Ramblings: Lightning Even Series; Carolina Changes; Palat; Drouin; Lucic – May 1

by Michael Clifford on May 1, 2018
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Lightning Even Series; Carolina Changes; Palat; Drouin; Lucic – May 1

The big news from Monday afternoon was that Lou Lamoriello would not be returning in 2018-19 as the GM for Toronto. He took over three years ago and has righted the team from a bottom-dweller to a playoff team. With all the talent they’ve amassed in the last few years, there is indeed a lot of promise for the future.

This has, apparently, been the plan all along according to the president of the Leafs, Brendan Shanahan:

Eyes now turn to the next general manager. The assumption is that it will be one of Kyle Dubas or Mark Hunter but the team has committed to nothing as of yet. At least publicly. Until they announce something, the Dubas Watch begins.

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Par Lindholm had been rumoured to different teams but the Swedish centre is apparently going to be signed by Toronto soon. This helps fill the void in the bottom-six that will ostensibly be left by Tomas Plekanec and Tyler Bozak moving on.

Lindholm will be 27 in October. Bottom-six centres usually don’t have much fantasy value outside of deep leagues but we’ll have to see how they use him.

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Despite being named a potential participant in the 2018 World Championships a week ago, Olli Juolevi will not be on Team Finland for the tournament. Somewhere, Cam Robinson is shedding a single tear into his beer.

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Carolina cleaned house as Ron Francis – former GM – was let go from the organization while Joe Nieuwendyk resigned as well. This probably isn’t surprising as new team owner Tom Dundon already said he would be a hands-on type of owner and leaving around the vestiges of the prior regime doesn’t really fit the bill of being a hand-on type of owner. Good luck to the next hire.

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Tampa Bay tied up their series with Boston by virtue of a 4-2 win on Monday night. The winning goal was a snipe from Ondrej Palat, a guy I was discussing earlier in the day on Twitter:

Seems to me that he’s pretty good.

The Palat-Point-Johnson had a great game, accounting for three of the four goals, and each player chipping in with one. Johnson had the goal, Palat had a goal and an assist, while Brayden Point had a goal and three assists. With the top line being quiet so far, it may be up to this trio to carry the load until Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos start finding the score sheet.

There was a bit of controversy in this one as with about 12:30 left in the third period, David Pastrnak got called for a four-minute high-sticking penalty on Victor Hedman. The problem was Pastrnak just lifted Hedman’s stick and Hedman’s own stick cut him open. That four-minute penalty really put a damper on the comeback effort. I wonder if they ever turn to official reviews for high stick double minors. These sorts of things can’t happen in the playoffs.

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The top line for Vegas did much of the damage on Monday night against San Jose, and this redirect one-touch pass from William Karlsson to a wide-open Reilly Smith on the third goal was beyond description:

Every game we get to watch Jonathan Marchessault, Reilly Smith, and William Karlsson play together is a treat. Thanks, Florida!

Fleury faced over 40 shots again though the last game was a double overtime. All the same, he’s faced at least 30 shots in every game this postseason. Vegas would do well to reverse this trend.

Tomas Tatar was dressed for this game after being a healthy scratch for the team. To my eye, he looked pretty good, especially on the defensive side of the puck. I’m intrigued for his fantasy value next year because I do believe he’s a very good player and should see top-six minutes. I imagine he gets overlooked given his lack of success after being traded by Detroit.

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Years ago, Eric Tulsky – now the manager of analytics for the Carolina Hurricanes – showed that secondary assists are essentially random. His study was done using just forwards at five-on-five so that’s what I’ll limit myself to in these Ramblings. Here are a few examples of changes in secondary assists as a percentage of total output from 2016-17 to 2017-18 among relevant fantasy performers (the cut-off was 500 five-on-five minutes played, all data from Natural Stat Trick):

  • Roughly 45.5 percent of Jordan Staal’s five-on-five points in 2016-17 were second assists, tied for the eighth-highest rate in the league. That dropped under 30 percent in 2017-18, tied for 100th.
  • Mika Zibanejad had the same percentage of his total output at five-on-five from secondary assists as Staal did in 2016-17. In 2017-18, that percentage fell to 23.8 percent, tied for 176th in the league.
  • Dustin Brown was 10th in the league in secondary points percentage in 2016-17 at 44.4 percent. That plummeted to 21.2 percent in 2017-18, tied for 216th.
  • Detroit sniper Anthony Mantha had 41.4 percent of his point come from secondary assists in 2016-17, tied for 17th in the league. In 2017-18, that dropped to 19.4 percent in 2017-18, or 254th in the league.

