Sunday, September 30, 2007

Division-Adjusted NHL Standings

Ever wonder how much playing in a strong/weak division has affected your team in the standings? Well here's what the Western conference standings would have looked like last year if you ignore divisional play (taking only the 50 non-division games each team played and expanding the rate at wich they gained points in those 50 games into a full 82 game schedule). Sorry, my excel/word are currently messed up, so I couldn't put these into a graph.

Team Actual Points Division Adjusted Points Difference
San Jose........107.......115.....+8
St Louis.........81..........87...+6
Los Angeles..68.........72....+4

So, if you don't like looking at that graph type thing up there, here's what the Western Conference standings would have looked like if you ignored divisional play:

1. Vancouver (115)
2. San Jose (115)
3. Anaheim (110)
4. Nashville (107)
5. Detroit (103)
6. Minnesota (102)
7. Calgary (97)
8. Dallas (95)
9. Colorado (92)
10. St. Louis (87)
11. Edmonton (80)
12. Columbus (77)
13. L. A. (72)
14. Pheonix (72)
15. Chicago (69)

As expected, Detroit benefits quite a bit from its easy division, getting roughly an extra 10 points from facing its easier division opponents. Dallas is the team most helped by its weak division (or strong divisional play, depending how you want to look at it) gaining a whopping 12 points. In contrast, Vancouver, Edmonton and San Jose are all hurt the most by their division schedule, losing 10, 9, and 8 points because of their divisional record. Despite changing teams' point totals by up to 12 points, though, division schedules did not change who made the playoffs. Every team that made the playoffs using the regular points sytem still makes it using their division-adjusted point totals.

DISCLAIMER- What I did is only meant to compare how well teams did within and outside their divisions. It is in no way meant to provide a fairer version of the standings that ignores differences in schedule (instead of playing Columbus twice as much as a regular team, Detroit doesn't play them at all in these standings, so we're not improving things just moving them to the other extreme). This is meant as a fun little exercise and nothing more.

One thing these numbers are good for, however, is figuring out what the best division in hockey was last year, basically by adding up the points that the 5 teams in each division had versus non-division opponents (adjusted for 82 games). Here are the results:

Northeast: 494
Northwest: 486
Pacific: 464
Central: 443
Atlantic: 441
Southeast: 413

It seems that the Northeast did in fact have the Northwest beat just slightly as the best division in hockey last year, although I guess you have to take into account that they play in the weaker Eastern conference.

The Magicpie Power Rankings

Time for my first edition of the power rankings. Because I'm a lazy, lazy man this first batch of power rankings will also double as my season predictions. I'll do a separate set of power rankings for the A.L and N.L....I mean Western and Eastern conferences because they barely play each other anyway so there's no point trying to rank Western and Eastern teams against each other. For all we know the west might have 8 of the league's 10 best teams or something. Anyway, first the Western rankings:

1. San Jose. By default. Every team that finished ahead of them in points last season has taken a step back, they're the only ones that haven't. Should be a fun year for them.

2. Detroit. I only have them this high because I still think they'll win their division, and will have more points than whoever comes out on top in the Northwest. Other than that I'm predicting a major step back for them this year. Once the inevitable Hasek injury strikes all bets are off. I'm not even that sure they'll be able to hold off St. Louis and win the division, but I'm not quite at point where I'm willing to predict that.

3. Vancouver. They won the division last year and remain innocent untill proven guilty, but I'm not that confident about this pick. Arguments in their favor: the first few months of last season, when they were playing .500 hockey, were a feeling out period, and the real Canucks team we're gonna see this season is the one that had the best record in the league after Christmas. Markus Naslund is in a contract year. They haven't lost anyone significant and have added a few pieces, so if you go by the whole "if a team stays together they play slightly better each season because of some crazy synergy" theory then they should be better. Arguments against them: everyone in their division improved (even Minnesota improves by having a healthy Gaborik). They were lucky in OT/the shootout last season (17-7, best record in the league), and might not be able to keep that up this time around. Last season was one of those feel-good seasons where everyone buys into the team concept and plays hard every night, and you don't get two of those in a row very often. It could go either way but I'm leaving them here for now.

