Archive for the ‘Arbitrary Endpoints’ Category

You don’t need me to tell you that Kyle Brodziak hasn’t been setting the world on fire lately–in fact, there was talk about him needing to have a “bounce back” year after last year’s 12 point campaign…and his 8 points in 29 games so far this year are not the bounce we had in mind. Understandably, many Wild fans are very frustrated with Brodziak’s lack of offensive production–and I am too, naturally. It’s no secret that Brodziak is one of my favorite players, and I’m not going to be able to make a case that he’s actually playing well, or that he’s about to break out. But I wanted to look at his underlying numbers, and while Brodzy has never been an elite offensive weapon (career high 22 goals in 2011-12 and that was when he was bumped up to the top-six due to a Mikko Koivu injury,) I think what people aren’t really realizing is just how his role has shifted and how difficult his assignments have been. Like I said, you don’t need advanced stats to tell you he has been lackluster, but here’s a chart showing his cumulative Corsi rating this year:

brodziak corsi 13_14

We can see that during the first dozen or so games when the Wild were putting up ungodly possession numbers, Brodziak was right there with them, but then as the team started to regress toward normal (but still above average) team numbers, KB’s individual numbers took a particularly tough hit. Over the last handful of games, his numbers have been moving up but he’s still definitely not driving possession. A main reason for this is that he is being relied on very heavily in the defensive zone, and is asked to handle the opponent’s top players. Check out his usage over the last three seasons:

2011-12

usage 11_12

2012-13

usage 12_13

2013-14

usage 13_14

What you’ll notice is that Brodziak is in the upper-left quadrant for each of the last three years, meaning he’s getting a ton of defensive zone starts and playing against tough, tough competition. From this perspective, perhaps it’s a wonder that he scored (22+22=44) two years ago. Another thing that Brodziak doesn’t get enough credit for, in my opinion, is the tremendous amount of time he spends on the penalty kill. This season, he is fifth in the league among forwards in terms of the percentage of the team’s PK time at 49.8%. Last year, he was 18th in the league at 40.8%, so we can see that he is shouldering a ton more shorthanded time even compared to last season.

My theory on Brodziak’s declining production is that because Mike Yeo is asking him to take on more of a defensive responsibility, at even-strength and particularly on the penalty kill, his mentality is more of a defensive, shut down game instead of an offensive…or even really two-way game. Surprisingly, Brodziak is a career 10.4% shooter, so given the opportunity he can put the biscuit in the basket. He also has good anticipation, and in the past one of my favorite parts of his game is watching him pick off passes in the neutral zone and turn them into scoring opportunities. (Cal Clutterbuck was and is also great at this, so splitting them up might have something to do with the dropoff.) But in thinking about his role this year, he’s probably not waiting around in the NZ to pick off passes–rather, he’s already getting into good defensive position and is backing off those interception opportunities. I wish I had some game film or examples, but right now it’s more of a hunch.

One last stat: Brodziak has just a 37.2% OZ start percentage, and last year it was 37.1% (excluding NZ faceoffs.) However, he is finishing an even 50% of his shifts in the offensive zone, and last year it was just over 44%. These numbers are hard to interpret, but what I’m trying to show is that while he is getting a massive defensive assignment, he is still getting the puck up ice. That said, his corsi numbers and his lousy goal production sort of overrule these last numbers.

I really think that with the additions of Parise and Pominville, plus the development of Coyle, Granlund, Niederreiter, etc., Brodziak is just being asked to play a much different role on the team than he has in previous seasons. If you look at his contract and his AAV hit compared to his goals, it’s not pretty. But I feel his value to the team is his PK specialty and his ability to handle tough assignments. What do you think? Post a comment and let me know whether you think his salary is justified. And, don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey

