RayWhitney

 

Who is the better fantasy hockey own - Ray Whitney...or Daniel Alfredsson?

 

This week’s Cage Match features a very rare situation in that both players – Ray Whitney and Daniel Alfredsson –are at least 40 years old but still fantasy relevant. Which one of these gray hair types is better for your fantasy team? Grab a shuffleboard stick and some Metamucil – Cage Match starts now!

 

Career Path

When two players with a combined 2439 career regular season games and 2140 career points face off, there would be a lot of ground to cover if, as usual, I traced their entire career paths. And while some aspects of their past will be relevant (and are highlighted in the next paragraph and elsewhere), the focus has to be on their most recent years – the last three to five seasons in particular. This is because their glory days from many years ago are not of as much consequence in terms of what they’re likely to do now, at an age that’s not only well beyond what we generally see in a fantasy relevant player, but older than most everyone in the NHL.

However, a few things worth noting about the past are that since 1997, Whitney has played more than one season for four teams and scored 70+ points for each. But only once did Whitney have 70+ in two different seasons with the same team, and he also had one or more seasons with 61 points or lower for each. This is his second year with Dallas, where, for what it’s worth, he scored at a 74 point pace last season. As for Alfredsson, he had scored 70+ points in nine consecutive seasons before his past three in Ottawa, where he only tallied 116 points in 176 games (a 54 point full season pace).

What this largely boils down to is a formerly more consistent, elite player who’s seen his point totals slump badly for several seasons (Alfredsson), versus an underdog who has defied odds his entire career and shown a scoring touch most everywhere he’s played, but who also had a few underwhelming years along the way and often doesn’t follow a big splash with another great year (Whitney).

 

Contract Status and Impact

In the offseason, Alfredsson left Ottawa after 17 seasons, inking a one year deal for $3.5M with the Wings in hopes of winning an elusive Stanley Cup, while Whitney is in the second year of a $4.5M/year deal with Dallas.

Alfredsson’s one year contract and motivation to win a Cup are important for this analysis. His added desire to win the Cup in 2013-14 might lead to him being more willing to accept a reduced role, including to sit out games as the season drags on (more on this below in Injuries and Olympics). While that would keep him fresher for the playoffs, it wouldn’t help your fantasy team. Then again, when Ray Bourque played for Colorado at age 40 during 2000-01 and finally won a Cup, he had 59 points in 80 games, although he was a defenseman who the Avs had to rely upon heavily, whereas Alfredsson is a forward among a fairly deep Detroit top nine.

Whitney has already won a Stanley Cup, and is on a Dallas team that will count on him to produce in their quest to end a five year playoff drought. Plus, Whitney has yet to give any indication that he intends to retire after this season, so it stands to reason that he’ll be very focused on his own stats (and next contract), likely more so than Alfredsson. Edge here to Whitney.

 

Early Indications - Place in Top Six and on the Power Play

Based on Frozen Pool data for regular season games through Monday, Alfredsson is lining up with Stephen Weiss and Johan Franzen for 65% of his even strength shifts. While it’s not ideal for Alfredsson to be apart from the likes of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg at even strength, he has been skating with both of them (plus Franzen) on Detroit’s PP1.

Whitney was a top dog last season in Dallas, spending more than half his shifts with Jamie Benn and/or Loui Eriksson. But he displayed instant chemistry with rookie winger Alex Chiasson toward the end of last season, which might explain why the Stars didn’t hesitate to officially move Whitney to their second line for 2013-14, where he’s spent time mostly with Chiasson and center Cody Eakin. For the PP, although Whitney spent time in pre-season on the top unit of Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Chiasson, for the first few regular season games he was nowhere to be found on PP1, being relegated instead to PP2 with Eakin, Shawn Horcoff, and Valeri Nichushkin. This is something to monitor closely, especially since Whitney has relied heavily on power play output in his best years, including last season when 12 of his 29 points (or 34%) came with the man advantage.

The overall edge here goes to Alfredsson, although it’s quite possible that Whitney will return to Dallas’ PP1, in which case things would be pretty much even in this area, since both would be second liners spending time on PP1.

 

Ice Time

This data will be useful to help evaluate Whitney, particularly to see how he was deployed over the past two seasons when he scored 106 points in 114 games. For Alfredsson, it will help determine if his comparatively poor numbers over the past three seasons with Ottawa were in some way tied to lower Ice Time.

 

Season

Total Ice Time

Rank among team’s forwards

PP Ice Time

Rank among team’s forwards

SH Ice Time

2012-13

19:20 (D.A.)

19:23 (R.W)

2nd (D.A.)

3rd (R.W)

2:58 (D.A)

3:42 (R.W)

1st (D.A)

1st (R.W)

1:35 (D.A)

0:04 (R.W)

2011-12

18:56 (D.A)

18:38 (R.W)

3rd (D.A)

2nd (R.W)

2:58 (D.A)

3:46 (R.W)

2nd (D.A.)

