Fantasy Hockey: Buyer Beware
Fantasy hockey is all about assembling an All-Star lineup that’s capable of outproducing the other teams in your league each and every night. While the main idea during the draft is knowing which players to select, it’s equally important to know which players you should avoid entirely.
In fantasy hockey and fantasy sports in general, I’m all about expectations. I have no problem with any manager drafting any skater if they approach each player and situation with proper expectations. During my time working in fantasy sports professionally, time and time again I encountered a manager that was stuck with a team that never had a chance of reaching the playoffs. Whether it was a roster of injuries, a collection of players that disappointed or a roster full of unproven youngsters, the manager didn’t take the time to figure out who he/she should avoid. You should.
Below is a brief list of players that I personally plan on avoiding in 2011-12, unless they fall too far down the draft board and become a bargain. As I mentioned above, you can make an argument to draft nearly any player in the NHL, assuming the expectations and scenario is correct.
Simon Gagne – Los Angeles Kings
It’s all about expectations and keeping them realistic. Following a pair of 40+ goal seasons with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2005-06 (47) and 2006-07 (41), Gagne has maintained an image in the game of fantasy hockey that he has caused migraines for many owners. The cause for his fall from grace? Injuries.
In the last four seasons, Gagne has appeared in an average of 56 games each year. This isn’t a terrible total, but if you’re an owner expecting him to rattle off another season that approaches the 40-goal plateau, you’ll be solemnly disappointed when Gagne misses playing time.
Gagne is a perfect example of the high risk / high reward player in the game of fantasy hockey. If you know what you’re getting into and the risks involved, there’s no reason not to use a pick on Gagne as he joins the Los Angeles Kings.
Marian Gaborik – New York Rangers
If you love big risk and the potential of a huge reward then Marian Gaborik is the player for you. In the past five seasons, Gaborik has appeared in an average of 56 contests. During this time, we’ve seen one year completely lost due to injury (2008-09, 17 games) and two seasons where Gaborik managed to appear in over 70 games and score more than 40 goals.
When Gaborik is healthy he’s one of the best and most consistent producers in the game of fantasy hockey. The trouble, obviously, is that his health is constantly a question mark and you never can predict when the next injury might occur that will sideline him for a significant amount of time.
Unfortunately, due to his prolific scoring, Gaborik will cost you a pretty penny on draft day. He’ll jump off the board around the same time other, more consistent and healthier 40-goal skaters do, meaning you likely won’t be able to sit back and wait on Gaborik becoming a bargain. For my money, I’d select a different high-octane scorer around the same draft position and let another owner deal with the lingering question mark that is Marian Gaborik.
Zdeno Chara – Boston Bruins
Zdeno Chara is a fantastic defenseman, both in real life and in the world of fantasy. There’s really no arguing that. If you wind up with him as a member of your blueline you should be pleased.
However, every single year Chara is one player that is constantly drafted well ahead of where he should be selected. Typically, Chara leaps off the board with the first group of defenseman after owners have solidified their forwards. In some drafts I’ve been apart of Chara has been the first defenseman selected, which in my opinion, is overvaluing him.
Last season, Chara finished 19th among defenseman in scoring with 44 points – not exactly the total of a man that should leap off the board early, let alone as early as he has in recent years. To be completely fair, Chara is a monster when it comes to the plus/minus category and when it comes to shots fired. If your league uses those statistics, then Chara is more then worthy of being a top option at defense, but he still should probably be placed behind the more offensive options that can outpace him in total scoring from the blueline.
Brad Boyes – Buffalo Sabres
As a fan of the Blues this one really doesn’t require much thought. Brad Boyes is still a talented playmaker and is still capable of being a useful piece in the fantasy universe – if you know what you’re getting yourself into.
In 2007-08, Boyes tallied 43 goals in 82 games. Since that standout season Boyes has notched just 64 goals in 247 games. Take note: it’ll be shocking if Boyes ever approaches those totals again.
Boyes is a great late-round selection and could provide some nice up-side with his new Buffalo teammates. He can be a decent source of points/assists, just don’t expect him to rattle off a ton of goals.
The Prone to Injury
Some guys just seem more fragile than others. Some guys seem to miss time consistently. Avoid them – it’s really that simple.
Use extra consideration when selecting any player that has a history with concussions as the league is actively looking to crack down on players returning before they’re physically ready. Post-concussion syndrome is under the microscope and no longer taken lightly, so be aware of any skaters that could be susceptible to a relapse (Sidney Crosby, David Perron).
The Rookie / Sophomore Skater
Don’t buy too far into hype surrounding rookies and sophomore skaters. They are an extremely talented bunch, but don’t let all the discussions cause you to take one too early. Rookies can be unpredictable in adjusting to the speed of the NHL while second year skaters are battling the dreaded “sophomore slump”.