The eight-team keeper fantasy hockey league I help run and also participate in is considering incorporating the NHL’s Real-Time Stats starting next season. These new-age numbers were introduced by Gary Bettman and company back in the 2002-03 season and were intended to quantify important aspects of players’ performances that had yet to be accounted for. It had always been said that there was more to a hockey player than goals, assists, PIM and plus-minus, but what exactly was impactful enough to be tallied?
The league finally came up with these categories: hits, blocked shots, giveaways, takeaways and missed shots. At first the new stats were widely viewed as nothing more than a novelty that only the biggest ‘hockey nerds’ would take an interest in. Even the pro hockey community, living up to its well-earned ‘dinosaur mentality’, generally dismissed Real-Time Stats as gimmicky.
Of course, it didn’t help that the NHL seemed to have neglected to properly define and standardize each new statistical category. There were noticeable discrepancies in the way the stats were kept from one rink to another, especially when it came to hits. Infamously, the Florida Panthers all of a sudden became the most physical team in history, compiling a whopping 1021 hits, almost 300 more than their closest pursuers.
League officials have since refined the definitions for each Real-Time statistic, making it easier for scorekeepers to maintain a better league-wide standard. The result is a set of numbers that can help us better understand the variety of ways in which a player can help (or hurt) his team’s chances of winning.
Frequent hitters can be intimidating and affect the opponents’ on-ice demeanor or behavior. We’ve all seen and heard about how shot-blocking has become a huge factor in games. Takeaways are a reflection of a player’s determination and sense of anticipation without the puck and giveaway avoidance is a must in a league populated by coaches who constantly preach puck possession.
If your fantasy league doesn’t currently employ any of these stats, think about bringing it up in your next Board of Governors’ meeting. It’s a great way to learn more about the hidden skills of NHL players and since offense is at a premium in today’s NHL, it could create fantasy all-stars of a different kind for deeper leagues.
For those of you who crave a more realistic fantasy game, I’ve named a Real-Time all-star team (3 forwards and 2 defensemen). And for all traditional keeper fantasy owners, know that these stats are indicators of skills that can help players ingratiate themselves to their coaches. In the case of young offensive players, the extra ice-time it affords them can mean crucial offensive opportunity. I’ve listed a few such examples below.
REAL-TIME ALL-STAR TEAM
F- Pavel Datsyuk (DET): Leads the league once again with 24 TkA.. Has lead the category in 2 of the past 5 seasons and the only season he was ranked lower than third (11th in 2010-11), played in only 56 games.. Yes he’s a fantasy star offensively, but he’s also the ultimate puck thief, while avoiding the many turnovers most top playmaking minute-munchers commit (only 9 GvA this season).
F- Tanner Glass (PIT): Good multi-category performer this season: 2nd in hits (64), tied for 4th among forwards in BkS (16) and avoids GvA (0) despite logging over 11 min./G.. Gentlemen, meet your new fantasy stud!
D- Radko Gudas (TBL): Leads defensemen in hits (50), tied for 14th among D-men in BkS (34) and exceptional at avoiding the dreaded blue line turnover (only 6 GvA in close to 20 min./G.).. One of the major reasons for Tampa’s much improved defensive play this season without a doubt.
D- Brooks Orpik (PIT): Tied for 9th among D-men in hits (37), tied for 6th among D-men in BkS (38) and has an even better turnover avoidance record (only 3 GvA in over 22min./G).. No wonder Marc-Andre Fleury is having a bounce-back year!
NEW COACH FAVORITES
Brandon Saad (LW) – CHI: Already showing his offensive acumen, but look for him to soon replace Patrick Sharp as Chicago’s top LW with peripherals Joel Quenneville can’t ignore (15-3 ratio in over 17 min./G.).