Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Identifying Fantasy Value

Winning a hockey pool is all about identifying value, not forecasting and making predictions. It is important to do your home work, review players histories and injuries, and make a well prepared pick list for your draft that draws a variety of opinions. Being properly able to identify value of a player. True fantasy value is how to win a hockey pool.

First of all it is important to understand the difference between real value vs. perceived value. A lot of players have artificially inflated value for a variety of reasons. The most common is name recognition. Players who have BIG names are not always BIG point producers. Big name players can become big name players for a variety of reasons. Signing big UFA contracts like Scott Gomez, and Chris Drury. Players who were big producers but are not anymore such as Todd Beretuzzi, and Saku Koivu. These players are very well known and familiar and may be tempting to pick when you notice they are still available later in the draft. Do not make the mistake of drafting a "name", over a player who has better value. One  that some rival, uneducated GM's may say "who" when you pick Blake Comeau over Alexi Kovalev.
Another pitfall to avoid is not properly identifying the difference between NHL value and fantasy value. Understand the scoring system of your pool and select accordingly.  For example in a strictly points league Matt Greene has little value. But if your league score hits, and blocked shots Greene starts to have value. In the NHL Greene is a very valuable player for the Los Angeles Kings. So before you Kings fans go drafting Matt Greene, check the scoring.

Another major influence on value is slumps, and streaks. All players endure these. Star players suffer slumps and average players enjoy streaks where they perform beyond their normal value. Some recent examples of star players who have dropped in perceived value are Tuukka Rask, and Ilya Kovalchuk. Rask lost the starting role to Tim Thomas in Boston this season as Thomas delivered a monster season. Unfortunately for Rask, you can only play one goalie at a time, so he was on the bench more often than not. Kovalchuk had a disastrous start to the season as did the entire New Jersey Devils team. A wise GM would identify that Kovalchuk will snap out of it and return to form and buy low from a not so wise competitor. Once New Jersey replaced the head coach, the team started to win and Kovalchuk returned with a vengeance scoring at nearly a goal per game pace down the stretch. Just as Kovalchuk bounced back expect Rask to do the same soon. Now is a good time to look at adding Rask for cheap! The post season provided a few unlikely heroes this year in Joel Ward and Sean Bergenheim. The perceived value of these players has never been and will never be any higher. If you own these players, sell, sell, sell!!!
(Fortunately for them they are both pending UFA's and are looking for big pay days!)

There are many reasons and influences why players endure slumps and streaks. Keep in mind these fantasy players are actually real people. With real lives and out of hockey real life influences effect them. If a player has a new born baby at home he may not be getting proper rest. Perhaps a failing marriage is causing a distraction or an illness or injury. Point is, as the perceived value for players rises and falls, buy and sell accordingly.

Star rookie prospects who fail to deliver immediately are often available at discount rates. More often than not, players with "franchise" label bestowed upon them fail to meet that expectation immediately the way Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin did. How many short sighted GM's bailed on Steven Stamkos after his rocky start in the NHL playing for a woeful Tampa Bay coached by Barry Melrose!
And how many GM's feel like fools after pulling  the plug on Joe Thornton after he scored seven points in his first fifty five games. If you are in a keeper pool, it pays to be patient with you star prospects. If you own Tyler Seguin and are disappointed in his twenty two point rookie season remember Thornton only scored seven! if you are looking for clues as to weather or not a rookie will endure a sophomore jinx or not some indications may be made by how he played in the second half of the season or the playoffs. Did he continue to develop? Do they continue to grow and show signs of improvement? Did they earn any time on the power play, did they play in key situations?

The role a player plays on his NHL team is very telling of what his fantasy value should be as well. This example is best accentuated by defensemen. When a defensemen is the clear number one defensemen on a team and his role is "the man" he is in a situation to deliver maximum value. Lets look at Brian Campbell. While a member of the Buffalo Sabers Campbell was the number one defenseman. He was "the man" As such he produced back to back seasons in the 40-50 point range and cashed in as a UFA. The next four seasons he struggled and only produced on season over 50 points as he was no longer "the man", playing behind Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook in Chicago. Now in Florida Campbell is clearly the number one defense man on the Panthers blue line and I expect his value to return to the 40-50 point range again. Another good example is Dion Phaneuf. Phaneuf first three season in the NHL he scored between 50-60 points. Calgary added Jay Bouwmeester and his role, and points (and value) decreased. Now Phaneuf is in Toronto and the Leafs have moved out kaberle and Beauchemin making Phaneuf the top defense man. As a result Phaneuf started to improve down the stretch. I also expect Phaneuf to return to the 50 point range again this season.

The dictionary defines value as such; Value (val-yu) 1: the desirability of something, in respect to usefulness/or exchangeability. 2: worth or importance. To win your hockey pool and earn bragging rights over your friends all next summer it is important to understand fantasy value concepts, and exploit them. Good luck.

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