(Ed’s note: Introducing the Tangent Man — Keith Filling… a fantasy and NHL hockey junkie who has a lot to say about the reality of life experiences, Scotch, hockey, music and the bane of being addicted to a fantasy game. Hope you enjoy! Keith’s Tangential Reality column will run here on Wednesdays.) (I picked Geddy Lee — he’s a Rush fan — to ID his column until we get him a proper logo.)
Unless you take part in a Playoff Pool, the end of the NHL regular season also marked the end of your annual fantasy hockey campaign. If you’re anything like me, the sudden slamming of the fantasy door in your face has left a certain void. The saving grace for me is that I am involved in two leagues of the ‘keeper’ variety: one which allows 7 players to be held over, while the other is a “Dynasty League”, where (after the grueling 62-round inaugural draft we went through this season) the only changes to your squad year to year are the result of your own transactions and the annual Entry Draft.
Single-year leagues are over and done, but keeper leagues have merely gone on hiatus, at least through the post season. Thoughts of which players to hang on to for next season – and the possible return-in-trade for those who don’t make your personal cut – are probably already on your mind. I keep my hockey motor running all year, and I get my mental lists started as the NHL playoffs begin.
Now is the time I like to peruse my rosters to see which players performed up to expectations, and to see who had sub-par seasons and try to figure out why. Can the underachievers bounce back from an off year? Did an overly successful player just have a fluke year, and, if so, should I sell high over the summer? Will the players approaching retirement give it one more year (I’m talking to you, Teemu!)? I’ll write more on these questions as the summer progresses.
I always look to see which players are entering the final year of their contract as these guys have a tendency to over achieve when a potential pay raise is on the horizon. I say ‘tendency’ because it doesn’t always work out that way. Peter Mueller entered the ‘09-‘10 season in the last year of his current deal and had a very sub-par performance going for him in Phoenix (4G, 13A in 54 games), but the move to Colorado at the trade deadline did him a world of good and he added 20 points (9G and 11A) in the 15 games he played with the Avalanche. The change of scenery more than likely salvaged his next payday, and if Colorado GM Greg Sherman is smart, he’ll get a new deal done with Mueller before the youngster gets to test the free agent waters come July 1st.
I look forward to the NHL Entry Draft each year, but mostly for the player trades that occur. Sure I keep an eye on the draftees themselves, but the player movement is just more exciting. One such deal this June could involve Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray, who has reportedly requested to be traded due to a falling out with team management. If Souray was on either of my teams (he’s not), I’d be paying close attention to how this develops, but with two years remaining on his contract, and an annual cap hit of $5.4MM, it will be interesting to see just how many teams are serious about his acquisition.
July 1st, as mentioned above, is the starting date for signing free agents. That, however, is a blog all its own. We’ll let it go for now.
Part of the fantasy keeper game is saying farewell to some productive players, and sometimes the players you let go come back and bite you in the ass (or at least give you a Homer-esque “D’oh!” moment); it’s inevitable. Last season, I picked up the Stars’ Loui Eriksson when he started getting top line minutes after injuries took their toll in Dallas, and I was handsomely rewarded. Over the summer he got a hefty raise which I didn’t think he would live up to. As he was a just-below-the-cusp player on my team, he was sent back into the draft pool during my final cuts. He was snagged in this year’s draft and never saw the free agent list while surpassing his numbers from ‘08-‘09. Good for him, but I would have preferred his points this year over those of Scott Hartnell, who had his own letdown season (and whose acquisition cost me Cammalleri, but hindsight is, after all, 20/20. Live and learn).
For me, fantasy hockey is an illness that is perpetuated by the keeper league, but surely I can’t be the only one, right? Do you spend your summers on hockey websites, too? Does anyone have it worse? Let me know, maybe we should form a support group. Fantasy Hockey Anonymous, perhaps?