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7 Lessons I Learned From My Leagues This Year

Hello everyone and welcome in for another article. In this article I’m going to detail my performance in all six of the leagues I played in this year. First I want to take a second to invite you to join the Apples & Ginos Discord server where I created a channel called #watch-me-play in which I’ve chronicled my journey with these teams throughout the year. With that said, let’s dig in:

Why Review?

In my day job, I work in the automotive industry as a program manager. In that industry, “continuous improvement” is a common phrase and it is literally built into the regulations and certification standards for suppliers. One common continuous improvement tool is the Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA) cycle, which is exactly what it sounds like: plan a course of action as well as possible, execute the plan, measure/check the result, and make improvements accordingly. This is easily applicable to fantasy hockey, and the period of downtime immediately after the fantasy season concludes is a great opportunity for some self-evaluation and learning. This learning can become the basis for next year’s planning period, and so the cycle turns.

Intergalactic Dynasty League

First let’s check in on my 24-team H2H points dynasty league. Prior to the season I felt my team was clearly top 5 and decided to go all in, dealing prospects and picks where necessary. These are the trades I made prior to and during the season:

2020/21 Trades in Intergalactic Dynasty League

Some wins and some losses. Goalies are incredibly valuable in this league (both in terms of positional value and scoring settings) and the Kuemper trade was obviously a massive flop. The Kopitar trade was a win and I think I paid a fair price getting two superstars in Panarin and Carlson. If I were to do anything different next time around, I would wait until midseason to make moves. My team was good enough to make playoffs without paying the price offseason, and if I had held onto Jason Robertson, Josh Norris, and Mike Smith I could have gotten some very solid production out of them or at the least gotten more for them when trading. There’s just not much incentive to move young assets for win-now pieces if you’re truly a contender. If you need to add pieces just to ensure you’ll make the playoffs, you probably should take another year to build up the team before going all in. If someone steps up with a clear win of a trade offer like the Kopitar one, it’s OK to make a deal; just don’t get carried away.

I was dealt with some key injuries (Kuemper, Malkin, Foligno, Wheeler) but still finished fifth in the standings and fourth in points for:

Intergalactic Dynasty League Standings

I cruised through the first two playoff rounds (technically one was a “play-in”) before falling in the conference finals to First Order Troopers, who won the championship and went undefeated on the season with a McDavid/Bergeron/Marchand/Pacioretty/Hedman/Petry core:

Intergalactic Dynasty League Playoffs

Overall I think it was a very successful season and if I can fix up my goaltending situation plus add some depth I should be in a good spot for 2021/22 to contend once again. So let’s take our lesson learned and move on to the next league:

Lesson #1: When contending in dynasty, making big trades midseason instead of before or in the early season reduces the risk of missing out on your young assets increasing in value and maintains your flexibility.

FantasyHockeyTrades Invitational League

I was happy to join the #FHTInvitational this year and support Hockey Fights Cancer. It was a competitive H2H points league with very deep rosters and plenty of sharp managers including Jesse Severe from Fantrax/the Fantasy Hockey Life podcast and Andrew Dewhirst from FantasyAlarm. I drafted this team:

FHT Invitational Draft

The triple D strategy was unorthodox to be sure, but using my projections I had their value over replacement as well above the forwards in the range I took them. I don’t regret the decision – it gave me a positional advantage and forced other managers to chase D in the draft. Khudobin was a common mistake for me this year, never giving me close to the value I gave him in drafts. Rask and Blackwood were both out for extended periods and I made a crucial mistake in holding them during their injuries/COVID absences simply because the waiver options were not inspiring. This league did not have IR spots and had a maximum of 3 goalies, so I hamstrung myself severely holding goalies that were literally not doing anything for me. I estimate that I cost myself 50-75 fantasy points doing this, and that would prove costly:

FHT Invitational Simpsons League Final Standings

As you can see, despite finishing fourth in points for, two measly points more would have put me in sixth place and into the playoffs. A second huge mistake I made in this league was not optimizing my rosters. Because the bench was so huge, early on I held my “sleepers” like Lindblom and Beauvillier even though they were not producing. I should have been churning the lineup just like I would a Yahoo public league, using all my adds to maximize starts. I probably cost myself another 50-100 points all told by not optimizing my starts and recycling the bottom 4 players on my roster week after week. Adding both of these mistakes up I would have easily been second in points for in this league and probably won an extra matchup in the early going.

