Everyone loves the Olympic men's hockey tournament. For poolies, though, there's a downside: the NHL's two-week hiatus means no fantasy teams to manage and no players to track through hot and cold streaks.
If you're anything like us (which is to say, you may have a gambling problem), you struggle to go 13 days in the middle of winter with no NHL action. So why not organize an Olympic hockey pool for the guys in your fantasy league? Hey, it beats following the Slovak Extraliga.
Never been in an Olympic pool before? Don't know where to start? We're here to help. Here's three ideas from each of us for easy-to-organize pools: one basic, one with a few wrinkles, and one that's downright wacky.
All stats are through Wednesday.
IDEA I (Jesse)
The system: Pick any 10 skaters (forwards or defencemen). The team with the most points (goals plus assists) at the end of the Olympics wins.
The strategy: Looks easy on the surface, but wait 'til you sit down to try to whittle your list to 10. Not only do you have to predict who the highest scorers will be, you also must take into account which countries will advance the farthest, because they'll have more opportunities to rack up the points.
Fun factor: The format couldn't be easier, and it's familiar to people who have entered playoff pools using these rules, which are pretty common. Getting people around the office to sign up — even if they're non-hockey fans — shouldn't be hard.
IDEA I (Jordan)
The system: Take your basic idea above and make it a bit more challenging by, instead of picking any 10 players, taking five from each of the three Olympic groups.
The strategy: Some tough choices must be made because it makes sense to load up on players from the teams you think will advance from each group. Sure, Russia seems like a lock in Group B, but do you think the Czechs or the Slovaks will join them in the playoff round?
Fun factor: Your team will be stacked, and because it's spread out over all the groups, you'll have players to root for in a lot more games. So when the U.S. takes the ice, you can follow Patrick Kane. When Sweden is on, Daniel Alfredsson. For the Czechs, maybe Milan Michalek. To name just a few.
IDEA II (Jordan)
The System: Pick any 15 skaters, but you can't take more than one from any NHL team.
The strategy: A lot of stars play for the same pro club. Right off the bat, you have to decide between the Penguins' Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin. The Sharks' Dany Heatley, Patrick Marleau and Joe Thornton. And so on.
Fun factor: With so many possible variations, everyone's team is bound to look a lot different. Maybe the best part is that, even though it's creative, this format is not overly complex. It would be easy to get a pool like this going in your office or with your friends.
IDEA II (Jesse)
The system: Pick one skater from each of the 12 teams in the Olympic tournament. Most points wins.
The strategy: Decisions, decisions. How do you choose between Canada's Crosby and Thornton, who are tied for third in the NHL with 67 points? Or between Russia's Malkin and Alex Ovechkin, the last two Art Ross Trophy winners? Which of Sweden's Sedin twins do you take? Oh, and then there's the problem of figuring out who to pick from such lightweight countries as Germany and Latvia. You may have to brush up on your Euro league stats to figure out who the stars are.
Fun factor: More appeal for hardcore hockey fans (admit it, you can't wait to figure out who will lead Norway in scoring).
IDEA III (Jesse)
The system: Pick any 10 skaters, with their total NHL points from this season capped at 500.
The strategy: Where to start? Do you load up on top scorers like Henrik Sedin and Marian Gaborik, then hope for the best from the bottom of your lineup? Or do you seek a more balanced approach? Actually, the best idea is to pick guys who've missed significant time with injuries this season, and thus have artificially low point totals (think Daniel Sedin). And how about adding a few non-NHL guys, who won't count toward your points cap, leaving more room for the big guns?
Fun factor: Depends on your dedication level. This pool is diabolical because the lineup combinations are virtually limitless. You'll always feel like you can make your team better, so be prepared for a lot of sleepless, lonely nights. Just you and your calculator.
IDEA III (Jordan)
The system: Pick 15 skaters: 10 from the NHL and five from Europe.
The strategy: You need worldly knowledge here. How successful was Mattias Weinhadl when he played in the AHL and NHL? Has Ziggy Palffy been productive since his North American exit? Who is Stefan Liv?
Fun factor: This pool is for the most well-rounded of hockey nuts, who will enjoy showing off their expertise on non-NHL leagues. If you lack the knowledge, you risk exposure to the world!