The left-wing lock was a defensive strategy popularized by Scotty Bowman and the Detroit Red Wings in the 1990s.  In essence, it was very simple.  If the opposing team gained possession of the puck, the left-winger would drop back with the defensemen.  It helped reshape the Red Wings into a team that could frustrate opponents defensively as well as bury them on the scoreboard.

Today, I wonder if we poolies face another form of left wing frustration - an apparent scarcity of quality left wingers to draft. Call it the leftwing lockout if you will.  But whatever you call it, within a matter of weeks we will all have to draft our teams for the coming campaign, so let’s examine the potential problem.


Is There an Issue at LW?

Let's not get ahead of ourselves.  Are we in fact facing anything out of the ordinary with this year's crop of LWs? 


Like many of you, I've been messing around with Yahoo's mock draft tool for the past little while (if you haven't yet, give it a shot here…it will even email the results to you afterwards).  Not only is it educational to plunk yourself into any draft position of your choosing, but, if you’re like me, it’s endless fun to use ridiculous aliases to draft under (so find a way to say ‘hi’ if you see something childish like 'AnneMurrayMissesBryanMcCabe’sCanOpener’).


Yet, as much fun as I was having being sacrilegious, I was disappointed with my drafting results.  While I was privately congratulating myself for any number of steals, I felt I was consistently getting out-manoeuvred when it came to drafting LWs.


After several more iterations of questionable drafting, I read Ryan Ma's “Enlightened You Shall Be (2010)” piece last week.  If you haven't read it yet, you should.  Ma concludes that "right wings are massively deep and left wings are crazily not!" All I can say is, thank you Ryan for putting that down in pixels before I went insane.


Now, there are lots of outstanding LWs to choose from.  And Momma Ovechkin herself would tell you that today’s finest fantasy player is an LW. Folks like Ilya Kovalchuk, Daniel Sedin, Zach Parise, and Rick Nash are no slouches either.  But I think Ma is on to something.


Here is a look at how the LWs are stacking up in some pre-season rankings.



Rotowire’s Top 200 Rankings (Sept 9th)

DobberHockey Draft List 2010 (Sept 4th)

Number of LWs/RWs in positions 1-10



Number of LWs/RWs in positions 11-20



Number of LWs/RWs in positions 21-30



Number of LWs /RWs in positions 31-40



Number of LWs/RWs in positions 41-50



Number of LWs/RWs in positions 51-60



Number of LWs/RWs in positions 61-70



Number of LWs/RWs in positions 71-80



Number of LWs/RWs in positions 81-90



Number of LWs/RWs in positions 91-100



Total LWs/RWs in top 100 positions




The two draft lists differ in their rankings, sometimes significantly and Dobber’s list employs more inclusive position listings for players, leading to some double-counting.  This partly explains why there seems to be more wingers in the top 100 players from Dobber’s list. Centers dominated both lists.


So on both lists, there are more top-100 RWs than LWs. However, the more interesting (and useful) finding is the distribution of the wingers.  On both lists there is a bubble of elite LWs. But both lists show the RWs appearing in greater numbers after that early bubble.


In Rotowire’s case, the LWs keep pace with the RWs until after position 30, when their scarcity increases. There are only nine LWs in the top-80 players, while there are 17 RWs – almost double.


Looking at Dobber’s list, the LW bubble is more obvious with six players who could play on the left wing in the top-10. By after the top-30 the RWs have drawn even in their numbers, and never look back.


If all that number-talk gave you a headache, then try this quick-and-easy experiment: enter a Yahoo mock draft and select autopick, then wait for the horror-show of a LW cadre that will be delivered to your mailbox. Using an autodraft feature is fraught with peril (especially if you don't modify your preferred draftees' list), but after receiving Ryan Smyth as your LW1 for the third time in a row, I think you’ll agree that LWs in this year’s draft may be a slippery commodity.


