Last week we presented some fun ideas for how to set up an Olympic hockey pool. This week we go deeper, helping you choose the best one by identifying some of the choices you'll have to make among a star-studded collection of players. We also offer a few tips on how to win under whichever format you pick.
Jesse's Idea I: Pick any 10 skaters (forwards or defencemen). The team with the most points (goals plus assists) at the end of the Olympics wins.
With no restrictions on your roster under this simple format, you should be able to rattle off your picks in no time. Just remember, there's only so much power-play time to go around, so avoid loading up with players from one country (though it's pretty tempting to assemble an all-Canadian team, eh?). So in addition to must-haves Sidney Crosby, Alex Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin, consider guys like Slovakia's Marian Gaborik, Finland's Mikko Koivu and American Patrick Kane. They should get plenty of ice time in high-scoring situations.
Jordan's Idea I: Choose 15 players — five from each of the Olympic groups.
First, a quick breakdown of the groups. Group A is Canada, USA, Switzerland, Norway; Group B is Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Latvia; Group C is Sweden, Finland, Belarus, Germany. Time to make some tough choices. Do you load up on a heavyweight like Russia, or do you take a chance on a dark horse like Slovakia? Let's look more closely. In Group A, Canada is stacked with the likes of Crosby, Nash, Iginla, Heatley and Thornton, to name a few, but the U.S. has Parise, Okposo, Ryan, Kessel and Kane. In Group B, would you go with Malkin, Ovechkin, Semin and Kovalchuk for Russia, Big Z with the Marians (Gaborik and Hossa) for Slovakia, or Czechs Jagr, Michalek and Plekanec? Then there's Group C. Would it be Alfredsson and the Sedins, Nick Backstrom and Henrik Zetterberg from Sweden, or the Finnish Flash Teemu Selanne with the Koivu brothers?
Jordan's Idea II: Choose 15 skaters, but no more than one from any NHL team.
This one's my favourite. By being able to draft only one player per NHL team, there are endless possibilities and countless combinations, especially considering that all 30 NHL clubs are represented in the tournament. How do you decide between the big stars of Pittsburgh, San Jose and Washington? Here are some examples. One team could have Marleau, Hossa, Ovechkin, Datsyuk and Ryan, while another might have Heatley, Kane, Backstrom, Lidstrom and Getzlaf, and a third could be made up of Thornton, Toews, Semin, Zetterberg and Perry. Ultimately, you're forced to pass over some of the NHL's elite. But, then again, that's half the fun.
Jesse's Idea II: Pick one skater from each of the 12 teams in the Olympic tournament.
We'll just assume you're taking Crosby from Canada and Ovechkin from Russia. But which of the Swedish Sedins do you pick? Looks easy on the surface because Henrik has 78 points to Daniel's 52, but the twins' points per game are almost identical: 1.39 for Henrik to 1.37 for Daniel. The key to this format is getting the most out of your choices from the lightweight countries. For example, Norway has just one active NHL player (Flyers defenceman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen) but you're better off with forward Patrick Thoresen. The ex-NHLer is a point-per-game player in Russia's strong KHL.
Jesse's Idea III: Pick any 10 skaters, with their total NHL points from this season capped at 500.
Just thinking about this pool makes my head ache. But if you can't resist the challenge, a word of wisdom: pick players based on their points per game, not their total points. That way you'll unearth gems like Daniel Sedin (probably the MVP of this format), who'll count just 52 points against your cap even though his PPG is almost identical to brother Henrik, who'll cost you 78. Other bargains: Ilya Kovalchuk, Alex Semin, Eric Staal, Daniel Alfredsson and Evgeni Malkin. Each of those guys has either missed time with injury or underachieved (or both) this season, making their point totals artificially low. Of course, the real cap-savers will come from outside the NHL. It's a risky move, but guys like Sweden's Mattias Weinhandl (No. 4 in KHL scoring), Russia's Alexander Radulov (No. 5), Norway's Patrick Thoresen (No. 7), or Slovakia's Marcel Hossa (No.8) and Jozef Stumpel (No. 10) won't count a single point against your cap. Sure, they take up a roster spot, but if any of these guys comes up big at the Olympics, it's gravy.
Idea III (Jordan): Choose 15 players — 10 from the NHL, 5 from outside the NHL.
If you consider yourself a hard-core poolie, this format presents an extra challenge. Hopefully, you've been watching some world juniors and world championships over the past few years. So where to start? Well, the "simpler" task is whittling down your top NHL players. Then the research begins. In addition to the obvious KHL star Jaromoir Jagr, here are some other notable non-NHLers: KHLers Jozef Stumpel, Richard Zednik, Niko Kapanen, Ville Peltonen, Josef Vasicek, Petr Cajanek, Mattias Weinhadl, Sergei Fedorov, Alexei Morozov, Viktor Kozlov and Alex Radulov; Swedish Elite Leaguers Stefan Liv, Magnus Johansson and Peter Forsberg, and Ziggy Palffy of the Slovak Extraliga.