Ramblings: 2018-19 Bounce-Back Candidates (Mar 20)

by steve laidlaw on March 19, 2018

 

I went out looking to see if I could find some statistical indicators that a player is cooked and wound up finding a bunch of examples of players who had fallen off a cliff, only to rebound. Look at what Claude Giroux is doing. The season that Giroux is having is proof that players can bounce back from just about any level of miserable play. He had 58 points last season, but over half (31) of those came on the power play. Generally, 5-on-5 production is the best predictor of future performance and the three-year spiral he was on at 5-on-5 was awfully damning:

 

P/60 5-on-5

2013/2014

2.13

2014/2015

1.57

2015/2016

1.76

2016/2017

0.94

 

In the span of just a few years, Giroux’s 5-on-5 scoring rate had fallen from that of a first-liner, to that of a fourth-liner. No model would have predicted Giroux bouncing back to an elite rate, and yet here we are with Giroux scoring 2.65 P/60, the 18th highest mark in the league.

Indeed, there have been some wild shifts in shooting percentage these past couple of years. He is shooting a career high 15.9% this season, after shooting a career low 7.0% last season. However, the standard for projecting future performance is to take the three previous seasons with heavy weight to what happened in the most recent season. Even if you assumed that Giroux couldn’t have as poor luck as he had in 2016-17, you still wouldn’t have predicted that he’d return to a first-line rate of scoring.

There are other recent examples of players climbing back from the brink from just this season alone. Anze Kopitar is back in the Hart Trophy mix scoring 2.38 P/60 after falling to a mere 1.39 P/60 last year. Matt Duchene has rebounded nicely from whatever terribleness occurred in Colorado, and that includes a miserable first couple of months in Ottawa. Eric Staal looked dead by the end of his run in Carolina but has been back to elite scoring in Minnesota. Hell, even Dustin Brown appears rejuvenated after years spent as waiver fodder.

I’d bet on everyone named above to regress next season. Based on age and shooting percentages Giroux, Kopitar, Staal and Brown are all wildly out-performing expectation. Still, they are proof that a player can look cooked only to rediscover high-end value. That’s good news for some of this season’s worst performers.

There are four major indicators that can highlight a player due for a bounce back: injury, ice time, shooting percentage and on-ice shooting percentage. Players deficient in any or several of these areas may not simply be bad, but also unlucky. Let’s run through some of this season’s disappointments to see where they stack up:

Jason Spezza – ADP 115 – 7 Goals – 25 Points – 72 Games

Injury?

No. Spezza has suited up for 72 of Dallas’ 73 games, which is a high percentage for Spezza who typically misses at least a half-dozen games each season.

Ice time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2013/14

18:13

3:03

2014/15

17:13

3:39

2015/16

16:31

3:07

2016/17

16:10

2:40

2017/18

13:04

2:02

 

Oh boy! Look at that four-year slide for Spezza. The bottom really fell out this year. The question for fantasy owners, is this because Spezza is cooked, or because new Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock has no time for him? It’s damning that Spezza can’t even get regular run on the Stars’ top PP unit any more, a spot where he was so effective in previous years.

Spezza has the type of game that should age well. If this is a conflict between Spezza and Hitchcock, would anyone be surprised? The problem, if you’re rooting for a bounce-back, is that Spezza has one more year at $7.5 million remaining on his deal. Parting ways could be in the best interest of both sides but would likely require the Stars to eat some of that deal. Spezza at $5 million could be a great one-year bet for a team.

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2013/14

8.39

10.3

2014/15

8.52

8.3

2015/16

7.65

16.3

2016/17

9.26

10.1

2017/18

6.15

5.4

 

It’s no surprise to see Spezza’s shooting percentages in the toilet given how unproductive he has been. The career 13% shooter probably doesn’t possess quite that talent level anymore, but should come in at about 10%, roughly double what he has done this season. Likewise, he probably isn’t the type to consistently drive shooting percentages north of the league average of 8% but should have more luck in the future.

Spezza’s rebound potential looks high. The caveat is that he probably needs a trade to a team that will use him in order to rebound, and even then, it might only be to the 50-point level.

 

Max Pacioretty – ADP 31 – 17 Goals – 37 Points – 64 Games

Injury?

Yes. Although, Pacioretty’s season was already a massive disappointment before it was mercifully put to an end in early March.

