Throughout the summer, I’m going team by team and reviewing the relevant fantasy performances from each of them. Not every player, nor most, but the ones who stood out for one reason or another. Next on list, alphabetically, is the New York Islanders.
It was undoubtedly a disappointing season for Tavares fantasy owners as his 66 points tied for his lowest mark since his rookie season (82-game seasons only). The season he tied was 2013-14 when he had 66 points in 59 games.
What stands out immediately is Tavares shot just 9.52 percent on the power play this past campaign. The aggregate on his last two seasons is 10.16 percent. That second mark is 53rd out of 65 forwards with at least 400 power-play minutes over the last two years. In fact, he’s shot higher at five-on-five (11.46 percent) than with the power play over those two seasons. To the surprise of no one, that has resulted in the Islanders power play struggling greatly in that time.
HockeyViz has graphics that show shot locations at five-on-four. There’s been a clear change in Tavares’ usage, as he’s playing more off-centre as a trigger-man akin to someone like Nikita Kucherov, rather than playing the middle
Maybe a new direction behind the bench is what this team needed, and it is hard to make complete adjustments in the middle of the season. It’s pretty clear, however, that the changing role for Tavares did absolutely no favours for the team, for him, and by extension, his fantasy owners.
Tavares also managed a point on only 64.3 percent of goals scored with him on the ice at five-on-five. That mark was by far the lowest since his rookie year, as he never finished below 73 percent in any season from 2010-2016. If he managed even 73 percent, which was a six-year low for him until 2016-17, he adds five points to his total.
It’s easy to see how close Tavares is to returning to form in the fantasy game. A better power-play setup could add five points, and better fortune at five-on-five would add five more. The former requires a leap of faith that the new coaching regime headed by Doug Weight will find a better way to utilize Tavares. For almost any player to be an elite fantasy option, he needs to amass at least 25 power-play points, rather than the sub-20 PPP seasons he’s put up the last two years. Fixing the power play, and namely how Tavares is used in said power play, will go a long way in bringing Tavares to the fantasy promised land. Whether it happens or not is another question, but at least you won’t have to pay a first-round price in fantasy drafts to find out.
Every fantasy player in any sport has “their” guys. Players you bought in on the ground floor, or identified early, or believe in after a down year, or any other number of circumstances. But there are just players you follow year after year.
Lee is one of those guys for me. Following his brief stint in 2013-14, I’ve kept close tabs on his game. Last year was a full-fledged breakout, posting 34 goals. Those 34 goals tied him for 10th in the league with David Pastrnak and Patrick Kane, while his 24 five-on-five goals was more than Max Pacioretty or Vladimir Tarasenko.
Of course, those 24 five-on-five goals were the result of a percentage binge, as he shot 16.33 percent, by far a career-high. I look at that as a natural rebound from 2015-16 when he shot just 4.38 percent. Given his history, he’s probably a 10-11 percent shooter. Which is great.
That shooting binge resulted in the most goals scored by a forward in any season since the lockout-shortened year who played under 1300 minutes, by the way:
I do think we see a big decline in goals this year, though. His shot rate has been declining for a few years now (per minute, not per game), and a decline in shot rate combined with an inevitable decline in shooting percentage probably sees him finish between 20-25 goals rather than 30-plus.
At the least, he probably won’t be overvalued in fantasy drafts, and I think he’s stuck to Tavares’ hip even with Jordan Eberle coming to town. He can still be a useful player, but surpassing 50 points seems to be the high-water mark for him.
Despite a horrific start to the season, Ladd managed 23 goals last year, giving him his fourth straight year of either 23, 24, or 25 goals. Hey! That’s consistent and good! He also had eight assists. E-i-g-h-t. Not a typo. He’s never been a player to put up big assist totals (he’s never cracked 40 in a season, and averaged 30 a year from 2013-16). Eight, however, is bordering on Brandon Pirri territory.
A confluence of events occurred that had Ladd managing just eight total assists. First, he assisted on just 15.6 percent of five-on-five goals scored with him on the ice. His previous career-low was 27.1 percent in 2011-12, and he had averaged 43.9 percent from 2013-16. A return to even 45 percent would add nearly 10 assists based on his on-ice goal rate from last year.
The second issue was the aforementioned on-ice goal rate, as the team scored fewer than two goals per 60 minutes at five-on-five with Ladd on the ice this year. He had never finished below 2.2 (rounded up) in his career, and averaged 2.45 from 2013-16. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise the team struggled to score with him on the ice, given his two most common line mates were Jason Chimera and Alan Quine.
Lastly, the shot rate is a concern. He hasn’t been a guy to land a huge volume of shots on goal for years now, but it’s been a steady decline in shots per minute for four years, including a six-year low in 2016-17. That, combined with a decline in ice time, makes me doubt he can get to more than two shots per game again.
For me, the biggest overall concern moving forward is his role. The team seems to have Lee and Jordan Eberle locked on the top line, and then there’s a plethora of wingers that could fill in the second line. Josh Bailey is one guy to consider, Josh Ho-Sang had a solid rookie year, as did Anthony Beauvillier. It is easy to see Ladd sliding into a checking role again on the third line, or at best fluctuating in the middle-six for the Islanders. That would kill any fantasy value the once-consistently solid Ladd once had in the fantasy game.
It seems like he’s been around forever, but Leddy is going into his Age 26 season. All told, he should still be able to perform at an elite level like he usually does.
The 2016-17 campaign saw Leddy post a career-best 11 goals and 46 points. Normally when that happens, we look to the power play, but he actually had four fewer PPP this past year than he did in 2015-16. Rather, the only real difference between the two years was his shooting percentage, as he managed an even eight percent in all situations.
I won’t dig deep here because the only significant deviation for most his numbers came in shooting percentage. He has hit high marks before – 8.3 percent in 2014-15, for example – but relying on that year after year is tough to do for a blue liner.
At this point, he pretty much is who he is. He won’t put up huge peripherals in penalty minutes or shots on goal, but you can rely on 5-10 goals and about 40 points. Depending on your setup, that might be enough. In roto leagues, however, it’s hard for him to be much more than a top-50 defenceman. That’s still good in most leagues, but just be wary of what you’re paying for. Even if he has a 45-point season, in a 12-team league, he’s still a fourth defenceman. In roto leagues, do not overvalue him in drafts. Points-only leagues are a different matter.
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