To Veto or Not to Veto

September 2007: The GFHL hosts its inaugural draft for a 12-team keeper league. In the middle of the fifth round, Hockey Without Borders calls the name of Patrick Marleau. Coming off a pair of seasons in which he averaged 33 goals and 82 points, there was little doubt in the room that his new owner had found great value with the 50-something pick in the draft.


11 rounds and several hours later, the Angels of Harlem (owned by yours truly) take a flyer (literally) on an up-and-coming Mike Richards. Some thought it was a bit of a reach in the 16th round, seeing as though most experts were pegging his upside around 60 points. But I was happy to snag him as a depth guy who could chip in at least a point every other game, while contributing in categories like PIM, faceoffs and shorties.

November 2007: A scant two months later, Richards was shocking the hockey world, producing at better than a point-a-game clip through the first six weeks of the season, while being his usual reliable self in the categories I had actually drafted him for. In fact, based on our league settings, he was a top-10 player through the first quarter season.

Marleau, meanwhile, stumbled out of the gate. Actually, that’s putting it kindly. He was horrific.

Clinging tightly to the golden rule of trading (buy low, sell high), I held my breath, prayed that things would return to normal soon, and offered up Richards for Marleau. To be honest, I was expecting the offer to be rejected. Was 6 weeks of weirdness enough to make Marleau’s owner forget that he had just spent a 5th round pick to draft him, while I got Richards in the waning rounds of the draft?

Apparently so. The deal was done. And within minutes of announcing it to the league, I started hearing the dreaded whispers: VETO.

Now, you might think that my competitors were upset that I was stealing a proven point-a-gamer for a player that most of the hockey world still viewed as a defensive centre with some offensive upside. But no. Turns out the rest of the owners were just as entranced by Richards’ magical start as my trading partner was, and they all thought I got fleeced.

After much discussion and clarification of our rules, the crisis was averted. There was no veto, and in fact the word has never been spoken in the five years since, despite some pretty awful trades. (Remind me to tell you about the time I snagged Stamkos and a first round pick for Patrik Berglund and Bryan Little!)

The policy I set forth at that time and maintain to this day is this:

No Collusion = No Veto.

It’s that simple. Veto power, if you have it at all, should not be used to save poor managers from themselves, or to prevent good managers from being too shrewd. It should only be used to maintain the integrity of the league by preventing underhanded dealings, such as one team sending their best players to another team with a promise of a share of the prize money in return.

Why do I take this position? A few reasons.

1. Vetoes are Often Done Out of Selfishness: I’ve played in a lot of leagues where vetoes were invoked more frequently. In my experience, the vast majority of vetoes are executed out of self-interest, not in the interest of what is best for the league. A top team makes a beneficial trade, and its closest competitors don’t like the improvement of the team they’re duking it out with, so they move to block it. This violates the spirit of competition. If you think your competitor got a steal, go out and improve your own team; don’t try to tear theirs down.

2. Vetoes Create Strife: Nothing disrupts league harmony faster than a bitter veto battle. More than a few leagues have imploded due to veto controversy. Yes, it’s frustrating to see lopsided trades, but in the absence of any suspicion of foul play, your league will be better served if you roll your eyes and allow managers to learn from their mistakes, rather than stopping them from making them.

3. Owners Have a Right to Manage Their Team in the Way They Think Best: Every good manager has an objective in mind as they build their team, and the objective is not always to win as much as possible right now. The tendency is to evaluate a trade based on its immediate impact, but some of the owners in your league are not building for today, they are building for tomorrow. If they see fit to sacrifice a piece of their present to improve their chances in the future, that’s a legitimate strategy.

And yes, this brings us to the edge of a rather slippery subject in fantasy sports: the issue of tanking. I’ve written on this in the past, so I won’t repeat myself here. But as a commissioner, I recognize that a team is better served by finishing last and getting the first pick in the next draft, than by finishing a slot or two higher, and I have no problem with them managing their team to that end – provided that there is nothing underhanded going on, and that their motives are truly to build the best possible team long-term. It may take a conversation with the owner in question to assure yourself that this is the case.