1st (R.W)

1:17 (D.A)

0:01 (R.W)

2010-11

19:16 (D.A)

16:57 (R.W)

2nd (D.A)

4th (R.W)

3:10 (D.A)

3:28 (R.W)

2nd (D.A)

2nd (R.W)

1:55 (D.A)

0:00 (R.W)

 

Alfredsson’s Ice Time over these past three seasons isn’t consistent with his drop to a 54 point pace over these years.  So far this season he’s down to 18:00 per game but still getting a healthy 3:07 on the PP while also less than a minute of disadvantageous SH Ice Time. But even if he gets back to the 19 minute per game mark and continues to receive prime PP1 Ice Time and little SH Ice Time, that would merely put him in a similar situation as he had in Ottawa in recent years when he underperformed. Given this, and the fact that the 2011-12 and 2012-13 Ottawa and Detroit teams had very similar team goal totals, it’s probably not realistic to expect Alfredsson to have a rebound in points this season.

As for Whitney, it’s interesting to note that the last four times he scored 70+ points or at a 70+ point pace, he had at least 18:24 in total Ice Time plus, perhaps more importantly, at least 3:42 of PP Ice Time per game, with a ranking of no lower than second among his team’s forwards in PP Ice Time. The good news is through three games he has received the most PP time among all Stars forwards; however, the bad news is it’s only been 2:15 of PP2 time per game, which is actually just nine seconds more than Cody Eakin, who currently ranks sixth among Dallas forwards. Plus, his total Ice Time is a lowly 14:53.

 

Injuries and Olympics

Given their ages, and the fact that neither player will provide you with much in the way of Secondary Category output (they’re both similarly poor in Hits or Blocked Shots, and average about two Shots per game), it’s best to focus instead on injury history plus the impact of the Sochi Olympics.

This summer, Alfredsson was controversially omitted from the preliminary list of attendees for Sweden’s Olympic camp. But that occurred before he signed with Detroit, which has five current players who were invited to Sweden’s camp. Like many, I’m guessing that when Sweden’s roster is finalized he’ll indeed be on the squad. Conversely, there’s zero chance Whitney will be on Team Canada.

If Alfredsson does play in Sochi, it will mean more games and will prevent him from resting like most other NHLers – including Whitney – during the break. What’s more, this means the condensed schedule to accommodate Sochi will take more of a toll on him. To make matters even worse, Detroit has 15 back to back games this season, which is more than most NHL teams (Dallas has 13). Given all this, I’d expect Alfredsson to sit out at least a handful of games over the course of the regular season, perhaps without much warning; this will hurt all his owners, but especially those with weekly line-up settings.

In terms of injuries, prior to last season which saw him miss 16 of 48 games, Whitney had played 75+ games in five of the past six seasons. Plus, only once in the past 15 full seasons did he play in fewer than 63 games. Alfredsson was notoriously injury prone early in his career, even going three consecutive seasons with 58 or fewer games played. But you actually have to go all the way back to 2000-01 to find the last season where he played in fewer than 70 full season games, which is pretty amazing.

Overall, although neither player is injury prone, Alfredsson has a better recent track record, and Whitney did miss a third of last season. But whatever advantage Alfredsson holds in that area will be more than negated if he does play in Sochi, costing him rest and down time and perhaps prompting him to miss regular season games. Plus, it’s not a great sign to already be hearing about Alfredsson having “bumps and bruises” this early in the season.

 

Value vs. Cost

Although Whitney had scored 106 points in his last 114 games leading into this season, I’m guessing he once again slid in all your drafts. Even in one year leagues he’s nearly always brushed aside for younger players who people think might break out, or multi-cat guys with little to no scoring touch, etc. Then someone finally drafts him and everyone else kicks themselves, realizing his owner probably will get more out of him than most guys they picked in the previous four or five rounds.

In contrast, Alfredsson is a “name guy” who likely has tended to go earlier in drafts than he should for the past several years due to being so well known and having scored at a point per game pace in eight career seasons. And sure enough, Whitney is currently ranked 271st in Yahoo leagues (a mere 17% owned), while Alfredsson is nearly 100 slots better at 180st (57% owned).

The reality is if both players in fact end up producing about the same, then Whitney will have been the far better bargain, giving him the edge in value vs. cost.

 

Relative Value of Points

With Alfredsson on the top PP unit in Detroit and lining up with the likes of Stephen Weiss (51% owned in Yahoo) and Johan Franzen (82% owned), most of the points he gets likely will be shared with one or more players who are owned in your league. On contrast, if Whitney stays in his current role (i.e., second line, second PP unit), then he’s still likely to get a similar number of points as Alfredsson, yet the value of those points will be higher since they’ll be shared with the likes of Cody Eakin (3% owned) and Alex Chiasson (8% owned). Clear edge here to Whitney.

 

So Who Wins?

This really wasn’t close at all, since the worst case scenario for Whitney still likely would make him the better own than Alfredsson due to all the issues with Alfredsson that were discussed (recent history of poor production with Ice Time similar to what he’s received so far this season, Sochi Olympics, possibly missing games to rest, value vs. cost).

And if somehow Whitney finds his way back onto PP1 in Dallas, then this this Cage Match would be declared a no contest. Plus, unlike other Cage Matches there isn’t even an issue here with one year leagues versus keepers, since both players are on the other side of 40 and should not be in the mix for anyone’s keeper league plans.

 

Recent Cage Matches:

 

Mike Richards or Joe Pavelski 
Tomas Plekanec vs. Cody Hodgson 
David Clarkson vs. Viktor Stalberg 

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