Matt Frattin is probably just replacement-level

Cam Charron
November 01 2012 11:42AM

I'd like to have thought that, by now, most Leafs fans would have come around on the fact that Matt Frattin is at best, a player slightly over replacement-level.

I got this comment, though, yesterday:

I think Frattin probably has more offensive upside than a 4th liner. He seems more suited to a third line role.

It seems that teams create a difference between their 3rd and 4th lines in name alone. From a team-building perspective, it makes more sense to me, to have your best players on your first line, slightly worse players on your 2nd line, slightly worse players on your third line, and slightly worse players on your 4th line. The "offensive upside" gap isn't as big as we'd like to make it out to be. Anybody who has seen Mike Brown stickhandle or shoot could probably attest to the fact that it's not like he doesn't have talent.

There's a minutiae of difference between the talent-level of an NHL 3rd liner and an NHL 4th liner. Exploiting those small differences is what can propel a 40-win team to a 50-win team. You need to get slightly better in all aspects of your lineup, and the Maple Leafs settling for Matt Frattin on their team because they're too lazy to pick up somebody else isn't something that ought to happen if the team wants to improve.

Frattin is a replacement level player, is he? Lol.

You know little about hockey. Stick to numbers.

These types of comments cut me deep, hendy. Regardless (or, irregardless, if I want to be a respected hockey analyst) of how much I know about hockey, I know that wingers in your top-six should probably be very good goal scorers, and that wingers in your bottom-six are virtually interchangeable.

This goes back to the discussion at the scouts table in Moneyball: "If he's such a good hitter, why doesn't he hit more?" For Frattin, "if he's a top-six forward, why doesn't he score more?" Frattin had eight goals last season. 27 wingers his age or younger scored more times than he did. It's not like he's at an age where any goal represents progress and he can still move ahead. We're talking about a player, rather, who is somewhere within the parameters of his offensive prime who has just only now broken into the league.

Frattin has a marginal level of skill, but there are a lot of hockey players who can do the things with the puck that Matt Frattin does. Hence, "replacement-level", you could find anybody on the free agency or cheap trade market who can do what Frattin does: score a few goals when plugged into the right offensive situation.

He could be an NHL player. I wouldn't ever bother with him in a top-six, and you could do a whole lot worse than him on the fourth line (Colton Orr, for instance). I think there's a bit of a disconnect between people's expectations of Frattin and what Frattin can actually do. Really, what can he do that any free agent winger can't? Those are the things you need to look at. Sure, if you look at him in a vaccuum, you could say "he's really good at this, this and this" but so are a lot of players. It's the marginal improvements that are important, and Frattin hasn't shown much of those at this level. If he had, he'd be doing a lot better.

If anybody wants to make a legitimate bet, however, that Frattin will play top-nine forward minutes (all strengths) on an NHL team that makes it to the conference finals, my e-mail address is below.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 David Johnson
November 01 2012, 12:52PM
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Be careful not to assume lack of scoring is due to lack of talent and not (at least in part) due to lack of opportunity. Of the 313 players with >500 minutes of 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time last season, Frattin ranked 155th in G/60. That placed him right between Joe Thornton and Stephen Weiss and ahead of guys like Kris Versteeg, Adam Henrique, David Backes, Ryane Clowe, Jaromir Jagr and Dany Heatley. 155th overall would rank him on as the 6th best goal scorer on the average team at even strength.

Frattin showed an ability to score goals at the college level (scored 47 goals in 66 games over his final 2 years of college hockey) and he has showed an ability to score at the AHL level (scored 23 goals in 36 AHL regular season and playoff games) and as mentioned above in limited time at the NHL level he has scored at a top six pace. Furthermore his defensive numbers at the NHL seem respectable considering his line mates as well.

There is still some uncertainty in his career development but to suggest he has replacement level talent is probably being a bit unfair. I have my doubts as to whether he can become a top 6 regular, but I am far more confident he can be (if he isn't already) a quality 2-way 3rd line winger similar to Nikolai Kuelmin.

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#3 David Johnson
November 01 2012, 02:49PM
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@Cam Charron

Crabb's best AHL season had him score 24 goals in 79 games. Frattin had 23 in 36 last year.

Crabb's best college season saw him get 18 goals in 42 games. Frattin doubled that with 36 in 44 games.

Frattin has generally been twice as productive. There really is no comparison.

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#4 Mike Bailey
November 01 2012, 05:25PM
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David Johnson wrote:

Crabb's best AHL season had him score 24 goals in 79 games. Frattin had 23 in 36 last year.

Crabb's best college season saw him get 18 goals in 42 games. Frattin doubled that with 36 in 44 games.

Frattin has generally been twice as productive. There really is no comparison.

Cam I agree with a lot of what you say, but not this time. Frattin is a good option on the 3rd line and a very good option on the 4th line with the current leafs roster (which definitely needs work). He has NHL level speed. He's not afraid to take or make a hit. He also has a solid history of scoring. I dont think he is lacking much of any in the physical/talent department. Having watched most NHL, and quite a few Marlies games that he has played, I think what he really needs to improve on is his vision. At the NHL level he seem's to "see" the play develop a fraction of a second late. This leads to missed oportunities and sometimes outright bad plays. Some players take a long time to have that part of their game come around. If it does for him, he will be an easy choice for a bottom 6 role on most teams. Maybe even a conference champion leafs squad 2-3 seasons from now.... But that's an entirely different debate :)

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#5 Skill2Envy
November 01 2012, 07:35PM
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@Cam Charron

I think everyone is going about this the wrong way, both those in favour of Cam's opinion and those against. I think part of that is left out information.

