Ramblings: Going for Gallagher, Struggling with Starting Goalies

by Ian Gooding on July 9, 2016
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Going for Gallagher, Struggling with Starting Goalies

Going for Gallagher, struggling with starting goalies, plus the latest news…

A week ago I identified the top remaining free agents in terms of fantasy value. Here is that list of names again:

Jimmy Vesey (cannot become a free agent again until August 15 – more on him shortly)

Jiri Hudler

Justin Schultz

Radim Vrbata

Kris Versteeg

Kris Russell

Sam Gagner

James Wisniewski

Brandon Pirri

Tomas Fleischmann

Alex Tanguay

Brad Boyes

Jhonas Enroth

Karri Ramo

Unless one of these players signed completely under the radar and I missed it, none of these players have found new homes. So what has happened? I’m not saying that all of these players should be signed by now. But it’s awfully strange that none of these players has managed to find a home. Teams seem to be focusing on signing their current top assets long term, as the Jets and Avalanche have done with Mark Scheifele and Nathan MacKinnon, respectively.

Although most of these players won’t be major fantasy impact players during the coming season, many teams’ situations are far from settled. Of course, you’ll want to check back for more on the fantasy impact of these signings.

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So is there any hockey news happening right now? Well, Phil Kessel had surgery on his hand, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. (The article doesn’t mention it, but I’m pretty sure it was successful, Dobber. Modern medical practices are amazing.) Now if the hand bothered him all season, then it was amazing that he played through it all season and was a Conn Smythe candidate during the playoffs.

The even better news is that Kessel is expected to be ready for training camp. With a fully recovered hand, Kessel should be ready to do some real damage for fantasy owners in 2016-17. I’m thinking not quite the kind of numbers he posted during his best Toronto years, but something that fantasy owners wouldn’t complain about relative to where they drafted him.

Don’t forget about this either.

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More news:

Jimmy Vesey’s agent said that his meeting with the Sabres on Saturday went “very well.” He still plans to become a free agent on August 15. So did it really go well, or are they just paying lip service?

Pavel Datsyuk makes it official and signs a two-year contract with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL. I wonder if there’s any way that he can pull a Jaromir Jagr and return to the NHL before he hangs them up for good.

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I’m currently in an auction keeper league in which I have to make a decision on keeping several players. I won’t get into all of the details, but the only player of the group that I’ve decided to keep is Brendan Gallagher, mainly because of his potential for a breakout season in 2016-17. In fact, that breakout season probably would have happened in 2015-16 if not for two separate injuries. With 40 points in 53 games, Gallagher would have been on pace for 62 points over a full 82-game season.

How much does the addition of Alexander Radulov, a fellow right wing, affect Gallagher? The Habs don’t seem to have one go-to center, although Alex Galchenyuk could become that player. According to the Frozen Pool line combos, Gallagher spent the majority of his time on a line with Tomas Plekanec as his center. So maybe Radulov is deployed with Galchenyuk.

68.9% GALLAGHER, BRENDAN – PACIORETTY, MAX – PLEKANEC, TOMAS

15.3% GALCHENYUK, ALEX – GALLAGHER, BRENDAN – PLEKANEC, TOMAS

Another unknown is power-play time. Could Radulov cut into Gallagher’s power-play point totals? Seven of Gallagher’s 19 goals were scored on the man advantage, but he recorded only three power-play assists. But based on the seven power-play goals over just 53 games, I’d have a hard time thinking that Gallagher could get bumped from the first-unit power play. 

Gallagher could be overlooked as a top-100 player on sites like Yahoo and ESPN, given the actual points total as opposed to the points per game. But you might want to bump him a few spots higher when you complete your own personal rankings.

Disclaimer: Gallagher is one of my favorite players, since I saw him play a lot while he was in the WHL. Still, I believe in him enough to tell you that he’s a player you should target.

The other players, in case you were wondering? Karl Alzner, Valtteri Filppula, Dan Boyle, Damon Severson, Ryan Callahan, Alexander Edler, and Olli Maatta. None appear to be on the verge of a major breakout, which would make them value players on their current contracts in this league (these are not their real NHL contracts, just auction values from this league). And if you’re thinking there’s no way that Callahan can be any worse than the 28 points he scored last season, keep in mind that he’ll be sidelined for at least the first month of the season after hip surgery.

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I read Neil’s backup goalie breakdown during Tuesday’s Ramblings with great interest. It’s certainly food for thought determining where to draft lower-ranked starting goalies. Is it truly better to use a backup goalie with strong numbers over a starting goalie with weak numbers, knowing that the backup goalie could hurt your win total and perhaps even your chances of reaching the minimum number of goalie starts (if your league has that requirement)?

My head is in fantasy baseball a fair bit at the moment. So I’d compare this to owning a strong relief pitcher who is not the team’s closer (and thus won’t contribute more than the odd save) over a starting pitcher with hideous ERA and WHIP ratios. It’s more difficult to think of that player we don’t see often as meaningfully contributing to our roster. But a better way to think of it is that less frequently-used player is not hurting our roster the same way a starting goalie or a starting pitcher with horrible ratios is.

Neil listed regularly-used goalies that were actually ranked below goalies that didn’t play. So based on ESPN or Yahoo’s ranking system, you’d be better off not using a goalie than using one of this group of goalies (minimum starts per week notwithstanding). Or better yet, using a top-ranked backup goalie when he starts.

This theory could change the way that you think about drafting. In other words, don’t touch Ondrej Pavelec even though you have one more goalie spot that you need to fill. Unless you play in an extremely deep league, you’re better off checking Goalie Post and finding a decent backup that’s scheduled to start tomorrow. Drafting a terrible starter and sitting on that goalie all season is death by a thousand cuts to your fantasy team. Or what I like to call boiling the frog slowly.

So this group of low-ranked starting goalies make terrible long-term investments to your team (long term being season-long, for the sake of this article). But like strong backup goalies, weak starting goalies could make great short-term investments (short term being daily). Think of splits, matchups, recent hot play, and even favorable dollar values in daily leagues. If you play in a weekly head-to-head league, you’ve probably experienced the scenario in which it’s Sunday and you desperately need a win or a shutout, so you’ll throw any warm body out there.

What about the time in between, the time I’ll call “medium term”? Think of the period of time like a few weeks, when a starting goalie is injured. Assuming a strong starting goalie or one that plays for a strong team, the team’s backup suddenly becomes gold to fantasy teams. Remember that many of the backup goalies Neil listed were able to start at least for short stretches because of injuries. You can’t grab these goalies quickly enough. Just be prepared with an exit strategy once the starter returns.

I like the terms “short term” and “long term” because I remember them from university economics (when I wasn’t madly attempting to copy graphs from the board). Over the short term, there are many variable events that can occur in a game. Maybe even enough for Anders Lindback or Ben Scrivens to post a shutout. As they say, you don’t win the lottery unless you play. But you’re an astute fantasy owner, so I shouldn’t have to tell you that those two goalies make terrible long-term fantasy options. If an opponent won’t figure that terrible goalie in out one game, then others will in other games. Just like an economy adjusts long-term to short-term market events.

But of course, all of this depends on your league’s scoring system. I had this discussion with Dobber earlier this summer regarding Frederik Andersen joining the Leafs, who may be improved but are far from a top team. If your league counts saves instead of save percentage, then get that lower-tiered starter in there. Are your league’s goaltending stats all count numbers (wins, saves, shutouts), or are some non-count numbers (save percentage, goals-against average) in there? That's where Dobber and I were able to come to our point of agreement regarding Andersen's fantasy value as a Leaf.

Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.