4. Colorado. They were one of the best teams in the league to finish last season and they've made some significant improvements. Goaltending's still a problem but I don't think they plan on winning many games 2-1 this year.

5. L.A. Kings. For the record I've been saying this long before they beat the Ducks in the season opener(besides, as I write this Anaheim's leading the second game 1-0). They're my favourite sleeper team this season. They have one of the best defenses in the league, and one of the best groups of young forwards in the league (at least 4 guys on that team could average one point per game this season). Best of all they didn't make any major "let's save our season with this one move" type signing/trade last season, instead choosing to bring in a few medium names to fill holes as neccesary. I love it when teams do that. Mark my words, they'll be up there this year.

6. Minnesota. This might actually be a bit low for them but I'm not confortable putting 3 NW teams in a row on top of these standings. Last year was kind of an off-year for them, and they didn't make a single major move this off-season because they know they have a solid team. They should be much better playing one complete year without major injuries. Maybe the most underrated good team in the league.

7. Anaheim. That's right, behind the Kings. Never, ever underestimate the power of a Stanley Cup hangover.

8. St. Louis. Finished the season up strong last season, and made lots of improvements. I'd be surprised if they didn't make the playoffs.

9. Nashville. Up until writing this I actually thought they still had enough to make the playoffs. Then I changed my mind. So there. I really can't think up a scenario where they manage to sneak in, aside from one where St. Louis and L.A. aren't as good as I thought they would be...but that would be crazy. Their crappy division saves them from going any lower.

10. Calgary. One really good team had to get left out of the playoffs in this preview and they were the odd man out. This is mostly because what they did this summer is more of a sidegrade than anything, and Mike Keenan is not the coach you bring in to turn your team into a winner, he's the coach you bring in to punish them for slacking off last season (which they did). Also, I couldn't have 4 Northwest teams making the playoffs, as cool as that would be if it happerned.

11. Dallas. This has all the makings of turning into a rebuilding year for them. After however many first round exits in a row, they probably know that they don't have enough to go far with their current team. Look for them to make some major shake-ups at the first sign of trouble this year.

12. Columbus. They were actually a fairly good team on paper last year, and a full year with Hitchcock will likely improve things (just don't pick anyone except their goalie for your fantasy team). The only problem is that the teams in front of them are pretty good too.

13. Chicago. Maybe next year.

14. Edmonton. The sad thing is that they actually improved (at least on paper) this off-season. Being in the most competitive division in hockey doesn't help.

15. Pheonix. The only teams that I'm truly confident will not make the playoffs this year are Edmonton and Pheonix...and I'm not so sure about Edmonton.

And now for my Eastern power rankings:

1. Pitsburgh.
2. Ottawa.
3-15. Everyone else, in no particular order.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Don Taylor Play-By-Play Drinking Game

Well as you all likely know by now, the most notable thing about last night's Sharks-Canucks pre-season game was that Don Taylor was doing the play-by-play. I thought he settled in pretty well after some early jitters, but judging by the boards oppinion was more mixed than that. One brilliant idea that made its way out of there, though, was that of a Don Taylor drinking game. Every time he says one of his regular Sportsnet News lines as part of the commentary you have to take a drink, with more unusal lines requiring more drinks. For example:

Refferences to players' old jersey numbers ("and there goes so-and-so wearing so-and-so's old number 22")-1 drink

"Brouhaha"-1 drink

"Boondoggle"-1 drink

"The _______-ian spinorama"-1 drink

"With a rapier-like glove hand"-1 drink

"In _________-ian fashion"-1 drink

"They're loving it in _______" 1 drink

"Gingerly"-1 drink

"Bulges the twine"-2 drinks

"Ripples the mesh"-2 drinks

"Top shelf where mom keeps the peanut butter"-2 drinks

"Markus Naslund skating like a modern day _________."-2 drinks

(in Marv Albert voice)"And it WAS a GORGEOUS move"-3 drinks

"Nyayahay"-down the whole bottle. Seriously, if he lets one of these out randomly during a play-by-play it will be one of the greatest moments in Canucks announcing history.

Any I missed? Thanks to the guys at the message boards for reminding me of many of these.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Jan Bulis We Hardly Knew Ye

This is my farewell post to Jan Bulis. It was actually one of the items in the "random thoughts" post before this one, but it ran a little long so I decided to make it its own post.

