December 12 2015

by Michael Clifford on December 12, 2015

Toffoli's pace, Hall's elite play, improvement for Neal/Forsberg, and DFS thoughts

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Welcome everyone to Saturday’s Dobber Ramblings! I am filling in for the day, and it has been a little while since I’ve written one of these, so please excuse the broad topics. There are many things that I think warrant some discussion.

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It has been a heck of a start to the season for Los Angeles forward Tyler Toffoli. At the time of writing – before the Los Angeles/Pittsburgh game Friday night – Toffoli was on pace for 30+ goals and 60+ points, something that was accomplished by only 14 forwards in the 2014-2015 season. That was his pace despite the fact that he had been pointless for five consecutive games, and had just one goal in the last month.

There are a few things going Toffoli’s way here. First, he is getting a healthy amount of power play time for the first time in his career. That goes a long way in explaining why Toffoli has as many power play goals this year (4) as he did in his previous 138 regular season games. He is shooting at an obscenely high rate right now on the PP, and that’ll come down, but it’s helped buoy his early totals.

Also, according to Emmanuel Perry’s app, the line of Toffoli, Jeff Carter, and Milan Lucic are generating 32.88 scoring chances per 60 minutes at five-on-five. For a reference, the line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Patrick Sharp are at 33.58. In other words, they are generating offence at an elite rate. 

Finally, this production isn’t out of nowhere. Over the previous two seasons, Toffoli led the Kings in points per 60 minutes at five-on-five, and tied Carter in goals per 60. Now that he is getting more ice time, he is seeing his raw totals climb, and should be posting career bests.

Despite this little slump that he’s in, Toffoli is still generating chances. Now would be a good time to see if his owner is panicking, because all the numbers point to that second line being one of the best in hockey, and Toffoli turning himself into a 30 goal scorer this year.

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There was an interesting article posted at Sportsnet recently by Andrew Berkshire of Sportlogiq. I encourage readers to go check it out, because it does a very good job at explaining just how good Taylor Hall is. The numbers provided, most of which are selected because they lead to good offensive chances, are staggering. They’re even more surreal when considering that the team Hall plays for is near the bottom of the standings.

The fact that Hall is tearing up the league again this year shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to those that pay attention in fantasy hockey. From Hall’s rookie season through last year, he was the second-youngest player in the NHL to post at least 2.2 points per 60 minutes at five-on-five (he was at 2.27). The youngest was Tyler Seguin, who posted a mark of 2.38.

Here is another interesting tidbit from Hall’s season so far. At time of writing, Hall had 30 points in 29 games, and was averaging 4.21 shots on goal per game. Any guesses how many players managed a point per game and at least four shots on goal per game over the last two seasons? One, and it was Alex Ovechkin (he did it both years).

As Mr. Berkshire pointed out, a lot of the reason Hall doesn’t get talked about much in terms of superstardom is the team he is playing for. All the same, what he’s doing this year, in fantasy hockey terms, is a rarity. And it’s also an indication of how good Hall really is, and has been for years now. 

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With two goals in Nashville’s most recent game, James Neal is now up to 12 on the season, and on pace for 34 this year. He’s on pace for 57 points with nearly 270 shots on goal (all this presuming health). Indeed, it has been quite a rebound from last year.

This was nothing if not foreseeable. This was a guy with four power play points (three goals) last year. He already has three PP goals and seven points this year. Things realistically couldn’t get worse, have improved, and yet, there is still room for increased production.

That app I referenced earlier from Emmanuel Perry? Well, the line of Neal-Mike FisherFilip Forsberg leads all forward lines in scoring chances per 60 minutes at five-on-five (minimum 150 minutes played together) at 39.21. And it’s not close between that trio and second place, which is the Granlund line in Minnesota at 35.07. Despite all these scoring chances, from Puckalytics.com, when Forsberg and Neal are on the ice together, the team shoots just 6.9-percent. For reference, Montreal has shot 6.8-percent with Torrey Mitchell on the ice. Considering the immense amount of talent between Forsberg and Neal, even with Fisher injured, I think their production can improve. Now may be a good time to see what either may cost in a trade in season-long leagues.

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It hasn’t really been a great start to the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Coming off a season where the team made a run to the Cup Final, hopes were high. To date, the team was sixth in the Atlantic Division, though admittedly, just one point out of the wild card. All the same, they haven’t looked like the Cup contender many thought they could be.

To be fair, injuries have devastated this team, and particularly their forward depth. Tyler Johnson has missed six games, and Ondrej Palat has missed 12. All the same, again from Puckalytics, when that trio has been on the ice together this year, the team has managed 54.46 shot attempts per 60 minutes at five-on-five. Last year, the team managed 65.92 shot attempts per 60 minutes with those three on the ice. That’s a drop of over 17-percent in their shot attempt rate, which is huge.

Two things here. Obviously, the sample this year is still fairly small, about nine full games worth of ice time. Also, the injuries have played a factor. With those caveats out of the way, these three haven’t come close to generating offence like they did last year.

The question, then, is whether they can pick it up. Well, they won’t keep shooting 3.2-percent as a line as they have so far this year, so yes they will. But will they be what they were last year from here on out? That’s a more open-ended question, but considering how they’ve played to date, it’s not looking good.

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To wrap up, word came down Friday that the daily fantasy sports sites DraftKings and FanDuel (and by proxy, all the small sites) were ordered to comply with the cease-and-desist letter from the Attorney General of New York Eric Schneiderman by a Manhattan judge. Just hours later, in an emergency appeal, a New York State of Appeals Judge temporarily suspended the injunction. That temporary suspension would allow the sites to keep operating in New York until January 4th, 2016, at which time a panel of judges will rule on the injunction itself.

I am not a legal mind so I won’t speculate on any of this. As someone who earns part of his living through DFS, I hope that the sites stay legal and profitable in most of the United States. Sure, there are issues that can arise such as people spending way above their means on these sites, but that could be applied to any number of things like lottery, scratch tickets, casinos, video lottery terminals, and so on. Nitpicking on DFS for this reason seems disingenuous.

It was an interesting day for DFS, but hopefully this was another step to the widespread acceptance and legitimization of daily fantasy.  Best of luck to fellow DFS players in New York.

*Some stats from Hockey Reference, Hockey Analysis, Puckalytics, and Emmanuel Perry’s App.