Friday, January 28, 2011

Confessions of a Fantasy Hockey Addict

I think I have a problem. I’m addicted to fantasy hockey.

But this is something that extends beyond the usual obsessive-compulsive behavior of your typical fantasy junkie (poring over the waiver wire, over-analyzing matchups with your opponent, digging for injury updates and starting goalies, devising strategic trades/heists/highway robbery, waking up in the middle of the night to add players as their waiver period expires, etc.). No, I’ve noticed something about myself that’s a bit more unsettling.

Nowadays, I can’t watch an NHL game with thinking of the impact and ramifications on my fantasy teams. And it’s impacting my overall viewing pleasure while watching hockey at its highest level.

For the last several seasons, I’ve found myself following teams a lot less (trust me, if you’re a Leafs fan, you’d do the same thing in recent years) and instead paid more attention to individual players. I’ve come to appreciate the various aspects of different players’ skill levels, some who’ve gradually evolved with their game (Rick Nash’s focus in all three zones under Ken Hitchcock’s guidance and Sidney Crosby’s improvement in the face-off circle are just two examples), while others continue to make the competition look foolish (Pavel Datsyuk’s crafty stick-handling and the ESP-like telepathy between Henrik and Daniel Sedin come to mind here).

Yet, as I’ve been involved in fantasy hockey now for the past three seasons, that focus when watching a game has become narrowed to the statistical ramifications on how a certain game affects my fantasy team(s). I went from 4 teams last season down to merely 2 this year, in the hopes that my perspective as a fan would revert back to the typical mindset of a hockey fan (that, and some persuasive urging from my better half). But it seems my mathematical mind continues to be myopic.

A recent example to give you a glimpse into my recent hockey viewing traits goes back a few weeks to a Sunday night contest between the Ducks and Blackhawks, which I started watching on Hockey Night on Yahoo! (where they stream select regional coverage most nights). Having several players on both squads on both of my teams (Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Troy Brouwer, Ryan Getzlaf, Toni Lydman), I kept a particularly close eyes on those certain players during this clash. But the fact that none of these players had a particular significant impact (from a fantasy standpoint) essentially ruined what was otherwise a decent game to watch (a 2-1 Anaheim victory on home ice). Chicago peppered Jonas Hiller with shot after shot, and I couldn’t help but think how having Hiller between the pipes on one of my squads would’ve been so much more helpful to me, causing me to second-guess all of my decision making. Oh well, could’ve + should’ve = didn’t.

What’s worse, during each break in the action, I’d pop over to another open window to check the boxscores (and all the automatic, in-game updates) to quickly scan and see if any of my other fantasy players were doing anything noteworthy.

I will say I’ve gained a certain appreciation for certain players, but it seems to be relative towards their overall performance this year. Patrick Sharp’s 26 goals (5th in the league as of the All-Star break) have been a revelation to most folks outside of the Windy City, and the fact that I snagged him in the 7th and 10th rounds, respectively, in my drafts make me enjoy his scoring prowess all the more. Ditto for Claude Giroux’s 19 G-28 A-47 Pts (8th and 9th rounds). And Jonathan Quick’s break-out season (2.15 GAA, 22 wins and 5 SO) has made my goaltending somewhat of a no-brainer after nabbing him in the 8th round and in a shrewd trade, respectively. Hell, even a player I loathe with nearly every fiber of my being such as Steve Downie has fallen into favor thanks to his level of productivity as a pest on mu teams.

But the question still remains: Would I be paying as much attention to these show-stealing seasons if I wasn’t managing them on my fantasy teams?

The opposite side of the coin holds true, as well, when there’s players I’ve been fond of in previous seasons, but the mere mention of their names makes me cringe at this season’s efforts. Case and point is my vote for Least Valuable Player this year, Simon Gagne. I’d had big expectations for a new start in Tampa Bay for the talented 40-goal scoring winger, so I picked him in the 6th and 7th rounds in my drafts. But the injury bug – costing Gagne nearly a quarter of the season – general ineffectiveness, and a lack of chemistry with his new teammates led to only 1 goal during his time on my roster before my patience grew thin enough to drop him in both leagues; Strangely enough, Gagne scored 3 goals two weeks ago – for one of my opponents.

My propensity for adding and dropping players like a cocaine-addled Wall Street junk bond trader has come back to hurt me on occasion to. A recent example was the addition of Brian Gionta to fill in at the right wing position for a day, in the hopes of closing the gap in the Shots On Goal department. Being in the top ten in SOG (and tops amongst those available on the waiver wire), I added him without even blinking. However, Gionta failed to register a single shot on net vs. Pittsburgh, a 2-1 Canadiens victory – on the heels of a 9 SOG performance in his previous game.

So does this make Gagne and Gionta terrible players? Not necessarily, in fact they’re both a couple of players I haven’t minded watching over the last several seasons. But their poor performances under my watch have reinforced negative thoughts about these players that may well remain for the rest of this season and may linger into next.

Perhaps this is merely a by-product of the present-day technological advances, where any and every minute fragment of information is available at your fingertips whenever you want it. Hopefully it’s nothing more than Internet-induced ADHD. And considering none of what happens during the NHL’s All-Star Weekend will factor towards either of my fantasy teams, perhaps this will act as the right time to correct what ails my hockey viewing. That might just fix my twitchy mouse-clicking finger.

Or maybe I should just start watching hockey again on my TV.  Centre Ice, here I come!


  1. Given Sharp's consistent performance, I thank you for trading him to me. I too, notice that I pay slightly less attention to the overall flow of the game (especially when watching two teams I don't follow closely) and more to the individual players. I guess what helps me still focus on the game more though is that I typically won't draft players from teams I dislike or don't follow, despite their potential fantasy value (e.g., Corey Perry, Tomas Vokoun, Drew Doughty).

  2. You're very much welcome, I'm anticipating Sharp's production tailing off as the regular season draws closer to an end, but that hasn't seemed to happen yet. That trade still has seemed to work out for both far....

    Now I know another facet of your drafting strategy! Haha, your downfall will be swift and sudden, my friend!