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Fantasy Hockey: Offseason Training Regimen

It’s a bad time to be a poolie.

We’re a few games (ok, probably ONE game) from the conclusion of these playoffs, which means we sit on the verge of a long, hot, baseball filled summer.

The offseason is a scary time. Gone is the daily routine of checking your fantasy team in the morning, then again at the office, at 7pm before games start, and once more before bed. Suddenly, the games are over and you’re saddled with all this free time and no hobby to fill it.

Sure, you could work on other things you’ve been putting off - like building the back porch. You’ve had a pile of wood sitting in a stack for seven months. Granted, you’re not exactly a savant when it comes to wielding a hammer and nails, having spent most of your formative years reading player profiles in fantasy magazines, but why should that stop you? You vaguely remember that conversation with a rather burly fellow at Home Depot who somehow managed to explain all the finer points of deck construction in under 15 minutes. He seemed to work there, although, upon reflection, he may have just been a talkative guy wearing a fluorescent orange t-shirt.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not building a deck. It sounds hard, and feels like a sure-fire way to end up with a wooden sliver. A SLIVER!!

No, instead, I’m devoting the next three months to the always important “fantasy offseason training.” It may not be as glamorous as the training professional athletes undertake; sprinting  with a  parachute, flipping tires, running up steep hills, or whatever other zany exercise Mike Cammalleri can conjure up. Fantasy offseason training is, thankfully, a bit easier on you physically. All you need is a laptop, a lot of free time, and an insatiable desire to spend sunny Saturday afternoons in a dark room reading up on Patrick Marleau’s shots per game totals over the past five seasons.

So put on that under armour long sleeve tee, tape your ankles, grab some Gatorade…ah, I’m only kidding, all you need is pajamas and that bag of Doritos you forgot to close last night. Let’s take a look at some offseason training exercises for 2014:

Build tiers. Then erase them and build more tiers. Then do that again.

When putting together fantasy draft rankings there is a tendency to try and get things “perfect”. Working through hundreds of players and putting them in the exact order in which you would select them. While this would be the ideal scenario, it’s not overly realistic, and will probably leave you more than a bit frustrated after hours of tedious work.

As an alternative, I always try to organize players into tiers. First, you separate forwards, defencemen, and goalies into separate lists. Then you work each list, breaking players into distinct groups. Each group should contain guys that fall within five percent of one another in terms of projected output. As an easy example, here is what the top of your forwards list might look like:

Tier 1 -  Crosby / Ovechkin / Malkin / Stamkos

Tier 2 - Tavares / Hall / Seguin / Kessel / Perry / Neal

Your goal is to do this from top to bottom, providing a framework to reference during your draft (and through the year when evaluating players for a trade ).

There are a couple of guiding principles to keep in mind here. Firstly, always limit tier size to eight players. When you’re at the draft table you don’t want to be reading up and down 14 names. It’s too many guys to keep track of and you’ll more than likely have limited time to operate (most leagues have 90 to 120 seconds per pick). Secondly, revisit your tiers regularly and make updates. Your initial version will be nowhere near your final one. It’s a process. A LONG process. The sooner you put pen to paper the more you can adjust and refine as the summer wages on.

Read up on advanced stats

We’re at an interesting juncture in hockey’s acceptance of advanced metrics to measure team and player quality. On the one hand there are those that have fully immersed themselves in these new statistics and have started to use them on a regular basis. On the other, there are many fans (likely the majority) that rely predominately on existing, more traditional numbers, to make decisions in fantasy.

This creates an opportunity for you to gain an edge. There are a number of new stats that are relatively easy to pick up and can help you in identifying possible sleepers and demystifying paper tigers from 2013-14 (see Kronwall, Niklas). Three that I’ve really enjoyed of late are points share (percentage of your teams goals that you factor in when on the ice), PDO (sum of your teams shooting percentage and save percentage with you on the ice), and secondary assists.

This probably isn’t an appropriate post to dive into two thousand words on advanced metrics. However, if you’re looking for some reading over the summer there are a tonne of great resources available. I recommend the following:


SB Nation’s Outnumbered

Extra Skater

Fancy Stats – Washington Post

Grantland – The Faker’s Guide to Advanced Stats in the NHL

Look in the mirror

I mean the metaphorical mirror. What went well and what could have gone better last season? Did you trade Corey Perry for Evander Kane? Did you drop Ryan Johansen midway through the season after a poor 10 game stretch? Are these all sad memories and should I probably stop already?

At the end of each season I like to sit down and review all of my moves, from the draft through to the final match-up. Take a look at your selections round-by-round. What worked and what didn’t? When did the inevitable goalie run take place? Were you overly focused on defencemen in the mid-rounds? Learning our follies from previous seasons can only help us in the future.

Next pull up your league page and comb through every trade and waiver pick-up. Did all these transactions actually benefit your team? Maybe you trade TOO MUCH. Or perhaps you aren't making enough waiver additions, instead remaining too loyal to your original picks.

Whatever the case, learning from history, your history, can help with adjustments moving forward. It’s like that famous saying:

“Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to draft Filatov, again.”

I may have taken a few liberties with the quote.

Happy training.


Darren Kennedy is a contributor for McKeen’s and Dobber Hockey. You can find him on twitter @fantasyhockeydk or on his couch obsessing over Game of Thrones.