August 16 2015

Ian Gooding

2015-08-16

Nathan MacKinnon - USA Today sports images

Western Conference positional battles, more on game theory, Sergei Gonchar, and Sami Salo

Scanning the rosters of several Western Conference teams, I’ve discovered a few interesting positional battles. You could dub these “mini intrasquad cage matches.” (Apologies in advance, Rick.)

Chicago – Artem Anisimov vs. Marko Dano

Both center-eligible forwards landed in Chicago from Columbus in the Brandon Saad trade. Anisimov seems to be the safer option as an established center that should probably score around 40 points but not much more. Dano, though, is a little harder to predict with a higher risk/reward factor. He went on quite a run during March and April in scoring 15 points in 20 games. For some reason, Dano appeals to me more, although he didn’t exactly light it up in the KHL. Granted, he was only 19 years old when he played there. Give me the guy with higher potential reward.

Vancouver – Bo Horvat vs. Brandon Sutter

In Vancouver, Horvat is the future captain in the mold of Trevor Linden, while Sutter was overpaid after the Canucks overpaid to get him. The Canucks have big plans for Sutter, which could mean that Horvat could be eased into more of a third-line role rather than top-6 minutes. That being said, Sutter should take more of the defensive zone starts and penalty kills, which could provide Horvat with better offensive situations. Don’t be fooled by the fact that Sutter scored 21 goals last season and Horvat only 13. Horvat’s totals should improve this season, while Sutter’s probably won’t.

San Jose – Joe Pavelski vs. Logan Couture vs. Joe Thornton

For a short time last season, the Sharks experimented with splitting these three center-eligible forwards onto three separate lines. This resulted in Thornton being bumped down to the third line, which may have come off as yet another attempt by the team to convince him to ask for a trade. Thornton’s minutes have diminished to around 18 minutes per game after years of 20+ minutes per game. For most of the season, though, Thornton and Pavelski were paired together, to the benefit of both.

Big Joe should push for 50 assists and 65 points again this season, especially if Little Joe is riding on his wing. That being said, his assist-heavy point total and his age should put him a tier behind both Pavelski and Couture.

Colorado – Matt Duchene vs. Nathan MacKinnon

The 2014-15 regression to the mean that the advanced stats people called for on the Avalanche hit both Duchene and MacKinnon hard. Duchene’s point total dropped 15 points, while sophomore MacKinnon plummeted 25 points (mind you, MacKinnon missed 18 games with a foot injury).

Based on his career numbers and relatively unchanged situation (Carl Soderberg effectively replaces Ryan O’Reilly), Duchene should be able to reach 60+ points once again. Pinning down a projection for MacKinnon, however, will be more difficult. Had he played a full season, MacKinnon would have reached just 49 points, which would hardly have been worth where he was drafted in fantasy leagues. There is higher risk/reward with MacKinnon, but in the end his ceiling may not be that much higher than Duchene’s.

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Fellow Rambler Mike Clifford’s discussion on game theory on Friday caught my attention. I like to talk fantasy hockey, I like to talk game theory (it was in the curriculum of a conflict management course I used to teach), but I’ve never discussed fantasy hockey and game theory in the same realm before. So I’ll chime in with a few of my own “game theories” in fantasy hockey.

If you want to learn more about game theory, read about it from Clifford’s point of view. Or on Wikipedia. Non-hockey related, but an interesting application of game theory is prisoner’s dilemma.

The “know your league mates” theory is one I’ve used for years. Most of your fellow league mates have both favorite teams and favorite players. For example, I once traded Jonathan Toews to a good friend of mine who is a Blackhawks fan. For Sidney Crosby. Yes, that Sidney Crosby. This was when both were young players. A couple other league members chuckled, and one even protested. But my buddy defended the deal, arguing vehemently that Toews was going to be a better player than Crosby for the rest of the season. To boot, he told me he was absolutely thrilled that Toews was now on his roster. For what it’s worth, this trade was made when both were very young players.

Auction bidding is another one I like to have fun with. I play in an auction league where the bids are placed on a forum. On this forum, I like to see if one of my league mates is making it clear that they want the player, which I can see if they are surpassing every bid immediately. I might place a bid to force the price up, knowing I will be outbid and that I’m not that interested in the player. That leaves me more room for other players, putting some of my other league mates in a more difficult position to afford other players I’m really interested in. This works most of the time, especially for teams with less cap space than me, although the odd time I’ve ended up with a contract that wasn’t quite what I wanted.

Is a trade offer a form of game theory? It is if you don’t just offer the other team a player that you are trying to get rid of for a player you really want. If there’s a player from their roster that you want, then offering a player that might help solve a positional or statistical weakness on their squad will increase the likelihood that the other owner will accept your offer (or at least take you seriously with a decent counteroffer). If you offer me a deal where you haven’t done your homework on my team’s needs, I usually click reject with no counteroffer and move on.

In the context of prisoner’s dilemma, the most desirable outcome for both parties is a win-win. In other words, both come out ahead after making the deal. In pro sports-ese, this would be the trade that helps both teams. The most desirable outcome for one of the parties would be a win-lose. In other words, there is a winner and a loser in the deal. Pulling a win-lose strategy on an intelligent league mate probably won’t work (not to mention they might not want to consider you for future deals), so why not adopt the win-win strategy with your league mates? Not only do you both feel happy, but it can also stimulate further trades in your league.

What are some other examples of game theory in fantasy hockey that you can think of?

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In last weekend’s Ramblings I wrote a few paragraphs about the Patrick Kane situation. Nothing much has happened since then, so I don’t really have much to add. I did notice, however, that the Kane owner in my salary cap keeper league has put him on the trade block. While we wait for more information, I would think that Kane’s ranking would slip a few spots in early pre-draft rankings. Agree or disagree?

Demetri has more on the whole concept of drafting risky players in this week’s Contrarian.

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It’s that time of year when teams are starting to announce players who are receiving professional tryouts at camp. This season, it’s Sergei Gonchar on the PTO with his former team, the Pittsburgh Penguins. I don’t know what the odds are of a PTO player making the team, but I’d imagine they are very low. Gonchar’s production in recent seasons has been nowhere near what it once was (14 points in 48 games in 2014-15). For that reason, I believe the only reason he’d make the Penguins is if there is a significant injury or two on the blueline during training camp.

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Finally, Sami Salo has announced his retirement due to a wrist injury, in case you haven’t heard. For a player who suffered almost every injury in the book (remember the ruptured testicle?) he sure had a long career. If you’ve ever played on any kind of hockey team, then you’ll appreciate the guy with the booming slapshot from the point. Kiitos Sami.  

Thanks for reading, and enjoy your weekend.

UPCOMING GAMES

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STARTING GOALIES

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HOT PLAYERS

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LINE COMBOS

  Frequency NYI Players
24.1% JOSH BAILEY ANTHONY BEAUVILLIER BROCK NELSON
14.3% MATHEW BARZAL CAL CLUTTERBUCK ANDERS LEE
13.9% JORDAN EBERLE MATT MARTIN JEAN-GABRIEL PAGEAU

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