Well anyways, as was expected, Jan Bulis is now officialy gone. He signed with a Russian team for about the same ammount he was getting with the Canucks last year. You may not have heard about this because it was hardly mentioned even among the Canucks blogs, and the only official article relating to his deparutre was from a Russian website (and thus written in Russian...I don't exactly know what people were trying to accomplish by linking to it).

Count me among the people who are actually sad he's gone. I actually bought the story he told in that Province article, the one about him calling his dad for advice after making his trade demand and his dad basically telling him, "It's not them, it's you", with that being the reason he straightened up. Bulis's whole problem, as many have pointed out, was that he wanted to be more than he is. He had the ability to be a very solid defensive player, but he wanted to put up big numbers, so instead of playing like a very good 2-way forward he ended up playing like a very bad scorer for most of his career. During the second half of last season, after the whole trade demand episode and the call to his dad, though, he surprised pretty much everyone by turning things around. He didn't put up big points, but he played good, effective two-way hockey, earning the praise of the same people in the media who were his biggest detractors two months before.

I actually think we saw a fundamental change in Bulis'mindset in those last few months. It looked like he was done trying to be a scorer and had instead decided to accept the role given to him and contribute that way. One other quote that stuck out at me from that same article was Bulis saying that he used to actually want to play for a bad team, so that he'd get more ice time and have a better chance at putting up points, but by the end of the season he didn't really think that way anymore. Maybe I haven't yet grown jaded enough about the questionable pronouncements of hockey players, but that actually rang true for me. Besides, I don't think a player would actually admit to something like that if he hadn't made a serious commitment to change his ways.

I think it's pretty true that in life people almost never change. If someone was lazy 20 years ago, they're probably still lazy. If someone was an ass 20 years ago, they're probably still an ass. It's pretty rare to see someone actually make a fundamental change to how they approach any aspect of their life, and even more rare to see them actually stick with this change in the long term. That's why I would have really wanted to see Jan Bulis in a Canuck (or failing that any NHL) uniform this year, to see wether he'd be able to keep up the same kind of play for the entire year or if he'd go back to being the old Jan Bulis.

It may be worth mentioning at this point that, as far as I know, most European contracts do have an out clause if the player wants to go back to the NHL, and Nonis has said that if his other moves don't pan out before the season starts, bringing back Bulis is still an option. So maybe all is not lost. Here's hoping.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Random thoughts

Twenty-five posts in 2 and a half months isn't that good is it? Time for some filler.

If I ran the NHL my first act would be to decree that all rookies are to be reffered to only as noobs.

Second act: the game will now be played in a completely dark arena with a glow-in-the-dark puck.

As you may have heard, the New England Patriots got into a lot of shit this week for taping their opponents' signals from their own sideline. Why exactly is it illegal to do this? If they just had a guy with binoculars writing everything the other team did down instead of taping it would that be illegal too? How about just casually looking over at the other team's sidelines? Where do you draw the line?

It appears that the whole "Let's make a drinking-related joke whenever one of the Staal brothers comes up" thing has really taken off throughout the blogs/newspaper columns (I will never, ever in my life use the phrases "blogosphere" or "mainstream media"). My personal message to those making these jokes: Where the fuck were you people when Keith Tkachuck showed up for camp 30 pounds overweight a couple years ago? That was supposed to be a source of comedy gold for years and years. Instead here we are three years later and most people have forgotten that even happerned. There need to be some strict guidlines for what is and isn't made fun of so this kind of thing never happerns again.

Remember when I used to actually talk about the Canucks on this blog? Those were the days...

With that in mind, Luongo took a shot in the neck today at practice, and didn't come back to the ice. The guy needs to start wearing a neck protector. Remeber in Montreal last year when he spent the night in the hospital for the same reason? I know he finds them uncomfortable, but getting hit in a neck by a puck going 100 mph is uncomfortable too.

Also, get this, Sami Salo is injured. His wrist is apparently in a cast right now, and they don't know if it's broken or not. I know, I know, I never saw something like this coming either. It's like Jan Bulis trying a spin move. (I know I've used that before, I'm trying to get all the mileage I can out of this joke before people forget who he is) Also, sorry Sami, you're actually one of my favourite players, that's why I want to see you play a full season one of these years.

