07 October 2006

TalentedMrRoto.com Experts fantasy league


The first fantasy hockey league I was in was in 1984 – it was less of a “league” rather simply a goal-scoring pool, but it was a start. There were six of us, and we each picked 10 players, and at the end of the year we tallied up our top nine – simple. The only special league rule was our “Gretzky” rule: if you drafted Wayne Gretzky, he counted as two players. I probably made that one up after I didn’t get the first choice.

A year later, a friend and I joined our first mail-order fantasy league, this one a bit more complex. Using goals, assists, +/-, and penalties as stats, you would create a weekly lineup – mail it in – and would play head-to-head games against the other teams. I had my first run-in with another owner that year – for weeks I had tried negotiating a deal for Gretzky. Finally, a deal was struck – I don’t recall the particulars but it was at least seven or eight players and I was getting a guy in the middle of scoring an unthinkable 215 points that year. So I sent in my new lineup…and the following week I got my results in the mail…to find out that I had lost every game. “Even with Wayne?!?!?” I thought. As it turned out, the “other” owner got cold feet and never registered the deal. He kept Gretzky, kept him in his lineup, and screwed me. So in response, I sent a box of live rats to his house*.

*possible hyperbole

This summer I had the opportunity of joining what is thought to be the first-ever Fantasy Hockey Experts league, organized and created by Eric Maltais at TalentedMr.Roto.com dubbed the TalentedMrRoto.com ICE Experts League: Invitational Challenge of Experts. I’m not sure who they confused me with, but the opportunity to join what was essentially the equivalent of baseball’s Tout Wars was one I was not about to pass up. In May, during the Stanley Cup semifinals, a mock draft was held which was limited to nine forwards (three at each position), four defencemen, and two goalies. We were operating under the assumption that the league would be roto-style and using the following categories: goals, assists, plus/minus, power play points, penalty minutes, wins, goals against, and save percentage.

Back in May, we went 15 rounds (and had only ten participants) – here’s how the first round went four months ago:

Round 1

Pick Owner Player
1 Hockey News Sidney Crosby
2 SportsBlurb Alexander Ovechkin
3 RotoWire Jaromir Jagr
4 FantasyHockey.com Dany Heatley
5 RotoWorld Miikka Kiprusoff
6 Yahoo Joe Thornton
7 McKeen’s Ilya Kovalchuk
8 TalentedMrRoto Jason Spezza
9 TSN Eric Staal
10 Rotopass Brendan Morrow

Interesting, as there is not really a big surprise until you reach number ten, with Dallas’ Brendan Morrow. Morrow doesn’t excel in any category but is solid in all – last year with 23 goals, 65 points, +30, and 183 penalty minutes. If he could only get some power play time he would be hockey’s ultimate “five-tool” player.

* * *

A few weeks ago we had our “real” draft, using the same stat categories as above, but adding two defencemen and five bench players. We also have room for two injured reserve slots and will be making trades and waiver moves. Here are the league participants:

Eric Maltais - TalentedMrRoto.com

Pete Becker – RotoPass

Scott Cullen – TSN (The Sports Network) Canada

Darryl Dobbs – The Hockey News

Dan Dobish – CBS SportsLine

Michael Finewax – RotoWorld

Ray Flowers – Fantasy hockey.com

Gus Katsaros – McKeen’s

Jan Levine – RotoWire

Christian Peterson - Fanball

Matt Romig – Yahoo

Rob Aquino – SportsBlurb

It’s interesting to note how much different the “real” first round went – there were two more teams and a much greater depth was needed (22 man roster total. Starters: three each of center, left wing, right wing, six defence, two goalies). In this article, I have gone through the draft below so you can see how deep this league is – 12 teams, 22 rounds…. elite players run out pretty quickly, so you’ve got to take some educated reaches.

