• Marcus Bender

NHL Fantasy - Five Things To Consider

Updated: Oct 4, 2020

Five Things To Consider For Your NHL Playoff Fantasy Draft


It feels weird preparing for a Hockey Pool at this time. It’s hot outside, everyone is in the park eating ice cream. It feels like we should be going to the beach instead of preparing for a Hockey Pool.


Suffice it to say 2020 has been a year like no other. The year of the Black Swan.


Given 2020 has already been as crazy as we could possibly imagine, why would it be any different in these NHL playoffs?


Chaos Reigns


One of the most interesting factors in this year’s playoff pool, is we don’t have any historical data. This type of tournament has never been tried. The idea of “the bubble” has never been tried. Playing without fans has never been tried.


Even the times of the day the games are being played. I can imagine some players excel in afternoon games, while others do better in later games, and this is yet another factor to consider.


Poolies this season should take a step back before picking, and try to develop a strategy for how they believe this tournament will turn out. Here are some questions to consider:


1. Will it be the veterans leading the charge?


Veterans generally do slightly better than rookies in the playoffs. This is already well-known. But given the particular nature of the tournament, will this change? Will it give veterans an even bigger advantage? Or will it mitigate their normal slight advantage?


My Thoughts:


My opinion is it will increase the value of the veteran. I feel like a veteran will be used to living in hotels and being on the road for long stretches at a time. They have less reason to feel “cooped up”.


In particular, I believe this will be the Cup of the “Superstar”. That seems like a rather mundane suggestion at first glance, but I believe it will be of significance. Time and time again we are shown the single most important factor for a player’s success is level of dedication. Sidney Crosby doesn’t stay the best without working at it. It is his dedication which makes him the best.


I believe in this type of “special event”, inside the bubble and away from friends and family, I believe it will be the players who can focus the most who will have an advantage. These players are generally the superstars.


I therefore believe we will see a big tournament from both Edmonton and Pittsburgh.


2. Will any team have an advantage or disadvantage playing in the bubble?


In particular will Edmonton and Toronto have an advantage by playing at home?


This is an interesting question. Initially it may seem the answer would be yes. It would be nice to know the rink at the facilities. Simply being comfortable might lead to an advantage.


On the other hand, it might give the home teams some “pressure”. Is it possible Toronto or Edmonton will feel pressure to win on their home rinks?


Except, here's another thought: Without fans it really isn't "their home rinks", is it?


Do you think these teams will feel compelled by some inexplicable pull to "defend their ice"? Or, do you think it will have no effect?


Which leads us to our next question.


3. Will playing without fans lead to any unexpected results?


Fans obviously have a huge impact on the game. Most teams go into a game trying to either "get the fans in" or "get the fans out" of the game. There is a constant battle between teams to dictate the mood of the crowd. Everyone knows how much influence fans can have on a game.


Now, there are no fans. Does this mean there will be less fighting for example? (Why fight if no one is watching?). Or, does it mean the exact opposite? Will this mitigate the "intimidation factor", or will it have no effect whatsoever?


How will this affect penalties?


In the playoffs we are generally used to referees calling fewer penalties than in the regular season. Will that be the same during these playoffs?


This is a very important factor to consider. Special Teams are of vital importance in the regular and the playoffs. How will not having fans affect the way penalties are called, and therefore affect special teams?


Will referees have fewer distractions and therefore more time to call penalties accurately? Or, will they be more relaxed without an angry crowd around them, therefore calling fewer penalties than normal?


My thoughts:


I believe they will call it as close to this past regular season as possible. I feel there may be slightly fewer penalties in these playoffs than in the regular season, but not as many fewer as generally observed in the playoffs.


I’m only basing that on what I would imagine the League is communicating to the Referee’s Association.


“Call it as you called it all season” I bet will be the creed coming from the NHL. The last thing the NHL wants right now, are complaints about the reffing.


For this reason, I believe they will try to keep it as uniform as possible. This might be good news for teams with good special teams (ie - Edmonton).


4. How will the Round Robin Teams fare when the Elimination Round begins?


The Top Four of each Conference are playing a Round Robin against each other to determine the Seeds.


This will have an impact on how the rest of the Bracket will play out. This also means Round Robin teams will play fewer games before the Elimination Round (3 games as opposed to possible 5). The way the Round Robin will affect the teams involved, and how this will play out, will be extremely interesting.

The real thing to be looking for is how seriously these teams will take these Round Robin games. Will they play full tilt as though their entire tournament lives depend on it? Or will they take it “easy” instead focusing on the Elimination Round?


Either way, will they be able to build the intensity necessary for the playoffs by beginning the tournament in a Round Robin?


My Thoughts:


My guess is they take these games fairly seriously but, this level of intensity will not be matched by the teams fighting for their lives in the Qualifying Round.


For this reason, when the Elimination Round begins I believe the underdogs will have a slight early advantage in terms of the intensity. I would place a bet with odds on an underdog team winning Game #1 of the Elimination Round.


This is not for right now however, and I believe it would only be a temporary and marginal boost, lasting maybe only one game.


Still, again this is why I particularly like Edmonton and Pittsburgh in this tournament. They will be playing some tough, backs-to-the-wall type games to get into the Elimination Round. This should help them start building the momentum they need to start getting into the zone.


It is obvious, but it must be stated:


Any team that "gets in the zone" will be hard to stop these playoffs. That could be any team, but for whatever reason it seems more likely that team will come out of the Qualifying Round after having played elimination games.


5. Don't Forget: Chaos Reigns in 2020


I think it’s safe to say no one expected it to turn out like this. We will probably all agree 2020 so far has been an absolutely crazy year.


There is no reason to expect that will change. 2020 has been berserk, why would the NHL Playoffs, in a tournament and a layout we’ve never done before, in a month we've never played, be any different?


For that reason, if you feel any premonition of any sort, I suggest you go for it. It is almost guaranteed something very unexpected will happen this tournament.


I would take odds for my bets of course, and I would make my sleeper team picks at the appropriate sleeper time. All I'm saying is, don't be afraid to play a hunch this tournament.

I've probably given you more questions here than answers. To be perfectly honest, I have no idea what will happen, just like the rest of us.


I remember two key principles in Playoff Pools:


1. No matter what you think will happen, something else will happen.


2. Get a vibe for which teams other Poolies are putting their money, then pick the opposite.


For example, a team which I believe will have tremendous value, are the Minnesota Wild. They are probably the least sexy team in the tournament, and I don't think they will beat the Canucks either. However, they have a better chance of winning that series than people are giving them credit. This therefore makes players from this team a great value pick in later rounds.


This Season has been the strangest season of hockey we have ever seen. For this reason, I suggest whatever bizarre scenario you can imagine for this playoffs, I would go with it. Crazier things have happened. Like we suddenly didn't finish the season, and are now playing in a 24-team tournament in the middle of July.


Chaos Reigns in 2020.


And as always, have fun everyone!

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