Welcome to the second edition of Assume the Position. Today we’ll be looking at a few defensemen that can help you fill out your roster. There are only a few elite level defenders out there; after them, if you want to gain an advantage, you’re going to have to make some sneaky pickups along the way. In shallow leagues, you’re looking to ride the hot hand with your defensemen. Keep track of not only which players are getting the power play minutes, but of those players, who is actually producing at any given time and ride their momentum. In this type of league, most teams should be able to roster four D-men that contribute in several categories. And if you lose one to injury, your replacement will likely be a lesser version but still contribute. Going deeper, however…

Lose a D-man in a deep league and see what’s left on the waiver wire. The pickings are slim to none in a 16-20 team league.

Let’s just quickly do the math to understand exactly how thin the defense corps can get in a deep league. We’ll first assume that the active roster requirement is 4 d-men, which in a 20-team league means we are 80 players deep, BEFORE looking at bench players. Assume one on the bench and we’re at an even 100.

Now, on each NHL team, there is generally one d-man that fills the PP QB role. So for starters that’s roughly a 30 player pool that we can count on. Give or take a few, depending on their situation. Between first and second team PP units, most NHL teams will have at least one forward, possibly more, playing from the blue line – leaving three actual defensemen who have an opportunity to contribute offensively. So now add all 2nd unit blue-liners and our player pool is up to a whopping 60. Which means that on average, 1-2 D-men on your fantasy team have very little opportunity to contribute in goals or assists.

What strategies can we look at to overcome this inevitable deficit?

  1. Put a premium on D at the draft.

This may seem obvious, but it is so hard to implement. You’re in the 3rd round and the elite talent is gone; now you’re now staring at blue chip wingers across the board, and a handful of offensive defensemen – and you just can’t pull the trigger on the 40-50 point guy when you have visions of a point-per-game season from a forward on your sleeper list. And then, as the D pool depletes, it becomes a vicious circle when each round there is clearly better pure talent available at forward. Sound familiar? In the end, you might have one or two guys you trust. And 2-3 that you’ve taken a flyer on. Sound familiar? Yes, it’s the age old debate about position scarcity. Is it worth it to over-spend on D? Truly, that depends on how confident you are in finding diamonds in the rough throughout the season. If not, then hell yes, it’s worth it. Otherwise, you’ll be basically playing short-handed all season.

  1. Pounce early with trade offers for early season underachievers.

Personally, I’ve never found the results of this strategy to be worth all the time and effort it takes, but if you target the right guy at the right time, it can yield brilliant results. Before going down this road though, consider: If you are playing in a league with knowledgeable owners whom you respect, then the downside is that they are so rarely going to give up on the player and/or sell low – AND, you may lose their respect by making a ridiculous lowball offer. Your best bet is to target a good player on a team that has an all around lousy start that you think will improve. Anaheim, anyone? After a horrendous start to the season, they are finally starting to show some life. They have four good blue-liners worth looking at, but the one with the most upside is Vatanen. Note: window is closing fast on the following guys – as the season goes on, keep revising your own list.

Targets: Sami Vatanen, Aaron Ekblad, Oliver Ekman-Larsson

  1. Target peripheral categories

Who to target will depend on your league setup. If your league has Blocked Shots, PIMs or Hits as a category, it’s possible to get a good under-the-radar 3-category player. 2 categories is helpful, but if you can add to that a good +/- ratio, then you’re on to something good at very little cost. We’re talking about 5th or 6th d-men on some teams, and often the defensive minded one on a first pairing. You’ll hardly notice these guys in the box score, but you’ll sure notice them bolstering your secondary stats.

Targets (all with low ownership): Kevin Klein, Adam Larsson, Alec Martinez, Calvin de Haan, Radko Gudas (Hits special), Kris Russell (BS special)

  1. Injury replacements and minor league callups

Usually, these pickups are obvious. When a top PP guy is injured, find out who will be filling his spot and add him! But on defense, it’s never that simple. On D, be patient if you’re looking to stash a guy in a dynasty league – it’s rare that a callup will get a lot of ice time right away.

Targets: Shayne Gostisbehere (PP time already!), Darnell Nurse (more of a dynasty grab).

  1. Returning from injury

You’d be surprised at how often a good player is forgotten on the waiver wire. Guys like Keith and Shattenkirk are good trade targets when they’re injured, but we’re talking about under the radar guys here.

Targets: Zach Bogosian, Justin Schultz (both have disappointed multiple times, so they’re available on your waiver wire. You could do worse than taking a flyer on one of them as your fourth d-man).

  1. New Kids on the Block

Often overlooked are the rookie or sophomore skaters on rebuilding teams. Are they going to hurt your +/-? Probably? But this group is criminally under-owned right now. Here’s the thing: On a winning team, defensemen are brought in slowly. On a rebuilding team, they get to learn the hard way, by actually playing big minutes – many of them on the PP. If you’re in a deep league, do yourself a favour and add as many of these guys as you can.

