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On Monday, the 2013-14 Hockey Daily Dose debuted by giving budding commissioners advice regarding how they should construct their leagues. Today, we’re rolling out Part II: how to conduct yourself in said league(s). However, some potentially big news broke Monday night, so let’s touch on that first.
In case you missed it, reports surfaced that Phil Kessel’s reps were going pretty deep into contract extension discussions with the Toronto Maple Leafs. More precisely, the Buds could hand out something like an eight-year, $64 million blockbuster to the polarizing 26-year-old.
Today’s Dose won’t transform into Kesselmania, however, because the decision hasn’t surfaced as of this writing. Don’t fret, though; Kessel stated that he doesn’t want to hold discussions during this season, so closure should come soon.
With a clearer answer possibly hours away, Wednesday’s Dose will revolve around one of two angles: a) Is Kessel really worth [insert more money than everyone you’ll know and love will earn, combined]? or b) What is Kessel worth going into a contract year?
Does that settle it for now? Good.
Oh, and there’s still plenty of time to join a Yahoo! Hockey Pool, so get on that.
OK, we’re almost ready to talk about how to squeeze the most out of your draft experience, but first note that like Part I, this is more about style than substance. Check out Rotoworld’s Draft Guide for more nuts-and-bolts type stuff.
Finally, if you’re catching up on “Breaking Bad,” skip the second-to-last paragraph of the upcoming “Where and Who” section to avoid a potential spoiler.
WHERE AND WHO
Look, there’s nothing especially wrong with playing fantasy hockey with strangers. After all, there won’t be anyone to mock you for picking Ville Leino or your favorite team’s seventh defenseman.
Still, there’s nothing that really beats the experience of drafting a team at a tacky chain restaurant or your friend/coworker/nemesis’ place.
Sure, there’s the chance that you might overindulge in “refreshments” and start picking off long-departed Quebec Nordiques (if you must, Tim Thomas technically counts), but that risk pales in comparison to the rush that comes from making the smart people in your draft groan with envy following your mecha-shrewd swindle. Pulling that off is about the closest fantasy sports can come to making you look “cool.”
(Under most circumstances, you should at least have greasy food or a beverage in one hand if you’re also studying what looks to others like spreadsheets and aren’t getting paid for it.)
As much as a booze and heckle-filled environment can mean accidentally drafting Alexei Kovalev,* you can also use it to your advantage. And, no, I don’t mean putting some “Stevia” in someone’s beer.
Actually, this point deserves its own subsection.
HECKLING AS ART
Heckling can be a real asset during an in-person draft, especially if you’re willing to be a little evil/deviousness comes natural to you. (Some squares might throw around the term “sociopath.” Those wet blankets.)
Back many moons ago - looking at NHL.com, I’d guess sometime in 2003 - some guy delivered a withering snicker right as a young lady was about to pick David Aebsicher, aka “The Swiss Miss” in an early round. That chuckle was apparently debilitating enough to force her to beg off the pick.
Naturally, 7-10 rounds later, thar same quasi-mulleted fellow in a Jaromir Jagr T-shirt picked up one D. Aebsicher, and rode him to 32 wins, four shutouts and a .924 save percentage.
One could say that things never really improved for that Mystery Gentleman (fantasy-wise) and Mr. Aebsicher (in just about every way) following that magical season.
Playing those kind of mindgames loses all of its charm and most of its effectiveness in a chat window, so just stick to compliments, puns and small talk. Oh, and please don’t complain endlessly about how long someone is taking to make a pick.
Another big pro of in-person drafts comes in the quirky touches you can add, ones that frequently work best on draft night itself. Really, this element forms the backbone of “The League.” (Can a Canadian network please produce a spin-off for hockey called “The Liiiig”? That would be great. I think I know a good place to start, casting-wise.)
Seriously, though, the personal touches are what make lines of numbers and agonizing injury reports become human stories. Perhaps the reigning champion would like to hold an obnoxious banner-raising ceremony? Maybe someone’s lovely wife will don an appropriate jersey after selecting her favorite players? Worst case scenario, you could just steal the Yoohoo bath gimmick from roto’s founders.
Making a league “yours” is like eating a Reese’s peanut butter cup; there’s basically no wrong way to do it. Also: both should involve chocolate and peanut butter.
SOME ACTUAL SEMI-FUNCTIONAL ADVICE
OK, here are slightly more substantive bits which may be most valid in online drafts, although some in-person versions might just involve a little more pen and paper if people aren't in the mood to haul around laptops and tablets.
(Obviously, treat pen-and-paper notes like your grade school scantrons, only this time don’t let Biff bully you into sharing your answers.)
