DanHamhuis


Who is the better fantasy hockey own - Christian Ehrhoff or Dan Hamhuis?

 

This week’s match features Christian Ehrhoff and Dan Hamhuis, two mid-career defensemen who should be on most everyone’s fantasy radar. The question, as usual, is which one rates as the better of the two, and that’s where the side-by-side comparisons of Cage Match give you the answer (and the edge in your fantasy league).

I actually wanted to cover this match last week, but knowing how much Jeff Angus likes Ehrhoff (good luck Angus – we miss you already!), I decided to wait until this week so I could be brutally honest - if necessary - about Ehrhoff. Without further ado, this Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path/Injury History

While Hamhuis was an elite prospect drafted 12th overall in 2001, it wasn’t until the 108th overall pick in the same draft that the Sharks grabbed Ehrhoff. Despite this, Hamhuis and Ehrhoff (both of whom were born in 1983) come into this season with very similar career numbers in that each has played between 600 and 700 career NHL games and scored between 245 and 280 NHL points.

Given their similar number of career games played, it should come as no surprise that both players also are pretty even when it comes to injury history, with Hamhuis having missed more than six games in a season just once in his career (2010-11) and Ehrhoff just twice (2005-06, 2011-12). And neither player has ever suited up for fewer than 64 games in a full NHL season. Clearly there are no red flags in this area for these guys.

Hamhuis was not much of an offensive contributor early in his career, only tallying more than 27 points one time (38 in 2005-06) in his first seven years. With Ehrhoff, it took him longer to make his mark, but once he did it was bigger and more sustained, scoring 42 points in 2008-09 and then 44 and 50 points in his next two seasons. The last two years have seen Ehrhoff fall back a bit since signing a big UFA deal with Buffalo (only 32 points in 2011-12 and a 38 point pace last season). In contrast, Hamhuis has seen a big jump in his points scoring of late, with 37 points in 2011-12 and a 42 point pace (24 points in 47 games) last season, silencing those who thought his 2005-06 season was a fluke.

 

Effect of Coaching Change

Although both Ehrhoff and Hamhuis are productive veterans who aren’t likely to fall down the depth chart or lose valuable minutes no matter who’s coaching their team, it’s worth assessing how the recent coaching changes in Vancouver (John Tortorella replaced Alain Vigneault during the offseason) and Buffalo (Ron Rolston is now the permanent head coach after taking over from Lindy Ruff in February) might affect their numbers. For two players pretty even on paper, this could be a big differentiator.

With Ehrhoff, before Rolston stepped in, he had complied eight points in 16 games (with a +4 plus/minus rating) and had five games with 26 minutes or more of ice time, compared to 14 points in 31 games (with a +2 plus/minus rating) and 14 games with 26 minutes or more of ice time after Rolston took over. In other words, this coaching change didn’t appear to affect Ehrhoff’s stats or his role with the team, and shouldn’t make a specific impact on his stats going forward.

For Hamhuis, we don’t have the benefit of him having played any games played under Tortorella. However, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the past two seasons in Vancouver have been the most offensively productive in Hamhuis’ career, plus the reality that the coach who was there in those seasons is now, ironically, in Tortorella’s old stomping ground. Certainly Hamhuis’ uptick in points was not solely due to playing under Alain Vigneault; but the magic question is can we be confident that Hamhuis will continue (or even improve upon) his mid-career offensive surge under Torts?

If there’s one thing we know one thing about Tortorella, it’s that he likes durable, workhorse defensemen who are willing to hit and block shots. And for what it’s worth, Hamhuis finished second among Canucks defensemen last season in Blocks and third in Hits (only Alexander Edler was above him in both categories) so I think he should expect to stay in the good graces of Tortorella.

Given this, Hamhuis might even end up getting a beneficial bump in his secondary category statistics because of the coaching change. To help confirm this, we can examine the “Torts effect” for Dan Girardi, who was a Ranger both prior to (the 2007-08 and 2008-09 seasons under Tom Renney) and during Tortorella’s tenure (last four seasons) in the Big Apple:

 

Year

Points

Overall TOI

SH TOI

PP TOI

+/-

Hits

Blocked Shots

2007-08

28

21:11

2:49

2:32

0

179

123

2008-09

22

21:31

2:18

2:26

-14

207

82

 

2009-10

24

21:28

3:32

0:19

-2

178

180

2010-11

31

24:34

3:12

2:01

7

195

236

2011-12

29

26:14

3:18

1:45

13

211

185

2012-13

14 (25 full season pace)

25:24

3:02

2:08

-1

102 (181 full season pace)

125 (223 full season pace)

 

What these numbers clearly show is that when a defenseman gains Tortorella’s trust, he gets rewarded not only with more ice time (including, unfortunately, shorthanded time) but can also emerge with better secondary stats and even a slight bump in points. In other words, it’s good to be the fantasy owner of a defenseman who’s entrusted with big minutes on a John Tortorella coached team.

The question, of course, is whether Hamhuis’ situation under Torts will be analogous to Girardi’s in New York. Although we can’t know that for sure, especially with the likes of well-rounded Alexander Edler and Kevin Bieksa part of the equation in Vancouver, it does seem likely that he’ll see some statistical benefit as well as some tougher minutes, including shorthanded time.

 

Olympics

Ehrhoff certainly will play for Germany in the 2014 Olympics (as he has three times in the past), while although Hamhuis is among those invited to Canada’s camp, it’s not clear whether he’ll be selected for the final team. If Hamhuis makes the Canada team, he stands to have more of a “fatigue factor” than Ehrhoff, as Germany will likely be eliminated earlier. But if Hamhuis doesn’t make the team, then Ehrhoff’s Olympic commitment, however brief, could still lead to some late season fatigue compared to Hamhuis. In the end, neither player holds a big edge as of now due to the uncertainty involved.