4. Trades Are Tough to Evaluate: Unless you’ve got a crystal ball, it’s often very difficult to determine at the time of a trade who got the best of it, even in cases that seem fairly obvious. The Marleau-Richards trade is a good example. Based on their history and expectations going forward, I really felt like I had won the deal. The rest of the league disagreed. Who was right? Well, that season, Richards’ hot start was not a mirage – nor were Marleau’s struggles. Richards went on to total 75 points, while Marleau bumbled his way to 48 points and a -19, frustrating me to no end.

But, let’s look at their totals over the next three seasons: Richards posted 80, 62 and 66 points (total: 208); Marleau rebounded with 71, 83 and 73 (total: 227). On a pure scoring level, Marleau was the long-term winner; factor in Richards’ other contributions and you might be able to call it even. Either way, a veto would have been a huge injustice.

Funny post-script to the story: As Richards continued to excel and Marleau refused to pull his head out of his ass, I cursed myself all season for making that deal. In the end, I found myself in the championship final against my trade partner. Late on the final day of our match-up, I needed one powerplay goal to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Midway through the third period of the final NHL game of the season, Patrick Marleau scored his (measly) 19th goal of the season on the powerplay: the biggest goal of my fantasy hockey career.

So, what say you: To veto, or not to veto?

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allen5938 said:

veto Excellent article , The Veto has been overused in my leagues and in more than one case at my urging. .This gives me a better compass for the future .Thank you
November 26, 2012
Votes: +0

notoriousjim said:

... There is a gray area.
1. replacement managers- any league going past 2-3 years typically has had to replace a managers, and on occasion the replacement is just not any good. they may have a playoff team they are dead set at rebuilding, or something else equally objectable. Typically it is a matter of different expectations for the team, but it is an issue. This actually happened in my baseball league last year. Guy left, the team was fighting for a playoff spot. The replacement did not think he could win it all, so he blew the team up. After about a week of complaining about trades, the replacement manager was replaced. I understood what he was doing, but other managers did not like it.

2. the richards or marleau trade is a really good example. Proven stars for up and comers. I honestly would have objected to that trade, but would not have vetoed it. In hindsight, it was an even trade, but there is just too many question marks. WE also have to look at the manager in the trade. I know a few guys that just cycle young talent in and out. They never really make a run since they have been rebuilding for 10 years.

3. When you are trying to rebuild a team run into the ground. example- I have the best team in the league by a mile. I know this, and want the league to keep going. So i make a few trades where i know i am losing to help out the bottom feeders and make my team more in line with others. I did this in a 10 team league a few years ago. Over the first 3 years we had 4 managers leave after getting destroyed. I took advantage of the weaker owners a little too much... so when they left and were replaced, i let the new managers win on a few trades. I still won the league last year, but it is not a run away like it was the first 2 years (i changed my team name to dominators after the first 2 months of the first season of that league when i did not lose a single point.... h2h weekly and i went 10-0 for like 8 weeks strait... then the name stuck)
November 26, 2012
Votes: +0

angelofharlem said:

... Actually Pengwin, as I think about it more, I don't think you're really saying anything different than I did in the article. My point is that collusion is grounds for a veto, but a lopsided trade that was fairly negotiated should not be vetoable. I think your point, if I'm understanding correctly, is that it's not always easy to know if there was collusion or not. I didn't really get into how to go about investigating this - and you're right, that's not simple by any means. I didn't mean to imply that it is. But I still think you need some evidence of collusion in order to veto, and not veto a bad trade just in case there might be something shady behind it, even though you have no evidence.

Again though, I do agree that when there's more money at stake, you have to be much more stringent. Makes a lot of sense.
November 26, 2012
Votes: +0

angelofharlem said:

... Hey Pengwin, you make a good point. I've never played in a big money league, with anything more than a nominal entry fee. I can see how you would need something more stringent in place in that case. The majority of league are for minimal or even no money; in my league there's no money on the line, so really no incentive to collude anyway. In that situation, the only reason for a veto is to overrule shrewd trades, and I don't think that's called for. Thanks for the alternate viewpoint.
November 26, 2012
Votes: +0

Sovereign said:

Choosing not to veto I have one salary league were I pulled off a huge trade.

