James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Realignment and Fantasy hockey

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Typically speaking, the Hockey Daily Dose focuses on the big stories (or dark horse fantasy candidates) that can make an impact on this season.


Every now and then, you stumble across a big story that just begs for commentary, even if it's more about the future. Monday night provided that, as the NHL announced a radical change in the way teams will compete against each other. Instead of splitting the NHL up into six five-team divisions, the 2012-13 season will feature four "conferences." Two of them will include eight teams while the other two will feature seven.


The changes go on a little longer, but for fantasy purposes, the relevance mostly tapers off after that. For the sake of fun and conversation, I thought I'd share some of my gut reactions on how this change might alter the fantasy landscape next season.


(We'll probably have more scientific explanations as the new setup approaches, mind you.)



There are plenty of teams who follow the wise path of giving their No. 1 goalies a solid amount of breaks, but some are more dependent on a great starter than others. I doubt that the new setup will eliminate back-to-back games, but it's likely that travel schedules will be far more relaxed.


That could be a benefit to Miikka Kiprusoff, Kari Lehtonen and other guys who are leaned upon perhaps a little too much. Again, though, that's just a guess.



Having fresh, young legs keeps becoming more and more valuable in the NHL, even if the Detroit Red Wings often buck that trend. Still, one has to think that Nicklas Lidstrom has grown weary of a tough schedule after playing a ton of games in the NHL.


You almost have to wonder if older players (especially West ones like Lidstrom, Teemu Selanne and even Ray Whitney) might find themselves more intrigued about participating in the 2012-13 season if they can rest their old bones just a bit more. I doubt that will be a big factor, mind you, but every little push in the right direction can help. The less jet lag the better, after all.



OK, so the first two examples were shots in the dark, but this one could hold a bit more water.


It's not a bulletproof rule, but guys who drop the gloves a lot often develop rivalries. It only seems natural, then, that they often drop gloves more frequently in rivalry games. So what happens when an enforcer gets to see 2-3 other teams a few more times per season?


My guess is that the number of vendettas will grow, which means that savvy fantasy GMs can try to eke out PIM wins by timing the right enforcer pickup-and-drops. Again, I'm not saying that this is going to make an enormous difference. Then again, if such a strategy earns you bragging/mockery rights at the water cooler in a given week, then isn't that worth those extra minutes of thought?


Perhaps that enforcer talk could extend to superstar players who tend to shred up rivals too, but that seems random compared to the more predictable world of hockey fisticuffs.


After the jump: sleeper candidates and injury updates.

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James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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