November 30, 2003

Fantasy Hockey

I've never been in a fantasy hockey league before this season, and knew absolutely nothing about it. It took me a couple of weeks to figure out what was going on, and despite myself I'm doing ok so far. Here's some things I've observed, which may or may not mean squat.

1. Luck plays a big part in success. You can do a lot to help yourself during the season, but luck or the lack of it will make or break your season. Players doing unexpectedly well, avoiding injuries, hot teams and more will all factor in.

2. The draft is critical (sometimes). Our league used an automatic draft, where team order was randomly determined just prior to the draft, and then players were assigned by offensive rank and position. So first the centers were doled out, then left wingers and so on. We were given the chance to 'customize' the draft order for our teams, but I decided to trust the automatic method. So far, it's worked out great for me (see 1 above).

3. Goaltending, goaltending, goaltending. You need two solid starters, and two stars would be better. Five of the top six teams in our league lead with goaltending, and the other is reminiscent of the old Pittsburg Penguins, ignoring defense and winning games 5-4 all season long. Once again, I got lucky here, picking up the hottest goalie of the season, Numinem of Atlanta. My second goalie is Esche of Philly, which is good because he wins almost every time he plays, but he's being platooned so he only plays around half the games. My original third goalie was Broduer's backup in New Jersey. I got rid of him quickly because Martin Broduer plays more games each season than any other goalie.

4. Go with your strengths. Early on I noticed that I was getting big points every week because my team made a lot of shots on goal (not every league awards points for this). I began waiving and drafting players with that stat in mind. Given two available players of roughly equal stats, I'd take the one who took more shots. You can't score if you don't shoot, right? This strategy has paid off in that my team has the second-most number of shots, and my players tend to score plenty of goals, assists and game winning goals.

The main weakness of my team is the plus/minus stat. Basically, if you're on the ice when your team scores, that's a plus one. If the other team scores while you're on the ice, then that's a negative one. An overall negative stat generally means that the opposing team has an easier time scoring while you're on the ice. Positive stats mean just the opposite. Players from the powerhouse teams like Detroit, Ottowa and St. Louis are generally going to have more plus players, although each has one or two guys who are really down there on the minus side. Again, I tend to give more weight to this stat than most because I'm trying to improve it. Once the season starts, you can do that only incrementally, because you'll seldom find more than marginal players on waivers.

5. Trades. If everyone in your league is just standing pat with their team or only dropping and picking up players via waivers, then basically the season becomes a lottery. Whoever had the best computer-generated draft is going to win. That's no fun at all. The league I'm in has had a few trades, but not many. I've made two out of a dozen or so that I've proposed or been offered.

I just made a trade that I knew would either make me look like a genius or an idiot at the end of the season. Early returns are for idiot. I traded offensive-minded Miroslav Satan (is that a great name or what?) and another player for two players who had great plus/minus numbers and slightly less production on offense. Once again I was trying to improve the most glaring weakness of my team without screwing up my other stats too badly. Unfortunately, one of the players I got in return was injured the day of the trade and is out indefinitely, so I shot myself in the foot there. So it goes.

I figure I spend about 20 minutes a day on average looking at scores and such, and it's been fun and added a lot to my enjoyment of this hockey season. If you're a hockey fan it's worth looking into for next season.

Posted by: Ted at 07:36 AM | category: Square Pegs
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1 I was in a fantasy hockey league a few years ago, and had Miroslav Satan on my team. He didn't do squat for me until after I traded him...

Posted by: Victor at November 30, 2003 06:19 PM (16A49)

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