A piece where I look at stories from around the world of fantasy hockey and talk about how they might impact your pool. It’s also an excuse to embed old Seinfeld You Tube clips that likely don’t have much to do with the post itself.
1.This might be the year to, well, try LESS hard in your hockey pool
I’m never going to advocate “tanking” in your pool. You have a duty to put together the best lineup possible on any given night. There are (legal) ways to build a team is more forward looking, as opposed to the here and now. Maybe you take a chance on Kucherov in the mid-rounds instead of Lupul, citing the importance of “prospects” to your long-term vision. Why are you looking to the future? Because Connor McDavid is a tree cut from the same forest as Sidney Crosby (they would probably be deciduous). McDavid is being touted as the best fantasy prospect since the kid, and I can’t find a good counter-argument. If you’re in a dynasty pool, landing someone of McDavid’s ilk can completely shape the next 10 years of your fantasy life (pun intended). There will undoubtedly be shady dealings in leagues everywhere as poolies shuffle to finish last. Don’t be the one that intentionally submarines their season through poor trades and crappy waiver picks. Having said that, McDavid is going to be really, REALLY good…
2.If only ‘fashion sense’ was a legitimate category
Speaking of Lupul; what the heck has happened to the once-upon-a-time-almost-fantasy-star (ok that’s a bit long). He had a stretch of 82 games between 2011 and 2013 where he averaged over a point per game. It’s the type of run that had many (including myself) wondering if he should be considered a top 30 option in some formats, most notably “points only.” Then last year happened: 69 games, 22 goals, 22 assists, and a minus 15 rating. We’ll give him a mulligan on the plus/minus issue considering Toronto was a historically bad puck possession team. That’s not to say Lupul is a good defensive forward (he isn’t). So what’s the issue at hand? For me it’s quite simple – no Kessel. Phil is the tugboat of fantasy hockey, dragging older and slower boats through the pier into the land of hockey pool dominance. He did it this year for James van Riemsdyk and used to do the same for Lupul. Joffrey still shot the puck an awful lot (191), but the points weren’t there. Moving forward I would expect more of the same; around 60 to 65 games with decent goal totals, around 45 to 50 points and strong shots. His best bet to re-emerge as a true threat is a roster shuffle that sees him back on the top line.
3.A few words on Volchenkov
If you’ve spent any time playing EA’s video game NHL 14 then you know that Volchenkov is essentially the black hole of shot blocking. Those little pixelated pucks are sucked into him with a force that defies physics. And rightfully so, blocked shots, along with hitting, are two traits that have characterized the Predators’ defenseman since he broke into the league. Last year he posted 129 hits and 91 blocked shots in only 56 games. He doesn’t do much else in other fantasy categories, but if your league includes those real time stats he’s a nice option as your number four or five blueliner.
4.Unbelievable factoid of the week
Cory Schneider has a career save percentage of .925. To give that some context, only nine tenders had a total over .920 last season. Between Vancouver and New Jersey he has consistently been one of the 10 best fantasy goalies, but simply couldn’t get the playing time. His new contract will change all that in a hurry.
5.Andrew Ladd is better than we realize
The folks over at Artic Ice Hockey have a post looking at their roster through the lens that is fancystats. In it they note how unbelievably consistent Andrew Ladd has been the past few seasons, despite playing some arduous minutes…
Andrew Ladd has been above the first line baseline in both categories two out of three times. Over the last three seasons Ladd has posted a 54.8, 51.7 and 53.1 Corsi%, despite tending to take the Jets tough minutes. He's also added offense being the Jets second highest 5v5 scoring forward with 1.73, 2.63 and 2.00 point per 60 min seasons.
Similar to real life, it feels like Ladd is a bit underrated in fantasy. He may never again match his magical 2012-13 when he finished near a point per game with 46 in 48. But last year was a continuation of his consistent offence – 78-23-31-54 with 189 shots. He’s a guy you can target in the mid-rounds and feel reasonably comfortable predicting his numbers.
6.I’m probably going to get fooled by Dany Heatley, again.
A few summers ago I was chasing after Healtley in one of my pools. During his years in Ottawa I pined to have him on my roster. Such a consistent source of offence, one of the few players capable of 40 goals and north of 80 points. After he was traded to Minnesota I was able to make a one-for-one deal that sent my Rick Nash in exchange for Dany. I’ve lived to regret it ever since. Now, with news that he has signed on with Anaheim I’m worried that once again I’ll be romanced by his all-star past, while paying little attention to his future. The Ducks have some room in their lineup, with most of the top six winger positions up for grab. There is a real chance that Healtey skates on the second line and sees some power play time. Of course he’s just as likely to sit every third game in the press box. Don’t be like me, find someone else to break your heart on draft day.
7.The case for Time on Ice
We’re at a weird place in fantasy hockey when it comes to picking categories. There is the old school notion that you need to include stats like penalty minutes, game winning goals, and shorthanded points, because they’ve always been part of pools. On the other hand, we have access to so many new and interesting stats that there is a growing movement to supplant existing mainstays with things like hits, blocked shots, and even, dare I say, Corsi (realistically this is still a few years away, but we can dream). One that I’ve been supporting of late is Time on Ice. It’s not an overly complicated stat, and it’s that simplicity that I like. Generally coaches will play their best players the most. Which means the guys with the most time on ice are generally the best players. And the objective of fantasy hockey is to have more “good” players than your buddy – right? I feel like many categories reward poolies for randomness and luck. No one has any idea when a game winning goal is going to happen. But Time on Ice is a predictable category that you can actually strategize around - something we should be doing more of.
Darren Kennedy is a fantasy hockey writer for McKeen’s and Dobber Hockey. He spent the better part of his childhood dodging blue plasma grenades in Halo and drinking far too much Mountain Dew – it was awesome.