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 Reality Check, Part 1: The Power Game Allow Anonymous Users Reply to This Topic...
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Posted - 10/08/2011 :  23:51:01  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Iíve always been a sucker for power forwards. My favourite players are those rare stars who bring a little bit of everything to the table, with a bit of a mean streak complementing a deft scoring touch. Give me a 70-point guy with grit over an 80-point princess any day!

In the 20 years Iíve been running fantasy leagues, Iíve always tried to build scoring systems that reward this type of player. In my early days as a commissioner, before the word ďrotoĒ had entered the lexicon and when I still used a spreadsheet to laboriously crunch league stats every Tuesday, my scoring formula for skaters was Points + (0.5xPIM).

This had the desired effect of elevating my favorite players to the top of the fantasy league. It helped turn the likes of Gary Roberts (193.5 points in í91-92), Eric Lindros (196.5 points in í95-96), Rick Tocchet (235 points in í92-93) and Kevin Stevens (an astounding 250 points in í91-92) into absolute legends.

Unfortunately, it also had the unintended side effect of turning Gino Odjick into a top 10 fantasy player (202 points in í92-93). Perhaps I had taken things a bit too far. A great deal of tweaking ensued.

Some years later, roto leagues took the fantasy world by storm, and online pool managers like Yahoo! made things much simpler. Penalty minutes could be added as a category alongside goals, assists, powerplay points and plus/minus; giving toughness some value, but not enough to turn Mike Peluso into one of the leagueís most sought after players (as he was for us in the early 90ís, racking up over 400 PIM one season).

Still though, things were far from perfect. Counting PIM rewards more than just toughness; it also rewards stupidity. It gives Shane OíBrien extra value for leading the league in hooking minors. It places more value on the 15 PIM for a careless high sticking infraction, or the 10-minute misconduct for chirping, than on the 5 PIM earned for an honest fight. Iíve lost (and won) head-to-head games thanks to a last minute delay-of-game penalty, and it leaves a sour taste.

Most of us have been willing to live with these drawbacks as a necessary evil, in order to bring the element of toughness into the game. But recent changes have given us other options.

In the past few years, a slew of new stats have been made available to poolies through many of the most popular online pool managers. The first and most notable addition was the hits category, which suddenly gave Cal Clutterbuck real fantasy value. Hits are now available on almost all major platforms and have brought an exciting new dimension to many fantasy leagues.

True, there is some subjectivity in the awarding of hits, and thereís evidence that some teamsí home statisticians are a little too generous in giving credit for them. But the same can be said of other stats too; whether itís second assists, shots on goal or saves, there has always been a certain degree of discretion involved in certain stats. Personally, I donít think this factor is strong enough to warrant excluding hits. They are a critical part of the real world game, so if your goal is to mimic real life value as closely as possible, hits should certainly be on the menu.

Some pool sites have gone well beyond the basic stat categories, offering dozens of categories and allowing commissioners to customize their scoring to a much greater degree than ever before. In some cases, rather than counting all penalty minutes, you can choose certain types of penalties: fighting majors or misconducts, for example. Some even allow you to set minor penalties as a negative scoring category (less is better).

So with all these options now on the table, whatís the best way to reward toughness? How do we elevate the value of true power forwards like Milan Lucic (30 goals, 62 points, 121 PIM, 167 hits and 7 fights last season), without over-inflating the value of goons or rewarding cheap penalties?

If I was starting a league today, and if my pool provider had all the options listed above, Iíd count hits and fighting majors, and leave penalties out of it. This recognizes the extra value that Dustin Brown brings to the table with his 300 hits a season, and it rewards Jarome Iginla for his willingness to drop the gloves a few times a year, while avoiding the silliness of rewarding a fantasy team when one of their players incurs a tripping penalty. But thatís just my opinion; it really comes down to the kind of league you want to build and which players you want to place the most value on.

A few years ago, we couldnít have even had this discussion. If you valued toughness, your choices were penalty minutes or penalty minutes. The advances in the industry have opened up a world of new possibilities to us now, so letís take advantage of it.

Does this mean the days of counting penalty minutes are coming to an end? Not anytime soon. Poolies have been tracking PIM for so long, the change will take time. Until all major fantasy providers (Iím looking at you, Yahoo!) get on board with stats like fighting majors, PIM will remain the category of choice for most leagues Ė for better or worse.

What do you think? Whatís the best way to bring the element of toughness alive in a fantasy league? And who is your all-time favourite power forward?

Written by Glen Hoos of Dobber Hockey.

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4803 Posts

Posted - 10/09/2011 :  12:25:45  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Quite frankly, I don't think there is any good way to LEGITIMATELY account for the toughness of a player as a positive worth in pool points.

See, the problem is . . . I don't consider a player sitting in the penalty box as toughness. That to me is only one thing: you are actually COSTING your team at that point.

To me, a true monster power forward - like a Forsberg back in the day - had the ability to physically take abuse, fight through traffic, be hard-nosed as hell, and still be able to use his incredible skill. What I don't get is somehow rewarding a player when they commit an illegal infraction . . . as if that increased the player's worth?!? It sure doesn't when a pp goal is scored against you! It's just a continuation, IMHO, of the goon hockey culture, where fighting ability - a penalised event in hockey which is detrimental to your team - is held in such high esteem.

So, I wouldn't reward players for sitting in the penalty box, so I would certainly never give points for that . . . but as to the "hits" stat, I think it's a decent metric, although not a perfect one. The best body checkers are not always the toughest forwards.

My example of a player who really brings great worth to a team that can't be measured by hits, fights or penalty minutes: Nikolai Kulemin. He plays a power forward style, is hard nosed, does most of the hard work in the corners on his line, and isn't afraid to use the body . . . but he is not a fighter, and he has amazingly low penalty minutes for a physical player.

That, to me, is real worth, unmuddied by costing his team a lot of power plays (like Lucic, for example).

Just my thoughts.

"Take off, eh?" - Bob and Doug
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