Ramblings: Cases against Guentzel, Kopitar, and Strome – August 6

by Michael Clifford on August 6, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Cases against Guentzel, Kopitar, and Strome – August 6

 

Don’t forget to grab your copy of the 2019-20 Dobber Hockey Fantasy Guide! It’s available now in the Dobber Shop. It has everything that poolies need to the edge on the competition in their league: projections, depth charts, prospects, undervalued players, and a whole lot more. It is also constantly updated throughout training camp. Be sure to grab your copy before things ramp up in September!

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I’ve been making my way through the Dobber Guide and Draft List and think it’s worth pointing out some places where I disagree.

I want to take the time to say that disagreement isn’t a bad thing, or a hurtful thing. This is a game where we’re projecting what hundreds of people, all operating in a network, are going to do in the future. We’re going to be wrong, and we’re going to be wrong a lot. Just because I disagree with something doesn’t mean I’m right and the other person is wrong. It could be very well that my assessment is incorrect.

Why disagreement is important is because it can get us looking at something we weren’t looking at, or get us to value/devalue something we under/overvalued. There are a number of times I’ve changed my mind about a player because of conversations I’ve had with people at this site or elsewhere. There was a time when I thought Jake Muzzin was purely a product of Drew Doughty, Seth Jones was wildly overrated, and Paul Byron was just a spare part. My opinion was changed because of disagreements others had with my assessment.

Anyway, I thought it’d be worth going over a couple guys where I disagree with the Dobber guide a lot as far as point projections. A lot of projections will be similar so I’ve used an arbitrary cut-off of at least 10 points. Let’s dig in.

 

Jake Guentzel

Dobber Guide – 26th in points, 80 points total

My projections – 41st in points, 70.0 points total

To make things clear: we both think Guentzel is an exceedingly valuable fantasy option. We both have him for at least 30 goals, we both have him for at least 70 points, and we both have him for over 100 hits. That is a superlative fantasy season no matter how we look at it. But when we look at the first few rounds of a draft, there’s a big difference between 38 goals and 80 points and 33 goals and 70 points.

I get Dobber’s projection. Guentzel is coming off a 76-point season and will now be getting those coveted top PP minutes. I have two issues.

The first is that Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin are going into their age-32 and age-33 seasons respectively. There is a lot of decline assumed in their age and that factors into production both at 5v5 and on the PP.

The second is the uncertainty of the power play. Phil Kessel had the second-most points on the power play over the last three years, and tied for the second-most PP assists. Guentzel won’t replace him but will (likely) instead play the bumper role. That bumper role usually isn’t the focal point of a power play, but rather is often used as a decoy, or an additional threat in order to open lanes elsewhere. Consider that T.J. Oshie has played the bumper for his four seasons in Washington, and has never had more than 18 PPPs in a given season. Per 82 games for his Capitals career, Oshie has averaged 17.5 PPPs.

I have Guentzel at a shade under 15 PPPs in 2019-20, which is four more than last year, but probably far short of where other people will have him. Add four points to his 76 last year, knock a bit down for shooting regression and age-related regression of teammates, and that’s how we get to 70 points. I assume I’ll be lower on him than most.

 

Anze Kopitar

Dobber Guide – Tied 33rd in points, 75 points total

My projections – 79th in points, 56.2 points total

My model effectively has the Kings as dead. I mean, Kopitar will likely be flanked by Alex Iafallo (fantasy-wise, just a guy) and Dustin Brown (one 60-point season in 10 years). On the power play, he’ll add Jeff Carter – currently being held together by tape and glitter – whatever’s left of Ilya Kovalchuk, and Drew Doughty. It’s not pretty.

And there’s no help coming. There might be guys like Rasmus Kupari eventually, but not now. To make matters worse, it’s all but assured that Tyler Toffoli is traded at some point this year given that he’ll be a free agent after this season and they absolutely cannot afford to hand out more long-term contracts for guys in their late 20s. In other words, I don’t see why they’re not a bottom-5 offensive team again.

Don’t forget that Kopitar himself is going into his age-32 season. This isn’t a guy who was on his ELC during the glory years for the Kings. He was in his prime during their glory years, probably not a coincidence. But the Kopitar of 2019-20 is not the Kopitar of 2013-14.

