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Ryan Ma shares his thoughts on how to be a successful fantasy hockey GM through trading and negotiating.


Last year I wrote a similar column regarding trading strategies, this year I’ve updated it and hopefully will also catch a few of the new Dobberities who missed it the first time around. A couple of years ago I read a life-changing book penned by Steven R. Covey titled “7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” One habit that he focuses on is to always think win-win.


With this being a shortened 48-game season, and nearing the half way mark, I thought it would be a great idea to see if I can apply some of his thoughts into the realm of fantasy hockey trading to improve your fantasy squad and ultimately help you win your league. Most of the strategies will be centered around rotisserie leagues, but many of these concepts can be easily transferrable to head-to-head leagues.


Covey believes that there are six paradigms of interaction. Covey


-          Win/Lose

-          Lose/Win

-          Lose/Lose

-          Win

-          No Deal

-          Win/Win


According to Covey, Win/Lose is a paradigm which takes a strict, authoritarian approach. “My way or the highway”, the hard line “take it or leave it approach”, or the “in order for me to win, everyone needs to lose approach” which is probably what 90 percent of the trade propositions you receive ultimately are.


They are the clear-cut “low ball” offers where one party is clearly trying to better themselves, while pawning their crap onto to you. Now, there are two implications of this for fantasy hockey: First a Win/Lose deal could be accepted (highly unlikely), where you might come out on top in the short run, but in the long run you lost the war, because you’ve p---ed off all your league mates by robbing the guy which results in no one respecting you anymore. Or second, you send out so many ridiculous offers, that once again no one respects you or takes you seriously. You get blackballed and are never included in trade discussions ever. So in the end, you might have made out on top of one deal, but if that’s the only deal that you complete during the season, you still end up finishing a loser.  


The second paradigm that Covey brings up is Lose/Win. The biggest problem with this paradigm is that probably 90 percent of us poolies belong to this grouping, even though we may not know it. At the end of the day, there is only ONE winner, which means there are at least seven or more losers in every pool.


Obviously it’s different if you’re playing in a money league with multiple money places, but realistically who settles to play to get their original entry fee back rather than trying to win it all? One thing that you need to keep in mind is that any moves that you don’t make will result in a favourable outcome of the leading team. If things remain status quo, they win, so it’s your job to knock them off their pedestal and take some of that power out of their hands.


Covey mentions a third paradigm which is Lose/Lose. Now, there are very few situations where this occurs in fantasy hockey, which makes this scenario a rare occurrence. This situation may occur when a fed up manager, annoyed by losing all year long, drops all of his players onto the ww and disrupts the competitiveness of the entire league: everyone loses. A second one might be the “collusive” trades that so many Dobberites protest against on the forums where a “bottom feeding” team moves their best assets to a contending team once again disrupting the competitiveness of the league.


Everyone’s p***ed and no one is happy at the end of the day. The positive is that most leagues have a backup plan to resolve this scenario, but one thing that you do need to keep in mind is that not all “bad” trades are always collusion. First, you need to seek to understand, and then judge.


Fourth we have Win, it’s pretty similar to Win/Lose, but at the end of the day all you care about is winning and not so much about the others around you. The perfect example of this, from a fantasy hockey perspective, is where a person only cares about winning the “trade” but not necessarily improving their overall team. I’ve read plenty of “did I win this trade?” threads on the forums and I’m thinking in my head, sure you might have won the trade, but how does this really improved your team?


Another paradigm is of course when we negotiate back and forth, day after day but can’t come up with a trade proposal that pleases both parties. It results in No Deal. Obviously a deal just can’t be reached and both parties leave happily. The positive is that no hard feelings were created and both parties are generally happy about the outcome. The downside, unfortunately, is that the edge still remains to the team leading since it creates a status quo situation where they still maintain the upper hand.


The final and probably most effective paradigm is of course Win/Win, where an arrangement is made where both parties are completely happy and benefit from the outcome. One of the key factors Covey discusses, in order to build a win/win situation for both parties, is a need to lose the “scarcity mentality”, where we naturally believe that there’s only so much of the pie out there, and in order for me to win, I need to own the biggest chunk of it. Covey then coins a new contrasting term the “abundance mentality”.


If every poolie looked at their “abundance” of stats and was willing to part with a small chunk of that in order to improve in another area, wouldn’t trades between two fantasy teams be much easier to create and mutually beneficial? Both teams end up happy and both teams possess a better chance of attacking the top of the table than a Win/Lose or Lose/Win situation, doesn’t it?

Step-by-Step guidelines to helping you win your league.

The first, and most important step, in helping you dramatically improve your team is to look at where your strengths and weaknesses lie. On Yahoo! based leagues it’s a very simple system where you just need to log onto your league and it should bring you to your front page where your standings load up. If you click on the top right corner (full standings), it’ll bring you to a complete break down of your team stats produced so far this campaign.



