Ramblings: Keller’s Crash; Third-Wheel Defencemen – December 23

by Michael Clifford on December 23, 2017
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Keller’s Crash; Third-Wheel Defencemen – December 23

Anyone else starting to get a bit concerned with Shayne Gostisbehere’s ice time? Going into Friday night, he had played just 19:17 per game over the last month, and under 17 minutes in three of his last four games. That’s against 21:43 over the first six weeks or so of the season. That is a huge, huge decline.

It hasn’t really hurt his production as he has 10 points and is averaging three shots a game over his last 14 games. That’s still excellent value. But how long can he keep that up playing 19 minutes a game? Over the previous four seasons, no defenceman has cracked 50 points in a season with less than 1580 total minutes (about 19:15 per game), and only eight have cracked 40 points (one of them, coincidentally, was Gostisbehere in his rookie year when he played just 64 games). 

He has a track record of production and he’s been great this year, even with the minutes going down. Do the minutes stay this low after Christmas? Is this worrying anyone else?

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Going into Friday night’s action. Phillip Danault was leading the Habs in points with 21. Seriously.

I think now might be the time to buy in on Max Pacioretty. Below is his five-on-five shot chart from this year from Hockey Viz. You’ll notice there are a lot of shots from outside home plate:

That’s nothing really unusual for him, though. He’s always been a guy to shoot, let’s say, indiscriminately. Without inundating you guys with more charts, going back a couple years, his highest concentration of any one area is the slot (as it is with the one from this year), but there are a lot of shots from outside the dots as well.

Think of it this way. He’s shooting 5.8 percent on the year (going into Friday night). His single-season low since becoming a full-time NHLer is 9.2 percent in the shortened 2012-13 season. Were he to finish the year at 8 percent shooting at the rate he is (4.03 shots per game), he’d score 18 goals between now and the end of the year. That is what makes him worth buying now. He could have a career-low in shooting percentage for the year in totality, but he could shoot 10 percent the rest of the way and be a stud in fantasy.

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I am very much flummoxed as to what is going on with the with the Sabres power play. I think part of it may have to do with Rasmus Ristolainen’s absence earlier in the year, but all of it? This isn’t a case where, like Columbus, they aren’t generating shots. In fact, with Evander Kane, Jack Eichel, and Ristolainen on the ice, the team is generating 115.8 shots per 60 minutes on the PP compared to 109 last year. Without Risto, that number still drops to just 113.55. So, you’d think that they wouldn’t be so poor with the man advantage. 

I haven’t studied the Buffalo PP, so maybe they’re not generating the quality of chances, or maybe it’s just a long run of bad luck. What I do know is that shot generation is a good indicator of future PP success, so if they can keep doing what they’re doing, maybe their luck turns around. I assume Risto can be had for a bent Alexandre Daigle rookie card in a trade, so it might be worth inquiring the respective fantasy owner. The team is bad offensively, but that power play can’t get worse (can it?)

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I’ve been a fan of Michael Matheson’s for a couple years, but I wonder if he ever has a full-fledged breakout while in Florida. There is enough offensive talent up front for that to happen, but his being stuck behind Keith Yandle and Aaron Ekblad is an impediment. Those two are locked up for five more years after this one, so unless one is traded or has their role severely diminished, maybe that Matheson breakout never comes. It’s a shame because he profiles as a guy that could run a power play and be a solid fantasy asset. Unless his path to playing time gets a little less cluttered, though, I’m not sure he’ll ever fulfill his fantasy potential. He’s kind of stuck in that Alec Martinez role, which can be fine as a deep/bench option, but never becomes a top-of-the-depth-chart type of fantasy asset.

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Speaking of third-wheel defencemen, how about Mathew Dumba? He’s at 0.14 goals per game since the start of the 2014-15 season. This century, there have been only 11 defencemen (Dumba included) to score at that rate from their age-20 through age-23 season. The list is a veritable who’s-who of offensive producers: Erik Karlsson, Dion Phaneuf, Dougie Hamilton, Drew Doughty, Mike Green, Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Justin Faulk, Shea Weber, Brent Burns, and PK Subban. If you had to make a list of top-end producers in their twenties on the blue line for this century, those would all be names on that list.

The good news is that even with Jared Spurgeon back in the lineup for the last two games before Friday, Dumba played 23:17 and 25:38. If he keeps getting that usage, he can very well end up as a double-digit goals, 40-point defenceman with solid peripherals.

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Anyone else find it kind of weird that two years ago, Calgary had three defencemen (Mark Giordano, Dougie Hamilton, TJ Brodie) all manage at least 43 points and yet, as of Friday afternoon, the only one on pace for at least 40 points was Brodie?

Granted, I don’t follow the offensive systems year to year that Calgary has been running, and with the season the top line is having, maybe the points are just going elsewhere. It is still a letdown for fantasy owners that invested in Hamilton and Giordano. Anyone else have thoughts here? Second-half turnaround, maybe?

