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Fantasy Hockey: It is Time to Buy Low on Zdeno Chara

Spotting value in players is important to any fantasy sport, and that includes hockey. Using PDO will help you buy and sell the right players.

Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara
Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara

Oct 30, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) handles the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period at the CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Throughout the year I will offer advice to help you buy-low and sell-high all through this NHL fantasy season.

PDO is an analytic that isn’t really that advanced, it adds the five on five shooting percentage and five on five save percentage of a given team. It can also be done at the individual player-level as well. These are on-ice percentages, so it’s a team rate while a player is on the ice, not a personal player rating (shooting percentage is for a player, on-ice shooting percentage is the team’s shooting percentage with a given player on the ice). For example:

As of November 14, the Colorado Avalanche lead the NHL as a team with a 1063 PDO, combining a team-wide 11.2 shooting percentage and 95.1 save percentage. So (11.2) + (95.1) = 106.3 x 10 = 1063.

You will see it expressed both as 106.3, or 1063. Just know that an average PDO is 100 or 1000, depending on which scale you use. Therefore, teams (players) well above 1000 (or 100), are deemed to be a bit “lucky” and will regress, the opposite is true for teams (players) well below 1000 (or 100).

Not all players/teams are created equal, so a high PDO for Boston doesn’t mean the same as a high PDO for Toronto, given their respective recent team histories.

Naturally, the same applies to players: Patrick Bordeleau – a fighter for Colorado – and Phil Kessel – one of the elite goal scorers in the NHL – have the same PDO as of today at 1107. Both will regress, but you can probably guess which one will regress more (or quicker).

Finally, the two components – on-ice save percentage and on-ice shooting percentage – both are important, but both obviously tell different stories.

With that said, here are a few players to buy low and sell high on, based on PDO to this point in the season.

Sell High

Dustin Penner (F-ANA)

Penner has had a fantastic start to the season with 12 points in 13 games, and being currently tied for the league lead in plus/minus at plus-16. For the record, that pace would be good for a plus-100 rating in an 82 game season. The single-season leader for plus/minus this millennium is a tie between Milan Hejduk and Peter Forsberg in 2002-2003 at plus-52.

He also has a sky-high PDO of 1123 at 5v5 this year, being on for just three goals against in 13 games. That might be an indication of good defense, but the Ducks as a team also lead the NHL in PDO, meaning they’re probably going to regress a little bit anyway.

He’s the only forward with greater than a 20 percent on-ice shooting percentage. For reference, it’s about 25 percent higher than any skater in the NHL that has played 10 games this year, and the leader last year in that category at the end of the season was Toronto’s Mark Fraser (whoa) at 14.7 percent.

His normal centreman, Ryan Getzlaf, is day-to-day with an injury so maybe you can sell Penner as an “imagine what he’ll do when Getzlaf is back!” player. Whatever you do, get as much as you can to fill a need somewhere because there is a huge slow down for Penner coming.

Dion Phaneuf (D-TOR)

This one is an interesting dichotomy. I typically have Dion Phaneuf as a top 10 defenseman both in roto leagues and points leagues. Normally, when I think of his downside, it’s mainly because he plays the hardest minutes on a bad possession team. It’s led to several minus years, including a minus 10 rating a couple of years ago.

This year, Phaneuf is a plus nine, which leads the Leafs, yet has managed just seven points in 18 games. In a standard ESPN roto league, he’s the 22nd ranked defenseman right now. That’s not bad, but Phaneuf has several underlying numbers indicating goals against are coming:

  • His on-ice .957 save percentage is going to come down. This Leafs team is pretty similar to last year’s, and it was .915 for him last year, with the Leafs defense leader being Mark Fraser at .926. The year before, the leader was Carl Gunnarsson at .914.
  • His on-ice 14.58 shooting percentage is going to come down a bit. That means the ability to accumulate points is going to be limited going forward.

All this means a top 20 finish as a defenseman, in either format, is his absolute ceiling. If you can even make a lateral move at the moment, maybe Kevin Shattenkirk or Zdeno Chara, I think you’ll come out ahead in the long run.

Buy Low

Taylor Hall (F-EDM)

This is a bit scary because it’s dangerous recommending Edmonton players at the moment. The team is allowing 3.33 goals/60 minutes at five on five, which in turn leads to four Oilers players having the four worst plus/minus ratings in the league. Hall would be alongside them had it not been for the injury.

Things are slowly turning around in Edmonton, though; Devan Dubnyk’s last 10 starts have resulted in a .910 save percentage, which is passable, and the team has allowed fewer than 30 shots in six of their last 10 games. The results haven’t been there, but they aren’t out-and-out as terrible as they were a month ago – although bad, let’s not kid ourselves.

Hall still has 12 points in 13 games and it’s a matter of time before that power play finds its groove. His .810 on-ice save percentage is beyond unsustainable – the worst among regular forwards last year was George Parros at .846.

Hall’s plus/minus has stabilized after a terrible start – his first six games resulted in a minus seven rating, the last seven games have seen him go minus two – the power play will probably get better and he’s still nearly a point-per-game player anyway. You could probably wrestle him away for someone like Matt Moulson or a sell-high like Frans Nielsen, so see what it would take in your leagues. It’ll probably cost more in a points-only league than roto, but look into it anyway.

Zdeno Chara  (D-BOS)

Chara’s ice time has declined, which was the idea, although it’s only about 20 seconds fewer per game than in 2011-2012. As of today, Chara is at the bottom of the list of Boston defensemen in both on-ice save percentage and shooting percentage.

It’s funny, for a player that was a plus 80 in the previous three seasons, on a team that is pretty much the same as it’s always been, he’s sporting an even rating with just six points.

Here’s what’s going on:

  • Chara is getting even more power play time 60 minutes than he was last year, but his role has changed. He’s no longer bombing shots from the blue line, he’s parked in front of the net as a screen. From 2002-2012, Chara had double-digit power play assists in seven of nine seasons, he’s on pace for five such assists this year (one so far in 17 games).
  • Chara is taking about one fewer shot attempt per 60 minutes this year than he has in years previous. That doesn’t seem like a lot, but that’s about 20 fewer shot attempts over the course of a season. There’s also just plain bad luck; his points/60 minutes of five on five time is one-fifth what it was two years ago.

Normally, one-third of Chara’s points are from the power play. This year, so far, it’s two-thirds. So while the power play points are great, he has zero even strength goals.

An expected increase in even strength points and plus/minus aside, he’s also taking far fewer penalties than usual (about 40% fewer than expected). Once the plus/minus turns around, the even strength points go up, and he racks up the PIMs, there is still a Top 15 defenseman here for the rest of the season in roto leagues.

Being able to spot value opportunities is a crucial ability in fantasy sports. There are tools available in fantasy hockey, and adhering to PDO will go a long way in helping you build value in your team.

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