Sun Tzu may not have coached in the National Hockey League, but his Art of War contains a nugget of wisdom that any NHL head coach would be wise to follow: “One who knows the enemy and knows himself will not be in danger in a hundred battles”. Fantasy hockey managers need to heed this warning as well; knowing the preferences and tendencies of your competition can help identify opportunities to land that one additional player at the position you need to make your fantasy hockey team a success. It takes some cold calculation and a bit of daring, but the reward can outweigh the risk…
Shea Weber draws the comparisons with Dion Phaneuf, and Ryan Suter gets the star treatment, but nobody contributes more to the success of the Nashville Predators defense corps than Dan Hamhuis, the 25 year-old who enters his 5th NHL season this fall. His regular selections to represent Team Canada at the annual World Championships are a testament to his ability to handle tough assignments and deliver solid two-way play.
Okay, folks, I’ve given you a few hours to get your Monday morning crises out of the way at work. Now it’s time to close the office door, clear your desk of distractions, and get down to what you truly need to accomplish this week; preparing a cheat sheet for your Fantasy Hockey draft. Now as you go about this critical task, be sure to take those “Top 10 centers” lists with a grain of salt. While one person’s listing may be appropriate for a standard league, the customized nature of fantasy hockey means that if you’re going to get the best value off the draft board, you need to tailor your rankings to your specific situation. It takes a little bit of work, but it’s well worth the effort.
Nashville Predators fans were horrified last season when Shea Weber injured his knee during the first shift of the first game; it was a kick in the gut to a fan base that had taken quite a licking over the previous summer. When young Ville Koistinen stepped into the breach and started playing regularly, nobody knew what to expect initially. For that first month, very little happened. Koistinen’s Plus/Minus figure was 0 for every game in October, and he failed to score a single point; it was like the guy was destined to stay away from the highlight reel, either as a hero or victim. As the calendar turned over to November, however, the trends all turned solidly positive, and by the end of the year, the results were astounding; he finished second on the team in Plus/Minus to Jason Arnott with +13 in 48 games played, and put up 17 points along the way.
As hockey poolies everywhere these days busily scour the preview guides and prepare their draft sheets, countless hours are spent adjusting the vanilla projections that most fantasy hockey GM’s download from their favorite website. For far too many aspiring Ken Hollands, however, there end up being more than a few Mike Milbury-like disasters in the making, and this highlights the first portion of the Forechecker’s Fantasy Hockey System: Don’t Pretend You Have A Crystal Ball. Knowing which types of adjustments you should make to your player projections, and how large those adjustments should be, will not only save you precious hours that can better be spent playing NHL09 or watching The Hockey Show, it could make or break your fantasy hockey draft.
Last year at this time, Dan Ellis was attending the Nashville Predators training camp just hoping to land a steady gig, most likely in the AHL with the Milwaukee Admirals. By the end of the season, however, he was the toast of Music City, leading the team on an improbable drive into the playoffs, posting the NHL’s longest shutout streak and highest total save percentage along the way. So what does Ellis have in store for this season? He now comes to camp as the #1 goalie, with a two-year contract and a shot at stardom with a team that expects to improve.
Last season Jerred Smithson became an every-night regular at the NHL level, playing 81 games for Nashville after 64 and 66 in the previous two campaigns. His even-strength work on a line with Radek Bonk and Jed Ortmeyer was pretty awful; I’ve said before that this may have been the worst line in the NHL last year.
One of the questions that Nashville Predators fans worried over earlier this summer was whether the team would be able to retain both Ryan Suter and Shea Weber, the two high-profile restricted free agents due for major pay increases. Now that he’s locked up for four more seasons at $3.5 million per, the focus shifts to how much of a step forward Suter will take as he shakes off the young rookie label and fills a key role on the Predators blue line.
NHL training camps open later this month, so naturally the hockey poolies are starting to come out again, scooping up fantasy hockey guides at the bookstores and snooping their way around the internet to get the latest information on player transactions, depth charts, and projections for the upcoming NHL season. Last year I had the honor of participating in James Mirtle’s Bloggers Invitational, and did quite well in the regular season before pulling up lame in the playoffs. I’m bound and determined to finish the deal this season, and along the way I thought I’d share some of the tools and techniques that have helped me over the years. The nice thing about these methods is that they apply to pretty much any fantasy sport, as they’ve served me successfully over the course of 15+ seasons of fantasy football as well.
One of the interesting storylines to follow during training camp later this month will be the progress of Antti Pihlstrom, the Finnish agitator who has an outside shot at landing a roster spot with the Predators. After leading the AHL’s Milwaukee Admirals in goal scoring (with 27 in 78 games), is Pihlstrom ready for the big stage in Music City?