I think this post officially makes "random crap" the second most used tag on this blog. I'm trying to decide wether this is a good or a bad thing.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

NHL Stock Watch

Allright it's time for the first installment of what I hope to be a running segment: NHL stockwatch. Basically this section asks which NHL teams/players/executives you should be buying and selling assuming they were stocks. As with stocks, you'd want to sell assets that have reached their peak value and are on the way down, and buy those which are undervalued and look to be on their way up. (allright, fine, so this whole thing is basically a convoluted version of those "hot and not" sections every magazine in the world has, except its focused on the future not the present)

First, the sell section. These are "stocks" which have reached their peak value and you should be selling...if they were actually stocks.

Brian Burke. If Brian Burke was a corporation right now I'd be shorting his stock like crazy. He's turned into the man who can do no wrong in the past two years, with the Pronger trade, winning the cup, and everything else. At this point there's really not much higher he can go. He does have plenty of room to fall, however. Picking up Bertuzzi for 1 mil per season would have been a great move. Picking him up for 2 years at 4 million per, not so much. He's now put himself in a position where a hell of a lot of things have to go right for this signing to be regarded as a sucess. Combine this whith the downgrade the Ducks upcoming stanley cup hangover season, which might have seen the team take a sep back even if it was kept entierely the same from last season, and lingering resentment from other managers for his decision not to match the offer sheet to Penner, and I see Burkie taking a lot of crap from a lot of people this year.

The Detroit Red Wings. Ever since the lockout at the beginning of every season I've been asking the same "is this the year that Detroit finally falls off?" and each time the answer has been no. But, well, it's gotta happern some time and this year looks as to have as big a chance as any. Other than that, there's also other factors, like the fact that the entire city of Detroit is falling apart, and that the team's bajillion-game sellout streak actually ended last season in the first round of the playoffs(with the Michigan economy being blamed). That can't be a good sign. Eventually it all has to come apart for a few years. It may not happern tommorow, but the weaknesses are already starting to show.

Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, Sheldon Souray. Way, way overvalued because of this last free agent season. All three of these guys are non-elite players who are coming off one good year, and all three got way more than they should because the teams apparently said "hey, someone's gotta get 6 mill per year this free agent season" and these guys were the best players available. A lot of people are gonna feel pretty stupid when these guys go back to their regular selves.

And now for the buy section. These are undervalued "stocks" that are on their way up.

The Kings, Caps and Blues. My three sleeper teams this season. The Avs aren't a sleeper because everyone's expecting them to do well this season. Of these three the Kings are my personal favourite. They have what may be one of the best defences in the NHL (seriously, look it up, they have 5 guys who've had at least a 39 point season in the last 5 years and the other one's Jack Johnson). They have one of the best group of young forwards in the league (Frolov, Kopitar, Calimaneri), and solid depth with Nagy, Hazndus and Calder. On paper this is at the very least a playoff team, and I really dont get why they're not getting more recognition aside from the fact that they sucked last year and did not make any single major move in the off-season (although this may be a point in their favor). The Blues were already good for the second half of last season, and only got better in the off-season. I'd be surprised if they dont contend this year. The Caps made a few good moves, but more than that just have "feel-good season" written all over them this year.

The NHLPA. Getting their shit back together at last.

The New Jersey Devils. Entirely because of the new arena. One of the most depressing recurring NHL stories of the past 15 years has been how the Devils have always been one of the best teams in hockey, but didn't have the fan support to match their on-ice performance. A lot of people, rightly or wrongly, blamed this on their former arena's proximity to MSG(apparently it's literally half an hour away). The new arena solves this problem and, aside from that, is probably just plain nicer than their decrepit old haunt. There's no guarantees here but it should probably do a lot to the franchise.

California Hockey. Ok maybe not.

