by Forechecker on 09/18/08 at 05:10 PM ET
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.
We all know there’s at least one guy in every league who thinks he’s going to outsmart the rest of the room by reaching for some pedestrian winger in the 3rd or 4th round, when in fact he could have had that same player much later on. He’ll justify the selection with a steady stream of analytical points (citing potential linemates, unforeseen weakness in divisional opponents, etc.) and conclude with his confident prediction that this player will easily produce X goals or Y assists based on his determination.
Chances are, this guy just made a very bad pick and will live to regret it.
The problem, of course, is that at this time of year, optimism is riding high. Every team looks so much better on paper than they do in midseason, as injuries take their toll, line juggling changes the roles of individual players, and trades start to occur.
So with that being said, what sort of adjustments should you make to a standard cheat sheet?
1. Late Breaking Updates: Take a look at your projection sheet and try to understand how current it is. Does it show Ryan Whitney playing 75 games for Pittsburgh, despite news from weeks ago that he’ll miss months due to injury? If that’s the case, you’ll need to take into account major events since then and make sure guys like Alexander Radulov (defection) and Justin Williams (Achilles tendon injury) are discounted heavily. You don’t want to be that guy who gets laughed at for drafting someone who won’t even play until the All-Star break.
2. Fine Tuning: While website projections are useful enough for a league-wide view, any semi-rabid hockey fan has a good idea how the depth chart should look relative to their own team. Is there someone flying under the mainstream radar that’s likely to be that 2nd pair defenseman on the power play, thus getting more offensive opportunity than they’ve had before? Or a role player who may start the season on one of your team’s scoring lines? For example, in Nashville, Dan Hamhuis is likely to see his PP time bumped up by 50% this year, due to the Marek Zidlicky trade, and last season Vern Fiddler made a good depth player for me in the early going after I saw him play regularly alongside Jason Arnott and J.P. Dumont in exhibition games. Everybody can draft superstars in the early rounds, but rounding out your roster with contributing role players can put your team over the top.
3. I Said “Fine” Tuning: Don’t go overboard with those revisions! Guys very rarely double their production from one year to the next, and making sure your tweaks are within reason is essential. One quick way to do this is to look at the characteristics of a player’s point production over at NHL.com. With Hamhuis, for example, last season he earned 8 points on the power play; a bump in his PP time of 50% is thus likely to be worth around 4 points. The actual result may be 2, it may be 6, but it probably won’t be 10 or 15! Just make sure to keep in mind the balance between even strength and PP time, and don’t overshoot your projections.
4. Track Your Adjustments: Moderate adjustments for the situations above are entirely appropriate to make, and it’s important to understand where your projections differ significantly from the common wisdom. As a visual cue I might highlight upward revisions in green and downward revisions in red on my spreadsheet, so that I know on Draft Day that if a handful of similarly-ranked players are available, and I see one in green, I can probably wait a bit and get that player in the next round, because others likely don’t have him projected so highly. Similarly, you can smirk as you see someone you’ve red-flagged get drafted early by an opponent, confident in your supposition that there’s now one more good player left on the board for you.
Success in your fantasy hockey league is largely driven by your performance on Draft Day, and preparation, of course, is key to that effort. Keep boning up on those season previews, and check back for the rest of the Forechecker’s Fantasy Hockey System in the days ahead.
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