Fantasy Hockey Mailbag: Dynamic Duos or Best Player Available?

Fantasy Hockey Mailbag is a weekly column, answering your questions every Tuesday (or sometimes Wednesday). No question is too big or too small, so if you want advice or feedback on any topic related to fantasy hockey, just ask away in the comments below.

fantasy hockey mailbag

Trades, trades and more trades — that’s all you ever talk about in the Mailbag.

I’ve heard that criticism but, let’s face it, trades make the fantasy world go round. Trades are half the fun for anybody who joins a league with full managerial control of their own team. Making moves can be fulfilling and keep things interesting regardless of whether you’re at the top or the bottom of the standings. Because there are so many trades in the fantasy realm, that is what most people come looking for advice or feedback on.

So, not surprisingly, we have another potential trade to tackle today. But first, something a little different for a change.

Mike Hall asked via email: Just wondering what your theory is on owning player duos in fantasy, such as Benn-Seguin, the Sedins, etc. Is there an advantage to having them? Or, at the end of the day, just get players who produce?

ANSWER: Great question, Mike. The question came up in an ongoing conversation — Mike is a Mailbag regular — because Mike saw an opportunity to potentially acquire Vladimir Tarasenko and already owned his St. Louis teammate/linemate Paul Stastny. Mike also has the tandems of Evgeni Malkin-Phil Kessel and Joe Thornton-Joe Pavelski on his roster, so he’s evidently used this approach before.

There is no right or wrong answer here. There are advantages and drawbacks to owning duos. Obviously if their line lights it up one night or one week, that’s really beneficial to your team because you’re essentially getting double the points. On the flip side, if they get blanked one night or one week, that’s a big blow to your team’s stat-line and chances of winning a head-to-head matchup. In rotisserie leagues, it really doesn’t matter whether you have duos or not, you just want to pick the best players — the guys who are going to get you the most points from start to finish. In head-to-head, there does seem to be some strategy to icing duos, but it can work for or against you depending on the week.

I wouldn’t trade a superior player just to land a linemate of another player on your roster. That’s poor asset management. However, all things being equal or relatively equal, then acquiring that linemate isn’t a bad idea by any means. I would caution not to load up on too many players from the same team for much the same reasons. If that team has a busy week with four games on the schedule and scores a few blowout wins, you’re going to win handily. But if it’s a slow week, with only two games, and one of them ends in a shutout loss, you’re chances of prevailing are slim to none.

I’d say it’s important to ice a balanced roster with players from several different teams, but feel free to mix in a couple dynamic duos if you so desire — just don’t overdo it! At the end of the day, you really can’t go wrong with the BPA approach — that being, best player available.

This next question, coming in from Mailbag newbie Ryan Cormier, is pretty wide-ranging but it starts with a trade offer:

INCOMING: Max Pacioretty and Torey Krug

OUTGOING: Oliver Ekman-Larsson

ANALYSIS: At first glance, it’s fair enough value-wise. If Ryan needed a boost at forward and could afford a downgrade on defence, then this move would make sense. That said, Ekman-Larsson is the best player in the deal and, being a keeper league, I’d be reluctant to part with him. I was a bit torn — leaning toward rejecting — but thankfully Ryan was very forthcoming with information on his team and his league.

Turns out, Ryan’s 10-team league is expanding to 12 for next season and thus their keepers are limited to six rather than the usual eight. Ryan’s keepers were going to be Ekman-Larsson, Erik Karlsson, Joe Pavelski, Evgeni Kuznetsov, Braden Holtby and either Ben Bishop or Patrick Sharp. He also has Matt Duchene, Mike Hoffman, Boone Jenner, Mark Stone, David Backes, Nazem Kadri, Shayne Gostisbehere and Nick Holden on his impressive roster as of today.

This potential trade would obviously impact Ryan’s keeper situation. Without Ekman-Larsson, he could opt to keep both Pacioretty and Krug or both Bishop and Sharp, or perhaps hang onto the hot-shot rookie Gostisbehere instead. Ryan certainly has options and that’s a good problem to have, but it makes for a difficult decision.