Lesson #2: If your league has a quirk like no IR or only being able to roster 3 goalies at a time, understand the opportunity cost (number of points you’re losing) by holding players that are injured.

Lesson #3: No matter how deep the league, you should be using all of your adds to maximize the number of starts you’re getting each week.

Five Hole Fantasy Hockey Listener League

I joined this league after TJ reached out to see if I would be able to join and fill FHFH’s last H2H categories listener league. I really enjoyed the settings in this one (Goals/Assists/Power Play Points/Shots/Hits/Blocks, Wins/Saves/Save %) and had some fun in the draft, making a spicy Svechnikov pick #ForTheBrand:

FHFH Listener League Draft

This one one of my stronger drafts on the year, with the top 7 picks all providing good value to my team as well as finding a couple of later gems in Fiala and Talbot. I was only able to complete one deal on the year:

FHFH Listener League Trade

This was a late season move to strengthen myself for the playoff run. Reinhart went on a wild run not too long after this, but frankly I was about to drop him so I wouldn’t have been likely to get the value out of that run anyways. I also had an embarrassment of riches at D with Chabot, Rielly, Carlson, Alex Pietrangelo, and Matt Grzelcyk, so I was happy to convert some of that value into a C in Tavares. I barely missed the 2nd place bye and ended the season in 3rd place:

FHFH Listener League Standings

I played ROG in the first round and held an add til Sunday as I saw an opportunity to make a late add to win a category. I needed 12 saves from Martin Jones on Saturday night to take saves and win the matchup 5-4, but Jones got pulled in the first period leaving me behind. No problem, I’ll make an add on Sunday to get the requisite saves. Unfortunately, I waited until after the Bruins had played the early game and Patrice Bergeron came back in that game while on my IR+ spot. Yahoo prevents you from making any moves if you have an active player in IR+, but given that he had already played his game I also couldn’t move him to my roster. So I was left to lose a 5-4 matchup with an add in hand, leaving a pretty bad taste in my mouth. It should go without saying, but…

Lesson #4: If you’re going to make an add, make it before any games are played that day or make sure you know your IR/IR+ players won’t be playing that day.

Home League

Home leagues are the wild west of fantasy hockey, where you never know when some uncle will take Evgeny Kuznetsov in the fourth round (yes, that happened in this league). This was an 8-team, H2H points format with G/A/+/-/PPP/SOG/BLK/W/GA/SV/SHO as the counting categories. I drafted out of the 8 spot and did something a little uncharacteristic in this draft:

Home League Draft

I’m not usually one for early goalie picks, but I’m willing to make an exception for Vasilevskiy, especially in points formats where he was almost certain to be a top-10 point scorer at the end of the season (he finished 6th). I was pretty happy finding Dougie Hamilton at the #40 pick as well as Barkov, Fiala, and Barrie in the later rounds. I was only able to get one trade done in this league as well:

Home League Trade

This was an unmitigated disaster overall. I truly believed Markstrom was going to turn things around and anchor a 1-2 punch with Vasilevskiy for me down the stretch. Thankfully Strome actually put up a ton of points for a couple of weeks for me and obviously Svechnikov was excellent, but I definitely gave more than I got and it wasn’t particularly close. I sold low on Chabot and Barkov due to their poor playoff schedules, but still would have done better to hold. I ended the regular season third in the standings but first in points for by a wide margin:

Home League Standings

I crushed the first two round of the playoffs, but came up short against the McDavid-led Dzingel Berries in the finals. It at least made me feel a little better that given that McDavid literally outscored every player by 3x on the week there was nothing I could have done to pull out this W.

Lesson #5: Don’t sell too low on studs even if their playoff schedules are not ideal.

