The trade of Tyson Barrie has a lot of ramifications all around. It was less than a week ago in these very Ramblings where I discussed the Colorado blue line. The future of Barrie, the brief preview of Cale Makar, and the emergence of Sam Girard were all covered. Now, we have to review this under different circumstances.
At the top of the minds of fantasy owners, as pointed out by our good friends at Keeping Karlsson, is this: Girard or Makar for PP1? As with most answers about things pertaining to sports, this answer isn’t neat and tidy.
We have to consider handedness. Girard is a lefty while Makar is a righty. Barrie, remember, was also right-handed. If we assume that Girard and Makar have similar abilities on the power play – and we can only assume as we don’t have much data to go with – then handedness would probably be the tiebreaker. That power play was lethal last year and just substituting one good right-handed puck-mover for another right-handed puck-mover seems like the shortest distance between two points.
If only it were that simple.
We know coaches usually like to give the first crack to players with some sort of track record. Just think back to the Sabres with Ristolainen/Dahlin, Detroit with Green/Kronwall/Hronek, Chicago with Keith/Seabrook/Gustafsson, Edmonton a few years back with Sekera/Klefbom, and the list goes on. This isn’t true in every case, like Thomas Chabot in Ottawa, for example, but that was more of a case where there was literally no one else to do the job.
If I were to hazard a guess, it’d be that Girard gets the top PP unit out of the gate but Makar eventually takes over. Does that take a month? Two months? Three months? Who knows. But fantasy owners should prepare themselves for a fluid situation.
That trade did help clarify the fourth forward of that PP unit, though. It should be Nazem Kadri.
Here are the power play shot locations, courtesy of Hockey Viz, of MacKinnon, Rantanen, Landeskog, and Barrie from 2018-19:
They have their half-wall positions covered as well as the net-front area. They need someone who can play the bumper spot. Someone who can play a bit further out from Landeskog and draw some coverage, freeing up cross-crease tap-ins as well as redirections/deflections. Where oh were can they find someone like that?
Well would you look at that.
Something else to consider: the front office. Specifically, who is working in the front office. The name Arik Parnass may not be familiar to a lot of readers, but anyone who was into the public domain of analytics a few years ago would. He was a prominent public hockey researcher and his area of focus was the power play. He even had a dedicated website to this exact topic called ‘NHL Special Teams’ where some of his findings remain to this day. Kadri is very good both at even strength and the power play. It’s not just a function of playing with elite players, either: from 2012-2015, he was in the top third of the NHL in goals/60 minutes on the power play. That was when the Leafs were awful, by the way. And once they drafted/acquired some high-end skill players, Kadri exploded.
Kadri was good with bad players and great with good players. He fills a direct need for them. These are all things that Parnass would know, and information he’d pass on to the decision-makers for the Avalanche. Whether they listen to him or not is another matter, but this would have at least been brought up during the trading process.
Long story short: Kadri is going to be one of my favourite draft picks this year. He won’t get to play at even strength with the elite guys but 20 PPPs is very reachable for him. A bounce back to 25 goals and 50 points, with his peripherals, will play very well in multi-cat leagues.
Calle Rosen (profile here) sometimes gets lost in the trade but I’m intrigued. It seems the common refrain has been “he couldn’t crack even the Leafs defence” but it’s not that simple. Rosen just finished his second season pro hockey in North America. When he came over to the Leafs for his first AHL season, the team had Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly on the left side. Halfway through his second season, the Leafs traded for Jake Muzzin. They had Martin Marincin to fill in if necessary, a guy who at least had some NHL experience. There was also the emergence of Travis Dermott. It’s not as if Rosen was an RHD who couldn’t beat out the likes of Hainsey and Zaitsev. He’s an LHD who was stuck behind at least two very good established NHLers, at times three.
