Another season is in the books for the NHL.com Experts League, and despite a few lessons learned on how to run a head-to-head fantasy team, one thing still remains -- we all still think we're smarter than one another. It's the players who messed up!
Yours truly really messed up big-time last season with a ninth-place finish, but 2009-10 brought atonement to the team known as Rocky Trottier (brother of Bryan who scored 518 fewer goals). A few good draft picks, a lot less injuries, sprinkle in a generous dose of lucky breaks and it all added up to a second career Experts League Cup title.
Not long after the season ended, I asked some Experts League members to share their insights into their team's performance.
Darryl Haberman, senior producer (Ready Arnott)
Who was your best pick? Martin St. Louis in Round 4. The guy was a beast, although he could've contributed more goals. He was very heavy on assists this season.
Who was your worst pick? Tie, Dion Phaneuf in Round 3 and Milan Michalek in Round 7. Both had a big falloff in production compared to last season.
Trades you made that did or did not work out. I made two trades this season, one worked out and one didn't quite work out like I envisioned. The one that worked out: I traded Zach Bogosian and Jonathan Bernier for Jose Theodore and Adrian Aucoin. Theodore's strong play in the second half pushed this heavily in my favor. The trade that didn't work out: I traded Corey Perry for Marc-Andre Fleury. Perry was a rock star for much of the season, while Fleury was disappointing after a sensational start to the season. His numbers were very pedestrian -- borderline ugly -- this year.
Did your pre-draft strategy pan out? No. Due to a scheduling conflict, I could not attend the draft. Autopick essentially doomed me the first 2-3 months. After losing patience with my team, I made some trades and waiver pick-ups which allowed me to be much more competitive, jumping five positions in the standings before falling short. Any players you're high on for next season? Outside of the obvious superstars, I'll go with three guys from my roster ... Steve Downie, Jaroslav Halak, Kurtis Foster.
Adam Kimelman, deputy managing editor (Clown Shoes)
Who was your best pick? Steve Ott was a 20th-round steal. One season after setting his career high in goals, he does even better with 22. Plus his 153 penalty minutes filled up another column
Who was your worst pick? Scott Hartnell was coming off a 30-goal season but he fell off completely. To plummet from 30 goals to 14 is not what you want from a sixth-round pick.
Trades you made that did or did not work out. I didn't make any trades this season.
Did your pre-draft strategy pan out? I thought grabbing Mike Richards at No. 4 overall was high, but I expected him to have the same kind of season he had in 2008-09 killing penalties, when he had 7 shorthanded goals, and I would clean up on shorthanded points. Didn't happen. Richards scored just once shorthanded this season.
Any players you're high on for next season? If the Islanders could find a player for John Tavares to play with like the Lightning did when they put Steven Stamkos with Martin St. Louis, there's no reason to think Tavares couldn't double his goal total in Year 2.
Neil Pierson, project manager (Code Monkeys)
Goalie - SJS
GAA: 1.71 | SVP: 0.931
Evgeni Nabokov, my No. 1, racked up 44 wins, a .922 save percentage, and three shutouts. Solid numbers and about even with Martin Brodeur, though he posted nine shutouts. Nabokov proved to be the better pick over Henrik Lundqvist or Roberto Luongo, despite Rocky's prognostications. Miikka Kiprusoff, my No. 2, however, went from 45 wins in 2008-09 to 35 wins this season. Since the fantasy game rules gave no points for overtime losses to goalies, Kiprusoff was effectively 35 wins against 38 losses. The Flames' late-season slump meant only five wins in his last 14 decisions, which factored heavily in my eventual slide from first place, causing me to finish third by the end of the season. I still feel the strategy is sound; I would have been better off with Ilya Bryzgalov or Ryan Miller, though.
