Frozen Pool Forensics: Expected Regressions, Part One

by Cam Robinson on August 26, 2016

“You know Jerry, when somebody yells ‘Heads up!’ you’re not supposed to actually look up.”      – Cosmo Kramer

 

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As we prepare for fantasy drafts, it’s time to lift our heads from last year’s stats and rankings and begin considering what’s on tap for 2016-17. Some players will continue their development, be put in better spots to succeed, and earn more responsibility. Those players will likely see their production increase.

 

For others, however, they’ll lose a step due to age, injury, deployment, or simply poor luck. It’s important to identify those who are trending up, holding strong, or setting their owners up for disappointment.

 

As a fitting follow-up to the Bounce Back series, this week on Frozen Pool, we’re checking out a handful of players who are in line for a step back in their production. We won’t focus on players such as Jaromir Jagr, who at 56-years–old (or something like that) is an easy choice to potentially falter a bit. This article will focus more on some big name players that you’re looking to win a championship with.

 

First up…

 

Shea Weber

 

Average point-per-game output the last three seasons: 0.65

 

As a staple on the ballots of Norris trophy voters for years, the product of the Kelowna Rockets defenseman factory has offered up his blistering shot, punishing hits, and crease-clearing montage for a decade. He has brought leadership, and plenty of points, to the table, and will once again represent Canada internationally, this time at the World Cup of Hockey in September. However, is he still a defenseman to be targeted early in fantasy drafts?

 

What Went Right in 2015-16?

 

Let’s forget about the surprising trade that sent the lifelong Predator to Montreal for a moment. Weber had a great statistical season a year ago. His 20 goals were just three off his career-high and his 51 total points represent the third-highest of his decorated resume. Digging deeper into Weber’s numbers from last season does pose a handful of red flags though.

 

Firstly, his shot total dropped by 20 percent from 2014-15 (237 to 189), yet his conversion rate jumped from 6.3 to 10.6 percent. Most of those goals came via the power player where Weber managed 14 goals and 26 points with the man-advantage; 11 more than the year previous.

 

That’s extra concerning as he moves away from Nashville’s 10th ranked power play and burgeoning offensive scheme and into Montreal’s 25th ranked unit that has just lost its most dynamic offensive player in PK Subban.

 

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

2015-2016

78

20

31

51

0.65

-7

27

189

10.6

169

14

26

0

160

0

 

03:04

57.9

55.0

25:23

41.8

2014-2015

78

15

30

45

0.58

15

72

237

6.3

166

5

15

1

147

0

 

03:05

55.8

51.1

26:22

43.2

2013-2014

79

23

33

56

0.71

-2

52

195

11.8

169

12

27

0

173

0

 

03:07

63.3

54.5

26:54

44.2

2012-2013

48

9

19

28

0.58

-1

48

124

7.3

112

3

12

0

90

0

 

03:41

74.9

40.6

25:55

42.5

2011-2012

78

19

30

49

0.63

21

46

230

8.3

177

10

22

2

140

0

 

03:32

73.0

47.7

26:10

43.1

Average

82

20

32

52

0.63

6

56

221

8.8

180

10

23

1

161

0

 

03:16

63.8

50.6

26:10

43.0

 

Why He’ll Regress

 

The freshly-turned 31-year-old has a lot of hard miles on the odometer. When you watch him play, you can see the foot speed has lost a little bit of spark, and that will only continue to slip. Additionally, Weber thrived next to fellow Norris-calibre partner, Roman Josi. For the most part, Josi was the one tasked with skating or firing up the break-out passes for the Preds and that job will surely fall on Weber’s shoulders as he immediately becomes the first, and second, best defender on a Canadiens’ backend lacking dynamisms with PK gone.

 

Can Weber still contribute 10-15 power play goals and 40-plus points for your fantasy team? You bet he can, but drafting him to finish as a top 15 contributor from the back-end is a recipe for over-valuing. The wheels aren’t flying off, but the regression is coming.

 

Braden Holtby

 

Average save percentage the past three seasons: 0.920

 

Ladies and gentlemen, your 2015-16 Vezina Trophy winner…is going to take a slight step back. Now that’s not the boldest claim I’ve ever made, as it’s darn difficult to replicate a Vezina-worthy season, but as you’ll see there are some issues that may make it even more challenging for the Capitals netminder to repeat.

 

What Went Right in 2015-16?

 

Well, the Capitals rolled out the league’s most complete regular season team in front of the soon-to-be 27-year-old. He was given 3.02 goals per game of support, while his team’s second ranked penalty kill, and sixth best shot against ratio, offered him a mostly smooth ride through the season.

