Ramblings: Karlsson Signs; Eakins New Ducks Bench Boss; Jamie Benn’s Season – June 18

by Michael Clifford on June 18, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Karlsson Signs; Eakins New Ducks Bench Boss; Jamie Benn’s Season – June 18

 

Aside from the Raptors championship parade in Canada, there was pretty big news on the sports front as Erik Karlsson was reported by Pierre LeBrun to have signed an eight-year deal with the San Jose, carrying an average annual value of $11.5-million. As of today, that would be the third-highest cap hit in the NHL and the highest for a defenceman.

The deal was later confirmed by the team.

In cap leagues, I doubt that this will be a contract worth drafting. He doesn’t provide hits, his blocked shot rates have declined two straight years (justifiably), and he doesn’t provide penalty minutes. You’re banking on points and shots, and in multi-category cap leagues, that isn’t enough to justify that heavy of a cap hit.

Not really a lot to say here from my end on the contract itself. Pay your superstars and figure the rest out later.

*

Dallas Eakins was announced as the new coach for the Anaheim Ducks on Monday. You’ll remember that Randy Carlyle was fired during the season and Bob Murray took over on an interim basis.

You can read Ian’s take on the hiring here.

I’ve long been a fan of Eakins, going back to his pre-Edmonton days. To me, he’s a guy who can think differently about the game and try to find edges for his players that can add up over the course of a season. He’ll have a good mix of veterans like Ryan Getzlaf and Cam Fowler with young up-and-comers like Troy Terry and Max Comtois. There is also John Gibson in net. The team has some work to do this off-season but I’m kind of optimistic for Anaheim.

*

Anthony Duclair has re-signed with the Ottawa Senators. (Slowly but surely, they’re making their way to the cap floor.) I still don’t think he’s anything more than some bottom-6 scoring depth but it’s a nice signing for the Sens.

Before trying to extrapolate from his stint with the Sens last year, keep in mind that he was still playing under 14 minutes a game on a bare-bones roster. Don’t get too excited about a potential breakout just yet.

*

With the draft later this week, now would be a good time to grab this year’s Dobber Hockey Prospects Report! It has current prospects, future prospects, team-specific content, and a whole lot more. Head to the Dobber Shop to get your copy now.

*

One player whose season I found very fascinating was Jamie Benn’s. His 53 points were the lowest for him in an 82-game season since his rookie 2009-10 campaign while shots per game rate (2.42) was also his lowest since that rookie year. He will be turning 30 years old in July, so I certainly understand people having a very conservative outlook for him moving forward. I don’t think his 2018-19 season was as bad as it appears on the surface, however. Let’s break his season down step by step.

 

Ice Time

That his ice time dropped so heavily in one season – more than 90 seconds per contest – would generally be a huge concern, but where his ice time dropped is more important. For the year, he managed 14:11 per game at five-on-five. That’s actually the second-highest mark for him in a single season since the 2013 lockout campaign, and his highest mark was 14:12 in 2017-18. When we look at even strength rates, including 4v4 and 3v3, he’s right in line (15:13) with what we’ve seen from the last three years (15:22, 14:46, 15:15).

His power play ice time took a hit, coming it at 2:42 per game, the first time he managed under 3:07 per game since before the lockout. It might not seem like a lot, but 30-40 seconds less per game compared to a few years ago can mean a drop of 3-4 power play points alone. In roto leagues, that impacts several categories, everything from goals and assists, to shots and the actual PPP (or PPG) category.

All the same, Benn was used as one of the Big Three Forwards with the man advantage, finishing within 25 seconds of Alex Radulov and Tyler Seguin. It would be nice to have him play as much as Radulov, who was over the three-minute mark, but he’s not going to lose his top PP role.

The loss in ice time came mostly on the penalty kill where he was scarcely used, dropping over a minute of PK time per game.

 

Shots and Expected Goals

On a per-60 rate, Benn’s individual shot attempts were the lowest of his career at 13.1 but it’s been pretty much in line with the two seasons prior of 13.2 and 13.9. His actual shots on goal rate per 60 minutes was 7.6, right in the middle of his prior two seasons of 7.0 and 8.2.

The issue is that his last three years have been the three lowest marks of his career, which is why he’s seen a shots/game decline from his peak during the few years post-lockout. I do think there’s hope he rebounds from his 2.4 shots/game in 2018-19, but I also don’t think getting above 3.0 is a realistic expectation anymore. It’s not to say he can’t do it, just that I wouldn’t expect it given his trajectory for years now.

