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The Geek of the Week selects his Fantasy Canadian men's Olympic ice hockey team.

So far in my ongoing series on Fantasy Olympic selections, I have dug deep on Team Sweden and Team USA, both of whom put up very impressive fantasy squads with a slight advantage to the US in the format I chose. Today I am going to tackle the best that is Team Canada, 5 days after Steve Yzerman did the same.

 

Team Canada Overview

 

Team Canada has an embarrassment of riches, especially when it comes to depth. You often hear people say that Canada could roster a second team that would medal in the Olympics and I think that there is a case for that. The depth of talent in Canada made for some very hard, controversial selections and I really don’t envy Steve Yzerman for having to make them. For myself and Fantasy Team Canada, it was actually a little bit easier than I expected because the numbers are the numbers, so it requires less subjectivity on my part: I just select who the numbers tell me to select. I had some challenges that Stevie Y didn’t though, for example: in fantasy hockey, you can’t just move Stamkos to RW – he needs to have eligibility and right now he doesn’t so he’s either one of my four Cs or he isn’t on my team. I had to pick only four centres from (Crosby, Stamkos, Tavares, Toews, Getzlaf, Bergeron etc), so I am definitely leaving some top end guys out.

 

Team Canada’s strength is definitely down the middle where any of their top 4 options could arguably be the #1 C on Team USA. On D and wing, Canada is also strong and similar to Team USA in that they have certain guys who slot nicely into certain roles the way I have them designed, providing elite value in their particular line assignments. Let’s take a deeper look at how Fantasy Hockey Geek (FHG) lays out the optimal Fantasy Team Canada:


Line 1 & 2

 

My first and second lines (as they were with the other teams) will be made up of high end scoring players who produce on the power-play. As such, to determine who will make up my top 2 lines I created a league in Fantasy Hockey Geek that measures only (G, A, PPP and SOG). Here’s how they shape up.

*All data shown is using 2013-14 data as of Dec 19th

 

PlayerPosGASOGPPPFHG RankLast Year Rank
Patrick Sharp LW 16 18 140 15 8 328
Sidney Crosby C 19 32 126 19 1 6
James Neal* RW 21 15 136 16 97 38

* used last year’s numbers

 

PlayerPosGASOGPPPFHG RankLast Year Rank
Patrick Marleau LW 16 19 131 13 11 43
Steven Stamkos * C 29 28 157 18 290 3
Claude Giroux RW 9 21 98 13 34 8

 

Sidney Crosby needs no explanation. He is the best player in the NHL and often the best player in fantasy hockey. Depending on league format, he could be challenged for the top spot by Ovechkin, Subban, Karlsson or a goalie but generally “the kid” is the man in fantasy hockey.

 

Patrick Sharp has long been underrated in fantasy hockey, as he contributes consistently to almost every category but this season he is taking it to a next level. He may not “feel like” the top Canadian LW, but he is (at least in terms of fantasy). His shot output is high end and he consistently puts up points and strong peripheral numbers across the board. He was the 14th highest drafted LW in Yahoo! pools this year and 51st overall player and in almost any league format, FHG would show you that his value exceeds that draft slot.

James Neal is a fantasy superstar but because of his injury this season and his down season in 2013, his rankings aren’t all that impressive. If you combine data from the past 3 seasons though, Neal is 5th in the entire league in points per game and third in goals per game behind only Stamkos and Ovie. When Neal is in, he is a first round fantasy talent in most leagues. He needs to be on my team and I thought he should have been going to Sochi.

 

Steven Stamkos was as much a no brainer for my C2 as Crosby was for my C1, although John Tavares is really starting to close the gap (more on him later). Stamkos shoots, he scores and he piles on the PPP, which is why he was the 3rd most valuable player in a L1 format all of last season.

