Ramblings: Jake Gardiner Injury; Blues/Devils Updates; Granlund-Fiala Trade – February 28

by Michael Clifford on February 28, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Jake Gardiner Injury; Blues/Devils Updates; Granlund-Fiala Trade – February 28

 

Jake Gardiner missed Wednesday night’s game with back problems and is considered week-to-week right now. Igor Ozhiganov drew into the lineup.

As a small aside: one injury to one of their Big Four of Gardiner/Rielly/Muzzin/Dermott leads to the Leafs trotting out Hainsey/Zaitsev/Ozhiganov on the right side of their defence. It shows the fragility of the blue line. If a centre gets hurt, they can move William Nylander to the middle. If a winger gets hurt, they’re so deep they had Andreas Johnsson on the fourth line for big chunks of the year. If one of their left-shooting defencemen get hurt, well, you see the result.

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There was a laundry list of New Jersey Devils injury updates:

 

 

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We can also add to the laundry list of injuries for the Penguins:

 

 

Both are expected to be out long-term, though whether that’s four weeks or four months, we don’t know as we are waiting for a more clear timeline.

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The Coyotes extended Conor Garland for a couple years with an AAV of $750K. For those with him in cap leagues, he’ll continue to be a great bargain for the foreseeable future.

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Boston called up Peter Cehlarik and Karson Kuhlman on an emergency basis and Patrice Bergeron missed practice. Kuhlman was centering the top line in that practice. The official word after practice was a maintenance day for Bergeron, so nothing to worry about. I imagine he’ll have a lot of those between now and the end of the season.

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St. Louis had all of Brayden Schenn, Alex Steen, and David Perron on the ice for practice Wednesday. They weren’t on any of the real lines, skating together on some sort of injury line, but it’s a good sign they’re all practicing. Look to see them back in the lineup soon.

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Sami Vatanen was activated off IR and was in the lineup on Wednesday night, though given what that lineup looks like these days, I’m not sure how much fantasy value there will be. Given that he’s a guy without high levels of peripheral stats, he’s reliant on point production. I don’t think there’ll be much of that for the next little while.

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Toronto defenceman Travis Dermott was injured in Wednesday night’s game against Edmonton. He was hit from the side/behind (more from behind) by Oilers forward Brad Malone in the third period and crashed into the boards. He was holding his left arm/wrist in considerable pain skating off the ice. It didn’t look good, to be honest. This is a concern with Gardiner already out of the lineup.

The Leafs laid the wood to the tune of a 6-1 game. Andrea Johnsson had two goals, Mitch Marner had a goal and two assists, and John Tavares, William Nylander, and Patrick Marleau each had a tally and a helper. Tough times continue in Edmonton.

We got an update late last night on Travis Dermott and he’s week-to-week with an upper-body injury. We are going to see Jake Muzzin and Morgan Rielly play a lot of minutes moving forward.

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There was a scary scene in New Jersey as Devils defenceman Mirco Mueller went hard into the boards, though it was hard to tell on replay if he went headfirst or if maybe his shoulder hit and his had snapped after. Regardless, he was motionless on the ice and eventually stretchered off. He was conscious and seen moving his arms and legs, though, which is a good sign. When there’s an update to pass along, we will.

As for the game, despite the depleted lineup for New Jersey, Calgary only managed a 2-1 win. MacKenzie Blackwood had a very good game in net for the Devils, saving 33 of 35 shots while David Rittich faced just 20. Mark Giordano scored the game-winning goal, his 14th of the year (a three-year high), and 60th point of the season. There could be a Norris Trophy coming, though the season Brent Burns is having…

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Jimmy Vesey had a goal and an assist in the Rangers’ 4-3 shootout loss to Tampa Bay. That gives him six points in his last three games since joining the top line following Mats Zuccarello’s trade. I thought it would be Pavel Buchnevich being given the chance but it’s been Vesey on the top line, averaging over 20 minutes a night. I worry about lineups being shuffled eventually but Vesey is pretty close to a must-own right now.

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It’s pretty amazing Alex DeBrincat fell to the second round in his draft year. He picked up a pair of goals in Chicago’s 4-3 comeback win and is now up to 36 goals on the year. The shooting percentage is high (just under 20 percent) but he’s landing nearly three shots per game and looks every bit the productive forward he was expected to be. Maybe teams will stop drafting based on size.  

Rickard Rakell was kicked out for a hit from behind and I suspect there’ll be supplemental discipline.

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In my Ramblings post-Trade Deadline, I mentioned that I wanted to go into the Mikael GranlundKevin Fiala trade a bit deeper. The overwhelming sentiment that I saw from writers, fans, and fantasy players was that this was a big win for the Predators, acquiring a versatile forward coming off back-to-back 60-point seasons for a younger forward who hasn’t lived up to his promise. Let’s dig in.

