Ramblings: Svechnikov Injured; Kadri and Thornton Suspended; Looking Back – April 16

by Michael Clifford on April 16, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Svechnikov Injured; Kadri and Thornton Suspended; Looking Back – April 16

 

There were a pair of suspensions handed down on Monday as Nazem Kadri was suspended for the rest of the series for his cross-check in Game 2 and Joe Thornton was suspended for one game for his hit on Tomas Nosek on Sunday night.

With Kadri out of the lineup, William Nylander lined up as the third line centre between Connor Brown and Patrick Marleau.

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Carolina took their first game of the series against Washington with a 5-0 win at home in Game 3. The bigger news, however, could end up being the health of rookie star Andrei Svechnikov. The 19-year old challenged Alex Ovechkin to a fight and was promptly knocked out after about three punches. The ‘Canes forward left the game and did not return.

Micheal Ferland also suffered an upper-body injury and did not return.

I imagine Svech will be out for Game 4 at a minimum and it would not surprise me if he missed the rest of the series. That’s just speculation on my part, of course, but it was a devastating knockout.

Dougie Hamilton scored a pair of goals in the win, both coming on the power play. He had six total shots with two blocks, two hits, and two penalty minutes. Why the coaching staff hasn’t moved him to the top PP unit is beyond me.

The Hurricanes utterly dominated the game from start to finish. Sometimes, a score that reads 5-0 can be misleading. This was not one of those cases.

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Toronto took a 2-1 series lead over Boston with a 3-2 win on Monday night. Auston Matthews got on the board with a goal and an assist while Andreas Johnsson also had a goal and an assist filling in on the top PP unit for the now-suspended Nazem Kadri.

This was a much tamer affair than the game on the weekend but I’m not very interested in talking about officiating.

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Cale Makar made his NHL debut for Colorado on Tuesday night and scored his first NHL goal to help the Avalanche to a 6-2 beatdown of the Flames. He only played 14 minutes so they’re clearly going to ease him into the role, but he looked very good for his first postseason game. Avs fans and fantasy hockey fans are all pretty excited.

Nathan MacKinnon was a man on a mission in this game with two goals and an assist. He’s been on a mission pretty much the entire series and the Flames really haven’t had an answer yet.

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Pekka Rinne was the difference for Nashville in Game 3, making 40 saves en route to a 3-2 win. He came up big in the third period in particular when the Stars were pressing hard for a goal and cracked Rinne’s code for one goal but couldn’t get a second.

P.K. Subban had an assist but played probably his best game of the postseason with an assist, two shots, and five blocks. He made a couple key defensive plays to help ensure the victory.  

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Time makes fools of us all. While we do our best to predict what’s going to happen in an NHL season beforehand – that’s the entire premise of fantasy sports – there’s no possible way to get everything right.

I wanted to go back to the preseason to our panel of predictions. (Part 1 here, Part 2 here.) We cover everything from breakouts, to busts, to midseason call-ups, trophy winners, and more. Basically, I want to review where some of the predictions went wrong and what we can learn from this.

Naturally, I’ll start with my own failures.

 

Dark Horse – Sam Steel

At the outset of the season, I envisioned a transition year for the Ducks. Guys like Ryan Kesler and Corey Perry would still be productive, but likely on the third or fourth lines, while guys like Steel, Troy Terry, and Max Comtois would step up and lead the next wave of the Ducks core.

That wasn’t entirely the case.

Steel’s first foray in the NHL saw three points and 17 shots on goal through 13 games, averaging under 15 minutes a game. We have to think back to the state of the Ducks in October, though: Ryan Getzlaf missed two weeks due to injury, Ondrej Kase was not in the lineup due to his own injury, and Perry was injured as well. With guys like Rickard Rakell, Jakob Silfverberg, and Andrew Cogliano in the top-6, Steel was playing on the third and fourth line most nights with guys who were either unproven or without a lot of offensive skill. He wasn’t exactly put into a position to succeed, and he, Lundestrom, and Terry were eventually sent down either for the rest of the season, or until after the trade deadline.

In all, the underlying numbers weren’t great for Steel but I wonder how much of that is Anaheim being a disaster most of the season. Those numbers were really bad in October, but after his recall at the end of February, he had very strong shot share numbers for the remaining games he dressed. It really was a tale of two seasons for Steel.

I’ve still a believer in his talent and think he can be a good second-line centre in the NHL. I thought that might start in 2018-19 but clearly he needed another year of to get up to speed. I think my mistake was my own beliefs in a player’s potential clouded what I should have seen as a clear development year.  It’s a mistake I’m certain I’ll make again.