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Since November 1st, Clayton Keller has three goals and eight assists in 23 games (heading into Friday night’s game). The early frontrunner for the Calder Trophy has fallen on some hard times. What happened?

First, his ice time has gone way down. Through the month of October, he averaged 19:51 per game, and since Halloween, it’s gone down to 18:13. Given that he’s not a penalty killer, that means all his minutes lost are at even strength or the power play. In October, he averaged 3:25 per game on the PP, second-most among Arizona skaters. Since October, he leads Arizona forwards (so that’s a good sign), but with power plays down across the league, he’s now under three minutes a game. The rest of the time lost is at even strength, but he’s tied for TOI per game among Arizona forwards at 15:41 with Derek Stepan.

It’s pretty important to understand the above paragraph. Yes, Keller is losing ice time, but it’s not like he’s being pushed down the depth chart; he’s still second on the team in total TOI/game since November 1st. Derek Stepan has lost about 50 seconds of ice time per game as well, though he still leads the Coyotes in TOI/game. So Keller isn’t necessarily losing ice time, it’s that everyone’s ice time is being redistributed to more TOI for the bottom-six, and the fourth line in particular; in October, the team had 10 forwards playing at least 11 minutes a game at even strength and since October, they have 12 forwards playing at least 11 minutes a game at even strength. He isn’t losing ice time so much as the coaching staff wants to play a more balanced lineup (which also explains why their dominant top line from early in the season was broken up and not reunited since).

A bigger concern is the shot-rate drop. He averaged 3.77 shots per game in October and just 2.17 since. It’s not just ice time, either: his shot attempt rate per 60 minutes at five-on-five from November 1st until now is 9.75 whereas it was 16.67 in October. That is a gigantic crash. It’s easy to see what happened, too. From Natural Stat Trick, here are the without/with you numbers for Keller, Stepan, and Max Domi this year. Highlighted is Keller without the other two on the ice:

Without those two, Keller and the Coyotes get crushed shot-share-wise, and generate far fewer shots. It’s no surprise, then, that Keller is shooting a lot less given he hasn’t played with them consistently in several weeks.

Has Keller hit a “rookie wall”? Maybe. I don’t think it’s entirely of his making, though. That team is pretty bare of top-end talent up front, and if he’s trying to carry lesser players, as a rookie, it’s a tough ask. I wouldn’t give up on him this year, and keeper/dynasty owners should be happy. However, unless they reunite their top line, him returning to early-season success seems unlikely.

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Some people may be disappointed with Dmitry Orlov this year, and I get it. He averaged 31 points over the previous two seasons and was in line for a huge ice time jump (which he’s received). I think dynasty owners would be wise to exercise patience here. Remember that John Carlson is probably gone in the off-season, which should mean an even bigger role for Orlov. Now, to keep continuity, I assume Matt Niskanen gets top PP duties next year (barring them bringing in a superior offensive defenceman, which I doubt), but Orlov will likely see more minutes. We saw that flashy goal he scored a few nights ago and that’s just a taste of his offensive upside. Don’t give up yet.

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5 responses to “Ramblings: Keller’s Crash; Third-Wheel Defencemen – December 23”

  1. finminer says:

    Totally agree on Matheson and that’s why I traded him earlier this year with his slow start. That long Yandle contract is a killer, unless he declines or he or Ekblad have a longer term injury. I saw him a fair amount here in San Antonio and his offensive instincts are clear; it’s just that behind those two, he won’t be able to use them to the fullest. Wish he’d get traded but no reason to think he would.

  2. mouseburger says:

    Who would you predict to have a stronger 2nd half? Hamilton or Risto? I drafted Hamilton 2nd overall in my 10-team keeper league and have been fairly disappointed so far.

  3. Striker says:

    Michael.

    Your not high on Washington to resign Carlson? I’m concerned as I would have thought it happened this summer, obviously they are quite far apart on salary but Carlson has been the golden child on D in Washington since he arrived. I’m not signing a player at any cost but if they accept fair market value I keep this asset. Carlson should be in the Fowler range & I think a very comparable asset.

    Although the NHLPA & the agents representing such seem to have an agenda to drive up the market as always. If Carlson would accept 6.5 to 7 for 6 to 8 years Washington should sign happily, 7.5 OK, 8 Arghhhh, signed begrudgingly but if the back end terms on an modified NTC are reasonable so be it, 8+ & I let him walk as a UFA.

    I’m don’t want to pay any Dman more than Hedman’s deal today. He is as good or better than every Dman in the NHL. He’s in my top 3, Doughty is my #1. Inflation, this summers cap increase & the situation with the NHLPA mentioned above may alter the playing field significantly. I think McDavid getting so much more than anyone else, 2 mil more has pulled up the salary demands for all players unfortunately.

  4. madden_curser says:

    Mike Green is likely available soon, as the Red Wings are spiraling out of contention. He would be a nice acquisition for Washington to replace Carlson. His contract is up after this season, so he will be a free agent and he has played at a high level this year. He could be an option.