Ramblings: Holtby, Weber, Marchand (July 16)

by Ian Gooding on July 16, 2017

Q&A: Holtby, Weber, Marchand, and more…

With the hockey world at a rather slow point, I figured it was time for another Q&A. Thanks to everyone who submitted questions. So let’s see what we have in the ol’ Twitter mailbag…

Oh hello Steve. Hope your summer is going well and that this isn’t giving you nightmares.

Barring injury, let me reassure you that Braden Holtby should again be a top-5 goalie heading into preseason drafts. He’s led the league in wins for two consecutive seasons and posted at least 40 wins in each of his last three seasons. Over those three seasons, Holtby has never posted a goals-against average above 2.22 or a save percentage below .922. He’s as much of a sure thing as you’re going to find between the pipes in fantasy.

That nervous twinge in your stomach might have to do with the offseason losses in Washington. The offseason losses in Washington (Kevin Shattenkirk, Justin Williams, Marcus Johansson, Karl Alzner) could affect the Capitals in the standings, which could ultimately affect Holtby’s win total. Remember that other teams added during the offseason while the Capitals had to subtract for salary cap reasons.

In particular, the loss of Alzner cuts into the Capitals’ defensive depth. Alzner blocked a team-high 162 shots last season while blocking over 200 the season before, so that will be difficult to replace.

Overall, Holtby shouldn’t be affected too much. But don’t be surprised if there’s a very slight drop in his fantasy value.

If you include the playoffs, Pekka Rinne played 83 games last season. So at 34 years of age, can he possibly continue playing 60+ games, as he has over the past three regular seasons? Limited to just 19 starts last season, Juuse Saros impressed with a 2.35 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage in his first NHL season. At the very least, he will be one of the better backups to own in 2017-18.

Having said that, this Nashville team is expected to be a serious Stanley Cup contender after a somewhat surprising run through the Western Conference. Critical to that run was Rinne, who posted a 1.96 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage through the playoffs. If not for the playoff run, I’d be more inclined to suggest that Saros might be ready for the starting role. But for now, he’ll probably have to continue buying time.

Yes, I think John Stevens will make offense more of a priority in Los Angeles. In fact, that was noted with the hiring of Pierre Turgeon as the new offensive coordinator assistant coach. So at least the plan is to open things up for the likes of Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, and Tyler Toffoli.

For these three players, I’m thinking they will all have comeback seasons to a degree, but it would be a stretch to say that they will have big seasons. Kopitar posted his first sub-60 point season of his career (not including lockout), while Toffoli recorded barely over half a point per game in an injury-shortened season. Yet both shot below their career averages in 2016-17 (Kopitar 6 percent below, Toffoli 2 percent below). Given their career numbers, I’d be willing to bet on an improvement for both for 2017-18.

I’m not bullish on the Kings as a whole, though. They were a team that handed out the big contracts after their Stanley Cup wins, handcuffing their ability to improve their offense. Right now the Kings are on a downward path that they are hoping Stevens can reverse or at least hold off. But it will be interesting to see how much of an impact that the football-style “offensive coordinator” will have on an NHL team, even if it is a new concept in name only.

Is Shea Weber the most valuable fantasy defenseman out there when it comes to leagues with hits and blocked shots? After the first month and a half of last season, Weber was the top-ranked player in a similar league format, according to this November 27 Geek of the Week article. P.K. who?

But after October and November (18 points in 23 games), Weber cooled down significantly with 24 points over his last 55 games – not even a 0.5 point/game pace. If you needed a sign pointing to regression, that was one right there.

Sure, Weber is especially valuable in the kind of league that you are in. But an alternative strategy would be to target a higher-scoring defenseman instead (he finished 18th among blueliners with 42 points last season), then target your hits and blocked shots later. In fact, Erik Karlsson finished with more blocked shots last season (201) than Weber (157).

To me, it’s a no-brainer. Weber only exceeded Karlsson in two of your league categories (hits, PPG) and tied him in another (goals). Even with your league weighted toward the physical categories, I’d still take Karlsson over Weber.  

After settling in as a 50-60 point player with a heavy concentration of goals, Marchand saw his career take off following his experience with Sidney Crosby at the World Cup of Hockey. One factor was more critical to that success than anything else: power-play time.

In 2016-17, Marchand recorded 24 power-play points, easily a career high considering that he never had more than eight power-play points in a season. Power-play time drove that, as he averaged 2:41 of power-play time on the first power-play unit in 2016-17, but just 1:28 in 2015-16 and just 0:59 (15th on the Bruins!) in 2014-15. Needless to say, he should remain on the Bruins’ first power-play unit after inexplicably having to wait for several years.

