On Guard!

Hey all ... Simon here, GM of the IceHL's Washington Sentinels. A born-and-bred Torontonian, I bleed Maple Leaf blue (from mostly self-inflicted wounds), but after almost five years in the DC area, I've succumbed to allowing a soft spot for the Caps.

Huge thanks to Chris for giving me the chance to participate in this league. It's been a long time since I was involved in an active, well-run fantasy hockey league, and I'm really looking forward to it.

There's been a fair amount of buzz (and probably a few raised eyebrows) about my team post-draft, so I wanted to start my time here by giving a little bit of insight into my drafting strategy and how it sets us up for the rest of the season.

After I got set up, the first thing I did was examine the structure of the league -- its rosters and scoring system. I learned (the hard way) from a fantasy football league a few years ago that deep, "non-traditional" fantasy setups can often provide some unique opportunities and encourage different approaches.

The first thing I noticed: positional scarcity. With 20 teams in the league, and two "starting" goalie slots each, that means on any given night, there are only 40 goalies with the ability to earn points ... but there will never be more than 30 NHL starting goalies at a time. So 10 slots are *always* going to be backups, or otherwise not earning points at all. I figured that if I could snag two or three high-quality goalies early, that would give me an advantage, not only in keeping up the point production, but in terms of keeping some of the better point producing goalies away from the other teams in the league. 

Of course, doing so would require me to forfeit most of the elite scoring talent that would go in the early rounds. That's bound to hurt, right? Maybe ... but maybe not.

The second thing I noticed is that the scoring system gave a lot of weight to goalies. There are no categories, like you traditionally see in roto-based or other H2H leagues. Rather, every stat is converted to a point value, and total points wins the match -- it doesn't matter what player, position, or category they come from. The name of the game is points. Period. And goalies (the good ones, anyway), have the potential to earn a *lot* of them.

For example, if Ryan Miller makes 30 saves and gets a shutout win, that's 14 points. Not an "average" night for him by any means, but never completely out of the question either. A forward would have to post a 2G, 3A night, with one on the PP and a GWG to match that. Of course, goalies can *lose* points as well, where skaters cannot, but that's where the quality comes into play. The top-end goalies will be valuable simply because they'll win most of the time and grab those five points right off the bat, regardless of anything else they do that night.

To further illustrate, look at any roster and examine players' average fantasy points per game for 2010 and 2011 (projected). The elite Crosbys and Ovechkins of the world will probably average around 3-3.3 points per game. Second tier scorers around 2.2-2.5. Goalies? Between 5 and 5.5 points per game. Applying this league's scoring system to 2010 stats, Sidney Crosby scored 325 points. Ryan Miller earned 424 -- almost 33% more! And when it comes to winning fantasy games, the only thing that matters is points. This potentially valuable distinction is why I structured my draft list to stock up on elite goalies early.

So there was a method to my madness. And a small hiccup, in that I asked the draft utility to specifically stop drafting goalies after three; a request that was conveniently ignored. I ended up with Miller, Fleury, Rask, and Varlamov ... which I guess is a nice problem to have, but since there will be plenty of nights where three, or even all four, are in action (I can only play two at a time), it necessitates moving one of them for some help in my painfully thin scoring ranks.

I've been fielding offers all week, but am really not any closer to a deal at this point -- probably because I'm overthinking things, but also because I want to make sure I get decent value for whichever of the bunch I trade. Varly starting the year on IR complicates matters some as well -- both in terms of his potential value and in terms of my eagerness to move a goalie.

I'd talk about the rest of my team, but really, they're not much to speak of at the moment. I'm hoping for breakout years from Filatov (CLB) and Versteeg (TOR), but otherwise, it's strictly wait-and-see.

Thanks for reading. I promise the rest of my posts won't be this long. :)