Brown

 

Who is the better fantasy hockey own - Dustin Brown or Troy Brouwer? 

For the third week in a row, Cage Match features a battle between players with similar point projections in the DobberHockey 2014 Fantasy Hockey Guide. But as with the past two editions, I won’t tell you what those point projections are exactly – for that you’ll need to order the Guide, which remains far and away the best fantasy hockey resource you can find.

Facing off are two coveted 29 year old multi-cat performers in Dustin Brown and Troy Brouwer.  Could Brown be due to return to his former 50+ point ways?  Will Brouwer seize upon his momentum from the past two seasons to finally break into the 50+ point club?  Let’s find out – Cage Match starts now!

Career Path and Contract Status/Cap Implications

Brown was drafted 13th overall in 2003 and played in 31 NHL games that same season.  In his fourth NHL campaign Brown hit the 60 point mark, which started a string of five consecutive 51+ point seasons (six if we include his 51 point pace in the lockout-shortened 2012-13 campaign) during which he also finished no worse than seventh in Hits among all NHL forwards in any year, making him a highly coveted multi-cat asset.

But last season Brown slumped – horribly - to 27 points in 79 games, which was two less than he tallied in only 46 contests during 2012-13.  He still managed to finish second overall among NHL forwards in Hits, although that was small consolation to his poolie owners given their points expectations.

Brouwer wasn’t picked until 214th overall by Chicago in the 2004 draft, and landed with the Blackhawks to stay for 2008-09 after some WHL seasoning and two brief NHL cameos.  Brouwer didn’t explode right out of the gate, but did manage nearly a 0.5 point per game and 20 goal per season average from 2009 to 2011 for Chicago before being dealt to Washington for a first round pick.

Just a year after landing in Washington, Brouwer paid dividends in the form of 33 points in just 47 games (57 point full season pace).  Although he slipped back to 43 points in 82 games for 2013-14, 25 of those points came in the form of goals, which tied for 43rd in the entire NHL.  And during each of his three Caps seasons, he’s finished among the top 30 forwards in Hits, including 9th in 2010-11.

In 2014-15 Brouwer enters the second season of a three year $3.667M deal, while Brown begins season one of an eight year megadeal paying him $5.875M per year.  Thus, for at least the next two seasons Brouwer represents a considerable cap league bargain versus Brown.

 

Ice Time

There’s much to focus on here, particularly Brown’s Ice Time in his shockingly unproductive 2013-14 versus his three other most recent seasons, each of which saw him post or project to 51+ points.  With Brouwer, we can examine Ice Time from from his final season with Chicago (2010-11) as well as compare his first season (2011-12) with Washington versus his two recent more productive ones.

 

Season

Total Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time per game (rank among team’s forwards

2013-14

15:50 (D.B.) – 7th

18:50 (T.B.) – 3rd

2:07 (D.B.) – 6th

3:25 (T.B.) – 3rd

0:29 (D.B.) – 10th

2:06 (T.B.) – 3rd

2012-13

19:30 (D.B.) – 2nd

18:32 (T.B.) – 3rd

2:49 (D.B.) – 2nd

3:22 (T.B.) – 4th

1:16 (D.B.) – 5th

1:31 (T.B.) – 4th

2011-12

20:10 (D.B.) – 2nd

17:10 (T.B.) – 4th

3:19 (D.B.) – 2nd

2:08 (T.B.) – 6th

1:40 (D.B.) – 6th

1:30 (T.B.) – 3rd

2010-11

19:22 (D.B.) – 2nd

15:06 (T.B.) – 7th

2:57 (D.B.) – 3rd

2:06 (T.B.) – 6th

1:22 (D.B.) – 5th

0:36 (T.B.) – 8th

 

Not that it excuses Brown’s miserable 2013-14 season, but his productive Ice Time took a nosedive, with his overall Ice Time down by 3:40 and his PP Ice Time cut by 0:42.  That led to a double whammy of reduced opportunities to be on the ice to get points plus poorer quality linemates, with the latter evidenced by him not even ranking within the top six among Kings forwards in overall Ice Time as well as his Frozen Pool data from 2013-14 versus 2012-13:

 

2013-14 Even Strength

 

25.11%

EV

23 BROWN,DUSTIN - 11 KOPITAR,ANZE - 14 WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

18.25%

EV

23 BROWN,DUSTIN - 28 STOLL,JARRET - 14 WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

12.06%

EV

23 BROWN,DUSTIN - 74 KING,DWIGHT - 28 STOLL,JARRET

 

2013-14 PP

 

22.6%

PP

23 BROWN,DUSTIN - 28 STOLL,JARRET - 14 WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

13.66%

PP

23 BROWN,DUSTIN - 11 KOPITAR,ANZE - 14 WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

10.79%

PP

23 BROWN,DUSTIN - 10 RICHARDS,MIKE - 14 WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

 

2012-13 Even Strength

 

72.15%

EV

23 BROWN,DUSTIN - 11 KOPITAR,ANZE - 14 WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

 

2012-13 PP

 

46.79%

PP

23 BROWN,DUSTIN - 77 CARTER,JEFF - 11 KOPITAR,ANZE - 10 RICHARDS,MIKE

29.4%

PP

23 BROWN,DUSTIN - 11 KOPITAR,ANZE - 14 WILLIAMS,JUSTIN

 

Normally the assumption would be that Brown was a good bounce back candidate; however, with the Kings having won the Stanley Cup, Brown being an unselfish team first captain, and young and/or more offensive-minded wingers now on the squad versus when LA last won the Cup in 2012, it’s entirely possible that we need to think about a “new normal” for Brown where he’s no longer a good bet for 50+ points.  One thing working in Brown’s favor here is his relatively large cap hit, although even that can’t always ensure productive Ice Time, particularly on a Cup winning team that’s likely to resist fixing what isn’t broken.

Brouwer’s overall Ice Time and PP Ice Time have both climbed in each of the past three years.  And with that his production has responded well, particularly in the past two campaigns.  Together, this signals he’s unlikely to see his production drop.  But at the same time he’s probably at or close to his realistic points ceiling, especially with his SH Ice Time creeping upward.  After all, just last week we learned that in 2013-14 only two players (Matt Read and Tomas Plekanec) managed to tally 40+ points despite receiving 2:15 or more of SH Ice Time, which is a mere nine seconds beyond Brouwer’s 2013-14 average.

Secondary Categories

 

Season

PIMs

(per game)

Hits

(per game)

Blocked Shots (per game)

Shots

(per game)

PP Points

(per game)

2013-14

0.83 (D.B.)

1.12 (T.B.)

3.11 (D.B.)

2.56 (T.B.)

0.15 (D.B.)

0.47 (T.B.)

2.47 (D.B.)

1.96 (T.B.)

0.05 (D.B.)

0.25 (T.B.)

2012-13

0.48 (D.B.)

0.59 (T.B.)

3.39 (D.B.)

2.29 (T.B.)

0.17 (D.B.)

0.49 (T.B.)

3.08 (D.B.)

2.36 (T.B.)

0.28 (D.B.)

0.34 (T.B.)

2011-12

0.64 (D.B.)

0.74 (T.B.)

3.57 (D.B.)

3.01 (T.B.)

0.39 (D.B.)

0.73 (T.B.)

2.61 (D.B.)

1.62 (T.B.)

0.19 (D.B.)

0.06 (T.B.)

2010-11

0.82 (D.B.)

0.48 (T.B.)

3.66 (D.B.)

3.31 (T.B.)

0.35 (D.B.)

0.45 (T.B.)

2.78 (D.B.)

1.54 (T.B.)

0.18 (D.B.)

0.16 (T.B.)

 

We already knew both guys were Hits machines, but it is a bit surprising to see that Brouwer’s recent uptick in offense has come – somewhat – at the expense of his Hits, which are down almost 20% over the past two seasons versus 2010-11 and 2011-12.  But still – most would prefer to see something like that occur, versus Brown being able to keep his Hits above three per game but at the same time see his point totals down by 50%.  And actually, Brown’s Hits average has been slowly decreasing each year, with his 2013-14 average being down about 15% from 2010-11

In both PIM and Blocked Shots, Brown clearly takes a back seat to Brouwer, with Brown trending especially down in Blocked Shots.  What’s more, the once sizable edge that Brown held over Brouwer in Shots (1.24 edge per game in 2010-11) has dropped each season, to a mere 0.51 per game last season.