There is a school of thought in sports analysis that says to be stuck as a mediocre team is worse than being at the top or the bottom of the league. The good teams get low draft picks but they do not need to drastically improve, and the worst teams get high draft picks to try to turn over their roster. But the middling teams get stuck with middling draft picks so they stay mediocre, and they keep getting middle picks, and so on. The Edmonton Oilers have been proudly bucking this trend since 2009 by being terribad and *staying* terribad.  They finished last in the league that year and got the first overall pick, which they used to select Taylor Hall. And there was much rejoicing! Until they finished last in the league again, and got the first overall pick. Again. Which they used to draft Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the was much rejoicing!…again. Then they finished second-to-last (suck it, Columbus!) and got the first pick (AGAIN!!) which they used to select Nail Yakupov. And there was cautious optimism mixed with guarded hopefulness.  But this year will be different! …right? I mean, it just has to…right?

On the bright side, as long as they don’t finish last (…again…) they can start to build some momentum and try to get back into Cup contention. In addition to their trio of first-overall picks, they have other young skaters like Sam Gagner and Jordan Eberle, and newly signed defenseman Justin Schultz. I can hear the chants already: Not Last Place! Not Last Place! In fantasy circles, everyone will be focused on Hall, RNH, and Yakupov, but I am turning my attention to another youngster in Edmonton, their 26 year old net minder, Devan Dubnyk. The Oil need to improve in all phases of the game, and I think Dubnyk could make a quality third goalie on any roster, or possibly second if you like to live dangerously and only roster two backstops.

Fantasy Stats

I’ll freely admit that until I looked up his stats, I had no idea Dubnyk started the season on the Edmonton roster last year. In fact, he was their opening day net minder. His overall numbers won’t blow you away, 42 GS, a 20-20-3 record and a .917 Sv%, though a 2.67 GAA is not too shabby. But a closer look at the end of his 2011-12 season shows Dubnyk might make some significant strides going into 2013.

Advanced Stats

On the season, Dubnyk recorded 22 Quality Starts (.524) with 7 Terrible Starts (.167), and his Even-strength Sv% was a pretty respectable .927. But as the calendar turned to March, Dubnyk turned up his game and started putting up great numbers.

I don’t call this column Arbitrary Endpoints for nothing…in Dubnyk’s last 13 starts, he posted a 7-4-2 record with a .933 Sv% and a 2.04 GAA. In that span he posted 9 Quality Starts (.692) though the Oilers wasted 3 of them, and of his four NQS, two of those were terrible starts.

His .524 QS% needs to improve for him to be considered a reliable fantasy goaltender, and he needs to cut down on the Terribad Starts or he will negate his good starts.  Dubnyk is still developing, which is why I don’t think I would roster him as my number two, but if he is still there in the late rounds I think I would take a chance on him.

Offseason Moves

As mentioned, Nail Yakupov is now donning the blue and copper, and he figures to stand a good chance to make the opening roster (first overall picks have a way of getting their shot with the big boys sooner rather than later.)

Edmonton is not hiding the fact that they are going for a best-defense-is-a-good-offense strategy, so if Hall, RNH, Yakupov, Gagner, and Eberle can effectively drive play and keep pucks going at the opponents’ nets, there will be fewer pucks flying at Dubnyk. In addition to Yakupov, the Oilers won the Justin Schultz sweepstakes this summer, and while it remains to be seen if he can have an immediate effect, I also like the addition of Nick Schultz from Minnesota. He won’t dent the stat sheet much but he is a smart defender who should help Dubnyk’s progression.

Bottom Line

The first month or six weeks of the season will be crucial for the Oilers, and if they can jump out to a strong start (or let’s be honest, above-average would probably suffice…) they will be inclined to keep their young talent in the lineup. I think it’s safe to assume a pretty even split between Dubnyk and Khabibulin for the starts, though I think the club may want to give the kid some more ice time to see what they have–after the last few years of futility there is no point stashing Dubnyk on the bench. If they like what they see from Dubstep in October and November, they may hitch their wagon to him and send more starts his way.

Going into the season, I am not ready to trust Dubnyk as my number two starter, but I like to have a solid third goalie on my roster in case of injury or cold streak from my top backstops. Plus, goalies are always in demand during the season, so Dubnyk could fetch a good return if he gets on another streak at the right time. In the late rounds, you should be looking for high-upside picks that could return great value, and I think Devan Dubnyk fits that bill. Take a chance on him this year while he is still under the radar.