The best pick of Round 5 of our draft was deemed to be Michael Cammalleri, but three picks later I chose Marian Gaborik, who crushed Cammalleri in every statistical category, and was one of my better picks of the draft: fifth overall in goals, 10th in points, third in power-play points, and 16th in shots. In Round 6, Andrei Markov was considered the best pick, and put up strong numbers -- for a defenseman. My other strategy was to avoid taking what generally are low-scoring defensemen too early. It's a game of numbers. Markov had 34 points in 45 games, which is great, but only 6 were goals. I already had Joe Thornton, always good for assists and who finished second in the league in assists with 69. I needed goals. The pick after Markov netted me Patrick Marleau, good for 39 assists, plus 44 goals -- fourth overall. For the 80th overall pick, my best of the draft, Art Ross Trophy-winner Henrik Sedin still was available -- 112 points by the end of the season. I didn't take a defenseman until the 12th round, when I grabbed Brent Seabrook with the 137th pick; 23 other blueliners already had been taken. The way I saw it, unless you had a Zdeno Chara or a few other elite d-men, they won't contribute much to your bottom line anyway. Save those picks for later rounds. In fact, in Round 16, to quote Rocky: "A whopping nine defensemen are selected, but none stand out above the others."
The other part of my strategy was to have none of my bench players be defensemen, in order to maximize my chances for goals and assists. I never carried a spare. I'd rather have Tim Connolly on the bench, who ended up having a career year -- 17-48-65, 7 PP goals, 1 SH goal -- not bad for a 20th-round pick. Connolly was good when he was healthy, and he stayed healthy all year.
So in short: Grab goalies early (the right ones), load up on scorers, especially ones that play two positions (like Marleau and Patrik Elias, who both played center and left wing) so you have flexibility in your lineup. Hold off on defense, take a chance on players moving from less strong teams to stronger ones (Gaborik), and hope everyone stays healthy.
Next year, I think John Tavares can improve on his encouraging rookie campaign; maybe the Isles will even have two players that can score 30 goals for them. The last time that happened, it was Alexei Yashin and Mark Parrish, way back in 2001-02.
Eric Goodman, producer (The Birdcage)
Who was your best pick? Not sure if there can be a legitimate "best pick" for the league's worst fantasy team this season, but I would highlight Henrik Lundqvist (No. 13) as my most decent choice. His 35 wins (a career low as a regular starter) upgraded the rating of my goalie tandem from absolutely atrocious to below average.
Who was your worst pick? I chose Lundqvist's goalie partner, Steve Mason (No. 36), with the last pick in the third round. I certainly was not expecting the sophomore slump to hit that badly. This ill-advised pick is made even worse when you consider the fact that Pekka Rinne (No. 72) was chosen with the last pick in the sixth round.
Trades you made that did or did not work out? There only were eight total trades this season and The Birdcage was not involved in any of those deals.
Did your pre-draft strategy pan out? It panned out since I planned to nab two starting goaltenders early, but the numbers I got from those respective positions obviously did not do the trick.
Any players you're high on for next season? Alex Ovechkin and Sidney Crosby, among a few others, are the default guys that everyone should be high on, but I believe Steven Stamkos' super sophomore season will have him going in drafts much earlier next season than he did in 2009-10.
Mike Morreale, staff writer (Philly Cheesestakes)
Defense - PHI
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 1 | PTS: 1
SOG: 5 | +/-: 1
My worst draft choice was Florida forward David Booth, who was sidelined over 50 games this season with a concussion. I never go into a draft with a pre-draft strategy because it seems things change from round to round. You have to stay flexible, so I'm big into taking the next best available player. My one big trade was dealing Avs goalie Craig Anderson for Leafs forward Phil Kessel. It wasn't a bad trade, but it didn't really benefit me the way I initially envisioned. The loss of Anderson didn't really hurt since Chris Mason played so admirably down the stretch.
Anyway, congrats to Rocky Trottier owner Rocky Bonanno for garnering the league title this year. I've improved each of my three seasons in the Expert's League, which is encouraging. That said, I'm gunning for fifth place in 2010-11!
Brian Compton, night managing editor (Hempstead Slowpokes)
Who was your best pick? Drew Doughty. Took him with the 170th pick, which certainly won't happen again next season. Doughty emerged as one of the League's top defenseman in 2009-10 and will be a Norris Trophy candidate for years to come. The 20-year-old had 16 goals, 43 assists and was a plus-20 for Los Angeles this season.
Who was your worst pick? Rick DiPietro. Again. For the second straight season, I took a gamble on the Islanders' franchise goaltender and paid the price for it. Only this time, I waited until the 17th round (No. 194) before plucking DiPietro, who has made a total of 10 appearances over the last two seasons. Will I try it again next season? Never say never. I know if I want him, he'll be available.
