Thursday, July 29, 2010

Fleischmann Signed...Is he a Bargain?

Caps Nation breathes a sigh of relief. Tomas Fleischmann has been signed. One year, $2.6 million. Now the usual back-and-forth will begin…

Too much money for a one-dimensional player…

…But he’s a 20-plus goal scorer.

He doesn’t show up for the playoffs…

…but he’s improved in goals scored and points in every single season.

He’s soft…

…he’s skilled.

He can’t win faceoffs…

…he hasn’t played the position regularly in years.

Tomas Fleischmann is “Alexander Semin-lite.” In a number of ways. Flesichmann makes up the Holy Trinity of Caps that fans love to beat on – Alexander Semin, Jeff Schultz, and Flesichmann. The complaints about Fleischmann mirror those made about Semin in many respects. He is a very skilled player, but doesn’t do the dirty work to earn points when the going gets tough. He disappears for long stretches, often when it matters. He has a lot of upside as a player. But does he have the diligence and focus to realize that potential?

Well, now we are going to get a year, if not to answer the questions surrounding Fleischmann, then at least get closer to finding them. With this signing, the Caps appear to have gone all-in on their plan to develop their skill positions from within. The second line center position is now a contest between Fleischmann, Mathieu Perreault, and Marcus Johansson, with Fleischmann the early favorite to emerge as the opening night pick at that position.

But about the deal itself. Is it a value signing? We can now depart the theoretical world of “comparables” and “platform years” and the like that makes for gainful employment among arbitrators. What of the neighborhood in which Fleischmann resides, the collection of players who last year were of similar production? Compared to the contracts those players will play under in 2010-2011, is Fleischmann a “buy?”

First, we have to figure out just what the neighborhood looks like. To do that, we decided to normalize statistics to put everyone on a per-82 game basis. Having done that, we can then find those forwards who are in the ball park in terms of their production last year. We limited the neighborhood to those 10 forwards finishing with more points and those that had fewer points (we included more players for ties at either end). If we do that, the neighborhood looks like this (click on the tables for larger views)…



First of all, one might note that this group of 24 players includes some big names – Scott Gomez, Mike Richards, Brian Gionta, Ray Whitney, Danny Briere among them. Another thing is that Fleischmann is among the youngest in this group. He is in a group of five players at age 26, and only Mike Richards (25), Patrice Bergeron (25), and James Neal (22) are younger.

But we are here to assess value. Looking at how these players rank with respect to cap hit, they look like this…



First, those names at the top of the list – Scott Gomez, Thomas Vanek, and Danny Briere – whatever you might think of them as players, they are no bargain at those levels of production. Fleischmann ranks 18th in this 24-player group in cap hit. He is competitive in this group in term of goal scoring (10th in adjusted goal scoring), power play goal scoring (tied for ninth), and game-winning goals (tied for fifth, although he played on a team with more wins than that of the other players, save for Brooks Laich).

But Fleischmann is projected as a center for next year. Among this group of players, how does he rank among the centers? Well…



Again, he ranks rather low in terms of cap hit (10th among 11 centers). And yet he ranks fourth in goal scoring, tied for fourth in power play goal scoring, and tied for third in game winning goals. But as a center, he has more responsibility, and that faceoff winning percentage of 43.1 stands out (not only because it is highlighted in yellow).. Only Alexander Steen has a weaker success rate.

But there is the matter of age, too. Gomez is, it is alleged at least, in his prime at the age of 30. McDonald is a solid veteran center at 32. Arnott and Koivu are, if not in the twilight of their respective careers, at least in sight of it (both being 35 years old). So if those players are accounted for, how does Fleischmann look in his age cohort of centers?



Flesichmann has the lowest cap hit among this cohort. But Fleischmann’s adjusted goal scoring rate ranks him 5th among these eight players and tied for fourth (with two other players) in power play goal scoring. He has the best plus-minus number, but this is undoubtedly a product of the team he plays with (most wins, most goals scored) and his comparative lack of defensive responsibilities (compared to, say, Mike Richards).

We are not arguing for a moment that Fleischmann is the best player among any of the slices of these data. And there is more to the hockey player than scoring. But in the context of the contract he signed and the role he is expected to play, he might be a bargain for the Caps this coming season, especially if he improves his numbers as he has in each year in the NHL.

9 comments:

Mora Family said...

