Roos takes a look at Keith Yandle and Alex Pietrangelo - and which stud D is the better fantasy own...
Between this summer’s four week Cage Match Tournament, last week’s FAQ, the once a decade two part match between Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid (see here and here), and several important battles between young forwards, somehow defensemen were lost in the fray for several months. It’s time to remedy that with a marque battle between Keith Yandle and Alex Pietrangelo. Fasten your seatbelts – this important Cage Match starts now!
Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications
Pietrangelo was the fourth overall pick in 2008, and the Blues – to the surprise of many – took their time with him, as Pietrangelo wasn’t an NHL mainstay until 2010-11. But once he arrived he showed he clearly belonged, as he followed up 43 points in 79 games in his first full season with 51 points in 81 games in two separate campaigns. But sandwiched between was a subpar 2012-13 of only 24 points in 47 games, which looked like an outlier until he posted 46 points in 81 games last season, marking his lowest full season output since 2010-11.
Yandle’s path to fantasy elite status was more surprising, as he wasn’t drafted until the fourth round (105th overall) by the Coyotes in 2005, and didn’t become an NHL mainstay until three seasons later (following 99 AHL contests). He then didn’t break the 0.5 points per game barrier in either of his first two campaigns, but exploded for 59 points in 81 contests in 2010-11. And although that still marks his career high in scoring, he posted 52+ points in each of the past two seasons after having scored at a 51 point pace in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign, making him the only defenseman to score at a 51+ point pace for each of the past three seasons while also missing no more than five of his team’s games in any of those years.
For Yandle, 2015-16 is the final season for his current deal, which counts $5.25M against the cap, while Pietrangelo still has five years remaining on a contract that brings with it a $6.5M per season cap hit.
Ice Time
For 2014-15, I’ve broken down Yandle’s Ice Time with Arizona (63 games) and the Rangers (21 games). In the other two tables below, his stats with both teams have been combined.
Season |
Total Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen) |
PP Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen) |
SH Ice Time per game (rank among team’s defensemen |
2014-15 |
23:54 (K.Y. - PHX) – 2nd 19:55 (K.Y. – NYR) – 5th 25:24 (A.P.) – 1st |
4:25 (K.Y. - PHX) – 1st 3:19 (K.Y. – NYR) – 1st 2:26 (A.P.) – 2nd |
0:06 (K.Y. - PHX) – 11th 0:12 (K.Y. – NYR) – 8th 3:04 (A.P.) – 1st |
2013-14 |
24:08 (K.Y.) – 2nd 25:21 (A.P.) – 1st |
4:23 (K.Y.) – 1st 2:48 (A.P.) – 2nd |
0:12 (K.Y.) – 9th 3:21 (A.P.) – 1st |
2012-13 |
22:14 (K.Y.) – 2nd 25:06 (A.P.) – 1st |
3:40 (K.Y.) – 1st 2:51 (A.P.) – 1st |
0:04 (K.Y.) – 7th 3:01 (A.P.) – 1st |
2011-12 |
22:20 (K.Y.) – 1st 24:42 (A.P.) – 1st |
3:27 (K.Y.) – 1st 2:52 (A.P.) – 1st |
0:09 (K.Y.) – 9th 3:12 (A.P.) – 2nd |
In the past four seasons, Pietrangelo has twice posted 50+ points despite averaging 3:00+per game of SH Ice Time. Care to guess how many other defensemen have done that even once during the same time period? Zero – yes, you read that correctly; nobody other than Pietrangelo.
This shows two things – first, Pietrangelo is a special player; but second, being saddled with so much shorthanded ice time will hurt a rearguard’s production if he isn’t also blessed with ample PP Ice Time. That “if” is the key, as prior to 2010 some defensemen (including Nicklas Lidstrom, Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer , Sergei Zubov, and Tomas Kaberle) posted 50+ points (and often well more) despite being saddled with upwards of 4:00 - or even 5:00+ - per game of SH Ice Time. The difference was they’d also receive 6:00 or even 7:00+ of PP Ice Time to go along with their SH duty.
