Who is the better fantasy own - Sam Gagner or Teddy Purcell?


This week’s match pits Sam Gagner (who was also featured last week in Frozen Pool Forensics) against Teddy Purcell, two players pegged to score exactly the same number of points according to the DobberHockey Fantasy Guide. But when the dust settles after the upcoming season, which one will have actually benefitted your fantasy team more? Cage Match is here to give you the answer!


Career Path

With Teddy Purcell now entering his fourth full season with the Lightning, it’s harder to remember his earlier days with the Kings. Although undrafted, Purcell was the AHL rookie of the year in his first professional season of 2007-08. But he followed that with two lackluster campaigns that saw him split time in the AHL and with the Kings. His commitment and skill were openly questioned, and then, after compiling a mere six points in the first 41 games of the 2009-10 campaign, he was jettisoned to the Lightning with a 3rd round pick in exchange for journeyman Jeff Halpern. Purcell has clearly realized his potential (and then some) with Tampa, and in his last two seasons has scored 101 points in 129 games.

Gagner’s career trajectory has been quite different. For one, he was a blue chip prospect, drafted sixth overall in 2007 and never even tasting AHL action. But Gagner was stuck in the 40 point range for each of his first five seasons, his main highlight being an eight point game (followed by a three point tally in his next contest) in 2011-2012, with those eight points being the highest total for an NHL player in a single game since Mario Lemieux in 1988. Many wondered if Gagner would ever break out, especially after Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle, both of whom are younger and were drafted in later seasons than Gagner, really hit the ground running in their early campaigns with the Oilers. But things finally seemed to have clicked for Gagner last season, with him posting 38 points in just 48 games, where those 38 points were just 11 shy of his previous career high, but in 31 fewer games.


Ice Time

As usual in Cage Match, I like to examine Ice Time splits over the course of the past three seasons to see if there are any key trends, whether positive or negative:



Total Ice Time

Shorthanded Ice Time

Power Play Ice Time


16:44 (Purcell)

19:24 (Gagner)

0:02 (Purcell)

1:35 (Gagner)

3:22 (Purcell)

2:55 (Gagner)


16:07 (Purcell)

17:10 (Gagner)

0:02 (Purcell)

0:02 (Gagner)

2:33 (Purcell)

2:27 (Gagner)


14:06 (Purcell)

17:44 (Gagner)

0:01 (Purcell)

0:22 (Gagner)

2:45 (Purcell)

2:56 (Gagner)


With Purcell, the numbers are moving in exactly the direction that poolies want to see, as his overall Ice Time has risen in each of the past two seasons. And last season in particular saw his power play Ice Time increase by nearly a minute even though his overall Ice Time rose by just 37 seconds. In fact, not only was Purcell’s 3:22 of PP Ice Time per game tied for 28th among all NHL forwards, but it comprised more than 20% of his overall Ice Time. That’s an amazing ratio which is not only comparable to some top NHL forwards, but also is made all the better when accompanied by literally no shorthanded Ice Time. In short, although Purcell’s 16:44 of Ice Time was not a lot, it was perfectly suited to him scoring points.

Looking at the numbers for Gagner, it’s a good news bad news situation. On the one hand, his total Ice Time shot up by more than two minutes last season; however, nearly all of that was in the form of shorthanded Ice Time, with his added 28 seconds of PP Ice Time representing only about a 20% increase as compared to 2011-12 and comprising only about 15% of his total Ice Time. So even though Gagner enjoyed 2:40 more total Ice Time per game than Purcell last season, about 60% of that was in the form of shorthanded duty. Plus, even with Gagner’s overall Ice Time advantage, Purcell still was on the ice for nearly 30 seconds more with the man advantage versus Gagner. The edge here lies with Purcell.


Spot in Top Six

For Purcell, as we saw from his Ice Time numbers (and we’ll see below from his Secondary Categories stats), he really is a one dimensional player, and that one dimension is offense. And with a one dimensional offensive-minded player like him, there generally are only two options –top six or the press box, as third or fourth line duty doesn’t make any sense.

Based on Purcell’s solid production over the past two seasons, one would think he’s pretty much ensured to have a place in the top six. And on paper, that indeed seems to be the case, even after the Lightning’s offseason moves to improve in that area. They gained Valteri Filppula via free agency and Jonathan Drouin via the draft, and Ryan Malone looks to be healthy (for the moment at least), while they only lost Vincent Lecavalier via an offseason buyout. But even if Filppula, Drouin, and Malone are slotted into the top six (in addition to fixtures Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos), that still leaves a spot for Purcell. Overall, Purcell’s top six role looks to be quite safe.

The same probably can be said about Gagner, for now at least. The Oilers added a top six guy (David Perron) in place of a third liner (Magnus Paajarvi) and have Alex Hemsky not only healthy (again, for the moment) but also apparently no longer on the trading block heading into the season. So if we do the math, those three plus Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Nail Yakupov, and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins adds up to seven. However, reports suggest that RNH won’t be in the opening night line-up, in which case the Oilers don’t have to figure out which of these seven slides onto the third line. But the even somewhat higher possibility of a third line role for Gagner down the road gives Purcell a slight edge here as well.


Value of Points

One way to assess players – like Purcell and Gagner – who are forecasted to score a similar amount of points is to determine the relative value of their points. In fantasy hockey, the best points for a player to receive are ones where the others who also get points on the same scoring play are guys less likely to be owned in your league. This is because those are the kinds of points that cause movement in the standings – where you can pad a lead in points categories or catch up in areas where you’re behind.