 

Patrick Marleau has been a top tier fantasy player for years and he doesn’t always get all the credit he deserves. Since 2007, he is 7th in goals and 10th in both PPP and SOG, not to mention 10th in GPs. As much heat as he takes for not being clutch, he has been as reliable as they come in fantasy hockey. He narrowly edged out teammate Logan Couture on my team because of a few more PPP and goals at the time I ran the numbers. This is likely the last time where Marleau comes out on top in this comparison. Marleau is a very similar to Patrick Sharp in his ability to consistently provide great value, but he too was drafted fairly late (6th round on average) probably because we are all scared of the pending decline that will kick in any year now. I was terrified of Marleau going into my drafts this year, but I missed a guy who has been a gem thus far.

 

Claude Giroux had a bad 15 games to start this season and it cost him a spot on Canada’s Olympic team, but it didn’t cost him a spot on mine. He was the 8th most valuable player in the L2 format last season and the third most valuable RW (Ovie and Kane ahead of him). This season he started slow but is still providing respectable value: FHG calculates him as the 34th most valuable player and 8th most valuable RW in the league despite his slow start! I am confident that he will end the season around the 20-25 mark in an L1 format. Giroux has always provided PPP at an elite level which makes him an ideal candidate for this slot.


D1


For my first pairing D, I used the same criteria as scoring lines 1 and 2. Canada has two ideal candidates for this pairing:

 

PlayerPosGASOGPPPFHG RankLast Year Rank
Duncan Keith D 3 29 95 13 5 50
PK Subban D 4 22 104 14 6 2

 

As the 5th and 6th most valuable players in the league (and the 2nd and 3rd most valuable d-men), Subban and Keith were absolute slam dunk picks for me. I can’t even believe that there was question over Subban’s inclusion on the real team coming off of his Norris season.

 

The first ever Geek of the Week, Subban has become a fantasy dynamo in almost all formats. He does it all from the D position at a clip that would put most forwards to shame. His shot and PPP totals are elite which makes him ideal in this format, but his contribution across all other categories allow him to provide great value in almost all league formats (although I found one where Subban isn’t so hot…more on that below).

Keith isn’t quite as versatile as Subban, but he was custom made for the format I designed for D1. He is on a 200 shot pace and is piling on points at a career high pace. I have never been huge on Keith as a top end 60 point guy, but he does have the ability to put up a banner season from time to time and this year looks like one of those so I will gladly scoop up the value and put him on my Canada D1. If I were in a keeper though, I would be selling this guy high in the summer in advance of his 48pt 2014-15 campaign.


Line 3


For my third line, I want players who can go against the other teams’ top lines, kill penalties, win faceoffs and block shots. Of course we want scoring for all lines so goals and assists matter but for L3 I am looking more at even strength points as most of the PP time will be going to L1 and L2. In order to find the optimal players for such a line, I entered the following categories into my league in FHG (Goals, Assists, Short Handed Points, Even Strength Points, Blocked Shots, Takeaways, Faceoffs won). Here are the players I selected from the FHG output: 

 

PlayerPosGASHPESPBKSTKAFOWFHG RankLast Year Rank
Logan Couture LW 10 19 1 18 42 22 263 12 12
Jonathan Toews C 13 20 2 23 7 28 424 4 2
Tyler Seguin RW 18 17 0 29 6 25 130 23 217

 

Jonathan Toews was custom built for my L3 settings, as evidenced by his FHG calculated rank of 4th overall. It’s interesting to see how the Fantasy Hockey Geek math sort of supports some of the more subjective ideas we have about a player. When we watch the games, we see how Toews is a great two way player who you can match up against the other team’s top line, but who will also put up some points. Looking at the numbers in FHG, you can see that he put up 23 of his 33 points while at even strength and another 2 while shorthanded which is ideal for a player in this role. He compliments that with some solid takeaway numbers, making him a great fantasy own in this format. His value as 4th overall using L3 settings really passes the eye-test when you know the style of game he plays. Toews value would drop all the way to 42 if he was on L1, which also passes the eye test because he isn’t an elite point producer; but on L3 he is elite – again showing the importance of understanding your league settings and the impact on player value.

