James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Swimming in playoff pools

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Playoff pools are a strange animal.


Personally, I feel my fantasy hockey successes tend to come from an evolving combination of waiver wire pickups, deep draft pick bargains and the occasional sell-high/buy-low trade. Generally, it seems like the good times stem from studying the movements of others, whether that amounts to the play of dark horse players, people undervaluing certain guys in a draft or overvaluing fellows whose hot streaks might peter out.


A significant amount of those advantages dissolve in a playoff instead of regular season pool.


So take that previous bit as a disclaimer: postseason fantasy hockey represents uncharted wilderness to me. As far as my foggy memory goes, this is now just the second year I’ve done anything fantasy-wise when “the games matter the most.”


Now that the grains of salt have dissolved on your taste buds, I’d like to trot out a few thoughts on how you should select your playoff team(s).


(By the way, the folks at Fantasy Postseason have a format available for you to enjoy right after you finish reading this column.)




While I appreciate the comfortable feeling of picking players from bad teams just about as readily as I do players from dominant squads in the regular season format, there’s a strangely subversive element to disregarding one or more of the 16 postseason squads available in a playoff draft.


Really, you have to ask yourself a crucial question: “Do I want to win this league or do I just want to save face and be competitive?”


Hopefully you want to win the league. If that’s your choice, then I’d strongly recommend “investing” heavily in specific teams rather than trying to spread the wealth by grabbing a guy or two from all 16 squads. After all, there will only be eight left after round one, four remaining after round two and so on …


With that in mind, it’s important to note the ebbs and flows of your league, and maybe even identify some prejudices. Is everyone mocking a decent-enough team to the point that no one’s taking them? Is one squad being picked to bits as if owners are vultures? These are key observations if you want to stock up on players from a team (or teams) who will make a deep playoff run.




Of course, some might become so intoxicated by the formulas they’ve concocted that they’re unwilling to acknowledge a failed recipe. In a draft with limited resources like a playoff pool, it’s important not to depend too much on getting the right picks at the right time. It’s also dangerous to reach for lower-end talent when there are clearly superior values.


With that in mind, you have to be prepared to throw out previous notions if it’s clear that other people have the same ideas.




Most importantly, you should note that the highest seeds are likely to draw the most attention. Sure, everyone wants to load up on players from a powerhouse like the Pittsburgh Penguins or Chicago Blackhawks, but taking that journey means traveling down the path of most resistance.


Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to get guys from those teams when it makes sense (I have Evgeni Malkin [first overall] and Marian Hossa [21st overall] myself), but you’re more likely to lock down multiple quality players from teams who are riskier.


Before you draft, make note of the teams you believe have the chance to advance at least two or three rounds. Depending upon how your draft breaks, you might get some real value by picking a bunch of players from those squads while everyone fights for the sixth or seventh best guy with a Native American logo on his chest.


On Page 2, I’ll discuss how this team ID process a) kinda just fell into place and b) prompted me to make a substantial risk or two.




Depending upon how stat categories are laid out, it often pays to WAIT for second or third-tier goalies during regular season drafts. That’s not really the case with netminders in playoff pools, however.


Think about it this way: there are just eight starting goalies who will see the second round of the postseason. Backups are only going to see time if 1) the guy in front of him implodes or 2) the guy in front of him gets injured.


While forwards and defensemen are plentiful, netminders are a scarce resource that probably won’t last more than a round or two.


Obviously, use your best judgment with what might be a “reach,” but make sure you get at least one starter you can believe in.


Now that I’ve laid out a few drafting tips, check out the next page to see how the Rotoworld playoff draft went. Try not to giggle too loudly at my team, as I’m fragile about these things.


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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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