I sadly drew a very short straw and was saddled with the 11th overall pick. As you’ll see, while the order was different the first eight players selected were the same. So pretty much all of my top players were gone. For a first round, I feel like you have to make an impact. A big impact. Eric Staal and Morrow were available, as was every goalie not named Kiprusoff. So, naturally, I took a player yet to even see an NHL training camp:

Round 1

1. J. Thornton RotoWire

2. M. Kiprusoff RotoWorld

3. S. Crosby McKeen’s

4. A. Ovechkin TSN.ca

5. J. Jagr RotoPass

6. D. Heatley TalentedMrRoto.com

7. J. Spezza Fanball

8. I. Kovalchuk The Hockey News

9. D. Alfredsson Y! Sports

10. J. Cheechoo CBS SportsLine

11. E. Malkin SportsBlurb

12. M. Brodeur FantasyHockey.com

My rationale was this: I didn’t want to take a goalie. Kiprusoff is clearly the cream of the crop, both in talent and the fact that barring injury, he’ll play well above 60 games. Sure, Martin Brodeur can fit those claims, even if he’s closer to the end of his career than the beginning. At the same time, I just didn’t want to take a goalie, let alone one who I’m quite confident has already had his peak years. So I went with Evgeni Malkin. The general sentiment from the rest of the league was pretty much summed up as: “wow.” I’ll leave you to guess my sentiment after Malkin’s collision with John LeClair in his first preseason game.

Round 2

1. R. Luongo FantasyHockey.com

2. N. Lidstrom SportsBlurb

3. M. Hossa CBS SportsLine

4. M. Naslund Y! Sports

5. C. Pronger The Hockey News

6. E. Staal Fanball

7. M. Fernandez TalentedMrRoto.com

8. B. Morrow RotoPass

9. H. Zetterberg TSN.ca

10. S. Niedermayer McKeen’s

11. B. McCabe RotoWorld

12. O. Jokinen RotoWire

My thinking in the second round was that after that top elite tier of forwards, there’s a larger B-pool, and I was quite confident I could get just as good (read: reliable, after my admittedly risky first round pick) a forward in the third or fourth round as the second, but nowhere near the same quality defenceman. Hence my choice to pick the best fantasy defenceman in the league in Nicklas Lidstrom was an easy one.

Round 3

1. M. Gaborik RotoWire

2. T. Vokoun RotoWorld

3. W. Redden McKeen’s

4. S. Gonchar TSN.ca

5. R. Miller RotoPass

6. R. Nash TalentedMrRoto.com

7. C. Ward Fanball

8. M. Turco The Hockey News

9. J. Iginla Y! Sports

10. P. Forsberg CBS SportsLine

11. M. Gerber SportsBlurb

12. T. Bertuzzi FantasyHockey.com

Here’s where I lost a little confidence. I was hoping Ryan Miller would somehow fall to me, and nearly banking on it, so when Pete Becker took him six picks ahead of me I foolishly didn’t have a strong backup plan and I wanted a goaltender. Martin Gerber’s last image in the public eye might not be a strong one; he started the playoffs as the Canes’ number one before being yanked for game three against the Canadiens following two losses. He did play again in the playoffs, and quite well, but was obviously overshadowed by Cam Ward’s Conn Smythe performance. I went with Gerber more on the basis of his team likely to win near 50 games again, and am hoping his performance mirrors that of his regular season last year.

Round 4

1. S. Gagne FantasyHockey.com

2. D. Briere SportsBlurb

3. P. Datsyuk CBS SportsLine

4. D. Phaneuf Y! Sports

5. M. Savard The Hockey News

6. H. Lundqvist Fanball

7. Z. Chara TalentedMrRoto.com

8. B. Shanahan RotoPass

9. K. Lehtonen TSN.ca

10. P. Elias McKeen’s

11. M. Schneider RotoWorld

12. B. Gionta RotoWire

I needed to grab a forward here that I could count on for points, and despite his playing in only 48 games last year, Buffalo’s Daniel Briere fit the bill for me. His 58 points put him on a 99-point pace, and his sports hernia injury appears to be a fluke (says his hopeful fantasy owner), as he had missed only four games over his previous three NHL seasons. Buffalo once again figures to be one of the higher scoring teams in the league and Briere is their leader and most talented offensive player.

