Ramblings: Gibson’s Finest (Nov 30)

by steve laidlaw on November 30, 2017

It is far too small a sample, but over the past two nights we have seen 14 games and a combined 67 goals. That’s a rate of 4.79 goals per game. Considering the NHL has been a 3-2 league for years, the past two days have felt a lot more like the norm than the blazing scoring pace of the past two months. We’ve all been waiting for the other shoe to drop on this uptick in scoring. If scoring rates do drop, we’ll recognize the end of November as when they started to be reigned in. We’re not at alarm bells time, but I’m starting to see that old pattern.

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If you recall, earlier this season I swung a deal to land Martin Jones in a 24-team dynasty league where I am rebuilding a roster. I’ve never been that high on Jones having this to say at the time of the acquisition:

Now, I’m not very high on Jones. He was in my third tier for goalies this season because while he was guaranteed to be the Sharks’ starter, he wasn’t guaranteed to be any good. I am not certain that Jones or the Sharks are very good. So far, he has been excellent with a 0.927 percentage through nine games but no one should be making goalie decisions based on such a sample. I jumped at Jones figuring he’d be closer to his career 0.917 save percentage playing behind what looks like a creaky Sharks team. But the early returns are good thus far.

That was an important acquisition because until that point, I did not have a starter on my roster. This gave me a seat at the starting goalie table, of which there are only 31 places. I now had something to leverage in negotiations for a goaltender I actually wanted. That goaltender is now on his way to my club. I moved Jones for John Gibson in a deal that will surely be a disaster short term, but is a no-brainer long term.

I have discussed how crippling the Ducks’ injuries have been for Gibson’s value. He was a stay-away for me at every draft, because he was going higher than I was willing to draft a goalie who was going to tank the first half.

Gibson has faired quite well considering how thin the roster in front of him is rocking a solid 0.921 save percentage, but the Ducks are getting caved in allowing a league high 36.5 SOG/game. Gibson is essentially giving you what Robin Lehner has the past few seasons, which is fine, but is clear third goalie material.

I expect Gibson will be awesome once the Ducks get healthy. He has pedigree, talent and youth on his side. The 24-year-old has a career 0.921 save percentage, well above average, and a clear upgrade on Jones whose career rate is 0.918. Of course, Jones has been fantastic boasting a 0.930 save percentage, and a 2.05 goals-against average second only to Sergei Bobrovsky, but at 28 he doesn’t fit my rebuild timeline.

This trade was easy for me to make given my lack of interest in contending now and need to improve my roster for a far-away time. I do think that a Jones-Gibson swap could have merit as a sell-high/buy-low move even in one-year leagues.

Jones’ save percentage should regress towards his career average. Gibson should continue to stop pucks at a high rate, and will churn out wins whenever the Ducks get healthy. Gibson owners are in for a long couple of months waiting for Ryan Getzlaf and Ryan Kesler to return, and will bleed points in the standings, but if I were betting on one goalie to be better come head-to-head playoffs, I’d bet on Gibson. There’s nothing better come H2H playoffs than a goalie on a powerhouse team fighting for a playoff spot.

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The Ducks were without Brandon Montour for last night’s contest:

This seems like a damn good way for Montour to lose his spot as the #1 power play guy to Cam Fowler. Turnabout is fair play, and indeed it was Montour who stole the gig while Fowler was out. Fowler skated 5:53 with the man-advantage and notched an assist. I’m not sure we’re close to figuring out the winner between these two.

Sami Vatanen is also in the mix, consistently skating top PP minutes, but he hasn’t been remotely productive this season, which continues a downward career trajectory.

Kevin Roy popped up on the Ducks’ top PP unit in Rickard Rakell’s spot. He skated almost seven minutes of PP time and notched a couple of points. This is a DEEP cut, but an option for folks in larger leagues.

Because there is no end of injuries for Anaheim:

Now we wait and see if Silfverberg misses any action.