Now in theory, everyone is replacement level. If we were to trade Kessel for Perry, it would be done. Not that it should happen but based on replacing a piece with a like piece, they are replaceable.

So sure Frattin is replacement level but that doesn't mean he should be. He kind of like a Rich Peverley or Chris Kelly.

As for the argument over 3rd liner and 4th liner, if your 4th line gets 4-8 minutes a game, Frattin isn't a 4th liner. He should be more around the 8-12 minute mark at least, or 3rd liner we would call this. (I'm not a stats guy so feel free to help me out on minutes-line ratio).

I myself see the 4th line consisting of Brown, Steckel, and Komarov. That leaves Frattin on the 3rd line where I think he belongs with the likes of McClement, Bozak, and either MacArthur or Kulemin depending how things shake out.

For me third liners should get around 15 goals, which I think is where Frattin, Bozak, and Kulemin fall around. Of course some guys could be closer to 20 (Kulemin and MacArthur) and some would be around 10 (McClement).

To wrap this up, just because a guy is replacement level doesn't mean the option should be taken. I like Frattin; he plays hard, hits, and will drive the net. He also plays both ends of the ice. Mike Brown is another guy that plays the same but could also be replaced but shouldn't. I think where all of this stemmed from was the Lou trade and Frattin being lumped into it.

Cam I have a question for you. When Frattin gets more adjusted to the NHL, which he should, where do you see his stats in the NHL.

Personally I think he is a 3rd liner. 30-35 point range, trying to hit the 15 goal mark yearly.

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#6 Matt
November 01 2012, 09:21PM
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Last year was his first pro season and he was an excellent scorer at the AHL level (albeit with a high shooting percentage). He's shown enough positives at the NHL level (speed, physicality, some scoring ability) that casting him off as nothing more than a 4th liner seems premature.

There are some examples of guys who break in at 24 - Ryan Malone, Alex Burrows, Viktor Stalberg, Matt Moulson, Curtis Glencross - that sticking Frattin with a "replacement level" tag just seems wrong at this point.

Sure, a top-6 forward might be wishful thinking, but a third line guy with a bit of a scoring touch doesn't seem that unreasonable.

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#7 BCapp
November 02 2012, 06:37AM
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Let me preface this comment with the fact that I am not a huge Frattin fan, and have been long arguing against people who talk about how he "will probably be a 25 goal scorer" or "he is already a third liner and will probably be a 2nd liner soon".

All that being said I am getting a little annoyed at a lot of the analysis I have seen done on Frattin recently (ie by Chemmy in PPP comment sections and you here). What is it that annoys me? That a man with 57 NHL GP is being judged solely on those games. Simply put I think this sample size is way to small and we need to consider the rest of his career to fill in the picture because of it.

I too believe that age is important in a players production. That being said I think some are under appreciating the impact of years in the NHL. This was his first year playing against a much higher level of play. He may need some time to get the hang of it. Being a rookie is also important to consider.

So was his NHL rookie season impressive? No, not really. He did show some flashes of skill but his production was lacking. But as I said it was just his rookie season and it was only about 2/3 of a season. Not enough to write the book on him. Over the last 2 years he has also demolished both the AHL and NCAA in goal scoring. Is this more important than NHL production? No, but with such a small sample of NHL games it should be taken into account. Do people have AHL/NCAA/other minor league success without translating it to the NHL? Of course. But without more NHL data I think it is important to still consider.

Personally it gives me some confidence that he'll probably be able to up his NHL goal scoring. As is he scored at 0.14 GPG or an 11 G pace. I think he could probably be a 15 goal scorer over his prime, more or less consistently. Is that great? No. But it is above replacement level.

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#8 Topshelf
November 03 2012, 07:33AM
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@Skill2Envy

"Now in theory, everyone is replacement level. If we were to trade Kessel for Perry, it would be done. Not that it should happen but based on replacing a piece with a like piece, they are replaceable.

So sure Frattin is replacement level but that doesn't mean he should be. He kind of like a Rich Peverley or Chris Kelly."

....Well said. I would add that Frattin is currently the 2nd lowest paid Leaf forward ($925,00) and will be an RFA when this deal is done.

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#9 Topshelf
November 03 2012, 07:59AM
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"There's a minutiae of difference between the talent-level of an NHL 3rd liner and an NHL 4th liner. Exploiting those small differences is what can propel a 40-win team to a 50-win team. You need to get slightly better in all aspects of your lineup, and the Maple Leafs settling for Matt Frattin on their team because they're too lazy to pick up somebody else isn't something that ought to happen if the team wants to improve."

This comment is funny. I think most of the folks commenting here agree that Frattin is at least a solid 3rd liner and may become a slightly above average one. Cam seems to be advocating however that Burke takes the time to trade some assets (however minimal) to try and get someone slightly better. Hmm, I'm sure this would work out great. Also, Frattin is currently being paid less than a million dollars, so going to the F/A market is another great option, seeing as guys like Chris Kelly will run you about $3 million and get a NTC.

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