Round 5

1. S. Zubov RotoWire

2. A. Tanguay RotoWorld

3. D. Roloson McKeen’s

4. J. Sakic TSN.ca

5. D. Hasek RotoPass

6. J. Pitkanen TalentedMrRoto.com

7. E. Cole Fanball

8. S. Doan The Hockey News

9. L. Nagy Y! Sports

10. V. Toskala CBS SportsLine

11. N. Horton SportsBlurb

12. B. Richards FantasyHockey.com

This was the round where I wanted to make another pick that may have been a little early, but in fantasy leagues I’d rather get my guy a round or two early than keep delaying and miss out as someone else grabs him. I’ve been high on Nathan Horton for years, ever since he was with the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League. A fantastic physical forward with great hands, I believe his 28 goals last year are a stepping stone to at least 35 this year on a Florida team that I think should make a strong playoff push. At times his style reminds me of a young Wendel Clark.

Round 6

1. P. Marleau FantasyHockey.com

2. M. Bell SportsBlurb

3. I. Bryzgalov CBS SportsLine

4. R. Blake Y! Sports

5. J. Bouwmeester The Hockey News

6. M. St. Louis Fanball

7. P. Demitra TalentedMrRoto.com

8. M. Nylander RotoPass

9. V. Lecavalier TSN.ca

10. T. Selanne McKeen’s

11. P. Kariya RotoWorld

12. M. Denis RotoWire

I was already set with starting centers so I knew I needed a winger here – and I was/am very excited about this pick – I first saw Mark Bell with the OHL’s Ottawa 67s and it was clear he had a great professional future - with 25 goals last year on a lousy Chicago team, I’m expecting the 26 year old to have a monster season playing alongside Joe Thornton and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Round 7

1. M. Havlat RotoWire

2. M. Zidlicky RotoWorld

3. T. Kaberle McKeen’s

4. M. Sundin TSN.ca

5. P. Boucher RotoPass

6. J. Arnott TalentedMrRoto.com

7. M. Hejduk Fanball

8. A. Hemsky The Hockey News

9. J. Theodore Y! Sports

10. J. Giguere CBS SportsLine

11. J. Lupul SportsBlurb

12. K. Timonen FantasyHockey.com

Something that is probably becoming apparent is my tendency to steer towards prospects and/or young players that have potential. Even though I’ve had success using this approach, it’s definitely killed me as well. Joffrey Lupul’s second NHL season was an impressive one, with 28 goals. Moving to his hometown team and one that is loaded up front may be a big move for him, as I see him being one of the Oilers’ big guns this year. I hope.

Round 8

1. M. Sturm FantasyHockey.com

2. A. Auld SportsBlurb

3. A. Meszaros CBS SportsLine

4. M. Fleury Y! Sports

5. K. Tkachuk The Hockey News

6. B. Rolston Fanball

7. H. Toivonen TalentedMrRoto.com

8. R. Lang RotoPass

9. Ju. Williams TSN.ca

10. M. Straka McKeen’s

11. S. Gomez RotoWorld

12. C. Huet RotoWire

Taking a shot here for my second goalie. I’m seeing the Panthers as a breakout team this year, but a lot of that is on Alexander Auld’s shoulders. While Ed Belfour is also on the Florida squad, his days as an impact goalie are over. I’m banking on Auld stepping up and being the main man on a young improving squad.