This may seem like cherry-picking but due to the cut-off in minutes, there are a lot of players at the top of the leaderboard that don’t have much fantasy relevance in the vast majority of leagues; the top-10 (including ties) in 2016-17 was Marcus Kruger, Matt Moulson, Riley Sheahan, Dmitrij Jaskin, John Mitchell, Matt Beleskey, Brendan Gaunce, Staal, Zibanejad, Brown, Mike Ribeiro, and Tom Wilson.

Now, there are mitigating factors, and not every player with high secondary assist rates will be fantasy irrelevant the following year; Jordan Staal was on a productive top line, Dustin Brown had his best season in years (thanks, Anze Kopitar), and Tom Wilson spent much of the year on the top line with Alex Ovechkin, in turn producing (by far) his best season. There is always nuance.

With that caveat out of the way, I wanted to go through some forwards with high rates of secondary assists as a percentage of their total output from 2017-18. Just be wary about expectations for 2018-19.

Just for some frame of reference, here are the top-20 highest percentage among forwards with a cut-off of 500 minutes played:

 

 

The one that sticks out here is Milan Lucic. His scoring struggles were well-documented with his 10 goals being the lowest mark for him in any season where he’s played over 50 games since his rookie campaign. Naturally, his career-low shooting percentage goes hand-in-hand with that goal output, but that’s another conversation for another day.

Lucic managed his most secondary assists at five-on-five (10) since 2011-12, and he had averaged under six per season over the three years from 2016-17. Now, even if here were to drop four or five secondary assists here, his goal scoring should tick up so it will mitigate that. Also, Lucic has never been drafted in a fantasy league for his stout assist totals. Just don’t expect a huge uptick in production based on goal-scoring rebound alone.

 

Ondrej Palat

Palat is an interesting case. He has three 50-point seasons and one 60-point season in the last five campaigns. In that span, however, he’s averaged just 69.8 games per 82 played due to injuries, and 2017-18 was another injury-plagued campaign.

The fantasy value for Palat would depend a lot on the type of league. He’s not a mutli-category performer, having never managed 25 goals, 2.2 shots per game, 40 penalty minutes, or more than 15 power-play points in any campaign. He does have very good hit totals but that’s about it. His value, then, is largely in points-only leagues, and is largely derived from assists.

Therein lies the problem for 2018-19. If he can play 75 games, on a productive second line with Brayden Point, his production may be just fine. But his secondary assist percentage from 2013-17 was 28.2 percent, a far cry from the 43.5 percent he posted in 2017-18. Even with that sky-high percentage last year, his 82-game pace was 52 points. Even in a full-ish season, expecting him to be the 55-60 point he’s flashed in the past is pushing it. Don’t be surprised if he comes in under 50 next year.

 

Those are two names that stuck out but the rest of the names are largely inconsequential for fantasy purposes. For that reason, here is the top-20 list for forwards sorted by highest percentage of points coming from secondary assists, but with the TOI cut-off at 1000 minutes:

 

 

I’ll go through a few players here briefly.

Jonathan Drouin

Remember that goal-scoring has an impact here. Guys who put up a decent amount of points but don’t score a lot will have a high percentage of their points come from secondary assists. All the same, Drouin had a 46-point campaign and setting his shooting percentage aside, you could say he was lucky to put up that many points. Not great, Bob.

 

Aleksander Barkov

The Barkov situation is a fascinating one. He set career-highs across in assists, points, and shots but also played over 22 minutes a game. I don’t know if they can keep playing him so much. His injury history is lengthy and though he’s still young, you don’t want to wear down your franchise centre. You can look to Kopitar as a player who’s managed to sustain 20-plus minutes a game for basically a decade but they also had to back off his TOI from 22-plus to 20-plus once he got to his mid-twenties. If they decide to back off his minutes, combined with a decline in secondary assists, maybe a 75-80 point season is the most we can ask for from Barkov. Not that it would be a poor season, I just think some people are hoping he can be a 90- or 100-point guy. On the other hand, a better power play would go a long way in unlocking his full fantasy potential.