He’s going to a team that has Sam Girard on the left, but Ian Cole will be injured for at least the first two months of the year, Nikita Zadorov is a pending RFA without a contract yet, and guys like Mark Barberio and Kevin Connauton are just placeholders until all the young defencemen are ready. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised to see Rosen crack the roster out of camp. I want to see what he can do.
To be completely honest, I’m not quite sure what to make of the Rangers signing Artemi Panarin. There are a lot of angles here.
This probably means 2019-20 – if he lasts the season – will be Chris Kreider’s final year with the Rangers. He’ll likely command north of $6M a year with a new contract. They could sign him, but I really don’t see them committing around $18M a year for seven years to two left wingers in their late 20s. There are too many young players on this team that, if they pan out, will cost the team a lot in two or three years. It’s a good problem to have – “woe is me, we have too many good young players” – but there are always casualties. Jeff Gorton seems too smart to make that mistake, as good as Kreider is, and his return on the trade market will help bolster an already deepening group of prospects.
Then there’s the line combinations. It’s very possible the team does something like Panarin-Zibanejad-Kakko, and it’s something I would love to see. It would also expose Kakko to elite competition right away and I’m not sure that’s what the team wants to do. Or maybe they do! I don’t know.
Let’s assume they go with Panarin-Ziba-Kakko out of the gate. That leaves Kreider as the second-line left wing (for now) and the rest… ??? Ryan Strome as the 2C, or Brett Howden, or Filip Chytil? Is Pavel Buchnevich on the second line or in the bottom-6? Is Vitali Kravtsov on the second line or in the bottom-6?
Or maybe Panarin starts on the second line while Kreider plays with Zibanejad in some sort of shutdown role. But does Kakko go with them, or does he move to the second line?
What I’m trying to get at is this seems like giant headache right now. There is a lot of offensive talent that will be worthy in fantasy drafts of all stripes, but how it all fits together is as clear as a puzzle when you first dump the pieces out of the box. Thankfully, we have all summer to figure this out.
Brennan Des made a good point in his most recent ‘Eastern Edge’ article: don’t forget your Blue Jackets players.
Pierre-Luc Dubois’ two seasons in the NHL happen to overlap with the two years Artemi Panarin was in Columbus. There seems to be a lot of concern that without Panarin, Dubois et al. will see a detrimental hit to their production. I’m not so sure.
In the last two years, the trio of Panarin, Dubois, and Cam Atkinson skated together for over 1070 minutes at five-on-five, while Dubois was on the ice without those two wingers for over 474 minutes with Panarin on the ice without PLD/Atkinson for over 465 minutes. This is how they did:
- All three together: 2.9 expected goals for/60 minutes
- PLD without Cam/Panarin: 2.8 expected goals for/60 minutes
- Panarin without PLD/CAM: 2.7 expected goals for/60 minutes
There is also the image below from Hockey Viz. It approximates a player’s impact on offence and defence, regardless of line mates and competition. It helps give a snapshot of what a player has done on their own, for their team, over the last two years. And:
The common refrain is that Dubois is a grinding two-way centre. But his entry percentages are in the 80th percentile over the last two years, his exit percentages are just outside the 90th percentile, and his shot assists (the rate at which his passes are converted to shots my team mates) are also in the 80th percentile. That, combined with his isolated impact from Hockey Viz, would lead me to believe that he’s better offensively than he gets credit for.
This isn’t to say Panarin walking away isn’t a loss; of course it is. I just don’t think it’s a death-knell to the fantasy value of other Blue Jackets. Dubois is probably going to play 19-20 minutes a game and has shown good offensive ability, both with and without Panarin.
You know what this reminds me of? When Panarin left Chicago and there were segments of fandom across the league who assumed Panarin was a product of Patrick Kane and would flounder in Columbus. Well, that was obviously wrong, and now we have another Panarin test case, only the production concerns are now with the guy he’s leaving behind rather than his own. With his hit and PIM totals, Dubois should be firmly on the radar of fantasy owners as a second or third centre.
Happy 4th to our American readers!
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