Wild West: Worth Keeping? In-Depth Look at Craig Smith, Paul Stastny and Dustin Byfuglien

by chriskane on July 22, 2019
  • The Wild West
  • Wild West: Worth Keeping? In-Depth Look at Craig Smith, Paul Stastny and Dustin Byfuglien

 

Welcome to Bubble Week. This week all of your weekly Dobber columns will feature Bubble Players. We are reviewing players who might not be kept in shallower keeper leagues that you may be thinking about drafting, or players who you might be considering keeping in your deeper keeper leagues. Now obviously the players you need to draft/keep will depend on the various configuration of your league settings, but staying in theme with our Wild West Summer Series we will be using the same categories of goals, assists, power-play points, shots, hits and blocks. 

 

Also if you need to play some catch up on some of the team reviews that have been happening so far this summer check out the past articles for the Wild West Series. Also make sure to grab your copy of the Dobber Guide.

 

Now on to the players.

 

Craig Smith – Nashville

Smith seems to embody the definition of a bubble player. In a 12 team, and even in a 14 team league he continually seems to ride the edge of being rosterable. After a 38 point season though he seems to be firmly in the free agent camp.

 

If we take a quick look at his season we see a couple of troubling signs. Even though his average power-play time was the highest of his career (2:31), he saw a significant decrease in power-play time over the course of the season – from over three minutes in quarter one, to just over a minute by quarter four. The result was a six point drop in power-play points from 2017-18 (his most productive season), which is about half of the overall points he missed between the two seasons.

 

We also see stagnant and potentially dropping total time on ice. That correlates with a small drop in shot totals, which with a slight dip in total shooting percentage accounts for another couple of goals missed in 2018-19.

 

Outside of those factors his numbers look repeatable (which is not a ton of comfort given he only managed 38 points). His shooting percentage, while it dropped a tiny bit is still well within his normal range, as is his team shooting percentage, and his IPP. His expected goal numbers (Natural Stat Trick) were also right in line with his three year average.

 

This one seems pretty cut a dry then, his 38 point season appears very repeatable, which is not fantasy relevant for most teams. Before making any decisions though, I would consider a couple of additional points.

 

Nashville has made a couple of trades that have drastically changed the landscape of the Predators’ second line. These changes certainly provide the potential for positive change for Smith. Let’s start with the big signing this summer of Matt Duchene. In all likelihood that signing eliminates any possible opportunity Smith might have had to make that top power play. Time there would clearly have been a boost to his production and as noted above, power-play points were a big part of the missing production from Smith in 2018-19. So assuming Smith is on the second power play unit (and likely to get somewhere in the 5-10 PPP range), let’s take a look at how things might shake out at even strength. 

 

The signing of Duchene gives Nashville a much improved second line center. Either it will be Duchene, or he bumps Ryan Johansen down. For the sake of this exercise we will look at Duchene’s numbers. Duchene ended 2018-19 with 70 points, following up from a 60 point season in 17-19. His expected goal numbers at even strength were also good in 2018-19 coming in around 43. Kyle Turris (Smith’s center in 2018-19) on the other hand is coming off of a 23 point (in 55 game) season to follow up a 51 point season in 2017-18. His expected goal numbers were down at 27. It is also pretty clear that Turris was not a beneficial partner for Smith in 2018-19. When Smith was on the ice without Turris at even strength he controlled about 54.5% of the shots at even strength (meaning 54.5% of the shots taken on the ice were at the opponents net rather than his). Turris, without Smith, was down at 47.65%.

 

In addition, Nashville also brought in Mikael Granlund, who essentially replaced Kevin Fiala on that second line. For a quick comparison, Granlund’s expected goal percentage was up at 51.32% (meaning that based on the quality of shots taken we would have expected 51.32% of the goals scored while Granlund was on the ice to be for his team rather than against), Fiala’s was 43.53% (meaning most of the expected goals while Fiala was on the ice were against him).

 

Smith’s role seems solid as a second line winger. Duchene and Granlund were not brought in to play bottom six minutes so it seems exceedingly likely that the second line with feature Smith, Duchene, and Granlund. This cast represents a significant upgrade at even strength from Smith’s 2018-19 linemates. It seems entirely reasonable that his 2019-20 even strength production will see an uptick.

 

Overall Smith still does carry some risk as he has never eclipsed 52 points in his career, and is coming off of a 38 point season. On paper at least he is on schedule to have the best even strength linemates of his career so he may make a safer pick at this point in your keeper decisions than others under consideration.

 

Paul Stastny – Las Vegas:

Stastny finished the 2018-19 season with 42 points. That total hardly seems like anything to write home about, but then remember he only played 50 games. That puts him at about a 70 point pace on the season, the second highest of his career.

 

 

GP

Goals

Assists

Points

Points/ Game

Shots

S%

Hits

PPPts

Blocks

PPTOI

TOI

50

13

29

42

0.84

103

12.6

35

4

15

2:03

18:06

 

The season looks relatively sustainable as well. His IPP is a bit high for his career, but all of his other metrics looks good.

 

He spent the majority of the season with Max Pacioretty on his wing, and that was certainly positive. The best news though is that his production increased once Mark Stone arrived in February. In the 34 games he played prior to Stone arriving he put up 25 points (60 point pace). In the 24 games (including the playoffs) after Stone arrived Stastny also put up 25 points (96 point pace). If we take a look at the line’s production before and after Stone arrived (at even strength) in another way we also see a large bump. With Stone the line had a goals for percentage of 60 (matching the expected pace). Without Stone, Stastny and Pacioretty’s goals for percentage was down at 48. That means Stastny and Pacioretty had a significantly larger share of goals for when Stone was on the ice with them.

 

We have less power play data, but Stone has a history of productive power play scoring and so will help any unit he is one. If Vegas continues to ice units like in 2018-19 then likely the Stone, Stastny, Pacioretty line will see a good amount of time as a unit and it certainly has the personnel to be very effective.

 

Dustin Byfuglien – Winnipeg     

Byfuglien is coming off of his lowest point total since 2012-13, which is why he may be on many people’s potential cut list. The cause of his 31 point output is really not a question – injuries. Byfuglien, at 34, just played 42 games and is now two seasons removed from his most recent 75+ games played season. These are concerns it is true, but depending on your format he can still be incredibly helpful.

 

When Byfuglien was in the lineup he was getting more than three minutes of power-play time per game on average. He only played half of the season, but still ended up with 16 power-play points. His season point pace was 61, his highest since 2011-12. If he had played a full season, that certainly could have dropped a bit as his IPP was a bit high, but a 50 point defensemen who shoots, and hits is still worth a lot.

 

Byfuglien is getting older, is likely to miss time with injuries, and will likely be pushed a bit for time by some of the younger defensemen on Winnipeg. Even so, if you are in a head to head league, and particularly if that league counts peripheral categories don’t let Byfuglien pass you buy, the upside is still too good.

 

Next week we are back to our regularly scheduled programming.

 

Thanks for reading.