Ice Time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2013/14

18:29

3:01

2014/15

19:24

2:35

2015/16

18:32

2:56

2016/17

19:11

2:43

2017/18

19:01

3:06

 

No issues here. Even while struggling under a new head coach Pacioretty’s usage remained as high as it ever has been.

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2013/14

8.95

14.4

2014/15

8.86

12.3

2015/16

7.52

9.9

2016/17

7.98

13.1

2017/18

6.49

8

 

That’s how you end a run of what was essentially six straight seasons of 30+ goals and 60+ points (Pacioretty’s prorated numbers for the lockout shortened 2013 season would blow past those benchmarks). No team has shot worse at 5-on-5 than the Canadiens at 6.09%. You can blame a lack of shooting talent, and generally poor roster construction for this team-wide run of bad luck. Indeed, Pacioretty no doubt missed having Alexander Radulov as his most common linemate (this season it was Andrew Shaw). Still, we’ve got a lengthy history that suggests Pacioretty is much better than this season showed.

 

Brandon Saad – ADP 69 – 16 Goals – 31 Points – 73 Games

Injuries?

Not that we know of.

Ice Time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2013/14

16:17

1:49

2014/15

17:15

2:11

2015/16

17:13

2:07

2016/17

17:02

1:34

2017/18

17:30

2:13

 

The season-long average downplays what a wonderous opportunity that Saad blew. During the season’s first quarter he averaged 19:01 per game with 3:46 on the PP. This was supposed to be the year that he finally busted out for 60+ points. Instead, he has progressively been buried in Chicago’s lineup in favour of younger options like Alex DeBrincat, Vinny Hinostroza, etc.

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2013/14

9.57

11.9

2014/15

7.95

11.3

2015/16

9.53

13.3

2016/17

8.18

11.4

2017/18

6.58

7.7

 

Here we go. Few players have been as snake-bitten as Saad. Saad has remained a play-driving beast boasting strong shot differentials but gone are the above-average shooting numbers he has perennially boasted. The career 11.1% shooter should rebound easily.

There are still questions as to whether Saad can be a contributor on the power play. He scored merely one PPP this season. His career high is 10 PPP. Maybe this is somewhere he doesn’t offer much. Or the 25-year-old simply hasn’t gotten much of a chance throughout his career and when he finally did get a shot it was for a team with a miserable PP in a season where nothing could go right.

These fork-in-the-road moments can alter the course of a player’s career, however. Saad was brought back to help revitalize Jonathan Toews, instead he may find himself a cap casualty once again. Some enterprising team should try and steal Saad out of Chicago much like Jordan Eberle was stolen from Edmonton after a poor run of shooting.

In a perfect scenario Saad breaks out with 60+ points while scoring roughly 15 PPP. If that truly is a hole in his game, then perhaps he tops out at 50 points. However, a 50-point winger with excellent shot volume is still a valuable fantasy commodity.

Milan Lucic – ADP 139

Injuries?

No.

Ice Time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2013/14

17:23

2:21

2014/15

16:20

1:49

2015/16

17:14

2:08

2016/17

17:10

2:44

2017/18

16:17

2:13

 

Lucic’s minutes are down in his second year with the Oilers, but only after struggling woefully for months. Lucic did have a few runs of productivity on Connor McDavid’s wing, but he failed to replicate last season’s productivity away from the superstar.

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2013/14

8.96

15.7

2014/15

8.86

12.8

2015/16

9.32

16.1

2016/17

7.5

13.1

2017/18

7.99

7.4

 

Lucic hasn’t been that unlucky in terms of on-ice shooting, but he has been snake-bitten in terms of individual shooting percentage seeing it nearly cut in half. In particular, Lucic has suffered from his bubble bursting on the power play where he scored 12 goals and 25 points. That was the only season of Lucic’s career where he was a difference maker on the PP.

Using the eye test, there’s little doubt that Lucic is in decline, however people are so eager to trash the Oilers and the horrible contract they signed him to that the pendulum has swung too far in the wrong direction. If Lucic’s shooting rebounds he’ll be back in the mix as a 20-goal/45-point option. That’s not what you want from a player with the contract Lucic signed, but from a player with excellent peripherals it can still be fantasy relevant.

 

Max Domi – ADP 159 – 5 Goals – 32 Points – 71 Games

Injuries?

