- Category: Fantasy Hockey Cage Match

*Taking a look at some point totals that are somewhat deceiving*

Even if you look closely at a group of players who all scored roughly the same number of points in a season, chances are each guy could’ve had a somewhat different overall impact on your team. Of course the key is finding the best guy among a group of apparently similar players, as that can often makes the difference between winning and losing in fantasy hockey.

With that in mind, I’ll look at several groups of players who had similar point totals in 2012-13, to see if there were any standouts (good or bad) once you dig a little bit deeper beyond just how many points they scored. I’ll highlight some interesting trends within my discussion of each group, and finish with some key overall takeaways in my Final Verdict.

To help try to make this worthwhile to more readers, I won’t focus on certain categories like shots, PIMs, hits, or blocked shots, as not all leagues use those stats. Instead, I’ll only look at power play points (PPP) and plus minus (+/-), since most leagues track them and as you’ll see there can be a lot of variation in those categories even among players who had similar overall point totals. Note also that I only looked at forwards (no defensemen) who played 42 or more games (i.e., no Sid, Geno, Kovalchuk, etc.), to ensure that the grouping of players was as apparently similar as possible.

**Group 1 – 48-60 points (15 total players)**

This group had the widest point differential between the top and bottom guys (12 points, versus seven or less in the other groups). Only four players (Steven Stamkos, Phil Kessel, Mike Ribeiro, Claude Giroux) in Group 1 were minus, and none were in double digits. This isn’t too surprising, since in general more points help make a guy more likely to be a plus player. Five guys in the group (Patrick Kane, Chris Kunitz, Pavel Datsyuk, Ryan Getzlaf, Jonathan Toews) were double digits plus, and three of those were more than +20. Only two players (Eric Staal, Jonathan Toews) had fewer than ten power play points, while six (Martin St. Louis, Alex Ovechkin, Phil Kessel, Mike Ribeiro, Claude Giroux, Henrik Zetterberg) had more than 20 PPP. Again – not surprising since with points come power play points.

If you add up the averages for points, plus minus, and power play points for the Group 1 players, you arrive at 51.6 points, plus-7.2, and 19 power play points. Eight players were above the points average, while only six were above the +/- average and six were above the power play points average, suggesting that the overall averages were brought up by a few exceptional performers. No player exceeded all three of the average numbers, while Taylor Hall did manage to finish with less than each.

**Group 2 – 40-47 points (15 total players)
**

In this group, even though the range of points is smaller than Group 1, there’s actually a bit more variation in the other stats. Only one player (Joe Thornton) had 20 or more power play points, while five (Andrew Ladd, Nazem Kadri, Alexander Semin, Matt Duchene, Rick Nash, Blake Wheeler) had fewer than ten PPPs. There were six minus players, with two (PA Parenteau and Matt Duchene) posting double digit minus ratings. A total of eight players had double digit plus ratings (which is interesting because it’s more than the higher scoring Group 1 players), but only one (Derek Stepan - +25) had a plus rating above +20.

If you add up the averages for points, +/-, and power play points for the players in Group 2, you arrive at 43.4 points, +6.3, and 12.1 power play points. Once again, eight players were above the points average, while for this group eight were above the plus/minus average and six were above the PPP average. It’s not surprising that average power play point scoring was down, although a seven point decrease from the Group 1 average was more of a drop than I would’ve expected. Plus minus average held nearly steady versus Group 1, which was a bit surprising and likely due to the high number of double digit plus players.

But unlike Group 1, one player (Henrik Sedin) in Group 2 actually exceeded all three averages and two (Matt Duchene, Blake Wheeler) had stats that fell below each of the three averages. What’s remarkable is so far all the players from Group 1 and Group 2 who fell below all three averages were guys from teams which didn’t make the playoffs. We’ll see if that trend continues…..

**Group 3 – 35-39 points (17 players)**

This group was interesting in that their stats were pretty consistent with Group 2, despite fewer total points. Overall, if you add up the averages for points, plus minus, and PPP for the 17 players in Group 3, you arrive at 36.5 points, +4.5, and 11.3 power play points.