Marchand jumped from 61 points in 2015-16 to 85 points in 2016-17, so not all of that increase is accounted for by power-play points. His goal total increased by two last season, but he managed to do so by taking 24 fewer shots. His shooting percentage increased from 14.8% in 2015-16 to 17.3% in 2016-17, but it’s also worth mentioning that Marchand averaged 17% earlier in his career.

I own Marchand in one of my keeper leagues right now, and I fully intend to keep him. If you can obtain elite-level talent for him, then it doesn’t hurt to offer him in a trade. Reaching 85 points again probably won’t happen, but something in the 70-80 point range for Marchand seems reasonable to me.

Lots of young talent on the Coyotes. Can we call them the Paw Patrol instead of the Desert Dogs for the foreseeable future?

These are very preliminary projections and of course subject to change:

Clayton Keller: 20 goals, 25 assists, 45 points

Brendan Perlini: 15 goals, 15 assists, 30 points

Dylan Strome: 10 goals, 30 assists, 40 points

Max Domi: 20 goals, 35 assists, 55 points

Jakob Chychrun: 10 goals, 20 assists, 30 points

Carolina posted 87 points last season while Arizona posted 70. While I could see the Coyotes being the better team long-term with more high-end offensive talent in their prospect pool, the Hurricanes seem to be farther along in their rebuild.

Both teams acquired new starters that were both top-notch backups (Scott Darling and Antti Raanta). Yet Carolina seems to have the stronger defense at this time. The addition of Niklas Hjalmarsson should help Arizona, but remember that Arizona finished 28th in goals allowed per game last season (3.15 GAA). An even greater contrast when it comes to the two defenses: Carolina finished 5th last season with 28.3 shots allowed per game, while Arizona finished 29th with 34.1 shots allowed per game.

I’d say Carolina has the better season in 2017-18.


For more fantasy hockey information, follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.


  • MarkRM16

    I’m pessimistic about Nashville next year. I think there’s a very high chance of Rinne suffering an LTI given his history, age, and the fact that he played so many games last year. Add to that their depleted forward corps, with Bonino their 2nd line C unless Fisher re-signs, but he’s old, fragile, and his numbers are falling (46 points in 92 games, reg+PS). Trading Ekholm for a legit 2nd line C would make a big difference, but I think they might be one of those teams that either misses the playoffs after being in the finals or scratches their way in and gets swept in the 1st round.

  • Doran Libin

    This is probably irrelevant but I’ve seen a lot of misguided analyses of the Caps defense for the coming season. I’ll take it up here. First the loss of Shattenkirk is hardly a loss at all. He played 20 games in Washington and the team featured one of best d corps in the league before his arrival. He was unlikely to come for this season as it is given the cap crunch the Caps were going to face, and currently are facing, without him. Holtby’s allowed .2 fewer goals per 60 without Shattenkirk. The argument that Holtby may have a tougher time this season are better laid at the feet of the losses of Alzner and more specifically Schmidt. Schmidts importance became evident in the playoffs when his entry into the lineup turned around the Caps fortunes in the playoffs. Furthermore, the Caps allowed fewer shots with Schmidt on the ice than Alzner and fewer goals with him on the ice than Shattenkirk. Thus while I agree that Holtby will be more than fine this season I think the potential danger signs are masked by focusing on Shattenkirk and Alzner as opposed to the more important loss of Schmidt.

    • stugots

      That’s a small sample size on Schmidt, although he looked like the real deal in spurts. I’m not sure “turned their fortunes around,” is the right term. Washington still got stretched by the Leafs in the first round and lost in the second.

    • MarkRM16

      While I think the Caps made some stupid moves so far, I don’t think they’ll experience a significant drop in the standings next year. I think they should have tried harder to keep Schmidt from getting claimed, but they had to lose somebody. Getting a full season out of Carlson alone will make a big difference. Buying ought Orpik was a move I thought they’d make. There are some UFA D remaining that they could sign to cheap 1 or 2 year contracts that would help to shore up their D until some of their prospects mature, like Oduya, Campbell, Franson, Polak, etc.

    • Mstop

      Don’t forget that match ups play a big role in this.. Schmidt has a bright future, I don’t disagree. However he averaged roughly 16-17 minutes of play time, not matching up against top players. So to state that fewer goals were allowed makes sense, obviously if he’s not on the ice for big match ups and even PK. I think the bigger loss here is their defensive forwards.