The way the expansion draft will work is the current teams can protect six players, then the new teams will each get to pick six players from that unprotected pool. From there, current teams retain two more players from their original rosters followed by two more picks for the new teams from the remaining leftovers. There is a rule stating that current teams cannot lose more than two players to the expansion draft, so Ryan will remain in good shape regardless. After that, a standard snake draft will be conducted to round out each of the 12 rosters. I like the system and would probably steal it if my main keeper league ever expands beyond 20 teams.

Ryan’s league is in its fifth year of operation and his team has typically brought up the rear, but this season he’s very much a contender — currently sitting fourth out of 10 teams thanks to a couple stellar trades last off-season and a smart waiver strategy that he recently started taking advantage of. Ryan has a revolving door on two of his roster spots, swapping players out every week with the goal of getting guys from teams playing the most games in any given week. It’s a genius approach — a commonly-used tactic in other leagues — and one that is paying dividends for Ryan.

So Ryan would have room on his roster to make a 2-for-1 trade like this to increase his overall depth, assuming Pacioretty and Krug are both better than what’s available on the waiver wire. Ryan would basically just drop one of those waiver guys (presumably Holden?) to make room for Krug. That’s a substantial upgrade and definitely something to consider.

Ryan’s league also has a ton of scoring categories — 13 to be exact, with goals, assists, plus-minus, power-play points, shorthanded points, shots on goal, hits and blocks for skaters, plus wins, goals-against average, save-percentage and shutouts for goaltenders. That many categories make for drastic shifts in the standings from one week to the next. For now, five points are separating fourth from sixth but seventh is 20 points back and second place — the team trying to acquire Ekman-Larsson — is 45 points ahead of Ryan in fourth. Those gaps aren’t as big as they appear, though, with Ryan saying a team could easily gain or lose upwards of 25 points a week in a near sweep.

With that perspective, one could assume Ekman-Larsson puts up more points than Pacioretty despite playing a different position and that Krug would outproduce Holden by a similar margin. It still looks fair on paper. When a deal is fair, I don’t like to be the guy giving up the best player — in this case Ekman-Larsson. If I’m giving up the best player in a 1-for-2, the combination of the two guys coming back has to be better than fair in the big picture. Again, I’m tempted to reject this trade offer.

Ryan, for his part, was building his team around Karlsson and Ekman-Larsson as a solid one-two punch on defence, with Holtby (and possibly Bishop) in goal. Last year, when his rival GMs were overpaying for draft picks in hopes of landing Connor McDavid, Ryan dealt his first-rounder — which wound up being third overall — and a depth player for Karlsson and Pavelski. He also got Holtby for the seventh overall pick in a separate deal. Well played, Ryan. The plan going forward is a good one too.

Ryan then asked: Do I have the ability to trade Ekman-Larsson and use any of Pacioretty and/or Krug in the future? Should these guys — or any other player I have — supplant the six I’m keeping?

MORE QUESTIONS: Ryan then proceeded to kind of answer his own question by adding: “I have a feeling Gostisbehere could possibly put up the types of numbers that Ekman-Larsson produces now, I just don’t know how far in the future that will be. I’m more skeptical on Krug.” Ryan then tossed a few irons into the fire by asking: “Do you feel Pacioretty is an upgrade over Sharp as my borderline 6/7 keeper? Or should Bishop take the place over both of those guys due to having a strong 1-2 with him and Holtby?”

ANSWER: Ryan, you’re absolutely right about Gostisbehere potentially replacing Ekman-Larsson’s production going forward. The Ghost has a better point-per-game ratio this season already, and he’s going to be a key fixture for the Flyers in the future. However, as you mentioned, Ekman-Larsson contributes so much more than points in terms of being an all-around defenceman with hits and blocks, etc., so you’d be losing some of those stats with the more one-dimensional, offensive dynamo in Gostisbehere. Personally, I would find a way to keep Gostisbehere on your roster regardless. I’m a huge fan and I’m fairly certain an expansion team would snatch him up if you left him exposed. His potential would be too much to pass up.

So, on the keeper front, I would keep Karlsson, Pavelski, Kuznetsov, Holtby, Bishop and Gostisbehere if you really want to make this trade — from the premise that it should/could help your playoff push this season by upgrading your roster depth and getting you more games played by stronger fantasy contributors (than the guys available on waivers).

Or if you’re happy with the production that you’re getting from the waiver-wire guys and you feel they could be comparable contributors to Pacioretty/Krug, then reject the trade and keep Ekman-Larsson.

