by Forechecker on 09/22/08 at 02:19 PM ET
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.
The key here is to take the scoring categories that determine your league’s weekly results, and weigh your player projections accordingly. For example, if your league doesn’t reward penalty minutes, does it make sense to use a player ranking system that includes PIMs in the formula? What I hope to provide here is a roadmap on how to get your rankings to fit most closely to your league’s scoring criteria. DANGER: This does involve a moderate amount of spreadsheet work, so only the hardiest (or is that geekiest?) of souls dare tread ahead…
Your starting point is to get projections for the upcoming season in spreadsheet form. You can download a cheat sheet from a number of locations on the web; the bottom line is to have something workable (i.e., not so out of date that it’s got Ryan Whitney playing 82 games and lighting it up for Pittsburgh), and with enough columns of data to cover your needs. At a bare minimum for skaters you’ll need Goals, Assists, Shots On Goal, PIMs, and +/-. For goalies, you’ll probably need Wins, Save %, GAA and Shutouts. Now, compare this against the scoring categories for your league. As an example, I participated in two fantasy hockey leagues last season, with different scoring systems:
League 1: Skaters (G, A, +/-, PIM, PPP, SHP, SOG) Goalies (W, GAA, SV%, SHO)
League 2: Skaters (G, A, +/-, PIM, PPG, PPA, GWG, SOG) Goalies (W, GAA, SV, SV%, SHO)
As you can see, League 1 rewarded Shorthanded Points, while League 2 split Power Play work into PP Goals and PP Assists, while also rewarding total saves for goaltenders. If I used the same rankings across both leagues I’d make some poor selections in one, the other, or (most likely) both.
The solution, then, is to determine rankings within each one of these scoring categories based on my player projections, and then combine all of those scores into a single, overall ranking that reflects each player’s likely performance for that specific league.
Step 1 (Projections): As a practical example, let’s work with my own, highly precise forecasts for a selection of fictional hockey stars, and we’ll use League 1 above as our scoring example. Once you’ve got your spreadsheet filled with player projections, add columns to the right for each of your scoring categories (in this case G, A, Plus/Minus, PIM, PPP, SHP, and SOG) and then one more column to hold the total rank. I’d recommend splitting the positions that you’re drafting for into different tabs on the spreadsheet, so if your league has specific slots for C, RW, and LW, you’ll want three separate tabs; if they’re lumped together as Forwards, you can combine them. Go ahead and tweak the individual player projections as you see fit, covering the fact that Justin Williams is out for several months, etc.
Step 2 (Ranking): Next, we need to set up those ranking columns. First, create a column to the right of your projection data for each scoring category (“G Rk”, “A Rk”, etc.), then lastly a column for Total Rank. Now, you will most likely not have a projection column for each scoring category in your particular league, for instance Shorthanded Points. For situations like that you have two choices; first, you can come up with your own projections (adding a new column and plugging in your own figures), or second, use a proxy value like Total Points, and base your ranking in Shorthanded Points on the Total Points for each player. It’s obviously not going to be hyper-accurate, but in terms of the best use of your time, it’s better to have your overall rankings properly weighted; you can always come back later and tweak things if you’re not comfortable with a particular area.
To get the ranking in each category, you can use the RANK function in Excel, Open Office Calc, or Google Spreadsheets, and fortunately the format is consistent across all 3 applications. The final “Tot Rank” column is simply the sum of all the ranking columns. I’m performing these steps using a Google Spreadsheet that you can copy for your own use. I tested the Export function in Google and if you dump it using the “.xls” format, the formulas will come over properly for you.
One important point here is to avoid putting too many players into the spreadsheet, because they’ll screw up the Plus/Minus rankings (you’ll have hundreds of players with minimal playing time clogging up the middle at 0, overly penalizing poor performers in that measure). A good guideline is to add up all the ranking columns EXCEPT Plus/Minus, and sort by that total value (lowest to highest values). Figure out how many players are likely to be drafted (if you have 10 teams and plan for 8 forwards per team, that would be 80 forwards) and add 10-20%. Delete everyone below that out of your sheet, and then bring Plus/Minus back into your total rankings. Resort on that “Tot Rk” column, and you’re ready to rock. You now have a league-specific cheat sheet that you can use on Draft Day.
If you want to get a sense of how this spreadsheet can guide your draft strategy, try creating a chart that shows how the Tot Rk value progresses (a sample can be found on Sheet2 above); look for areas where several players have similar values, and also for where the big jumps take place between groupings. Besides, tweaking a pretty multicolor chart looks sufficiently work-like to keep your boss of your back while you decide just how badly Sergei Gonchar’s injury is going to impact your choices on defense.
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