Ramblings: Schenn Signing, More Fantasy Hockey Questions

by Ian Gooding on July 24, 2016

Luke Schenn signs with the Coyotes, plus more fantasy hockey questions

We’re still at a point where we’re waiting for a few more free agents with some fantasy value to sign (Jiri Hudler and Radim Vrbata come to mind – shout out to my good friend who thinks that Vrbata will sign in the KHL).

But at least there was one recognizable name that found a new team on Saturday, as Luke Schenn has signed a two-year contract with Arizona worth $1.25 million per season.

Schenn has never been known for his offense, as his career high is 22 points and he registered just 16 last season. In fact, he probably shouldn’t have been on your fantasy radar when he was chosen by the Leafs in the 2008 draft. In three WHL seasons, he had never even reached the 30-point mark.

Schenn’s value to teams is clearly his defensive ability. His 234 hits split between Philadelphia and Los Angeles last season placed him 15th in the entire NHL, while his 106 blocked shots was in the top 100 in that category. Schenn should hold some value as a category specialist in very deep leagues that count hits, but nothing more.

While they haven’t upgraded in goal, the Coyotes enter the season with a much-improved defense, which could help Mike Smith’s numbers anyway. Alex Goligoski, Jamie McBain, and now Schenn have been brought into the organization this summer. Given that his icetime has averaged less than 20 minutes per game over the past three seasons, Schenn will probably start the season as a third-pairing defenseman, behind Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Goligoski, Michael Stone, and Connor Murphy.

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A Schenn of a different sort was also in the news on Saturday. Brayden Schenn is reportedly asking for $5.5 million over one year, according to Elliotte Friedman.
 

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The next bit here is from an email that I received at the tail end of my mailbag from last weekend. It had a series of solid questions in it that I didn’t have much time to answer until now. By the way, if you post a question on here or email me (goodsfantasyhockey (at) gmail (dot) com), I might try to get your question onto the Ramblings next weekend.

Evander Kane is an elite player in our league if he finally hits 60 points. Does Kyle Okposo help with that? What about Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart progressions?

I’ll concentrate on Kane first, since he’s in the news right now because of his recent arrest. Kane is now 24 years old (read Neil’s Ramblings from Saturday for more on what a player’s peak age should be), so we should be starting to reach the point of wondering whether it’s ever going to happen with Kane.

Could Kane hit 60 points this coming season? Given his current legal situation, it would be easy to write off that possibility. But there are two reasons not to be so hasty: 1) The addition of Okposo to the top line, and 2) Another player with the surname of Kane had an outstanding season after facing some serious allegations last summer.

Having said that, this is not the first sticky situation Kane has been in. That is why the possibility of Kane spending time in league-mandated counselling could result in him missing games, depending on the severity of his personal issues. Also don’t forget that Kane has not played more than 65 games in each of the past three seasons, so injuries also play a role here. The safe bet would be to take the under on 60 points for Kane, even though he’s in a great situation if he manages to stay in the lineup for a full season.

As for Eichel and Reinhart, the more likely of the two to progress would probably be Eichel. Because of the Okposo signing, Reinhart would likely drop to the second line with Eichel, which might result in a slight drop to his fantasy value. But that’s assuming that Ryan O’Reilly outscores Eichel, which I’m not entirely sold on. I might wait and see how the lines shake out, but the young Sabres should continue to grow.

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Dustin Byfuglien just turned 31 and is elite in our league. Do you think he can still play that same game for another three years? (50 points, 250 shots on goal, 120 penalty minutes, 230 hits)

Buff is big in fantasy leagues because of his ability to rack up points while playing a physical game. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to play that kind of game in the NHL over a long period of time, so I’d first be concerned that the penalty minutes (assuming you are rewarded for that stat) and the hits will decline. Since age-related production has been a theme recently in the Ramblings, let’s consider the ages of the hits and penalty minute leaders from last season.

Of the 18 players that finished ahead of Byfuglien in hits in 2015-16, only five (Chris Kunitz, Cody McLeod, David Backes, Dustin Brown, Tanner Glass) have celebrated their 31st birthday. Of those players, only one (Kunitz) has celebrated his 34th birthday.

Of the eight players that finished ahead of Byfuglien in 2015-16, only two (McLeod, Chris Neil) has celebrated his 31st birthday. Of those players, only one (Neil) has celebrated his 34th birthday.

I could look at this from several more angles (more seasons, an individual player’s trajectory), but it appears that there is an age-related decline with physical categories in addition to scoring. What Big Buff has going for him, though, is that the past two seasons are the only two that he has recorded over 100 penalty minutes.