 

Midseason Call-Up – Eeli Tolvanen

This was a popular pick amongst the Dobber team, and for good reason. There has been fanfare around Tolvanen basically since the moment he was drafted by the Predators, and likely before that from certain corners of the fantasy community. I mean, he was called up in the spring of 2018. It would make sense he’d be called up sometime this season, right?

Note: I know he was called up in December, but he only lasted four games. I don’t think this is what our writers had in mind when they predicted a midseason recall.

There are two ways of looking at Tolvanen’s season: a disappointment because he was not able to make any significant contributions in NHL, or a solid development season with 33 points in 57 AHL games. That might not seem like a great total but Milwaukee was in the lower half of the league in total goals, nobody on the team cracked 50 points, and Tolvanen led the roster in shots on goal with 152 despite missing 18 games. When provided a bit more context, that’s a good year for a 19-year old. (He turns 20 next week.)

It did surprise me that Tolvanen did not get a longer look in the NHL given the injuries suffered by Filip Forsberg and Viktor Arvidsson at different times in the season. Clearly, Nashville felt more development in the AHL was necessary and with their track record at developing talent over the last five years or so, I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

To me, this screams value in 2019-20. I imagine that Tolvanen is on the roster out of camp but I also imagine some of the shine has worn off by now. There was a lot of Tolvanen buzz a little over 12 months ago about being a game-changing call-up for the Nashville playoff run. I didn’t see nearly the same fervour going into the 2019 playoffs. Does he fly under the radar this summer and into drafts in September? My money is on yes.

 

Probable Bust – Patrick Kane

I understand the thinking here. Following the 2017-18 season, the Blackhawks certainly seemed like a team on the downturn. There had been the breakout of Alex DeBrincat in 2017-18, but Jonathan Toews had three straight years of under 60 points, Brandon Saad was coming off a miserable season, there were other aging players like Keith, Seabrook, and Anisimov, and the team did not make a splash in free agency. Kane himself was coming off his lowest point total (76) in three years and had seen two years of decline post-Panarin. There was every reason to think the Blackhawks would take a dive this year, and Kane’s production would take a dive with them.

Two things changed for Chicago: DeBrincat was better this year than I think even the most ardent DeBrincat supporter could have expected, and Erik Gustafsson came out of nowhere to post 60 points from the blue line. Chicago’s back end looked very thin with an aging core, and Gustafsson really helped solidify it, at least offensively. An additional two minutes of ice time per game for Kane certainly didn’t hurt.

Now, to be fair to those who thought Kane would be a bust, he did have a lot of underlying numbers that were out of line: his individual shooting percentage both at five-on-five and at all strengths was a three-year high, his on-ice shooting percentage at five-on-five was by far a career high, his secondary assist rate was the highest it’s been since 2010-11, and his on-ice shooting percentage on the power play was also a three-year high. It was a rebound, or career year, in many ways for Kane. Not something easily predicted for a 30-year old on what was thought to be a declining team.

An early lesson I learned in fantasy sports is to always bet on talent. Originally, for me, this applied to relief pitchers in fantasy baseball, but it’s very much true in almost any sport; elite talent usually finds a way to be productive almost regardless of circumstance. This certainly isn’t always the case (see: Kopitar, Anze) and I would bet on a modest step back for Kane in 2019-20. All the same, doubting elite talent is a bet I do not often make.

 

Sleeper – Antti Raanta

I just want to mention this briefly because I also liked Raanta coming into the year (officially, my pick was Kyle Palmieri) and he had a wonderful season up until the injury issues. Like many people, I wrote off Arizona after the injury, and that was a giant mistake.

Darcy Kuemper had a great year being the starter from basically the middle of December onward. He finished the year with a .925 save percentage, and has a .916 save percentage since becoming an NHL regular in 2013-14, the same rate of saves as Henrik Lundqvist and Jaroslav Halak. Now, his goals saved above average rate since 2013 isn’t very good (read: bad), but after the season he had, he’s going to at least be in the conversation for the starter in Arizona next year.

Sidebar: does anyone realize Kuemper is younger than Raanta?

So here’s the question: which goalie is the sleeper next year? How far does Raanta’s injury and uncertainty surrounding his grip on the starting role push down his ADP? Does Kuemper’s great season and potential push for the top job drive up his ADP? Will these two be drafted in relatively the same tier as, say, Matt Murray and Marc-Andre Fleury were a few years ago? I am fascinated to see where these guys are valued by the market, especially if the Coyotes make some moves this offseason either in the trade or free agency markets. Or both.

 

Those were a few misses from myself and the Dobber team from before the 2018-19 season. I’m sure those of you reading this had a few. What were some predictions on player performance that went awry this year? Let us know in the comments.