It may not surprise you to know I am participating in several playoff hockey pools this year.
Playoff pools are completely different from the usual fantasy leagues. For the most part, they are less complicated. Generally, you aren’t making any roster moves after the post-season begins and you would be hard-pressed to find a playoff pool that tracks stats any more complicated than goals and assists.
(Originally pubished by The Hockey News on April 11)
There is also a lot more luck involved since you can’t react to your star player twisting his knee by picking someone off waivers. You also can’t react to five of your players being sent to the golf course by an underdog team.
You pick your players, and you’re stuck with them.
As such, strategies are vastly different. The most experienced poolies know that in the playoffs, players on teams that make it to the final two - or even the final four - will dominate the scoring race.
The downfall to this? Everybody knows that strategy and everybody fights over the same teams.
The trick is to find another “favorite.” Find a team that is not popular, yet is also not too far-fetched to make the third round. San Jose, Detroit, Anaheim and Pittsburgh are wildly popular. In fact, in several of my pools, if most of those teams were to make it to the final four, half the pool would still be in the mix for first place.
Not surprisingly, although not as popular as players on the above four teams, Montreal and Washington players were also grabbed early in every one of my pools. Montreal - my personal Cup favorite - had players selected in the first round every time. On one occasion, I gave up on all Habs, choosing not to go after the scraps the hockey pool vultures left behind.
In the pool I am running at DobberHockey, I can click on a list of the most selected players. In the Top 30, there were seven Sharks, six Red Wings, six Penguins, four Habs, three Avs, two Ducks and one Wild.
That’s a different kind of pool format (corporate box), but it gives a fairly good picture of what is in demand.
The Hockey News ran an office pool draft on Wednesday and I was stuck picking 12th. The pool has 19 participants. In the end, players such as Patrick Rissmiller, Matt Carle, and Mark Parrish were being settled on.
With so many people involved, it was hard to build a roster around one team. Some had success, but that success involved one star from their team of choice and then three or four players who reached 30 points in the regular season.
In every pool I participated in, there were four teams that got no respect: Dallas, Ottawa, Nashville and Boston. Nobody selected a single player from that group in the first half of any pool.
Now, admittedly, Nashville is a huge long shot and I also think Boston is not ready. Ottawa is playing a very strong team without two of their best players (Daniel Alfredsson and Mike Fisher), and with unsteady goaltending. So those three, I understand.
But is Dallas really so far-fetched you get to the 90th pick of the draft and still have Brad Richards available? The Stars finished with 97 points and Marty Turco was almost unbeatable a year ago. Is Anaheim so strong that 100 percent of poolies grab them before Dallas players?
Anaheim is the favorite and they are certainly my pick to move on, but I wouldn’t bet the house on them. And therein lies your answer.
So, I let the THN group fight over Guillaume Latendresse, Travis Moen and Brad Stuart. While they did that, I easily scooped Brad Richards, Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow. Jason Spezza and Dany Heatley are also on my squad.
Will my team get eliminated early? Probably. But if I joined the “rat race,” all I would be doing is battling 10 other guys with similar players on similar teams for third place.
I want to win. Give me one upset – one upset - and I could do just that.