 

Motivation and Team around Them

The situation for Ehrhoff going into this season is not very promising. Not only is he coming off two letdown seasons following his inking of a large UFA deal with Buffalo, but the Sabres are poised to enter full on rebuilding mode, with their last two major stars – Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek – set to be UFAs after this season and very likely to be dealt before this year’s trading deadline. With Buffalo having already finished in the bottom third of the NHL (in goals scored and overall standings) last season, things likely aren’t going to be looking up any time soon.

The combination of a player who’s perhaps still nursing a big contract hangover, coupled with a team about to officially enter rebuilding mode, is not what you’d want to see as an Ehrhoff owner. And although the Sabres do have some good young talent and might fare better than many predict both now and in the near future, it’s not shaping up to be anything close to the team which finished ninth in the NHL in goals scored the year before Ehrhoff arrived.

So what does this mean in terms of Ehrhoff’s numbers? On one hand, even teams that don’t score a lot of goals are capable of having players who enjoy decent seasons. Look no further than Shea Weber in Nashville last season, as he finished ninth in overall NHL defenseman scoring on a team that was 27th in league standings and dead last in goals scored. But considering that Ehrhoff achieved his three 40+ point seasons on teams that finished first, second, and seventh in the NHL in goals scored during those years, it might be a challenge for him to hit that mark again anytime soon on a Buffalo team that will most likely struggle to score.

With Hamhuis, there has never been a question of commitment and motivation, only that he might not have lived up to expectations as a former early first round pick. And it’s worth noting that when he scored at a 42 point pace last season, it was for Vancouver offense that managed to only finish 18th in the NHL for goals scored. In other words, unlike Ehrhoff, Hamhuis does not appear to need to be on a high scoring team to accumulate points. Hamhuis definitely has a big edge in the areas of motivation and need for surrounding offense.

 

Secondary Categories

Looking at the secondary categories below, things are a lot closer than I would’ve expected, especially given that Ehrhoff was primarily being known for his offense above and beyond his all-around skills in some of these areas.

 

Season

Plus/Minus

Hits

Blocked Shots

PIMs

Shots

2012-13

+6 (Ehrhoff)

+9 (Hamhuis)

38 (Ehrhoff)

47 (Hamhuis)

81 (Ehrhoff)

63 (Hamhuis)

34 (Ehrhoff)

12 (Hamhuis)

102 (Ehrhoff)

61 (Hamhuis)

2011-12

-2 (Ehrhoff)

+29 (Hamhuis)

47 (Ehrhoff)

103 (Hamhuis)

82 (Ehrhoff)

99 (Hamhuis)

47 (Ehrhoff)

46 (Hamhuis)

136 (Ehrhoff)

140 (Hamhuis)

2010-11

+19 (Ehrhoff)

+29 (Hamhuis)

54 (Ehrhoff)

76 (Hamhuis)

108 (Ehrhoff)

89 (Hamhuis)

52 (Ehrhoff)

34 (Hamhuis)

209 (Ehrhoff)

109 (Hamhuis)

 

What’s odd are the results for 2011-12, as while Ehrhoff topped Hamhuis in Blocked Shots and Shots in both other years, Hamhuis was the better of the two in 2011-12. And looking and Hits and PIMs, Hamhuis bested Ehrhoff in the two years other than 2011-12, but not in that season. On the surface, that’s a bit hard to explain, and it clouds the picture of the future at least somewhat. Overall, for the future it’s probably safe to expect patterns more like 2010-11 and 2012-13, in which case each player has his own strong categories. The only exception is plus/minus, where Hamhuis clearly holds an edge, especially with Buffalo likely to struggle over the next few seasons.

 

Value vs. Cost

If this was last offseason, it would have been safe to say that Ehrhoff was still widely regarded as a productive offensive rearguard, while Hamhuis’ 37 point 2011-12 season could easily be written off as a second outlier highly unlikely to be repeated yet again. But fast forward to now - only a year later - and Ehrhoff’s struggles have extended to two seasons, just as Hamhuis enjoyed yet another successful offensive campaign. And while some poolies still might see them for what they once were, chances are most will have started to adjust expectations, in which case these two might just be pretty close in cost. So it all boils down to value in determining the winner.

 

So Who Wins?

This is a pretty tough call, as it’s reasonable to think that the “real” Christian Ehrhoff is better than what he’s shown since coming to Buffalo, while the “real” Dam Hamhuis probably is not quite as good as he’s shown in his last two campaigns. But three factors which favor Hamhuis cannot be ignored – (1) the Tortorella effect, which might just elevate Hamhuis’ stats in points and/or secondary categories; (2) the likely present and future struggles of the Sabres, coupled with the fact that Ehrhoff has never put together a great season for a team that finished any lower than seventh in the NHL in goals scored; and last but not least, (3) I still think that Hamhuis can be had for a lower price than Ehrhoff in many drafts.

So there you have it – the edge here goes to Dan Hamhuis, just as it says in the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide – still available for purchase, and still the best there is. See you next week!

 

Recent Cage Matches:

 

Victor Hedman vs. John Carlson 
Brad Marchand vs. T.J. Oshie 

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Comments (2)add comment

RizzeeDizzee said:

RizzeeDizzee
... @Phanatics - thanks for pointing out my oversight, which - fortunately for me and the column - wouldn't change the overall conclusions.
September 05, 2013
Votes: +0

Phanatics said:

Phanatics
... Great article, Rick. Just one note: Germany did not qualify for the olympics, so no "fatigue factor" for Ehrhoff
September 05, 2013
Votes: +1
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