As reported in the Toronto Star recently, Ken Holland circles the American Thanksgiving on his calendar every year in red ink. By then, he says, a team has established its true winning percentage.


Not everyone takes so long a view of things as the Red Wings GM, but even on teams where an October overhaul is needed, many NHL GMs and coaches still often say they like to wait ten or twelve games to get a feel for their players.


These experienced hockey professionals wait to pass judgement on their roster because they know the risks of reacting too quickly. They know that over-analyzing early results often leads to bad decisions.


Similarly, what separates the fantasy GMs who are destined to swim in the lower half of their pools from those who are angling for the top spot, is partially how they handle the early season temptation to make big moves in the hopes of finding a breakout performer.


Every year, bizarre trends appear early in the season. Angus has already pointed it out in the Daily Ramblings section, but if you missed it, check out James Duthie’s humourous article on “premature evaluation”, at


Nicolas Chabot has an excellent column in The Hockey News called, Inside the Numbers. This past issue, he compared last season’s top scorers at the two-week mark with the final list. Of the top twenty scorers after two weeks, only four remained on the list by the end of the season. Some, like Paul Kariya and Paul Stastny, had their season derailed by injury (fairly predictable in Kariya’s case), but consider Aaron Voros who “had the best 15 days of his life” according to Chabot back in October 2008 and occupied the 9th spot on the scoring list. You may remember how that story ended…by April he ranked an inglorious 408th.


The always entertaining Janet Eagleson at pointed out in her latest article that after his recent four point night, Matt Carle ownership in Yahoo leagues shot up from 8% to 47%.  Some of these acquisitions might have been quality decisions (possibly by some desperate former owners of Andrei Markov), but many of these folks may have been dumping higher quality players because of a slow start in favour of what they think is a quick fix.


Are these folks just picking up another version of Voros? Only time will tell. But Carle may have already had his best game of the season.


Don’t Take Yourself Out of the Running


Every year there are poolies who are smart (or lucky) enough to grab the few sustainable breakout surprises in October, but I guarantee you that at this time of year, there are many more people who seriously handicap their seasons by making knee-jerk decisions.


That’s why so many people preach patience when it comes to making early season changes.


But every October, many poolies start the roster-surgery, convinced (or afraid) that they know how the season will play out after only a handful of games. Be aware that if you do decide to play this high-stakes game, it won’t go unnoticed – the savviest and most dangerous of GMs will quietly watch your moves only to turn around and gut you with them. It’s the fantasy version of the Great One’s famous quotation, “a good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.”


Some players, like Roberto Luongo, have had horrible starts, but because of their pedigree you’re not worried (yet). But here are a few less blue-blooded players that might have you wringing your hands and thinking about a change:







Yahoo Rank

(Tuesday, October 13, 2009)

Jason Spezza




It’s still not clear yet how the post Heatley era in Ottawa will affect Spezza, but if Mike Fisher continues to gel between Daniel Alfredsson and Alex Kovalev, Spezza may remain on the second line longer than his owners would like.  That said, Spezza will get his points yet.

Jonathan Toews




Toews tends to start a bit slowly, and the European trip probably didn’t help. The young captain will ramp it up soon.

David Backes




Backes is ranked higher by Yahoo than he should be, but give Backes (and the rest of the Blues) a chance to recover after their European start. They were dead last in the Western Conference in mid-Februry last year, but finished in 6th place - Backes was a big part of that.

David Booth




The whole top line in Florida is struggling to score. Now, I’m no Nobel prize winner, but didn’t Booth’s team also start the season in Europe?   Hmm…

David Krejci




As pointed out by Dobber, Krejci is still getting warmed up after missing the entire training camp due to his surgery. He’ll be back in last year’s form soon.

Olli Jokinen




Jokinen will pick up the pace (because I can’t see him off Iginla’s line any time soon), but I think Yahoo had him too highly ranked, and he had a slow finish last season. If someone in my pool has dumped another slow-starter at centre, I’d think about picking him up.

Nathan Horton




Ditto Booth’s entry.

Dennis Wideman




Like a number of Bruins, Wideman has not hit the season running, and the recent shoulder injury isn’t going to help, but it is only day-to-day. The Bruins are better than their record shows, and so is Wideman.


Lastly, if you want to know how seriously some fantasy hockey GMs take the annual early season panic? Check out this fascinating article written way back in October of 2007 describing how to fake a “panic trade” in order to improve your team.


Fantasy hockey GMs are a vicious lot, and if you can’t see the sucker at the table, well… you’ve been warned.


Your Fantasy Take-Aways


Here’s how to navigate these tumultuous early days:


1. Do yourself a favour and wait until your players have had 10-12 games under their belts before you pass judgement (obviously this doesn’t apply to seriously injured players like Johan Franzen or Markov);


2. If you absolutely feel the need to make big changes this early, consider limiting them to your bench players. Have some confidence in your draft choices and give your high-priced players a chance;


3. Be aware that other owners in your league may not display the same level of poise, and be ready to take advantage of their panic.


You don’t need to emulate Holland by waiting until late November to consider a major overhaul to your team. But do yourself a favour, and give your lads another week.


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Comments (7)add comment

Rick Wakeman said:

... Quality article - well researched and presented. Thanks.
October 14, 2009
Votes: +0

blammo said:

Wideman Great article - I have been resisting my urge to make big changes for the exact reasons you list. but I have to disagree with you on Wideman - even when he is in the lineup he is no longer playing with Chara 5-on-5 or on the top PP, he has been replaced by Morris. While the Bruins PP hasn't been firing on all cylinders, I don't see this changing as I think Julien likes to stick with his pairings. If I owned Wideman, I'd be shopping him for a D4 and if nobody bit, he'd be riding the wire.
October 14, 2009
Votes: -1

KFV said:

confused I don't get what you mean by Kariya's injury being predictable. He'd played every game since the lockout before he went down.
October 14, 2009
Votes: +0

Atomic Wedgy said:

Atomic Wedgy
... "But Carle may have already had his best game of the season."

Considering the game where Carle scored 4 in one period was a record breaking game, I think you are right on that. I doubt that any defenceman in the league will score 5 points in any one game. However, Carle will get 40+ points this year. Mark it down and put my name with it. I'll eat my hat if he doesn't get 40.
October 14, 2009
Votes: +1

Darcy said:

... Currently getting killed by my D-line, Burns, Bogosian, Martin, Corvo, Ericsson and Karlsson. I'm in a keeper league that doesn't have a waiver until mid-way thru the season. It's killing me to watch now but I know the eventual payoff for the young guys will be worth the pain.
October 14, 2009
Votes: +0

Ryan Lenethen said:

Spezza Oh Ya. I also own Spezza. I rock. Anyway I am just waiting on him, I know he will put up the points eventually. He is just sad Heatly is gone is all.
October 14, 2009
Votes: +0

Ryan Lenethen said:

Waiver Wire Well I am the proud owner of Markov.

What I got left to fill my 5th slot is Yandle, Ian White, and Anton Stralman, and so far not so great. Ian White has been the best of the three, and Toronto hasn't won a game (We count +/-)! Anton has some Visa problems, and Yandle, who knows they called up Lapisto and he got more ice time!

Yesterday I decided I needed more depth at blue line. So I pulled to trigger on Del Zotto as my first waiver wire pick. I had fist pick so I could get anyone that was available. I would have like to pick up a nice "maybe" goalie, but decided my most pressing need was defence due to the whole Markov affair. Demers and Girardi were also available to me as was Pavelec and Ellis. Anyway hopefully it all works out.
October 14, 2009
Votes: +0
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