According to Frozen Pool, last year Gagner took most of his shifts (and thus shared points) with the likes of Alex Hemsky and Nail Yakupov (plus Magnus Paajarvi), less so with more widely owned guys like Hall, RNH, and Eberle. On the other hand, Purcell skated for the most part with Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. Based on this, chances are greater that more of Purcell’s points featured an assist and/or goal also going to one or more players owned in your league. Slight edge here to Gagner.


Secondary Categories

Let me warn you to sit down before you see some of the numbers in the table below for both players, especially in the areas of Hits, Blocked Shots, and Plus/Minus. It’s not a pretty picture at all.





Blocked Shots




-1 (Purcell)

-6 (Gagner)

11 (Purcell)

35 (Gagner)

7 (Purcell)

22 (Gagner)

10 (Purcell)

23 (Gagner)

94 (Purcell)

113 (Gagner)


+9 (Purcell)

+5 (Gagner)

17 (Purcell)

21 (Gagner)

11 (Purcell)

23 (Gagner)

16 (Purcell)

36 (Gagner)

152 (Purcell)

149 (Gagner)


+5 (Purcell)

-17 (Gagner)

21 (Purcell)

24 (Gagner)

16 (Purcell)

29 (Gagner)

10 (Purcell)

37 (Gagner)

196 (Purcell)

138 (Gagner)


To help put this in better perspective, Matt Martin had as many Hits  in one game on May 11th as Purcell accumulated in all 48 regular season games! And Purcell’s Blocked Shots and PIMs were pretty much just as terrible. Even worse, this wasn’t a fluke outcome; he’s fared just as poorly in these categories for each of the past few seasons. And his other secondary stats were not nearly good enough to begin to compensate for these deficiencies.

Someone who sees things with a “glass half full” viewpoint would point out – correctly – that last year Gagner more than tripled Purcell’s output in both Hits and Blocked Shots, and more than doubled Purcell’s PIMs total. But the issue with that mindset is it’s like trying to get excited about someone twice or three times better looking than one of the ugliest people on earth. Yes, they’re a step up from the most horrible looking person, but in the grand scheme of things they’re still really, really bad looking. The same holds true here in that Gagner’s stats in Hits, Blocked Shots, and PIMs, although much better than Purcell’s, are still terrible and will also drag your team down in those categories. And like Purcell, Gagner’s plus/minus and shots don’t even come close to making up for his severe shortcomings in these other areas. Overall, Gagner has a sizeable - but largely meaningless - edge in this area.


Value vs. Cost

Like I noted at the outset, the Fantasy Guide predicts that both players will score the same amount of points (you’ll have to buy it to find out exactly how many). But even though two players are predicted to score the same, we know that won’t automatically make them cost the same to obtain.

In terms of Purcell, he’s now 28 years old and has played 320 NHL games. And while there’s still a chance that he might take the next step and become a true point per game player, chances are that most poolies don’t see him as a good bet to do much better than he has in recent seasons. With Gagner, since he’s several years younger and only last season took a big step up in production, there’s a better chance that people will factor into his overall value the potential for a further increase in production for this season. As a result, Gagner’s cost could be at least a bit higher than Purcell. What’s more, there could even be a double whammy situation where you’d have to pay a bit more for Gagner to factor in a possible continued increase in output, yet in the end he might end up doing only the same as (or perhaps even worse than) his production from last season. Edge to Purcell.


So Who Wins?

This is a good example of how, when deciding between two players who look similar on paper, a more one dimensional, “steady eddie” player (Purcell) can sometimes be better for your team than a player (Gagner) who might be a bit more well-rounded but who you also might have to pay more to obtain because of him being seen as having better (but still far from guaranteed) breakout potential. To me, Purcell is the choice here not only for a points only league, but even for one with secondary categories, since although he has some truly horrible stats in areas like Hits, PIMS, and Blocked Shots, Gagner won’t give you enough beyond what little Purcell brings to the table to make him worth the added price it will likely take to acquire him. As often is the case in Cage Match, it truly boiled down to value versus cost.

One important general takeaway from all this - if your league counts categories beyond points you need to figure out whether a player who really hurts you in those other categories is worth owning, as that will make it necessary to offset their lack of production with added contribution in those categories from other players. The deeper the league, the better the value for Purcell and Gagner, since with more players on your roster their glaring deficiencies in some secondary categories can be more easily compensated for. But if your league is not very deep and you’re thinking of either of these guys as one of your last forward picks, you might want to instead grab a guy who’s more well-rounded in secondary categories, as you’ll have fewer other players on your roster to offset the deficiencies either of these guys would bring to the table in those areas.


Recent Cage Matches:


Christian Ehrhoff vs Dan Hamhuis 
Victor Hedman vs. John Carlson 
Brad Marchand vs. T.J. Oshie 


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Comments (2)add comment

RizzeeDizzee said:

... @jollyRoger - I happen to think that Fowler's value might be as low as it could ever be right now, as he's disappointed so many fantasy teams over the last two years that some owners just don't want to have anything to do with him. The result will be that he'll slide on draft day or could be obtained for artificially lower value in return via trade. Plus, there are no indications that Anaheim has given up on him in the least, and the Ducks figure to be a very good team this year. That all having been said, Faulk is clearly on the rise, although as Dobber pointed out in the Fantasy Guide, and as was mentioned in recent ramblings, he was a more productive player with Pitkanen in the line-up, so that's a bit of a question mark now that Pitkanen is out for the year. I think it's pretty close between the two, but when it boils down to value versus cost (as it always should), the edge in my mind probably goes to Fowler, especially in a one year league.
September 12, 2013
Votes: +0

JollyRoger said:

Fowler or Faulk Hey Rick,

If you had to proceed the same analysis between C.Fowler and J.Fault, who would win?
September 12, 2013
Votes: +0
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