Image As I promised last week, I will now deal with the losers of the hockey pool world. Funny thing is, this “loser category” includes 100 per cent of the guys who play the fantasy hockey, because nobody wins their pool every year and that certainly includes me more often than not. Too often though, people who consider themselves out of contention for the current season tend to overlook the most opportune times to make key improvements for the coming year(s).

If you are in a quality Keeper League, with quality competition, it will be virtually impossible to jump from the bottom third of your league to the top third of your league in one season, however by following the steps I will outline below, I promise you can make up ground and find yourself contending sooner, rather than later.

1) Familiarize yourself with the top four teams in your league at the all-star break. I mean really get to know their teams and more importantly, their weaknesses. Use this information to make educated and thought-out offers that at least get a discussion started. Very few trades of any importance happen with the first offer, and most take several counter offers before getting finalized. Having a strong knowledge base of the people you are dealing with will allow you to focus more on the negotiating process, and in turn be in a position to come out of the deal on top.

2) Take note during your draft of who bitches and groans when you make certain picks. Typically, these guys will make it well known when you have just selected a targeted player of theirs and thus they are giving you a great piece of information to use against them later on. Look back at this list come trade time and use some of these groan-inducing players as bait you can dangle in front of the nose of the guys who coveted them a few months ago. We all have our favorite players, and chances are good that these owners have not changed their minds in a few short months.

3) Don’t just offer trades for the sake of keeping your fingers busy. Offer trades and break down exactly how these trades will benefit the other guy. Because of your current placing, the top guys may not put much effort into analyzing your offer, and therefore may just decline it based on a bias’ that your current placing reflects your potential for having something of value to them. However, if you can break down how the offer can directly impact them in certain point categories, you have a much better shot at getting a deal done.

Stastny4) Don’t be afraid to make a deal for the future. You are not trying to go from worst to first overnight, and therefore you must make moves that will coincide with your long term strategy. For example, if your goal is to climb four spots per season, and challenge for the title in year three of your plan, then keeping a guy like Straka or Sakic doesn’t make much sense. Those two guys will be long past their current value by then, and therefore it makes sense to deal them now to take advantage of their immediate impact and name recognition. I’d would say getting Paul Stastny in return for either of those two right now would be fairly easy, and I guarantee it would pay huge dividends in a couple of seasons.

5) Don’t make stupid offers. Don’t make one-sided offers. Don’t make weak offers for great players. If you are going to offend and/or piss off the rest of your league, you are dooming yourself to a life of agony within your pool. Before you know it, your trade offers will not even garner a response and having the reputation of a rip-off artist, or simply an idiot, is not a stepping stone to success. Make fair offers and make smart offers, and in turn you will develop a respect amongst your peers that will be invaluable when it comes to high-end trade talks. We have a guy in our league that constantly sends out offers that just make you want to kick him in the nuts. Naturally, we delete his offers as quickly as they come in, as if their very existence in our email could cause us to get the clap.

6) When knowingly entering a lengthy trade negotiation, don’t slap all of your targeted players on the table from the start. I often tend to ignore the actual players I want, almost in an effort to devalue them somewhat to my opposition. For example, if I really wanted to get Shane Doan from another owner, I may make my initial two or three offers for Jarome Iginla. I can then appear as if I am reducing my demand by “settling” for Doan. My opponent thinks he outwitted me, yet I wind up with the player I want.

7) Focus on landing a top-tier goaltender. They are the basis for any fantasy championship, and yet are the rarest commodity in the game. I would be surprised to see many championship fantasy teams this season without Brodeur, Hasek, Kiprusoff, Giguere, Luongo, or Miller on the squad. Teams that think they can get away with hodge-podging together a championship caliber team with guys like Emery, Mason, and Budaj are just not being realistic. These goalies are golden and a great addition to one of the above elite choices, but just like in porn, rarely do the top movies contain only waiver wire talent.

8) Finally, and most importantly, be patient. If you are in a keeper league in the first place, then you obviously take great enjoyment in the year-to-year maintenance of your team. We all hate to lose, and in fantasy hockey everything from second place down is losing, but you must remember to take as much pleasure out of the journey as you do when you reach the destination …. first place.

On a side note, we have been having an NHL scheduling discussion on my keeper league message board. A long time friend and competitor of mine, Steve Roll of Calgary, suggested the following scenario, and as a respected opponent of mine in both our pool and many hockey related discussions, I felt it deserves some solid thought and discussion here on this site.

bettmanSteve says:

For me personally, I think it is brutal that you only see intra-conference teams once every three years. Part of it is being a Leafs fan in Calgary, but I would love to see the Heatleys, Crosbys, Ovechkins, Brodeurs, St. Louis', Lecavaliers, Kovalchuks, Jagrs etc. How can the NHL market their game around the star players when the schedule doesn't allow for all the stars to be seen?

My suggestion would be going back to an 80 game schedule.

6 games against Divisional teams (24 games in total). 3 at home and 3 away.
4 games against inter-Conference teams (40 games in total). 2 at home and 2 away.
1 game against all intra-Conference teams, alternating each year as the home team (15 games).
Because this totals only 79 games, so you would add a game against an intra-conference team, rotating through the 15 teams each year. Example, The Flames would play Ottawa at home and away in one year,

Toronto the next year, Buffalo the next year, the Rangers the next year etc. This would add the extra game resulting in 40 home games and 40 away games each year. You would at a minimum see all the intra-Conference teams every second year at home. 

Another respected member of our pool, which by the way is in its 18th season, is Justin Funke of Winnipeg. The Funkster always brings some bizarre thoughts to the discussion, but more often than not, they become quite intelligent with a small explanation. Justin had this to add, and I think it is brilliant. 

Justin says: 

You've obviously been thinking about this longer than me, I'm going to mull about it a little longer.

My idea is double visitor games.

If every team gave up just two home games a year it would mean 30+ games per year played in smaller or potential new markets. They would almost always sell out and generate a ton more interest than these inter-divisional re-re-re-re-matches.

Does anyone know if this has ever been done other than a token exhibition game?

Last and certainly not least, I have added my thoughts to the process. Here is what I came up, which is basically a hybrid of Steve’s and Justin’s ideas. 

Burnsy says: I think Steve is on the right track, but I think it should go one step further and have every team play every other team at least once a year. Perhaps like so: One game at home and one game away vs. opposite conference teams each season: 30 Games

3 home games and 3 road games versus each divisional team: 24 Games
3 games versus each of the 10 other conference teams with the extra home game rotating each year within each pair of team's 3 game set: 30 Games

For an 84 game season. Cut the first round of the playoffs back to 5 games like it originally was. Make all games count equally by removing any divisional/conference record being used as a tie-breaker. Strictly head to head breaks the ties with least penalty minutes in the games being the next tie breaker. I also dig Funk's idea and could possibly see it working with the extra game in the 3 game conference sets being played at a neutral site, with each team getting the gate money 5 times as to not hurt the earnings of "losing" 5 home games. Regardless, it needs to change. A league is not a league if all the teams don’t play each other. I'm actually going to address this in my column this week and see what it stirs up. I'll include both Rock's and Funk's ideas and see what the consensus is

So there you have it … the second half of my keeper league tutorial, along with the seedlings of a new discussion topic within the message board. Oh right, I almost forgot to inform you that I have made several solid offers of shopping trips to my wife in return for giving me the green light to reveal the now infamous bazoongas, but she remains steadfast and is negotiating harder than Lou Lamoriello. Hang tough … I will not fail you. 

Peace Out 


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