Fantasy Hockey Site Review: Yahoo!
This is the first in a series of reviews of the most popular online fantasy hockey league websites. All the sites have their strengths. The intention of these reviews is not to favour one site over another, but to provide a resource for league commissioners to determine which site will best meet the needs of their league. All sites are evaluated on the same criteria to provide for easy comparison, with a letter grade assigned to each factor. The opinions of the reviewer do not necessarily reflect those of Dobber Hockey.
Yahoo! Site Review By: Glen Hoos
Yahoo’s usability factor is exceptional, and in my opinion the best of any fantasy host. The whole site is very clean and well designed, with logical navigation. Team management is very intuitive, with drag-and-drop line-up changes making roster management a cinch. The player list is easy to use, with clickable icons to quickly add players to your roster or watch list.
Likewise, the trade engine is straightforward, placing both your roster and that of your trade partner on the same screen and employing check boxes to indicate which players are included in the trade proposal. The Trade Block feature lets you advertise the players and stats you’re shopping, and the positions or stats you are seeking in return.
As a commissioner, league set-up is quick and painless. After a few years’ experience, I can set up my league and invite teams to join in under 15 minutes.
Scoring and Stats: C
In terms of standings formats, Yahoo! has all the options you could want: roto, head-to-head based on stat categories, and customizable points scoring in which you can assign values to various stat categories. On this factor alone, I would rate Yahoo! highly.
However, my biggest beef with the site is the limited selection of statistical categories. While many of their competitors offer dozens of categories, Yahoo! has just 16 categories for skaters and 10 for goalies. Some key stats that you may wish to employ in your league that aren’t available include anything to do with the shootout, differentiated types of penalty minutes (eg. fights, majors, minors or misconducts), giveaways and takeaways. Those who like the ability to draft team goalies instead of individual goaltenders will be disappointed not to have that option. Statistical selection is Yahoo’s biggest area for improvement.
The Draft: A
Yahoo! supports both online and offline drafts. Their online draft room is set up very nicely and is easy to use. Players are auto-ranked according to Yahoo’s player rankings, but managers can customize their rankings before the draft to make drafting more efficient. If the manager is not available for the online draft, their team will be auto-drafted using the rankings the manager has submitted ahead of time.
Yahoo! also offers mock drafts in the weeks leading up to the start of the season. These are very popular, as there’s always a mock draft starting soon whenever you have time to do it. Mock drafts are incredibly useful for getting a sense of where players are getting drafted in Yahoo! leagues, and for getting comfortable with the online draft process before you’re doing it for real.
Keeper League Compatibility: D
Yahoo! has limited features for keeper leagues. The site shuts down in the off-season, so you can’t use it to maintain your league through the summer. On the plus side, when it re-opens for business in late August, it does give commissioners the option of renewing their league from the previous season. Unfortunately, all this does is copy over your league settings – not your teams and rosters. There is an option to designate keepers prior to the draft, which takes these players out of the mix for the draft. Overall, keeper league support is a weak spot.
Farm Teams: F
Likewise, Yahoo! has nothing to offer in terms of farm teams. Although the player pool includes most notable prospects, there is no mechanism to include them on your team while designating them as being in the minors. In my Yahoo! league, if we wish to call a player up from the farm, we add him as a free agent, and then release him when we want to send him back down. As a result, when you look at the available players list, there’s no way of knowing if a young prospect is truly available, or if he’s stashed on someone’s farm team. Your league will need to keep track of this on a separate spreadsheet or website.
Salary Cap Leagues: F
Yahoo! does not offer any salary cap features. If you are running a cap league, salaries will have to be tracked through some other means.
Playoff Pools: F
Yahoo! currently only offers regular season pools. I would love to see them begin offering playoff pool management, but I’m not holding my breath.
Yahoo! offers a wide range of customizable features, including number of teams (up to 20), roster size (up to 30), injured reserve, maximum transactions, trades and trade reviews, waiver period, trade deadline, playoff format and which weeks the playoffs run, minimum goalie starts, positional designations and stat categories. The 20-team maximum may force larger leagues to use other sites.
Fun Features: B
Yahoo! offers custom URL’s for your league, which is a nice feature. Teams have the ability to upload custom logos; I would love to have the ability to upload a league logo as well.
In recent years, Yahoo! has really upgraded their message board, which spurs trash talking and makes league communication easier. The message board is now organized by topic, and as of this season, you can include links and images in your posts.
This season, Yahoo! introduced a new record book which records the best performances and streaks of the season. Individual manager profiles let you see your results from all your past Yahoo! leagues, and a trophy case shows off your top 3 finishes. You also have the opportunity to rate other managers in your league.
Yahoo! maintains a Big Board ranking the top 50 fantasy players. There are more useful rankings to be found here at Dobber Hockey. They also have regular fantasy columns, but again, nothing compared to what we enjoy here in our fantasy mecca. Player notes are added regularly, but they are more informational than analytical – you’ll do better by following Dobber’s daily ramblings.
All players receive a player ranking based on Yahoo’s standard stat categories. I’ve always found their rankings to be somewhat confusing, and it can lead to some real steals on draft day if your competitors are following Yahoo’s rankings. I generally disregard the player rankings.
I’ve found the Yahoo! team to be extremely responsive when I’ve encountered problems that I needed assistance with during the season. I’ve always received a helpful response and resolution within 24 hours for any issue I’ve faced.
The experience has been less positive when it comes to having the opportunity to make suggestions for improving the site overall. I’ve submitted suggestions in the past for adding some new stat categories and addressing some of the other concerns I’ve listed above, but generally these suggestions haven’t had any noticeable effect. That being said, Yahoo! hosts thousands of leagues each season, so I’m sure that one person’s suggestions don’t make them sit up and take notice. Perhaps if many commissioners were to make the same comments, they would be responsive.
Yahoo! is free to use; you can’t get better than that!
Overall Rating (1-Year Leagues): A-
The major point of improvement would be to vastly increase the available statistical categories.
Overall Rating (Keeper Leagues): D
I still use Yahoo! for my own keeper league because I love it in every other aspect, but its lack of keeper features such as year-round availability and farm team tracking means that I have to do a ton of work offline to keep track of things.
Though I rated the site low in a number of categories, there’s a reason I’ve used it to run my keeper league for the past five seasons. The user-friendliness is unsurpassed in the industry, and the factors in which Yahoo! doesn’t stack up (farm teams, keeper support, salary caps) are probably only relevant in 20% of leagues. I’ve been able to compensate for these things by maintaining my own website for managing farm teams and tracking rosters through the off-season.
For the typical pool, I would have no hesitation in recommending Yahoo! However, for keeper leagues that include farm teams, salary caps, or extremely deep rosters, there are other sites that meet these needs better. If I could change one thing about Yahoo!, I would love to see them offer a wider range of stat categories. Hopefully that will improve over time, and add to an otherwise fantastic fantasy hockey experience.