Logan Couture barely lost out to Marleau for a top 6 role, but he slots in nicely as a high end L3 player. Unlike Toews, Couture is a fantasy player whose value doesn’t sway too drastically from line to line but he is indeed more valuable in the L3 settings. His blocked shots and takeaways are very good numbers for a forward and he provides a huge amount of FOW from a LW eligible player.

 

I was surprised to learn that Seguin was third (to Crosby and Perry) in even strength points at the time I ran these numbers which speaks volumes to the quality of player this guy is - imagine his numbers if Dallas wasn’t the 29th ranked PP team!. The ESP are definitely what is driving his value in the L3 format, but the FOW for a player with RW eligibility has a huge impact as well.

 

We can really learn a lot from looking at players’ values in the L3 format and how the impact of FOW on a player with wing eligibility is huge, and FHG demonstrates that perfectly. Seguin isn’t exactly a natural fit to me like Toews where you just know he fits into L3. Seguin is a guy I look at and think “he’s a top 6 forward or he’s off the team” but the math proves otherwise, which is why it’s always so important to determine players’ true values before making any decisions (trades/drafts) in fantasy hockey. If I went with my gut, Seguin is not on my team on L3 and I would miss out on a very solid L3 own. With the help of FHG, I have a stellar pick in this slot.

 

The other thing you can really learn from looking at L3 is the value of scarce stats. I always harp on how PPP impacts a player greatly because it is a scarce stat, but PPP isn’t scarce in comparison to SHP. It’s such a random event that can have such a big impact that I personally think you should think twice before even adding it as a category. Going through this process on FHG has really demonstrated to me how much a few SHP can change a players’ actual value and I personally just don’t think it should have that big of an impact so I think it is a category to avoid as a GM – unless you like having one “lottery catergoy”. If you are in a league that does count SHP, I would recommend running your FHG data without SHP to determine players’ values unless you are certain that the players’ SHP output is sustainable.


D2


My second defensive pairing is selected using the same criteria as my third forward line.

 

PlayerPosGASHPESPBKSTKAFOWFHG RankLast Year Rank
Alex Pietrangelo D 5 19 1 17 101 26 0 59 13
Mark Giordano D 4 11 2 10 93 34 0 123 20

 

I am showing the 2013 numbers above for these two players as this is what I made my selection based on.


Alex Pietrangelo is a perfect fit for this line because he is a solid two way defenseman who can clearly score without PP time (17 out of 24 points at even strength). What makes him really valuable is his huge blocked shot total. This is one category that can separate Pietrangelo from the other elite D. By comparison, my buddy PK Subban had less than half the blocks of Pietrangelo and despite having 14 more points than Alex last season, PK had 3 LESS even strength points. PK Subban is actually the 67th most valuable player in a L3 format, a full 54 slots lower than Pietrangelo! I can’t harp enough on how important it is to understand these category nuances and the impact on players’ values and nothing illustrates it better than the Subban-Pietrangelo comparison. I would NEVER have drafted Pietrangelo ahead of Subban in any league prior to running these numbers.

 

Mark Giordano is another solid pick for my D2. He has performed very well this season (a better pace than last season) but I am using his last season numbers anyway because he missed some time. Even without the high point total, Giordano was ranked 20th overall in this format last season, largely driven by his well-balanced peripheral numbers. With two SHP though, Giordano’s value was considerably inflated because (as I alluded to above) SHPs are rare and unpredictable, but very valuable. With Gio’s current point pace and solid blocked shot and takeaway numbers though, Giordano is a very valuable fantasy defenseman, even without the SHP.


