Fantasy Hockey: Markov, Timonen On My Do-Not-Draft List

Andrei Markov
Andrei Markov
Apr 11 2013 Buffalo NY USA Montreal Canadiens defenseman Andrei Markov 79 looks for the puck against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center Montreal beats Buffalo 5 to 1 Timothy T Ludwig USA TODAY Sports

The idea of regression is an important concept in any fantasy sport. As I wrote about in July, identifying regression candidates and avoiding the over-payment that comes with it is key to maximizing value on draft day.

Regression is important in fantasy hockey among defensemen. If a defenseman goes from scoring 10 goals one season to five goals the next, it’s a loss of only five goals but a drop-off of 50 percent. When you have such little wiggle room i.e. your point totals aren’t high enough to sustain a drop-off of even 10 points, consistency and stability come to the forefront. In 2011-2012, a drop-off of 10 points would mean going from a Top-5 scoring defenseman to just inside the Top-20, and a defenseman just inside the Top-20 would drop to just outside the Top-40. There are similar results for 2010-2011 as well. You can find results like this among forwards as well, but there are more of them. This is an important concept, and here’s why:

  • Assume a 12-team league that starts five defensemen and every team has one spare on the bench, that’s 72 defensemen in the league.
  • Assume this league starts 12 forwards, one utility (usually a forward) and has two more on the bench. That’s 180 forwards in the league.
  • If you go from the 20th defenseman to the 40th defenseman, you are going from the top 27.7 percent to the top 55.5 percent of D-men.
  • If you go from the 20th forward to the 40th forward, you go from the top 11.1 percent to the top 22.2 percent.
  • Even though each of the defenseman and the forward lost the same amount of points and also dropped the same amount in their position-specific rankings, the effect on value is much larger. While 10 points less might only mean about a 10-12% loss in points value for an elite forward, 10 points lost for an elite defenseman could mean anywhere from 25-30 percent in lost value. This is huge.

You can see why losing as little value as possible is ideal and this is magnified when you are talking about defensemen. With that said, here are two regression candidates I won’t be drafting unless they are going at an ADP that I’m comfortable with, which is much lower than what they will be.

Kimmo Timonen – Philadelphia Flyers

To be fair, this is one guy I generally stay away from every season, mainly because he doesn’t score a ton (he has 32 goals in his last six seasons, or an 82-game pace of 5.9 goals) and he doesn’t shoot a lot either – he hasn’t averaged two shots/game since 2003-2004. It would seem odd to stay away from a defenseman who was tied for sixth in points by a defenseman last year and tied for 14th the year before, but here is why.

Firstly, his 6.4 percent shooting last year was abnormal. Yes, his career average is 6.2%, but he hadn’t finished over 5% for four straight years before the lockout-shortened season. If he shot 6.4 percent in an 82-game season based around his recent shot totals, it would mean about nine goals next year, which isn’t bad. Instead, if you use his 3.8 percent shooting like he did over the four seasons from 2008-2012, he’d end up with about five goals next year. That difference of just four goals means going from a Top-20 goal scorer among defensemen in 2011-2012 to T-54th. I do expect his SH% to regress next year and six goals would be a reasonable estimate. This is 33% less than the nine we would expect if he scored at the same rate he did last year.

Secondly, the Flyers signed Mark Streit in the offseason. If anything, he should be the quarterback of their power-play this season, something that had been reserved for Timonen the last couple of seasons (mostly due to injury). Just under 59% of Timonen’s points came on the power-play last year, the first time since 2008-2009 that at least half of his points came on the power-play. Only once in six seasons as a Flyer has Timonen cracked 20 even-strength points (would have been close in an 82-game season this year, his pace would have put him between 21-22), so if Streit vultures power-play points away from Timonen, then a real production dip is coming.

