How important is research to the fantasy lover?

It’s the lifeblood.

As the Stanley Cup Final closes out the 2006-07 season, crowning the Ducks or Senators as hockey’s Holy Grail Champions, fantasy GM’s can take a break, right?

Uh-uh. No way.



Briere and Drury


When the season ends there are draft-day deals. Notable last season was the Maple Leafs trading prospect Tuukka Rask for their starter, Andrew Raycroft. How many fantasy rosters did this affect?

Most fantasy GM’s peek into the action at the draft table, eyeing future fantasy candidates and hoping to hear of a trade that goes down that will either help your roster, or provide justification for trading away some talent in hopes of a better return.

Following that, the free agent frenzy that begins on July 1. The opening two weeks can give shape to the GM’s strategy heading into the following season, whether they are in keeper leagues or draft new players every season.

The two-week period after free agency is a frantic period where multiple daily signings are overwhelming. It’s the equivalent of the trade deadline in the NHL and to the poolie, this should be followed carefully.

Up to this point, focus on the game is still fairly attentive as new hope springs into NHL franchises and GM’s mindsets. Player movement is tracked, analysis provided.

As the frenzy dies down, stick and puck, in the interim, are replaced by gloves, balls and bats, or 7-irons and monster drivers. It’s the summer, right? Everyone enjoys the weather; they attempt to spend as much family time while the kids off for the summer; barbeques, picnics, concerts and trips to the local amusement park are in the forefront.

Stick and puck, in all likeliness, takes a backseat to summer fun and rightly so.

But there is a necessity to keep the research going regardless of the weather or multiple barbeques. It doesn’t have to be as extensive as preseason, where research occurs on the daily.

Fantasy GM’s could all spare one hour or two each week to catch up on signings they missed, new opportunities based on initial analysis and to settle on the mindset on what type of team the GM wants to have the following season. Analysis is an ongoing measure, not limited from September to the first two weeks of July.

There are no guarantees to winning a fantasy league every season, just like the parity in the NHL will most likely yield to a new Cup winner. With all the outlets for information, even message boards that could spark ideas in hockey mad minds, there isn’t an excuse to go into the preseason unprepared.

“That guy signed where?” should never be a question fantasy GM’s utter in September.

One to two hours a week, that’s all. Do your research. The rewards become self-evident.


Are you crazy? They scored 308 goals in 2006-07 and you’re downgrading them?


There are a few teams on this bubble, like the Nashville Predators with 12 unrestricted free agents (including minor league players) and an uncertain future. They may not duplicate the 272 goals from 2006-07 when Paul Kariya (24), Scott Hartnell (22), Peter Forsberg (2-13-15 with the Preds), Kimmo Timonen (13) hold an ambiguous future with the club.

Atlanta is in a similar situation with 12 unrestricted free agents (nine forwards, two defensemen) hitting the market on July 1.

Those are obvious. The player turnover will determine the outlook for those clubs.

But what of the Sabres?

Buffalo, after being ousted in the Eastern Conference Finals by the Ottawa Senators learned something that they taught the Senators last season.

All-out offense does not make for a Championship club. ‘Scary Good’, talented offensively, the Sabres were the cream of the crop, in the NHL, winning the President’s Trophy (after tying the Red Wings in points, but having more wins) and scoring in barrels. They made many fantasy GM’s very happy.

“I got (insert Sabres player here) late in the draft” was a possible sentiment as the regular season ended. That’s great for last season, but what’s the prognosis looking ahead?

While much of the offense centered on Daniel Briere (81-32-63-95) and Chris Drury (77-37-32-69), the chances of their re-upping in Buffalo is an obvious concern for GM’s with Sabres in keeper leagues.

Regardless of whether they both return (or don’t), the Sabres approach next season will be slightly different. Fans will see a club that will be a tighter unit, less flare, but defensively astute. Using skilled talent will come in the form of using them in specific situations, tailored by a style preaching defensive responsibility. Those 7-2 and 6-1 games that padded totals might not occur in the same abundance as in 2006-07.

The prospect of Thomas Vanek (82-43-41-84) bursting through the 40-goal plateau may not be very likely. Even Derek Roy (75-21-42-63), Jason Pominville (82-34-34-68) and Brian Campbell (82-6-42-48) could see their totals dip due to a more defensive style needed to be Stanley Cup Champions, not regular season goal-scoring leaders, President Trophy winners, or to make fantasy GM’s happy.

The player most likely to suffer due to the change in style is Russian speedster Maxim Afinogenov (56-23-38-61) as his reigns are pulled into a tighter defensive unit. He could wane on the defensive side and as such, could see less playing time hindering his totals.

There isn’t a guarantee that they will repeat with the scoring romps next season, but strategically better structure and capitalizing on their speed and talent up-front. Drafting Sabres could be a fool’s paradise.

Approach Buffalo Sabres players with caution. And do your research!

Gus Katsaros
McKeen’s Fantasy Hockey Expert
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