The Anaheim Ducks have not made the playoffs two of the last three years, and their top line of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan vastly underperformed last  year as the team finished fifth in the Pacific division. It’s a safe bet that each of these players will be available in your draft a fair bit lower than last year, providing a good opportunity for value if they can bounce back. I believe the Ducks’ woes last year were due to a combination of factors: a slow start (they went 7-13-4 through November before firing head coach Randy Carlyle) combined with a weird case of vertigo for Jonas Hiller, and just pure bad luck all mashed up for a disaster of a season. Unless your league is made up of Ducks homers, expect your owners to pay more attention to other teams in the Pacific division: the Stanley Cup champion Kings, the surprising Coyotes and their new super goalie Mike Smith, or the perennially-enticing San Jose Sharks. With more stability behind the bench and a chance to press the reset button on last year’s bad luck, I am willing to bet that the Ducks’ stars will return to form. I think Perry will still be drafted in first two rounds (people don’t forget a 50-goal scorer so quickly) and Ryan’s year wasn’t so bad last season, but I am looking for Ryan Getzlaf to fall the most in drafts and thus potentially return the most value.

Fantasy Stats

The RPG line were all coming off great years in 2010-11, which certainly inflated their expectations going into 11-12. Corey Perry in particular had a phenomenal 2010 campaign, lighting the lamp a cool 50 times (32 coming at even strength) to go with 48 assists, putting him within spitting distance of the century mark with 98 points on the season. Despite suffering a really nasty facial laceration (fair warning) that put hin out of commission for 15 games, Getzlaf still managed to record (19+57=76,) good for better than a point-per-game. Bobby Ryan posted a career-high 270 shots on his way to a 34-goal, 71-point season. Then it all came crashing down in 2011-12, when Perry scored only 27 goals, though still managed a 76-point campaign, while Getzlaf posted only 9 points in his first 17 contests. Ryan, however, managed to net 35 goals on 258 shots, salvaging some value for his fantasy owners. What went wrong for the Ducks? It’s hard to say exactly–like all things their crappy season was multi causal so we can’t point to just one thing. However, a look at the advanced stats can help shed some light on the subject…

Advanced Stats

The first thing I want to point out is the RPG line’s on-ice shooting percentage, which measures the percent of shots by any teammate that turn into goals when a player is on the ice.

After two seasons of seeing on-ice Sh% in the double digits (10 to 12 is pretty standard for star-level players,) Getzlaf and Perry both tanked into the 7-8 range, which you would expect to see from the grinders on the team. Ryan’s on-ice Sh% did not drop as drastically–he was still in the upper-9 range in 2011, but a look at his TOI with Getzlaf & Perry shows that he only skated with those two around half the time, which explains part of that difference.

Another notable factor for the trio was their increased level of competition: all three players have seen steadily tougher competition over the years, as measured by CorsiRel Quality of Competition, where league average is about zero, plus-one represents very tough opponents, and negative-one is what we would lovingly classify as “Cupcake.”

In 2009, Bobby Ryan got the toughest minutes of the three with .501, representing middle of the pack competition, while Getzlaf saw .348 opposition and Perry a rather low .203–it’s safe to say he was not skating against the other teams’ stars. Then, in 2010-11 the linemates saw slightly tougher opposition, and in 2011-12 Perry was being matched by .905 competition and Getzlaf .843. You can imagine the opposing coaches saying to themselves, “Derp, there’s that guy that scored 50 last year, I better send out my shutdown line when he’s skating herp.” Bobby Ryan’s QualComp remained pretty stable, staying in about the .500 range. Special teams are not a factor, as the statistic only uses 5v5 data, and even with a coaching change, it’s notable to see that consistency.

