erik Karlsson Trophy to…. Erik Karlsson. But despite another terrific offensive season that saw him add some peripheral category dominance, he comes up just shy.

Karlsson ranked third in scoring for blue liners this season with 71 points in 77 contests. The Senators’ captain had finished first in that category four of the last five seasons, with his injury-riddled 2012-13 campaign the only reason it wasn’t five straight.

 

NHL Stats – Last 5 Years

SEASON

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

+/-

PIM

Shots

SH%

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

FOW

FO%

PPTOI

%PP

%SH

TOI/G

%TOI

2016-2017

77

17

55

72

0.94

10

28

218

7.8

67

4

27

0

201

0

 

03:41

72.7

41.9

26:50

44.1

2015-2016

82

16

66

82

1.00

-2

50

248

6.5

84

1

26

0

175

0

0.0

04:39

92.6

27.1

28:58

47.5

2014-2015

82

21

45

66

0.80

7

42

292

7.2

93

6

30

0

89

0

 

04:48

83.3

10.5

27:15

44.5

2013-2014

82

20

53

73

0.89

-14

36

257

7.8

122

5

30

0

101

0

 

04:05

76.2

23.8

27:04

44.3

2012-2013

17

6

8

14

0.82

7

8

79

7.6

10

2

4

1

14

0

 

04:31

76.0

29.2

27:08

44.9

Average

82

19

55

74

0.90

2

40

264

7.3

91

4

28

0

140

0

0.0

04:20

81.0

25.5

27:31

45.1

 

After being snubbed for his third Norris trophy last June, for apparently not being defensive enough, the Swedish native added an element to his game that I’m not sure every fantasy GM loved, but it was a nice bonus.

Karlsson led the league in blocked shots for much of the season before finally succumbing to Kris Russell down the stretch, as Karlsson rested an injury. Karlsson had already doubled his 2014-15 total blocks in 2015-16, but tacked on another 26 this past season to truly show his dominance. 

If you’re like me, you’d rather not see one of the most prized fantasy assets stepping in front of shots all game and risking injury, but what can yah do?

 

First Quarter Summary

 

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

Pace

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

22

4

13

17

0.77

63

6

10

51

19

1

4

0

67

.2727

66.8

41.3

.5000

44.4

Second Quarter Summary

 

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

Pace

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

18

3

14

17

0.94

77

-4

6

43

16

0

9

0

36

.8333

74.9

43.2

.3333

44.3

Third Quarter Summary

 

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

Pace

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

21

3

18

21

1.00

82

1

2

60

19

1

7

0

59

.8571

72.5

42.0

.3333

43.4

 

Fourth Quarter Summary

 

GP

G

A

P

PntPG

Pace

+/-

PIM

Shots

HITS

PPG

PPP

SHG

BLKS

PPTOI

%PP

%PK

TOI/G

%TOI

16

7

10

17

1.06

87

7

10

64

13

2

7

0

39

.2500

78.1

40.5

.1250

44.3

 

The 26-year-old got incrementally better as the year went on and has transferred that level of play in carrying the Senators into the Eastern Conference finals of the playoffs. He continues to be the most valuable fantasy defender as his age and skill level act as the most desirable package.

While Karlsson comes up just short this season, his awe-inspiring talents are recognized far and wide. Consider yourself fortunate to be able to witness the tremendous skating stride, the incredible vision, mile-long saucer passes and bushels of points for many more years to come.

 

**

 

The Champ is Here…!

 

Brent Burns

 

There’s lifestyle beards and then there’s Brent Burns. This guy could absolutely do no wrong through the first three-quarters of 2016-17. On February 25, the 32-year-old was sitting third in NHL scoring with 65 points in 61 games and looked like a lock to be named the Norris winner, a Hart finalist and most important of all, the 2016-17 EK Trophy winner as the top fantasy defender.

However, the back stretch of games was not so kind to the tattooed behemoth and opened the door to some fiery competition for this prestigious award. Burns sputtered his way to just two goals and 11 points in the final 21 contests. It was that recency bias that likely led to his name being left off the Hart trophy finalist group.

 

He did get a nod for the Ted Lindsay Award for most valuable player as voted on by his peers – a more respected award in the player’s eyes.

 

                                                                                                      

Burns finished the season with 320 shots on goal – down from the ridiculous 353 he posted from a season ago, but still good enough to lead the entire league and be the only defender in the top 20.

