My first attempt at starting a keeper league ended in domination – and disaster.
It was 1995-96. I scored the first overall pick, securing Eric Lindros and his 115-point/163-PIM performance. With uncertainty hanging over the health of a certain superstar from Pittsburgh scaring off my competitors, I was able to pick up an okay running mate for the Big E. Mario Lemieux potted 69 goals and 161 points for my squad that season. Needless to say, I crushed my league – the largest margin of victory I've ever enjoyed.
Unfortunately, my awesomeness backfired when the rest of the league unanimously voted to scrap the keeper format and return to one-year pools. For some reason, they weren't interested in getting beat down for several more seasons.
About a decade later, my bitterness finally subsided, and I decided to take another crack at running a keeper league. As I sat down to write my 15-page manifesto of a rule book, one of the first issues I had to weigh was how many players to keep each year.
Keeper leagues run the gamut from full keepers, in which the full roster is protected from year-to-year and the draft only includes new prospects, to franchise player systems in which each team gets to keep just one or two players each year and the rest of the team is reconstructed through the draft – and everything in between.
I'm not here to tell you which approach is right. Some argue that anything short of a full keeper league is inauthentic, but I disagree. There are positives and negatives to all systems. Instead, I'll list some of the factors that I think are important to consider as you make the call on the keeper limit that works best for your league.
Realism: How important is it that your league mimics the NHL? Is your goal to make it as realistic as possible, or as fun as possible (those may or may not be the same thing, depending on your persuasion)? Clearly, if realism is your goal, your keeper number will be higher. NHL teams aren't forced to turn over a pre-determined number of roster players each season. That being said, a 100% keeper league may not be completely realistic, either. In theory, that could allow a team to sit on the same roster season after season. Even in the NHL, teams are essentially forced to make changes every season due to contract expirations and salary cap issues, if nothing else.
Draft Format: What kind of draft do you want to have – one which focuses exclusively on prospects and is mostly future-oriented, or one in which current NHL players are up for grabs and the season ahead can be deeply impacted? For most fantasy players, the draft is the most anticipated day of the year. Would this change if you're dealing only in prospects? In my league, everyone seems to agree that the draft is more fun when at least some current NHLers are in play.
Competitiveness and Rebuilding