Ramblings: Updates on Little, Gallagher, Trocheck; Toffoli’s future – November 7

by Michael Clifford on November 7, 2019
  • Hockey Rambling
  • Ramblings: Updates on Little, Gallagher, Trocheck; Toffoli’s future – November 7

 

There were concerns about Brendan Gallagher after blocking a shot with his hand on Tuesday night but he was back at practice on Wednesday so everybody STAND DOWN.

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Vincent Trocheck still isn’t practicing for the Florida Panthers and it sure feels like something weird is going on here. It’s been several games he’s been out of the lineup and there’s really been no update as to how much longer it will last.

It could very well just be a soft-tissue injury like a hamstring pull but if that were the case, why not just tell the fans and media? The general idea behind hiding injury news is that you don’t want opposing players targeting the affected area. If it’s a soft-tissue injury, that’s not really a concern (though Antoine Roussel might nibble a hamstring or two). It’s either the team is being wildly cautious about a soft-tissue injury – which, again, is possible but I don’t see the point – or it’s much more serious than that. Let’s just hope it’s the Panthers being overly protective. 

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An update from the Jets on Bryan Little:

 

 

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I was watching Thomas Chabot’s post-game scrum after the loss to the Islanders on Tuesday night – it was on Sportscentre; I don’t actively seek post-game scrums – and he talked about how the Islanders use a counter-punch method to their style. They don’t generate sustained offence, allow way more shots than they take, and rely on counter-attacking.

It’ll be interesting to see how this team fares this year. They’re one of the worst teams by shot share in the NHL, with only the Rangers and Senators behind them. Just a word of warning: it was a year ago that the Buffalo Sabres went on a similar win streak with similar  

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Vegas has sent Nicolas Hague back to the AHL.

Now, they’ve been working their way around the cap by doing small moves like this all year, but Hague is also at the nine-game cut-off. Could be this is for good unless injuries strike.

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Not related to fantasy hockey, but this story of a guy dressing up as Elmo for the Washington Nationals’ championship parade is too good not to share.

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Also not related to fantasy hockey, but at least a hockey story. Mike Harrington wrote about the entire story of Alex Mogilny being effectively smuggled out of Sweden to Buffalo to play for the Sabres 30 years ago. I had always known the story but didn’t live through it. Reading back, it’s just an incredible read on an incredible set of circumstances. 

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A good article over at the Athletic yesterday about Jesse Puljujarvi’s season to date in Finland. I’m still very much in the camp that this guy is/will be a game-breaker in the NHL, he just was not given the due attention and development in Edmonton. It’ll be very interesting to see where he lands.

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The Rangers and Red Wings certainly played a professional hockey game in which the former took the victory by a 5-1 margin. That is a thing that definitely happened on Wednesday night.

Each of Artemi Panarin, Ryan Strome, and Tony DeAngelo had a goal and an assist in this game. DeAngelo is now up to 11 points in 13 games, though he was bumped to the second power-play unit in this game in favour of Adam Fox on the top quintet. Jacob Trouba is nowhere to be found with the man advantage.

Just as a small aside: I have no idea what Quinn is doing behind the bench anymore. Ryan Lindgren, who had been very solid skating with Adam Fox, was scratched in favour of Marc Staal, who hasn’t been NHL-calibre in at least four years. Lias Andersson was scratched in favour of dressing Greg McKegg, but more than that, Andersson came out instead of Michael Haley (a face-pumcher) and a defenceman playing forward in Brendan Smith. Then there’s not using Trouba – easily the team’s most established offensive defenceman – on any power play. Let’s not forget any other of a number of issues. It seems like I’m often complaining about coaching, but I just wish some member of the media would ask Quinn, “Do you think playing Lias Andersson nine minutes a night on the fourth line with a fighter and a defenceman is optimal for his development as a prospect?” but we’ll never get those questions, so on we march.

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St. Louis beat Edmonton 5-2 but two of those goals were empty-netters so it wasn’t quite that wide open. Here’s a fun stat: of those seven goals, three came on the power play, and two were short-handed. Not a lot going on at 5v5 in this one.