Targets: Rasmus Ristolainen, Oscar Klefbom, Morgan Rielly (This trio has ARRIVED in a big way early in the season – but they are still under-owned in most leagues).

  1. Never left, just forgotten

Yes, sometimes there is a real case to be made for adding the forgotten veteran. Probably you’re better off going for upside, but when in doubt, these guys should give you solid but unspectatcular numbers. Also: don’t count on getting a full season out of them.

Targets: Dan Girardi, Brian Campbell, Johnny Oduya, Marek Zidlicky (not sexy, and might even feel icky adding them – but they can help!)

 

 

Next time, we’ll look at some strategies forward in deeper leagues. Until then, let me know how I’m doing by posting below. Is there anything in particular you’d like to see in future Assume the Position posts?  ‘Til next week…

  1. Veritas says:
    (link)

    Thanks for the article Matt. It was very insightful. I can relate to your hypothetical scenario 100% when it comes to drafting defensemen, thankfully the deepest league I play in still allows for serviceable 4th or 5th defensemen as a worse case scenario. I like all of yours suggestions and I am thinking of trying to explore options and buy low on the guys you suggested.

    • Matt

      Matt says:
      (link)

      @Veritas: Hey, thanks for checking out the post, and glad you got something out of it! Defense is so tricky on draft day. If I don’t have a shot at the top forwards, I’ll overpay for Karlsson or someone else near the top of my list just so I can rest easy as I ignore the middle of the pack defenders and end up fighting over the remaining scraps at the end.

  2. Alex says:
    (link)

    Thx Matt! This is great help. I was debating between Ekblad or Edler. After reading this, you’ve made it a bit easier for me. Regardless, what do you think of Edler anyway? Thx much!

    • Matt

      Matt says:
      (link)

      @Alex: Hey, Alex — thanks for reading! If you’re in a redraft league, I’d probably go with Edler over Ekblad, actually. His ownership may not be as high, but on average, he gets a full minute more of PP time and nearly five minutes more total ice time per game than Ekblad. Based on past seasons, Edler may seem to be overachieving slightly, but the improvement is based on something tangible: an increase in playing time (since Kevin Bieksa went to Anaheim). As long as that doesn’t change, then he should continue to “over-achieve”, If your league uses Hits and/or Blocked Shots, then it’s a no-brainer, but if your league is more points heavy , then Ekblad still could overtake Edler. And finally, if you’re in a keeper or dynasty league, all bets are off. Ekblad would be the clear choice.
      One more thought though — Eck is the sexy pick and if all stats are equal, holds more perceived value, which you could profit from in a trade.

      Read more: http://hockey.razzball.com/assume-position-d-depth/#ixzz3s6YO67rb

  3. Matt

    Matt says:
    (link)

    Hey, Alex — thanks for reading! If you’re in a redraft league, I’d probably go with Edler over Ekblad, actually. His ownership may not be as high, but on average, he gets a full minute more of PP time and nearly five minutes more total ice time per game than Ekblad. Based on past seasons, Edler may seem to be overachieving slightly, but the improvement is based on something tangible: an increase in playing time (since Kevin Bieksa went to Anaheim). As long as that doesn’t change, then he should continue to “over-achieve”, If your league uses Hits and/or Blocked Shots, then it’s a no-brainer, but if your league is more points heavy , then Ekblad still could overtake Edler. And finally, if you’re in a keeper or dynasty league, all bets are off. Ekblad would be the clear choice.
    One more thought though — Eck is the sexy pick and if all stats are equal, holds more perceived value, which you could profit from in a trade.

  4. I’m in a 10 team league where Ryan Suter is available as a free agent, but generally like you said, it drops off quickly. We have 14 slots, 3 D & 1 Utill slot. Scoring: G 3, A 2, PIM 0.5, PPG 2, PPA 1, FOW 1, FOL 0.5, SOG 0.5, HIT 1, BLK 0.5, DEF 0.5, SHP 1. I drafted Erik Karlsson, Shattenkirk & Chara. Some fool dropped Letang a couple weeks back so I used my waiver priority to pick him up. I’m feeling pretty great about those 4 now. I suppose Chara is my weakest one. I was wondering if Suter, Ristolainen or Bogosian would be an upgrade over Chara, but he has been better than most considered he would be.

    • Matt

      Matt says:
      (link)

      @madden_curser: Dang, I’m still getting the hang of this. Your replay below. Thanks for reading!

  5. Matt

    Matt says:
    (link)

    Well first of all, that’s a nice problem to have! You obviously can’t go wrong with any of those guys, but here is what I’d consider:
    – First, I’d cross Bogosian off the list. Keep an eye on him for sure, to see if he gets any power play time, but with Ristolainen ahead of him, he’s playing second fiddle at best. Aside from that, there are just too many question marks around him to put him in the same conversation with the other three.

    – I’ve been a long time fan of Chara and think that what he’s doing this season is incredible. But the red flags are there: His PP time has been cut in half, and the question is if he’ll fatigue later in the season, or even if his ice time might be whittled a bit in order to keep him fresh. Either way, you’re still looking at a 40-50 point season from him, with the typical amount of hits and blocked shots. Boston’s new run-and-gun attitude is probably helping his totals a bit as well. If they tighten up on defense (which they seem to be doing), that will likely affect Chara’s scoring totals.

