Colorado adds depth to the blue line by signing Patrick Wiercioch
There are some players that divide the hockey community. Without question, one of these is Patrick Wiercioch. He is a defenceman that some more traditional hockey analysts do not think can be an NHL regular, while the analytics community is much higher on him. I suppose that’s why being signed by the Colorado Avalanche (surely one of the least analytically-inclined teams in the league) seems odd:
Wiercioch one-year deal in COL is for $800K— Elliotte Friedman (@FriedgeHNIC) July 1, 2016
It’s not a big contract, either in term or money, so there’s not much to lose here for Colorado. But a team that has typically been at the bottom of the possession charts for several years now could use the help of guys that are decent possession drivers, and that’s what Wiercioch has been over the last few years.
Of course, role plays a factor here. Would he be a possession-driver playing 24 minutes a night against top lines? Doubtful. Can he do that playing a third pairing role in protected minutes? I think he can.
Fantasy-wise, there is some opportunity in Colorado, but it will all depend on how he is used by coach Patrick Roy. The team has already traded Nick Holden, who played some sparse PP time last year for Colorado. Maybe Wiercioch can get some power play minutes here and there, but it’s doubtful he gets any significant time unless there are some major injuries.
Wiercioch’s role is likely going to be minimized in Colorado unless there are some catastrophes on the blue line, even if Tyson Barrie is traded as has been rumoured (again, take rumours with a grain of salt). I think the impact of Wiercioch will be felt more in real hockey than in the fantasy realm.
With all that said, I do think Wiercioch can be a fantasy asset in deeper leagues. Through his first three full years in the league (2012-2015), Wiercioch had a points per 60 minutes rate of 0.78 at five-on-five. That mark was 65th out of 190 defenceman with 1500 minutes played in that span. That cratered last year as he fell out of favour with the coaching staff, and whether more (tougher) minutes will lead to much greater production remains to be seen. I do think he’s underratedly good, but I just don’t trust the Colorado staff to realize this.
Who does this affect positively, in order:
- No one
There are a lot of left-handed shooting defencemen in Colorado like Beauchemin, Tyutin, Gelinas, and Zadorov. I am not sure Wiercioch will be given the opportunity to have a big impact on anyone. He may not even crack the NHL roster out of camp.
Who does this affect negatively, in order:
With the signing of Tyutin, I would assume that Beauchemin and Tyutin are the top-four left defencemen for Colorado. Even with seven defencemen, there will be an odd man out at all times. In my opinion, Wiercioch is the best of the three between he, Zadorov, and Gelinas, but I know the Colorado coaching staff probably doesn’t feel the same way. It feels like there will be a lot of rotation in this regard.
*Stats from Hockey Reference and Hockey Analysis. Cap information from Cap Friendly.
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