 

Mikael Granlund

It’s easy to forget that just a few years ago, Granlund was the guy who wasn’t living up to expectations. He had just 31 goals through his first 240 career games, playing at a 45-point/82-game pace from 2013-2016, through his age-23 season. Following that season, he saw a move from centre to the wing and his production has since grown significantly: 62 goals and 185 points in 221 games. He doubled his goal output in fewer games while raising his 82-game point pace to 69. It has been a huge turnaround for the top-10 pick from 2010.

From 2013-16, Granlund played most of his five-on-five ice time with Jason Pominville. In fact, Pominville was on Granlund’s wing for nearly two thirds of his five-on-five ice time. Skating together, the Wild shot 7.4 percent at five-on-five over those three years, which is a poor number. When Granlund was skating without Pominville, that number jumped to 8.5 percent, a much more respectable number. The thing is, the team shot at a higher percentage when Granlund was on the ice without Pominville despite the team generating fewer shots, and fewer high-danger shots, when they were apart than together. While Pominville having his role reduced and then being eventually traded seems to have helped Granlund’s career, I’m not so sure there wasn’t a bit of unluckiness anyway.

All the same, once Granlund moved to the wing, his shot rate jumped significantly from under 10 shot attempts/60 minutes at 5v5 from 2013-16 to around 13 shot attempts per 60 minutes at 5v5 since the start of the 2016-17 season. The key for him, though, his that he didn’t sacrifice his playmaking: from 2013-16, he averaged 1.26 assists per 60 minutes and that number over the last three seasons is 1.32, and that’s on the back of more first assists, not a secondary assist binge. His goal rate still isn’t anywhere near great, but it’s a lot better than it had been earlier in his career, and that has been a big reason for the improvement in the fantasy game over the last few years.

One other area where Granlund improved following his move to the wing was shot suppression, though I think playing with Mikko Koivu is a big reason for that. From 2013-16, he played only around 60 minutes with Koivu as they were both centres. From 2016 until now, he played about two-thirds of his ice time with Koivu, and his defensive numbers improved dramatically with the fellow Finn as his pivot. I’m not going to lay it all at Koivu’s feet, but the difference in shot attempts allowed (about 14 percent less) and high-danger chances allowed (about 25 percent less) speaks volumes about how much he helped.

At the risk of being overly simplistic, much of Granlund’s improvements in the fantasy game over the last three seasons can be attributed to three things: shooting more, power-play production, and playing with Mikko Koivu.

 

Kevin Fiala

I have written extensively on Fiala over the last couple years but not much since this season has started. Let’s remedy that.  

Nashville’s top line is first, second, and third on the team in points/60 minutes at 5v5. Fourth? It was Fiala. And he’s not doing that with luck, either: through 64 games with the Preds this year, Fiala’s mark of 0.22 secondary assists per 60 minutes is the second-lowest among Nashville forwards and tied for 206th among 259 forwards with 600 minutes played league-wide. He’s also shooting 8.4 percent at five-on-five, the lowest mark of his career. So, his secondary assist rate is low, his shooting percentage is low, and he’s still been the most productive Nashville forward outside of their top line. His shot rates and high-danger rates are down from last year, but again, are among the best for their forwards.

He’s also having some tough luck on the power play. This year with Nashville, he scored 1 goal on 20 shots at five-on-four, an even five percent. Last year, he shot 16.7 percent at five-on-four. I’m going to guess he won’t keep shooting five percent with the man advantage.

Not much has changed in some of his play-driving metrics either. Below is from CJ Turtoro’s viz set, and shows things like zone entries and zone exits, as well as shot assists (passes leading to teammate shots). There has been little change from his first two seasons to this season:

There’s no doubt some of Fiala’s underlying numbers have taken a hit this year. His individual expected goals per 60 minutes (0.77) is considerably lower than last year (0.98) and lower than his rookie year (0.86). I do wonder how much of that has to do with the injury to Kyle Turris and Fiala basically being pushed all over the lineup because of injuries all season. In 2017-18, he was able to settle on a pretty good line with Turris and Craig Smith. This year, they only had about 10 games’ worth of ice time together.

Fiala is having a down year, no doubt. But there hasn’t been much change in most of his underlying numbers, has clearly had some bad luck, and the downturn in certain categories could be attributed to things outside of his control. In all, I don’t think basing his future performance on box car stats from 64 games is the way to go.

As far as comparing the two, here you go:

 

 

I think we could see these two perform very similarly fantasy-wise next year, though I do worry about Minnesota stripping down its team even further. Being surrounded by appropriate talent could be an issue for him. Regardless, I don’t think this trade is anywhere near as lopsided as some people made it out to be when it was announced, especially considering Granlund is UFA in one year and Fiala (who is four years younger, mind you) could probably be extended long-term for relatively cheap after this season.