Lastly, and this has little to do with Timonen, the Flyers signed Steve Mason and Ray Emery to be their goaltenders for this year. I have nothing personal against either goaltender, but they are two of the worst goalies since the 2004-2005 lockout. So not only will the fourth-worst even-strength save percentage team from last year be getting worse in net (yes, they’re both worse than Ilya Bryzgalov, good luck with that), but there’s no help on the horizon. I will be floored if Timonen finishes as a plus-player this year.

So with expected goal and point regressions coming, while having a terrible goaltending tandem in net, I won’t be trusting Timonen as a top-two defenseman on my team, placing him outside the top-25 in fantasy (for now).

Andrei Markov – Montréal Canadiens

Being a productive offensive defenseman is nothing new for Andrei Markov. When he was healthy earlier in his career, Markov put up four consecutive 45 point seasons from 2005-2009 and was the third-highest scoring defenseman over that stretch.  He then hit an elongated stretch of injuries that saw him play only 65 games over three seasons that included an ankle laceration and two knee injuries. He played a full season last year, finishing as one of four defensemen with double-digit goals (T-3rd, 10) and one of five defensemen with at least 30 points (T-4th, 30). All in all, pretty good, yeah?

Here’s the problem: like Timonen, Markov was the benefactor of a serious SH% spike, this one more dramatic. Markov shot 12.7 percent last year, a career-high, and nearly twice the rate that he had shot in his previous 143 games (6.6 percent). It wasn’t out of character for Markov, he had shot over 11 percent twice before in his career. However, the aggregate shooting rate for a season following those two 11 percent-plus years was 6.1 percent (notice how that’s closer to his four-year rate that I just mentioned). Again, like Timonen, if Markov shot 12.7% again next year, at around his four-year rate of shots/game (we’ll say 1.85), we could expect him to push for a 20 goal season. However, if he shoots around 7 percent (which is much more likely), this number is closer to 10-11 goals. So if you’re expecting Markov to push for the goal-scoring lead among D-men next year, you’re going to be disappointed.

Again, there’s the issue of power-play points, but not for the same reason. Markov and teammate P.K. Subban seemed to work quite well on the power-play last year. But his impact on Markov should not be minimized; Subban sat out the first six games last year for contract purposes. In those six games, Markov scored four goals and tallied four assists with all those points coming on the power-play. Without Subban in the lineup, Markov was over a point-per-game player. With Subban, he was just over a half-point-per-game player. This means that Markov scored eight power-play points in the first six games and then scored 15 power-play points over the next 42 games. Those 15 points in 42 games (one every 2.8 games) is still a strong tally, but a far cry from what the early success meant to his overall production of 23 power-play points in 48 games (one every 2.1 games).

Lastly, there’s the issue of health. This is an aging defenseman (35 in December) with a long history of injuries. Yes, he had a full, healthy year last year. It was also only the second time in his career he has played a full season and historically has played less than three-quarters of his games in a season (72 percent, actually). Taking his entire career into context, he would play about 60 games in a full season. Even if you exclude his injury-plagued seasons from 2009-2012, he still only plays about 88% of a season, which is 72 games. That means in a best-case scenario, he should miss 10 games this year. You don’t want to rely on a guy who is exceptionally likely to play fewer games than everyone else, that’s bad math.

Like Timonen, I will draft Markov if the price is right. If he falls outside the top-20 among defensemen drafted, I would be fine drafting him. However, I could see him having a top-12 ADP and I have too many concerns to rely on him as the top defenseman on my fantasy team.

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Michael Clifford
Michael Clifford was born and raised in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada and is a graduate of the Unviersity of New Brunswick. He writes about fantasy hockey and baseball for XNSports and He can be reached on Twitter @SlimCliffy for any fantasy hockey questions. !function(d,s,id){var js,fjs=d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0],p=/^http:/.test(d.location)?'http':'https';if(!d.getElementById(id)){js=d.createElement(s);;js.src=p+'://';fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js,fjs);}}(document, 'script', 'twitter-wjs');