Dan Berlin’s latest article got me thinking about fantasy hockey league formats and what we can do to improve them. I wanted to start it off simple with a discussion of the H2H and roto formats. Dan already mentioned one major weakness of H2H, which is star players taking the fantasy playoffs off and leaving you with a dead roster spot, but there are many others to discuss.
I am going to lay out my thoughts on the formats, and then invite you to post in the comments your thoughts, as well as any special modifications you make in your league to combat some of the inherent problems with these formats.
For me, the biggest problem with H2H is the randomness. Some may call it luck, but they are essentially the same thing. Every single week you are at the mercy of your opponent. You could have the second best stats in the entire league in every category, and still be shutout. While not as bas as Fantasy Football – I have been in a league where the team with the most fantasy points finished in dead last – it is still a problem.
It is pretty easy to spot too when just looking at your league stats. For example, in one of my leagues I had 226 goals and another team had 223. He finished with a 12-6-4 record while I was an abysmal 5-11-6. That is a 12 point swing, easily a big enough margin that it could be the difference between a playoff date and an early tee time.
For starters, it is not guaranteed that every team plays each other the same number of times. It is not ideal, but I can live with it. The bigger problem is WHEN each team matches up, particularly in a keeper league. In a keeper league, the bottom teams are going to sell off their assets to restock draft picks for the following season. This makes them easy opponents in the last couple weeks of the season, and the teams that play them have an unfair advantage.
The playoffs are a crapshoot
Unless you get a first round bye, where you finish in the standings means almost nothing in the grand scheme of things. What matters is who has the best (and healthiest) team come playoff time. Given the randomness mentioned above, finishing as a higher seed may actually cause you to play a more difficult opponent come playoff time. They just happened to have bad luck with their matchups and got stuck as a bottom seed.
Trade for Chris Pronger and Patrick Sharp at the deadline? Too bad they got injured. While this is also a problem in roto, it is a bigger issue in H2H because you can’t bank the stats you accumulated during the year, and are starting fresh every week. This can really hurt in the playoffs.
Overall, I think H2H provides a bit more drama by providing a new set of matchups every week, and the playoff theme is in line with what we expect from sports here in North America. I have just seen too many instances of the best team in the league missing the playoffs because they got screwed on their matchups to fully endorse it.
It can be kind of boring
Often times, the standings remain stagnant for extended periods of time, or the winner of the league is pretty much determined at the All-Star break. There is often no incentive to make that risky trade to try and catch the team that is light years in first place, and instead just play conservative and go for second place. In H2H, at least when you make a trade you are improving your team permanently, and know that you have a chance to knock off that top team come playoff time.
Those bad goalie starts are going to haunt you all year
Drafted Steve Mason hoping for a bounce back year? Oops. Those early season 5 goal shellackings are going to stay in your stat line all year, and make it very difficult to mount a comeback. In H2H, you are at least starting fresh every week, can cut bait with a crappy goalie, acquire a stud, and go on a winning streak to bring your team back into contention.
Managing your games played inventory
This can be a difficult task for even the most dedicated fantasy managers. If your league limits the amount of games you can play at each position, you have to be careful with who you play and when, and guys with multiple position eligibility are devalued because they are just going to push you over your games played limit.
Sometimes you see the owner who managed his game limit the best win the league, rather than the person with the best team.
Regular season championships mean nothing
In North America, playoffs mean everything, especially the grueling Stanley Cup Playoffs. The regular season is just an extended audition to decide who is worthy of competing in the playoffs. No one cares how many President’s Trophies the San Jose Sharks have won because they have never sipped from Lord Stanley’s mug. For that reason alone, a lot of people don’t like roto. It just doesn’t sit well with them to award the trophy to a regular season champion.
Overall, I think roto is the fairer of the two options, but not quite as exciting. Obviously, there are pros and cons to each method, and people like to complain about how they are getting screwed rather than proposing solutions. I would like to take this opportunity to invite the community to suggest any ideas they have seen work in the past in order to help out their fantasy hockey brethren.