Henrik Zetterberg


In the Vancouver 2010 Olympics, Team Canada established themselves as the greatest team on earth when they took home gold. They did it with a forward lineup that featured seven natural centremen among its 13 skaters, and another two who’ve been known to play the middle from time to time. Elite NHL pivots like Eric Staal, Mike Richards and Jonathan Toews found themselves stationed on the wing more often than not.



If it's good enough for the best team in the world, shouldn't it be good enough for your fantasy league?


In previous columns, I've made a big deal about how I always aim for realism in my league settings. But I'm not too proud to stand before you today and admit that when it comes to positional designations among forwards, I'm a big fat hypocrite.


Unlike many of you (I suspect), I prefer to designate attackers as simply forwards, rather than dividing them into centres, left and right wingers. Yes, this flies in the face of my fixation on realism - and yes, I fully expect some of you to tell me I'm wrong (I welcome any and all attempts to convince me). But here's why you'll find my leagues flush with F's, with nary a C, LW or RW to be found.


1. Everybody Gets a Better Team

It's well established that the pool of fantasy-worthy centremen is significantly deeper than the selection of wingers. It follows, then, that in a typical 12-team league where teams are required to dress equal numbers of C/LW/RW, some higher quality centres are left undrafted in favour of lower-producing wingers, which are needed to ice a full lineup. Maybe it's just me, but I'd rather see the best available players get picked, with all teams getting strengthened as a result.


This factor can be mitigated by designating some flex forward spots (for example, lineups could consist of 2C, 2LW, 2RW and 3 forwards of any position). But if you're doing that, you're already compromising the centre/winger designations, so why not just do away with them completely?


2. The Injury Factor

Another drawback that I've found when forwards are broken down by position is that the impact of injuries is amplified. Let's suppose your lineup consists of three of each forward position, and you've got one of each on your bench. It only takes two injuries at any given position to potentially cripple your team. (The league’s transaction limit will determine how easy or difficult it is to fill that hole; we'll look at that in a future article.) In a forward-only league, conversely, a pair of injuries wouldn't be nearly so punishing, as you've still got a healthy player on your bench.


Two of my current teams are a case in point. In Dobber's pro league, I suffered early season injuries to centres Jeff Carter, Andy McDonald and Tim Connolly (okay, that last one was my own damn fault). It forced me to burn some of my limited transactions early in the season in a desperate attempt to plug the hole. By contrast, in my keeper league, I've also had multiple centres injured simultaneously (first Carter and Ryan Kesler; later Carter and Danny Briere), but because there are no C/LW/RW distinctions, the depth of my forward bench has allowed me to skate through it relatively unscathed.


3. Stimulating Trade Action

If you like a lot of player movement in your league, I've found that there tend to be more trades when all forwards are treated the same. If you're worried about keeping the right balance of centres and wingers, it limits your trade options. You may not want to trade a left winger for a right winger, because it will throw your roster out of balance. To make a trade, you’ve got to find a deal that’s not only fair in terms of fantasy value, but also a good fit positionally.


By contrast, in a league in which all forwards are created equal, it’s much easier to find a trade match. More trades makes for a more interesting league, especially as the season passes the midway point and some teams start to fall out of contention.


4. Positional Fluidity

Positions aren't set in stone. As a Canucks fan, I've watched Cody Hodgson and Manny Malhotra line up at centre and on the wing at various times this season. I've seen Jannik Hansen on either wing. I've cheered on a power play that regularly features a centreman on the wing and a winger on the point. The lesson: just because a player is officially listed as a centre or winger doesn't mean that's how he's always deployed.


A lot of words have been spilled in the forums here at Dobber Hockey over the issue of positional eligibility. In past years, questions like "why doesn't Malkin/Zetterberg/Marleau have winger eligibility when he's played most of the year on the wing?" have frequently cropped up, as fantasy sites were slow to add dual eligibility for players who regularly lined up in more than one position. Dual eligibility players were rare and golden, with fantasy managers scrambling to snap up these valued contributors.


This season, Yahoo! evidently decided to listen to the complaints and did a complete 180, granting dual eligibility to everyone and their dog. Just days before the puck dropped on the season, no less than five of my Dobber pro players were given generous new designations, meaning that 7 of the 16 forwards on my current roster are now able to be slotted in at either centre or wing. Given the rules of the league, I'm thrilled to have the flexibility. But isn't the point of having a set number at each position kind of made moot when half my team can be played in the middle or on the wing? Better to just go all the way, I say. Call them all forwards and leave it at that.


So, what say you? Am I out to lunch on this issue? If so, let me have it in the comments!

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jmart said:

... Great post. I think the a generic forward designation would level the fantasy playing field. It's great having the flexibility in the pool, but with mostly multi-positional forwards, I can't help but feel i've got an edge over my competition, being able to start more forwards when i have conflicts.

Speaking of conflicts, I've been using the 'same night tool' to minimize schedule conflicts. It's a great tool, but it doesn't account for multiple positions. I can imagine this aspect would mean a much more complex spreadsheet, but does anyone know if such a thing exists?

