Fantasy Hockey Geek

Deep Analysis: The Neutral Zone

Welcome to the inaugural Deep Analysis.  Our goal is to dig deep into the team and league that is being analyzed in order to contribute some insight and push the fantasy GM into really getting the most out of their team and ultimately taking down the rest of the league. 

Team Name: The Neutral Zone                  

League Name:  Cold Fury

GM:  Rick Little aka Hybrid (@ www.dobberhockey.com)

Evaluators: The Hockey Pool Geek team

Date of Analysis: July 2010


League Structure:

Format: 10 team Rotisserie Keeper – no maximum games, daily starts

Rosters: 24 players; 3C, 3LW, 3RW, 5D, 1Util, 2G, 7B, 1IR (no farm)

Scoring categories: G, A, +/-, Pts, PIM, PPG, PPA, W, GA, SV, SV%

Keepers: 15 any position

Keepers declared by:  Sept. 8, 2010 5:00pm ET

Draft: 9 round snake draft 

Season acquisition limit: 25

Trade limit: 0 

Trade deadline: none

Team Assets at Time of Deep Analysis:

Centers:          Tavares, Gagner, Spezza, Turris, Berglund

Left Wing:        Van Riemsdyk, Benn, Filatov, S. Kostitsyn

Right Wing:     Pominville, Voracek, Hemsky, Gaborik, Clarkson, Grabner, Antropov (RW/C)

Defense:         Yandle, Karlsson, Phaneuf

Goalies:           Miller, Halak, Varlamov, Schneider, Harding

Draft Picks: 1st, 22nd, 32nd, 42nd, 52nd, 59th, 62nd, 72nd, 82nd.

Background and Environment:

Hybrid took over this team mid-season 2009-10.  According to him, the team was old and he made an immediate strategic decision to rebuild the team with a target to compete in 2011/12 or 2012/13.   He concluded a lot of trades and the above roster is the result to date.

It seems obvious, but Hybrid points out that the league is very active in trading.  Hybrid also implies that he isn’t the most patient person in rebuilds, and winning sooner rather than later is good.

 

A Look at League Strategy:

As in most rotisserie leagues, positions and scoring stats play a huge part in assessing player value.  We plugged Hybrid’s league settings into our HPG website tools to start.  From there, the first stop is to look at the League Breakdown

Why?  This information is critical to planning a team – ultimately, it tells you the level you want to exceed for each player on the team.  If the league scores penalty minutes, which player would you rather have on your roster, a 70-point centre that will put up 100 PIM, or a 70-point centre that will challenge for the Lady Byng trophy?  The answer is obvious, right?  What about a 70-point centre that puts up 50 PIM?  The League Breakdown lets you know the threshold at which a player’s stats hurt a team, rather than help a team.

Position

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

PPA

C

27

47

74

6

48

9

16

LW

28

36

64

8

45

7

12

RW

26

35

61

2

45

7

12

D

9

33

42

3

47

4

14

What does that information tell you?  In Hybrid’s league:

  • Centres should be expected to put up approximately 10 points more than wingers.
  • Centres are also the best source for PP scoring, on average.
  • Players with a positive +/- are good.  What incredible insight!
  • Players that tend to put up less than 45 PIM generally aren't contributing enough to your roster.  It only makes sense to have them there if they contribute more to another category.    In terms of value at each position, if all other stats are “average” per the League Breakdown table above, a 74-point centre has the same value as a 64-point LW, a 61-point RW, or a 42-point defender.

Now that we’ve got a handle on skater value in this league, we need to briefly touch on goaltending.  3 of the 11 scoring categories in this league are for goaltending – 27%.  Of the 17 starting positions, 2 are goaltenders… this means that 12% of the roster is responsible for 27% of the scoring.  Let’s make it simple: this league cannot be won without good goaltending.  Period.

