James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Making waves in playoff pools

Wednesday, April 11, 2012



Depending on the suaveness of your fellow owners, the “pick heavily from your personal list of deep contenders” strategy might not be as sound as one would think. Granted, I’d recommend staying away from Senators, Capitals, Kings, Sharks, Panthers and maybe even 4/5 seed guys if all is even, but what happens when everyone is employing the same - quite logical - strategy?


(Note: most people will probably employ the get goalies fast strategy, but with a first round pick, you should be able to get a competent goalie if you're proactive.)


Doing well in drafts often comes down to a “Moneyball”-like instinct to spot inequities and try to get the best value. In my personal experience in the Rotoworld draft, it just seemed like Capitals, Predators and Flyers fell to me in particular. I picked those teams to lose within the first round – including Washington falling in 5 – but these were good values on teams that could conceivably win at least a round or two.


So with that in mind, I essentially fell into a strategy that ran counter to what I really wanted to do. In an ideal world, I’d have a bunch of Blues, Canucks, Rangers and Bruins because those are the safest picks. Unfortunately, everyone in my draft more or less knew that was a good strategy to roll with, too.


Ultimately, you have to try to adapt to the “market” and give yourself the best chance to win. Again, the first step is to get a good goalie or two. The second is to stick with some kind of strategy – if you’re able to stock up on quality guys from powerhouse teams, great. If not, load up on value and maybe hope for reasonable upsets here and there – these are the wacky NHL playoffs, after all.



If you ask me, being forced to draft defensemen is a great inconvenience but it can also be a nice weapon. Ultimately you have to “dress” a certain number of them, so drafting difference-makers can amount to a nice advantage.


That’s maybe the only thing I was able to load up on a bit in the draft, although it cost me some valuable picks to do so. Alex Pietrangelo has a lot going for him, but I made him the 24th pick because he'll put up nice numbers on a team that could go deep. The same applies to Michael Del Zotto, whom I expect to get quantity over quality because the Rangers have a great chance to at least make the Eastern Conference finals. Brent Seabrook (157th pick) is another example of a nice guy who should have a shot at two rounds of production - at least if my hopeful playoff predictions are accurate.


The two gambles come in Erik Karlsson (77th) and Dennis Wideman (177). I highly doubt either guy will last particularly long in the playoffs, but if either one does, then I drafted All-Star caliber guys with low-end picks. In other words, value fell to me and I couldn't say no.



This is a stupidly simple point, but I still kick myself sometimes when I break the rule. If you’ve never drafted before in a specific system, see if you can do a quick mock draft – even if it’s just to get a lay of the land. I’ve experienced plenty of first-time drafts where I fumbled with the queue setups and had trouble searching player names. When you see that 50 seconds bleed down to 20 without a real answer, you wish you had a chance to tinker with things a little more.


Beyond that, taking a look at the settings will tell you what to emphasize and what to ignore. For instance, I felt a lot less excited about Chris Stewart – contract year or not – because the Rotoworld draft doesn’t give a bonus for PIMs. Knowing that power forwards might actually hurt your team is an enormous consideration while the reverse means that someone like Scott Hartnell has obvious added value. (Hartnell might not get the same kind of time in the box, but since he agitates as much as he fights, he’ll probably be in there more than most.)


Rotoworld’s specific league awards 2 points for goal vs. 1 for an assist, .1 for every shot, 2 for a game-winning goal and a whopping 5 for a hat trick. For that reason, I at least tried to draft a) snipers, b) volume shooters and c) defensemen who can score goals. It’s the reason that I jumped at Ilya Kovalchuk (pick 17) and couldn’t turn down the value of a contract-year Alexander Semin (97).



At least do the best you can not to panic. If you’re competing with good managers, you might just get bamboozled in that goalie area. Instead of just taking any starter with a heartbeat, try to load up on offensive talent and maybe hope for backup insurgence and/or upsets.


Personally, I finally strayed from my non-instinctive value picks back to beefing up on contenders later in the draft. If all was equal, I wouldn’t be that interested in Jamie Langenbrunner or Tomas Holmstrom, but the possibility for a deep run and their wily ways made them interesting depth picks. Perhaps you can cover your back with alternate strategies later in the draft in a similar way?



Daniel Sedin should be back sometime, but the latest word is that he might miss the first game or two of the first round. If you’re expecting him to be a first or second round contributor that factor absolutely matters … Daniel Briere sounds primed to return, to some surprise for me. The same is true with James van Riemsdyk. When I picked the Penguins to squeak by the first round, I honestly thought those guys might be out. Briere could be a very nice steal because of those perceivefd health issues (I feel reasonably happy snatching a goal-scoring machine in the playoffs who leads post-lockout point producers at No. 57) and it’s really a decent sub-rule to the above guide: lock down guys who seem primed to return from injuries … You might want to heed caution with Jeff Carter, though, unless he’s sliding a lot. It sounds like he has a chance to return but with a tough first round matchup, there’s not much room for error … I mentioned this earlier in the column, but again: Jaroslav Halak gets a big boost by Brian Elliott’s upper-body injury. That doesn’t mean Halak won’t face any potential for upheaval, but considering the Ken Hitchcock effect, I honestly think he’s at least a top-10 pick now … Generally speaking, keeping a close eye on injuries and other changes if your league actually allows free agent moves.




Word count limitations have forced me to put full Rotoworld draft results - complete with explanations behind strategies and every draft choice per team - in this post in my old blog. Stay tuned for updates on how that playoff pool goes in each Weekly Dose - which will hopefully help you in your own pools.




While this first edition of the Weekly Dose is posting on Wednesday, future editions will go up on Tuesdays. Hopefully it'll help you as much (or more) as the regular season edition - or at least keep you entertained.

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.
Email :James O'Brien

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