 

He played 66 games for the President’s Trophy winners, recording an NHL-record tying 48 wins – clearly a career-high. His 2.22 goals-against-average and .922 save percentage plunked in sixth in both categories for those with 2000 minutes or more played.

 

But didn’t it seem like he was the run-away best goaltender, even though his final numbers aren’t eye-popping?

 

Why He’ll Regress

 

Let’s take a look at the obvious: Holtby’s play has already regressed right in front of us. Using Dobber’s Goalie Calculator, we can see that from October until January 15, Holtby posted a 1.91 goals-against and 0.933 save percentage. He was dominant.

 

From January 16 until the end of the season, however, the former Saskatoon Blade posted a middling 2.55 goals against and 0.908 save percentage. He creaked and croaked his way to the finish line and relied on his lofty win totals to bring home some hardware.

Goalie Calculator: Oct. 1 – Jan. 15

GP 35
Wins 28
GAA 1.91
SV%0.933

 

Goalie Calculator: Jan. 16 – April 15

GP 31
Wins 20
GAA 2.55
SV%

 

On top of the weak second half, there are some other factors at play here. Holtby played over 3000 minutes last season and saw 1802 shots making 1661 saves. Of those shots however, over 36 percent (657) came via the Low-Danger areas and he recorded a 0.982 save percentage. Only 324 shots came in high-danger situations and Holtby’s 0.824 save percentage there, ranked him outside the top 10 league wide.

 

Now all this to say, Holtby will once again be manning the crease behind one the league’s top teams and most potent offenses. He will be a highly valuable fantasy contributor, but his second half of the season, and his underlying numbers, suggest he may be open to more goals allowed if Washington isn’t able to continually limit scoring chances against.

 

Joe Thornton

 

Average point-per-game output the last three seasons: 0.93

 

The former first-overall selection from the 1997 entry draft has long been one of the most talented centres in the league. His Hall of Fame resume has but one large omission in the form of a 123-year-old chalice, but his career numbers whisper greatness. It was believed the days of Thornton pushing for a scoring title were in the rear view until a sudden return to dominance a season ago.

 

What Went Right in 2015-16?

 

Thornton and the Sharks had themselves a mini renaissance in 2015-16. With a new coach, goaltender, and offensive scheme, San Jose found themselves scoring goals with aplomb. Their 237 total goals were the fourth-most in the league, and together with fellow line mate Joe Pavelski, and bearded-brother, Brent Burns, the trio led the Sharks with a combined 235 points – 87 of which came during the league’s third best power play was on the ice.

 

It was a magical season for the Sharks and Thornton, one that led them within two wins of the franchise’s first Stanley Cup victory, but will the former Boston Bruin be able to repeat such a performance in 2016-17?

 

Why He’ll Regress

 

Jumbo had himself quite the season in 2015-16. He spiked 17 extra points from the year previous, finishing fourth in league scoring with 82 points in as many games. The recently-turned 37-year-old accomplished such a feat on back of a much improved shooting percentage, both overall and at five-on-five.

 

The three seasons prior to this past breakout saw Thornton shoot at an 8.3 percent clip at even-strength and 9.8 percentage overall. 2015-16 saw him convert on 10.55 percent at even-strength and 15.7 percent overall. This led to Thornton scoring 19 goals – eight of which came with the man-advantage. He scored that many power play markers in the previous three seasons combined.

 

Advanced Stats

Year

PDO

5 on 5 SH%

Off. Zone Start %

2015-16

1044

10.55

55.66

2014-15

974

6.71

49.95

2013-14

1005

9.08

46.97

2012-13

1014

8.92

50.86

2011-12

1016

7.82

48.67

2010-11

1011

9.09

51.88

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thornton’s style of play lends itself to longevity. His size, strength and exquisite distribution skills allow him to protect the puck and bide time for his team mates to get open, and when they do, he finds them more often than not. However, expecting him to flirt with 20 goals again is likely asking too much. Expect 12-15 goals and around 70 points – fantastic results, but he’s unlikely to replicate his point-per-game output from a year ago.

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I’m off getting married in a few days, so join us in two weeks when we return to profile a few more candidates set for potential regression next season and why you shouldn’t jump to draft them too high.

 

Stats Courtesy of:

Dobber’s Frozen Pool

Corsica Hockey

Sporting Charts

Hockey-Reference

 

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Thanks for reading and feel free to follow me on Twitter @CrazyJoeDavola3 where I’m often giving fantasy advice that I’m sure someone is listening to. Right?