For die-hard hockey fans, it's been one long summer since the Chicago Blackhawks hoisted the Stanley Cup. But the wait for the new season is almost over, which means it's time to start thinking fantasy hockey.
CBCSports.ca's fantasy "gurus" (and by "gurus" we mean "degenerate gamblers") Jordan Shifman and Jesse Campigotto are back to face off on three hot fantasy topics each week in Fantasy Hockey 1-on-1. This week, the guys give their advice on how to set up your league for the 2010-11 NHL season.
Don't have a league yet and looking to join one? CBCSports.ca has three great hockey pools, all with fabulous prizes to be won. Details to follow at a later date.
And don't forget you can get more expert fantasy hockey info (and maybe a few laughs) all season long by following Jesse and Jordan on Twitter.
1. What's the best fantasy league format: head-to-head or points?
Jordan: There's no doubt, the best type of league on the planet is head-to-head (or H2H). There are endless reasons why head-to-head is better than points, but let's take a look at just a few: First, they aren't boring. Every week, you've got a one-on-one matchup, so you have a reason to razz, make fun and trash talk. Plus, you've got a direct target. And if you think that's fun in the regular season, wait until your fantasy league's playoffs when the stakes get really high. Second, they last the full season. Yeah, technically a points league does, too, but the season is largely over for many managers by the all-star break because they're so far out of the race. H2H pools often go right down to the wire. For the most part, it's not impossible for teams to recover from being low in the standings, while ones at the top don't have the breathing room to relax and coast to victory. Managers have a real reason to pay attention the whole season, watch the waiver wire, make trade offers and adjust their rosters in H2H leagues.
Jesse: I can't believe I'm saying this, but I agree with you. Sort of. Head-to-head leagues are great, and I want to set up mine in that format. But here's the problem: Yahoo! (the site almost everyone uses to run their leagues) doesn't allow me to use my own custom-made points-based scoring system (more on this later) in the head-to-head format. The only system they allow for head-to-head leagues is a rotisserie-style, where two opponents are matched against each other in a bunch of categories (goals, assists, goalie wins, etc.) and whomever wins more of those categories wins that week's matchup. Sorry, but I don't think winning a bogus category like penalty minutes should be worth the same as winning a legit category like goals. I think, for example, that goals should be worth more than assists, and penalty minutes should cost you points. When Yahoo! starts allowing me to go head-to-head using my own scoring system, I'm in. But as long as they force me to do H2H their way, forget it.
2. Should power-play stats get their own scoring category?
Jordan: They're a necessity. Why would you ever purposely take away value from a player and make them more one-dimensional? Take defencemen for example. Most fantasy pools require you to draft at least two defenders. As it is, each year there are only a small handful that can produce like forwards, such as Mike Green, Sergei Gonchar and Drew Doughty. If you miss out on guys like that and your pool doesn't keep track of power-play assists, you have a big problem. Then you're likely to end up with some dead weight on your roster. But if your pool does reward players that get time on the power-play unit, someone like Kurtis Foster (23 power-play assists, tied for third among defencemen last year) could be crucial to your blue-line. Let's put it this way: if an NHL player plays well enough to be rewarded by his coach with power-play time or if a player is good enough to warrant that time regularly, then that player's value should increase not only on his NHL team but also on your fantasy hockey team.
Jesse: You're off your rocker. There's no way players should receive extra rewards for power-play goals and assists. Power-play ice time is its own reward. Simply by being on the ice when his team is up a man, a player is going to be involved in far more scoring chances, which will inflate his goal and assist totals. It's no secret that racking up points on the power-play is far less difficult than it is at even strength, so why would we give extra credit to a player for doing something that's much easier? In fact, let's go the other way: I say set up a points league where power-play goals and assists are only worth half as much as even-strength ones. Everyone knows that the best players in real life are the ones that can score at even strength and shorthanded, not just on the power play. Same goes for penalty minutes: guys who stay out of the box help their teams. So why do most pools reward PIMs? It's time to start making our fantasy leagues more like the real thing.
Jordan: If you think it's time to make fantasy leagues "more like the real thing," why on earth would you suggest power-play points be worth half as much as even-strength ones? That makes no sense. A power-play goal in the NHL goes up on the scoreboard just like an even-strength one. Besides, we don't need a system that counts power-play points as less than even-strength points because we actually already have that. It's called plus/minus. A goal scored at even strength puts a plus-1 on the board, while a power-play goal doesn't. Just like in the NHL. The checks and balances are already there, my friend. As for penalty minutes, that's a separate issue which we can debate another week.
3. What's the ideal roster size?
Jesse: I know a big roster appeals more to the hardcore fantasy player, but who has 11 buddies that follow hockey closely enough to enjoy debating the merits of Tyler Ennis vs. Nazem Kadri in the 23rd round? (Ennis is much better, by the way. I know, I need help.) Don't forget, this is fantasy hockey, and the fantasy is supposed to be that you get to create, manage and follow a team that's much better than any team in real life. Look, I'm a Sabres fan. That team gives me enough grief. So why would I want to add to my troubles with a hockey-pool team that's also full of third- and fourth-line scrubs? No, keep your league's roster tight: no more than nine forwards, four defencemen, two goalies, one or two bench spots and an injured reserve spot.
Jordan: Boring!!!!!!! Any person proud of their hockey knowledge wouldn't hesitate to enter into a pool with a deeper roster and wouldn't be afraid to draft guys like Magnus Paajarvi or Brandon Yip in the late rounds. I am definitely not a fan of pools like yours that reward the uninformed. Why don't you guys just have a pool with only five rounds in total so that you don't have to think past each team's top player? Or, if you're looking for a challenge, join a pool with a maximum roster (30 players, including three goalies, four defencemen and at least two injured reserve spots). Then you can prove your true, in-depth knowledge of the sport and fantasy hockey. So should I hold a spot open in my pool for you Jesse?