Plekanec

 

Determining the higher fantasy hockey value between Tomas Plekanec and Cody Hodgson in this week's Cage Match

 

It’s a battle of younger versus older this week, pitting veteran Tomas Plekanec against Cody Hodgson and his 139 career NHL games. Who will prevail, and can we learn any general lessons about comparing younger versus older players along the way? There’s only one way to find out – Cage Match starts now!

 

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Career Path and Contract Status

It seems like Plekanec has been around forever, but he’s actually played in fewer than 600 NHL games and will turn just 31 years old this season. And while Plekanec’s career high 70 point season seems like it happened a lot longer ago than 2009-10, what might surprise you even more is his quiet 33 points last season actually put him in the top 60 in league scoring. Plekanec is signed through the 2015-16 season at $5M per season.

Hodgson’s young NHL career has been well documented, starting with being selected tenth overall by Vancouver in the 2008 draft. Hodgson was a full time member of the Canucks by 2011-12, but traded to the Sabres that same season in arguably the year’s most high profile deadline deal. Once the dust settled after the trade, Canucks management had unkind words to say about Hodgson, who has responded by scoring 42 points in 68 games with the Sabres, compared to the 35 he tallied in 71 contests while a Canuck. Hodgson recently inked a six year contract that will pay him $3M this season and $5.5M in 2018-19, with a $500,000 raise each season in between.

Past Ice Time and Production

Looking at Ice Time numbers should tell us more about Plekanec than Hodgson, as while Plekanec played the last three seasons in Montreal Hodgson has played in just two full seasons and also split one of them between Vancouver and Buffalo. Both players had to contend with coaching changes during this time frame, but it will be more relevant to look at how the Sabres change – which occurred during last season – affected Hodgson’s numbers.

 

Season

Total Ice Time

SH Ice Time

PP Ice Time

2012-13

19:12 (Plekanec)

18:23 (Hodgson)

2:06 (Plekanec)

1:17 (Hodgson)

2:58 (Plekanec)

2:36 (Hodgson)

2011-12

20:45 (Plekanec)

12:43 (Hodgson- VAN)

17:16 (Hodgson – BUF)

3:13 (Plekanec)

0:00 (Hodgson- VAN)

0:55 (Hodgson – BUF)

3:05 (Plekanec)

1:50 (Hodgson – VAN)

2:19 (Hodgson - BUF)

2010-11

20:14 (Plekanec)

2:49 (Plekanec)

2:55 (Plekanec)

 

For 2012-13, Hodgson had 12 games with 20 minutes or more of Ice Time, with four occurring in the 17 games prior to the Sabres coaching change (from Lindy Ruff to Ron Rolston in February) and eight in the 31 games thereafter. But Hodgson also had just one game with less than 17 minutes of ice time before the change, and ten thereafter, including five consecutive games with 15:39 or less of Ice Time. What this shows is new coach Rolston isn’t going to just hand over prime minutes to Hodgson game after game, at least not yet.

One key piece of information is well hidden beneath Hodgson’s season totals, and that’s the significant change to his shorthanded Ice Time after Rolston became coach. Hodgson’s 1:17 average for SH Ice Time per game over the entire season is deceptive, since he received almost no SH Ice Time under Ruff but regularly had more than 1:30 per game under Rolston, including many games with over 2:00 and several with over 3:00. We should expect his 1:17 SH Ice Time number to rise next season, perhaps by close to a full minute, and that’s never great news for a player’s production.

Last season saw Plekanec receive his lowest total Ice Time in the past three seasons, and by a significant margin (1:33 less than 2011-12, 1:02 less than 2010-11). But if we factor in his beneficial decrease in SH Ice Time, we see his non-shorthanded Ice Time was 17:06 last season, which was only slightly less than the 17:32 and 17:25 he received in the prior two seasons. Moreover, his 2:58 of PP Ice time was on par with his past two seasons, which means his ratio of PP Ice Time to overall Ice Time last season (15.4%) was actually better than 2010-11 (14.4%) and almost identical to his 2011-12 total (15.6%). The magic question is whether Plekanec will see a continued Ice Time decline, or if things will hold steady this year and beyond. We can get a good read on this by looking at additional information below.

 

Place in Top Six

Hodgson has what would appear to be an iron clad hold on a top six spot, what with him just signing a large contract and Buffalo widely rumored to be heading into a rebuild that will likely see its two remaining “stars” (Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek, both UFAs after the season) traded at or before the 2013-14 deadline. Beyond that, Hodgson has produced very well in his time with Buffalo, finishing second on the team in scoring last season behind only the soon to depart Vanek.

The picture is cloudier for Plekanec. Two seasons ago, diminutive David Desharnais burst onto the scene in Montreal and developed excellent chemistry with Max Pacioretty, who’s arguably the best Habs forward now and will be a cornerstone of the team’s future. Then last season saw Lars Eller, the now 24 year old center who the Canadiens paid a steep price (Jaroslav Halak) to obtain, emerge with 30 points. And not only did Eller only fall short of Plekanec’s season total by a mere three points, but he did so despite receiving nearly 4:30 less overall Ice Time per game than Plekanec, and a mere 0:42 per game on the PP compared to Plekanec’s 2:58! There’s also the looming threat posed by Alex Galchenyuk, the third overall selection from the 2012 entry draft who hit the ground running with 27 points as a rookie center and who many predict is a superstar in the making. All things considered, Plekanec might be living on borrowed time in the Montreal top six.

