Fantasy hockey is an exercise in decision making. Successful fantasy GMs are separated from their less decorated peers by virtue of their decisions. That's not to say that plain old dumb luck isn't a factor – we all know it is. But despite this, we bravely do our best to anticipate trends, or at worst, we try to react effectively to unforeseen events.
In order to do that better than the next guy, we soak ourselves in information. Who's starting tonight? Who's that less-than-50% owned winger currently riding a 13-point-streak over the past nine games? Which Detroit Red Wing is the next to get hit with a long-term injury? Many fantasy articles focus on dolling out timely information, and rightly so. But bleeding-edge information is only half of the game, once you've got it, you need to decide how to act on it. And that's where our decision making skills come into play.
Every once in a while, hockey coaches do something wacky during practice (anybody for dodge-ball on skates?). In that same spirit, this fantasy hockey article is going to be a bit different than most. As a book-end to my September article about gut feelings on draft day, I'm going to discuss a mental tool that might help you take better advantage of all that information that is out there, particularly the excellent info found at this very site. Ahem.
The OODA Loop
Fortunately, lots of smart people have spent a great deal of time trying to figure out how to help the rest of us make better decisions. In particular, the military has worked hard to create simple, useful tools to help its leaders make the right call, even when events are developing rapidly and when information is imperfect. While none of us need to figure out how to coordinate a close air strike with our company's assault of a built up urban area, we do need to deal with an ever-changing hockey battlefield of injuries, line combinations, hot goaltenders, and point streaks. That can be a lot to handle if you don't have a simple way of quickly processing the flow of information and using it to your advantage.
Way back in the days when Number 4 was playing for the Bruins, a United States Air Force fighter pilot by the name of John Boyd was thinking about how to make better decisions. He came up with this process:
- Decide; and
He named this tool the OODA Loop (pronounced "ooo-dah"). I know, I know…it sounds like something your vegetarian friends from Vancouver might order at a Queen St. West restaurant (in downtown Toronto). But it's become a very popular decision making tool in both western militaries and the private sector. And it just might help you to win your hockey pool. In fact, you likely already have three quarters of the loop down pat. So let's look at each component.