Not this year.

Ice Time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2015/16

16:22

3:01

2016/17

16:59

2:34

2017/18

16:49

2:41

 

Domi remains in the mix for a bad Coyotes team, but you get the sense that they’d move on in a heartbeat if someone offered 80 cents on the dollar.

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2015/16

9.43

11.5

2016/17

9.33

8.3

2017/18

7.88

3.8

 

It’s slightly alarming that Domi’s first two seasons involved above-average on-ice shooting percentages when he doesn’t appear to particularly be a shooting percentage driver. The bottom has fallen out on his personal shooting percentage for two straight seasons. We hope that Domi is the above-average shooter we saw in his rookie year, but if he’s only a league-average shooter he probably maxes out at 15 goals, which isn’t all that enticing.

He’s only 23 and has been trapped as perhaps the best forward on the league’s worst team for the entirety of his career. Next season is his fourth year. He’s well worth betting on for a bounce-back.

 

William Nylander – ADP 51 – 15 Goals – 52 Points – 72 Games

Injuries?

Not to Nylander himself, however the absence of star linemate Auston Matthews for 19 games has been notable. Nylander has 11 points in the 19 games Matthews has missed (0.58 P/G) and 41 points in the 53 games he has played (0.77 P/G).

Ice Time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2015/16

16:20

2:43

2016/17

16:01

2:21

2017/18

16:43

2:01

 

We were perhaps expecting too much from Nylander skating on a deep team that splits ice time evenly between it’s two PP units. It’s especially notable how Nylander’s unit is deployed. Often the second unit out there they don’t get the same benefit of starting their PP chances in the offensive zone. Nylander’s nine PPP are likely too few, but the 27 he put up last season were probably too many. A happy medium in the 15-PPP range should be expected based on the deployment trend we currently see.

At some point Nylander may start to see a greater chunk of PP and overall ice time. Could an exodus of Tyler Bozak and James van Riemsdyk (two top PP options) lead to a top-heavy approach from Toronto?

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2015/16

6.77

14.7

2016/17

6.69

10.7

2017/18

12.09

9.7

 

If anything, Nylander has been lucky this season, which isn’t what you want to see if forecasting a rebound. Mind you, Nylander hasn’t been that disappointing. He’s on pace for a 59-point season. He’s only disappointing if you were forecasting a breakout, which many were. Nylander was drafted as though that breakout was a sure thing. Voiceover: It wasn’t.

As a Leaf player it’s unlikely that many will be phased by this “disappointing” season. Expect to pay the sticker price again next season.

 

Cam Atkinson – ADP 74

Injury?

Yes. Atkinson missed 16 games with a broken foot. His season was also going horribly before that injury but losing those games didn’t help.

Ice Time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2013/14

15:47

2:13

2014/15

16:59

2:19

2015/16

17:48

2:15

2016/17

18:05

2:32

2017/18

18:43

2:45

 

Atkinson’s ice time is trending in the right direction. It’s too bad it took until he was 27 to get top power play usage. He’ll be 29 when next season begins.

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2013/14

6.94

9.7

2014/15

6.49

10.4

2015/16

8.18

11.9

2016/17

7.79

14.6

2017/18

7.79

8.6

 

After overachieving in 2016-17 Atkinson’s shooting percentage overcorrected this season. The career 11.1% shooter is probably a 25-goal/55-point guy with upside to crank it into the 60-point range on occasion. Atkinson has been much improved since returning from injury with 20 points in 24 games (a 68-point pace).

 

Jonathan Drouin – ADP 92 – 11 Goals – 37 Points – 67 Games

Injury?

Not really. Drouin has missed five games, but that hasn’t really been a factor in his disappointing first season in Montreal.

Ice Time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2014/15

13:14

1:55

2015/16

14:27

2:01

2016/17

17:42

3:05

2017/18

17:25

3:12

 

This has been the best season of Drouin’s career in terms of consistent deployment. He won’t match last season’s 26 power-play points, but with 18 PPP already, Drouin will come close despite playing on a team with much weaker special teams than what he had in Tampa Bay.

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2014/15

7.75

7.7

2015/16

14.44

11.5

2016/17

7.2

16

2017/18

5.05

5.3

 

Another victim of Montreal’s team-wide power outage. You can likely blame his switch to the center position for some of these struggles, although you’d expect more of those struggles to come defensively. There have been reports about Drouin’s fitness level not being up to the demands of the center position, something he could improve upon next year. There are also still questions about his ideal NHL position.