1. Do what I never do and run a Mock Draft or two. Sure, it’s soul-crushingly depressing if you land a better dress rehearsal team than you’d ever grab in reality … and sure, it’s a waste of time if you’re really busy … and sure, it will earn you the world’s biggest eye-roll from a significant other or roommate but … uh, you can get acquainted with a respective interface! Yes, that’s it.
You could also do something far more productive like watch TV or play video games, though.
2. Queue realistically. Many people treat ratings like gospel, so if you’re waiting on pick No. 25 to roll around, player No. 16 might not be there. Unless he’s severely injured. You should probably check that. But, really, roundup at least a few options whenever you possibly can, especially in leagues with quick timers.
3. Walk the sleeper tightrope. This kind of ties-in with No. 3: it’s one thing to spot a guy who’s woefully underrated. It’s another to draft him two rounds earlier than you needed to, anyway. My advice, especially when you have “sandwich” picks,** is to weigh competing thoughts:
a) “What are the chances this guy will be here when I pick next?”
b) “Are other managers going off the board or are most devoted to the listed rankings?”
c) “How sour will I be if I lose this game of chicken?”
If you ask me, c) is pretty important, although that changes if 4. is valid.
4. Check for redundancies. If you’re dead-set on someone, by all means, grab them (see: c). Still, don’t just panic and say “this is the best RW available and ohmyheavens I don’t have any RWs and it’s Round 10 …” without looking to see if that guy’s surrounded by RWs with nearly identical skills. When it comes to sleepers, players who are dominant in certain areas (30-goal potential, high-end PIM) are usually the guys you shouldn’t let slip away.
ONE LAST POINT
Strongly discourage auto-drafting. I don’t care if that means handing out pink-bellies to adults, try to limit the amount of people dodging the draft.
There’s absolutely nothing fun about watching a TERMINATOR ROBOT take the guys you’re astonished that everyone else is leaving on the scrap heap. It’s not as fun to manage an auto-drafted team, either. It’s the equivalent to adopting a child instead of seeing half your DNA sit two inches from the TV and boast the same inability to dance.
(I … might not have sold the advantages of drafting your team very well there. Woops.)
Anyway, that’s about it on drafting decorum, so go to the next page for more.
After the jump: more sleepers and some news/notes.
* - Don’t.
** - By sandwich picks, I mean you either have the first pick (example: pick 1, then wait until 20 and 21 in a 10-team league) or the last pick (example: pick 10, 11 and then wait until 30, 31 and so on in a 10-team league).
Note: I’m just going to throw out three or four sleepers per column until I run out. Sometimes they'll be ranked too low on a specific site, other times they’re just generally underrated.
Mikhail Grabovski (criminally low in Yahoo) - Did Randy Carlyle hijack the rankings here? Maybe, because the three-time 20+ goal-scorer and two-time 50-plus point guy could approach Mike Ribeiro's 2013 numbers in Washington next season. Honestly, Mikhail Grabovski might mean "no respect" in Belarusian.
Kris Versteeg (too low in both) - Some sleepers are like home run swings - sure, you could strike out, but you could also break a light - but others are base hits. Versteeg is a nice single that could be stretched into a double, provided he’s healthier than 2013. He doesn't quite shoot enough or score enough to be a high-end sniper, but he's really close to the mid-tier, with three 20+ goal seasons already at age 27. Also, he's deployed this "Tombstone" mustache and that "Hulk Hogan" hair in the past, which is a compelling tiebreaker, really. If his knee bothers you, at least keep him on your watch list (provided he goes undrafted).
Ryan Miller (200’s in ESPN) - Miller’s been riding that incredible silver medal/Vezina year for a while, but amusingly enough, that reputation’s gone flat just in time for another Winter Olympics. He’s no steal in Yahoo, but in ESPN, it’s tough to ignore the bargain potential, even if he’s playing for almost-certainly-lousy Buffalo.
Assuming he doesn’t get traded, of course.
INJURIES (full list) AND QUICK HITS
The Detroit Red Wings placed Darren Helm and Patrick Eaves on the LTIR while also putting Jonas Gustavsson and Jordin Tootoo on the regular IR. I’m sure their fans will get some chances to grumble at another round of “too old” comments … Kris Letang and Tomas Vokoun are on the IR, but it appears that there’s “no interest” in Ilya Bryzgalov. Should I attach the word “yet”? Don’t make any bold plans of grabbing him; it’s probably best to wait and make sure he actually plays in the NHL this year first … Take many of the rookies making teams stuff to heart. After all, NHL squads can send a guy to the AHL/junior after nine games and not burn an entry-level year. I’d be cautious about a tweener like Morgan Rielly, despite his talent and penchant for generating typos … It looks like James Reimer gets the opening night edge on Jonathan Bernier. Hopefully I’m pointing out the obvious when I say that this is just the beginning of that little saga.