Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Extended Talk Part 5: My teams

For those who are curious, here are my teams:

Strike-through means dropped. Updated Fri October 3

The Avery Rule (8 team league, 24 round draft, normal stats...but a ridiculous amount of positions...C (2) LW(2) RW(2) D (4) W(2) F(2) Util (3) )

C: Joe Sakic, Eric Staal, Johan Franzen

LW: Alex O, A. Tanguay, P. Elias, A. Kostitsyn, R. Smyth, Milan Michalek and Bertuzzi (last pick of 24th round. Heh)

RW: Corey Perry, Hemsky, Zherdev, Chris Neil, Erik Cole, David Clarkson

D: Chris Pronger, S. Niedermayer, Dan Boyle, Wade Redden, Jay Bouwmeester

G: Nabokov, Giguere, Gerber

HamandEggers (this team is messed up because I signed in late. I think I missed the first 5-6 rounds. Odd league: only 8 categories. G, A, +/-, PPP, W, GAA, Save% and SO)

C: M. Savard, Joe Sakic, Pat Marleau, Sundin Bergeron

LW: Zetterberg, C. Stillman, R. Whitney

RW: Alfredsson, Cheechoo, Kovalev, Selanne

D: Rafalski, Niedermayer, Schneider, Pitkanen

G: Osgood, Biron, Khabibulin Conklin

The Funkillers (Normal league, except there's FW, SHG and PPG instead of PPP)

C: Olli Jokinen, Ryan Getzlaf, Sakic, Marleau, Rod the Bod

LW: Zetterberg, Carcillo, Bertuzzi, Ryan Malone, Jason Blake

RW: Patrick Kane, Shane Doan

D: Boyle, Lubo, Rob Blake, Zidlicky Brent Burns

G: Luongo, Bryzgalov

My weakest team is HamandEggers, but I chalk that up to autodraft.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Extended Talk Part 4: Tiers

I'm too cheap to pay for fantasy sports advice. But during searches there was an article that mentioned the word "tiering," which might just be the term for my personal philosophy when making tough decisions.

Sometimes, it's not as simple as looking at a ranking list. (Actually, that probably is the case in at least 20% of your draft)

In this case it's not terrible to be a fan again - or at least go with your gut.

Here's an example:

In the second round of a draft, I had to decide between Dion Phaneuf and Roberto Luongo. For the most part, I agree with sage-like Chris Nichols advice of not taking a goalie too early...but it's also not great to take a defenseman too early.

In my mind, Phaneuf and Lidstrom are delicacies - great, empowering but nut necessary. For me, each group has its "must-haves" but goalies are perhaps most obvious:

Cornerstone Goalies

Martin Brodeur
Roberto Luongo
Henrik Lundqvist
MA Fleury

To be honest, it is a good idea to get one of those guys. For the hell of it, let's look at some cream of the crops.

But first, here's the cardinal rule of the tier system:

Centers are the busty blonde bombshell of fantasy hockey. They're a dime a dozen. So, when in doubt, go for the exotic RW or the burly, nasty LW. Or something.

Anyway, try to get at least one from each group:

C/Blond Bombshells

Sidney Crosby
Joe Thornton
Pavel Datsyuk
Vincent LeCavalier
Evgeni Malkin
Ryan Getzlaf
Olli Jokinen
Jason Spezza
Eric Staal
(really, there's more...again Centers are easy to come by)

LW/super-tanned Brazillian maneaters

Alex Ovechkin
Henrik Zetterberg
Rick Nash
Ilya Kovalchuk
Dany Heatley
Simon Gagne (if healthy)
(I'm probably forgetting some)

RW/Foxy European hoochies

Marian Hossa
Daniel Alfredsson
Patrick Kane
Teemu Selanne
Corey Perry
Shane Doan
Alex Kovalev (he's inconsistent, so be careful)
Ales Hemsky

D/ Pussy or Pancakes...Pancakes or Pussy?*

Nik Lidstrom
Dion Phaneuf
Dan Boyle
Scott Niedermayer
Brian Campbell
Chris Pronger
Zdeno Chara
Lubo V.
Brian Rafalski
Mike Green
Andrei Markov

Again, this is far from a comprehensive list. But if you can mix and match a bunch of those big-ticket guys, you'll either a) be on the road to victory; b) really, really like your team or c) both.