I think people are going to look at his 92-point season and think to themselves “well he’s only one year removed from being an elite fantasy option.” That’s true, but it also overlooks that it was a career year for him at the age of 30. Now that he’s 32 years old, can we realistically expect anything close to that? There’s security with Kopitar because of the heavy minutes he’ll play but there’s almost no offensive supporting cast and he’s not good enough to do it all himself.

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In the 2019-20 Dobber Guide, I write briefly about why I won’t be drafting Dylan Strome this year. I also wrote briefly about that back in March, so this is something that has been obvious for a while. I figure it’s worth digging in to how much regression could actually be on the horizon.

Last year, Dylan Strome played over 768 minutes at five-on-five with the Blackhawks after he was traded. In those 768 minutes, the Blackhawks shot 12.98 percent as a team. All this helped push Strome to 2.73 points per 60 minutes at 5v5 with Chicago. That mark, over a full season, would have seen him finish between Brayden Point and Patrice Bergeron.

So how rare is it for a forward to play at least 700 minutes in a full season and finish with an on-ice shooting percentage of at least 13 percent? Exceedingly rare. As in, only one last name has appeared over 13 percent on-ice shooting since 2007: Sedin. Both Daniel (13.8 percent) and Henrik (13.1 percent) cracked the 13 percent mark in 2009-10, the only forwards in our sample to do so. In fact, since the start of the 2007 season, only 20 forwards have finished over 12 percent in a season where they skated at least 700 minutes at five-on-five and no forward has done it twice. That means expecting Strome to repeat anything close to what he did in those 58 games with Chicago is a fool’s errand.

So how far can he fall?

Over the last two years, with Alex DeBrincat and Patrick Kane on the ice without Strome, the Blackhawks have shot 10.4 percent. Even that rate would be high – only 39 of 479 forwards reached that mark last year – but let’s say that with Strome, that trio can shoot 10.4 percent as a line. What would 10.4 percent represent?

Let’s do some quick math with assumptions:

  • Let’s assume Debrincat-Strome-Kane is a line for the vast majority of the year and play 1000 minutes together at 5v5. They won’t, be let’s say they do.
  • Let’s assume that line can generate shots at the same rate they did last year, or 31.3 shots per 60 minutes.
  • In 1000 minutes together at 31.3 shots per 60 minutes, we would get about 522 shots on goal.
  • If the line scores at a clip of 10.4 percent – which, again, would be high – that means about 54 goals scored.
  • Strome’s individual points percentage – IPP, or the rate at which he garners a point when he’s on the ice – with Chicago last year was 64.8 percent. If he gets a point on 64.8 percent of 54 goals, that’s about 35 points.
  • Let’s assume Strome gets 200 minutes around other parts of the lineup at a rate of about 2.65 goals per 60 minutes – roughly a full standard deviation above the league average goal rate – at his normal IPP. That would give us about another six points.
  • Assuming generous on-ice goal rates, we get a grand total of roughly 41 points at 5v5.

If we just extrapolate the Blackhawks portion of his season in 2018-19 over a full season, we get to roughly 50 points at 5v5.

So, if we say that Strome will be a fixture of the top PP unit and gets 20 points with the man advantage, we’re now up to 61 points. Add a few points at 3v3 or 4v4 and we get close to a grand total of 65 points for 2019-20.

Keep in mind that these 65 points assume a very high on-ice shooting percentage when he’s skating with DeBrincat/Kane and a high goal rate when playing elsewhere. In other words, these are optimistic assumptions. What happens if that on-ice shooting percentage isn’t a very high 10.4 percent, but a more normal 8.4 percent? Or even just an above-average 9.5 percent?  Or what if they don’t play together, or Strome earns fewer minutes than expected, or the team as a whole takes a step back, or, or, or…

This is just some napkin math to show how much of an uphill climb there is ahead for Strome. Sixty-five points just doesn’t buy what it used to; last year we had 59 forwards crack the 65-point mark. When factoring in peripherals – and Strome’s lack of them – it paints a pretty harsh picture of Strome’s 2019-20 value. I meant what I wrote in the Dobber Guide: a 60-point season should be seen as a win.