 

Mikko Rantanen

I like Rantanen a lot as a player but I worry where his ADP will end up next year. There hasn’t been much chatter about his 84-point campaign in general but fantasy players, and you Dobber heads, tend to be much smarter than that. He had the ninth-most secondary assists league-wide in total and was among the leaders in percentage of points. He will still be featured on a heavily-used top PP unit that features studs like Nathan MacKinnon and Tyson Barrie, and he’ll be stuck to MacKinnon’s hip at five-on-five. I just worry about any player riding high percentages basically across the board. All it takes is one unlucky season and 84 points becomes 48 points real quick (ask Tyler Johnson from a few years ago). It might be a case where I’ll let someone else draft him if his ADP is too high. Still a long time until draft season, though.

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Just for the record, the forward with the lowest percentage of their points at five-on-five coming from second assists at five-on-five was Gustav Nyquist at 9.4%. He had as many five-on-five points as Nazem Kadri (32), and more than Ryan Johansen (31) or both Logan Couture and Jonathan Toews (30 each). If his teammates could actually score, and he were a bit more lucky with secondary assists, he could have had a nice fantasy season. I’ll discuss the lower end more later this week.

 

8 responses to “Ramblings: Lightning Even Series; Carolina Changes; Palat; Drouin; Lucic – May 1”

  1. stugots says:

    I couldn’t help but notice that the caption of the Twitter gif described the Karlsson pass as “fantastic.” 😉

  2. Striker says:

    I just don’t understand why in this day & age the NHL can’t get the officiating issue fixed & resolved. Why not have all 4 officials on the ice wear headsets. People at hockey opps can speak to them when necessary to advise them to call a penalty or overturn 1 if incorrect. It doesn’t need to be a drawn out review process on ever penalty whistle but lets make the right calls as much as possible.

    I get on ice officials miss a ton of stuff or think they see things that didn’t happen. It’s crowded, fast & they are spending the primary portion of their time trying to follow the puck if the lead official, the trailing trying to follow it & what else is going on. It’s fraught with error as you can’t see everything but the 1st replay of that stick incident was up in less than 15 seconds & was pretty obvious who’s stick was responsible.

    You don’t need a reply just someone saying in your ear no penalty Hedman’s stick cut himself.

  3. chimp82x says:

    Recently I was wondering if the “2nd assists are random” statement had any weight to it, so I modeled secondary assists per 60 (2A/60) over the past 5 seasons. For the stat nerds, I used a general linear model with “player” and “season” as the predictor variables. Surprisingly, there were 17 players that had significantly higher 2A/60 rates across the 5 seasons. These included Crosby, Thornton, H. Sedin, McDavid, Backstrom — essentially all the elite playmakers. This suggests that, for some players, 2A’s are not random. These players are actually able to replicate their 2A/60 rates across years.

    I should mention that I included all players in the analysis and did not have a limit on games played or minutes played.

    • Michael Clifford says:

      That’s interesting. Did you post a blog or something somewhere? I’d like to read it.

    • Nathan says:

      That’s a really interesting find- thanks for sharing. I wonder if it correlates to the fact that these seem to be the players that generally have the puck on their stick more than others and are assist heavy scorers to begin with? Essentially, it’d be like they are QBing their offenses when they are on the ice. It’d be interesting to see if we could ever get a stat that goes a little deeper than just team possession metrics, that shows the actual amount of time the puck was under an individual players possession (I suppose it would be hard to define or break down)- It’d probably correlate with a lot of these players being at the top of that list as well. The more you have the puck on your stick, the more likely you are to rack up assists of either variety I’d imagine. I wonder if being a puck hog helps you overcome the perceived randomness of secondary assists. Just a thought.

      • chimp82x says:

        That’s a very good theory! Players who have the puck more are likely to score secondary assists, just by chance. Like you said, the data can’t tell us if it’s chance or playmaking skill/vision that is driving the A2 rate.

        I re-ran the model using the same cutoffs that Cliffy used in the ramblings (5v5 data only, minimum 500 minutes). No Arvidsson this time around. The new list of “significant secondary assisters” includes H. Sedin, Benn, Getzlaf, McDavid, Palat, Thornton, Ribeiro, Stone, Sheary, J. Williams, Burakovsky, Backstrom, Scheifele, Perreault, Hall, Giroux, Barzal, Jagr, Mantha, Mackinnon and Huberdeau.