I would project Big Buff to reach 100+ penalty minutes and 200+ hits again in 2016-17. But I’m not sold that he will three years from now, though. As for shots on goal, see my next question where I’ll lump him in.

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Can Brent Burns actually put up stupid numbers like he did in 2015-16? He’s also 31 and should be facing a decline sometime soon.

If not for Erik Karlsson looking like a modern-day Bobby Orr, Burns’ 75 points would have put him in a league of his own. Burns’ 353 shots on goal also led all NHL blueliners, which was over 100 shots ahead of runners-up Karlsson and peripheral king Byfuglien.

That production was simply at another level for Burns when you consider his previous career highs (60 points, 245 shots on goal). Yet to Burns’ advantage is that he’ll have the same cast this season in San Jose, along with another sniper in Mikkel Boedker. I’ll meet in the middle and say 65 points and 300 shots on goal. Maybe not an age-related decline and still amazing numbers, but counting on the same is asking a bit much.

As for Byfuglien, he could very well meet, if not exceed, his total from last season. He has reached 200 shots on goal in a season seven times, and his career high is 347 during the season he spent with the Atlanta Thrashers. Maintaining that total will depend on his level of icetime, which could decline if he finally starts to experience some wear and tear. In addition, could Jacob Trouba or even Josh Morrissey be running the power play in Winnipeg in three years? Buff is under contract for another five years, so he should at least be around in three years.  

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Can Vladimir Tarasenko win the Rocket Richard this year?

The one player standing in the way of Tarasenko winning the Rocket Richard Trophy is fellow Russian Alex Ovechkin, who has won the award for four consecutive seasons. Ovechkin has now won the award more times (6) than any other player since the award was introduced in 1998-99.

So can Tarasenko pass Ovechkin this coming season? I’m going to say no. Ovechkin should get his 50 again, while Tarasenko’s current trend should make him good for 45 goals.

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With his contract finally settled, can Steven Stamkos get back to an elite level?

Whether it be an unsettled contract situation, injuries, or improved depth in T-Bay, Stamkos has not been an elite option in fantasy – just a very good one. The Bolts are paying him to be an elite player ($8.5 million per season), yet they probably don’t need him to be one in order to be one of the league’s top teams.

The most significant concern for Stammer should be how he’ll respond to the blood clot issues that sidelined him for almost all of the playoffs. Remember that blood clots essentially ended the career of Pascal Dupuis and they kept basketball player Chris Bosh sidelined for a while. For more on the danger, read this article from the CBC.  

Assuming full health and the contract situation not weighing on his mind, Stamkos could be due for a slight bounce-back, but not a return to elite levels. A total of 40 goals and 30 assists seems like a reasonable expectation to me.

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Can Milan Lucic be a 65+ point player with Connor McDavid full time?

Lucic has never scored 65 points in a season, so I’ll say right off the bat that I don’t think so. Having said that, Lucic has played alongside some solid centers in the past (Anze Kopitar, David Krejci), but none with the upside of McDavid.

Lucic is also now 28, which isn’t old for a power forward, but he is significantly older than his new star linemate. Wear and tear could be factor, considering that he’ll be counted on to do much of the non-physical Oilers’ dirty work.

Lucic’s fantasy value definitely improves with the move to Edmonton, considering the possibility of being McDavid’s wingman. Sixty-five points is a best-case scenario for me, but 60 points in today’s low-scoring NHL seems like the safer bet.

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Boone Jenner is another really interesting player in our league. Do you think he can eclipse 55-60 points this year or sometime soon?

Jenner’s so-called breakout occurred in just his third season, scoring a somewhat unexpected 30 goals. Was this a fluke, or simply a sign of things to come?

In one of his post-season Fantasy Hockey Cage Matches, Rick Roos examines Jenner’s likelihood of building on his recent goal scoring success (to go with his light assist total). Coincidentally, Jenner’s match is with the aforementioned Kane because of their similarities, so this would be a good one to read if you own stock in both players.

If you don’t feel like reading, Roos declared Kane the winner by a slight margin. Not mentioned earlier with Kane was the fact that he has strong peripherals (penalty minutes, hits, shots on goal, icetime). So if Kane will be in tough to reach 60 points with the shots on goal and icetime going for him, then Jenner’s not going to have an easy time exceeding 60 points himself.  Jenner is still only 23, so there’s lots of time for this to happen.

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Enjoy your Sunday. Follow me on Twitter @Ian_Gooding.