Round 9

1. J. Liles RotoWire

2. P. Bergeron RotoWorld

3. K. Calder McKeen’s

4. A. Markov TSN.ca

5. L. Visnovsky RotoPass

6. C. Armstrong TalentedMrRoto.com

7. D. Sedin Fanball

8. S. Horcoff The Hockey News

9. R. Getzlaf Y! Sports

10. J. Corvo CBS SportsLine

11. M. Bergeron SportsBlurb

12. R. Smyth FantasyHockey.com

I had only taken one defenceman to this point, so I was grabbing on here no matter what. The Oilers’ defence is tough but woefully bereft of offensive talent. Marc-Andre Bergeron is their only defenceman with a track record of moving the puck and getting some points, and I nabbed him based on the expectation that he will be the defensive point man on the Oilers’ power play. I’m just hoping they don’t decide to get crazy with a five-forward unit…

Round 10

1. B. Stuart FantasyHockey.com

2. J. Jokinen SportsBlurb

3. M. Svatos CBS SportsLine

4. M. Modano Y! Sports

5. J. Spacek The Hockey News

6. T. Preissing Fanball

7. N. Kronwall TalentedMrRoto.com

8. M. Afinogenov RotoPass

9. A. Kovalev TSN.ca

10. B. Rafalski McKeen’s

11. E. Jovanovski RotoWorld

12. S. Sullivan RotoWire

Last year’s shootout king, Jussi Jokinen played the first game this week on a line with Jere Lehtinen and Mike Modano, although in limited capacity (just over 11 minutes). If he stays with them, this could be a good pick, but in retrospect I think I might have been reaching here. Looking down the list, I really would have been safer (and likely better) taking Maxim Afinogenov (I had only selected one LW and one RW at this point); I feel like I blew this one.

Round 11

1. K. Johnsson RotoWire

2. M. Knuble RotoWorld

3. D. Boyle McKeen’s

4. T. Vanek TSN.ca

5. B. Boyes RotoPass

6. S. Avery TalentedMrRoto.com

7. M. Carle Fanball

8. D. Zubrus The Hockey News

9. S. Salo Y! Sports

10. D. Tucker CBS SportsLine

11. P. Mara SportsBlurb

12. A. McDonald FantasyHockey.com

Still needing to fill in my defence, it was starting to get a little thin. In the real world I like the fit of Paul Mara on Boston this season, and I’m hoping a little of that will rub off in his stats – his offensive game should fit in much better with the new-look Bruins than Nick Boynton did last season.

Round 12

1. D. Vyborny FantasyHockey.com

2. C. Neil SportsBlurb

3. B. Campbell CBS SportsLine

4. F. Beauchemin Y! Sports

5. M. Van Ryn The Hockey News

6. B. Pothier Fanball

7. G. Murray TalentedMrRoto.com

8. T. Holmstrom RotoPass

9. S. Weber TSN.ca

10. A. Brunette McKeen’s

11. S. Souray RotoWorld

12. B. Berard RotoWire

Yes, my goon pick – I’ve got a lot of small dancing finesse forwards – gimme some PIMs! I happen to think Chris Neil is a fairly decent hockey player (although I was planning on taking Sean Avery this round if he had fallen to me) so he could chip in a few points along the way to racking up 200+ penalty minutes.

Round 13

1. G. Brule RotoWire

2. S. Kozlov RotoWorld

3. A. Raycroft McKeen’s

4. R. Whitney TSN.ca

5. B. Seabrook RotoPass

6. K. Rachunek TalentedMrRoto.com

7. N. Zherdev Fanball

8. N. Ekman The Hockey News

9. R. Esche Y! Sports

10. S. Hartnell CBS SportsLine

11. M. Michalek SportsBlurb

12. M. Ryder FantasyHockey.com

Filling out my right wingers, I’m excited about Milan Michalek – playing on San Jose’s outstanding second line with Patrick Marleau; I’m looking for Michalek to be a 50+ point scorer this year on a strong team. His first game netted me two goals – nice start!

Round 14

1. B. Guerin FantasyHockey.com

2. W. Wolski SportsBlurb

3. F. Pisani CBS SportsLine

4. S. Bernier Y! Sports

5. R. DiPietro The Hockey News

6. A. Sutton Fanball

7. K. Ballard TalentedMrRoto.com

8. M. Rozsival RotoPass

9. M. Ohlund TSN.ca

10. R. Whitney McKeen’s

11. M. Satan RotoWorld

12. S. Samsonov RotoWire

Again with the young’uns. This pick finished my left wing starters; I have great confidence in Wojtek Wolski– with the loss of Alex Tanguay to Calgary, the offensive threats are rather thin in Colorado and they will be leaning on Wolski to fill part of Tanguay’s absence. He got over four minutes of power play time in the Avalanche’s first game this season, which should bode well for me in that category.

