BY PETER HOUSTON – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
Alex Galchenyuk was the “Gally” who came into Montreal Canadiens’ camp last year with the most hype. But it was the Brendan Gallagher “Gally” who came away as the Calder Trophy finalist. Both players had very solid rookie seasons, with Gallagher putting up 15 goals and 28 points in 44 games and Galchenyuk with nine goals and 27 points in the full 48. But will they be able to avoid the dreaded sophomore slump?
It’s definitely far from a scientific fact that players regress after a successful first year in the league, but it has happened to every Calder Trophy winner since Patrick Kane. Steve Mason’s save percentage dropped from .916 to .901, Tyler Myers went from 48 points and plus-13, to 37 points and an even rating, Jeff Skinner went from 0.77 points per game to 0.69 and Gabriel Landeskog saw his points per game drop off from 0.63 to 0.47.
Galchenyuk and Gallagher could also be poised for a similar regression based on their on-ice shooting percentage. It’s a statistic that is almost impossible to keep consistent year to year unless you are Sidney Crosby, because it is largely driven by luck.
Galchenyuk and Gallagher led the Canadiens last year in on-ice S% at 11.72 and 10.74 respectively (league average for forwards is somewhere between 8 and 8.5). What was Skinner’s on-ice shooting percentage his rookie year? 10.97. Sophomore year: 9.28. Last year: 5.04 (which is why he should be poised for a huge bounce back year, but that’s beside the point).
Another thing that will be interesting to track with the Gallys is their usage. It seems that last year Michel Therrien was being very conservative with how he used Galchenyuk in order to “develop him properly.” The only players who got less ice-time 5-on-5 last year were the fourth line and Lars Eller was the only non-fourth liner with less powerplay time than Galchenyuk. Therrien has talked about how Galchenyuk’s role will increase this year but won’t say to what extent. And he’s also mentioned that young players “have to learn to walk before you run.”
If indeed Galchenyuk’s role does increase, that likely means spending less time on the checking line with Lars Eller and Brandon Prust and more time in the top six. Depending on who his linemates are, that could be a blessing or a curse. Galchenyuk started 58 percent of his faceoffs in the offensive zone last year, which by league standards is pretty high. But Gallagher, David Desharnais and Max Pacioretty were all above 60 percent. Does his increased role mean playing alongside some of those players and seeing his offensive opportunities increase, or does it mean playing more with Brian Gionta and Thomas Plekanec, who start less than 50 percent of their faceoffs in the offensive zone and face much tougher players than Galchenyuk did on the third line?
One thing that would be beneficial for both Gallys would be to play together. Last year, they were on the ice together 5-on-5 for 127:26 minutes. During that time, their goals for per 20 minutes (GF20) was 2.04. When they were apart, Galchenyuk’s GF20 was 1.21 and Gallagher’s 1.19. Much was made of Galchenyuk’s late season resurgence on Lars Eller’s line, but in their 338:13 minutes together last year Galchenyuk’s GF20 was 1.24.
If you ask me, the Gallys (mostly Galchenyuk) seem poised for a sophomore slump unless Therrien makes big changes to the way he used them last year. But that doesn’t appear to be too likely considering Therrien’s comments and the addition of Daniel Briere. In order to avoid a drop off in points because of his unsustainably high on-ice shooting percentage, Galchenyuk is either going to need to start a lot more faceoffs in the offensive zone (not likely) or see a lot more time on the powerplay (slightly more likely). So unless Therrien starts to use Galchenyuk as a consistent top-six forward, don’t be surprised by a little sophomore slump.
BY JAMES HUNT – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
It’s not a state secret that Vancouver Canucks netminder Roberto Luongo would have welcomed a deal back to his former team, the Florida Panthers. It’s also not a state secret that Luongo and fellow goalie Tim Thomas have a colourful history together the last few seasons.
As most fans know, Luongo spends his offseason in Florida, his wife and her family are from Florida, he still has legions of fans in Florida and the bottom line is, after all the nonsense that went on over the past two years, Florida would have been a great place for Roberto to “get away from it all.”
But no, thanks to a contract that not even a homeless hit man would take on, Roberto found his way back to Van-City.
And now, word comes out that none other than ex-Bruins Vezina man, Tim Thomas, has accepted a try out for those same Florida Panthers.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall at the Roberto household!
“First the guy doesn’t wanna pump up my tires, then he takes away my Stanley Cup ring, then he wins the Connie Smythe Trophy and NOW, he’s gonna steal my dream job in Florida!”
“Oh… that Timmy Thomas. I really hate that guy.”