Despite much stiffer competition, the RPG line was still driving play for the Ducks last year, with Getzlaf and Perry posting CorsiRels of 14.5 and 15.9 respectively, and moving play into the offensive zone (each had an OZ Start % of about 48 and OZ Finish % of just over 52. With Anaheim’s depth chart looking mostly the same as last year, we can expect their top line to keep getting the bulk of the tough minutes. If their younger players can step up, it would go a long way towards freeing the RPG line to focus on putting the biscuit in the basket.

A brief aside here to look at the difference between CorsiOn and CorsiRel. In 2010-11, the year the RPG line all had 70 point seasons, they all posted good CorsiRel numbers, 7.9 for Ryan, 12.5 for Getzlaf, and 14.2 for 50 Shades of Goals Corey Perry (sorry.) Recall that CorsiOn is simply the rate of the team’s combined S+MS+BS per 60 mins when a player is on ice, while CorsiRel looks at a players’ Corsi while on the ice compared to all other players cumulatively when the player was off the ice. Each player’s CorsiOn was negative in 10-11, meaning that although relative to the rest of the Ducks they were driving possession, they still saw more pucks directed at their own net than the opponent’s.

What this tells us is that Getzlaf, Perry and Ryan had to really capitalize on their opportunities that year, which they certainly did. Perry shot 17.2% after converting 10.0% the previous year, which to me hints that for all the bad luck in 11-12, their 10-11 numbers were the result of some favorable puck luck.

After seeing all negative CorsiOn values in 10-11, all three posted positive Corsi numbers in 11-12: 1.31 for Ryan, 6.82 for Getzlaf, and 7.6 for Perry. So while they were on their heels but scoring profusely one year, they were skating downhill the next year but not finding the twine. What this suggests to me is that going forward, it’s safe to think their production will wind up somewhere between those two years–with increased QualComp they may not achieve what they did two years ago but they aren’t as bad as they appeared last year.

Offseason Moves

This space intentionally left blank.

Teemu Selanne re-signed with the team for another year, and while he did lead the team in points last year with just 66, the guy just turned 42 years old. He wouldn’t have signed on for another campaign if he didn’t think he could produce, but let’s be really real right now, his days of scoring on an elite level are over. As I write this, the Lubomir Visnovski kerfuffle has not been completely sorted out, but it appears he is likely gone. But for the most part, the roster will remain mostly the same as last year.

Bottom Line

Corey Perry will be drafted highest of the three, possibly still in the first round, but I think he could fall into the second or maybe even farther. Depending on how the early picks shake out, I’d take him as early as seventh overall (keep your eyes peeled for my preseason ranks in the next couple of weeks,) but in the unlikely scenario he was still available in the second or even third round I would snatch him up faster than a fat kid gets out in dodgeball. Bobby Ryan has scored in the mid-thirties for two years in a row now, while throwing a ton of rubber at the net. Owners will notice his consistent production, and stat-heads will notice that he is still facing middling competition. Ryan was drafted in the early rounds last year (ADP 22.1 ESPN, 12.4 Y!) but I could see him slipping a few rounds this year because people will likely not notice his consistency. I’ve seen him on as the 75th ranked *forward*, so he could be a fantastic value pick if he’s still on the board in the double digit rounds. I really want to get into some mock drafts to see where he starts going.

After Getzlaf’s free fall last season, he will very likely experience a similar fall down the draft board. Obviously the lower he goes, the more potential value he could return if he bounces back, so while I think somewhere in the seventh or eighth round would be alright, I will be inclined to pass him over and see just how far he goes. There is nothing wrong with a little gamesmanship on draft day, so I might loudly bring up just how bad he was last year and then scoop him up a few rounds later. He is being ranked in the same ballpark as guys like Jeff Carter and Jeff Skinner, both of whom I would rather have. My home league counts hits (not my call, don’t judge me) so he does have a little more appeal to me than in standard leagues.