Ryan Ma 2


Take a look at your team (1 in picture above) and identify the weaknesses of your team. In mine (Maaaasquito Bites), the G, SOG, HIT and SV are the areas that I really need to improve in order for me the climb the standings. The next step is to identify the strengths (2 in the picture above). This helps you identify who your best trading partners are. My strengths are A, +/- and PPP. +/- and PPP are a bit fickle stats and pretty hard to control, so my best bargaining chip are my assists.


One area I’ve identified where I can make a significant boost in is SOG. I’ve got a whopping two at the moment, so realistically speaking there’s a lot of room for me to catch up as long as I do it asap and not sit there wasting my time and falling further behind. So you look at the standings to see who would be your best potential trading partners are.



Ryan Ma 3 

Once you’ve sorted the stats, it’s not hard to find potential trading partners as long as you keep the concept of win-win in your mind. I look at Angus’ team and boom we’re the perfect trading partners. I have strength in assists, but a weakness in SOG, he’s the complete opposite. We’re a match made in heaven.

The next step is a simple just looking down his roster to see who generates the most SOG and who would make the most impact for my team. I look at an equivalent player who would make the same impact for him and boom you have a deal that’s win-win and both teams should theoretically move up in the standings.


Angus Unleashed

Maaaasquito Bites

Zach Parise

Micheal Grabner

         Derek Roy

Martin St. Louis





Sent to Angus with a note, “You need help in A, I need help in SOG.” Bang, a day later it’s a done deal.

Second area that I want to target is hits.

Ryan Ma 4

Follow the above steps and boom, hit another perfect trading partner. Got the big man himself in Dobber.


He’s got a ton of hits to spare, but is getting crushed with a 1 in PPP.


Look down his roster to look for players that fit the bill, and boom send an offer.


Legion of Dobber

Maaaasquito Bites

Steve Ott

Brayden Coburn

Alex Tanguay

Joni Pitkanen


He was a bit more work than Angus, as he took a bit more convincing. He countered with:


Legion of Dobber

Maaaasquito Bites

Antoine Vermette

Brayden Coburn

Alex Tanguay

Joni Pitkanen


Here’s what went on behind the scenes.

Ryan Ma 5

Ryan Ma 6

Ryan Ma 7

Ryan Ma 8

Legion of Dobber

Maaaasquito Bites

Steve Ott

Brayden Coburn

Andre Benoit

Alex Tanguay

Joni Pitkanen

Kyle Okposo


I lost Okposo, but he was sitting on my bench anyway so he was pretty useless in a weekly league. Benoit is my ww fodder, I’ll toss him for a ww pickup next week. Once again another win-win, he gets his PPP in Tanguay and Pitkanen, I get my hits with Ott and Coburn.


Now these are just two subtle changes to my line up. If I gain 10 points due to these two trades, I’m right back in the thick of things and sitting around third or fourth, where at least I’m in an attack position to the leader.


Here’s the key to winning your league, sometimes you have to “bite the bullet” in order to get to where you want to go. Dobber or Angus could very easily have stood status quo, and sat on their team.


The problem with that is the result of your team is directly related to the production of your players.


If you don’t change any aspect of your team, why would you expect a different result? Do you realistically think that if you’re currently at the bottom of the standings that your team will all of a sudden wake up and shoot up the standings by remaining status quo? Trust me it won’t happen, and if it does, you’re one of the very lucky few who happen to “luck out”.


If you want to win your league, spend the time to analyse your team and work on the weaknesses, that’s what’s going to move you up the standings quickly. In roto-leagues, there’s no sense in dominating a category and winning it by doubling the next closest competitor, you get the same amount of points as you would if you win it by just 1 over your competitors. Use your strengths to minimize your weaknesses.


Going back to Covey’s wise words, the most effective paradigm to utilize during interactions is the Win/Win paradigm. Not only do you get something done in the here-and-now, but you can also pave a few roads for the future as well. If you’re consistently searching for the “big fish” you might just be left empty handed and continually trying to search for a league win. I’ll leave you with a famous quote by Albert Schweitzer, “In the hopes of reaching the moon, men fail to see the flowers that blossom at their feet.” 


Now go grab your flower basket and go trade hunting!


Questions or comments? As always I’ll discuss them in the section below.


Should you be so inclined, follow me or fantasyhockeypowerplay on Twitter if you think that my article/posts are useful.


Fantasy Hockey Power Play is now available in both Android and the Apple App Store (listed under Fantasy Hockey Power Player for now over there... will be fixed shortly). 


Jeff Angus, Russ Miller, Steve Laidlaw, Mac Vincent and I have all joined forces in getting this project off the ground.


Angus and I are planning on launching a “mid-season guide” as an in-app purchase in the next two weeks, so if you’re looking for “sleepers” or second half climbers/decliners, download the app so you can make the in-app purchase when it’s released. Lots more additional features coming in the summer as we get our feet wet to get this project started.

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Comments (6)add comment

Ryan Ma said:

RE: Pengwin I agree and I disagree...

