Ramblings –What Anaheim, Chicago and LA Need; Also Thoughts On a Draft in June (May 04)
I will have an announcement officially announcing a release date for the 13th annual Fantasy Prospects Report next Monday in the Ramblings, on Twitter and on Facebook. I am awaiting the NHL's decision about when their draft will take place, and I believe that decision is forthcoming this week. My guess is that there will be a draft in June, and I will have more on that further below.
News and rumors about the NHL's plans over the next few months are constantly flowing, but over the next two weeks I think a lot of them will be more substantial. The NHL is willing to start 2020-21 in December, which implies an offseason of November. That implies playoffs until mid-October, which says to me that they begin at the start of September. And what all that means is a condensed regular season throughout August.
For the latter to happen, the league will almost certainly go ahead with their idea of holding this in four NHL arenas. Not official yet, but it appears that Toronto, Edmonton and Columbus will be three of the arenas – and my guess is Minnesota for the fourth one (although Carolina is rumored to be in the mix as well). Teams would need to follow quarantine rules, for players entering Canada, per PM Trudeau. And my big concern is if a player ends up getting COVID-19. Would that shutdown the entire season? I understand that the player needs to be quarantined immediately, but based on what happened with the Ottawa Senators – the entire team might need to be quarantined as well. And if that happens, does the season come to an end?
2020 NHL Draft
Two things we know. One, the NHL wants to hold the draft in June. Two, the teams do not.
The NHL wants to have a virtual draft in June and this makes a lot of financial sense. Both Rogers and NBC is pressuring the league to give them the content, and after seeing the success of the NFL Draft (viewership up over 30%), the NHL doing this would be just what the doctor ordered. The league also wants to keep hockey from fading completely off the radar of fans. They feel that a draft in June will help ratings in a potential return in late July/early August. It will also help to shave a good week off of an offseason that will take place in the fall – and they want to shave off as much time as possible so 2020-21 doesn't get pushed too far back.
The owners and general managers don't want this. As a business owner, I get it. Team success, and thus your job, is on the line. They're worried about their conditional picks and the draft lottery. They're worried about being unable to use playoff performance to assess their needs. Makes sense. I'd be the same way, in their shoes.
My Take: Let's address the team concerns first.
- Conditional picks. I get why these exist, even if I think they're cowardly. A GM just protecting his ass adding conditions to picks instead of just trading a pick outright. It is what it is, it's not going away, so no sense in my belly-aching about them. So what will Gary Bettman do to allay the GMs concern here? I suppose the conditions can be pushed back a year, or the conditions can be taken as the lower of the two options and then compensation gets awarded in a future year if the higher option ends up getting triggered upon resumption of play. Bettman will have a solution for this in his proposal, and he is a master negotiator. I think he gets everyone on board with whatever he has in mind.
- Draft lottery. I guarantee you that 28 of the 31 general managers are up in arms over this, demanding a piece of the lottery that would give them Alexis Lafreniere. With the only GMs in favor of this being Boston, Detroit and Ottawa (Boston because they've clinched a playoff spot, Detroit because they have their lottery spot already locked regardless of what happens, and Ottawa because their hold on the No.2 position is rather tenuous and if the season resumes perhaps they lose a bit on their odds by moving up in the race). That's right – St. Louis will be clamoring for a piece of the lottery just in case they lose 11 in a row when they return and fall out of the playoffs somehow. For this, Bettman will put his foot down, take the points standings by percentage to get his 16 teams in the lottery, and if a team ends up falling out – then they will get compensated at next year's draft either in the form of a pick or some extra lottery balls at next year's draft lottery.
- Using playoff performance to assess team needs. Really? How your team does in crunch time in 2020 tells you what you need for your team to succeed in 2024? Anyway, I won't get into the stupidity of that logic (ahem – just take BPA "Best Player Available"). All the teams are in the same boat here and, relatively speaking, this is a non-issue for that very reason.
I think Bettman will win them over. GMs need to be team players, for the good of the game. They need to keep their sponsors and fans happy. Some will get screwed a little bit, and some will get a boost. Chalk it up to the randomness of sports. Bettman has decades of experience bringing different mindsets, personalities and goals together under one cause. This will be no different.
On a side note, once all this gets decided I feel like the NHL and NHLPA will come to some sort of agreement that extends the CBA at least several years. The last thing hockey needs is another lockout 18 months after social distancing gets lifted. I'm feeling pretty optimistic.
Anaheim – Whenever it all comes together, thankfully John Gibson will still be around. So goaltending is covered, which is key. As for the pieces, some things do need to happen. First priority is health on defense. Cam Fowler is money in the bank for getting hurt. And lately this seems to mean 15 or 20 games missed. That's not a good use of $6.5M AAV. The only other rearguard signed for long term is Hampus Lindholm – and he's been just as bad for injuries as Fowler. No team can go year in and year out with half of their season missing one of their two top defensemen. They have a couple of promising defensemen on the way, but nothing elite. Up front I like what is in the pipeline, so what the Ducks really need is for most of those players to pan out. They need Trevor Zegras to become closer to a Ryan Getzlaf than a Mikael Backlund. Getzlaf is no longer a franchise player and so they need one.