Yahoo head-to-head pool
November 23, 2011
Votes: +0

Draft Dodger said:

realism @Sam, that's true. I guess in real life it is the coach who decides what position guys are playing so the fantasy owner should have that same power. And unlike real life there would be no downside and a huge benefit to putting forwards at the defense position so you have to at least make the distinction between forward and defense.
I wonder why the NHL doesn't have an official list of player's positions. Thinking it would be nice for all fantasy sites and stats providers to have a master list to use. Of course I'm sure the NHL would screw it up and have even more random positioning.
November 20, 2011
Votes: +0

Sam said:

... This is fantasy hockey afterall and there is only so much realism you can inject.

I actually think it is more unrealistic when a league designates C/RW/LW because you are relying on some outside force (ie. Yahoo) to determine which player plays which position and it seems so random and sometimes wrong. Having a stats provider affect your league so much just seems ridiculous to me and I don't quite "get it".

Saying a forward is a forward is WAY more realistic in my opinion.
November 20, 2011
Votes: +0

Draft Dodger said:

flexibility Yes it would be so great to have the realistic flexibility a real team has, without the blanket 'forward' designation. NHL coaches have the flexibility but obviously it isn't absolute. Some players just don't perform away from their natural position. We're always looking at ways to come up with that balance in our pool. I was thinking maybe something where you can play a player out of position but he loses say 10% of his points. So then you're not forced to make a trade to deal with injuries but ideally you want to find a player who naturally plays that position.
Would be a nightmare to administer I would think though.
November 20, 2011
Votes: +0

angelsofharlem (Glen) said:

... Great points everybody. Funny Mike, I know you were joking but I realized someone could turn my logic and use it as a rationale to eliminate defencemen as a requirement. That's where my sense of realism kicks back in - I'm a firm believer in having a realistic number of d-men.

I guess at the end of the day, I just want the same flexibility that a real team has. If a real team has a LW go down, they don't automatically have to scramble to bring an LW up from the farm or grab one off the waiver wire. They have the option of shifting skaters to different positions, and every team uses this option at some point in every game. We make life more difficult on ourselves when we limit forwards to specific positions.

Great feedback everybody, I love the conversation!
November 20, 2011
Votes: +0

mike hess said:

Forwards and goalies Great point, but you don't go far enough...if you just called them skaters I could fix my goalie problem in seconds...there only about 60 of them of vaule and having some flexibility would really make league settings meaningless...smilies/grin.gif

Dual designation can be limited by making the number of times a position can play fixed for the year. In one of my leagues I can only play 164 games in a position....after that their points don't count. Really limits the value of dueal eleigibility.
November 20, 2011
Votes: +0

Draft Dodger said:

C/LW/RW Hard to argue with any of your points Glen, except maybe #3. Injuries and players not playing up to expectations drive trading, if you can replace with any forward on your bench you're less likely to make a trade than if you have to replace a LW with a LW. We find it also makes for interesting trade negotiations - how much are you willing to overpay for the LW it is obvious you're in need of. One wrinkle we have in our pool - 14 team keeper - is we have 4 at each skater position but can have 3 or 5 as a result of a trade. In other words you have to replace a LW with LW if promoting from your bench but can swap a LW with a RW via trade.
Have to say #4 is a very compelling reason to make the switch to your line of thinking. For keeper leagues it is frustrating trying to build a team when all your best players become RW during the off season.
Great article Glen

November 20, 2011
Votes: +0

Bajen Belfast said:

... We've done exactly that in our new salary cap game, coded all wingers as W instead of RW or LW. Join our nonprofit game at hockey.swegamers.net, season starts on the 1st of December.
November 20, 2011 | url
Votes: +2

Dylan said:

C/W This is my first year as a Commissioner, and there are a couple people in the league who are relatively "fresh" when it comes to fantasy hockey; ultimately, I decided to go with Center and Wing distinctions, and it's worked out great for everyone involved. Looking around the league, it really helped newer players build a better overall roster, yet it still yields enough of an advantage to experienced [or lucky] poolies who drafted/acquired lots of players with dual C/W eligibility.
November 20, 2011
Votes: +0

angelofharlem (Glen) said:

C and W I agree Dobber, I'd rather go with C/W than C/LW/RW.
November 19, 2011
Votes: +0

notoriousjim said:

... yahoo has added a ton of positions, but from my personal observation they have handed out center elibability like candy and are slow to give out wing and D. I am not even sure if kane had even played a game at center before he got that eligability, but hodgson still is not a winger and liach will never get D
November 19, 2011
Votes: -1

Dobber said:

... This is how I roll as well. Players play every position, I hate being corrected in columns about LW/RW. So pointless, because many players swap sides so often...and certainly if there is a need. And in fantasy, sometimes we need the RW to sometimes slide over to the LW.

Another suggestion - have a C and a W. That's easy too.
November 19, 2011
Votes: +0
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