new york rangers - Rick Nash

Making trades in your hockey pool is fun.

Heck, it’s a lot of fun. But having to watch your friend with Tyler Seguin for the next 10 years because you traded him for T.J Oshie and a couple draft picks, well, that’s painful.

Making trades is a mix of two tonics, there’s the bit of fear that a player you’re sending away will turn into (or will continue to be) something great. But that fear is often trumped by the wondrous excitement that you might be acquiring the next Claude Giroux or Jamie Benn. A guy that the rest of the league has been undervaluing.

I (like most poolies) have made my fair share of mistakes in the trade market. I can remember dealing John Tavares for Rick Nash a year before he (predictably) exploded for the Islanders. Or when I traded a young Erik Karlsson for a couple of veteran wingers. At the time, the Sens’ blueliner had only been elite for one season, I thought he would regress as oppositions started to game-plan more aggressively against his style – I was wrong. Boy was I wrong.

There’s a terrific quote from the 1998 movie Rounders on the memory of poker players. It sort of applies to fantasy hockey, too:

In "Confessions of a Winning Poker Player," Jack King said, "Few players recall big pots they have won, strange as it seems, but every player can remember with remarkable accuracy the outstanding tough beats of his career."

Of course we’d like to minimize those memories as much as possible. I’ve found it useful to list out five key questions to ask myself before making any transaction. It’s far from a perfect system, but it does force me to consider a variety of different angles before consummating the final deal. Sometimes emotion, or a pre-existing connection to a certain player can tug you in a direction that isn’t best for the long-term health of your squad. These questions aim to bring your focus back to the numbers, where it should be.

1.What is the shooting percentage of both players?

This is one of the more basic questions in fantasy, but it’s darn effective. Generally a player’s shooting percentage will not change much over the course of his career. Now, that doesn’t mean that there won’t be the odd peak or valley along the way. For instance, if a guy currently has a shooting percentage of 18 percent, but his career average is closer to 11, then you can expect those numbers to slip, at least a bit.

2.How old are they?

Knowing where an asset is on their developmental curve is significant. If a player is approaching 30, we know from research that his production may dip to 80 or 90 percent of previous highs. Be especially mindful of former stars that are 31 or 32, since in all likelihood their most effective years have passed.

3.What were their PDO numbers?

PDO is a combination of the team’s on-ice shooting percentage with a specific player on the ice, plus their on-ice save percentage with that same player. It’s a nifty way to attach a value to ‘puck luck.’ If a player has a PDO well over 1000 then he likely benefited from some fortuitous bounces. Conversely, if he’s well below 1000, then his numbers may be due to increase. It’s a nice way to discern whether or not a young player is close to breaking out, or if he had some help along the way.

4.Where were they selected in the entry draft?

This tends to be a more useful question the earlier a player is in his career. There are, of course, a number of exceptions to the rule (Benn, Datsyuk…etc), but, you can use draft pedigree to help predict the ceiling of a player. If someone was drafted in the early first round then you know that the hockey world was reasonably confident in his abilities. This should rarely be used as a core differentiator, but it’s helpful as a tie-breaker in the event that all other areas are relatively equal.

5.What are their one, three, and five year outlooks

If you’re in a one year league then this comparison is rendered moot – you simply take the guy with a better outlook over the next few months. In keeper pools it’s important to have a feel for how things may change in the near and long-term. For example, two premier assets right now are Getzlaf and Perry. They should, baring something surprising, enjoy terrific years in 2014-15. The issue is that both of them are 29 years old, turning 30 this season. While their three year projections remain relatively strong, there are serious concerns when we get into years four and five. Something to be mindful of if you are moving a slew of young, high ceiling young players for them.

There are other questions you can ask. In essence you can keep asking questions forever (there are a multitude of stats upon which you can compare two players). These five represent a good start, though. And should help the next time someone comes asking for one of your star players. Just remember, if you trade John Tavares, you’ll never, ever, hear the end of it.

 

Darren Kennedy (@fantasyhockeydk) is a contributor for McKeen’s and Dobber Hockey. He’ll talk about anything… except Kovalchuk. Never, ever, Kovalchuk. 

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