 

Relative Value of Points

For those who might have missed my explanation of this concept in my past couple of columns, the gist of “relative value of points” is that points are more valuable for a fantasy team when they’re not shared by other players owned in your league, since those are the kinds of points that can cause actual movement in the standings. I see Plekanec holding an edge in this area, since based in Frozen Pool data the players he’s likely to line up with are Brian Gionta and either Rene Bourque or Brandon Prust, all of whom are less than 10% owned (compared to Plakenec’s 74% owned) in Yahoo leagues. For Hodgson, he’s almost certainly going to be paired with Thomas Vanek (98% owned), who is much more widely owned than Hodgson (60%). This means Plekanec’s points are likely to hold more value than Hodgson’s.

 

Windexiness

Instead of touching upon secondary categories (where it’s apparent that both guys are pretty terrible for blocked shots and hits, and that neither is especially good or bad in plus/minus, and that Plekanec holds a big edge – for now – in power play points), for this Cage Match I’ll look instead at how “windexy” each player is, which means how much of a streaky scorer they are.

Although neither guy is a candidate for DobberHockey’s windex wonders hall of fame and list, this kind of analysis can be an important consideration for those in H2H leagues or with weekly line-up settings, or for anyone intending to cycle one of these guys into and out of their line-up on a regular basis during the season.

 

Season

Total Points Scored

Stretches of four or more games with zero points in each game

Stretches of four or more games with at least one point in each game

Total number of two point games

Total number of three or more point games

2012-13

33 (Plekanec)

34 (Hodgson)

1 (Plekanec)

2 (Hodgson)

1 (Plekanec)

0 (Hodgson)

4 (Plekanec)

6 (Hodgson)

1 (Plekanec)

3 (Hodgson)

2011-12

52 (Plekanec)

41 (Hodgson)

2 (Plekanec)

3 (Hodgson)

0 (Plekanec)

1 (Hodgson)

7 (Plekanec)

9 (Hodgson)

2 (Plekanec)

0 (Hodgson)

2010-11

57 (Plekanec)

1 (Plekanec)

3 (Plekanec)

9 (Plekanec)

2 (Plekanec)

 

What this data clearly shows is in the course of three seasons, Plekanec has gone from a mildly windexy player, to one who’s quite non-windexy. And although we only have two seasons of data to assess for Hodgson, he’s showing early signs of a good degree of windexiness; last year in particular saw by far the majority of Hodgson’s 33 points come in multi-point games. One hidden stat for each player is that although Plekanec had only one stretch of four games without a point last season, that stretch actually lasted six games. But that’s nothing compared to Hodgson, who went an amazing 12 games in 2011-12 without a point.

Plekenec is likely the better guy for your team if you’re looking for someone to insert into your line-up for a week or so here and there to make sure you get two or three points for the week, but with about as much chance at getting five points as getting zero. Hodgson, on the other hand, will likely give you more of a chance at a “feast or famine” situation, where you get either more or fewer points than two or three in a given week.

 

Value vs. Cost

I see this area being pretty close. Most poolies who realize that Plekanec’s importance in Montreal (and thus his Ice Time) is on the decline, are also aware that things in Buffalo are likely to get worse before they get better. In other words, the situation for both players is not exactly ideal for this season and perhaps beyond. But while Plekanec hasn’t received much fantasy buzz in several seasons, Hodgson is someone who you might have to overpay (in terms of cost versus value) to obtain, as he’s shown he can score and he’s someone who many might consider a good candidate likely to have a breakout season in the near future.

 

So Who Wins?

Although Plekanec’s place within the Montreal top six is not 100% guaranteed for the first time in as long as most of us can remember, a lot would need to happen for him to be actually displaced this season. After all, he’s a very complete player who hasn’t really shown signs of losing a step. Plus, he can give the team defensive zone starts while still providing offense pop. And as long as he stays within the top six and gets regular PP Ice Time, he should continue to produce good value in relation to his cost.

With Hodgson, his biggest question mark comes in the form of the team that will surround him, as there could be some concern about how successful he would be when Thomas Vanek is indeed traded. Can Hodgson singlehandedly carry a scoring line to success at this point in his young career? The truth is we don’t know, but we’ll likely soon find out.

Given these and other factors I mentioned, I think Plekanec will provide better bang for your buck in one-year leagues. If you have him in a keeper league, you should think about packaging him in a deal once he has a hot stretch during this season, as it’s not likely that he’ll see his situation or points output improve again during his time with Montreal. With Hodgson, I’d be wary of obtaining him at this point in time, as I think in most every league format his cost will exceed his near term value. The best approach in his case might be to wait until the Sabres have their fire sale and stats for the entire team – including Hodgson – inevitably start to suffer. Once that happens, Hodgson likely could be had (via the draft or in trade from a frustrated owner) for a price that will be well worth the actual value he’ll provide.

 

Recent Cage Matches:

 

David Clarkson vs. Viktor Stalberg 
Sam Gagner vs. Teddy Purcell 
Christian Ehrhoff vs Dan Hamhuis   

 

 

 

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