Fantasy Hockey ONE: THW Live’s The Plan

There was a lot of hemming and hawing over whether I should even publish something like this. Learning experiences usually are great for readers but what if I am divulging too much. It was a legitimate dilemma. However, in the interest of access and very understanding people, this article has the chance to see the light of day. You can say this. There really is a way to contend in nearly every league you are in. That is provided, your sample size is not considered compulsive or addictive in most countries.

Seriously, fantasy hockey leagues come down to a pretty high percentage of luck. While everyone has an idea of what that exact percentage is, let’s be honest it is a majority at least. After all, there are some things that take months to even begin to explain. However, I will try my best to do that very thing because the fantasy hockey community deserves it. We are here to provide a service and should always be accessible.

Brian Elliott Blues
Elliott was no foolin a true fantasy hockey savior. Who knew? (Scott Rovak-US PRESSWIRE)

Beginnings Of “The Plan” in fantasy hockey

There was a real birth of this idea. The origins started all the way back in 2003 after a really bad beat in a league I thought I had surely won. Nothing is ever truly certain in fantasy hockey until the week actually comes to a close. You will learn that in head to head clashes, especially come playoff time. However, times do exist where the draft does not quite go so well and you are perceived to be not a threat. At what point do you have to enact “The Plan”? That depends on your philosophy on when you want to lower the initial expectations. This does not mean you are giving up. It means you are retooling on the fly.

That got us thinking. Have you ever had a team that you thought just had no business contending at all for a fantasy championship. Every fantasy general manager has had probably at least a few or more. At what point do you just alter your reality and roll with this? I had a few teams like this personally and one of these, I enacted “the plan” right after I realized how disaster laden my draft was (lockout did not help).

What Is The Plan?

Simply there came to be a time where a simplified rudimentary focus becomes needed to contend in some fantasy leagues. Keep in mind, this does not work all the time. However, let’s list a few of our triggers for the plan.

  • Check ALL of your categories
  • Know thy competition
  • Scour the waiver wire religiously / improve team.
  • Take a look at other H2H leagues that are similar
  • Stay active everyday.
  • Pounce when the time is right.

This sounds so simple but the six step plan does work when implemented correctly. There is always a way when you really think about it. Granted, there are always flaws and shortcoming in any plan but how they are implemented and when are just as important as the very plan itself.

So about that regular season……

It was a short 11 week fantasy regular season in the THW Live Keeper League. I had quickly realized that the team I drafted just was not going to be the same team four months later. This was an awful dilemma to face but those are the breaks. Marian Gaborik and Jonathan Quick were my best keepers but after that, the players were let’s face it so-so or so I thought. Here was the draft recap.

12 Marian Gaborik*, Cls RW  K
28 Jason Spezza, Ott C  K
44 Jonathan Quick, LA G  K
60 Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Pho D  K
76 Alexander Edler, Van D
85 Logan Couture, SJ C
108 Mark Streit, NYI D
117 Teddy Purcell, TB RW
140 Matt Duchene, Col C
149 Ryane Clowe, NYR LW
172 Jason Garrison, Van D
181 Peter Mueller, Fla RW
204 Patric Hornqvist, Nsh RW
213 Mikhail Grabovski, Tor C
236 Tuomo Ruutu*, Car C
245 Josh Harding, Min G
268 Ryan Ellis, Nsh D
277 Dougie Hamilton, Bos D
300 Thomas Greiss, SJ G
309 Steve Sullivan, NJ LW
332 Emerson Etem, Ana RW
341 Zac Dalpe, Car C
364 Corey Potter, Edm D
373 Andrew MacDonald*, NYI D
396 Gustav Nyquist, Det C

That looked really good on paper in September like I said. There was a lot of potential for this team and yes goaltending was a bit of a weak link but hey I had Jonathan Quick. All he did was win the Conn Smythe the previous season. Then one back surgery later and suddenly my goalie categories felt serious peril and pain. I had no idea how much of a pain in the neck this would become throughout this year. I figured Edler, Garrison, and Streit would be a nice trio of offensive defensemen to have then add Oliver Ekman-Larsson to the mix and I had no worries. Yes, I was wrong on that too. The forwards were not spectacular by themselves but hey Jason Spezza had an excellent second half kick. That never materialized as his back injury kept him out for nearly all of the regular season.

Matt Duchene of the Avs.(T Sanford/THW)
Matt Duchene needed some help.(T Sanford/THW)

While Matt Duchene and Logan Couture were pretty solid, there was that Gaborik guy who drove me insane then got traded and did not do much better in Columbus to a point. As the season went on, I quickly realized this may be one of the greatest fantasy challenges I had ever faced. Nothing ever came easy, one week the offense went on vacation, then the defense, then there was Quick who struggled all over the map for large stretches of the lockout shortened season. There were always injuries and poor fantasy play, even with the extra pickups and acquisitions. At 59-37-14, I managed to go 25 over .500 in the last four weeks of the regular season just to have a chance. With a month left to go in the season, I was barely in contention for a playoff spot. Keep in mind, this was a 16 team league, where only the top six teams made it to the second season. Being under .500 at that point appeared daunting and yet using a few oddball strategies, the winning weeks finally came. A month of winning every week and in some cases by a grand amount was enough to sneak in with the fourth best record in the league with a five seed because of the divisional format.

Oh god, the playoffs!

It was not going to be easy facing the 4 seed, though we were equals. I had made a very calculated gamble before the playoffs started by picking up Brian Elliott from the St. Louis Blues. Considering how awful he was in the early going, it was going to be a make or break risk. Exploiting the goalie strategy where all I needed was a few wins strung along to take at least three categories each playoff week out of the max of four. Then all I had to do was win two and tie one to advance. It was a crumby strategy to be blunt but effective. After easily dispatching of the four seed, it was on to the greatest challenge, the top seed. The number one was not defeated all season and went wire to wire the year before. I knew just how hard she would be to defeat honestly. Anytime you mix business and pleasure with competition, the seeds would be sewn.

What resulted became a thankful yet lucky happenstance. I was able to string together 3 wins and a shutout from Elliott. Then the offense showed up just enough along with special teams and blocks to deliver a stunning 7-2 victory over truly my most worthy opponent. The plan worked all too brilliantly. Set up a team, ride a few groups of categories, toss in a little luck, then see what trends are emerging in other playoff leagues and you have the recipe for a potential winner. When you have 29 points and 15 of them are on the power play, one knows quite a bit of luck is on your side.

Then there was the finals and a fellow Dobberhockey expert. Again, the same formula just seemed to play out as there was a way to take average time on ice, the usual three goaltending categories, blocks, then oddly those power play points again. It was a bit touch and go but in the end, a 6-3 victory, and a fantasy championship was won. This is not saying “the plan” will work every time but it helps. There was no honest way I should have won and yet I did. Sometimes this is just how it happens. A little luck and a little planning can make an average team catch fire at just the right time.

Tell us your fantasy miracles in the comments section. We would like to hear them and thanks again for reading.