 

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Some sweeping line changes for the Bruins with a bunch of players back from injury, and a bunch of players still out. Both Jake DeBrusk and David Krejci sat out, but Brad Marchand, David Backes and Ryan Spooner all returned to action. They ended up suiting up only 11 forwards and seven defensemen. Check out the lines:

24.91%  EV           BERGERON,PATRICE – MARCHAND,BRAD – PASTRNAK,DAVID

18.68%  EV           BACKES,DAVID – HEINEN,DANTON – NASH,RILEY

14.65%  EV           ACCIARI,NOEL – KURALY,SEAN – SCHALLER,TIM

5.86%    EV           BACKES,DAVID – SPOONER,RYAN – VATRANO,FRANK

That top line is where your bread will be buttered. Marchand’s a point-per-game guy now and David Pastrnak is right there. Meanwhile, Patrice Bergeron is a high-volume shooter and 60-point guy. All three are on the top power play unit.

Spooner joins that trio on the power play and has some moderate value as a result, but has essentially moved into that Sam Gagner role as a power-play specialist, skating on the fourth line. Spooner is skating only 12 minutes per game, with a quarter of that coming with the man-advantage. That puts a cap on his ceiling.

Backes is only relevant in multi-cat leagues where his PIM/Hits/SOG value remains strong. He won’t score more than 35 points, however.

Tuukka Rask has started consecutive games and fared okay, winning last night. His contract and name brand was always going to buy him more chances. Anton Khudobin remains an intriguing backup option, but the Bruins’ schedule is thin with just four games in the next 13 days, before a back-to-back on December 13/14. The schedule does tighten up at that point with four sets of back-to-backs before their bye week in early January. So we may not see Khudobin for a couple of weeks, but don’t write him off as an option if Rask continues to struggle.

Also, yes, bye weeks are back this season. They are jammed much tighter this season, with the first bye weeks starting January 7th and the last ones ending January 19th. It’s going to make for an interesting couple of weeks in fantasy hockey.

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I’m nowhere near dropping Vladislav Namestnikov, but it’s worth noting that the Stamkov line has slowed down over the past couple of weeks. As the third wheel on that line, he has naturally been hit hardest with three points in the last six games. I’m calling it a blip on the radar until we see more “struggles”. Stamkos, Kucherov and that Lightning power play are probably too good for Namestnikov to reach droppable territory, but I’m monitoring the situation.

I am more concerned with Tampa Bay’s second wave. It seemed inevitable based on usage, but the trio of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde has experienced some pull back. None of those three sees top unit PP time, nor do they get much exposure to Stamkos or Kucherov. That makes it really challenging for them to consistently put up points. Generally, the ceiling on a second unit guy is 60 points, and that’s a tough ceiling to hit. Over the past eight games Palat has five points, Point has four and Gourde has three. They are on pace for 49, 69 and 49 points respectively. Somewhere in that 50-60 -point range feels right for them, especially if an injury pops up.

Mikhail Sergachev should feel some pullback as well, although his current three-game scoring streak would beg to differ. He’s obviously a killer talent with a great shot, but 13% shooting is a big ask. He is also still skating just 14:19 per game, with only 1:47 of PP time. He has maxed out his efficiency with that PP time with eight PPP on the year. He is on pace for 26 PPP, a crazy total for such short usage. That’s why despite the 17 points he has banked, I wouldn’t be shocked if Sergachev fell shy of 40 on the year.

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Carey Price is sweeping through the league’s offensively inept! To be fair, the Senators have at least scored a middle-of-the-pack 2.91 goals per game, but their power play, much like those of Buffalo and Columbus (Price’s other victims) sits bottom-five in efficiency. The reality is that this is what Price is supposed to do. The best goalies are supposed to pad their stats against bad teams. While the schedule has been kind to Price in his return, he is doing exactly what you should expect if he’s still an elite talent.

Max Pacioretty notched an assist last nigh, giving him points in back-to-back games. Scoring overall has remained a struggle, but his shot volume remains through the roof. Pacioretty is a 30-goal/60-point machine. I’m not bailing out in the slightest. If anything, I want to try and buy low.

Watchout for injury updates on Jonathan Drouin:

 

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Erik Karlsson doesn’t have a point since returning from Sweden. That makes seven straight scoreless outings. He built up a large enough buffer that he is still on pace to score 73 points despite this drought and despite missing the first five games of the season. He’s a superstar, no concerns here.