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Shoot'Em Up Review

Hockey blog or not, just for the hell of it here's my review of Shoot'Em Up:

The depiction of violence on film presents a constant struggle for filmmakers. They must balance the audience's desire for more with the constraints of moderation and good taste, which prevent them from providing excessive displays of carnage in their films. Thankfully, the arrival of Shoot'Em Up has provided audiences, and indeed filmmakers the world over, with an excellent example of how to walk this fine line. Seldom has a film breached the subject of violence in such a nuanced and thoughtful manner, evidencing such grace and concern for its subtleties.

I'm just fucking with you, of course.

The only things you really need to know about this movie are that it's called Shoot'Em Up, and it's the most blatantly, wonderfully ridiculous thing to come out in a long, long time. This becomes readily apparent from the opening sequence: The movie opens with our hero "Mr. Smith" (like all good anti-heroes, we never know his real name), sitting on a bench on a deserted city street munching on a (soon to be very lethal) carrot. A preagnant woman then walks by in front of him, followed by an armed thug who chases her into an abandoned building screaming that he's going to kill her. Mr. Smith, completely unphased by this entire scene, lets out a "I gotta do this now?" sigh, and follows the armed thug into the building, quickly dispatching him (using that same carrot..don't ask) and saving the preagnant lady. At this point, around 20 anonymous henchemen inexplicably appear out of absolutely nowhere, guns ablazing. Mr. Smith, without missing a beat, as if this was the most natural thing in the world, gets to work dispatching them. Compounding his problems, the woman he saved decides to go into labor. So now Mr. Smith is heroically dispatching anonymous henchmen with one hand, while helping this woman give birth with the other. The baby is finally delivered, although his mother doesn't survive, and Mr. Smith spends the rest of the movie running and trying to protect him from yet more anonymous henchmen, led by the always enjoyable Paul Giamatti.

Yup, it's that ridiculous. Halfway through this first scene I actually turned to my friend and said "this has to be a dream sequence or something"'. I thought it was too over the top, and that the real movie would start as soon as this sequence was over, answering all our questions. Questions like: Why is Mr. Smith risking his life to save these this baby from all these henchmen without even pausing to consider it? Why doesn't he look even a bit surprised by everything that's going on? Where did he learn to dispatch anonymous henchmen so effieciently? Alas, these questions are left unanswered. The movie keeps right on going the way it began, with little time spent on such petty details as why exactly any of this is happerning. Oh there's a plot, of sorts, but the whole thing smacks of the writers going "OK this movie's going to have a lot of action scenes. It's going to start with a random guy deciding to be a hero and save a preagnant lady he doesn't even know. We'll figure out the rest as we go along."

Generally being light in the plot department isn't a fatal flaw for an action movie. They're action movies first and foremost, and that's fine. As long as the plots provide some explaination for why one group of guys is shooting at the other group of guys, there's usually no problem. But there's a line, damnit! And this movie crosses it. It doesn't as much ignore the idea of a plot as it actively disdains it. It's as if the filmmakers felt insulted by the fact that they had to fit all the awesome action scenes they came up with into some sort of story, and so spent as little time and energy on it as possible. Yeah, yeah, i know... "To hell with the plot, nobody's watching for that anyway". Even if they aren't, this move ignores its plot so thoroughly that it's actually hurt by its absence. The whole thing seems too sudden and unexplained, and the action scenes lose some of their entertainment value because you've always got that little voice in the back of your mind saying "wait, why is this stuff happerning?"

Now that we got that out of the way, though, the action sequences themselves are as ridiculous and entertaining as you'd expect. Aside from the aforementioned scene where our hero helps with the birth of a baby while partaking in a shootout, we also have what may be the first free-falling-from-a-plane shootout in movie history and a hilarious combination of a love scene and action scene(our hero's having such a good time that he continues his tyrst with his love interest even as armed henchmen burst into the room and he has to fight them off). The movie makes a point of trying to give each scene its own little twist to mix things up (sometimes our guy gets to set up traps for the anonymous henchmen, sometimes he's out of bullets so he has to throw carrots at them, etc.) keeping things fresher than they would otherwise be. Aside from the whole "Look, now he's shooting people while doing (such-and-such) at the same time" gimmick, and the general over-the-topness of everything, though, there's nothing really that groundbreaking about the way in which the action scenes are shot. You've seen most of this stuff before. Nonetheless, everything is so well executed, and done with such glee, that you can't help but be entertained even as you wonder what's going on.

