It’s getting to be about that time of year where football is starting, baseball is mercifully winding down, and hockey season is on the horizon. I understand that some people will get excited when the NHL launches its ridiculously long pre-season schedule, but it only makes me think of one thing: fantasy football. Yeah, what can I say? I’m un-American and would rather watch college football. But “gambling” on sports—I’m all about it.
This season looks like it’s going to be a little different for me. One of the unforeseen drawbacks to having a fairly successful hockey blog is that I don’t watch other sports nearly as much as I used to. During the season, I make the most of the Center Ice package and pretty much watch more hockey than a human being should subject himself to. So this season, I figured it might be time to make the plunge into combining those two loves. Enter fantasy hockey.
Let me make this clear: I will probably be the worst fantasy hockey player on the planet. I love watching hockey because I like watching the intangible things that players do to make their team successful. I write about how hockey can mirror life (and vice versa). Neither Ryan Kesler’s leadership skills, nor the fact that a playoff overtime can teach you patience are going to help in a fantasy hockey pool. No, for this you need to take emotion out of it and use cold hard facts.
Since I know there are some big fantasy players out there and I suck at it, I figured I’d bring in an expert. Jeff Angus is the manager and a Senior Writer over at DobberHockey.com and pumps out fantasy hockey content 12 months out of the year. He helped contribute to Dobber Hockey’s awesome 2010-11 Fantasy Guide that is updated throughout the off-season (to keep up with trades, signings, etc.), and is also a regular contributor on the website. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for us!
How long have you been over at Dobber Hockey and what got you involved with them?
I stumbled on the site in the summer of 2006. I fired off some sample articles to Dobber, and he liked my stuff. The site was very basic at the time – basically Dobber posted a daily blog and had some rankings he updated from time to time. My writing was very raw at the time, but I think he saw my passion in hockey and he decided to keep me in mind for the future. He re-launched the site in early 2007 and added a few writers to help out.
I started writing a weekly column in early 2007. I covered the Western Conference, as I am situated in Vancouver and get to see many of the Western teams play on a regular basis.
You write a great column on Dobber Hockey called “Angus Unleashed,” and in the Fantasy Guide you give a sneak peak of what to expect with a list of players who are on One-Way Contracts. What are some of the things fantasy players can expect to see from your column this season?
I often ask readers for column ideas on the DobberHockey forums or on my Twitter account. If you have a good idea about a column, let me know! Right now I am working on a column series where I compile my top 10 keeper lists for positional players, goalies, and prospects. My most recent was the Top 10 Keeper League Forward Prospects.
I also write the Daily Ramblings three times per week (Thursday, Friday, and Saturday). Basically the ramblings are a quick rundown of the previous day from a fantasy hockey perspective – scores, signings, trades, injuries, prospects, etc.
One of the things that is a barrier for non-players converting is that they don’t always know how fantasy hockey works. Fantasy football is a little more straight forward, but hockey can be confusing as hell. What are some of the basics for people who are thinking about getting into fantasy hockey, but are hesitant to take the plunge? Is it a weekly thing? What are some of the usual scoring methods?
Fantasy hockey is completely customizable. As an example, I am in a few leagues (only four, down from ten a few years ago). One of my leagues is points-only, meaning we only count goals and assists. Drafting players is very straight forward. It is a one-year league, which means we keep the players on our team for only one season and then hold a new draft each summer. Another one of my leagues is a head-to-head league which records stats such as power play points, saves, hits, plus-minus, shots on goal, penalty minutes, and so on. It is also a keeper league, which means we get to keep a portion of our roster from year to year (I have players like Sidney Crosby, Roberto Luongo, and Steven Stamkos in this league, and I definitely will be holding on to them for a while).
If you are new to fantasy hockey, I’d recommend picking up the DobberHockey Pool Guide, obviously. Aside from that, all you can really do is learn from experience. You’ll make bad picks and bad trades in the beginning; everyone does (including me). However, with experience you’ll better understand how fantasy hockey works. I have put together a very popular column series this summer at DobberHockey – The Business of Fantasy Hockey. Essentially, Mike Colligan and I have tried to explain the world of fantasy hockey from a business perspective, and I’d definitely recommend checking it out.
Something I’ve always wondered: Do you keep any of your thoughts on players to yourself? I’m sure you’re in a few leagues—how much does it suck to have everyone know exactly how you feel about certain players because they read an article?
I don’t keep any of my thoughts to myself. If I see a young player I like, I’ll let the DobberHockey community know. I did this back in 2007 with Zach Parise. I tried to acquire him early on during the season, but this column made it impossible. My competitors know exactly who I like and what I am thinking most of the time. However, I consider myself a very good negotiator and I am still able to make good trades. It is very tough to make trades in my leagues, but I often find situations where both my team and my competitor can benefit (a win-win trade, if you will).
You guys keep the Fantasy Guide updated throughout the off-season to keep up with the current events. Is that something that you guys felt like you had to do because of the 24-hour news cycle now? How much time do you guys actually spend on tweaking the guide even though the final product has already been released to the masses?
This is probably the number one reason why our guide is the one to get. In store magazines like The Hockey News and The Forecaster are written in June and early July. They are unable to change or update projections with signings that occur later on in the summer. For example, The Hockey News has Simon Gagne leading his team in scoring. That isn’t even the worst part, either. They still have him on Philadelphia! Since the document is downloaded off of the site in PDF format, we are able to update it daily/weekly with signings and trades. The guide is updated right into October to ensure you have the most relevant and up-to-date information for your hockey pool draft.
Since we have you here, there’s no way we can let you go without hitting you up for your expertise. Who are some guys that you think will have breakout seasons and have the potential to be steals in people’s drafts?
I’ll give you two of my favorite sleeper picks for this coming season. Ottawa winger Peter Regin is primed for a monster offensive season. He was the best Senator during the stretch run and in the first round series against Pittsburgh. He will see lots of minutes with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredsson. He has a ton of skill and a great shot (consult YouTube if you don’t believe me).
Sam Gagner of Edmonton is another. The Oilers have three prospects who all project as elite NHL forwards in Taylor Hall, Magnus Paajarvi Svensson, and Jordan Eberle. All three are also wingers. Edmonton is pretty thin up the middle, and Gagner will get every opportunity to earn the top line spot as early as this coming season. He isn’t big but he is a very smart player and he has a ton of skill.
And on the flip side, is there a player or two who people are going to reach for too early and will probably be extremely disappointed?
I want to make one point here with regards to reach picks and disappointing players. Too often we see people saying a certain player will improve because “he is young.” I see this on forums, in newspapers, in magazines, and on television. Age is not the defining predictor of production. Too many times poolies will draft young players too early, and old players too late. Next time you are drafting a young player in your league, try and come up with at least three concrete reasons as to why you think the player will improve (better linemates, more ice time, that sort of thing). Just because the player scored 30 goals at the age of 22 doesn’t mean they will do the same at the age of 23 (look at Atlanta’s Bryan Little for example).
Huge thanks to Jeff for taking the time with us. Like we mentioned before, you can check out his regular column “Angus Unleashed” on Dobber Hockey a few times every week and follow him on Twitter. And if you’re joining a fantasy hockey league and want to be competitive, I highly recommend picking up this year’s Fantasy Guide. (Surprisingly, we weren’t paid at all for this! No seriously…)