All three of these guys are still in their mid-twenties, so I don’t take their bad performance last year as much indication that their skills are deteriorating. As I mentioned before, I think it was sort of a perfect storm for the Ducks, and between a slow start that led to a coaching change and Hiller getting messed up between the ears, the whole team just fell into a funk. I’m willing to bet that last year was just bad beats all around and this year will be better. As a man much wiser than myself once said, “Sometimes you eat the bear and sometimes the bear, well…he eats you.” <That some kind of Eastern thing?>

Having said that, I do think the Anaheim roster is thinning out (just like 15′s hair BOOM!) After the top line, they have Koivu and Selanne who are a combined 79(!) years old, and their bottom six is nothing to write home about. Expect opposing coaches to continue to focus their best shutdown players on the RPG line this year, but there is such a thing as positive regression to the mean, so I am willing to bet on a bounce back season. Getzlaf in particular could be a great value pick if his production doesn’t continue to…<sunglasses>…recede.

Image

Scott Hartnell set career bests in a number of categories in 2011, including Goals, Points, +/-, Shots,
Power Play Goals, and Shooting Percentage. It was unquestionably his career year, which might make
fantasy owners optimistic that he could repeat that success except for one thing…he just turned 30
years old. I’m going to come right out and say it—I probably won’t have Hartnell on any of my fantasy
teams this year. That’s not to say I don’t think he’ll have another good year, but by the time I would
draft him (maybe in the seventh round or so) he will probably be long gone. I wrote recently about the
importance of getting value in every pick in your draft, and while I think Hartnell will have a fine season
next year, I don’t think he can replicate his 2011-12 numbers, but he will be drafted as though he could,
which makes him a candidate to return negative value. Last year he was drafted in the ninth round (ADP 88.1 ESPN, 89.9 Y!,) and this
year it’s a safe bet he will be selected quite a bit higher.

Fantasy Stats

If you owned Scott Hartnell on your team last year, you don’t need me to remind you what a great
season he had. While skating alongside future NHL 13 cover boy Claude Giroux and everyone’s favorite
mercenary Jaromir Jagr, Hartnell scored 37 goals, with 16 of them coming on the man advantage. Only
James Neal netted more power play goals than Hartnell. He also fired 232 shots on goal, good for sixty
more than each of the last two seasons.

Although not known for his skating prowess, Hartnell adds to his fantasy value by virtue of his physical play—he led the Flyers with 188 hits and was second on the team in PIM with 136 (43 minors was far and away the most for Philadelphia…second place was Zac Rinaldo with 30).

While he plays a ton of games every year (he has missed only five games in the last three years,) he does not get a ton of assists, never tallying more than 30 in a season, meaning his value is largely dependent on his goal scoring.

His ability to produce in all fantasy categories really does make him a unique player, but as I am expecting some regression in most of those categories, coupled with the fact that he will certainly be drafted very high in drafts, I think he will have a difficult time returning appropriate value.

Advanced Stats

When we look at the advanced stats, we can track Hartnell’s transition into more of a scoring threat. In his first year with the Flyers he had an OZ% of just under 46, the last two years it has been closer to 53. In addition, his move to the top line with Giroux is reflected in his giant jump in Corsi Rel, going from -0.5 in 2010-11 to 9.6 in 2011-12. What makes Hartnell’s career numbers more impressive is that he faced tougher competition last year than any other year since he has been with the Flyers (QoC data do not go back earlier than 2007-08.)

As mentioned, Hartnell scored sixteen power play goals last year, after burying eighteen in the last three seasons combined. You like to see that he has scored 20 or more even-strength goals in three of his five years in Philly, but I will be very surprised if he can replicate all those power play goals. Eric T over at Broad Street Hockey recently wrote a great piece about Hartnell’s sustained power play performance … but let’s be realistic. After averaging 5.8 power play goals a season, a guy puts up 16 and I don’t know about you but I am certainly going to hedge and bet on regression to the mean. 5.8 may not be completely fair because it goes all the way back to when he was 18, but even looking at 2005-06 through 2007-08 when he scored 10 in each of those three years, it’s quite a jump to get to 16. The point is that you don’t want to wager a high draft pick to find out if he can catch lightning in a bottle again, it’s just bad policy.