As much as I hate this movie for bringing us closer to the day when Hollywood releases a movie that's literally two hours of people shooting at eachother without any context whatsoever, it was still a good time. As long as you go in knowing what you're getting yourself into, there's worse ways to spend two hours.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

The goalie rankings

Since goalies are again, by far the most important position in yahoo fantasy, here's my personal rankings for most of the top goalies on yahoo.

1. Miikka Kiprusoff (Yahoo rank: 3d among goalies)-Kipper, Luongo and Brodeur are in a class of their own above all other fantasy goalies, of course. But why Kipper above Louie and Brodeur? Fist of all, he underachieved last season and should have a bounce-back year. Also, far more importantly: contract year! contract year! contract year! In the end, though, youre fine picking any of the top 3 guys in each other's place and so for all practical purposes the distinction between 1 and 3 isn't that big a deal. Just feel that Kipper has the edge this year.

2. Luongo (Yahoo rank: 1st among goalies)-Had his coming-out party last year but there's still a lot of unfinished business with him, considering he was shut out in awards voting, the Canucks didn't get past the second round, and his mistake at the end of game 5. No drop-off predicted.

3. Brodeur (Yahoo rank: 2nd among goalies)-With him there will indeed be a drop-off, partly because he had the 2nd best season of his career last year, and partly because the Devils are going to be quite a bit worse this year, or at least that's what it looks like. If you've got him, consider trying to trade him for Lulongo or Kiprusoff.

4. Henrik Lundqvist (holy crap I spelled that right on the first try, also, Yahoo rank: 7th among goalies)-He doesn't get as much credit as he should. Year in and year out(fine, for the past 2 years) this guy's right behind the three top guys, quietly finishing 3d in Vezina voting for both the past two years. A far surer bet than the three guys ranked 4 to 6.

5. Evgeni Nabokov (Yahoo rank: 8th among goalies)-Again, always good to go with a sure thing. Has the team to himself now, and the Sharks look good yet again this year.

6. Niklas Backstrom (Yahoo rank: 6th among goalies)-We're now out of the first two tiers and are at the point in the rankings that everyone listed starts to have some sort of flaw that keeps them from being considered a sure-thing like the first 5 guys. I'm actually not as high on Backstrom as most people. He put up his crazy good stats playing only the last few months of last year, while his team was going on an insane run of it's own (2nd best record in the league after Christmas). Any goalie's going to put up good stats when his team's playing .750 hockey for 3 months. Don't expect him to keep up that .929 save percentage this season. The main reason I'd still take him as high as he's ranked, though, is that this looks to be a big year for Minnesota (after they went through all that BS with the Gaborik injury and the bad start last year, they probably just want a full season to show what they can do) and they're almost always one of the best teams in the league in terms of goals allowed anyway. And anyways, when Kipper first got traded to Calgary and finished those last two months on a tear a lot of people (including me) said he couldn't keep it going next year either. He's more of a gamble than people think, but still worth a high pick.

7. J.S. Giguere (Yahoo rank: 5th among goalies)-I'm kind of reluctant to even place him this high. Never underestimate the power of a Stanley Cup hangover. The Ducks have also downgraded pretty significantly this year: from Selanne to Bertuzzi, from Neidemayer to Schneider, and losing Penner. Considering he just got a new contract, just won the Stanley Cup, and has some family concerns with his son's situation, the movitation's got to be at an all-time low for him. At the same time, he's still a better bet than the guys behind him.

8. Ray Emery (Yahoo rank: 15th among goalies)-Good stats last year (essentially the same as Giguere's, with a slightly worse GAA), good team, why take him any lower?

9. Marty Turco (Yahoo rank: 9th among goalies)-Probably the lowest he's been ranked in the past few years. There's nothing wrong with him, but Dallas really doesn't look good this year.

10. Dominic Hasek (Yahoo rank: 4th among goalies)-Well I guess I had to have him on here at some point. The risk of injury is just too huge to spend a top-round pick on him. Considering that that Detroit might also be slipping a bit this year (of course people say this every year), and I don't think he's worth the risk anywhere higher than here. His backup might make a good low-round pick though...