Round 15

1. D. Morris RotoWire

2. P. Bouchard RotoWorld

3. K. Huselius McKeen’s

4. R. Hamrlik TSN.ca

5. P. Prucha RotoPass

6. D. Hamhuis TalentedMrRoto.com

7. A. Frolov Fanball

8. A. Radulov The Hockey News

9. S. Fedorov Y! Sports

10. C. Stillman CBS SportsLine

11. J. Leopold SportsBlurb

12. K. Foster FantasyHockey.com

The only starting slots I needed to fill at this point were defencemen, and three of them. Very thin. I’m taking a reach with this one – Jordan Leopold’s numbers weren’t great last year with only 20 points but he did have a semi-respectable 33 the year before. I’m hoping the Avalanche put him in more of a featured role this season…of course he’s currently on injured reserve so this is a wait and see. He’s a candidate for an early drop.

Round 16

1. P. Kubina FantasyHockey.com

2. J. Pominville SportsBlurb

3. J. Modry CBS SportsLine

4. C. Ehrhoff Y! Sports

5. H. Sedin The Hockey News

6. E. Nabokov Fanball

7. R. Emery TalentedMrRoto.com

8. R. Salei RotoPass

9. J. Carter TSN.ca

10. J. Blake McKeen’s

11. D. Langkow RotoWorld

12. J. Lehtinen RotoWire

I was surprised to see Jason Pominville drop this low, and was excited to nab him here, even if my right wing slots were filled. Although his raw totals from last year aren’t eye-popping, he only was called up from Rochester midway through the season. Still, I thought that his series-clinching goal vs. Ottawa would have bumped him up in most peoples’ rankings – with the loss of J.P. Dumont, Pominville will be a major force in Buffalo’s powerful offence this year, and he gets quality power-play time.

Round 17

1. N. Khabibulin RotoWire

2. B. Morrison RotoWorld

3. M. Comrie McKeen’s

4. P. Leclaire TSN.ca

5. C. Kunitz RotoPass

6. O. Nolan TalentedMrRoto.com

7. P. Martin Fanball

8. N. Boynton The Hockey News

9. E. Lindros Y! Sports

10. M. Richards CBS SportsLine

11. L. Krajicek SportsBlurb

12. V. Prospal FantasyHockey.com

I think this could be a hidden gem in the big summer trade; not many people talked about other players than Roberto Luongo or Todd Bertuzzi but Lukas Krajicek has great skills and I’m hoping he’ll earn some special teams play as well. He got 19 minutes in their first game this week which is a good sign.

Round 18

1. M. Legace FantasyHockey.com

2. J. Vandermeer SportsBlurb

3. A. Niittymaki CBS SportsLine

4. F. Meyer Y! Sports

5. B. Sopel The Hockey News

6. C. Conroy Fanball

7. A. Ladd TalentedMrRoto.com

8. A. Semin RotoPass

9. A. Kotalik TSN.ca

10. S. Walker McKeen’s

11. S. McCarthy RotoWorld

12. M. Erat RotoWire

I haven’t been paying too much attention to penalty minutes (other than Neil and perhaps Horton and Bell) – with me needing a final defenceman and the lack of scoring out there, I went with Jim Vandermeer who I’m hoping gets mixed up in some major brawls this year. Not that I’d advocate that kind of behavior.