 

Top 10 Shooters

Rank

Player

Pos

Team

GP

Goals

SH%

EV SOG

PP SOG

SH SOG

SOG 0-15

SOG 16-30

SOG 31-45

SOG

1

BURNS, BRENT

D

S.J

82

29

9.1

235

84

2

15

32

63

320

2

OVECHKIN, ALEXANDER

L

WSH

81

32

10.5

208

100

0

48

59

135

305

3

BERGERON, PATRICE

C

BOS

79

21

7.0

232

65

5

59

96

98

302

4

SEGUIN, TYLER

C

DAL

82

26

8.6

212

92

0

46

76

121

301

5

KANE, PATRICK

R

CHI

82

34

11.6

225

66

0

63

104

103

292

6

TARASENKO, VLADIMIR

R

STL

82

39

13.6

225

60

3

47

108

108

286

7

SKINNER, JEFF

L

CAR

79

37

13.2

221

56

1

105

92

57

281

8

MATTHEWS, AUSTON

C

TOR

82

40

14.3

239

47

1

79

128

54

279

9

PACIORETTY, MAX

L

MTL

81

35

13.1

231

38

3

53

83

75

268

10

PASTRNAK, DAVID

R

BOS

75

34

13.0

200

65

0

53

72

78

262

 

 

 

He set career-highs in goals (29) and points (76), despite witnessing his power-play time drop a full 30 seconds per night and his team dropping from the fourth best offense in 2015-16 to just the 19th-ranked offense this past season.

 

Advanced Stats

 

Year

PDO

5 on 5 SH%

Off. Zone Start %

PTS/60

IPP

2016-17

1021

9.04

58.27

2.2

62.3

2015-16

998

7.72

50.87

2.1

59.5

2014-15

987

7.62

50.46

1.8

59.5

2013-14

1024

9.49

49.64

2.5

52.7

2012-13

999

8.81

54.77

2.3

62.3

2011-12

1001

6.35

54.97

1.2

70.4

2010-11

1004

8.83

41.07

1.4

44.0

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In comparing him to the other EK Trophy finalists, Burns leads the way in several categories including games played, goals, points, individual and five-on-five conversion rates, offensive-zone starts and average power-play time per game. He also ranked last in short-handed time per contest, which is exactly the stat you want to see from your top fantasy assets.

While during the 2015-16 season Burns was a key cog in a full arsenal that featured a scorching Joe Pavelski, and a rejuvenated Joe Thornton, this past year the Sharks were fully powered on the oils that keep his facial art so fresh and so clean.

He may have stumbled a tad down the stretch, but his overall body of work is indicative of the unique and powerful weapon that he is. He is a very worthy recipient of the top fantasy hockey defenseman and we trust he’ll take great honour and privilege from such a title.

For those of you who are wondering about his production next year, this is likely going to be his peak value in terms of trading and pure production. At 32 years of age, and on a team that is witnessing its core pieces slowly slide down the backside of the mountain, it’s likely that Burns will begin to see that plateau and slight decline soon. That said, he should be expected to produce 65-plus points and terrific peripherals for 2017-18.

Your sell high window won’t close this summer, but it will begin to creak shut with each passing year.

 

***

 

Here is a statistical breakdown of some of the major aspects that these four blue liners were judged on throughout this process.

 

Categories

Karlsson

Hedman

Burns

Byfuglien

GP

77

79

82

80

Goals

17

16

29

13

Assists

54

56

47

39

Points

71

72

76

52

PPP

27

33

25

14

Points (5v5)

44

39

51

39

SOG

218

166

320

241

SH%

7.8

9.6

9.1

5.4

5on5 SH%

7.7%

8.42%

9.04%

8.52%

Off. Zone %

52.9%

57.43

58.27%

48.54%

ATOI

26:50

24:31

24:52

27:27

PPTOI

3:41

3:01

3:36

3:18

SHTOI/G

2:09

2:03

1:44

2:21

%SH

41.9%

39%

39.2%

43.4%

Blocks

201

132

142

124

Takeaways

59

39

53

65

Giveaways

106

73

153

85

Hits

67

93

69

183

CF%

49.72

53.36

53.71

51.4

 

***

 

As always, feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I often give unsolicited fantasy advice that I’m sure at least someone is listening too.