Ultimately, four years in we still don’t quite know what we have in Drouin. Is he the type of player who can drive shooting percentages above average? Is he a winger or a center? Is he merely a power-play specialist?

He’s only 23 with plenty of time to sort these things out. Even if he’ll never be a play driver at even strength he has obvious talent which has been on display on special teams. Having a basement of 20 PPP is a damn good starting point to bet on.

 

Tyler Toffoli – ADP – 124

Injuries?

No, however Toffoli’s normal centerman, Jeff Carter, missed most of the season. Toffoli has historically done fine in his time away from Carter so we shouldn’t hang too much on the centerman’s absence.

Ice Time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2013/14

12:56

1:35

2014/15

14:35

1:26

2015/16

17:19

2:06

2016/17

16:35

2:17

2017/18

16:16

2:01

 

Toffoli is the new Atkinson. We’re all still waiting for him to get 18+ minutes of ice time per game with consistent top PP usage. The result would likely be a 70-point breakout season. It’s no surprise that Toffoli’s best season (58 points in 2015/16) came in the year his ice time spiked.

Toffoli scored at a first line rate for his first three seasons, but has fallen off over the past two:

 

P/60

2013/14

2.06

2014/15

2.5

2015/16

2.05

2016/17

1.37

2017/18

1.72

 

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2013/14

8.33

9.7

2014/15

9.71

11.5

2015/16

9.09

14.6

2016/17

6.55

9.7

2017/18

7.69

10

 

It’s entirely possible that Toffoli simply overachieved in his first few seasons. Perhaps he isn’t a shooting percentage driver. His results this season have been essentially league-average. If he’s closer to a league-average guy perhaps the campaign to increase his usage isn’t warranted. The eye test suggests that he’s a really skillful scorer, and one worth betting on.

 

Ryan Kesler – ADP – 142 – 7 Goals – 10 Points – 35 Games

Injuries?

Yes! Kesler missed the first half of the year after off-season hip surgery and has purportedly been held together with duct tape all season.

Ice Time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2013/14

21:49

3:29

2014/15

19:31

2:32

2015/16

19:32

2:02

2016/17

21:18

2:51

2017/18

18:02

1:33

 

A significant part of Kesler’s fantasy appeal came from the sheer volume of usage he saw last season. He has lost over three minutes of ice time, with half of that coming from a loss of PP deployment. That’s alarming, even knowing his injury situation. He’ll be 34 when next season begins and could still be banged up if the Ducks go on another playoff run.

What’s more, the Ducks brought in Adam Henrique, a younger livelier centerman who has grabbed a bunch of the minutes that Kesler has vacated including his top unit PP usage. Henrique has been good in those minutes. There’s a chance Kesler never gets them back.

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2013/14

7.54

10.5

2014/15

7.4

9.8

2015/16

6.12

12.8

2016/17

7.34

11.8

2017/18

5.24

11.7

 

Kesler’s line is used heavily in defensive situations, but with him labouring the way he has they are struggling to tilt the ice the way they have historically. The result is an on-ice shooting percentage that should rebound for a healthy Kesler, if we ever see that guy again.

 

Jake Guentzel – ADP – 105 – 22 Goals – 45 Points – 72 Games

Injuries?

No.

Ice Time

 

Ice Time

PP Time

2016/17

15:53

1:22

2017/18

16:33

1:52

 

Guentzel’s ice time didn’t take off to the degree that we had hoped. While he has skated roughly 60% his shifts on Sidney Crosby’s wing he has periodically been trapped on the third line, occasionally even forced to play center.

Guentzel has gotten hot any time he has gotten a chance on Pittsburgh’s devastating top PP unit. Unfortunately, Patric Hornqvist is entrenched as the top net-front man and even received a hefty five-year extension. While I was no fan of that extension, it nonetheless shuts Guentzel from top PP usage for the foreseeable future.