Heck, you could keep Holtby, Kuznetsov and Pavelski, plus Karlsson, Ekman-Larsson and Gostisbehere. That would give you the best defence trio in your league — I can’t imagine any combination being better — and you could hope the expansion teams overlook Bishop in that first round, allowing you to lock him up as one of your two second-round keepers. The new teams will probably have lots of goaltenders to choose from, and they might see risk with Bishop if Andrei Vasilevskiy happened to supplant him going forward. Expansion teams, even in fantasy, tend to favour younger players and prospects in anticipation that their teams will struggle in the standings for the first year or two. So an expansion team might even pick Vasilevskiy over Bishop. They would definitely be drooling over Gostisbehere.

That’s the direction I would go — reject the trade, keep the three defencemen — but it really depends on whether you want to “go for it” in this year’s playoffs with non-keepers Pacioretty/Krug, or whether you want to stay the course with Ekman-Larsson and just plug-and-play with waiver-wire guys in the playoffs. Best of luck to you either way!

My Fantasy World

Keeper 1

Talking about myself is getting a little old here because I was a seller, the trade deadline has passed and my team has very little at stake over these final three weeks of the regular season. I did just beat the last-place team 7-0-3 to leap up three spots — into 10th place in our 20-team standings. That result wasn’t necessarily a good thing. Sure, it essentially locks up a playoff berth for me, among the top 16 advancing, but my team realistically isn’t getting out of the first round. I traded away all my depth and don’t have enough left to pull off an upset, especially without Carey Price in goal. I guess there is a chance I could win our consolation tournament — a three-round playoff featuring the eight first-round losers — which would pocket me $60 towards next year’s $100 entry fee. I’d gladly take that but, big picture, I sold in hopes of picking in the top eight of our rookie draft — and as close to fifth as possible — so I need to get back to losing sooner than later. That should happen this week against the fourth-place team. There, enough about me.

There is a real battle brewing at the top of the standings here, with seven teams competing for five payouts of $600, $350, $250, $100 and $50. The big money is likely going to a familiar face (or foe), with our current standings leader looking to capture his fourth regular-season title in five years. He’s opened up a 14-point gap on second place and should score another blowout win over the 18th-place seller this week. His final two matchups will be tougher, facing the fifth-place team next week and whoever is second for our finale. That final week of the regular season pits teams against their closest rival in the standings for a dramatic finish — so first plays second, third plays fourth and so on, down to 19th against 20th.

As it stands, only 11 points separate second from seventh — yes, a smaller gap between those six teams than first to second. There has been quite a bit of movement amongst those teams in recent weeks, with the four-place team from last week now sitting second and the fifth-place team knocked down to seventh. Second dropped to third and third to fourth, while seventh rose to sixth and sixth to fifth. Their point totals are 211, 210, 205, 202, 202 and 200, with a maximum of 20 points up for grabs every week.

Yeah, it’s going to be a fun, intense finish. Stay tuned!

Keeper 2

I successfully ran my losing streak to four weeks here, but unfortunately all the other sellers and bottom feeders keep losing too. As a result, I’m not climbing up the draft order — still slated to pick eighth. That could actually get worse instead of better, considering two of my three remaining opponents are behind me in the 28-team standings.

They are both divisional opponents too — one has an identical record of 6-12 but fewer fantasy points year-to-date (2,213.9-2,030.0), and the other is bringing up the rear in our division at 5-13 despite having more fantasy points (2,470.6). The draft order is based on record, with points as the tiebreaker.

I’m playing that latter opponent this week and was really hoping for a loss — which would even our records, giving me a higher pick via the tiebreaker if it stayed that way — but my team got off to an abnormally hot start this week and was leading 41.8-17.4. Hopefully my boys will cool off as the week progresses, with his squad rallying for the win. Go team!

There are a couple decent playoff and prize-money races shaping up in this league too, but the real story is going to be a realignment of the divisions for next season, with the implementation of a relegation system. We’re currently voting on that change and the early results are lopsided in favour of the switch. More on how that will all work in a future edition of the Mailbag.

Do you have a question for the Fantasy Hockey Mailbag? You can reach out to me in the comments section below, by email at, or on Twitter: @LarryFisher_KDC.

Larry Fisher is a sports reporter at The Daily Courier in Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada, and has been an at-large contributor for The Hockey Writers since August 2014.