The Blue Jays Central Insiders discuss whether the Jays should make a major play for Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka if he is available and whether it is time for the club to change their drafting approach.
Mark asks: What are your thoughts on Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka based on what you’ve heard? Should the Jays make a major play for him if he’s available?
Buck Martinez: Mark I saw Masahiro Tanaka pitch twice in the WBC this March in Japan. He is a very interesting pitcher to say the least. Although I don’t think he would have the same impact as Yu Darvish, he might be an effective pitcher like Hiroki Kuroda. Tanaka started against Brazil on March 2nd and gave up one run on four hits to a team without a Major Leaguer. In his second appearance he pitched in relief and gave up one run on three hits but struck out six. This was against the Cubans. I think he would be a worthy addition to any Major League team and given the way the Jays fans have embraced Munenori Kawasaki, Toronto might be a good fit for him.
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Pat Tabler: Mark, you are thinking right along with all of us. If fact I went to Munenori Kawasaki the other day and wanted to get his take on Tanaka. I asked him if Tanaka can pitch in the Big Leagues and he said, “YES.” He said he is a very good pitcher and would succeed in the Major Leagues. Kawasaki played against him in the Japan League. If this is true, then by all means the Blue Jays should try to obtain him. They will have to wait to see when/if he will get posted in Japan. Then the process could take some time. I think with just a little success, Tanaka would be a huge star in Canada.
Shi Davidi: Tanaka is very intriguing and there are many who think he’ll pitch well here. That being said, it’s no slam dunk that he will and bidding can get pricey. Taking a run at him is complicated by the posting process, which Blue Jays president Paul Beeston doesn’t believe in. There are whispers that the posting system may be in for some changes, as soon as this November, but my guess right now is that a serious bid from the Blue Jays would only come if they didn’t feel they had better alternatives.
Jamie Campbell: It depends on what the scouting staff thinks, and whether the Jays will commit to bidding for him. Be warned; Yu Darvish might be worth it, but many are not.
Patrick asks: With the concussion issues facing Joe Mauer, how serious do you think the Twins should consider moving him to first base next season?
Buck Martinez: Patrick, I think Mauer will move to first base next year for a couple of reasons. First, as you mentioned, with the concussion concerns and keeping him on the field, a move to first will help him stay in the lineup. Secondly the Twins had a good looking young catcher in Josmil Pinto. He can really swing the bat and from what I have seen he looks ok behind the plate.
The problem the Twins will have is that as good as Mauer’s numbers were behind the plate, they won’t stack up as a first baseman because he doesn’t hit for power. It will be interesting how they handle Mauer next year without Morneau around.
Mike Wilner: Concussions are a very big deal, Patrick, and the sports world is beginning to take them more seriously, but I don’t know that a position change for Mauer will work to decrease the effects or the risks. And the problem with making him a permanent first baseman (even in the absence of the now-departed Justin Morneau) is that he loses a lot of offensive value there. As a catcher, he’s a monster, but as a first baseman who hits for a high average and on-base with 10 or 12 home run power, he’s basically a rich man’s James Loney.
Gregg Zaun: I think that has always been the plan with Joe. The problem is the lack of good catching out there.
Jamie Campbell: Patrick, they should take it very seriously. In the end, I believe it depends on what Mauer thinks is best for him.
Veeral asks: Given that the Blue Jays haven’t been able sign their number one pick in three of the last five seasons (James Paxton ’09, Tyler Beede ’11, Phil Bickford ’13) do you foresee any changes in their draft strategy for next year?
Buck Martinez: I think the problem the Jays have had the past few couple of drafts is not making sure they could sign their draft choices before they selected the player. The club has created a big hole in the system not signing their number one picks. I think the organizational approach has to be re-evaluated. There aren’t enough home grown players in the system from the last several drafts. Most of the year, the Jays had only five drafted and developed players on the 25 man roster, not enough home grown talent to compete.
Gregg Zaun: Veeral, they need to get better at developing players first. Their reputation around baseball is not good. Then there’s the tax stigma and playing in Canada associated with being a Jay. When you are a number one pick and have a not so smart agent advising you, these things happen. College or an organization north of the border not so good at developing players once they are drafted?
