Michael Del Zotto moved to Nashville and so he's our Geek of the Week...
Whenever a fantasy relevant player changes teams in the NHL, I like to do a deep dive on their historical performance and assess their situation with their new team in an attempt to determine if there might be some value there. Today I’m going to take a look at a player who is hoping that a change of scenery will revive his once promising career: Michael Del Zotto.
Three years ago (2011-12 season), Michael Del Zotto was one of the better fantasy hockey defensemen going. His ability to accumulate points, while contributing on the man advantage and hitting at a high-end clip made him an extremely attractive own in many leagues. Take a look at his Fantasy Hockey Geek calculated numbers in the Dobber Experts’ league that season:
(16 team league, measuring G, A, +/-, PPP, SOG, Hits)
|46||Michael Del Zotto||10||31||20||113||14||156|
In the 2011-12 season, MDZ was the 46th most valuable player in the entire league, the 40th most valuable skater and the 12th most valuable defenseman! Astonishingly, he provided more value to his owners that season than PK Subban or Duncan Keith did. This guy was an up and coming fantasy stud. So what made Del Zotto such a solid own?
Points: As I mentioned, MDZ was putting up points at a decent clip: his 41 were 18th amongst defensemen that season. Furthermore, his 10 goals were 16th amongst blue-liners.
Hits: Del Zotto’s real value came from his ability to play the body to the tune of about two hits per game. His 156 hits ranked him fifth amongst defensemen who netted at least 35 points that season. He was average to good in most other categories, but he was great in hits which really helped to propel his value.
+/-: MDZ was a +20 that season which would have helped his value a lot. Looking at his career numbers though, it would have been smart at the time to expect a regression in this number.
Shots: His shot totals were good, but not great even in his best seasons and the fact that he was able to score 10 goals on just 113 shots might have been a bit of a red flag as well. 9% is a high shooting percentage for a defenseman.
Following the 2011-12 season, my expectations for MDZ were through the roof: I thought that his 41 points were just scratching the surface of his potential but I also knew that even at his 41 point output, Del Zotto was providing much more fantasy value than rival GMs would be giving him credit for. I targeted him in all of my leagues, expecting a repeat performance at a minimum and hoping for the upside. Unfortunately, I was in for a rude awakening as Del Zotto’s performance started to tail off in the lockout shortened 2013 season. His point, shot and PPP output cooled, although it was in the same ballpark and his hit pace was also a bit down. This down season caused MDZ to really start to fly below the radar.
Coming into this season, I pegged Del Zotto as a prime buy-low candidate because he has shown me that he has the upside to be a top 20 fantasy D, but I knew that his perceived value was much lower. I saw his low shooting % in 2013 and figured that his goal total would bounce back and I LOVED the addition of Alaign Vigneault because I know that AV likes to use his offensively gifted players in offensive roles (ie favorable zone starts). Unfortunately, this was one of my misses (yes I can admit when I am wrong too) and my plan did not pan out at all. Ryan McDonagh became AV’s defenseman of choice and MDZ’s minutes were being cut or he was spending time in the press box. Here is how FHG calculates Del Zotto’s value so far this season:
|323||Michael Del Zotto||2||8||-7||64||4||49|
As the 332nd most valuable player in this league, Del Zotto is barely worth a roster slot. How can a player go from 46th to 323rd most valuable over the course of about 20 months? Obviously the points aren’t there and he wasn’t seeing a ton of power-play time with the Rangers either, leaving him on pace for an abysmal 20 points and 8PPPs.
More concerning is that he simply isn’t hitting any more. He is putting up pedestrian numbers in a category that used to be a huge strength for him, which causes his worth to drop drastically. I am not sure if this is a direct reflection of the reduced ice time, or perhaps a corresponding reduction in motivation or perhaps he was playing hurt but either way, the hit reduction is killing his value as a fantasy hockey player. Here is how Del Zotto’s per game numbers have trended from season to season since 2011:
You can see that Del Zotto’s hit rate started to decline even before his minutes did. His point rate has been on a steady decline that correlates exactly to his powerplay time on ice, but it’s sort of a chicken and egg situation. Is he not producing because he isn’t getting the minutes? Or is he not getting the minutes because he isn’t producing? It seems to me that it is actually a combination of both, which caused a downward spiral for him with the Rangers and that is exactly why he needed a change of scenery. Cue the trade to Nashville.
Whenever I see a player like Del Zotto who has shown an ability to produce good value, but also an ability to pretty much be garbage, I am intrigued by any major change (coaching change or trade). In my profile on Secondary Sens earlier this year, I showed how Clarke MacArthur would be a huge benefactor from his change of scenery (at the time MacArthur was 10% owned and I predicted a 60 point season for him. He is now 63% owned and on pace for 64 points). Unfortunately, I don’t quite see the same upside for Del Zotto just yet.
We know that Del Zotto has an intriguing high end, but we also know that he can be waiver wire worthy, so where will he fit in with Nashville? The change will certainly give him a clean slate and that’s a good thing, but Nashville is stacked on the back end. With Weber, Josi and Jones already in the fold I don’t see Nashville being the best fit for Del Zotto. As a Del Zotto owner I would be excited about the trade, but very disappointed about the destination; a team like Edmonton would have been much more desirable.
As of the time of this writing, MDZ played one game for Nashville, seeing just north of 13 minutes and 0 power-play time. This is not a good sign for MDZ owners. To make matters worse, New York is one of the buildings that seem to credit guys with a hit whenever they skate near an opponent and that is not the case in Nashville, so it will be harder for his hit total to get back on track. The Rangers are also second in the league in shots taken per 60min while the Preds are middle of the pack in that regard, so I am not sure the move will help his shot totals much either. All in all, the early indications are that the change may not do that much good for Del Zotto’s fantasy value.
Conclusion on Del Zotto:
Michael Del Zotto is a defenseman with high end fantasy potential, as FHG calculated his rank of 46th in 2011-12. A combination of poor play and a lack of opportunity have caused his value to go completely into the tank, making him barely worth a roster spot in one year leagues (FHG calculates current rank of 323rd). While the move to Nashville provides a fresh start for Del Zotto, it is unlikely that it will provide him the opportunity he needs to regain his 2011-12 form, barring something drastic like a Shea Weber injury/trade. Keep an eye on his ice time (specifically on the powerplay) with Nashville over the coming weeks though and if he starts to be utilized more, then make sure you get in on the ground floor with this guy because FHG has demonstrated how good he can be when he is at the top of his game and getting opportunities. In a keeper league, keep in mind that MDZ is an RFA going into next season and it is quite possible that he will end up somewhere that is much more favorable to his fantasy value. Until that happens though, keep him on your bench. And keep looking at your Fantasy Hockey Geek numbers whenever a player changes situations to get a good grasp on what a player’s potential may be and whether or not he may hit that potential.