Offseason Moves

The Flyers said goodbye to Jaromir Jagr and Matt Carle this offseason, and traded James van Riemsdyk to Toronto for blueliner Luke Schenn. As a result, their roster figures to look a bit thinner next year than it did in 2012. As of this writing, there are a few free agents that have not signed yet, so it’s possible that Shane Doan or even Rick Nash could be sporting the orange and black next year. If anything major happens, I’ll update this post. However, with Philadelphia losing more than they gained this offseason, I would have to guess that opposing teams will be able to key in on the Flyers’ top line a bit more, making it tougher for Hartnell to put that biscuit in the basket.

Projection/Bottom Line

I said it earlier, but I want to reiterate: I like Scott Hartnell. I hope he has a good year. But I do expect some regression in his shooting percentage, and therefore his goal output. He has never had more than 30 assists in a season, so it’s fair to say his value is determined by whether he scores closer to 30 goals or 40. He’s 30 years old and he just had the best year of his career, so the smart move would be to let someone else draft him unless he starts to slide too far. Rob Vollman’s historical comparisons put Hartnell in around the 30-30 club, which is about what I would expect next year. Thirty and thirty with a bunch of PIMS and 200+ shots is definitely a fantasy asset, but not in the second round, where ESPN’s Sean Allen has him in an early ranking. Hartnell is the type of player who could provide good value if he is drafted appropriately, and I would gladly scoop him up in the seventh round…maybe even sixth. I just think that reaching for him in the second or third round is a risky move because of his regression candidacy, and if you take risks in fantasy hockey and they don’t work you, you’re gonna have a bad time.

What do you think? Leave a comment below or hit me up on Twitter, @Hashtag_Hockey.

In 2005, Eric Staal potted 45 goals to go along with 55 assists, giving him a cool 100 points at the venerable age of 21. Since then, his production has fluctuated, dipping as low as 70 points in 2006, 2009, and 2011. In fact, he endured a terrible stretch to begin last year, posting just 5 goals and 7 assists through the first two months of the season. Although he did manage to break the 70 point barrier, it was widely considered a dreadful season for Staal. While many fantasy players may be ready to write him off, I believe he is poised for a rebound this year, providing some value to the owner who is willing to draft him. I wrote previously about getting value from every pick in your draft, and as I am expecting many fantasy players to stay away from him completely this year, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he is available in the fifth or sixth round of your draft.

Fantasy Stats

Staal recorded only 24 goals last year, the lowest total since his rookie season. After not scoring less than a dozen power play goals for six years, he netted only seven with the man advantage. He did manage to tally 46 assists, good for his highest total since his 100-pt campaign. His shot total has gone down steadily from a high of 372 in 2008-09 to 262 last year, and he finished the season with a dreadful -20 rating. In his eight year career, only once has he missed more than one game in a season, and that was in 2009 when he still played 70 games.

Here’s a bit of trivia that may win you a bar bet: which player hit the post more often than any other in 2011? If you said Eric Staal, you’d be right…but since you’re reading an article about Eric Staal it’s probably not hard for you to guess that it was him. Staal hit the iron 17 times last year, while the second player on the list, Janes Neal, had 13 pings. If a couple of those 17 posters found the twine instead, Staal’s season may have looked different when it was all said and done.

Anyone who owned him on a fantasy team last year could tell you how painful it was to roster Staal, but a look at the advanced metrics provides a more in-depth explanation of what may have been going on.

Advanced Stats

The advanced metrics show that as Staal has matured, he has taken on more difficult minutes against more skilled opponents. We can measure the strength of a player’s opposition using a measure called Corsi Relative Quality of Competition (CorsiRelQoC for short.) This statistic looks a player’s minutes played against all individual opponents on the ice at the same time, and averages their net Corsi rating (shots + missed shots + blocked shots) while on the ice to provide a quick number that reflects whether the player played against the other team’s top players or their depth players. A more detailed description can be found in my stat glossary or head over to behind the net.