With that, I must end my fantasy hockey blowout. Use this as a staggering, excessive road map to glory.

I will use it as a stark cry for help.

*TM- Chris Rock

Extended Talk Part 3: Gut reactions

Finally, here's a list of guys I really like and don't like. This might be the most subjective of all these guides so take it with a grain of salt.

Or follow it like some hockey bible. Fuck if I care.

  • Man crushes
Joe Sakic - I expect a nice rebound year for him and he tends to come really cheap. A general rule for me for veterans is: if they've done it once they can do it again...unless they're just old and decrepit. I honestly believe this guy has one more 60-70 point season in him and he could have a nice little swan song year. But I've always been a sucker for Sakic.

Teemu Selanne - He's another guy I like and can get for a throwaway pick. In savvy drafts you might want to look at him around round 8-10. He's not that old and his numbers look shitty since last year was his "Cacoon" season.

Being that he's on a good team and in a talent shallow position like RW, he can really make a big impact on your team.

Scott Niedermayer - Yet another Duck whose 2007-08 seasons are a fake retirement mirage. Really, he's just below the elite level of Phaneuf-Lidstrom but you should be able to get him in those murky 6-8 rounds. Selanne and Niedermayer are flat-out steals.

Although I guess it depends on where Yahoo! ranks them.

  • At that price, you'd be a fool not to get it!
Patrick Marleau - This guy's stock is dropping faster than Fannie Mae. I've been getting him in the 11th round or so and I'm banking on a serious 70 point season. Marleau is too young to suck because of old age.

But he is sort of mysteriously dopey, so don't pick him up too early.

Rob Blake - even if he simply replicates last year's sorta shitty stats, he's a great third defenseman who is experiencing a Marleau-ian drop. I feel better about that late pick every day.

Todd Bertuzzi - again, he's a douche. But he's better than most of the guys that drop to the last round (in PIM leagues).

Mats Sundin - if "danger" is your middle name.

Brendan Shanahan - if "danger, but slightly dumber" is your middle name.*

Dan Boyle - He's not quite a Enron stock, but he tends to linger while the big name defenseman get picked. I think he's honestly Sergei Gonchar in a really ugly jersey. You've been warned

Martin Gerber - Everyone is writing off the Ottawa Senators. They might be right, but the Sens still have Spezza, Heatley, Alf and a few solid forwards. Who's to say they can't rebound against a possible one-year wonder in Montreal and the sadly dying Sabres? It might be worth a criminally late pick to find out.

Gerber might be my favorite sleeper goalie pick, but don't put all your eggs in that baby food jar.

* - I guess you'd have to have one of those crazy Mexican names for that to work, eh? EH?

...Tough crowd

  • Inexplicable hatred/considerable devalue list
Rick Nash - He burned me a few years ago. Bad teams make me worried.

Ilya Kovalchuk - Seems like a plausible candidate for "pouty mode."

Jose Theodore - I have no idea where to rank the guy. But I want no part of his former Hart trophy winning act.

Marian Gaborik - Injuries, skin disease and bland team. His coach does have a winning combover, however.

Niklas Lidstrom - He's awesome but gets drafted REALLY early. And he's starting to get into that "seriously, he's gotta slow down eventually" zone pretty soon.

Dion Phaneuf - He's either the best or second best defenseman in fantasy hockey, but he's getting drafted in the top 2 rounds. I just don't know if that's the best way to win a league.

(But with Lidstrom and Phaneuf it's like being an HDtv - even if you overpay you'll go home happy)

  • If you know the Southeast Division well, you might find the best sleeper goalie
When I first thought of which goalies I wanted, Cam Ward seemed like an interesting sleeper. He's on a decent team, with an improved defense. And he's in the most laughable division in hockey.

But Ward...kinda sucks. And Jose Theodore is hard to place. Who knows how good the Lightning will be - will they resemble a Mark Cuban joint or a Dan Snyder debacle? I actually think Kari Lehtonen has some talent, but the defense in front of him is pretty terrible.

So, if a team can dominate the Southeast, then that goalie could see 30-40 wins. But I'd say don't bother unless you have to.

Extended Talk Part 2: Cheat Sheet

Ultimately, you're going to be under a considerable amount of pressure with some of these drafts. For that reason, it's good to develop a cheat sheet or two. Here's more or less what I did/wish I did.

