Top 10 Things Learned About Fantasy Hockey

by Tom Collins on April 25, 2016

Tom Collins posts 10 things that he's learned about fantasy hockey over the years…


There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fantasy hockey. What works well in one league might bomb in another. But there are some lessons you learn along the way that can help you in all your leagues. Whether it be from your drafting strategy to your trade talks, there's always things you can learn on how to build a contender. Here are the top 10 things I've learned about fantasy hockey.


10. Be careful when posting trades on social media

I learned this one the hard way this past season. I was pretty much out of the running early on in my points-only keeper pool, so I was trying to rebuild on the fly. Me and a fellow GM who was going for the win worked out a deal when I would trade Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Kevin Shattenkirk, Kris Letang and a 2017 second-round pick for Connor McDavid, Alexander Galchenyuk, Sergei Bobrovsky, Jonathan Drouin, Seth Jones and a  2017 first-round pick. But I decided to get feedback on Twitter. Another GM who didn't know McDavid was available saw my Tweet and started sending trade offers to the other GM. Eventually, he sent John Tavares, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Patrice Bergeron, Justin Faulk, Ryan Suter, Mark Giordano, Ryan Miller and a second round pick for McDavid, Drouin, Derek Stepan, Paul Stastny, Seth Jones and Bobrovsky. My deal would have been finalized had I not tweeted the deal.


9. Don't feel like you need make a trade

Sometimes a GM will send you a trade offer for a specific player. There's some back and forth and the next thing you know, it's as if you are purposefully trying to trade that player away and are willing to take less than what you think he's worth. Don't feel like you need to trade that player. Remember that the other GM approached you. That's not to say you should never counter. But don't give away a guy for cheaper than you're comfortable with just to get a deal done.


8. Goalies can make and break your season

Where you draft goalies is a fluid thing. Where you are picking? What's the quality of the remaining goalies versus the remaining forwards and defensemen? But no matter what, your season will rest of your netminders. The right ones will bring you a championship. The wrong ones will have you feeling like the Calgary Flames. Goaltending wins championships, both in the NHL and in fantasy hockey.


7. There's always luck involved

Sometimes you lose a match on one measly blocked shot. Sometimes you trade for a guy who gets injured the very next day. And sometimes you can build the perfect head-to-head squad, only to lose in the finals to a lower seed because his Joe Colborne, Tom Kuhnhackl, Matt Cullen and Johan Larsson were better than your Taylor Hall, Vladimir Tarasenko, Corey Perry and Shea Weber during that championship week. That's just the way fantasy hockey goes.


6. Don't be scared to make that big deal

One of my keeper pools began in 2009. One GM won the first three seasons because he wasn't scared to trade away his top players. He dealt Steven Stamkos, both Sedins, Matt DucheneRyan Getzlaf, Mike Green, James Neal and Erik Karlsson in those three years. He's paying the price now as he has to rebuild. But in the seven years of our pool, we have some GMs who have never placed in the money because they would rather hold onto their superstars than go for the win.


5. Don't be swayed by NHL offseason moves

We all like those big offseason moves. But rarely do they make much of an impact fantasy-wise. The biggest trades last offseason involved Phil Kessel, Patrick Sharp, T.J. Oshie, Brandon Saad, Martin Jones, Cam Talbot, Antti Niemi, Dougie Hamilton, Milan Lucic, Robin Lehner and Ryan O'Reilly. The top UFA signings were Andrej Sekera, Mike Green, Cody Franson, Antoine Vermette and Alexander Semin. Only Jones met expectations. Don't overpay in your fantasy leagues because of players switching squads in the summer.


4. You don't need to win the trade

You see it in the forums all the time. Members posting "Did I win this trade?" There doesn't need to be a winner and a loser. You just need to make your squad better. Losing a trade now that makes your team better next season is great. Or trading a better forward to solidify your goaltending is a smart move as well. All that counts is you made your team better, not whether you win the trade.


3. Don't overvalue rookies and prospects

This goes hand-in-hand with number two on this list. There's plenty of GMs who believe youth is better. But that isn't always the case. Proven over potential is the right call the majority of the time. Some of the top prospects five years ago were Brayden Schenn, Jack Campbell, Erik Gudbranson, Nino Niederreiter, Ryan Ellis and Cody Hodgson. If you traded proven vets for these guys, you set your rebuild back a long ways. Youth isn't always the answer.


2. Rebuilds shouldn't take more than a year or two

Some fantasy GMs like to blow up a team and start over from scratch. But a smart fantasy GM is always rebuilding on the fly. That way they are never a year or two away from contention. If five years ago, you traded away Alexander Ovechkin, Joe Thornton, Shea Weber and Henrik Lundqvist and rebuilt with Taylor Hall, Ryan Murray, Nail Yakupov and  Jack Campbell, where exactly are you in your rebuild? It's five years later and you are still waiting for those guys to equal what you traded away.


1. Always go for the championship when possible

Never fall into the trap of thinking that second place is good enough. There's only one champion in your league each year, but there's plenty of runners-up and also-rans. And you never know what will happen to your squad next year. I won the championship in my points-only keeper pool last year despite being 90 points out in January, overpaying for the likes of Nick Foligno and Mark Streit. I wouldn't have won if I had waited until this year, as Carey Price and Marc-Andre Fleury were injured, and Phil Kessel  and Jarome Iginla struggled. You never know when you might get the opportunity to win your league again. So go for gold while you can.