Capped: What to focus on when joining a new cap league
As a result of the long pause from any form of NHL or fantasy hockey fix, many armchair GMs are turning to their summer trading in their fantasy leagues to fill the void of sports. Before Covid ended up throwing everything up in the air, I had been in discussion to join another cap league once the offseason came. Well the fantasy offseason has come, and I have been a part of the new cap league for a couple weeks now, and figured I wasn't the only one likely joining a new league to add some spice during a fantasy downtime.
Taking over a roster in a dynasty league is always a lot of fun, and it presents unique challenges every time. From learning the rules, to dealing with fellow league-mates that are all trying to trade with you at the same time, and trying to sort out how to win a championship in your first year, there can be a lot to manage. In this article, I am going to detail some of the key focuses to be made whenever you join a league (one already in process – not a new one), how to wrap your head around player evaluations, and what to look at to make the cap work for you instead of against you.
League Settings and History
While the best part about fantasy hockey is managing your team, and engaging with your league-mates, the foundation is built on the league settings in place, as well as the current evaluation of assets by the general league population. Things like goalie hoarding, or not valuing highly paid defencemen can become overblown in leagues as general managers try to fit the trend. It can become a bit like a story of the study with the five monkeys which can generally be summarized as groupthink gone wrong, and then the monkeys fantasy leagues continue to do something even though they don't have the full logic as to why they are doing it.
Coming in with a fresh perspective can be important to get around those market inefficiencies, however, in order to really be able to find your own way, a thorough understanding of the league rules and settings are necessary. Little things like the ratio of positional allocation, scoring stats versus peripheral stats, and quality versus quantity in goalies, can all largely impact player evaluations, though it may not be evident before you dive into the layout.
Combing through the league trade and waiver wire history is perhaps the most important way to spend an hour when you join a league. Don't just look at the blockbusters – though they can tell quite a story too – but focus on the little things, for example what is a pick in a specific round worth, and does that differ in season versus right before the draft. Maybe you notice that youth is overvalued, or that goalies are generally only traded for forwards. It's these kinds of pieces that will make a difference when analyzing the first round of offers from your fellow GMs.
When joining a new league and taking over a team, everyone wants to put their own stamp on a team. Everyone has their own methods, but I'll walk through a few tricks and tips of mine that I have found to help:
Check in with every GM:
It's important to initially reach out to every GM at the beginning so there is a conversation to build on. Sometimes the most surprising offers come up in the most unexpected places when you first join a league, so you don't want to burn your bridges before you even know where they lead.
Give yourself some time:
Some leagues implement a bit of a restriction before trading is opened for a new GM, but whether it is mandated or not, keep yourself in check for the first week/month of joining a league. You are highly unlikely to lose out on any deal just by saying "I'm open to a discussion but I won't confirm anything for another week". Giving yourself that time and space to adjust to the league settings, values, and rosters will really help you lay the groundwork for what options you have on the market, and what direction will make the most sense to take your team.
Get a second opinion:
Sometimes running league settings and a trade offer by a friend, a league-mate, or on a forum where people with experience in similar settings may catch something that you have overlooked to this point.
Once you have been in a league for a while, you know exactly what to expect from which GM, but at the beginning they all sound the same, but are looking for different things. Note down which players they like on your side, what the price was for their players that you asked about, and anything else from what team they are a fan of, to whether they are rebuilding or not. You will find this resource to be indispensable about two weeks later when you're circling back with everyone and looking to finalize a trade or two.
Managing the Cap
Like the point above about taking notes, managing your own roster can be tricky. Getting caught over the cap, or short a right wing can be something that is easily overlooked in the flurry of roster moves when you take over a team. A simple excel spreadsheet with a column each for the name, position, and expected cap can make a huge difference in keeping your thoughts aligned. It ensures that you keep your cap set, which is important, and that you don't miss smaller details such as player X being a UFA this summer and being set for a raise that you weren't otherwise anticipating.
In my league I just joined, every category is assigned a point value, and I found that the average total points for each player is approximately 1.5 times the number of points (goals and assists) they score in the season. With that simple formula, I was also able to add two columns, one with their projected point totals, and the second computing how many points they would approximate in our format, in order to sort out how competitive my planned roster would be when matched up against the rest of the league (based on last year's standings). This is important to understand so you can plan ahead to what direction you want to take your team in. Once a direction is set, the cap management should be easy as it just comes down to finding the most productive and efficient players possible.
Generally, successfully managing the salary cap in a new league can come down to not making mistakes. You don't even need to be particularly shrewd, but as long as you're not making glaring mistakes that will end up compounding, you're doing well. With that train of thought, it is always best to have more cap flexibility than less, as it is much easier to add a more expensive player mid-season than it is to try and pry away someone's bargain player halfway through the year. Buy the Conor Garlands, John Marinos and Cal Petersens in the offseason, and leave the Cam Atkinsons, Jeff Petrys, and John Gibsons to be your trade deadline acquisitions if necessary.
If it would interest anyone for me to put together a summary with the league details/players/moves made with me joining the cap league and how I approached certain scenarios, let me know. Otherwise, if you have any article topics you are hoping to read about, give me a shout! You can find me on Twitter @alexdmaclean for questions, comments, or article requests.
And stay safe!
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