L4


On my ideal fourth line, I want some bangers who can put the puck in the net but also do some damage to opposing players. The best categories I thought of that best represent this desire is (Goals, Assists, Even Strength Points, Hits and Blocked Shots). Here is who best fit the bill for Team Canada:

 

PlayerPosGAESPHitsBKsFHG ValueLast Year Value
Chris Kunitz LW 20 17 22 81 17 4 3
Ryan Getzlaf C 16 23 28 41 34 5 5
Corey Perry RW 22 15 30 32 14 10 124

 

My line 4 boasts some of my favorite players on the team, as the three players I have selected all provide top 10 value in a line 4 format. To get three guys that provide top such great value on L4 criteria without having to take another elite player from one of the top lines is a huge advantage for Canada. Russia by comparison would have one top 10 player in a L4 format but it’s Ovechkin who they would have to use on line 1, so they end up with 0 top 10 guys on L4. Canada (similar to the US) has guys that slot here nicely.

Ryan Getzlaf is an animal in this format. He’s an interesting fantasy specimen actually because he is good to elite in pretty much all categories except shots, which is what puts his value all the way down to 25th in a L1 format. Getzlaf’s hits and blocks combined with his top 10 scoring prowess are the reasons he is such a valuable player in the L4 format. The thing that FHG helps us learn here is that in any league that has less of an emphasis on shots, and more of an emphasis on hits, blocks or PIMs Getzlaf’s value goes from high-end to elite.

 

Chris Kunitz was one of the more debated names leading up to the Canadian team selection and although he was probably my Geek of the Week homerun of 2013, I wasn’t really sure if I wanted him on the real team. Whether or not he could put up points without Crosby doesn’t matter to my fantasy hockey team though– this guy is putting up points one way or another so I need him in. Kunitz hit total is excellent, especially in the context of such an elite scorer. Of the top 10 scorers over the past 3 years (Kunitz is 9th), only Ovechkin can rival his hit total and nobody else is even in the ballpark. His blocked shot totals are average, but his points and hits are elite so this is a guy that I would be after in an L4 format all day. Most leagues that include hits turn Kunitz into an elite fantasy own.

 

Corey Perry is very similar to Getzlaf only he DOES shoot which is why he has been widely regarded as a top fantasy player for some time. Because he shoots, Perry could actually slide onto L1 and provide some good value, but his low PPP total (7) would actually cause his value to drop a bit to 21st. A L3 format is the worst for Perry where he is calculated as the 41st most valuable. His high even strength point total (30) and his ability to hit make him a perfect fit here on the fourth line.


D3


For my 3rd defensive pairing I used the same criteria as my forward L4.

 

PlayerPosGAESPHitsBKsFHG ValueLast Year Value
Brent Seabrook D 3 21 17 91 65 2 20
Shea Weber D 8 10 7 78 72 17 9

 

I would have guessed the two D that I ended up picking for D3 before I even looked at the numbers. Both are relentless hitters, who can put up points and aren’t scared to block a shot. One thing I was surprised at though was that Subban and Keith were actually both ranked higher than Weber in the D3 format. If I look to last year, that wouldn’t be the case but Weber simply hasn’t been scoring enough this year. His excellent hit and block total would usually make him a no-brainer pick but his small tail off in points has allowed the other two Canadian defensemen to pass him. This shows how hard it can be sometimes to determine the true value between players (ie “how much MORE than player A does player B have to hit in order to overcome a 15 point gap in production). These questions are near impossible to answer, so I defer to FHG, where the What If? tool answers that for me. Subban and Keith were already taken by L1 though, so I am perfectly happy with Weber here.

 

In Seabrook, it is easy to see why FHG has him ranked so high. His hits and blocks are top end and he is also putting up a very good point total with a large portion at even strength. I had to have this guy on my team, even if Steve Yzerman didn’t.


Notable Omissions

Canada really does have a lot of depth, so I can’t really name everybody here but I will at least go through all the players who made the real team and a couple of other notables

Jonathan Tavares is the most obvious omission. I could only take 4Cs on my team and unfortunately, Tavares couldn’t fit in. The problem here is that Crosby and Stamkos are premiere talents at this position in the line format that suits Tavares best. He would be the #1C for most other countries, but he wasn’t getting ahead of Crosby or Stammer. So why not slot him on line 3 or 4? Maybe in real life that’s the answer, but the way I constructed my lines – Tavares’ value would drop below my other options on a bottom 6 line. Tavares is the 13th most valuable player in a L1 format, but in L3 and L4 he drops below Toews and Getzlaf. I don’t have the option to move him to wing, so he is my first alternate.