Keeping Karlsson Ultimate Patron Fantasy League

I’m not a massive fan of all the settings, but the KKUPFL is undoubtedly one of the most competitive leagues out there. It’s a 14-team, H2H points setup with a relatively light emphasis on goalies and deep rosters. I had a relatively solid draft to start things out, obviously a few picks I’d like to have back but definitely put together a solid core:

KKUPFL Draft

I took Matthews over Draisaitl and was vindicated when Matthews finished 2nd in this league’s format in points scored. Dougie Hamilton and Kris Letang finished 3rd and 4th in defenseman scoring so I don’t regret either of those picks. Brady Tkachuk finished 12th and Alex DeBrincat finished 11th so I made serious money on those picks and DeBrincat in particular. Mantha was my big miss, and the rest were a bit bleh. I figured I’d get one good goalie out of the Columbus duo but we all know how that worked out, and Koskinen self-destructed almost immediately after I drafted him. I was still able to stream goalies in and out and it didn’t bother me much to not hit on a goalie pick, especially since I didn’t pick one until the 11th round. I was able to make a few trades in-season to boost the squad as well:

KKUPFL Trades

Getting Marchessault for Hertl was a minor win early in the season. The big win was snagging Josi and Verhaeghe for the low price of Jake Muzzin and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Josi abruptly returned from injury only a few days later making it a slam dunk win. I tried to turn Verhaeghe into a solid goalie, but Rask barely came off the IR in time for the season to be over. Gurianov was useless so I didn’t lose anything there and Labanc was solid if unspectacular so it was close to a wash overall.

In terms of actual team performance, this was undoubtedly my most aggravating fantasy hockey experience of the year, and if you take a look at the final standings I’m sure you’ll see why:

KKUPFL Standings

That’s right, 9 points off 1st in points scored but I missed the playoffs with a 5-7 record. It won’t surprise any of you to know that I had the most points against and it wasn’t close. I think this was actually one of my better performances this year, but I do think I probably missed some opportunities by not sending out more trade offers. I was content with where the team was at on a points scoring basis but particularly in a shortened season I should have been more aggressive trying to improve the team and secure the necessary wins to make it to the dance.

Lesson #6: The team is never “good enough” – keep the dealing and waiver churning up even if you think you’re cruising with a great squad.

Yahoo Public League

I joined one Yahoo public league for the sole purpose of being in a league similar to what many of my followers would be in. It’s a 12-team H2H cats setup counting G/A/+/-/PPP/SOG/HIT/W/GAA/SV%/SHO. I had a really nice draft in this one:

Yahoo Public Draft

This draft had a little bit of everything I love, the Svech stan pick at the top, the 3rd round Pasta snag, Tkachuk in the 4th to dominate hits, Rielly/Letang/Doughty at values and a stupid late Bryan Rust pick. I made a couple of deals in this league as well:

Yahoo Public Trades

Morrissey for Dahlin was not a great look, but Morrissey was already my 5th defenseman so the cost to acquire was quite low. Hughes for Fiala was a nice pickup as I got all of the good Fiala and almost none of the bad.

By this point you’re probably wondering if this guy who claims to know things about fantasy hockey actually won any leagues this year, and while that’s fair I’m glad to report that I at least beat some randoms in a public league:

Yahoo Public Standings

I finished the season in second place but crushed it in the playoffs, including an 8-0-2 whitewashing of the first place team in the finals. I’d like to thank Jason Robertson and David Krejci for their contributions as waiver wire pickups as well as my late season goalie savior Jack Campbell. Honestly though, I’m not convinced this was even the best team I put together this fantasy season. But then, that’s fantasy hockey, isn’t it? It’s a bit like playing poker in that you play the hand you’re dealt and if you’re skilled you should end up winning a bit more than you lose. In a theoretical 12-team league every manager should have an 8.3% chance of winning (100% divided by 12). If you can turn that 8.3% into 15 or 20% you’re absolutely killing it. That’s gotta be my last lesson of the season:

Lesson #7: Not every team will be a winner, but if you can consistently put yourself in the playoffs you’re doing just fine.

That’s all for this one folks! Make sure you follow Apples & Ginos on Twitter or join the Apples & Ginos Discord server for more content and to ask any fantasy hockey questions you may have.

Thanks for reading, you are appreciated!

Nate

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Published by Apples & Ginos

Apples & Ginos Fantasy Hockey Advice

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