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Fighting The Yahoo! NHL Hockey Pool Live Auction Draft


This blog was originally published before the 2011-12 season. Below are some update comments for this coming season in bold italics. One big note is that the stats analysis capabilities on the Yahoo!NHL pools has improved in several ways and is worth checking out.

Hockey is combat. Maybe not my ‘normal’ kind with bullets flying. But my favorite sport is controlled violence at high velocity none the less. For you to have a winning hockey team, you must have the right weapons on the battlefield, er, ice.

So how do you get the right components for your team out of a Yahoo! NHL Hockey Pool Live Auction Draft? We will work through that in this blog, to include providing some of what fantasy draft veterans call a few blinding flashes of the obvious (BFOs). Here are some suggestions pre-, during and post- your Live Auction Fantasy draft.

Homework

BFO #1 – Find a League to join by going to http://hockey.fantasysports.yahoo.com/hockey/register/joinLeague?.scrumb. Once there, click on either “Choose A League” or “Join A Public League.” The ‘Choose A League’ option is, in my humble opinion, the easiest one to navigate. If you simply scroll through the list by clicking on the “Next 50” link, it takes you until listing number 199 to find the first draft that designated as a “Live Auction.” And if you click on “Join A Public League,” select the type of League you wish to join and then a convenient draft date and time, nothing may come up that meets your criteria. The faster path is to select “Live Auction Draft” from the drop down menu under “Draft Type:” at the top of the page. As of 3 September, there are 38 scheduled Live Auction Drafts from 4 September to 2 October. All you have to do is run through the “View” links about at center page, find the type of League settings within which you want to compete, and click on “Join.” The dates are irrelevant here – they are from last year. Interestingly, Pro Leagues through Yahoo! do not seem to be available yet. They may be waiting for the season to be announced before accepting pool money.

BFO #2 – Once you have selected a League to join, make sure and review the League settings to determine what positions you are drafting and the measurable statistics. You can then use a simple spreadsheet and any number of statistic-generating sites to load and sort the players’ stats from last season. This assists you in determining who you would like to draft and when.The hard core manager will weigh stats over several years to determine a better potential prediction. Or you can go to http://sports.cbsimg.net/images/fantasy/hockey/spln/draft_guide.pdf for a pre-draft kit from cbssports.com that provides you a projection for this season based on the last three years’ play. (For the record, the “Hockey” link at http://www.cbssports.com/fantasy provides just a good an experience as Yahoo! NHL for a total of three teams.) Another I would highly recommend is Fantasy Hockey Geek at http://www.fantasyhockeygeek.com/login – they are a paid service, but for pennies, they can customize your draft lists, produce a draft guru to help you pick the best available players throughout the draft and provide trade recommendations among other features.

Why choose an Auction Draft? While a regular Live Draft or Autodraft does not afford you the ability to guess who you will draft until you know the draft order and watch the players being taken ahead of you, the Auction Draft lets you have a shot at every player on the board. This is because one drafting team nominates a single player and everyone can bid on them until the money runs out. It is why this kind of draft becomes a favorite for some managers.

Auction Draft Strategies

There are several things to consider when determining how to attack this kind of draft.

First is the ‘salary cap.’ The default is $200 per team with which to bid on players. I have drafted with that amount and it seemed to me that a lot of money spends by rounds 6 – 10 for most teams. That’s because teams take the top 10 to 24 players for upwards of $50 per player. No team can do well if they secure more than two players for such a price. I thought about this when organizing the Live Auction Draft I ran 3 September. I upped the default budget limit to $400 per team in order to presumably allow for more bidding cash and increase draft excitement. What happened? The top players were drafting for up to $75. Ovechkin, Stamkos, Perry, Bobby Ryan and Lundqvist are examples of players that otherwise would have gone for $40 – $50 in a $200-cap League and broke the $70 barrier. One year later, players are still going for over-priced amounts in the top several rounds. So far, I have not seen anyone going for $70, however. Default amounts may be higher than the amount above now – it depends on your league commissioner’s set up. If a team is running at 20 players to include its bench, why not at least run it for $580, a micro-sum representation of the NHL’s proposed cap in this CBA. In order to not have the draft drag out, however, there IS an option to lower the bid time to 10 seconds which I highly recommend.

So how do you fight the over inflated prices for the top players? Two methods come to mind.

One pre-draft technique to employ is for a commissioner to do what I did and limit your League to eight or less teams. Less folks playing dampens the bidding war some while also making total draft time more reasonable to swallow. (Pre-draft emphasis here is for a participant to choose a League sporting eight or less teams.)

There are several ways to work your during-draft tactics. My goal going into the draft was to pay the money to get at least one of the top five forwards and a top five goalie with $100 – $150 of my cap. Or you can do like one or two managers in our League did and bid purely to drive up costs against the cap for all other teams while maintaining their own cash. In our draft yesterday for instance, six of eight teams secured the first 18 players for approximately $60 per player. So with about half of the money gone for three-fourths of the League, you still had the likes of Toews, Mike and Brad Richards, Zetterberg, Parise, Doughty, Chara,  Ryan Miller, and Bryzgalov available for the taking. If you are still sitting with your $400 at such a point, you may still have to fight someone up to $50 or so for a top player, but at least you are not paying $75. The manager some call the ‘Tightwad’ actually can draft a really good team built from within the top 30 – 120 players in the League. Waiting just a bit at least gives you the option of really bidding for player(s) you have to have. This season, good players are still up for grabs when you start to see teams with less than $100 to bid with and half of a team to build.

And one crucial piece of advice closes out a Live Auction Draft. Don’t leave early. Like leaving a game before the final horn sounds, logging out of the draft before you have chosen your last player may adversely affect your team’s output. Several players get down to $1 per remaining player required on their roster left and check out because they have secured all but their ‘bench’ players. Leaving those last choices to automatic order fate, you get such things as teams with four goalies, two of which are on the bench and are not both team starters while four forwards are left on the boards who scored 30+ goals last season. Remember in most cases, you can drag your desired players over to the queue for the run of your last dollars and no one can outbid you for them because they can only drop $1 per remaining player as well. Who can you get for a dollar? I snagged Niklas Kronwall, Justin Williams and Logan Couture for a buck. In 2010-11 terms, that’s 150 points, +37, 136 PIMs, 40 PP points, 14 GWGs, 597 SOGs, 224 Hits and 215 Blocked Shots. Still highly recommend hanging around – there are still great bargains at $1.

After The Draft

It’s over and you have your team, eh? But maybe in the excitement you failed to pay close attention to all of your stats categories. Perhaps you missed something and need an adjustment. Why not set the tone and admit your requirement to change your mind?

I did. My last choice was NYR defenseman Dan Girardi, primarily for his 195 Hits and 236 Blocked Shots last season. When the draft was over, I scoured who was not even brought up for consideration and are now free agents. There for the taking was Brent Seabrook with a combination of 381 Hits and Blocked Shots last season who also sports more Total Points, PIMs, PP Points and SOG than Girardi. So I moved on him, ‘waffler’ comments be damned.

Summary

I recommend engaging in a Live Auction Draft for your fantasy hockey pool. At once it provides the most opportunity to select any player on the boards and sets a competitive tone for League competition.

Remember during the draft to either snag a top 10 player or two early or bid up costs and bide your time for a strong, middling-ranked team. Either method can work to your advantage. Also, don’t leave the draft until you have personally selected your last player.

And once it completed, see if you missed any juicy, low-hanging fruit. Do not be afraid to make an early switch if there is a player of greater benefit you can have.

Now jump in with both feet and get your team for this year. It is just about time to play.

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