Fantasy Hockey Impact: NHL Season On Pause Due to COVID-19 Pandemic
The NHL announced that the season will be suspended indefinitely, and how the league proceeds is open to any and all options at this point. How should fantasy hockey league commissioners proceed?
For now, this is just a 'pause'. And a best-case scenario would have the league returning in two weeks, with everything getting pushed back two weeks. But we all know the odds of that happening are 0.0001%. A secondary "best case" option is for the league to return in four weeks, finishing a 74-game season, and cutting the first round of the playoffs to five-game series. This, to me, is the likely scenario if you are a super-big optimist.
While I am an optimist, I am also a realist. I look at tea leaves and try to prognosticate accordingly. I look at past situations and try to extrapolate the current situation accordingly. SARS was considered "contained" in July. COVID-19 spreads faster. So my optimism is much more conservative. I can see something creative happening such as in early May a small tournament involving teams that finished 13th through 20th (i.e. eight teams on the cusp of playoffs), with the top four teams getting into the playoffs. After this, on May 13 (for example) the abbreviated playoffs begin: a two-out-of-three series for the first round, three-out-of-five for the other three rounds. All of the above in front of zero fans. This is my optimistic guess.
My pessimistic guess: On May 8 the NHL announces that the season ends and the Stanley Cup playoffs are cancelled. Drastic? Of course. But this is happening at the worst time. We will get the coronavirus under control, but judging by the quick rate of the spread, there just isn't enough time for this to improve to the point where running a sports tournament can happen. Hockey will resume on October 7, with training camps opening in mid-September as always. That's my not-so-rosy prediction. I very much hope that I am wrong.
How Should Fantasy Leagues Handle This?
First of all, anything that you as commissioner plan to do – let your members know immediately. Nothing is to be done until the season is officially cancelled by the NHL. But when (if) it becomes official, they need to know how prizes and the draft order (in keeper leagues) are to be divvied out. All rosters should now be locked. Nobody should be allowed to add or drop players (i.e. injured players who were done for the season and may now return thanks to the possible delay). Do this immediately.
Situation 1: The Season Ends as of Now and Playoffs are Also Canceled
Fantasy hockey has a lot of randomness and luck. This is just luck. Good or bad would depend on which team you own. Prizes need to be divvied out as agreed upon before the season. Some will be screwed over by this (I, myself, was in first place for the last month and on Tuesday fell to third because in a tight race two other teams had more players play that night – I now finish third when I'm fairly certain I would win). If the season was 10 games in and gets canceled, you wipe it. If the season is 40 games in, then yeah it's up for debate. But 70 games in? No debate. The season happened. The NHL considers it to have happened for their records – hand out your prizes for first, second, third, etc. as agreed upon. The worst thing you can do as a commissioner in 10th place is say "Yeah, this season doesn't count, money carries over to next year". I would quit that league. And if you, as commissioner, are in first place and the others get upset, simply point them to this article.
There are teams that have been walking away with the title all year long and are winning by a mile. Is it fair to take the title and prize away from them? What about the team that sold the farm – traded all draft picks and youth, destroyed his/her team to win and looks like they will win…and then you take that away and say that next year the prizes are doubled? When that team is rebuilding next year and this was their one shot? You can't do that. The prizes have to be awarded. No debate. Some owners are going to be upset. They need to calm down. Anything over 48 games is an official season – the NHL will count this as an official season if it gets called off. There is no debating this, even if (like me) you feel that you could have pulled off the win if you just had four more weeks of games.
If you are in a roto-league or H2H league playoffs, the DobberHockey stance is that all participants still remaining in your playoffs have the prizes divided up equally. If it is a league in which all teams participate in the playoffs – I recommend (but don't insist) that you nix the playoffs and award prizes based on regular season standings.
If your league involves the NHL postseason (as two of mine do), then this money should be refunded to the owners (or similar arrangements made, per a vote).
In the event that your league has games played limitations and different teams applied different strategies (used up their GP allotment early, or saved them up). If there is a way for you to divide the points by total games played and re-jig the standings that way, then I recommend doing this. If this is impossible, as in many roto leagues, then again I point you to the above: standings should be as is, and yes some teams get screwed, but that is the randomness of fantasy sports.
Situation 2: The Season Resumes in Partial Format and Playoffs are Abbreviated
This one is easy. You follow the rules as outlined in September. Games being reduced from 82 to 74 doesn't change this. Those leagues with a playoff window simply has that playoff window reduced. If you are in H2H and you need to reduce a round of your playoffs, have that discussion now with all GMs as to how you should proceed.
Situation 3: The Season is Canceled, but NHL Playoffs Do Happen
The same goes here as in Situation 1 (above). Except, of course, if your league involves the NHL postseason you can at least enjoy that playoff competition under the rules and structure already in place for your league.
Keeper League Commissioners Note: Make a note in your league rules what you have done here and what you plan to do in the future if this ever happens again. My rule of thumb is that if teams have played 48 games or more, then that becomes an official season. If the NHL ends the season in 2034 after 51 games, then that is a complete season per the rules of my pool and prizes are passed out accordingly. Have this in writing so that you know what to do in the future.
DobberHockey and Dobbernomics Notes
Dobbernomics will still hand out the promised prizes, as soon as the season is officially over.
DobberHockey will still provide a Playoff Draft List. If there is no playoffs, I will announce at that time what I will do with regards to purchases (but it looks like the site would take quite a haircut if that happens). Articles will proceed as always, other than Looking Ahead, Saturday’s NHL Picks, and the Daily Fantasy article. You’ll be jonesing for some hockey content and we’ll be there for you as we are every day even during summers and lockouts!
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