And Brouwer has also emerged as the more reliable PP points producer. But in looking at this area, we’ll clearly need to focus on 5x4 IPP, since Brouwer’s recent rise and Brown’s precipitous fall could somehow be connected to unsustainably good (for Brouwer) or bad (for Brown) bad luck.

 

Luck-Based Metrics

 

Season

Personal Shooting Percentage

PDO (5x5)

IPP (5x5)

IPP (5x4)

2013-14

7.7% (D.B.)

13.9% (T.B.)

994 (D.B.)

1006 (T.B.)

61.8% (D.B.)

59.4% (T.B.)

26.7% (D.B.)

41.2% (T.B.)

2012-13

12.7% (D.B.)

13.5% (T.B.)

994 (D.B.)

991 (T.B.)

50.0% (D.B.)

72.2% (T.B.)

60.0% (D.B.)

45.7% (T.B.)

2011-12

10.3% (D.B.)

17.1% (T.B.)

1011 (D.B.)

981 (T.B.)

62.0% (D.B.)

60.5% (T.B.)

45.8% (D.B.)

29.4% (T.B.)

2010-11

12.3% (D.B.)

15.5% (T.B.)

1021 (D.B.)

974 (T.B.)

66.0% (D.B.)

56.8% (T.B.)

66.7% (D.B.)

58.3% (T.B.)

 

Not surprisingly, we can clearly see that Brown was indeed unlucky last season.  Had he shot at 11.7% (the average of his previous three seasons), he’d have ended up with 23 goals instead of 15.  And if his 5x4 IPP was 57.5% (also the average of his previous three seasons), he would’ve tallied eight or nine PP points instead of only four.

But here’s the thing – even with those adjustments Brown’s 2013-14 total would’ve been 39 or 40 points, which, although less terrible, still would’ve qualified as very disappointing.  And that, plus the success of the team around him and Brown’s unselfishness, weighs against Brown being able to post more than 45 points next season.

Meanwhile, Brouwer’s big jump in production over the past two seasons does not look to be tied to excessively good luck.  In fact, his IPP at 5x4 in both 2012-13 and 2013-14 was lower than I’d have expected, and even suggests realistic room for improvement.  Plus, his 72.2% IPP at 5x5 in 2012-13 was only a bit above what’s normal for him, while his personal shooting percentage has actually dropped as his production rose.  Collectively, this bodes well for Brouwer to at least continue his recent offensive success, if not slightly improve upon it (provided his SH Ice Time doesn’t act as a de facto points ceiling).

 

Who Wins?

I think Brouwer emerges as the winner here, and it boils down to value versus cost since more likely than not they should finish within five points or so of each other for at least 2014-15.

Brouwer is an undervalued player, partly because of his team having two star forwards (Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom) but primarily due to his production in his best season  of 2012-13 being masked by that having been a lockout-shortened campaign.  In other words, if Brouwer had actually posted 57 points that season, rather than just a 57 point pace, then he’d likely be in the same conversation as other multi-cat household names like Brown, Ryan Callahan, David Backes, and Brandon Dubinsky.

With Brown, you have a player who for half a decade was a lock for 50+ points and 300 or so Hits, but then without apparent warning plummeted to below 30 points.  The big question is not what value he should be assigned by poolies coming off last season, but how will he actually be valued, since that’s what will determine how much he’ll cost to draft or to obtain in trade.

My take is someone in pretty much every league will see Brown as a good bet to bounce back to his former 50+ point pattern, despite – as seen above – evidence to the contrary suggesting that’s unlikely.  And all it takes for Brown’s value to be artificially inflated is for one person in a league to believe in him returning to form.  Thus, in the end, Brown’s value will be too high compared to Brouwer’s based on what Brouwer is both likely to cost to obtain as well as what Brouwer will produce in value as compared to his cost.

 

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