Los Angeles – Goaltending is still a question mark, but I 'think' it will be in capable hands with Cal Petersen. Assuming that works out, the Kings have a nice group of forwards and defensemen on the way. And Anze Kopitar is still in a position to lead and mentor. While I think Anaheim is two years away from making their mark, I think Los Angeles is closer to three. But both teams have solidified the future fairly well.
Chicago – I think this team is pretty close. Ironically, what they need the most is a Robin Lehner. How stupid is that? He was their answer. They have some pretty good defensemen ready to slide in over the next year or two. The forwards on the roster are, to me, already very good and will only get better. Alex DeBrincat is 10 times better than he was/is in 2019-20, and both Kirby Dach and Dominik Kubalik will get better. Had the Blackhawks kept Lehner (and extended him), I think they're a playoff team next year. But they didn't, so to me this team's future outlook is in limbo. They can't afford to solve their problems via free agency in the summer.
Keepers: I think in keeper leagues this opens up options for some formats. To me, it's a no-brainer that your keeper league draft has to wait until after this season ends, after the NHL draft and after free agency (i.e. just the first two days when most of the signings happen). But in a crunch, having the fantasy draft after the NHL draft is at least a feasible option. Those leagues with prospect drafts separate from main drafts, you could now have the prospect draft as scheduled.
But, if at all possible, wait until the free agents go to their new teams before having your annual draft. And, pay attention keeper-league commissioners – disallow all free agent pickups involving players who just get drafted. Put out an announcement now so there is no doubt or question about this rule: no waiver snags on 2020 draftees! And if you do have a prospect draft before the season resumes, then those players do not count in regular season standings. If the NHL allows them to play.
Non-Keeper Leagues: Can NHL teams play the player they drafted? Geez, what a confusing issue. When the NHL returns in August, can Detroit put Alexis Lafreniere on the ice? If they do, then I guess in fantasy leagues he has to be allowed. In keeper leagues that didn't hold the draft (and again – I think you should wait, to get your final draft order because unlike the NHL we don't have $500 million on the line), he's just an undrafted player who is doing well. In roto-leagues – one-year leagues – waiver rules apply. The person who holds the next waiver claim gets a sweet advantage. But it's just for the final 12 games or so – dems da breaks. Do not allow claims before the Draft. Set a firm date to re-open the waiver wire and communicate this clearly (via email, if your fantasy manager platform does not have an option to do this).
For what it's worth, if the NHL allows their 2020 drafted players to play the rest of this season, I don't believe we will see more than five or six take part. Just communicate with your league what the rule will be, if you're the commish.
I think it's worthwhile, especially if you have the tools. If you don't, but you can afford to pay for the service, again I think it's worthwhile! If you can’t afford it, or have better things to do with your money, don’t worry about it.
Yes, I have the Fourth Year Breakout rule that I developed in 1996 in one of my fourth-year math classes in university (it may have been a fourth-year stats class, but same diff). I've since merged into Striker's 200-games BT (Breakout Threshold) because I like the preciseness of using actual games played. But I am more inclined to think it is 220 games (and 440 for big forwards), I just haven't had time to properly analyze that change. But I'm happy using anything in that ballpark.
I do have other strategies I use in my keeper leagues. Goaltenders are overvalued everywhere, and I find that snoozing is losing. This means grabbing a goalie early. But this often conflicts with other strategies (below). So I try to grab promising sleeper prospect goalies two years before they are ready (because it always ends up being four). So I miss out on Ilya Samsonov (will be a five-year wait), Spencer Knight (will be a six-year wait) and Carter Hart (ended up being just three years). But I got Cal Petersen, who I later used as part of a package to get Robin Lehner. I got Kaapo Kahkonen and Collin Delia, too. One of those could pan out. They just need to get enough value to use in a package to upgrade. I look at team depth charts, and focus on teams running out of goalie options in two years. Then I look at the most promising option in the system
I also place a value in roster spots. This means I value limiting prospect wait times. Just like NHL teams value cap space, I value roster space. I don't care how great a player is, I don't want him on my bench for five years. I love Kirill Kaprizov and I think he'll be a top three scorer in the league and possibly a generational talent. His upside is ridiculous-high. But he was drafted in leagues five years ago so I wasn't interested in that. He'll pay off for his current owner. But how many times did I win over the last five years? This of course all depends on the depth of your league, but my league is pretty deep – 15 teams and 35 players per team. I don't draft 18-year-old goalies, I don't draft 18-year-old defensemen. I can always find 22-year-old goalies and 20-year-old defensemen who are studs. I don't need to sit on one for three years. This is a personal rule I have and it only involves goalies and defensemen. For forwards I have no such rule as they tend to make the jump quicker. And not only that – they tend to produce to fantasy standards quicker too. Your typical prospect forward can start helping your team at 21 or 22, while defensemen are more like 23 or 24 and goalies you can add another couple of years yet.
Bottom line is – someone sitting on your bench for five years is taking a spot that you could have used with three different draft picks. Surely one or two of those three pan out for you almost as much as that one guy?
See you next Monday. Be safe. Thanks for continuing to support the website, and if you're bored and need a fantasy hockey fix – visit the gang in the forum here.
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