As a continuation of my previous article on CBS Fantasy Hockey Draft Strategy, I wanted to come back with a breakdown of how I should approach writing in a standard Yahoo head-to-head league. Many of the directors are the same as CBS (and any league for that matter). For now, I’ll focus on the specific things you need to know about Yahoo Fantasy Hockey leagues in order to select a winning team.
The first thing to note about Yahoo’s standard setup is that they choose to split the forwards by specific position (C, LW, RW), rather than group the wingers or all of the forwards together. This has a great impact on your strategy. In most other formats, I tend to focus on goal and defense early on; however, in this league, left wingers are a rare commodity. Talent in this position drops dramatically after a small handful of elite options. Based on Yahoo rankings and position rankings, the top 10 options deserve consideration in a very early draft. After that, you stick with Alex Burrows, Patrick Elias, and Dustin Penner as your starting LW. And you need to place two players in that position. Contrast that with the RW position. Post the top 10, you still have solid options: Kessel, Hossa, Horton, Eriksson. It is even more dramatic when you look at the Center. Sure, it’s great to have Crosby, Stamkos, or Malkin at the helm, but will you really be struggling to settle for people like: Zetterberg, Getzlaf, Carter, Mike Richards, or Kopitar? You can go 20 deep and still have standout options like Stastny or Brad Richards.
So while I still highly recommend attacking a goalie and maybe one of the top 5 defenders early on, you should make sure you pick a left winger for round 3. After your first LW is taken, unless you’re Willing to stack the position at the expense of other positions, he can wait in his second LW until the end of the draft. The options you will get in round 6 are not much better than what you will find in round 12.
It only applies to a handful of players, but it’s worth noting that multiple players each season earn the special designation of running for more than one position. These guys have added value on your list, as you can use them wherever needed. Most noteworthy: Dany Heatley (LW / RW), Rick Nash (LW / RW) and Patrick Marleau (LW / C). Heatley is the most valuable as he could easily qualify as your best LW or best RW. Drafting Heatley gives you an advantage in terms of flexibility later in the draft and throughout the season.
I / R point
Yahoo has a unique option that allows you to take a player on the IR that will not count against your other places on the list. Take advantage of this throughout the season, and even during the draft. I recommend selecting a player who you know will start the season injured (Markov, Burrows). At the beginning of the season, you can place it in the place of GO and you will have a free choice to complete it. Always look to collect damaged stars and keep the place full.
System of points
Unlike CBS, which awards stat-based fantasy points, Yahoo’s standard head-to-head leagues are scored old-school steakhouse style. (Note: this is one of the main reasons I no longer play on Yahoo). These settings affect your strategy in several important ways.
1. Pay attention to all categories.
In a point-based system, +/- can be largely ignored. In a Yahoo league, having the best +/- is just as important as goals. This doesn’t make logical sense, but it is, so plan your draft accordingly. If a guy is notoriously bad at +/- or refuses to take a penalty to save his life, demote that player.
2. Bullies are welcome.
Since penalty minutes are valued the same as goals, why not recruit a bully to round to your extremes? A player could win that category on your own, so even if Zenon Konopka only scores you 2 goals again next season, his 15 Pims a week may be worth it.
3. Bring in the substitute goalkeepers.
Total goals allowed and saves do not matter here. These are averages (GAA /% savings). What that means is that a workhorse like Vokoun, who can lead the league in saves, won’t necessarily be as valuable as a guy who plays every other game and has a low GAA in the process. Therefore, do not necessarily avoid substitutes or goalkeepers in a split split scenario. You have to meet a minimum number of games played each week, so the best strategy here is to grab a top-notch number one goalie early in the draft and then wait for your second goalkeeper to arrive. There will be a lot of solid endorsements in the 10th round and beyond. Guys like Gustavson and Giguere become viable as they will both see one game a week and should post decent numbers behind that Toronto defense. In a points-based league, these two would not be drafted. This approach may hold you back in wins and shutouts, but it will benefit the other categories.
4. Unfortunately, defense is irrelevant.
It breaks my heart to say this, but in this format, you can and should treat defense as an afterthought. If you can catch one of the top 5 defenders early, do so, because the talent level drops significantly after that. Mike Green will score as a forward and is therefore worthy of an early pick. However, since defense and offense are bundled together in Yahoo’s leagues to score, they have relatively little value. The best plan is to take 1 elite defense if you can early, get your second D around the 8-10 round, then fill in your other starting spots before rounding up this position.
Draft room rules
Unlike CBS, Yahoo leaves you the keys and lets you drive your car however you want. There are no restrictions on the number of players you can select at any position. If you want to fill your bench with 4 goalkeepers, you can. I’m just pointing this out, as it’s a dramatic difference from the focus on CBS. Here, you can choose the best player available at all times.
Finally, take a close look at the Yahoo player rankings and play with them accordingly. The average general manager will tend to follow Yahoo’s picks blindly. Stay informed and watch out for these situations.
Here are some underrated players you can expect and get as a steal later than you would in other draft rooms:
Goalkeepers: Anti Niemi, Marty Turco
Defender: Shea Weber, PK Subban, Lubomir Visnovsky
Centers: Anze Kopitar, Jordan Staal
Left winger: Dany Heatley, Wojtek Wolski, James Neal
Right winger: Alexander Semin, Marian Hossa
Here are some names that will fly off the board early, based on Yahoo’s overpricing:
Goalkeepers: Craig Anderson
Defender: Andrei Markov (wounded), Niklas Kronwall (wounded), Sheldon Souray
Centers: Jonathan Toews, Tomas Plekanec
Left winger: Alex Burrows (wounded), Patrik Elias
Right winger: Daniel Alfredsson, Nikolai Zherdev