  • Links

Keep top whatever lists on hand when your brain won't work. The Yahoo and ESPN lists have come a long way, but sometimes they overvalue guys and undervalue guys who were injured. That's why I'd have some sleepers in mind when I would go into a draft.

Here's the main things I look at:

Chris Nichols from Sportsnet.ca: This guy is the best I've found in my somewhat lengthy travels. He just seems to have a great grasp on things and also is great in that he does frequent Q+A sessions to help people decide between very similar players and such. He came out with some great lists:

His awesome top 100 list, with "filler" for those extra rounds and honorable mentions

His top goalies list

Sleepers and rebounders (note: this one is better to look at before drafts, as it's harder to scan when you have that clock bitching at you)


There's some pretty silly ranks here (if you draft Jose Theodore #7 you deserved to be laughed out of the building...maybe even neutered) but it's not all bad. Plus, it has projections, which can help you decide who to draft when.
  • Know your categories
Knowing stat categories is hugely important.

For instance, you might be in a league that counts PIM - which will give you the odd feeling of joy when a player takes a dumb penalty (see: Bertuzzi, Todd). In a PIM league, Daniel Carcillo can become a pivotal fantasy player. In a league without, he's probably worthless.

The same goes for faceoff wins. Guys to remember in that category are Rod The Camel/The Bod Brindamour, Chris Drury and wingers who tend to get FW (guys like Iginla and Zetterberg fit that bill).

Also, here's a HUGE factor: take a look at how many goalie categories there are.

One league I'm in has 5/15 categories covered by goaltending numbers. That's quite a lot, but you can also shoot to get dominate offensive categories and still win a lot.

But another league has 4 offensive categories and 4 goalie categories. This makes goaltending HUGE. On a normal team you'd have 2-3 goalies (maybe 4) and at least 10 skaters. That puts an almost outrageous emphasis on getting goalies, since there's only maybe 5-15 elite/very good goalies.

So, again, keep in mind those kind of numbers.

  • For the love of God, check injury news before the draft

This is really important. The preseason can often bring season ending injuries and change the balance of power in the NHL. Keep your eyes on such news. There's nothing more awkward than getting the news that Marian Gaborik slipped on a noodle again when you made him your second round savior. Some guys who hurt, off the top of my head:

Sergei Zubov (unknown severity)
Sergei Gonchar (I wouldn't draft him - it could be bad)
Ryan Whitney (at least 2 months, from what I've read)
Justin Williams (might be season ending)

  • Also, here's my BUYER BEWARE list:

Marian Gaborik

If you draft him, you might be a gambling man. When he's healthy he's legitimately one of the most dangerous and most captivating players in the NHL. But his injury history is astonishing. At least Dominik Hasek waited til his 30's to have a macaroni groin.

Ed Jovanovski

Gaborik and Jovocop are two guys who had anamoly healthy seasons. Since Jovo seems to be going late in drafts, he might be worth the risk.

Sergei Gonchar and Zubov

Gonchar's injury is a scary mystery. Zubov is starting to fall apart.

Phillippe Boucher

Another Dallas Star who is absolutely injury prone.

Pavol Demitra

Theoretically, he could be a BIG steal. Especially if he plays Anson Carter to the Sedin twins. But this guy is the Wile E. Coyote of the NHL.

Erik Cole

The guy is fantastic to watch and has balls of steal, but you have to be cautious with a guy who suffered a broken neck. Just don't reach for him.

Martin Havlat

This guy is ridiculously talented, but he's as fragile as a pacifist in "The Big Lebowski." Might be worth a last round prayer.

Extended Talk Part 1: PIM guys to target

Here are some notable guys who can provide valuable PIMs while not totally wrecking your team in points:

  • Daniel Carcillo (he had more than 300 PIM last season!!!)

Carcillo is an interesting guy in fantasy - I picked him up with my 9th round pick in one league and I'm not sure if I was doing the old reach around. I'm not certain whether or not he was a reach for a simple reason: it's unclear how "unknown" he might be.

On one hand, there probably are very few casual hockey fans who have even seen or heard of the guy. Still, one click on the "PIM" button brings up his name and he's fairly high on the Yahoo! list.

He might not hit 300 PIM again but he actually has reasonable offensive skills, so I think of him as a less-notorious version of Sean Avery. My suggestion is to go with your gut and pick him in the 9-13th round range. He has the potential to win quite a few weeks worth of the PIM category by himself.