While Group 3 was less plus on average than Group 2, only one player (Tomas Fleischmann) in Group 3 was double digit minus, while two (Pascal Dupuis, Brad Marchand) were over +20; and the number of minus players (six) was the same as Group 2. And even though the points average of Group 3 was nearly seven less than that of Group 2, the average number of power play points within both groups was within one point, which was interesting and surprising.

Looking at individual player stats versus the averages for Group 3, two players (Max Pacioretty, Logan Couture) were above the average in points, plus minus, and PPP, while only one (Jaromir Jagr) was below the average for all three. It’s worth noting that the two who beat the averages are young players on the rise, while the one who fell below each of the three averages is an aging veteran. And although Jagr finished the year with Boston, he played most of his games with Dallas, which means that like Hall from Group 1, and Duchene and Wheeler from Group 2, yet another player who finished below the averages for all three categories was essentially from a non-playoff team.

**Group 4 – 34-30 points (25 players)**

The biggest change from Group 3 to Group 4 was in average +/- rating, which surprisingly was in the negative (-0.4) for this group. The overall minus average was mainly due to only three players (Justin Williams, Tyler Seguin, Patrice Bergeron) being double digits plus, while four players (Mike Cammalleri, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jordan Staal, Tyler Ennis) had double digits minus, and 12 of the 25 players were minus. The average point total for the group was 32.4 and the average PPP total was 9.6,with ten players finishing above the points average and 11 above the PPP average.

With such a large group (25 players), you would expect a lot of variation in the highest and lowest +/- and PPP numbers compared to the other smaller groups. But the +/- variation was nearly the same for all groups and the PPP variation in Group 4 actually is not that different from Group 2 or Group 3:

Group |
Difference in highest and lowest +/- total |
Difference in highest and lowest PPP total |

1 |
37 (+30 vs. -7) |
21 (27 vs. 6) |

2 |
37 (+25 vs. -12) |
11 (17 vs. 6) |

3 |
41 (+31 vs. -10) |
13 (17 vs. 4) |

4 |
42 (+24 vs. -18) |
12 (16 vs. 4) |

Overall, only two players (Tomas Plekanec, Jeff Carter) in Group 4 posted stats above each average, while three (James van Riemsdyk, Jonathan Huberdeau, Jordan Staal) were under each of the three averages. As we know, the Leafs were in the playoffs, which makes JVR the only player from all four groups to be below his group’s average for all three stats despite playing all year for a playoff team.

**Final Verdict**

So what can we take from this? The data certainly supports the common notion that among players with similar point totals, you’re often better off staying away from guys on non-playoff teams. But we also can see that you should be careful not to strictly adhere to that rule. For example, consider where a guy like Rick Nash (44 games, 42 points, +16, 9 PPP) went in a 2012-13 fantasy draft as compared to Matt Duchene (47 games, 43 points, -12, 9 PPP). Although Nash likely was drafted much earlier than Duchene, their stats ended up nearly identical except for +/-. The takeaway is that while you should try to get guys who help you in as many categories as possible in addition to just points, at the same time you shouldn’t be afraid to grab someone who might have a clear disadvantage in one or more categories if you can get that person for a much cheaper price/pick that gives you better overall value and still allows you to be able to compensate for that player’s shortcoming(s) with other draft picks and/or trades. That brings me to the other key point….

You want to try to grab a guy who’s really a difference maker in at least one category, but who also won’t cost you a lot extra to obtain compared to other similar players. For example, among the players who scored between 40 and 47 points, Joe Thornton had 21 PPP, which was 5 more (i.e., 30% more) than the next highest person in the group. Other guys were head and shoulders above the rest in plus minus, but that can be a fickle stat where you sometimes don’t get year to year consistency. Either way, in the end you want as many guys as possible who truly excel in one or more categories, since they can compensate for you taking a another guy who might shine in other categories but be weak in that category. In the case of Thornton, he’d be a great player to grab if you have someone like Brad Marchand, who was very good in points, superb in plus/minus, but very weak in power play points, with a total of only four PPP. It’s like pieces of a puzzle fitting together….

Lastly, to make all this analysis a lot easier, be sure to use Frozen Pool, which gives you all this information and more, and allows you to do side-by-side comparisons of similar players so you can have all the relevant data right in front of you when it’s the all-important time to choose between them.

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