    – Suter is on pace to have a career year in points, but my guess is that he’ll regress a bit and finish with maybe a career high, but not by as much as he’s currently projected (I can’t see him getting 58 assists). Still, he gets so much ice time and PP/SH time that he will contribute across the board consistently. He’s your safest bet to continue without any serious slumps. I’d put him ahead of Chara for that reason, Even though their total points should stay very close, there is less risk with Suter.

    – Ristolainen is looking really great. He’s doing it all and easily has the greatest upside of the bunch. The main thing is that he could give you an edge with his goals total – and, he’s been shooting the puck a ton, almost twice as often as he did last year. He’s got a legitimate shot at 15 goals, and if something special happens, he could hit 20 (but I wouldn’t count on it!). The only downside is specualative – young players sometimes are prone to inconsistency and fatigue. So the question is: can he keep it up?

    I think the safe move is to go with the proven vets. But if you want to gamble a bit on upside, Ristolainen is hard to resist. More PP goals. and with strong secondary stats — I wouldn’t be a bit surprised if he finishes ahead of those guys.

    Who knows, you could end up playing the hot hand all season with some combination of the three — best of luck with whichever you choose!

  6. Aubrey Plaza's Pillow says:
    (link)

    20 team dynasty with hits/blocks, SHP, and all standard stuff as well. start real life rosters, so 6 D, usually 1 on bench (if my guys were healthy), right now
    letang/stone/seidenberge/trotman (these BOS two i’m very happy with having picked up just lately)/daley/hainsey (streamer)
    IR/IR+ orpik/despres/maatta

    Daley used to be a good blocks, shots, and goals, with weak hits. now with CHI, his blocks have gone from over 1.5 per game over last 2 years to .66 per game, shots the same per game (even with less time playing than on CHI), still does PP but 2nd unit, PTS per game down from .55 per game to .24. I know he’s a cut later but i’m thinking he’s a cut right now if i can get del zotto (just dropped). but is it worth a #1 waiver?

    • Matt

      Matt says:
      (link)

      @Aubrey Plaza’s Pillow: First off, thanks for reading! I hope I’ve gotten to your comment before the waiver period expired.

      Bottom line here is that, choosing between the two underachievers, yes, del Zotto is the one you want. Is he worth a #1 waiver? In most leagues, I’d say a quick no. But in a 20 team dynasty, unless you’re waiting on a prospect to arrive, it might be enough of an improvement to be worth it. Yeah, I’d go for it.

      The big thing is that del Zotto gets you hits/bs/sog consistently, and his ice time is always above the 20-minute mark. And, dynasty league. Meanwhile, Daley’s ice time is all over the place, and there is no way he gains ground on Keith and Seabrook for PP time.

      The fact that it’s a dynasty league tips the scales here. If someone offered you del Zotto for Daley in trade, you’d take it, right? If you would hesitate to say yes to that deal, then don’t hesitate here. And don’t forget, much of his bad start is also HIS TEAM’S bad start. Look at Anaheim’s top players when the team slumped to start the season, and when they finally started to score a few. Philly’s got to come out of their fog sometime…. right??

  7. Veritas says:
    (link)

    Hello Matt I need some some advice about my D core

    I am in a 12 team redraft league that counts G, A, P, +/-, PPP, PIM, GWG, SOG

    I will probably need to drop or try to trade 2 of my D men in the next 2-4 weeks since there are only 4 D spots to start any D on any given night. I bought very very low on Vatanen as soon as I read your article. Which two D do not belong in a championship roster?

    B. Burns
    R. Josi
    M. Streit [IR Spot]
    J. Boychuck
    Z. Chara
    S. Vatanen

    • Matt

      Matt says:
      (link)

      @Veritas: Well, let’s do this by process of elimination, shall we.

      Burns and Josi are untouchables in any size league, so that’s 2. Vatanen is officially on fire (glad you made the timely pick up!), so he should stay as well. That leaves Boychuk, Chara, Streit.

      If you’ve got an IR spot, sure, stash Streit, there’s no harm in it. But even if healthy, he’d be the first cut here. Poor offensive team, and now the rookie, Gostisbehere, is looking good in his absence.

      Between the other two, Boychuk is perhaps the LOGICAL choice (he has the edge in PP minutes, SOG, not to mention age/injury risk) – but personally, I’d go with Chara for his consistency. Sure, Boychuk will give you an edge in shots, and he gets more PP time, but Chara minute for minute is rock solid and you know that as long as he’s healthy, he’ll give you steady production in several categories. Interesting to note that even though Boychuk in the last 10 or so games has seen a big increase in PP time, he’s got only one point to show for it. Meanwhile, with fewer PP minutes, Chara is outscoring him 5-2 on the man advantage for the season.

      Good luck, and thanks for reading!

Comments are closed.