The above data shows that Staal’s quality of competition has increased over the years, peaking at a pretty solid .826 (generally anything above 1.0 is considered very stiff competition). QoC data only go back to 2007-08, so we can’t look at his competition for his 100-pt season. In addition, Staal is starting more of his shifts in the defensive zone relative to the offensive zone. In 2007-08, his OZ% was 53.4, while last year it was almost perfectly even at 50.1%. These numbers show that he is being asked to transition to a more defensively responsible role, so we should manage our expectations—I wouldn’t expect another 370+ shot season unless the Hurricanes get better on defense to free up Staal to focus more on offense. Again, there is no question that his output has declined, but let’s look at his last few seasons by month and try to get a better idea of what happened in 2011.

There’s a couple things I see going on here. His first couple of months were just plain lousy, where he was less than a 0.5 pt/gm player. He jumped to almost a point-per-game pace in December and January before skyrocketing in February, recording (8+9=17) in 11 games, good for 1.55 pts/gm thanks to an incredible .216 shooting percentage. He finished the season on a more reasonable pace, dropping back down to .84 pts/gm in March and April. If not for that incredible February, he might have finished with no more than 60 or 65 points, and the rumors of his demise might be quite a bit louder than they are today.

Eric Staal’s Corsi Relative stats have fluctuated with his performance the last few years: 15.2 in 08-09, 6.7 in 09-10, 11.3 in 10-11, and then 6.6 in 11-12. The up-down-up-down pattern is curious to see, but overall he is still helping drive the play of the Canes despite playing more in the defensive zone against tougher opponents.

Offseason Moves

One of the biggest stories of this offseason was Jordan Staal signing with the Hurricanes, putting two of the three Staal brothers on the same roster. Canes coach Kirk Muller has said that he will try playing the two on the same line in the preseason this year, which has some fantasy players salivating. Jordan had a great year with the Penguins last year, and if there is good chemistry between the brothers (and I would have to say there is a pretty good chance there is) they could elevate each other’s’ game considerably. Plus, with Jeff Skinner gaining another year’s experience, the Canes’ power play could be among the league’s best. The team brought back Joe Corvo to the team, which does not make a huge splash in the fantasy projections, although in his last season wearing a Hurricanes sweater he posted 11 goals and 40 points, so perhaps he will help out the youngsters somewhat.

Bottom Line

There is no denying Staal’s decline in production recently, and I’m not going to promise that he will return to form and be an elite fantasy player again. I believe that as long as the Hurricanes are a somewhat thin team (even with the addition of Jordan,) and the Staal brothers are required to play tough minutes, the fantasy value will not be top-tier. The reason I wanted to focus on him in this article is that I believe he could really fall through the rounds at the draft this year. Personally, I wouldn’t take him sooner than the fourth round…and even then I’d have to see who else was available around him. But I could imagine him falling even farther, perhaps into the fifth, sixth, or even seventh round, in which case I would snatch him up and take the risk. I’ve seen him ranked as high as 25th for skaters by ESPN’s Sean Allen, so there is some optimism there but in the third round he’s probably too big a risk. I don’t know if he will ever get back to his 40-goal scoring days, but I could envision him becoming a 30+50=80 point player, and if you can grab one of those in the 5th or 6th, you’re happy to do so.

Staal is still just 27 years old, and there is definitely something to be said for a guy that plays in 80+ games a year. In baseball, there is sort of a trope where a young pitcher will have success early on, and then the league will adjust to his style, and then it is up to him to adjust to the league’s adjustments to him in order to sustain that success. I think there might be something similar going on with Staal—he is getting tougher minutes and his play has suffered, so if he can figure out how to re-adjust and become a great player again, he could definitely return a lot of value this year. Plus, I really like the addition of Jordan Staal to the team, and with Jordan having a great year last year and Eric having a really down year, fantasy owners could be more focused on the younger Staal. As I wrote in my Warren Buffett piece,the smart owner will “be greedy when others are fearful” which is why I think there is an opportunity to get a great bargain on Eric Staal this year.