When the Stars were on the power play, Benn’s shot attempt rates were very normal for him, coming in at 21.0 per 60 minutes. He was at 21.1 the year before and his 2018-19 mark is about in the middle of his career numbers. There’s nothing alarming to see about his PP shot rates. 

The shots are basically normal but what about his expected goal rate?

Benn has been in the NHL for 10 seasons now. In those 10 seasons, he’s had an individual expected goals per 60 minutes between 0.72 and 0.77 in seven of them, including 0.73 in 2018-19. There were two peak years just out of the lockout over 0.9 and one poor year in 2016-17 of 0.62.

When we look at his expected goals on the power play, his last four years (2018-19 included) have seen the three highest marks of his career. It’s a reason why he still managed eight PP goals despite the decline in ice time. Should he maintain these expected goal rates moving forward – and research suggests PP production ages well, at least at 5v4 – then we can expect him to hover around 10 PP goals again.

 

Assists

What I really wanted to get to was the assist portion of his profile, specifically on the power play.

I don’t know if a lot of people realize this but Benn had three (3) PP assists in 2018-19. That was the lowest mark of his career and the first time he failed to reach 13 PP assists in an 82-game season since 2011-12. His 0.87 assists per 60 minutes on the PP really hindered his ability to be a top-end roto producer this year.

Let’s take some time to find a few players over the last couple season who had established production rates on the power play, had one terrible year for assists, and what happened after. Like most stats in this column, data is taken from Natural Stat Trick:

 

Player

Season

Assist Rate/60 on PP

Three-Year PP A/60 Prior

Following Year’s PP A/60

Elias Lindholm

2017-18

0.85

3.54

3.93

Logan Couture

2016-17

1.1

3.29

2.72

David Krejci

2016-17

1.72

4.1

2.53

 

Now, I very much hesitate to rely on a sample size where the grand total is n=3. I don’t think, however, it’s much of a stretch say that there will be a big rebound coming in PP assists. He should be able to get back to double-digit assist totals again, pushing his PP production back over 20 PPPs where he normally sits.

 

Playing With Seguin

As mentioned before in these Ramblings over the last, say, 10 months, there was a lot of hope for the Stars to return to the offensive juggernaut they’d been in years gone by with Jim Montgomery behind the bench. That did not happen whatsoever as the team played about as tight and low-event as they had under Ken Hitchcock.

Not only did the team not play as expected, but Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin were split up more often than they had ever been outside of 2016-17. Benn played a little over 1107 in total at 5v5, 736:58 of those with Seguin, or about 66.6 percent together. Here are their percentages playing together starting in 2013-14:

  • 87.6 percent
  • 77.4 percent
  • 78.1 percent
  • 56.1 percent
  • 73.5 percent

I am not drawing a straight line here because nothing in hockey is this simple, but Benn’s two worst seasons offensively since Seguin joined the team in 2013-14 were the two years he spent less than 70 percent of his five-on-five ice time with the former Bruin. Even those two worst offensive seasons, however, saw him finish as player 67 and player 41 in standard Yahoo! roto leagues.

A crystal ball to figure out what Montgomery is going to do next year would be nice, but we don’t have one. Does Benn spend 60 percent of the year with Seguin? 70 percent? 80 percent? It’s a guessing game. Taking a stab at it, they’ll probably leave at least one of Benn or Radulov on the second line most of the year in order to spread the scoring.

 

In sum, there are some definite causes for concern. The shot rates are down and his declined usage on the top line is worrisome. He’s also going to be 30 years old with 10 years in the league as a power forward. When the decline really hits, it will be steep and merciless.

But 30 years old is still young enough for me to take a gamble at the draft table. Depending where you drafted and what type of league, Benn was likely a mid-second to mid-third round pick last September. People will be scared off by the 53-point season but the savvy fantasy owner will know that if he can stave off the shot decline, the rebound in PP assists could see him back over the 60-point mark yet again, even if he’s not attached at the hip with Seguin. I imagine they’ll look to sign an impact winger, whether it’s Mats Zuccarello or someone else, and that’ll make a difference at 5v5 as well. I think the 40-goal, 80-point seasons for Benn are a thing of the past, but what he offers across the board in roto leagues means I’m fine drafting him in the fourth or fifth round should he drop that far by ADP.