Jeff Carter was not nearly as hard to take off my team. All he does is shoot a lot and score a lot. Those things are valuable for sure, but when you don’t contribute to any other categories you simply aren’t that valuable in fantasy hockey. The line most suited to him was L1 where he was the 127th most valuable player. No thank you. I’ll gladly take Neal or Giroux over Carter and I think Team Canada should have done the same.


Rick Nash is another guy I really do like in fantasy hockey. When performing at his best, he would provide great value on all lines – probably most suited to L1 due to his high shot total. Giroux and Neal are better on the PP though, while the numbers put Seguin and Perry higher on their respective lines. Nash is great for my second reserve because he can jump onto any line and provide good value.


Matt Duchene and Jamie Benn are two of the brightest young stars in fantasy hockey, I just couldn’t find a slot for them. Canada’s depth is too great and there are too many guys that are specialized towards a certain line format that I have created. Benn and Duchene are both strong in a lot of areas but their output is elite in none, which makes them very solid fantasy owns but just not quite good enough to fit on a line in this format.


Jay Bouwmeester is having a great season and I like the selection, but again he just couldn’t crack the elite fantasy players Team Canada has to offer. J-Bo’s best value is in L1 where he is the 26th most valuable player, but with Subban and Keith ahead of him he stood no chance. I’ll keep J-Bo as a reserve


Marc-Edouard Vlassic and Dan Hamhuis: Until I find a fantasy site that has a category for “left handed”, these guys are not making my Fantasy Olympic squad.


Martin St.Louis was perhaps the ‘snub’ that got the most attention. I would have liked to watch St Louis the way everybody likes to watch Freddy Couples in contention on a Sunday: you love to see him do well, but that doesn’t mean he is currently the best man for the job. Maybe he is the right man for the job in real life, I’m not sure- but he definitely isn’t in fantasy. His best bet to make my team was on line 1 where he would be ranked 91st in light of his predictably low shot total and surprisingly low PPP total. I’ll keep watching and cheering for this guy, but you likely won’t see him on any of my fantasy hockey rosters again.


Eric Staal has all the same problems trying to crack my team that John Tavares has, only he isn’t even as good as Tavares. Another superb fantasy own who I just couldn’t slot in.


Taylor Hall: I just had to throw Hall on here because he is a guy that I really would have liked to see make the real team as well as mine. His biggest issue is that he has missed too much time with injury so he hasn’t been able to post the numbers to justify being taken. My picks are not at all subjective, I am letting the math tell me who to take and there is no math to support taking Hall yet because of the injuries. I considered prorating his numbers but being injury prone DOES hurt a players’ value in fantasy hockey so I couldn’t get him on my team. When he plays a full 82 games though, watch out.


Conclusion:


Team Canada has a plethora of talent to choose from who can excel in various league formats. They are very similar to the US in their ability to provide players who fill different roles only Canada is deeper and has much higher end talent down the middle. Hopefully I am not being to biased when I grade Fantasy Team Canada as an A+, but the numbers would suggest that I am not. Every single player selected has data to support them being a top 25 own on their respective lines and 10 (!) of their players have shown an ability to provide top ten value in their line format during the last two seasons. If I was including goaltending in this analysis, there may be a more identifiable weakness, but since I haven’t – this Fantasy Team Canada is a juggernaut.

 

I knew when I sat down to create Fantasy Team Canada that there would be some hard choices and some seriously large omissions. I could have a top 2 lines of Benn-Tavares-Nash and Duchene-Carter-St.Louis if I created a roster of players I CUT. FHG really helped me to navigate through the tough calls though and provide the math for me to be sure that I have made the correct decisions for my Fantasy Team Canada. 


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