Mike Richards (LWL Player Profile), of the Los Angeles Kings, is on pace for his worst season in five years. He currently sits at 26 points in 45 games which places him well out of the top 100 point earners in the NHL. He is pointless in eight straight games.
The first thing I look at when a player has lower-than-normal point totals is his goal totals. Richards has 14 goals in 45 games. Ignoring injuries, this number projects to 25 goals for a full season. In fact, Richards has averaged 24 goals per 82 games over the course of his career. Goal scoring is clearly not the issue here (if you like using shooting % in analysis, Richards is at 12.6% compared to his career average of 11.5%). Nothing is out of the ordinary when it comes to Richards' ability to score this season.
The only other place to look is at assist totals. If he were to reach 82 games this season (which he won't), Richards would project to about 22 assists. This number is far below his career average of 37 assists per 82 games. So where are all of those assists Richards has blessed your fantasy hockey roster with over the years? They were aborted in the failed shot attempts of his underperforming linemates.
|82-game Career Pace||24||37||61|
Richards has spent most of his time this season centering Dustin Penner and Jarrett Stoll (although he's seen his share of other linemates due to the Kings' injuries). At least one of these two players has been on the ice for 45% of Richards' shifts this season. To understand why Richards' assist (point) totals are so low this season, we need to analyze the goal scoring numbers of his linemates. Penner and Stoll are both experiencing career low numbers in shooting percentage. Penner is at 5.6% (vs. a career number of 12.8%), while Stoll sits at 5.3% (vs. a career number of 9.4%). Penner currently has four goals and Stoll has five. We took this season's shot totals for both players (which are below their career averages) and projected the number of goals they would have scored (to date) if they were shooting with a success rate equal to their career shooting percentage. Both forwards project to nine goals at this point in the season.
So, there is a nine goal deficit for Richards' linemates this season (to date). This means there were a maximum of 18 assists up for grabs on those nine goals. But, earlier analysis reveals that 1.717 assists are awarded (on average) for every goal scored. So, the number of assists that would have been awarded for those nine goals is actually closer to 15. We'll use this number going forward.
We can arrive at a rough, but likely fair, lower limit on the number of assists that Richards would have responsible for. At even-strength, there are four other players on the ice that might earn an assist on a Penner (or Stoll) goal; if it were random, Richards would be awarded an assist on one of every four goals (giving him four extra assists to date). Using four extra assists as the floor in this argument, Richards' totals (to date) would be: 14 G, 16A, 30 Pts. This brings his projected assists total (for 82 games) to a respectable 29 instead of the current 22.
What does all of this mean for fantasy hockey managers? In the short-term, it means don't expect any miracles out of Richards down the stretch. He is stuck centering linemates caught in a nasty funk (one that began before Richards even arrived in LA, at least for Penner). What could it mean for you next season in your draft? For starters, Mike Richards is likely to be undervalued in next year's fantasy hockey drafts due to his low points total. But, if Richards finds himself on a line with wings that produce at roughly their career averages, he should enjoy the typical 25/35 season that was expected of him this year.
Don't let the focus on Richards deter you from seeing the big picture here: analysis of a potential fantasy hockey draft pick should not be limited to that player alone. If you come across point totals in the off-season that seem too high or too low for a particular player, you can use exactly the same analysis we developed above to determine if the player is bound for greatness or ready to crash!