11. Manny Legace (Yahoo rank: 20th among goalies)-St. Louis was among the best teams in the league to finish the season last year, and they look to be equally good this year (they got the Paul Kariya seal of approval after all). Legace's save% in Dec, Jan and Feb last year, when St. Louis started playing better: .931, .920, .906. Also has a .915 career save percentage. Any pick you make at this point is going to be a bit of a risk, and he seems the best one to take at this spot in the rankings.

12. Rick DiPietro (Yahoo rank: 14th among goalies)-Quietly put up surprisingly good stats last season (.919 save percentage on a 8th place team), and you know he'll get lots of playing time. Of course, if you're one of those people that thinks the Islanders will finish last in the league just because they're the Islanders, stay away.

13. Chris Manson (Yahoo rank: 12th among goalies)-Seeing what his stats were last year, you'd think he should be ranked higher (Alan Ryder at Hockey Analytics claims there's a case to be made that he was the best goalie in the league last year). Nonetheless, that was for a team that finished third in the league in points. I don't think the Preds' collapse will be as complete as generally assumed, but they're obviously not the same team they were last year.

14. Marc-Andre Fleury (Yahoo rank: 10th among goalies)-A good example of a goalie who'll get bad stats on a good team. If you just need wins, then by all means pick him higher than this. He won't do your goals against or save percentage any good.

15. Vesa Toskala (Yahoo rank: 23d among goalies)-You know how in my comments about Backstrom I said that a goalie can look better than he is when he finishes the season as the starter for a team that's really hot? Toskala's save percentage when this happerned to him three seasons ago: .930. His save percentages for the next 2 years: .901, .908. I dont know what kind of saviour he's gonna be for the Leafs. Nonetheless, for some reason I just can't rank him any lower.

16. Thomas Vokoun (Yahoo rank: 11th among goalies)-Good goalie, bad team. Not much else to say.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Magicpie's sure-to-suceed guide to fantasy players

Now that the general rules posts are out of the way here's a look at some of the specific players in this year draft and where they should be picked. A lot of these players can be divided in a few specific categories:

The "we've bottomed out" group. These are players who had bad years last season, and are thus at the bottom of their potential value, going as low as you could ever expect them to possibly go. A lot of good teams are built on guys like these. If they go back to their old selves then you just got a good player a couple rounds later than he should have gone. If not, then you only wasted a low pick on them. The only way to screw yourself over with these guys is to assume that their return to form is a sure thing and pick them higher than they're being picked (i.e. passing up 80 point guys to take Markus Naslund coming off his 60 point season because you just know he'll be back to his old self this year). Some notables this year:

Markus Naslund. Sixty points is as bad as you're going to get with him.

Pavel Demitra. Last year was probably the worst of his career and he still had 62 points. Injuries always a concern though.

Todd Bertuzzi. He's ranked like 500th. Take a chance on him instead of some miscelaneous left winger you'll drop right after the draft.

Marek Zidlicky. His ES points remained the same last year but he only had about 10 PP points (30 pts total). Now that Timmonen's gone he should be back to his customary 50 points.

Rob Blake. Remember him? He used to be pretty good... Kings should be much better this time around.

Joni Pitkanen. Bad year on a horrible team and he still had 40 points. Going far, far lower than he should be.

Pick him, you won't be sorry.

The "we were injured and are thus underranked" group. Guys who missed 20 or more games and still had good years on a per-game basis, but are ranked below where they should go because they still put up only 60 points instead of 80. And they are:

Martin Havlat, Wade Redden, Mike Modano, Ed Jovanovski and Marian Gaborik. Jovanovski and Gaborik seem to be on this list every year, though so you should probably take that into account before picking them.

The "we're coming off a contract year, whatever you do don't pick us" group. This group ruins more fantasy teams year in and year out than any other. These are guys that put up huge numbers last season but are due for a slowdown now that they signed their ginormous deal:

Sheldon Souray. Ranked fifth among defencemen right now. It's amazing what one 60 point season when you've never been past 40 in your career before gets you. Stay away, just stay away.

Daniel Briere. Before last year his best season was 65 points (although he did put up good point-per-game numbers in an injury-shortened season two years ago). It also bears noting that Philly is not Buffalo. Again, best to stay away.

