Apparently, we're not that brave.
Studies have shown that people prefer not losing to winning. So for poolies, this means that because most of us are naturally risk averse we'd rather stay middle-of-the-pack (right, Jack?) instead of risking everything for a chance at a championship. This sounds like the fantasy version of the old saying that folks would rather be in the box than giving the eulogy at a funeral.
Don't feel too badly though; there are examples of decision-makers in the NHL acting exactly the same way.
For example, two Canadian university professors, David Beaudoin and Tim Swartz, argued that NHL coaches act too conservatively when pulling their goalies. Inspired by a controversial decision by the head coach of the Quebec Remparts (QMJHL), Patrick Roy, to pull his goalie with 12:22 remaining in the third period, the profs decided to look deeper into the decision.
Conventional wisdom in North America is that a team should pull its goaltender with about a minute to go if they are down by a goal, and by as much as two minutes if down by two.
Using a statistical model (based on the 2007-08 NHL season), they determined that pulling the goalie with three minutes remaining or more actually maximized the chance for victory in a number of common scenarios, such as being behind by a goal and playing at even strength.
But it's a gutsy call. Roy's team didn't come back from the deficit and in the aftermath it became clear that even St. Patrick wasn't exempt from the fall-out of going against tradition in a sport so well-known for its conservatism.
Even still, maybe we should take a lesson from a goaltender known for winning, and go all in for sake of glory. Here are some picks to help you summon your inner-Patrick this week.
All positions as listed in Yahoo! Sports, with ownership percentage in parentheses.
Jamie Benn, LW, Dallas Stars, (33%)
Benn has been getting better ice time since James Neal was shipped out of the Lone Star State, and he continues to make good on the opportunity, picking up three goals, three assists, and 22 shots in the past seven days. The 22-year-old has been on the score sheet in eight straight matches, and he's shown his versatility by not only playing both wings, but he also has centered the top line since returning from injury on Feb. 22.
Tyler Ennis, C/LW, Buffalo Sabres, (43%)
While his ownership is higher than we usually include on this list, you have to wonder about the demographics of the ownership. Highly touted in some circles before the season, Ennis was drafted by many initially, but many owners moved him when his numbers didn't play out as hoped. Now his stats are improving; he's got three goals and two assists in the last seven days, and already has eight points in the month of March. Buffalo is fighting hard for a playoff spot and so there's no need to worry about the team not putting its best out each and every night.
Brett Clark, D, Tampa Bay (7%)
Clark isn't exactly a point-generating machine, but his points have come in streaks this season, and (partly thanks to a tired 'Optimus Reim') he looks to be kicking off another small run. But be ready to bail if the points don't show up in the next game or two.
Jason Pominville, RW, Buffalo Sabres (32%)
Pominville has 14 shots in the last seven days, and he has picked up two assists to boot. He's most famous for a series-clinching, shorthanded goal in overtime against Ottawa in 2006, but if you believe that the Sabres are going to squeak into the playoffs this season, and many experts do, then Pominville will need to keep contributing.
Brad Boyes, RW, Buffalo Sabres (37%)
Like his teammate, Boyes also picked up 14 shots on goal in the past seven days, adding a goal and two assists as well. Boyes' owners have enjoyed an uptick in his numbers since his trade to Buffalo. He was quoted as saying, "I think it's been a good move, I'm excited. When I came over, that was my thought, just be excited. I'm coming back to what I enjoy doing — scoring goals, winning games, things like that." Who doesn't enjoy 'things like that'?
Francis Lessard, RW, Ottawa Senators (0%)
There's no question that Ottawa is a mess, but there's always opportunity in messy situations, and since Feb. 18 Lessard has been making the most of his opportunity to make things messier. He's earned 25 penalty minutes in the past seven days, and has 51 in the 13 games he's played with the Senators since getting the call up from Binghamton (AHL). Amazingly, he's only a minus-one player over that period. The 31-year-old must be pleased to have another shot at the NHL after five years, and thanks to Matt Carkner's injury (who's likely out for the season) he'll be in the dressing room for the duration.
Jonathan Bernier, G, Los Angeles Kings (14%)
In the last 14 days, Bernier has earned three wins, made 105 saves, and earned a 2.00 GAA. Not bad for a fellow deemed by many to be taking too long to adjust to the NHL. Last year, Jonathan Quick's fatigue was a big reason why the Kings' departed early from the playoffs (spawning many groan-inducing 'Quick' jokes in the process), and Bernier was going to be a key part of the Kings' success by lightening the other Jonathan's load. But until recently, Bernier didn't seem up to the task, and Kings' coach Terry Murray would roll with Quick time and time again. Whether it's the looming playoffs, or Bernier's improved play, we may never know, but Murray wants to play Bernier to keep Quick fresh and Bernier is making it work suddenly.
Middle-of-the-Pack Jack says:
Okay, so maybe I'll give your egghead arguments a try. I'm sitting fourth right now, but I'd kill to move up. I'm ready to roll the dice and embrace some risk. So I just go ahead and grab all these players you're recommending?
We say: Take any or all of the players we recommend, but remember that we're not pointing out the (very) obvious players in this column. If a skater is owned in a more than a third of Yahoo! leagues, we're probably not going to mention him — because a) you likely already know about him, and b) it will be difficult to grab him, especially in competitive leagues. Just remember that there is a cost associated with these players: risk. We assess that they will provide value in the short term, so also consider that the more players you grab, they more weekly maintenance you should expect.
The two profs, Beaudoin and Swartz, determined that Roy's controversial strategy, even if it didn't work in that particular game, was a good decision. So if you want to win, you can't always play conservatively — learn from Patrick Roy and go for it, critics be damned.
And speaking of M. Roy, make sure to take care of your fantasy hockey housekeeping early today, and then go out enjoy a pint. After all, it is St. Patrick's Day.
Erin go bragh!
- Buffalo Sabres
- Patrick Roy