Trades you made that did or did not work out. Only made one trade this season, and that was back in December when I sent Brian Boucher to Rocky Trottier in exchange for Niklas Hagman. Considering I landed a 25-goal scorer for a goalie I picked up off waivers, I have to declare myself the winner in the deal.
Did your pre-draft strategy pan out? Not so much. I grabbed Cam Ward in the second round, but injuries limited the 2006 Conn Smythe Trophy winner to just 47 games. The goalie I drafted, Cristobal Huet, came in Round 5, and the Blackhawks' goalie ended up splitting time with Antti Niemi more than I had anticipated. It probably won't prevent me from taking goalies early next season, since there isn't much you can do about injuries.
Any players you're high on for next season? Despite a brutal stretch during the second half of the season, John Tavares ended up scoring 24 goals as a rookie. One has to believe No. 91 will eclipse the 30-goal mark next season.
Brian Schiazza, production desk manager (Big Skillets O'BKLYN)
Who was your best pick? Whenever you get the No. 1 pick and can take Alex Ovechkin, it's like having two players since he pretty much doubles your average player's shots, goals and hits. But getting 58 points and 88 penalty minutes out of a 20th-round pick that plays left wing and right wing? Rene Bourque was golden. Taking the then-injured Marian Hossa with the 73rd pick of the whole she-bang wasn't bad either.
Who was your worst pick? Unquestionably, Sheldon Souray to lead off Round 5 (49th overall). Penalty minutes? Check. Power-play goals? Check. Shots? Always. Injuries? Well... Considering Duncan Keith went next, and fellow Blackhawks Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane went a few picks later, I feel shame. God bless the trade market.
Trades you made that did or did not work out. Dealing Phil Kessel to the Philly Cheesestakes for Craig Anderson solidified my goaltending for the season. Having Bourque, Hossa, Ovechkin, surprising Matt Moulson and Mike Knuble on the wings made it a very affordable move. But the only other trade I made really deepened my D -- Mikael Samuelsson and Souray were sent packing to Ovi's Heroes, GM'd by Dan Rosen, for Nicklas Lidstrom and Tyler Myers. Lidstrom improved after a slow start to wind up as the eighth-ranked blueliner at season's end, and Myers had 48 points as a rookie. I felt it was a steal despite Samuelsson's 30 goals.
Did your pre-draft strategy pan out? I never have a strategy, really. Drafts are unpredictable past the top five picks, and you have to go with the best guy available, or with your gut. So taking Milan Lucic and his injury-plagued season in Round 4? Indigestible. The rest of the time, though, after having picked first overall, I was pretty happy. My favorite part is finding late-round gems like Bourque and Samuelsson.
Any players you're high on for next season? Maybe it's the Islanders fan in me, but I am seeing John Tavares enjoying a breakout in Year 2, though not quite as dramatic as Steven Stamkos' leap to a 51-goal 2009-10. Oh, and I'd take Stammer in the top 10 if I am in the middle of that somewhere. I see an emerging power forward like the Kings' Wayne Simmonds going higher thanks to goals and penalty minutes (my favorite combo of categories). I think a full NHL season for Nashville's Colin Wilson will yield dividends. And after the season Drew Doughty had, he is definitely going to be a perennial top-20 pick. I'm also curious to see how high Colorado's Chris Stewart goes after a 28-goal, 73-PIM campaign.
Last, but not least ... Rocky Bonanno, manager of partner content (Rocky Trottier)
Goalie - BUF
GAA: 2.26 | SVP: 0.927
I can not recall another draft where my top three picks worked out as well as the foundation I had in this league -- Sidney Crosby (No. 3 overall), Nicklas Backstrom (No. 22) and Ryan Miller (No. 27). Points galore and a workhorse goalie, and only one game missed due to injury between the trio.
I made 27 add/drops the entire season, fifth-most in the Experts League. Some of the better moves were adding Wojtek Wolski for Steve Sullivan, Tuukka Rask for Tomas Plekanec, Eric Fehr when David Jones went on injured reserve, Chris Stewart for Jannik Hansen, and Jason Chimera for Randy Jones. My only IR players for the season were David Jones, Ray Emery and Ales Hemsky.