The next strategic piece of interest in this league is that there are no maximum games played per roster slot.  This has enormous implications on league strategy, because it means that in order to win, a team needs to maximize their starts – even though this league has a deep bench, an injury can really hurt.  If a typical NHL team’s schedule is about 3 games per week, that means that with 17 starting roster spots and 7 bench spots, those bench players have to be seeing action as much as possible.  Normally, a deep bench makes it considerably more possible to weather the storm when injuries hit, but with no maximum games for each roster slot the goal is to get as many GP in as possible.  With 15 players kept, your bench will essentially be a year to year add in the waiver draft – and since one wants to have the best bench possible, having a good waiver draft is pretty key -- (this should include going into the draft with enhanced picks if possible).


The Team and Keepers:

First, let’s look at the goaltenders.  As of this publishing, goaltenders are not analyzed on Hockey Pool Geek, however they will be available for the launch of the site update.  Nevertheless, we can still draw some conclusions here.

Player

GP

W

SV

SV%

Ryan Miller

69

41

1948

0.929

Jaroslav Halak

45

26

1281

0.924

Semyon Varlamov

26

15

653

0.909

Josh Harding

25

9

626

0.905

Cory Schneider

2

0

54

0.915

Outstanding goaltending.  Miller just won the Vezina, and is riding high.  His numbers won’t be as high as last year as he has lost some experienced defenders in front of him and he set the bar ridiculously high anyway, but they will be good.  Now that Halak is the starter in St. Louis, there’s no reason to think that he won’t start 65 games and crack 30 wins.  His SV% might take a dip, but it’ll remain solid.  Varlamov is still learning the game, but the team behind him will guarantee a lot of wins if he’s playing - it doesn't hurt to know that he just changed his jersey number to 1 (guess who the starter is?).  Harding and Schneider are both simply too unproven and there are not enough keeper slots to consider them as keepers here.  Because goaltending is so important to success in this league, 3 goaltenders should be kept and there can be a strong argument for adding another in the draft.

Keeper recommendation: Miller, Halak, Varlamov.

Now, let’s look at the skaters.  Since this is a keeper league, we’re trying to gauge the long-term value of these players.  But just how long-term are we talking about?  Hybrid says he’s looking to win the league in 2011/2012 or 2012/2013, so let’s target the nearer of those two objectives.  So, it’s all about having the players on the roster that will be the best leading into the season after this coming one.  To understand the value of these players, we’ll generate rankings customized for Hybrid’s specific league setup using last year’s statistics as a benchmark.  The top-200 results can be found under the rankings tab above, and a summary of Hybrid’s players are below.

 

Player

Pos.

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

PPA

2009/2010 HPG Value

Past High HPG Value

Jason Spezza

C

60

23

34

57

0

20

11

13

-43

51

John Tavares

C

82

24

30

54

-15

22

11

14

-48

-48

Sam Gagner

C

68

15

26

41

-8

33

6

11

-73

-50

Nik Antropov

C/RW

76

24

43

67

13

44

8

13

-16

-16

Patrik Berglund

C

71

13

13

26

-5

16

6

3

-116

-105

Kyle Turris

C

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

N/A

N/A

James van Riemsdyk

LW

78

15

20

35

-1

30

4

3

-71

-71

Sergei Kostitsyn

LW

47

7

11

18

4

8

0

0

-124

-125

Jamie Benn

LW

82

22

19

41

-1

45

2

5

-58

-58

Nikita Filatov

LW

13

2

0

2

0

8

0

0

-151

-151

Marian Gaborik

RW

76

42

44

86

15

37

14

12

62

62

Ales Hemsky

RW

22

7

15

22

7

8

3

5

-94

15

Jakub Voracek

RW

81

16

34

50

-7

26

4

9

-38

-38

Jason Pominville

RW

82

24

38

62

13

22

8

12

2

22

David Clarkson

RW

46

11

13

24

3

85

3

3

-64

2

Michael Grabner

RW

20

5

6

11

2

8

2

3

-120

-120

Dion Phaneuf

D

81

12

20

32

1

83

5

11

-4

101

Keith Yandle

D

82

12

29

41

16

45

5

11

4

4

Erik Karlsson

D

60

5

21

26

-5

24

1

9

-50

-50

 

Most of those player values are rather negative, but much of that is because many of those players are young and don’t have an established body of NHL stats to pull from because they haven't hit their stride as key contributors to their team yet.  This means that these same players, while assumed to have a bright future, are fairly volatile – some will fall short. 

