Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Puck Stops Here

Welcome to the first edition of The Puck Stops Here. Every Thursday you can look forward to a new article focusing on the world of fantasy hockey, although every so often, I’ll sneak in a couple other fantasy ramblings. Before jumping into some stick and puck, I would like to formally introduce myself. My name is Joe Romano and I am a fantasy sports-aholic. I have religiously played fantasy sports for about a decade. I mainly play football, baseball and hockey, but I have also have dabbled in basketball, golf and Nascar. My hockey knowledge stems from playing ice hockey for fifteen years, having multiple fantasy hockey teams for the last six years and I also live, eat and breathe hockey. That is enough about me, let’s hit the ice.

I had a multitude of ideas for my first article, but I think some general advice concerning fantasy hockey strategy is the best way to start. There is plenty of time in the future to talk about who to add or who is a buy low/sell high candidate. However, if any of you should have a question leave me a comment and I’ll respond to your questions as soon as possible.

Fantasy hockey is a marathon not a sprint. Hockey is a diet version of baseball and the opposite of football. The season is long and decisions should not be made arbitrarily based on one or two games. Your strategy should be similar in hockey as it is in baseball. Watch trends; keep an eye on players over multiple games. Sure, seeing a guy with a high goal or point total should spark your interest, but that is just the beginning. Is he riding a hot streak? Is he scoring in bunches one game and then going scoreless for multiple games. What is his ice time per game? These are the questions you should be asking yourself. You are in it for the long haul, don't ruin the season based on a few poor decisions.

Research your roster moves. Ask yourself, why is this player available? Is the player on the decline? Conversely, is he on the rise? Look at draft position to determine if he is a late blooming stud (see Dominik Hasek). You want consistency, take a look and see how often he is scoring. Investigate his line situation and his team’s offensive or defensive ability. Journeyman players usually stay that way; a player may be hot but he will most likely regress back to his mean. Many diamonds in the rough can be found by taking a few extra minutes to answer these questions.

Don’t waste roster spots. Just because you have four roster spots reserved for defensemen doesn’t mean you actually have to start four defensemen. If there is a valuable forward on waiver wire, don’t be shy to drop a defenseman. Would you rather a forward helping you or a defenseman who will most likely post poor numbers? The NHL schedule allows some maneuverability. It is rare that there isn’t a starting roster spot available for a player who has a game that evening. You wouldn’t start a forward doing nothing, so don’t do the same thing with a defenseman.

Use all the tools out there. Hockey is the black sheep of major fantasy sports, most fantasy websites either ignore hockey or give very sparse information concerning it. This makes a fantasy hockey player’s life much more difficult. Don’t be afraid to read a local newspaper to get the low down on what is happening with specific teams. Every major newspaper has a website, so use them. They usually offer the best advice concerning daily roster movements including injuries, starting goalies and starting line ups.

Get an idea of starting lines for teams. The best example to use is the Pittsburgh Penguins with Sidney Crosby. If a player is on his line, chances are he is going to produce. Take a look at what Tyler Kennedy has done since joining Sid. Mark Bell looked good until he was taken from Mats Sundin’s line and relegated to fourth line duty. Linemates can make or break a player, act accordingly and follow line movements. Don't forget to look at power play lines also, in most leagues they are a stat category. Even if they aren't, points come more easily on the power play. Give extra value to those getting regular power play minutes. (Note: If you pick up a Crosby linemate, don’t fall in love, Coach Therrien changes linemates almost daily.)

Plus-minus is overrated; penalty minutes (PIM) are not. The best predictor of a plus-minus rating is the quality of team around the player; outside of that factor plus-minus is a crap shoot. There are too many outside factors to accurately predict plus-minus. However, PIM can be very valuable. PIM are similar to stolen bases, a person running away with the PIM lead is worth a spot on the roster. He may not do much else, but if he is getting you 10 PIM a week, he needs to be on your roster. If a player is averaging a handful of PIM per game, chances are this is a trend and not a mirage. He can single handedly win you a stat category so go pick him up.

Have a happy and safe holiday! See you next week.

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Anonymous said...

Great article! Look forward to reading more. We need more hockey commentary.

squeak said...

Really enjoyed this article and would like to see more of you.