You know the feeling. You’re in a tight matchup and you’ve been obsessing over your match’s Projected Stats all week. It’s Sunday and you’re out of moves. Now what? Looks like you’ve got a case of the Sunday Scaries.
Good news and bad news. Welcome to Fantasy Hockey, right?!
To begin with, the bad news is that it’s probably too late to do anything about it now. Gee thanks. But the good news, and this is an important but, is that there are some things you can do, some lessons to be learned.
1. Sneak a Peek
First, Sundays are the perfect time to look ahead and in Fantasy Hockey, looking ahead can be just as important as staying in the present.
Go ahead and set your lineups for the upcoming week. I’m a keep it simple person, so I get a blank sheet of paper, divide it into seven sections (one for each day of the week), and list the player positions, e.g, C, LW/RW, D, and G. Next, I go through each day for the upcoming week and see how many of my player positions are filled and which are empty. The goal is to have as few open slots and players on your bench for each day as possible.
2. Listen (and read) Up
Next, check out the upcoming games played for each team. I recommend sites like Daily Faceoff or Left Wing Lock. They both have nice schedule features organized by week and team. I’m sure there are other sites, but I like using those two because of their ease of use.
Using Yahoo Fantasy for example, because I’m partial to Yahoo and think it’s the gold standard for Fantasy Hockey, I look for free agents who play on days in which I have open spots. I make a list of the players I prefer based upon the research I’ve done, e.g, checking out the projections for points if you’re in a Points League and or specifically paying attention to Categories if you’re in a Cats League.
Subscribe to and listen to podcasts like Apples and Ginos, Keeping Karlsson, Five Hole Fantasy Hockey etc, read the social media sites and posts of experts, and finally, trust your instincts.
Those resources above are my personal favorites and I highly recommend each, but there’s so much information available that you just have to find a go-to which you are comfortable with. At a minimum, they are all solid plays and can lead you to other sources which are helpful.
As to trusting your instincts, if you’ve played fantasy hockey for any period of time, you’ve developed a feel for who’s performing well, who’s not, and who you think has a good chance of enhancing your stats and bolstering your team. To me, that’s one of the many factors that make fantasy hockey so much fun. You get to make choices that you want, i.e, there’s no one perfect way of doing things. If you’ve done some work ahead of time, and I’m not talking about having to become a statistician, you can do this.
Rely on folks like Nate and his crew at Apples and Ginos. These guys are experts and I count on them to keep me informed. If you combine their expertise with your style of managing, you will succeed. You don’t have to be perfect, you just want to put as many factors in your favor as possible. And lastly…your players have to perform. There’s no substitute for performance. Sorry folks. You can do all the research in the world, but if your team doesn’t get the job done, well there’s always next week.
3. The Secret Weapon
Number of Games Played for any week is probably The Most Important factor for fantasy hockey success. This is especially true for Points Leagues, but I do the same for Category Leagues too. In other words, when looking at your upcoming weekly matchup, you want to try your best to have at least as many games played as your opponent. I’ll go one step further and recommend that you do as much as possible to have even MORE games played than your opponent.
In terms of quality of players vs. number of games played, my default is to lean towards games played over quality of players. It doesn’t always work out, but in all the years I’ve been playing fantasy hockey, it works out more often than not. I’m not not talking about blowing up your team each week just to get more games played. But I do try to set my team up so that I don’t have too many (or any) players on my bench. It does you no good if your team is stacked with awesome players only to have to sit some of them because you don’t have the roster space. I don’t have the stomach for having to decide everyday on who to sit or start so I really focus on filling open slots right from the beginning of the week. Perhaps in another piece, I can discuss how best to use your weekly adds, aka streamer strategy, but for now, just keep repeating the mantra: Few open spots, few players on bench. Few open spots, few players on bench…
4. Let Them Play
Lastly, play your best players regardless of matchups. We’ve all been in situations where you’ve got to make a decision as to who to start and who to sit. If you’ve followed the advice I’ve already mentioned, you can eliminate a lot of the guesswork, but inevitably you will have to make some tough decisions. And sometimes, if you’re as manic as I can be, these decisions can feel like dice rolls. I’m not much of a gambler, so I’ve found my safe haven in the doctrine of always playing my best players REGARDLESS OF MATCHUP. Let me be clear: it isn’t that I don’t pay any attention to matchups, I just don’t count on them. I use them as sort of tie breakers if the decision is murkier than usual. At a certain point, you have to let go, and let your players do their thing. Because hockey is such an inherently unpredictable sport, there’s only so much you can control. I’ve come to appreciate that and would suggest that you get comfortable with that reality too.
Come Monday morning (or at least before your opponent does) make your moves. If you’re in a league which has a one day waiting period before you can claim a free agent (not my personal favorite setting but usually the default setting in most Yahoo public leagues), you’ll need to stay a bit more ahead of the game. In other words, you’ll be picking up a player that you won’t be able to slot in until the next day so you sort of have to continue to look ahead for planning purposes. If you’re in a league that has same day acquisitions (my preferred setting), you have way more flexibility and you can pick up a player closer to game time. And that’s a good strategy to employ if you’re paying attention to potential scratches and or injuries like I know you are.
1. Sneak a Peek (look ahead to the upcoming week)
2. Listen (and read) Up (do some research)
3. The Secret Weapon (few open spots, few guys on bench)
4. Let Them Play (play your best players regardless of matchups)
A Final Thought with The Golden Bear:
Get comfortable with the uncertainty of hockey and as a consequence, fantasy hockey results. I like using a golf analogy:
One of the reasons that Jack Nicklaus (The Golden Bear) is considered one of the all-time greats is because he always aimed for the middle of the green, that is he focused on trying to make pars. Birdies and eagles are great (sort of like Nick Schmaltz’s 7 points vs. Ottawa last year- love Schmaltzy btw), and they will happen. But you can’t count on them. Instead, just keep making pars. By doing so, you’ll put yourself in a good position to win your league.
The Sunday Scaries? Not on our watch. Let’s go!
Have fun and best of luck this week and for the rest of the season.
Mike @Fantasy Hockey Professor