What to Do About It


But let's not overstate the problem, left wing is not fantasy hockey's new goalie – they wont necessarily make or break your team.  However, if you prefer to build a more balanced team rather than grabbing the best player available, then you’ll need to make allowances for LWs and draft them earlier then you might otherwise have done.


But how to do this in an effective manner, without letting your emotions cloud your judgment?

Once upon a time, Dobber created his tiered-scheme for drafting goalies, and it might make sense for you to consider employing a similar technique when it comes to your LWs this year.


In short, divide up the LWs into multiple tiers (based on whatever draft list you are using, and taking into account any uneven distributions like bubbles) and then use the tiers to help you make difficult decisions in the midst of your draft.


By dividing your LWs into tiers, you ensure that you won’t miss out, but your drafting remains nimble because it linked to your competitor’s actions.  If a run on LWs develops (and I predict that it will in many drafts), then you will need to act if you want to avoid having Ryan Smyth as your LW1 this year.


So no need to panic, just build some LW tiers into your draft strategy in order to avoid falling victim to a left-wing lockout.


Now, back to my mock drafts…what do you think of using ‘PucktheHST’ next?  Maybe that’s offside.


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Comments (9)add comment

Colin said:

... This is primarily aimed at those who are in a straight points pool that uses positions, but the logic still works for multi stat pools if you have a nice way of assigning an overall point value to a player based on his total skill package.

I have been in a straight points pool for about 12 years where we need to draft 3 LW's, 3 RW's, 3 C's, 3 D's and 1 goalie so I have come across the position shortage many times and have found a fairly easy solution with the help of some excel formulas.

There is normally 12 of us so that means the top 36 players get drafted at each postion for skaters. So I will calculate the projected points for the 36th player for each position and use that as my comparison when drafting. For example let's say the 36th left winger will get 45 points, 36th RW will get 55 points and the 36th C will get 65 points. I am drafting in round 3 and the best player available is a center projected for 80 points. The best LW is projected for 65 and the best RW is projected for 70. Here's the logic and math which tells me that my best option is to draft the 65 point LW.

If a center is my last pick in the pool I will get a 65 point player, but if I take a LW I will only get 45 point player so in essence I gain 20 points for that round by picking a C (65-45). So with that logic before I can pick a center in any round of the draft he has to be projected to score at least 20 or more points that a left winger and at least 10 or more points than a right winger to make up for any shortcomings I will encounter if I have to pick a LW or RW in the last round. Since the 80 point center is only better by 15 points on the LW for round 3, I will lose 15 points in that round by picking a LW, but I will gain 20 points back in the last round when I pick up my center and be up 5 points overall. I would only lose 10 on the RW, but then only gain 10 by drafting a C over an RW in the last round so it is a wash.

Now 5 points isn't a lot, but that is just for one round. If you execute this logic for every round of the draft and gain a few points each round you will gain a significant edge to start the pool.

Now this is the basic logic and over the 12 years I have tweaked my excel formulas to account for tiers and large gaps in positions so that it is even more accurate. It has served me well over the years and it gives me a very sound assesment of the value for each type of position within each round.
September 24, 2010
Votes: +0

notoriousjim said:

... you totally missed the point by using dobbers list for this. Dobber can tell me a player can play LW all season, but if it never gets put into yahoo it does me no good. The problem is that it is not as clear as to positions as baseball and football are (a 3rd baseman plays that spot, there cannot be confusion about it), basketball has the same issue with centers. The classical model of a freakishly tall guy playing center is fading to another powerforward.

I personally feel that yahoo is doing that on purpose to generate a position scarcity. It makes fantasy more strategy oriented if you have to account for a thin position. I have also found that there are a few LW that do not have the rank they should. I would take Huselius as a LW2, he will be good for 60 points. I am not sure why that gives him such a terrible ranking when he was solid last year.
September 16, 2010
Votes: +0

horrorfan said:

LW I agree with the scarcity of LWers, however I feel that in Yahoo leagues, you can still get good value if you miss out on top LWers. Here are a few that are ranked quite low but could help you with solid depth.

