PatrickSharp

 

Who is the better fantasy own - Patrick Sharp or Thomas Vanek? Also, results of the Backes vs. Byfuglien battle!

 

Cage Match Tournament Results – Backes Wins!!

At the outset, thanks to everyone who voted in all the Cage Match Tournament battles over the past few weeks, and congratulations to David Backes, who can now wear the crown of best multi-cat player in all of the NHL! With this victory, Backes showed that he’s THE guy to get if your league counts points, hits, blocked shots, PIMs, and shots. Look for another Cage Match Tournament in a few months.

But once again it’s business as usual and what you’ve all no doubt been eagerly awaiting – a return to our weekly head-to-head Cage Match battles. We kick things back off with a battle of elite wingers, featuring Patrick Sharp against Thomas Vanek. Who will benefit your team more for the rest of the season and beyond? Look no further than Cage Match to give you the scoop.

Career Path and Contract Status

Before 2013-14, only three games separated their regular season totals (598 games for Vanek, 595 for Sharp), while Vanek held a healthy edge in career points, with 497 versus 405 for Sharp. But if you focus on just the past five full seasons the scoring gap vanishes, with Vanek having compiled 237 points in 280 games (0.8464 points per game) compared to Sharp’s 270 in 319 (0.8464 points per game). Yup –the exact same regular season point per game average down to the ten thousandth of a decimal point!

Contract status is another story, as Sharp is signed through 2016-17 at a salary that peaks this season and next at $6.5M, before decreasing to $5.5M in 2015-16 and then $5.0M in the final year. Vanek’s current deal expires at the end of this season, and with the rising Salary Cap and Vanek being one of the marquee UFAs to hit the open market, he figures to make somewhere in the neighborhood of $1-2M more than Sharp over each of the next few seasons.  Therefore, all things being otherwise equal, Sharp holds an edge in salary cap keeper leagues.

Ice Time – Past Seasons and 2013-14

The key to focus on is here is whether some of their season-to-season points variations can be linked to Ice Time data, as often can be the case. Two important notes - Vanek’s 2013-14 stats are divided into one section to cover his 13 games with Buffalo, and another for his subsequent games with the Islanders. Also, all 2013-14 stats for both players within this column reflect games played through January 4th.

 

 

Season

Total Ice Time per game (with rank among team’s forwards)

PP Ice Time per game (with rank among team’s forwards)

SH Ice Time per game (with rank among team’s forwards)

2013-14

19:18 (T.V. - NYI) – 2rd

18:36 (T.V. - Buff) – 3rd

18:38 (P.S.) – 3rd

3:47 (T.V. - NYI) – 3rd

3:43 (T.V. Buff) – 1st

3:16 (P.S.) – 2nd

0:02 (T.V. - NYI) – 12th

0:02 (T.V. - Buff) – 14th-t

0:02 (P.S.) – 12th

2012-13

18:24 (T.V.) – 3rd

18:49 (P.S.) – 3rd

3:19 (T.V.) – 3rd

3:06 (P.S.) – 1st

0:12 (T.V.) – 10th

0:53 (P.S.) – 7th

2011-12

16:56 (T.V.) – 5th

19:53 (P.S.) – 4th

3:02 (T.V.) – 2nd

3:31 (P.S.) – 1st

0:17 (T.V.) – 10th

1:05 (P.S.) – 6th

2010-11

17:21 (T.V.) – 3rd

19:24 (P.S.) – 3rd

3:15 (T.V.) – 2nd

3:22 (P.S.) – 1st

0:03 (T.V.) – 14th

1:15 (P.S.) – 7th

 

For Sharp, this season his SH Ice Time has beneficially vanished but his overall Ice Time is down. Normally a decrease in Ice Time would concern me, but if he can do what he’s doing now (45 points through 44 games) then there doesn’t seem to be any reason why he’d be unable to sustain his current point output, especially if – as seems likely - his PP and SH Ice Time Numbers remain steady.