So, Alex Pietrangelo had one goal, two assists, and a block in this one, two of those points with the man advantage and one short-handed. He’s up to 14 points in 17 games, putting him on pace for 67 points, by far a career-high. His shooting percentage is far too high and he’s lost over a minute per game at five on five compared to last year. He’s gained some PPTOI, but as we saw last year, their PP combinations don’t last very long so I wouldn’t rely on that, either. All I’m saying is it might not hurt to see how high he can be traded for, if you’re a Petro owner.

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Speaking of good articles, I’m glad Cam brought up Dustin Byfuglien’s situation in his Ramblings yesterday. Namely, his point about the type of league mattering.

I just want to echo Cam’s sentiments. If you’re in a league so deep that Chris Tanev looks appealing, it’s probably worth just hanging on to Byfuglien. There’s no advantage to dropping him unless absolutely necessary because of injuries. If you’re in a league so shallow that people are dropping John Klingberg, then no, don’t grab Byfuglien. There are enough options on the waiver wire that it’s not necessary to take that risk.

Even better: play in best-ball leagues so this situation doesn’t even apply. 

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It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but Pierre LeBrun from TSN was reporting on Tuesday night that Tyler Toffoli is more likely to be traded than kept and re-signed by Los Angeles. He was also speculating that this deal could be done sooner rather than later.

To me, Toffoli’s tenure with the Kings is one of the more genuinely mystifying things in the NHL over the last five years. Let’s just take a quick spin through his career.

In 2014, Toffoli was part of the Stanley Cup roster, and was a featured role on the second line with Jeff Carter and Tanner Pearson (remember That 70s Line). He had seven goals and 14 points in 26 games while playing just 13 minutes a night.

Following that season, Toffoli went on a pretty good tear, but you’d be hard-pressed to realize it based on his surface stats. From 2014-15 through 2016-17, Toffoli scored 0.94 goals per 60 minutes at five on five, a top-30 mark in the entire league, and higher than names like Joe Pavelski, Jamie Benn, Evander Kane, etc. On the power play in that span, his goals per 60 minutes rate was inside the 85th percentile of regularly-used forwards on the power play (2.27). Guys scoring less often include Patrice Bergeron, Zach Parise, Artemi Panarin, T.J. Oshie, Max Pacioretty, John Tavares, etc. Toffoli is a guy who, for years, showed he could score with the best of them in the NHL.

The problem? He was never given a featured role. He irregularly played with Anze Kopitar at five on five and was most often on the second power-play unit. The latter part of that sentence is what doesn’t make sense to me. He was arguably the best goal scorer the team had for years and even when on the power play, he wasn’t given a featured role. If the coaching staffs had concerns about other areas of his game, isn’t the power play where you’d want to really take advantage of the area he excels? Anyway, I digress.

It’s been a tough slog since then, or basically since the 2016-17 season. He was injured, had a tough shooting year last year, and has seen his ice time dramatically cut this season. Every coaching staff hates this guy. I don’t know how else to explain it. Even if you take issue with his defence or his skating or whatever, there’s no justification for constantly leaving him off the top power-play unit. Park him in the bumper and let him do what he does best. But they won’t, which means they’re just killing his potential trade value.

Anyway, not that we should take every report as gospel, but we did see a lot of November trades last year. There was Hagelin going to the Kings, Strome to the Rangers, the Schmatz/Strome swap, and both Leivo and Sprong were dealt three days into December. It makes sense for Los Angeles to trade him soon to maximize return from the trade partner, it makes sense for the team acquiring him to get the most they can from him this year and acclimate him to their franchise, and it makes sense for Toffoli to get the hell out of Los Angeles and re-establish his value.

For fantasy owners, the point I’m trying to make after 500 words of venting frustration at multiple coaching staffs over several years is that Toffoli should be on the move. This is a guy who has shown the ability over many seasons to be a top-end goal scorer as long as he’s not buried on the depth chart. And imagine what he can do if he – god forbid – should ever play with a good playmaking centre again! (The horror!) If you have room at the bottom of your bench, maybe check to see if he’s available in your leagues. It may not be long before he has real fantasy value again.

(Just a small aside: Toffoli’s individual shot rate at five on five is the highest of his career, and he was already a prolific shooter. Imagine what a shooter like that could do alongside Mikael Backlund, Max Domi, Nick Schmaltz, David Krejci, or either line in Pittsburgh.)