If you look at those less-proven younger players and project how they’re likely to progress, for the 2011/2012 season something like this is reasonable:

 

Player

Pos.

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

PPA

Approx. HPG Value

John Tavares

C

80

35

40

75

0

50

16

18

20-30

Sam Gagner

C

80

25

45

70

0

50

8

25

15-20

Patrik Berglund

C

80

30

40

70

0

25

10

25

10-15

Kyle Turris

C

80

20

40

60

0

25

5

18

~0

James van Riemsdyk

LW

80

25

45

70

0

50

10

20

5-15

Jamie Benn

LW

80

35

35

70

0

60

15

15

10-20

Nikita Filatov

LW

80

30

35

65

0

65

12

15

5-15

Jakub Voracek

RW

80

25

50

75

0

40

8

25

10-20

Michael Grabner

RW

80

35

30

65

0

50

12

14

5-15

Keith Yandle

D

80

15

35

50

0

60

8

20

15-25

Erik Karlsson

D

80

10

35

45

0

40

5

20

10-20

As you can see, all of these young players project to be above the "average" player by 2011/2012, except for Turris, so things bode well for the future of Hybrid's team.

With the 3 goalies flagged, there are 12 remaining keeper spots.  Let’s take a look at the more obvious choices first:

  • Spezza
  • Tavares
  • Benn
  • Van Riemsdyk
  • Gaborik
  • Hemsky
  • Voracek
  • Phaneuf
  • Yandle
  • Karlsson

That’s the 10 players who project well for a challenge to the league crown in 2011/2012.  The remaining two should go to players that will produce well in 2011/2012 or be good trade bait during the coming season.  Of the available options, Gagner is very attractive (skilled young player about to get some very good linemates), Filatov probably has too bright a future to ignore, and Pominville is established and could make good trade bait.  Whichever player is most likely to be available with #22 pick is probably the one to drop.  I think Pominville is probably the guy to let go here, and though it’s a little painful it is probably the best strategic decision based on upside as well.

Turris is too young and unproven to count on… he could very well produce for the 2011/12 season, but it’s too big a gamble.  Berglund is similar to many others, but he doesn’t get PIM and that’s a big knock against him.  Both of these guys are perfect re-draft material, because their perceived value is primed to go waaaay up before the end of the next season.

Some more extended notes on the players themselves can be found here; they weren’t included in this analysis in order to keep the article at a reasonable length.


The Keepers:

 

Player

Pos.

GP

G

A

P

+/-

PIM

PPG

PPA

W

SV

SV%

Jason Spezza

C

60

23

34

57

0

20

11

13

 

 

 

John Tavares

C

82

24

30

54

-15

22

11

14

 

 

 

Sam Gagner

C

68

15

26

41

-8

33

6

11

 

 

 

James van Riemsdyk

LW

78

15

20

35

-1

30

4

3

 

 

 

Jamie Benn

LW

82

22

19

41

-1

45

2

5

 

 

 

Nikita Filatov

LW

13

2

0

2

0

8

0

0

 

 

 

Marian Gaborik

RW

76

42

44

86

15

37

14

12

 

 

 

Ales Hemsky

RW

22

7

15

22

7

8

3

5

 

 

 

Jakub Voracek

RW

81

16

34

50

-7

26

4

9

 

 

 

Dion Phaneuf

D

81

12

20

32

1

83

5

11

 

 

 

Keith Yandle

D

82

12

29

41

16

45

5

11

 

 

 

Erik Karlsson

D

60

5

21

26

-5

24

1

9

 

 

 

Ryan Miller

G

69

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

41

1948

0.929

Jaroslav Halak

G

45

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

26

1281

0.924

Semyon Varlamov

G

26

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15

653

0.909

Those keeper goaltenders look great.  Hold onto them unless the ability to upgrade elsewhere on your roster is very good.