For Vanek, his overall Ice Time is higher than in any of the past three seasons, especially on the PP; and he’s responded by nearing the point per game mark during his time with the Islanders. It’s good to see that he’s been able to put up point per game numbers over stretches of the past two seasons with different teams and with different Ice Time numbers, as that helps somewhat allay concerns about how he’ll respond if he’s dealt again before the deadline.

 

Other Stats and Metrics

Sharp has a 60.7% offensive zone starting percentage this season, which is up from 57.4% last season but lower than his 64.1% and 67.0% numbers in 2011-12 and 2010-11 when he scored 140 points in 148 games. And despite tallying 25 goals in his first 44 games, Sharp’s own shooting percentage is only slightly higher this season (14.6%) this season versus those two productive seasons (11.7% and 12.7%). Finally, the Blackhawks as a team are shooting 9.14% with Sharp on the ice at five on five, which is actually down from 9.55% last season and 10.46% in 2011-12, but up from 8.49% in 2010-11. Looking closely at these numbers there’s no clear indication that Sharp’s totals are due to rise or fall, so look for him to flirt with 80 points if he stays healthy.

For Vanek, it seems like a key to his production indeed lies at least somewhat in his individual shooting percentage, since in his two point per game seasons he recorded his second and third highest shooting percentages. Yet although the season where he had his highest percentage saw him hit 40 goals, he also managed only 63 points in 71 games. What’s also very interesting is his point stats from last season coincided with his lowest – by almost 7% - offensive zone starting percentage in the past three seasons. He may just be one of those players for whom these types of metrics are not reliable predictors.

 

Secondary Categories



Season

Plus/Minus

Hits per game

Blocked Shots

per game

PIMs

per game

Shots

per game

2013-14

 

+4 (T.V. - NYI)

-5 (T.V. – Buff)

+22 (P.S.)

0.33 (T.V.)

0.231 (T.V.)

0.795 (P.S.)

0.22 (T.V.)

0.307 (T.V.)

0.41 (P.S.)

0.741 (T.V.)

0.307 (T.V.)

0.545 (P.S.)

2.59 (T.V.)

3.84 (T.V.)

3.89 (P.S.)

2012-13

 

-1 (T.V.)

+8 (P.S.)

0.34 (T.V.)

0.93 (P.S.)

0.105(T.V.)

0.43 (P.S.)

0.526 (T.V.)

0.50 (P.S.)

3.13 (T.V.)

3.14 (P.S.)

2011-12

 

-6 (T.V.)

+28 (P.S.)

0.435 (T.V.)

1.08 (P.S.)

0.28 (T.V.)

0.24 (P.S.)

0.85 (T.V.)

0.51 (P.S.)

2.615 (T.V.)

3.81 (P.S.)

2010-11

 

+2 (T.V.)

-1 (P.S.)

0.375 (T.V.)

1.03 (P.S.)

0.15 (T.V.)

0.35 (P.S.)

0.30 (T.V.)

0.51 (P.S.)

2.975 (T.V.)

3.62 (P.S.)

 

One thing that jumps out is Sharp’s shots. In 2010-11 and 2011-12, when he scored 140 points in 148 games, and this season, when he tallied 45 in his first 44 games, his shots per game average was at or above 3.62 per game, while his dip in points per game scoring average in 2012-13 coincided with him taking only 3.14 shots per game. The fact that his shot per game average this season is above even his 2010-11 and 2011-12 totals bodes well for him to maintain his current scoring pace.

With Vanek, we see a similar trend in that his most productive recent season (2012-13, with 41 points in 38 games) coincided with a shots per game average north of three. And while he was well above that number in Buffalo, he’s below it with the Islanders despite nearly point per game numbers there. On the plus side, when he posted 84 points in 82 games back in 2006-07, his shots per game average was just below three, so it’s possible that he can still be very productive without surpassing that threshold.