In contrast, Pietrangelo has a worst of both worlds situation in that his SH Ice Time seems locked above 3:00 per game, yet his PP Ice Time has dropped each of the past three seasons, down all the way to 2:26 per contest in 2014-15. And if we look at the 19 rearguards with 24:00 per game of Ice Time in 2014-15, only two averaged less than 2:26 in PP Ice Time -- low scoring Jonas Brodin, and T.J. Brodie, who posted only 41 total points after starting the season with 21 in his first 25 games. The reality is Pietrangelo has never posted 50+ points with his SH Ice Time above 3:00 per game and a PP Ice Time per game average below 2:48, so if current trends continue he figures to not hit that mark again, unless of course he was unlucky at 5x4 and/or 5x4 last season, so we’ll check that below.
For Yandle, the vast majority of this information won’t help in terms of future ice time predictors, as he’s now on a new team. That being said, it looks like New York will also likely refrain from deploying Yandle on the PK, which is always a good sign for production.
But a source of ongoing concern is that during the past three seasons when Yandle scored at a 50+ point pace, he never had a per game PP Ice Time average less than 3:40, whereas the last time he fell below that PP Ice Time mark (2011-12, when he averaged 3:28) he posted only 43 points. And as it so happens, he received only 3:19 per game in his 21 contests with the Rangers last season, during which he scored at a full season pace of……..43 points.
Yandle’s Total Ice Time also was down considerably with the Rangers; and although one would assume that was because he was being eased into the line-up, consider that when the team’s season was on the line in the Stanley Cup playoffs, Yandle’s Total Ice Time actually dropped further - to just 18:00 per game, with a mere 2:33 on the PP per contest. And that was despite five of the team’ 19 playoff games going into OT, adding a collective 40 minutes of Ice Time for the team.
With the Rangers not having lost any key defensemen this offseason, odds are that Yandle’s Ice Time won’t hit the 20:00 per game mark in 2015-16, and with that he probably won’t get his all-important 3:40+ of PP Ice Time. One possible silver lining could be if Yandle had especially poor luck in 2011-12, in which case perhaps his 43 points was misleading and, in turn, suggests we should be more reluctant to equate it to his brief tenure with New York last season. We’ll check on that below as well.
Secondary Categories
Season |
PIM (per game) |
Hits (per game) |
Blocked Shots (per game) |
Shots (per game) |
PP Points (per game) |
2014-15 |
0.47 (K.Y.) 0.34 (A.P.) |
0.63 (K.Y.) 0.86 (A.P.) |
1.20 (K.Y.) 1.98 (A.P.) |
2.76 (K.Y.) 2.40 (A.P.) |
0.34 (K.Y.) 0.15 (A.P.) |
2013-14 |
0.77 (K.Y.) 0.39 (A.P.) |
0.27 (K.Y.) 0.29 (A.P.) |
1.28 (K.Y.) 2.02 (A.P.) |
2.93 (K.Y.) 2.02 (A.P.) |
0.38 (K.Y.) 0.22 (A.P.) |
2012-13 |
1.12 (K.Y.) 0.21 (A.P.) |
0.37 (K.Y.) 0.51 (A.P.) |
0.83 (K.Y.) 2.15 (A.P.) |
2.71 (K.Y.) 1.98 (A.P.) |
0.21 (K.Y.) 0.12 (A.P.) |
2011-12 |
0.62 (K.Y.) 0.44 (A.P.) |
0.38 (K.Y.) 1.11 (A.P.) |
0.94 (K.Y.) 1.64 (A.P.) |
2.39 (K.Y.) 2.49 (A.P.) |
0.13 (K.Y.) 0.29 (A.P.) |
I was surprised how “all over the map” many of these numbers are. How many Hits should we expect from Pietrangelo? How many PIM from Yandle? And even their more production-affecting metrics (i.e., Shots and especially PPP) were far from uniform.
Seeing that Yandle scored PPP at a rate of one per three games in two separate seasons is reassuring, although in his brief time with the Rangers his rate was exactly one per every seven games, which was more in line with his 2011-12 output when, as noted above, he scored only 43 points. The possible silver lining is that Yandle had 50+ point production in 2012-13 despite only scoring one PPP per every five games; however, not only did he receive 3:40 of PP Ice Time per game that campaign, but it was an abbreviated season, which means unsustainable good luck could’ve been at play.
Pietrangelo has similar issues in that his only 50+ point seasons came when he posted more than one PPP per every five games. And although it’s easier in general to envision him jumping back to that level than it is for Yandle to return to one per every three games, Pietrangelo’s downward PP Ice Time trend is a big strike against that happening, as is the fact that the Blues often deploy their PP1 with four forwards and Kevin Shattenkirk manning the lone defensive point spot.