Umm, someone can't add...a lot of the G-A-P columns don't add up. 27 G and 33 A do NOT add up to 61 points. And there are lots of examples up there of bad math. C'mon guys!

JR said...

I think past experience and history with the team creates bias when assessing this contract. Is this contract tolerable? I vote yes.

Would I sign him to this deal were he sitting out there as a UFA? I don't think so.

The Peerless said...

Right you are about the arithmetic. It was a rounding thing on the spreadsheet I used. I think I got them all.

Usually Frustrated Caps Fan said...

The issue with this contract to me is not "Is "Flash" worht $2.4-2.8M/season in the NHL?" I think you've proven as a forward in this league based on his last years numbers he was going to get this amount ($2.6M) or more in arbitration. So sure the deal is okay because you wouldn't let him go for nothing in return.

The issue to me is his fit and suitability for the position he is now primed and sloted in for - I don't see him excelling as the second line center the Capitals need. I hope I'm wrong but even these numbers which of defensive skills only illustrate his mediocre face off skills cast doubt on his ability to do that. Compounding my fears is the fact I think the 2nd line Center needs to be as defensively minded as the first line center and more gifted and accomplished in that role in a top tier team. I don't think any of us have seen Flash clear that bar yet. That's why of the current guys on the roster, the player I'd slot in as the seocnd line center while I'm out looking to pick up "the right guy" is Brooks Laich....

That makes Flash the sniper/shooter on the Third Line and puts Laich at pivot between Semin and Fehr in my book. It also makes him a situatiuonal player splitting ice time and the press box with Jason Chimera ... I think at $2.6M (4.4% of total cap space), he's too expensive for that role and ~50-60 games out of the 82 game regular season.... also what will his goal and assist numbers look line after a season in that role? About what you'd think a square peg in a round hole would do I suspect....

The Peerless said...

This gets really simple for Fleischmann. He's on a one-year audition. He performs, he can get a multi-year deal. he doesn't... well, does the name "Shaone Morrisonn" come to mind? You'd think that guy was spirited away by aliens as much as you've heard about him.

Caps Nut said...

Despite all the yelling and screaming over not scoring in the past two playoff series, Alexander "Slappy" Semin is STILL about a point-per-game producer in the playoffs. 8-16-24 in 28 games.

Fleischmann, 3-2-5 in 22 games.

Furthermore, despite not scoring a single goal last spring, I clearly remember Slappy hustling back to break up a shorthanded breakaway from behind in Game 5.

Flash didn't do anything memorable such as that. Oh, and Slappy didn't take a penalty either on that play.

Personally, I think putting Fleischmann and Semin in the same category is just simply wrong. Slappy drives you crazy because you can see how good he is but he just doesn't execute. Fleischmann drives you crazy because you can't understand why Boudreau keeps fluffing him up.

Flash's contract, 1 year, is perfect and I think you're right, another late-season/playoff disappearing act and he won't be around in 2011-2012.

Scoops said...

"The second line center position is now a contest between Fleischmann, Mathieu Perreault, and Marcus Johansson, with Fleischmann the early favorite." Erroneous.

I'm starting a movement (which it looks like Usually Frustrated Caps Fan is a part of) to return Laich to the 2C which he rightfully belongs. Last off season at Kettler Brooks told me he was spending the entire summer working on his speed in Saskatchewan, and I think we all say the rich benefits he reaped from that hard work. (A model work ethic, for sure.) Let's put him back at the second line pivot with that new-found speed and grit and see what he can do to anchor Semin on his natural left wing and Fehr.

This gives Fehr more much-deserved time on the 2nd line and gets Laich back to where he started. The "Flash is a center" experiment failed big time last year, which is why BB BB moved him off of it (and eventually scratched him entirely). Have Flash wing the 3rd line where he belongs - he's a one trick pony who has far exceeded his allotment on the second line.

Scoops said...

PS - Phenomenal article. Huge fan of your work.

breaklance said...

Returning Brooks Laich to 2c would be a bad move. He excels at grit and net presence. Neither of which are really allowed as a center. I think he'd do well, but not nearly as well as being on the wing.

Interesting to read the comments and still see people jump on the chance to bash Flash. I think his contract for most teams would be a bargain.

His regular season stats are great and 25+ goal scorers don't grow on trees. Sure his playoff record isn't great by any stretch of the imagination but his regular season stats kind of out weight it because.....you need to win in the regular season to go to the playoffs. And Flash can give you that chance.