Shi Davidi: No, and in each case the situation was different. Paxton came as the Blue Jays were essentially rebranding their negotiation strategy during the final year of J.P. Ricciardi’s reign, going from a team known to make last-minute compromises to one that stuck to its line in the sand. The Blue Jays gave Paxton their price, they didn’t take it, and so no deal was reached. With Beede, my understanding is that his demands changed after the draft and the Blue Jays made a very substantial offer of $2.4 million. His prerogative not to accept. Reading between the lines in Bickford’s case, the Blue Jays found something during his physical which led them to take a step back, and take another pick the following year. Ultimately, the price isn’t too significant because teams unable to sign their first-round picks get compensatory selections, so Paxton turned into Noah Syndergaard, Beede became Marcus Stroman and Bickford is No. 11 next year.
Mike Wilner: I think too much is made of the whole first-round pick thing, Veeral. Yes, the Blue Jays failed to sign those three players, but Paxton was their second pick in 2009 (they signed Chad Jenkins). The Jays did draft and sign Aaron Sanchez and Marcus Stroman with the compensation picks they received for not signing Paxton and Beede, and Sanchez and Stroman might be the two best young pitchers in the organization. They didn’t sign Bickford, but they’ll get a good pick in a better draft next year because of it.
Jamie Campbell: Veeral, I don’t see any changes for this reason. The Jays first round draft record in the last several years hasn’t been very good. Ricky Romero was the last to have any kind of impact. My belief is they need to pursue the best available player, regardless of signing issues. If the player doesn’t want to accept millions to begin their professional career, that’s their problem.
Rob asks: The race to the playoffs in the AL is amazing right now, and there even seems to be a chance for either a 3, 4 or 5 team tie for a wild card berth. While this would be awesome, how the heck would MLB work it out?
Buck Martinez: Rob, it isn’t as complicated as you might think but for clarity’s sake I will give you the official take on the tie situation. This is an excerpt from Sports Illustrated’s Jay Jaffe’s article on the playoffs.
“In three- or four-team scenarios, the teams are designated A, B, C and D (if necessary) based first upon their records against one another, then within their respective divisions. If that narrows the tie down to two or three teams, that respective subset procedures are followed, but if not, the interleague half, half plus one, and so on scenario is introduced until the ties are broken, with the “winning” team allowed to decide which letter it wants to be.
From there – well, here’s a taste of what the rules say for the relevant wild-card possibilities, followed by my own attempt to devise scenarios involving the teams in question:
Three-Club Tie for One Wild Card Spot: After Clubs have been assigned their A, B and C designations, Club A would host Club B on Monday, Sept. 30 (tentatively). The winner of the game would then host Club C on Tuesday, Oct. 1 (tentatively) to determine the Wild Card Club.”
I think Bud Selig has gotten what he wanted from the extra wild card team, great races down to the wire.
Pat Tabler: Rob, the playoffs in the American League are going to be great! It is going to come down to the last day of the season, involve multiple teams and will probably spill over to the next day. Fortunately MLB has every scenario planned out. They have a tie breaker system. It’s confusing but if you want to read up on it just go to MLB.com and click on playoff tie breakers. Very interesting.
Mike Wilner: Rob, there’s a complex mathematical explanation for your question, but the bottom line is that if five teams wind up tied for a wild card berth (which is highly unlikely), it will be about a bazillion different kinds of awesome.
Gregg Zaun: Head to head record would be the first way to solve the problem. One game deciders would be the other.
Shi Davidi: It’s long and convoluted, and the MLB rules explain it best.
James asks: With the season winding down, who are your picks for MVP, Cy Young and Rookie of the Year? Any races too close to call?
Buck Martinez: James it is hard to think anybody other than Miguel Cabrera will be the MVP in the American League. I know Chris Davis has had a terrific season but Cabrera is the man for me.
As for Cy Young, I will vote for Max Scherzer since he was so good early in the season he had a lot to do with Detroit getting off to such a good start. He is right there with Darvish in every category and has the best win percentage at 19-3. I also think along with Darvish, Chris Tillman and Matt Moore should get consideration, but Scherzer is my pick.
My rookie of the year in the AL is Wil Myers because he has come to the big leagues in the middle of a fierce pennant race, hit in the middle of the order and delivered time and time again. He only has 267 at bats but leads all rookies with 44 RBIs. He is a good defender as well. I know he has played less than 100 games but he has made a dramatic contribution to the Rays effort.
Pat Tabler: James, great question but still too early to call. But we will give it a try. So much more can happen over the next two weeks but if I had to choose today I would go with Miguel Cabrera for AL MVP, Yu Darvish for AL Cy Young, and Wil Myers for AL Rookie of Year. Even though he might play in just 90 games (which would be the fewest since Ryan Howard won ROY in just 88 games) Myers is my pick because of his impact on the Rays. Jose Iglesis of the Tigers would finish a close second! I’ll have my picks for the NL next week.