The only guy immune to the recent scoring struggles has been Mark Stone, cruising along at a point-per-game clip. I’m not sure Stone can sustain his 23.3% shooting, but he sure seems primed to hit another level after scoring at a 60-point rate the past three seasons. Fourth year breakout? YUP!

Some line shuffling for Ottawa:

#1           26.6%    BRASSARD,DERICK – RYAN,BOBBY – SMITH,ZACK

#2           21.7%    DUCHENE,MATT – HOFFMAN,MIKE – STONE,MARK

#3           12.4%    DZINGEL,RYAN – PAGEAU,JEAN-GABRIEL – PYATT,TOM

#4           9.7%      BURROWS,ALEXANDRE – DUMONT,GABRIEL – THOMPSON,NATE

Matt Duchene literally could not have two better linemates than Stone and Mike Hoffman. Chemistry is a whole other factor, but in terms of pure talent, this is the spot to be. Still sitting on just one point since joining the Senators. Everything has been there in terms of ice time, PP use, linemates and shot volume. At a certain point you have to give up. I don’t have Duchene in any pools, but I’d have a hard time staying patient. It’s going to click at some point because Karlsson is eventually going to put up some points. He has been silent for much of Duchene’s time in Ottawa. Karlsson is an inevitability. Duchene will have to follow. I’m just not sure folks can wait any longer.

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This is interesting:

Nathan MacKinnon is breaking out big time and I suppose it makes sense considering he is only 22!

Stuffed stat sheet for Erik Johnson with eight SOG, four blocked shots and two PIM. I hate to just recite a box score to you, but Johnson has been doing this all season. His point total won’t go much higher than 30 points, but if you score hits, blocked shots and SOG there is immense value to be had from a player who could eclipse 150 in all three categories. Plus, with Colorado’s improvements and a healthy Semyon Varlamov, Johnson is no longer a drain on plus/minus.

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A few goodies to discuss from Elliotte Friedman’s latest 31 Thoughts:

22. Both Mike Babcock and Barry Trotz sparred with their local media last week about line combinations. Babcock kept getting asked why Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner don’t play more together. He tried it, although it’s clear his heart isn’t in it. Only one player among the NHL’s top 50 in assists averages fewer than 16 minutes per game. That’s Marner, at 15:35. Next lowest is Will Butcher, at 16:03. Next forward is Nico Hischier, at 16:14.

I am okay with the lower deployment for Marner and Hischier. They both see plenty of PP time and are skating enough minutes to maintain relevance as forwards. For a lot of forwards, the boost into the 18-20 -minute range is from PK time anyhow. Those extra few minutes aren’t always of particular value.

For what it’s worth, none of the NHL’s top-50 assisters is seeing less than 2:00 minutes of PP time per game. Here are the lowest in terms of PP time:

 

PP Time

E. Staal

2:06

Larkin

2:15

Nylander

2:15

JT Miller

2:16

Hischier

2:18

Rielly

2:18

Lucic

2:21

Marner

2:22

Green

2:28

 

You would love to see all of these guys skating more PP time. The Maple Leafs, Wild, Red Wings and Devils all split PP time evenly between their first and second units, which is a great way to wind up with a bunch of 55-point scorers. However, in the case of Toronto, they are so lethal in all phases that it doesn’t matter as much.

I really wanted to discuss the low ice time for Butcher. He has remained relevant through hugely insulated deployment skating a ton of minutes on the power play and with nearly two-thirds of his 5-on-5 shifts coming in the offensive zone. With the cushion he has built, it’s practically a lock he’ll score 40 points. However, once pucks stop flying in at an obscene rate with Butcher on the ice (though the high percentage of offensive zone starts helps here), his scoring will slow. He’s also rocking a 60% IPP, which is high for a defenseman. That Butcher is producing next to no shot volume is going to be a killer if his scoring drops off even a little bit. That’s why I am pushing Butcher as a sell-high option.

Butcher could finish with 45 points and be a terrible own the rest of the way. That’s because 27 points in 58 games is substandard production, especially when you are only getting one SOG per game. In deep enough leagues that might clear the bar of respectable production, but in the average league that won’t cut it.

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