And the answer depends entirely on what you want to achieve. Whether you want to go out "winning the league" or are you happy finishing 6th... I'm pretty ambitious, if I don't win I'm just a part of the 12-15 other losers. That's my mentality, so I'd rather throw everything at the competition, even if it means making a bad trade but finishing with an opportunity for first is better than for me to sit idly and finish 6th. RHRS is a good example of it, I could have very easily sat on my struggling team and finished middle of the pack, or trade aggressively to get me within contention. I might finish 10th trying to go for gold if it fails, or I could sit idly and finish 6th and still lose... So why not go down swinging.

The thing is Dobber could cop a 1 in PPP, but then I ask what are his chances of winning the thing if he does that? The chances of him winning are essentially 0! You can't win the league copping a 1 in any 1 area, especially not in a "expert" league like this one. So he could keep a 15 in hits, and keep a 1 in PPP for 16 points, or he could make a play for some help in PPP and maybe take a slight hit in hits and finish with 10, and maybe he catches back up for PPP given the amount that Pitkanen and Tanguay could produce. With Ott and Coburn he would have essentially guaranteed that he finishes with a 1 in the PPP category with not shot at winning.

In Angus' scenario, there's a couple of factors, he was actually 2nd in the league when the trade occurred, it's just the past week that he's fallen in the SOG. The assists will come, at the end of the day, he could have very easily sat, would that have changed his fate at all? If he sat would he still win anything? Probably not... but at least changing his team around does something to show an effort...

So it's definitely up to interpretation on what you think win-win actually means... no it's not win-win in a way that we both can't win the league, but it a trade that helps both teams move up in the standings, you could argue that it's win-win from that perspective.

The way I look at it is that if you do nothing you won't change your fate, you do something and at least there's an opportunity for improvement.
February 28, 2013
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

RE: Angus yeah definitely which is where the win/lose situation happens. You win the battle but you lose the long term war... so really you lose anyway...
February 28, 2013
Votes: +0

Ryan Ma said:

RE: Robbie Yeah definitely, I think we've been born and bred into a system of trying to win every trade, I mean if you look at the forums it's all littered with that stuff, did I win this trade, did I come out on top, is this a fair trade... Which is why 90% of the trades are never accepted or rejected without a counter...

One thing we need to do as a group is get away from the "name" factor and get back into the fantasy value factor. Just cause someone has a "big name" doesn't mean that they're going to really help you in your settings... Winning a trade doesn't win you the league. If all you're doing is adding to your strength.

The thing that I'm trying to do is get people away from that that concept and away from that line of thinking. It'll be impossible but hopefully this column at least gets people "thinking" and perhaps approaching it a little bit differently.
February 28, 2013
Votes: +0

Pengwin7 said:

Pretty good. ROTO is a beast... very mathematical.
You've done a decent job breaking it down.

One thing I'd like to see considered more is the "likelihood" of rising/declining within a category.

For example:
1. Dobber is last in PPP with 29. Teams in front of him: 45,48,49...54,57.
2. Angus is 6th in SOG. In the middle of a tight group of contenders: 646... 689, 689, 690, 697, 698... 712... 742.

From their perspectives:
1. Dobber should be punting PPP at this point in the season. He's going to need a miracle to make it up to 2nd last. If I'm him, I tried of my PPP assets to chase other categories. I'm not sure why Dobber would be interested in trying to repair his PPP at this point in the season - and I think you had to throw in something extra for this reason.

2. Angus should have held his SOG. That's a critical category and he'll need the two-point swing of being above Comish(746), BizSmack(712), LOTR(69smilies/cool.gif in that category. And I'd argue that Angus is so far back in A, that he'll have a hard to making points. If he does make up points, the teams he catches are probably not contenders anyways - so it's only a one-point swing.

I like the direction and thought-process of this article.
A+ for concept.
I'm not really sure it equates to an actual WIN-WIN. I don't think Angus & Dobber made very smart moves in the categories that you "talked them into focusing on".

But... point of article wasn't to actually pull off a real WIN-WIN.
Point of article was to make a trade based on the concept of a WIN-WIN.

For that... I give you a BIG thumbs up! smilies/wink.gif
February 28, 2013
Votes: +0

angus said:

... I've had more success going for win/win trades in my long-standing keeper league. It mimics real life - you may be able to pull the wool over once, but if you come back to that guy again he is going to be very hesitant to make a deal.

February 28, 2013
Votes: +0

Hey Robbie said:

Hey Robbie
... Thanks again; this is even more lucidly laid out than last year's article. I have bookmarked it, and will be sending the link to my potential trade partners. I think most of my leaguemates approach every trade negotiation in the win/lose framework, and so if I approach with an offer they assume that I must be trying to get over on them. I have beat the drum of addressing each others' weaknesses with our strengths, but it seems they assume this is just a sneaky negotiating tactic on my part. Two years ago I approached a GM with Stamkos, Eric Staal, Brad Richards, Jeff Carter, and Patrice Bergeron and Masons Steve and Chris as his only two goalies, and he would not consider giving up a center for one of my goalies (Halak, Rask, Quick, Niemi, Thomas. I still get frustrated thinking about it.
February 28, 2013
Votes: +0
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