 Now let’s talk about those skaters.

  • With the exception of Phaneuf, they do not put up PIM.  This has to be an area of focus.
  • Very unproven LW, though Taylor Hall is on the way with that 1st overall pick.  Turns out he’s unproven at the NHL level too!  He’ll have a short learning curve though, no worries there.
  • Hemsky is trade bait.  He doesn’t get many PP goals, and he certainly doesn’t put up many PIM.  Add to that his injury history (and the importance of avoiding injuries in this league, as described above), he is a guy that Hybrid should strongly consider moving if he gets off to a hot start to the season.  More on that later.
  • PIM, PIM, PIM.  Need ‘em on the roster, with your scorers.  If you take a look at the custom rankings for Hybrid’s league, you’ll notice that most of the top value players aren’t just good scorers, but they also put up a big contribution one of the other categories (+/- and PIM).  Look to those stats to guide your decisions when it comes to scorers. 

The Next Moves:

Clearly this team isn’t going to win the 2010/2011 season with so much youth, so the question (and the focus of the next year) has to be on gearing up for 2011/2012, starting right now but more importantly in the upcoming draft.  In this league, stockpiling picks for the “go for it” year is a very viable strategy.

Here is a list of things that would be worthwhile pursuing:

  • Get some PIM into the core of the team. 
    • The Bash Bros team has a few good targets: Getzlaf, Perry and Bogosian.  What would it take to get those guys?
    • Evander Kane is listed as a centre in this league, but he’s exactly the type of player to target.  His owner has a bazillion centres and is aging at RW.  You’ve got lots of good RW talent.  A fit?
  • Get some proven players on the team.  You’ve got loads of relatively volatile youth in Tavares, Gagner, Turris, Berglund, Benn, Filatov, JVR, Voracek, Grabner, Karlsson.  Pick which ones you want to hold and be gutsy moving the rest.  Would the Getzlaf owner consider moving him in a package for Spezza and one of those guys?
  • Get yourself a superstar – Hybrid mentioned that Crosby’s owner (again, Bash Bros.) might be shopping him at the draft.  Lay the groundwork now – find out what he’d want.  If he would be interested in getting a Pominville and you could re-draft Gagner, that decision is made.  His goaltending looks like it could be a little unpredictable in the short term (Niitty, Lehtonen, Steve Mason, Greiss, Bernier), so maybe that’s an avenue in.
  • Acquire picks for the 2011/2012 season.
    • Your primary motivation, whenever possible, is to upgrade your keepers through trades.  Work out what your best 15 keepers are, and keep an eye on them throughout the season.  
    • Draft for trade bait.  Since you want picks for next year, you’ll need to focus on getting good, attractive trade bait both through the draft and on the waiver wire.
  • Get Hemsky off your team.  We like Hemsky, but his injury risk and poor PIM make him considerably less attractive in this league.  If he gets off to a hot start, be firm in your resolve and upgrade.
  • Target the players you think will help.  We see Daniel Sedin as a fantastic target… he ranked 18th overall last year in Hybrid’s league in terms of HPG Value despite playing only 63 games.  His +/- is a big part of that.  His owner also has Neuvirth, which could be attractive to ensure that Hybrid gets Washington’s goalkeeper.  Sedin is a big part of his LW, but Spezza + a young LW could be pretty attractive to him.
  • Consider moving that 1st overall pick.  Taylor Hall will be a good one, but his hype (and the hype surrounding that 1st overall pick) are very strong right now.  It’s rare that Hall (the player) will be as good as Hall (the hype).  Capitalize on that.  Could he be part of a compelling package for Crosby? 
  • Malkin puts up great PIM and typically scores a ton.  His owner lost Nabokov, who his goaltending was clearly built around.  Perhaps there’s something Hybrid can tempt him with there.

 

The Top 200 Skater Rankings for the League

Rank Player Owned? Team Pos FHG Value GP G A P +/- PIM PPG PPA