Round 19

1. A. Aucoin RotoWire

2. J. Langenbrunner RotoWorld

3. B. Witt McKeen’s

4. J. Stoll TSN.ca

5. C. Osgood RotoPass

6. F. Kuba TalentedMrRoto.com

7. C. Campoli Fanball

8. A. Yashin The Hockey News

9. R. Malone Y! Sports

10. S. Ozolinsh CBS SportsLine

11. A. Kopitar SportsBlurb

12. C. Phillips FantasyHockey.com

We’re down to filling some bench spots so there’s no harm in taking chances. I already had a strong fantasy-interest in rookie Anze Kopitar and by nearly all accounts Kopitar was the star of the entire Kings’ training camp. The 19-year old Slovenian has been clicking on a line with Alexander Frolov and looks to start the season with him.

Round 20

1. C. Joseph FantasyHockey.com

2. R. Torres SportsBlurb

3. N. Baumgartner CBS SportsLine

4. B. Clark Y! Sports

5. M. Biron The Hockey News

6. P. Eaves Fanball

7. J. Dumont TalentedMrRoto.com

8. D. Hatcher RotoPass

9. P. O'Sullivan TSN.ca

10. M. Fisher McKeen’s

11. D. Wideman RotoWorld

12. R. Fedotenko RotoWire

I think a really good pickup in the 20th round – Raffi Torres had 27 goals and should match or exceed that this year. He’s picking up a reputation as a bit of a pest as well – two years ago in the AHL he picked up 165 penalty minutes – I’m hoping he brings a little of that back this season.

Round 21

1. D. Penner RotoWire

2. F. Modin RotoWorld

3. M. Parrish McKeen’s

4. S. Staios TSN.ca

5. R. Schremp RotoPass

6. T. Ruutu TalentedMrRoto.com

7. M. Barnaby Fanball

8. C. Barker The Hockey News

9. J. O'Neill Y! Sports

10. M. Staal CBS SportsLine

11. D. Cloutier SportsBlurb

12. M. Malik FantasyHockey.com

Looking for a depth goalie, I could do a lot worse than Dan Cloutier. Another victim of the Vancouver goalie graveyard, new Kings coach Marc Crawford obviously saw more in him than Canucks fans did. In a fantasy goaltender you’re looking for a guy who will be the clear number one to get you wins – the job is Cloutier’s to lose this year.

Round 22

1. R. Zednik FantasyHockey.com

2. L. Smid SportsBlurb

3. C. Perry CBS SportsLine

4. R. Vrbata Y! Sports

5. S. Chistov The Hockey News

6. T. Thomas Fanball

7. P. Schaefer TalentedMrRoto.com

8. D. Afanasenkov RotoPass

9. A. Kaigorodov TSN.ca

10. M. Handzus McKeen’s

11. D. Aebischer RotoWorld

12. B. Jackman RotoWire

Last round, I’m taking a shot on a rookie defenceman. Ladislav Smid came over with Joffrey Lupul in the Chris Pronger deal and is expected to be a force for the Oilers in the future – this year may be a stretch.

* * *

A final note about the league – we each have $100 for a Free Agent Acquisition Budget for the year. Each week we can bid on a player using this “money” – I’ve made two moves: I needed another center to take Malkin’s place while injured (and why isn’t he on IR? killing me.) – Ladislav Smid, I hardly knew ye. Dropped him to get Zach Parise (cost me $3) who could put up huge numbers this year – I’m pretty surprised nobody grabbed him. I also had to put Jordan Leopold on the IR so I grabbed Alex Zhitnik for $1.

Here’s how my roster looks:

C Daniel Briere, Nathan Horton, Zach Parise

LW Mark Bell, Jussi Jokinen, Wojtek Wolski

RW Joffrey Lupul, Chris Neil, Milan Michalek

D Nicklas Lidstrom, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Paul Mara, Lukas Krajicek, Jim Vandermeer, Alexei Zhitnik

G Martin Gerber, Alex Auld

bench Anze Kopitar, Jason Pominville, Evgeni Malkin, Raffi Torres, Dan Cloutier

IR Jordan Leopold

Periodically throughout the season, I will give updates on the league, my moves (and inevitable mistakes), and any deals that go down.

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