  • Todd Bertuzzi (usually in the 40-60 point range and nearly a lock for 100+ PIM)

Every year, I make the same fantasy hockey deal with the devil and get Bertuzzi. Thankfully his stock has plummeted to the point that I've gotten him for bargain basement deals - and you should be able to as well.

Really, in the hysterical spots I've been drafting him (second to last round of a 10-team draft, absolute last pick in a 24-round draft) he very well could be a great asset even with pretty crummy points totals.

The biggest bright spot is that Calgary is where offense goes to die, so their lack of depth at forward might give the big asshole a chance to line up with Jarmoe from time-to-time. Don't bet on that, naturally, but it just shows how much of a steal the guy can be.

A douchey steal, but a steal nonetheless.

  • Chris Pronger (usually good for 40-50 points and pretty high PIM)

At one point Dion Phaneuf was the next Pronger, but now the artist formerly known as the Orbs is a poor man's Phaneuf (at least in fantasy and to Elisha Cuthbert). It's rare to find defensive guys with both point scoring and penalty potential, so Pronger is a solid D guy. In my mnd he's a weak No. 1 and an extremely strong No. 2 D guy on a strong fantasy team.

  • Jarmoe (a first round guy, great points, PIM and a smile that could make him a Dryden-sque politician in Canada once he retires)

Iginla is one of those do-everything superhuman guys. You know, the type of guys typically discredited by lowlifes such as myself because they're too damn perfect.

He's probably the best power forward in hockey right now, but fantasy vets remember that he once had a reputation as a slow starter. I'd be cautious to draft him too high; if it came down to Dany Heatley and Jarmoe I'd take the poor driving Heatley in most formats.

  • Sean Avery (wildly unpredictable, but he almost certainly will get great PIM)

The problem with Avery - other than the fact that he's the most divisive force in hockey aside from Gary Bettman - is the fact that he's gone from diamond in the rough to overrated.

I've seen people* draft him as early as the fourth round while obvious dynamos such as Dan Boyle were left blowin' in the wind. Honestly, I'd only draft him a round or two higher than Carcillo. He's a good pickup but draft him appropriately.

* - idiots.

  • Rick Nash (highlight reel gold club member, terrible awful no good very bad team around him)

I used to be high on this guy but he burnt me pretty bad one year. Now I probably underrate him too much. He's a guy who scores a ton, shoots a lot and gets plenty of PIM. He's also improved his D enough that he won't destroy your plus-minus.

Really, Nash is one of those guys who could be a third round steal. Even if I have some bizarre grudge against the guy (maybe it's his facial hair?)

  • Dany Heatley - Sidney Crosby

These two guys are worth noting for being top 10 players who can put up really good PIM numbers. Crosby might get the nod over Ovechkin for some because of his PIM, but really the Crosby-Ovie debate is a coin toss at this point.

Heatley is my choice for this year's "Other White Meat." By that I mean, f I can't have one of the NHL's biggest media darlings I would take Heater next. Aside from Ovechkin, he's the most automatic threat for a 50 goal season if healthy (Kovalchuk is up there, but his linemates are a joke).

So, in my book Heatley beats Brodeur, Zetterberg, Malkin etc. Take that to the...bank?

  • Vinny Lecavalier

For some reason, I've always underestimated Vinny L but keep your eyes peeled for this guy. He's another elite scorer who can put up some PIMs albeit unpredictably. Just sayin'.

  • Brendan Morrow

He was a beast in the playoffs, but every draft I've had he's gone surprising early. Still, if he slips to the 5th round or slow scoop him up like mashed potatoes.

  • Mike Richards

This guy has big time slippage potential. He's a not-all-that-poor man's Ryan Getzlaf. Keep your eyes peeled for him too.

  • Ryan Getzlaf

Speaking of which, Getzlaf is one of my favorite could-be 3rd or 4th round type guys. He's:

a) The best forward on a team that won the Cup two years ago.
b) A guy who should get about 80 PIM
c) Should maintain a great plus-minus
d) Even has a humorous bald spot for comic relief!

Haven't seen a total package like that since Mr. Perfect!

  • Corey Perry

Sure, he's an even bigger douche that Getzlaf. But his douchery should put him in that rariefied 60-70 pt, 100 PIM good plus-minus range. Plus he should drop further than his balding partner in quacky crime.