The Contrarian – Entering the Pool

by Demetri Fragopoulos on July 24, 2016

How does the Las Vegas expansion franchise compare to a new keeper league hockey team?

The summer weather has taken our minds away from the sport we love to watch. So you cannot be blamed for heading out and enjoying the warm rays of the sun.

With the exception of a few arbitration cases, NHL team executives also have the time to go on vacation and sit poolside for a little bit. Before you know it training camps will be starting, then the World Cup, followed by the 2016-17 season.

Our fantasy leagues might be entertaining the thought of expanding like the NHL did in Las Vegas, or maybe you have decided to join/start your own league. It sounds simple, but doing the groundwork early on will help you be successful.

Even though the Las Vegas ownership group, led by Bill Foley, will not ice a team until the fall of 2017, they have begun their efforts by hiring George McPhee as their general manager. He will fill out the rest of his staff and scouts in order to be prepared for the expansion draft. Why so early?

It is never too early to start viewing and grading pro and amateur players to build your files.

The roster of the current NHL teams can be vastly different by the time the expansion draft is held, but the Las Vegas group will need to be prepared. They should evaluate as many players as they possibly can, even if some of them will not be eligible for the expansion draft. Unavailable players may become available for trades afterwards.

As this article by John MacKinnon points out, teams can be caught with their pants down, and it makes everyone look bad.

The Ottawa Senators picked ineligible players three times at their expansion draft. Can you imagine a new owner in your fantasy league standing up and declaring that they are taking Connor McDavid, Jamie Benn, and Braden Holtby?

Very unprofessional, and it will make the sitting owners wonder why they granted the new guy entry into their league. Oh yeah, it’s because they feel they can take the new guy’s money.

Not to be out done, MacKinnon’s article also highlights a former Montreal GM who tried to circumvent the rules. Just to show you that it goes both ways, the new guy might start having second thoughts about a league where some owners do not even know their own rules. What possessed them to join this league. Oh yeah, it’s because they think they can win your money.

The rules that you use to grant an expansion team can vary differently from other fantasy leagues and they might even evolve within your league over time.

For instance, the NHL raised their expansion fee to $500 million, and with it they expect some better players to be available to the Las Vegas franchise.

If they simply raised the fee and kept the old rules, I would not think that there would be many people knocking at their door. As it was, they had only two prospective owners call them this time around. But maybe that changes after other cities see how Las Vegas fares.

As a prospective new owner, you will want to know some key things:

  • Your fee, the fee of the other owners, and a fee schedule
  • The regular rules and expansion rules of the league
  • Key dates and times
  • Names and contact information of the other owners
  • Website and communication platform, if any
  • The rosters of the current owners
  • The date of the expansion draft and number of expansion teams
  • Any trading restrictions

It has been my experience that if you ask expansion teams to pay a lot more than what the current owners pay, they will balk and look to play elsewhere. Granted each league is different, but there are many fantasy leagues in existence and they will find something else. So if you do ask them to pay more, then be prepared to illustrate what opportunities they get for their entry.

As a current owner you will want to know some information about the prospective owners too:

  • Their name(s) and contact information
  • The commitment level of the people asking for a new team
  • The expansion rules being enforced
  • The fees expected of the new owners
  • Any other rule changes that would apply for future seasons
  • The date of the expansion draft
  • How many expansion teams will be granted and the time frame

Not too long ago I was asked to fill out a questionnaire/form in such a circumstance and I thought it made good sense for the league to have each person fill out a formal document. Then again, most expansion teams will be born as a result of a current owner wanting to bring on their friend into the league.

When it comes to drafting an expansion team, you might initially think that the best way is to grab all young prospects. You may not fare so well in the first year or two, but you would have an edge later on.

Well that may not be true.

First, it depends on what you deem as a young guy and how many of them are available. The young guys you have availability in selecting might take four or more years before maturing and becoming a productive part of their teams. Can you wait it out four or more years?

Second, going back to the league rules, there might be certain levels of productivity that you must attain even as an expansion team.

Think something along the lines of a minimum point or games played level your team must reach, which would be probably a bit lower than rest of the owners, but you must still attain that level or else you are penalized in some fashion.

Leagues should set some sort of standard to add a level of stability to the commitment. You do not want to expand, have a new owner grab a bunch of young guys that do nothing but play in the minors, and then the next season declare to the league that they are leaving because their team will take too long to become competitive.

So, new owners may need to draft veterans to help attain these markers. Still, if you could choose between a 38-year-old and a 29-year-old, give preference to the younger player. They would have at least some added capital if you were looking to trade them later.

Lastly regarding player selection, have an eye on age but do not let talent slip through your fingers. Do not get caught up in a false image, as Scott Cullen writes about. The Las Vegas team will undoubtedly be proud of the veteran core they choose and will make sure you understand that these players are of great character and outstanding leaders. When picking your fantasy teams you do not have to worry about such things because it boils down to production.

Getting your hands on Dobber’s Fantasy Hockey Guide will help you with your talent evaluations.

My final section, a little light-hearted, is about what you name your team. People love to speculate as to what the Las Vegas team will eventually be named and you will want to come up with something that is creative for your team.

However, it is much like avoiding drafting players that are ineligible. You do not want to name your team similar to another owner’s. Not that it matters on how your team will perform but you want to be distinguished and recognizable.

Do not expect these names (or variants) of the Raiders, Empire, Maple Leafs, Canadiens, Sopranos, or Godfathers to be available. Having a tough team name like the Bullies of Wexford is antiquated and unoriginal.

And whatever you do, don’t call yourselves The Best, Winners, or Champions. The other owners would likely pick you up and toss you into a pool.

But on a hot summer day that might not be such a bad idea.

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