Last year, I was already pretty stacked, and had lost in the finals (after suffering through Sids injuries and E.Staals early woes).
And I had learned early on in this particular league that GMs absolutely HORDE goalies, usually asking at least double value. So I had to do the same. And slowly paid the price to acquire good G prospects 2-3 years ago.

Fast forward to this year, and I was able to expend Cory Schneider and Price and a pick for and allstar array of young elite talent. Adding a lot of cheap young fire-power to my already stacked team (my primary G was still Lundqvist). Afterwords I was emailed by other GMs that they considered asking for a veto. Some thought me crazy. But because the GM that got the goalies was a bottom feeder. And because he was unable to trade with other GMs (including themselves) for established goalies, they withheld.

As much as it gave me a big bump that I didnt necessarily need, it restored some balance to the league. And possibly saved a guy from having to bottom feed for 2-3 more years (or quitting). Adding more enjoyment (if we had a season this year) for all. The other GM may need two years to develop his skaters, but at least his team is not crippled longterm anymore by GMs goalie-hording because I was willing to let two premium G assets go, and the rest of the league was gracious enough not to veto.

Honestly, with my skaters alone I should now be a cup-contender for the next 3-5 years. And the rest of my league has to deal with that. But it just shows the dynamic of a REALLY good league, when they don't veto to avoid facing a power house.

There is no money involved in this league. Which I am sure helped. But even then, fantasy hockey is just for fun. $20-25 entry fees just keep me a little more interested. People can ruin a good league trying to be selfish, when the money lost can be pissed away in two drinks at the right(or wrong!) bar.
November 25, 2012
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Disagree No Collusion = No Veto.
It’s that simple.

No, it's really not.

When you KNOW there is NO collusion, then this statement is very fair.
When you KNOW there IS collusion, then this statement is very fair.

But what about when maybe there is collusion?
Oh... see now... what do we do now if we need an investigation?
Who plays god?
Who plays judge?

Maybe BuddyA gets the proven players from BuddyZ.
Maybe TeamB & TeamC get passed by BuddyA in the late part of the season.
Buddy A takes home the $1000 championship prize.

After the season... BuddyB quits the league.
He says he is too busy, even though he really enjoyed the league.
(I've seen this happen.)

How much more is there to the story?
What if BuddyA & BuddyB are brothers?
What if BuddyA & BuddyB work together?

What if...
what if...
what if...

Are you ready to judge?
Are you ready to be god?

Is there enough information here yet to form a decision?
Oh... hmmm...

A good set of trade-rules keeps a collusion-investigation from ever being required.
For those of us that have played in big-money leagues where it wasn't just "all friends"... things get a little more dicey... a blanket statement like "No collusion = no veto" won't cover it anymore.

I personally don't play in big-money leagues (any more) because I have first-hand experience at the fuzzy-grey area of potential collusion in fantasy leagues.

It's a good article, but "no collusion = no veto" is for those fantasy pool fans lucky enough to be living in an insulated/perfect world with trust-worthy friends.

Outside the bubble, that kind of generic statement is a ticking timebomb.
November 25, 2012
Votes: +0

angelofharlem said:

... Glad you enjoyed the article! Fortunately I've never had a GM who was running their team into the ground. If I did, I'd try to determine whether it was intentional, or they're just clueless. If it's the latter, I'd give him some coaching and try to help him improve. Otherwise, I'd probably give him the boot before his team was completely crippled.
November 25, 2012
Votes: +0

arctic_rogue said:

... Fantastic read! Definitely illustrates why vetos are dangerous grounds. Would be interesting to see a Part II that examines if a trade should be vetoed if a GM is running his/her team into the ground. Many say that it's the GM's choice. But if they leave, a team in shambles can be very difficult to find a replacement GM to manage it.
November 25, 2012
Votes: +0
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