 

Shooting Percentages

 

OI SH%

SH%

2016/17

10.98

19.8

2017/18

6.13

12.8

 

There’s a good amount of evidence to suggest that Guentzel is an above-average shooter. Despite his slight build, Guentzel does most of his damage in knife-fighting range. He has proven an ability to get to the net and grind it out or find soft areas. He’s the perfect player type to fit alongside Crosby. That hasn’t resulted in as much success at 5-on-5 as we saw last season. Crosby and his linemates have been horribly snake-bitten, and that includes Guentzel as his on-ice shooting percentage reflects.

Guentzel probably isn’t himself a shooting percentage driver. Despite his ability to convert chances, he probably isn’t going to help his linemates to above-average shooting. Crosby, on the other hand, has historically been one of the best shooting percentage drivers, but it’s worth asking if he still has that ability:

 

OI SH%

2013/14

9.8

2014/15

8.17

2015/16

8.87

2016/17

8.71

2017/18

5.81

 

This is the fourth straight season of league-average (or worse) on-ice shooting for Crosby. He still tilts the ice like no other, and of course you’d be foolish to question a player of Crosby’s calibre, but you may also be foolish to expect anything better than league-average going forward, which won’t help Guentzel’s cause.

Guentzel can be better next season, even without a PP promotion, but how much better is the question to ask.

*

Carey Price is back after a concussion. He didn’t start last night and you can expect he won’t be a nightly start since the Canadiens have little reason to stretch him out. He will play, however, as you can expect Price will want to prove he still has it.

*

Patrice Bergeron is back skating but won’t play on Wednesday. The real question is if Bergeron travels with the team as the Bruins head west for four games starting on Wednesday.

Rick Nash was also out with an upper-body injury. That led to Ryan Donato’s debut coming on a line with David Krejci, as well as on the Bruins’ top PP unit. Donato contributed three points. Quite the night. Donato probably won’t offer much in a healthy lineup but can contribute while half of the Bruins’ roster is on the shelf.

Donato is the fourth draft pick from the Bruins’ 2014 draft class to make contributions along with David Pastrnak, Danton Heinen and Anders Bjork. Getting drafts like helps to elevate teams to championship level. Read more about Donato here.

*

Similarly, while the Penguins sent Tristan Jarry to the minors, Matt Murray is unlikely to go tonight. He should be back soon and will play enough to have him ready for the playoffs.

*

Auston Matthews still won’t return tonight.

*

Noah Hanifin might be done for the year with a concussion.

*

Ben Bishop will miss at least the next two weeks. Kari Lehtonen remains an intriguing option, who might just have to finish out the season for the Stars.

*

Any other bounce-back candidates you’d consider next season? Post below!

Thanks for reading. You can follow me on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw.

 

 

6 responses to “Ramblings: 2018-19 Bounce-Back Candidates (Mar 20)”

  1. Chad Burly says:

    Ahh….. No model could ever predict what Giroux did this year… Here’s a model to predict what Giroux did this year.

  2. MarkRM16 says:

    I think it’s obvious at this point that Drouin requires a true #1 C to live up to expectations. I have no idea how the Habs can pull this off, though, especially since Bergevin would likely insist on a French Canadian player. Given the tire fire that Montreal has become with him as GM, they’d have to seriously overpay to get a #C or even an above-average #2.

    If Lucic was producing alongside McDavid, keep him there! It’s the only way the Oilers will get any value out of that terrible contract. I’m mystified as to why coaches are constantly juggling lines when they find combos that work.

    I think Crosby can rebound next year closer to his historical production, but only if the Pens don’t go on another Cup run. I doubt this will happen again because their D is awful, their goaltending is a mess, and both Sheary and Guentzel have had such poor seasons. If so, this will give the aging Crosby a chance to get some rest and get fully healed.

  3. fmedleg13 says:

    Re. Saad.
    Chicago’s PP%/PK% over the last 4 years

    14/15 – 20th/10th
    15/16 – 2nd/22nd
    16/17 – 19th/24th
    17/18 – 28th/18th

    I’m not sure the Blackhawks have been good on special teams for four years (barring their 15/16 PP%).

    We can debate the merits of these numbers with respect to Chicago, but i think their powerplay woes may be stunting Saad, rather than the other way around. I’d go a step further and say given an aging team with a coach who many not want to adapt, that Chicago won’t be the place for him to (finally?) flourish. Amen to another team buying low.

    Next question: is Patrick Kane a first round pick in a 12 team standard league?

  4. Gary Barnes says:

    OEL? Benn? Pavelski?