Of course we've also got this group's distant cousin, the "I wasn't in a contract year but I still overachieved insanely last year" group, which includes:

Andrew Brunette. Fifty years from now Andrew Brunette will be telling his grandkids about the one year he got above 80 points in an NHL season.

Jarome Iginla. Turns out Iginla was sort of in a contract year last season. Either way, last year was only the second time he's had more than 73 points, and it's doubtful that Calgary's going to play the same kind of offensive hockey they played last season this time around. Not a good way to spend your first pick.

That's it for now, more to come.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Magicpie's sure-to-suceed fantasy guide (part 2)

Here's some more fantasy advice, as always focused mainly on Yahoo leagues, now that I've had a chance to actually do a draft:

I was wrong about LWs.Last time I said that since Yahoo doesn't let players play multiple positions too much anymore LWs are going to be in far shorter supply than RWs. This is usually true, but after actually looking at this year's player rankings, the division of skill seems to be pretty even between LWs and RWs this year. So nevermind what I said. RWs and LWs are equal this year.

Plus Minus Matters.Don't ignore plus minus when making your picks. It's easy to get caught up in the "well Kovalchuk will get me so many points that this should cancel out his horrible +/-" line of thinking and draft 2 or 3 horrible +/- guys as your forwards. For the love of God don't do this, it's not worth the cost. The -20 that a bad +/- guy will get you will almost always lose you more standings points in the +/- stat than the extra points he will get you in goals and assists. Basically a bad +/- should be a dealbreaker. If a guy's got a bad +/- just don't pick him, simple as that.

Another argument against picking up guys with bad +/- is this: as we all know, people in yahoo leagues often realise they have no chance/just stop caring halfway through the season and stop updating their team. Injured players stop getting substituted, and so forth, meaning their teams stop accumulating stats as quickly in most categories. Simply by sticking around and being active for the entire season you should thus be able to beat these guys in most stats. Thus even if you actually have the worst team in the league, if half your league quits you should end up at least 5th/6th in goals, assists and most other stats. Plus minus, though, doesn't work like this. Even if a guy quits and benches all his players, his +/- won't actually go down but will stay at +28 or whatever it was. If your team's at -20 and last in +/-, you'll still be last in +/- at the end of the season and only get one standings point out of it. Thus even if your team's not great in points/assists, the worst you'll realistically be is 5th/6th in these stats, but if your +/- is bad you'll be dead last in it. So the short version is this: +/- is the only stat that doesn't benefit from people quitting so don't ignore it.

If you have to make changes to your team after the draft wait two days. All players go on waivers in the first two days after a draft. Thus when people decide to make minor changes of the "I didn't like my 15th pick let me get this guy instead" variety they don't realise that they're taking the guys off waivers and going to last in waiver priority in the process. Just wait two days until players aren't on waivers anymore to make these minor changes so you don't lose your waiver priority.

The two defencemen rule. A lot of times, because of off-season acquisition, a team will end up with more good offensive defencemen than it should have. This worries fantasy owners because they think there might not be enough powerplay time to go around, and so not everyone will be able to get their usual stats. Usually, if a team has two very good offensive defencemen, this doesn't become a problem. If it has 3 or more, then in general only the best two will get the minutes they need to have a season that's up to their regular standards. For example, last season Pavel Kubina went from 26 powerplay points to 8 because he went from being one of the top 2 guys on his team to playing behind McCabe and Kaberle in Toronto. If you're thinking of picking Dick Tarnstrom or Schneider(if Nedemayer comes back), you have been warned.

Get guys on overachieving teams. Every year there's one good offensive team that has "one of those years", where everything just clicks and the team performs well above its already high offensive standards. Last year it was Buffalo, the year before that Ottawa, and the year before that it was Tampa. This year, it will probably be Pittsburgh. The reason I mention this is that everyone on that team overachieves. More specifically, there's always a couple of fringe players that are usually not quite fantasy worthy that end up being quality, point-per-game guys for this one season and can usually be picked up cheaply at the start of the season to fill holes in your lineup. Thus, if you find yourself looking for a sleeper this year, take a chance on Pittsburgh's second-tier guys.