Well, here we are, on the precipice of a new hockey season. I am infinitely because my Washington Capitals have, on paper, probably the best team they’ve skated since the 1990s. Let’s put my baseball days, particularly an unceremonious last place finish in the single fantasy league I managed this year far, far behind us.
This season I am playing in two leagues. The first is the keeper league I played in the last few seasons and the second is a new roto league where I know at least a few of the guys are serious effin hockey fans. It should prove to be pretty exciting if both of my teams can at least meat my expectations.
The previous few seasons I played in a single keeper league. It’s deep both in number of teams and number of players each manager can have. It’s roto and there are a lot of stats to follow along with the complexity of planning your team from season to season from the keeper perspective. I’ve owned it being the only manager to pull off back to back wins and the best season-over-season record of the five (or six, I’m not positive) remaining original managers. The couple of active owners joke about how the league is structured because it always starts strong on October, then it goes unmanned for months at a time only to become super competitive in the stretch and post-season. I absolutely adore the challenge it possess from that and it means I can take the liberty of some interesting chances in how I manage my bench trying to anticipate how players will progress or decline. I didn’t start with a defined strategy but so far, I’ve been trying to identify guys worth picking up on the upswing of their career to augment the standard names that drive stats. It’s not just about winning this year, it’s about building a franchise and that does influence how I manage, which is in part why I think I keep winning. Plus, I look to the west coast teams when possible because it’s an Eastcentric kind of league
The other league is intriguing because it’s a much smaller roster and much fewer managerial categories plus you’re drafting for a single season as opposed to thinking longer term. It puts a lot of emphasis on win now, but because we ran the draft multiple times I noticed a few interesting trends to try and use. First was that we hold four full time D which use the same stats as the forwards but everyone was drafting heavy on forwards and leaving D till later rounds potentially allowing for them to have up to four unfriendly stat positions weighing them down. It’s also a short bench so secondly I figured it was worth having strong multi-positional players to maximize daily exposure and provide the inevitable flexibility for injuries. Finally, goalies go late, except two, and you’ll see what happened in my picks to understand how I leveraged that with rosters after the jump
League One – Keeper Keeper, where you get those…
…Great players. We are able to protect up to six total forwards, this season the only prereq was that the combination needed to cover each of the three possible forwards in some way. The D was two and the G was one meaning 9 (rather than 7 like last year). The roster layout remains essentially intact as well at 6 forwards (2 centers, 4 wingers), 4 d-men, 1 goalie but only 2 misc. slots (down from 4) to fill per day and only 4 bench players (down from 6) in reserve this time bringing us back down to 18 total players on-roster.
I’ll explain my keepers to start with
C/LW Patrick Marleau (SJ) -PM’s a top 50 pick easy and dual availability helps. the extra “stress” of having to perform in a “rejiggered SJ should help his numbers and I wasn’t holding anyone better.
RW/LW Alex Ovechkin (Wash) – AO8 is without fail one of the best picks you can have y/y, dual availability kicks in 8 games in so I’m marking it now. Better support off the Caps top line would also help on ESG (and the dreaded +/- isn’t one of our stats so…)
C Anze Kopitar (LAK) – Kops is pulling into the prime of his career, I had to ride him
C/RW Phil Kessle (Tor) – Kess is who he is. At this point Toronto just needs to ride his offense out and I intend on doing the same because when he’s on, and I believe he will be again this year, he can be pretty lethal, and the dual availability certainly doesn’t hurt.
RW Jordan Eberle (Edm) – I hit the button on this potentially without thinking it through, hold your breath! Every move has an oops moment!
RW/D Brent Burns (SJ) – Dual D/FW helps but he’s moving probably back to D full time, so… I expect his his boxcarss to fall from where they were when he jumped to forward. In that, he should get solid PP time and enough freedom to hop up on the plays. I’m not expecting Mike Green from a few years back kind of numbers but he should be among the elite with the sniper shot he has.
D/RW Dustin Byfuglien (Win) – DB’s knack for his ability to produce (albeit streaky), plus knowing I had a high pick in the redraft roto to fill in a D spot and BB’s existing dual availability it was more a short term strategic move, someone will put in a trade offer and I’m sure I’ll entertain it.
D Keith Yandle (Pho) – KY-P is consistent (and we don’t count +/-) so he’s worth quite a bit augmenting the primary offensive driven stats.
G Jimmy Howard (Det) – I don’t have a long term goalie option after misdirecting my support for Howard rather than Price, but… I have a plan, or something.
The league had one team leave and be replaced plus we added one new manager , so I picked first of our existing managers due to my success. Unlike in real life where you’re given a nod for failure to help produce parity, our league rewards success so after the new team(s) took care of their initial draft business I was up first before the rest of the order was randomized.
With that #1 pick I, obviously, took
D Duncan Keith (Chi) because there was NO reason for him to be sitting available (the outgoing team held Stubban, Weber and Duncan BTW so all three freed up, the former immediately picked in the new manager portion of the draft).
Then in the subesquent rounds I filled out the team with retreds from my former team that weren’t picked up which wasn’t a surprise on these because of their average rank takes
RW Kyle Okposo (NYI) – I don’t know what to make of the Isles but if they keep Kyles line intact, as they should, he should at least put up some serious enough to balance out what feels like a light right side for me.