Beyond the shots totals, what we see is essentially what’s expected, namely that while neither of these guys will give you much in the way of Hits, Blocked Shots, or PIMs, Sharp is less weak in these categories overall, although Vanek did have a couple of decent PIMs seasons. As for +/-, it’s no surprise that Sharp has far better stats, what with him playing for the Blackhawks. But Vanek hasn’t been a leak in that category, especially when considering the lousy teams he’s played for of late. And if he gets traded to a playoff-bound team before the deadline then he could end up making significant gains in that area.

 

Injuries and Olympics

Since his first full campaign with Chicago in 2006-07, Sharp has missed 15+ games in a season only twice. Vanek also had only two injury-affected seasons during that span, although in his case one of those season saw him miss almost 70 games. Both also have played 80+ games in three seasons during that stretch. No edge to either player in this area.

I put a good deal of weight on Olympic status, since this season has many back to backs and stretches of more games in fewer nights in order to accommodate the Olympics. Couple that with a player actually representing his home country in Sochi, and fatigue –leading to poor production - toward the end of the season becomes a genuine concern.

Vanek will play for Austria, but that shouldn’t take a significant toll on him because they likely won’t make it past the first elimination round. As for Sharp, as a member of Team Canada he’ll likely play more games than Vanek in Sochi, what with the Canadian squad favored to contend for a medal. And while Sharp is only 32 years old, keep in mind that he’s played roughly 100 NHL games in the last 12 months and, as a 2012-13 Stanley Cup champion, had among the shortest offseasons of any NHLer.  As a result, fatigue could be a factor for Sharp down the stretch, although somewhat less so than for other NHL Olympians due to him receiving under 19 minutes of Ice Time per game so far this year.

But before giving the edge to Vanek in this area, there’s still one related area of concern, namely that in many years his overall season numbers are a tale of two Vaneks. Take his 41 points in 38 games last season – he started with 23 points in 11 games, which of course means he ended with a barely mediocre 18 points in his final 27 games. It was s similar story in 2011-12, where he tallied 24 points in his first 19 games, but then only 37 points in his final 59 games. Will he fade down the stretch this season as well, especially given the added strains of a compressed schedule and a trip to the Olympics? Vanek owners should be at least somewhat concerned until he shows that he can be productive in the second half.

 

So Who Wins?

Cage Match decisions always need to factor in the future, and unless the Islanders keep up their recent winning ways for several more weeks Vanek will likely find himself on an even better team by the deadline, and then will be free to sign with any team this summer. But we have to be careful not to automatically assume that Vanek’s stats will improve with a change in scenery. After all, according to Frozen Pool he’s played about 80% of his even strength Islander shifts with John Tavares (top five in scoring) and Kyle Okposo (just outside top ten) - it really can’t get much better than that. In fact, even if he goes to a better quality team he might end up paying a price in terms of Ice Time or quality of linemates. Plus, Vanek’s recent trend of slow finishes to seasons looms large.

All things considered, if you’re in a one year league, the edge goes to Sharp. If you have Sharp, best to hold, as from what we saw above there is ample evidence to suggest he should be able to continue on his current pace and give you 75-80 points by the end of the season. But you’d also be justified in shopping him on the heels of his two recent hat tricks and stretch of 21 points in 13 games (not to mention being named to Team Canada), since it’s hard to picture his value getting much higher than it is now. If you have Vanek, best to hold him for now and then pull the trigger on a trade either right before or right after he’s dealt at the deadline (assuming the Islanders remain outside of the playoff picture), as the hype will never be higher and a post-trade let down is a very real possibility.

In keeper leagues, I’d give Sharp a similar - if not slightly larger - edge. After all, he’ll be a fixture in the top six for the Blackhawks for the next three seasons, and that team should be just as good as they are now during each of those years - you can just sit back and enjoy the ride. With Vanek, you have the significant unknown of where he’ll land next year. What if he gets a huge offer and ends up signing with a poor offensive team? And even if he goes to a powerhouse team, who’s to say it will result in him doing any better than he has with the Islanders – 25 points in 27 games playing 80% of his shifts with two players in or near the top ten in NHL scoring?

 

Preorder the Midseason Guide - out Sunday - and get your fantasy hockey team on track for the second half!


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