Laich 143
Wolski 163
J.Jokinen 189
Sharp 212
Huselius 223
Neal 239
McDonald 275
Fleischmann 280
Michalek 370

And depending on your categories, they could have even more value (e.g. FOW). So, if you miss a top LW and can land at least 2/3 of these players, it's not all doom and gloom. Sometimes depth is more important.
September 16, 2010
Votes: +1

Pengwin7 said:

Best Tip all Year The LW tip is, IMO, the most useful piece of fantasy hockey knowledge I have read this offseason. Anybody drafting at the end of the 1st round turn in a snake league should be either considering going LW/LW or LW/G with their picks.
September 15, 2010
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

... RE: My Articles...

Maybe they have some use after all...

But yeah I'm up to about 40 mocks now and each and every single one has been the same conclusion, LW run very very thin near the end.

The top tiered LW are definitely quality as they are probably higher producers than RW, but unless you have the #1 pick you probably won't land AO. Kovo, Heatley, Parise, Sedin are pretty much gone by round 1 or middle of round 2, which means if you've bypassed a LW in your opening round then picked up a goalie in the 2nd round you've pretty much missed the boat on a quality LW.

Hopefully in round 3 you have access to Nash, Marleau or Ryan, but with guys like Zetterberg, Lecavalier, Kopitar, Richards, Carter, Perry dangling there, it's bloody tempting for someone to skip a LW once again.

By the 4th/5th round, with 8 teams already grabbing their first LW, you're kinda stuck with guys like Cammy, Vanek, Burrows (not a fan) as your number 1 LW and the future is surely not looking good at the moment.

If you missed the boat again... you're looking at Elias, Penner, or Gagne, now compare one of those three to AO, and you're out close to 60 points, and like 150 SOG just in 1 roster slot...

My suggestion as mentioned in my article is probably to grab your LW early possibly even your first 2 LW before your first RW. I know it's bloody hard to do, but bypass the Zetterberg, Lecavalier, Kopitar, Richards, Carter, and Perry and go after the Nash, Marleau and Ryan...

At the end of the day if you missed out on one of those C, Jokinen, Connolly, Zajac are all being drafted 100 some slots later, yet within the same ballpark in stats anyways.

September 15, 2010
Votes: +1

Rad64 said:

Was that sour grapes or lemons?? smilies/cry.gif

Brent, I'll look for you in the mock drafts. I haven't tried the hockey one in Yahoo, but the NFL one was sweet.

I don't mind a shortage now and then, but I can see my squads getting pummelled later in the season when Yahoo and Fantrax start handing out LW status to the centers and Rw's NOT on my team!

At least Tyler Kennedy managed to get C,LW status. He's going to be a monster in the Comish League! smilies/cheesy.gif
September 15, 2010
Votes: +0

Andrew said:

... buy cheap on Filatov while you can!
September 15, 2010
Votes: +0

Peter Nygaard said:

Help is on the horizon. And it comes in the name of Magnus Paajarvi.
September 15, 2010 | url
Votes: -1

D M said:

Yahoo! All you need to know on this topic: Go into Yahoo!, under Players, and pull up all LWs. Then organize and rank all players with LW eligibility in order of actual ranking (rather than O-Rank) for the 2009-10 season. You get:

1 Ovie
2 Parise
3 Heatley
4 Kovie
5 Marleau
6 D Sedin
7 Burrows
8 Ryan
9 Sharp
10 Nash
11 Laich

Yes, that's not a typo. Brooks Laich is the 11th best LW available in Yahoo! pools based on total 2009 performance. Sad that he could be some poor soul's number one LW!

By the way, I think the focus in this article on blended (i.e., multi-position) rankings is somewhat misguided. Even if the 10th best RW is far superior to the 10th best LW in raw, actual value and expected point total, one would still expect them to be ranked around the same position based on relative, positional value. Right?
September 15, 2010
Votes: +1
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