C/RW Gustuv Nyquest (DET) – occasionally underperformed on an always underperforming team last year but with age and injuries bound to take a toll around him I’m hoping he finds his stride among the youth they do have in the motor city and the dual availability doens’t hurt
meanwhile the rest of the team I took chances like
C/LW Alexander Steen (Stl) – the early part of last season was probably an anomaly before the injury, but StL is pretty high output so I expect some decent numbers
C/LW Andre Burakovsky (Was) – He’s opening as a second line center, he plays technically both wings and that gives Trotz flexibility with the kid on the 2nd line C or LW, as 3C or anywhere on the 4th, or crazy enough anchoring the spot on the 1st that Johannson used to occupy, assuming he stays up in the big club.
D Mark Streit (Phi) – Since D are contributors to offense stats, of course I’m taking a guy who’s second half saw him put up solid numbers
D Brian Campbell
D Justin Faulk (Car)
G Braden Holtby (Was) – holt’s numbers when he wasn’t playing AO style too far back in goal sucked, but his even strength .920+ during the months when he did his own thing are a great platform which I expect Korn to springboard him from
So here’s the final 18 as they would layout in roster, you can probably guess how I’m this is going to go:
LW/RW Alex Ovechkin (Wash)
C/LW Patrick Marleau (SJ)
C/LW Alexander Steen (Stl)
C/LW Andre Burakovsky (Was)
C Anze Kopitar (LAK)
C/RW Phil Kessle (Tor)
C/RW Gustuv Nyquest (DET)
RW Kyle Okposo (NYI)
RW Jordan Eberle (Edm)
RW/D Brent Burns (SJ)
D/RW Dustin Byfuglien (Win)
D Keith Yandle (Pho)
D Mark Streit (Phi)
D Brian Campbell
D Justin Faulk (Car)
G Jimmy Howard (Det)
G Braden Holtby (Was)
Now, as we transition between leagues, you should note what can be perceived …
Team Two – dual availability peek-a-boo
It’s a nine team deep league, set up with 2 of each forward position, 4 D, 1 G and four bench. That means there a lot of flexibility on the waiver wire, especially with no moves limits, and a number of potentially good names out there already. There’s only eight categories for points when is much less than we play in the other league too thus allowing for real focus rather than roster diversity.
We drafted a couple of times before the commish got it right (don’t ask, it was a whole lot of locked out of the draft technical issues influencing things). I noticed a couple of thing right away in the “mock” drafts such as big D-men starting to go as early as the late 2nd round, Goalies (apart from two or three really big names) not going till into the 5th and 6th, and of the big name forwards dual emphasis going earlier even when a better single position guy was available. I was already figuring on drafting D early and targeting dual availability so having other managers tip their cards was interesting when we actually did the draft for real.
I took with my first pick Evangi Malkin. Despite whatever ‘injury’ threat there could be he puts up great numbers and has dual availability, plus AO8 was taken just one spot before leaving Malkin as my next best option anyhow of the guys I was targeting in the first round. You’ll noticed some cross over between my picks in the two leagues, it’s not because I really value those guys extra, it’s just how it worked out. Everyone except Backy has dual availability which gives me the most flexibility to put up as full a roster as possible every night. I picked him up because he was still available later than I expected to see him and despite being C-only I think probably one of the most undervalued guys both in the NHL and in fantasy leagues.
LW/RW Dustin Brown (LAK)
C/LW Patrick Marleau (SJ)
C/LW Alexander Steen (StL)
C/LW Valtteri Flippula (TB)
IR C/LW Brandon Dubinsky (Cls) **
C Nicklas Backstrom (Wash)
C/RW Evangi Malkin (Pit)
C/RW Ryan Kessler (Ana)
C/RW Gustav Nyquest (Det)
Third and forth picks I sacrificed upper-level tier-2 forward choices to pick up key defensive players. I knew there were managers targeting D in the early rounds so it was imperative to move early myself since all the stats are offense minded to grab guys on D that can contribute and not waste those spots. Think about it like this, a tier-2 D-man available in the middle rounds probably puts up less offense than even a T-3 FWD that will be sitting on the waiver wire after the draft, so from a roster maximization end it seemed like the right thing to do.
D Shea Weber (Nash)
D Duncan Keith (Chi)
D Olider Ekman-Larsson (Pho)
D Mark Streit (Phi)
D Brian Campbell (Fla)
I wasn’t intending on drafting a goalie early, but with King Henrick available early in the second round I grabbed him as my #2 pick. In the next couple of picks ending round two and entering round three other big goalies moved, so I either started the trend or moved at the right time because everyone was thinking the same. I believe in carrying two goalies, Holts was the right backup for me as my final pick of the night.
G Henrick Lunqvist (NYR)
G Braden Holtby (Wash)
** when I drafted Dubes he missed a couple of practices but was skating and everyone was insisting he wouldn’t miss time. Late Tuesday he hit the IR and by Wednesday AM he had undergone surgery and is out 6 weeks. I’m awaiting waiver wire release to see who I can pick up in his stead in the mean time. There’s some solid LWs to pick from but no one of useful dual availability.
So, there you have it. Two leagues complete, let the fantasy begin!