Everybody makes mistakes, even NHL general managers. When the Boston Bruins traded Joe Thornton to the San Jose Sharks in 2005 for Marco Sturm, Wayne Primeau and Brad Stuart, that turned out to be a mistake. Pretty much every move the New York Islanders have made this decade qualifies as a mistake. Just like real-life general managers, fantasy hockey owners are bound to make mistakes from time to time. But the fewer you make, the better your chances are of winning your league.
Moves such as drafting a player too early or making a trade that at the time seems logical, only for it to backfire in the end, are not so much mistakes as they are bad luck. You’re just as likely to strike gold in your fantasy draft or get the better of a trade. However, there are five common mistakes that fantasy hockey owners make that hurt their teams almost every time. The good thing is that all of them are avoidable.
Trading or Releasing Players Too Soon
Even the best players run hot and cold during the long NHL season. Take the case of Chicago’s Jonathan Toews last year. He had one goal and four assists through the first month of the season. If you pushed the panic button on Toews at that point, you missed out on four goals and six assists in November and seven goals and 11 assists with a +18 in December. If you’re frustrated with one of your top players, stash him on the bench and wait out the slump, otherwise another owner may profit from your impatience.
Falling in Love With Goal Scorers
Twenty-nine players had at least 30 goals last year. Vancouver’s Henrik Sedin was not one of them. Granted, he nearly made it with 29, but his value was found in a league-high 83 assists and a +35 rating (eighth in the league). Sedin’s teammate Ryan Kessler didn’t hit the 30-goal mark either, but was worth owning. He had 27 goals, but contributed nicely in assists (50), penalty minutes (104) and power play goals (12). Compare those numbers to 30-goal scorer Matt Moulson’s (18 assists, -1 rating, eight PPGs) and you’ll see a player’s value goes well beyond how many times he can light the lamp. There’s nothing wrong with owning a couple of 30- or 40-goal scorers, just don’t neglect the other categories at the expense of goals.
Putting Too Much Stock in “+/-“
Can you name the player who led the league last year in +/- rating? Don’t feel bad if you didn’t know it was Washington defenseman Jeff Schulz. He finished with a +50 rating, but had a grand total of 23 points (three goals, 20 assists), 43 shots and zero power play goals. There are many players with solid +/- ratings that won’t help your team in other categories. Furthermore, it’s an arbitrary statistic. Alex Ovechkin, who finished last season with a +45, was a +8 the year before with similar stats. Another thing to keep in mind is players who produce on the power play often have mediocre +/- ratings. Anehiem’s Ryan Getzlaf his teammate Teemu Selanne are two examples of guys who give you power play production at the expense of this category.
Unless you nab one of the top five defensemen (arguably Mike Green, Keith Duncan, Drew Doughty, Dan Boyle and Chris Pronger), you’re not going to get great production from the blue line in terms of points. Green led all defenseman in points last season with 76 (19 goals, 57 assists), but he was tied for 20th in points when you factored in all skaters. There’s plenty of value at this position. Nine points is all that separated the sixth best defenseman (Sergei Gonchar) from the 24th (Stephane Robidas), so don’t worry if you don’t land Duncan or Doughty. Use defensemen to address weaknesses in other, less glamorous categories, such as +/- or penalty minutes. St. Louis’ Erik Johnson, for example, ranked 25th in points with 10 goals and 29 assists, but contributed in penalty minutes (79) and power play goals (6).
This is where real-life hockey is most like fantasy hockey. If you don’t have strong goaltending, you’re just not going to win. Goaltenders account for five categories in most standard leagues, or at least 1/3 of your total points. And there only are a few stud netminders out there. Only five goaltenders last season had at least 40 wins; only six had a GAA of 2.26 or lower (four of the six started at least 40 games). If you miss out on one of the top goalies, make sure you have at least a couple of better-than-average ones. Owning Ryan Miller, Martin Brodeur or Mikka Kiprusoff is akin to having Sidney Crosby or Nicklas Backstrom in your lineup.
Hockey-Reference.com / Hockey Statistics and History.