5 weeks have gone by of the NHL and Fantasy Hockey season. By now in most fantasy hockey leagues it should be clear who has a solid team and who needs a little bit of work. The inconsistent chaos of the first couple weeks has passed and both NHL and Fantasy Hockey teams have come to show their true nature (for the most part). So whether you are at the top of your fantasy hockey league or near the bottom, here are some things to think about going forward in your quest for the ultimate bragging rights among your friends.
# of Player Appearances per Week:
Depending on the roster size and league size of your league, you may want to pay more attention to your fantasy hockey team’s amount of player appearances per week. For the sake of this topic I will refer to this as your roster’s “strength of schedule”. In very large leagues (many teams with larger than average rosters) to very small leagues (few teams with smaller than average rosters), you should try to understand your roster’s “strength of schedule”. So what do I mean by your roster’s “strength of schedule” in fantasy hockey? I am talking about the amount of player appearances you have per week compared to other rosters in your league.
Having 1 less player appearance than a rival fantasy hockey team is nothing to fret about, but sometimes I personally have noticed teams tend to struggle when they have 7 or more absent player appearances than their opponents over the course of a fantasy hockey week. A fantasy hockey team tends to suffer from low amounts of player appearances when that team has many players from the same team or their roster has many players that play on the same day, forcing a General Manager to sit some good players.
So if after you investigate your team’s strength of schedule and you feel you need more player appearances, you should add players that are from other teams that you currently don’t have players from or utilize a “carousel” approach. The “carousel” approach means simply to constantly add/drop weaker players throughout the week utilizing all your add/drops per week to get the maximum amount of appearances possible (i.e. if you have a weak player with a game on Monday and Wednesday, but no more that week, you can drop them for another player that has games later that same week). I don’t recommend ever dropping valuable players as part of the “carousel” strategy for obvious reasons. Additionally, some leagues have limits to the amount of players that you can pick up from free agency and waivers in a season, so please read over your league rules before utilizing the “carousel” approach.
Importance of Goaltending:
It is no surprise that in the modern NHL, goaltending is arguably the most important part of a successful team. This is largely due to a huge advancement in goaltending in recent years and less advancement in the forwards/defense ability over that same time. Spencer touches on this idea in this article about wanting to see a modern Dynasty team in the NHL. This has obviously held true in the fantasy hockey world as well. In my league we actually made an effort to try and diminish the role of the goaltender by adding more skater stats. At first the only teams winning were ones with good goaltending, since those 2-3 players accounted for 40-50% of your stats while the remaining 13-14 players only accounted for 50-60%. Although more skater stats do diminish the amount that a single goalie effects your respective score each week, I would still argue that no matter how many skater stats you add, goaltenders will still be the single largest impact on your weekly score. This is because even with a lower percentage of stat categories for goaltenders, each individual goaltenders stats still affect that categories score in a much higher percentage than any skater effects his stat categories. One bad game by a skater can easily be overcome by the other skaters throughout the course of a week, a bad goaltender appearance on the other hand is much harder to overcome in a fantasy hockey week.
The IR Carousel:
Is it just me or does it seem like there are a lot more injuries in the NHL this season? I feel like every player has missed some time. This effects fantasy hockey teams everywhere. Every league has their own rules about how day-to-day and Injury Reserve (IR) players can be treated, so plan accordingly. I personally take the approach of holding as many players at once as possible. In example, even if my team is completely healthy, I fill my IR positions with players from the free agency who are injured. I then only tend to take someone off IR when someone not currently on my IR is eligible to be placed on IR. This allows me to have the back-up players I want at all times instead of hoping a good player is available when I need to cover someone on IR. Essentially with this strategy you have more control over how you react to injuries of your players. Again, be careful because the “carousel” approach has limitations if you league imposes restrictions on the amount of players you can add from free agency/waivers in a season.
The larger your roster is in your league, the more valuable multi-positional eligible players become. They can help boost your roster’s “strength of schedule” discussed above by allowing you to not have to bench as many players on busy game days and thus fill as many positions on your active roster for each day as possible. Even if the multi-positional player isn’t ranked as high as a specific positional player, they may actually help your fantasy hockey team more as they could easily get more appearances for your team. Of course, don’t expect most multi-positional players to help you as much as Brent Burns or Dustin Byfuglien. They are kind of an outlier as you can get forward level production while playing him in your defenseman position.
So how many of you have used or improved on these fantasy hockey strategies? Have you found things that other strategies that work better? Check back next week for the next installment in my Around the Arena Series, where I will have my personal take on the ideas of NHL expansion. And for more fantasy hockey thoughts, check back here in two weeks for the next post in my Four Fantasy Hockey Footnotes Series and make sure to check out all the other great articles on BeerLeagueBlog.
Cover Photo by: NHL.com