Luck-Based Metrics
Season |
PDO (5x5) |
Offensive Zone Starting % (5x5) |
IPP (5x5) |
IPP (5x4) |
2014-15 |
973 (K.Y.) 996 (A.P.) |
59.0% (K.Y.) 48.2% (A.P.) |
40.4% (K.Y.) 47.5% (A.P.) |
76.5% (K.Y.) 57.9% (A.P.) |
2013-14 |
987 (K.Y.) 1016 (A.P.) |
54.8% (K.Y.) 52.3% (A.P.) |
32.8% (K.Y.) 40.0% (A.P.) |
67.4% (K.Y.) 69.6% (A.P.) |
2012-13 |
1006 (K.Y.) 990 (A.P.) |
60.0% (K.Y.) 50.3% (A.P.) |
56.2% (K.Y.) 37.1% (A.P.) |
66.7% (K.Y.) 40.0% (A.P.) |
2011-12 |
1009 (K.Y.) 1005 (A.P.) |
55.0% (K.Y.) 52.8% (A.P.) |
46.8% (K.Y.) 42.2% (A.P.) |
52.6% (K.Y.) 79.3% (A.P.) |
Yandle was similarly (un)lucky in 2013-14 (when he posted 53 points) as he was in 2011-12 (when he posted only 43), what with nearly identical OZ% and combined IPPs. While that could mean he might’ve been able to post even more than 53 points in 2013-14 had he been a bit more lucky, the more plausible explanation is that he wasn’t unsustainably (un)lucky in either season. Thus, his 43 points in 2011-12 cannot be viewed as an outlier, which in turn doesn’t bode well for him as a Ranger if indeed his PP Ice Time remains below 3:40 per game. And sure enough his luckiest season came in 2012-13, which helps explain why he was able to score at a 51+ point pace despite lower than usual PPP production.
What’s interesting is not only did Yandle, in 2014-15, have his second highest OZ% among these four seasons, but it was even higher as a Ranger – 65.6%. The concern is with such a high OZ%, his 43 point scoring pace in New York looks all the worse, although the consolation is that if his Ice Time remains down, he should continue to have an OZ% near or above 60%, so it’s hard to see him dipping below the 40-45 point range. Lastly, although Yandle’s PDO for the entire 2014-15 season was quite low (973), it was a healthy 1015 as a Ranger, so we can’t blame his poor production there on PDO either.
When I saw Pietrangelo’s low IPPs and lower PDO for 2012-13, I thought maybe the same thing occurred last season and would help explain his production dipping below 50 points. But his 2014-15 IPPs were reasonable, and his 2014-15 PDO was slightly higher than 2012-13. His OZ% was below 50% for the first time in 2014-15, but not by a lot. This data collectively suggests that Pietrangelo has never been an especially lucky or unlucky player, and, in turn, that PP Ice Time largely drives his production. As such, a return to 50+ points seems unlikely if current trends continue.
Who Wins?
First and foremost, I’d stay away from drafting either guy in a one year league in that you’d have to pay 50+ point value to get them when, from what we’ve seen, neither one has a great shot of realistically hitting that threshold.
As for who wins the match for those in keeper leagues, despite being nearly four years older than Pietrangelo and notwithstanding all the drawbacks I mentioned above, I’ll give the slight edge to Yandle. The key is he’s set to be a UFA after this coming season, and whichever team signs him will be forced to spend enough to do so that Yandle should return to familiar 21:00+ of Total Ice Time and 4:00+ of PP Ice Time, and, in turn, get back to his 50+ point scoring ways. Thus, if you’re in a keeper and, as expected, Yandle doesn’t fulfill lofty expectations this season, you might want to see if you can pry him away from a concerned owner, as chances are the price you’d need to pay will be very reasonable given his bounce back potential for 2016-17 and beyond.
With Pietrangelo, he’s already inked to a long term deal and seems to have turned into yet another example of a player who has the talent to be a fantasy stud but who’s put into circumstances that stand in the way of that happening. If you own Pietrangelo in a keeper, you might want to sell, and soon, as if he finishes this season below 50 points yet again, then suddenly the fantasy universe will begin to have more serious doubts about him returning to that level.