Before I get rolling I want to say this up front: I think fantasy hockey is plenty of fun the way it is. But as with all good things, there is always room for improvement. I think fantasy hockey has plenty of room to grow its player base and as it does, the quality and volume of relevant information will follow suit which can only be of benefit to the diehards. In short: fantasy hockey can be improved, and making the product more interesting to first time players will be of long term benefit to all parties. Some of these changes are things that you can push for within your leagues right now, while others are likely out of your control and would require your league provider to change their product. With all that said, here are five ways I would change fantasy hockey:
1. Embrace head-to-head points scoring
I think fantasy hockey in general can learn a lot from fantasy football, and one of the things that makes fantasy football so entertaining is that there is a weekly payoff with a clear “somebody wins, somebody loses” proposition. No more 5-4-1 weeks in category leagues. If you want to play full rotisserie where you get a league rank across a bunch of categories, fine. But the basic, public leagues should not present new obstacles to first-time users, and individual category scoring does just that in my opinion. I truly believe that in order to interest the most new players and to keep them interested throughout the long season, you need that weekly moment where you either win or lose, it’s a 1 or a 0, and you can look back at the week and think “if only I hadn’t benched Carter Hart for that shutout I would have won!”
2. Change the end of the week to Saturday
Seriously, this is the easiest change and the most impactful. The end of the fantasy week should be Saturday. It’s unquestionably the biggest hockey day of the week, with day games, Hockey Night in Canada, and the most amount of games played of any day of the week throughout the course of the season. You should be able to check your fantasy matchup Saturday morning, see you need 5 more points than your opponent to win, agonize briefly over whether to start Jason Zucker or Teuvo Teravainen, and then watch that decision play out in real time that afternoon or evening. Instead in many situations you get a Saturday night that largely determines your matchup and you’re left praying for Tyler Bertuzzi to have a hat trick in the only Sunday game going so that you could sneak out a win. Changing the end of the fantasy week to Saturday also gives you the chance to wake up Sunday morning, evaluate your win or loss, and make new lineup decisions/trade offers while still on weekend time. I fail to see the downside with this approach and I think it would make matchups way more exciting.
3. Run deeper leagues (more players per team)
This is another no-brainer to me. When Kevin Fiala is sitting on every public league waiver wire despite ripping off 1.4 PPG for 20 games straight, the system is not working. Fantasy football does this well for the most part, where managers have to project which players are in line for a breakout and keep them stashed on the bench ahead of time to avoid a bidding war if and when that breakout comes. The decision facing fantasy managers should be “do I start Taylor Hall or Kevin Fiala” not “do I drop Taylor Hall for Kevin Fiala”. There are few things sweeter in fantasy than watching your sleeper pick turn into a star and seeing all your leaguemates fume that you had the foresight to stash him before all of them. Three man benches with ten skater active lineups are simply inhibitive to player moves, which are a huge part of what makes fantasy so much fun in the first place!
4. Make your league more active
Wish your league was more active? Take the lead and chances are good some (if not all) will follow. Consider starting a brief weekly writeup to break down the week’s matchups and poke good-natured fun at the guy who lost by a single goal on the last day of the week, or lament that you took Ovechkin over Draisaitl this year when Drai scores 7 points against you in a single week. If that’s not in the cards, post in the message boards about real life hockey events, send a “nice job” to your perceived winner of a trade, etc. Do anything that gets people more excited about your league and fantasy hockey in general. Is it a bit of extra work? Sure, but the reward is obvious and in a lot of cases immediate as well.
5. Post every Apples & Ginos article to your league
Just kidding. But do keep yourself and others in your league interested and consuming fantasy hockey content. Subscribe to one of the dozen or so podcasts out there. Turn Twitter notifications on for your favourite fantasy hockey analyst(s). Surround yourself with passion for the game and you’ll keep your own interest up even through those dark January days when you’re slogging along in sixth place and don’t see a way to a playoff spot. I’ll be doing my part to keep people going via Twitter and these articles – it’s on you to find what motivates you and keeps you in the title hunt.
If you’ve enjoyed this content I hope that you’ll take a minute and fill out my five-question survey here as I explore the possibility of doing this full-time. Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.
Thanks for reading, you are much appreciated!