Who was your best pick? Paul Stastny in the 10th round (No. 118). Have I ever written a fantasy story without mentioning Stastny? Doubt it, but with good reason. He placed 18th in the League in scoring with 20-59-79 in 81 games. He may not turn out to be the 35-goal scorer I thought he can be, but Stastny is a terrific player who deserves to be chosen in the top 3-4 rounds. Honorable-mention pick is Tomas Plekanec in Round 21 (No. 243). He rebounded in a huge way with 70 points; however, I cut Plekanec two weeks into the season to claim Rask. Plekanec finished the season on the roster of Out on a Dan Hinote.
Who was your worst pick? Rounds 5 through 7 were disaster picks -- Devin Setoguchi and Dennis Wideman totaled 66 points, and Ray Emery played only 29 games. I finished the year with all three on my roster. How I overcame that, I have no idea. Honorable mention goes to Fabian Brunnstrom in Round 22 (No. 262). Even with the third-to-last pick of the draft, he's was a total waste (11 points in 44 games).
Trades you made that did or did not work out. I swung two deals and they both blew up on me. On Oct. 11 I shipped a then-hot Vaclav Prospal -- playing next to Marian Gaborik -- to The Birdcage for Andy McDonald because he had center/left wing eligibility and I wanted that depth. McDonald really didn't help me much and by the start of December I cut him. My last trade was with Hempstead Slowpokes, giving up Niklas Hagman to acquire Brian Boucher. This was desperation, pure and simple -- Emery became injured (the first time) and missed a month and a half. While we all expected Boucher to become the starter, he got hurt and lost that job to Michael Leighton. So I got nothing out of Boucher and lost an eventual 25-goal left wing.
Did your pre-draft strategy pan out? As the Fantasy Forecaster, I can only have one strategy, to stick as closely to my NHL.com-published preseason player rankings. I think they went well with the usual mix of hits and misses, and I'll write more about this later on.
Any players you're high on for next season? I expect Drew Doughty to be a top-20 pick and not the 15th-rounder he was this past year. I'd be surprised if anyone beats me to Chris Stewart because I'll have him queued up rather soon. I'll be looking for Colin Wilson and Jamie McBain, I think Jonathan Bernier could be ready to challenge for the Kings' crease, I'll definitely find a spot for David Jones on my team and believe he'll be overlooked, and hope that Loui Eriksson continues to fly under the radar and that I don't underestimate him again.
The final Rocky Trottier championship-winning roster: Nicklas Backstrom, Francois Beauchemin, Troy Brouwer, Jason Chimera, Sidney Crosby, Eric Fehr, Nathan Horton, Erik Johnson, Kris Letang, Ryan Miller, David Perron, Tom Poti, Carey Price, Tuukka Rask, Mathieu Schneider, Teemu Selanne, Devin Setoguchi, Paul Stastny, Chris Stewart, Thomas Vanek, Dennis Wideman, Wojtek Wolski.
To revisit the Experts League draft recap, click here.
2009-10 NHL.com Experts League final standings
Division 1 Record
Pct. Points Skoula Hard Knocks 130-85-27 .593 287 Code Monkeys 121-90-31 .564 273 Rocky Trottier 116-97-29 .539 261 Hempstead Slowpokes 109-105-28 .508 246 Ready Arnott 91-120-31 .440 213 The Birdcage 81-130-31 .399 193 Division 2 Record Pct. Points Big Skillets O'BKLYN 131-84-27 .597 289 Hammerhead United 117-91-34 .554 268 Out on a Dan Hinote 112-93-37 .539 261 Clown Shoes 93-121-28 .442 214 Ovi's Heroes 82-120-40 .421 204 Philly Cheesestakes 82-129-31 .403 195
(3) Code Monkeys 3 vs. (6) Out on a Dan Hinote 5 (3 ties)
(4) Hammerhead United 1 vs. (5) Rocky Trottier 9 (1 tie)
(1) Big Skillets O'BKLYN 3 vs. (5) Rocky Trottier 6 (2 ties)
(2) Skoula Hard Knocks 5 vs. (6) Out on a Dan Hinote 4 (2 ties)
(2) Skoula Hard Knocks 2 vs. (5) Rocky Trottier 8 (1 tie)
3rd Place Game
(1) Big Skillets O'BKLYN 7 vs. (6) Out on a Dan Hinote 2 (2 ties)
7th Place Game
(9) Ready Arnott 4 vs. (11) Philly Cheesestakes 6 (1 tie)
9th Place Game
(7) Hempstead Slowpokes 10 vs. (8) Clown Shoes 1
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