I got home last night for Thanksgiving weekend. Yes, to American readers, Thanksgiving in this country is in October. No, going “home” for the weekend does not simply mean walking out of the basement and blinking when I see the light. As I am often wont to do this time of year, I get out my laptop, my father gets out his, and we cruise around the Internet for interesting hockey statistics all night.
It just so happens that he is doing his keeper draft tomorrow. Historically, he somewhat values my input—if only to ignore it on draft day—and he asked me to go through a list of players he might be able to get for cheap in his money league.
We got through goalies rather easily. Anders Lindback is a great choice for a keeper league given Nashville’s defensive efficiency and with the possibility that Pekka Rinne may not be there next October. We talked about Brent Johnson, of Thomas Greiss, and the value of having backups on your team to not dip your goals against average too much throughout the season.
We got through forwards and we had more combined hits than misses there. Joe Pavelski and Brian Gionta are a couple of American-born players we happen to like, and both of us are convinced that Scott Gomez will have a turnaround year with Montreal (I do because I’ve studied his statistics. He does because he’s a Habs fan).
Finally, we got to defensemen. I rattled off a list of players I like: Of course there’s Dustin Byfuglien who is in line to get a tonne of shots this season with Winnipeg. Alexander Edler who will get to star on the Vancouver Canuck powerplay that looked positively daunting opening night (heh) and we agreed on a number of names. Then, we got to a name of a player that I took in my largest pool, towards the end, that I think will have a good season. All I need to know about the perception of this player is the question that comes next—
“Who is Steve Montador?”
Steve Montador is an unspectacular defenseman with the Chicago Blackhawks, who played last season on Buffalo. He scored 5 goals and 21 assists last season with 83 penalty minutes playing 19:43 per night.
Overall, his advanced numbers were pretty good. His Corsi rating, an expanded plus/minus statistic that counts all shots directed at net, came in just below par while playing so-so competition. He played as a 4th defenseman and was generally effective at preventing shots.
But his fantasy value is slim. 5 goals and 21 assists is not all that bad of an accomplishment, particularly for a player who saw so little powerplay time with the Sabres (just 0:22 per night). His average pick among defensemen in Yahoo! drafts is 78th. There is probably no other way to gauge how Fantasy Hockey players perceive a player, and he’s ranked completely off the board in most drafts.
With 26 points, he would have been the 58th ranked defensemen in hockey last season among scorers. If you factor in his penalty minutes, only seven other defensemen had more points and more penalty minutes, which factor in heavily in some leagues, last season. Oh, yes, and of those seven, Zdeno Chara was the only one who had a higher +/- than Montador as well. Most standard leagues have those two stats rank right up with point scoring, and he was 19th and 21st in the NHL last season in those respective categories.
Then we imagine that his new coach in Chicago Joel Quenneville, who changes up his personnel quite often, may slot him in at powerplay at some point during the season. Being a pretty underrated offensive player among Yahoo! players is one thing, because they probably don’t factor in how consistent of a scorer Montador has been over the course of a year. 5 goals is a surprisingly good marker for an offensive defenseman and the man has hit that total three of the last four years for two different teams and hit four on a third. He’s not a product of his system.
More than that, when Steve Montador was on the ice last season, the Buffalo Sabres averaged 7 shots above the average pace of a hockey game last season. This isn’t anything new. In Florida in 2008, he averaged a similar number in a different system with a different coach. What this means is that when Steve Montador is on the ice, what the fans sees is a high-pace game with lots of chances at either end, and important to consider when you see that Montador is a career plus-27, so more goals go in at the other team’s end than his own despite the high pace of play.
This summer, Montador was signed to a deal he deserves at 4 years and $11M to play in Chicago. He’s found small bits of success wherever he’s been but he’s been unheralded by fans. Given his situation in Chicago, the 31-year old could be poised for a late breakout. If you’re in a league with, say, 12 teams and 5 defensemen apiece, there’s not much of a reason for him to be sitting in the free agent pool. Before long, he’ll be on Chicago’s second powerplay unit shooting bombs and doing whatever he does that has made him so anonymously successful as a 2nd pairing offensive defenseman in his career. He won’t blow anybody away, but he is a very good depth addition to a top-heavy defensive six in Chicago, and a good sleeper pick for anybody who still has a pool draft to do.