Tips To Rebuilding A Successful Sim Hockey Franchise

The two most common Fantasy Hockey Simulators.

The following post applies to any sim hockey league that is ongoing and where you are in direct control of your line-ups, Free Agent market and Entry Draft. I use STHS and FHL specifically.

Everyone wants to be an armchair General Manager. From the beginning of professional sports there have been old men saying how they’d run the show if they were in charge. Fortunately with the dawn of the Internet age you can be in charge! A few teams of programmers have set out to give in to every armchair GM’s wet dream. As a result we have programs like STHS (Simon T Hockey Simulator) and FHL (Fantasy Hockey League) that allow us to play the long and drawn out simulated GM/Coach experience against other players.

I’ve been consistently involved in these leagues for over a decade and even ran my own for two seasons – only recently hanging up the e-commish hat when time was no longer on my side.

Today I’m going to cover a few points to consider when you’ve just tried so hard to win that coveted championship for so many seasons that you need to rebuild or you have been handed a franchise that needs to be turned from a laughing stock to a respectable contender.

Understand Your League
Why is this point number one? Because of the huge amount of variables to consider when tackling the challenge of rebuilding a franchise. League information should be common knowledge by the time you accept any sort of GM duty, but if it’s one lesson I learned from running a league, don’t assume anything. The key thing to look for is how players are rated and rerated. If the league follows NHL conventions and rerates players based on NHL performance, you’re in luck. A few months glued to Hockey Night in Canada, TSN and NHL.com should be enough to arm you with a solid amount of player information. (Also I’d like to assume that if you’re willingly involved in a sim hockey league, you’re at least interested in hockey.) If the league has sim rerates (an automated and sometimes unrealistically evil process) then you need to focus on stocking a healthy blend of vets to efficiently develop the youth and enough of both to fully stock your pro and farm teams. The same goes for manual rerates. Anytime you’re in a position where the sim performance of your roster directly influences their development you want to make sure your youth is adequately supported and given enough ice time to rack up some impressive numbers. Also make sure that if your league is rerated manually that you have a VERY CLEAR understanding of how those rerates are going to be done. In my league we did manual rerates, it was a pain in the ass and took a lot of time, but the formula I developed balanced age/potential/performance very nicely, we also gave GMs a bit of control over the ratings. It was largely successful, but it’d never work with FHL.

The Draft
This can be either the most intriguing or mind numbing portion of the game. Some leagues speed up the process by auto drafting to some degree or another. Other leagues will draw the process out by manually drafting every pick of every round. Your approach to drafting can easily make or break any momentum. You know that GM who consistently harasses you to add a mid-round draft pick to the end of every deal? That GM has figured out that he can either combine that pick with another mid-round pick to trade up to an earlier selection, or that two mid-level prospects have a better chance of turning into professional assets than one mid-level prospect. Take the draft seriously, collect and guard your picks. If you’re going to rebuild that first rounder is going to make things a hell of a lot easier and the more youth you can stockpile the brighter the future looks.

If you have complete control over how you draft, assess your long term needs and draft accordingly. Keep in mind that goalies – in my opinion, the key to any successful rebuild – tend to take a little while longer to develop. Research is key! Sometimes leagues will post draft lists, typically if they’re playing a few seasons back, but for modern sim leagues, sites like Hockeysfuture and MyNHLdraft are outstanding resources for scouting prospects.

League size and number of draft rounds is also important. You have a better chance of picking up late round gems if the league is smaller.

Free Agency
GMs always walk a fine line during Free Agency when orchestrating a rebuild. One of the unfortunate side effects of Sim Hockey is that the “Rangers Approach” to free agency actually works and is remarkably easy to pull off. I don’t advocate using it. For those who are unaware of the tactic, you basically use your advantageous financial position to purchase your way to a championship. A lot of leagues I’ve been in have fail-safes against this sort of activity, but in leagues where the most money offered guarantees signing the player, then fly at ‘er you douche. The long term downfall is the complete lack of development for existing youth and a potentially long string of late round draft picks. Also other GMs may completely cut you out of trade talks unless you look to unload assets for cheap. Pushing yourself right up against the salary cap is never a good idea.

Another – wiser – tactic is to stagger your signings to plug your holes and flush out your depth on pro and farm. I find that if I’m developing a top pairing defenseman I like to sign a veteran to pair with him. Someone that complements the line or pairing and above all someone with enough leadership and experience to even out the line to compensate for mistakes. A good real world example is Crosby and Kunitz playing with Guerin.

Trading
Playoff bound teams absolutely love experienced players who can step into key positions for the playoff run. It could even be your love of the playoffs that stuck you into the rebuilding position. If you know your going to be e-golfing early, then you’re going to want to get rid of those looming Unrestricted Free Agents. If only to free up some room on the payroll to resign some of your younger players and free up roster spots. The trade deadline should be seen as a way to preemptively stock your assets for the off season with either prospects or draft picks.

Thank-you for reading. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to comment below. If you’d like me to write on other sim hockey topics, all you need to do is ask. I’ll probably make this into a reoccurring series.

~J

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4 Responses to Tips To Rebuilding A Successful Sim Hockey Franchise

  1. JardyB10 says:

    I’m in a couple leagues that use STHS. If anyone is interested in a very well-established Point Task based hockey league, check out the Victory Hockey League at http://www.forum.vhlsim.com. Another good league, a brand new one, that needs help getting off the ground is the IIHA, which you can find at http://z7.invisionfree.com/IIHA. Shameless self-promotion, I know. But recruiting is the name of the game! 😛

  2. Very good write-up. I certainly appreciate this website.

    Continue the good work!

  3. Chris says:

    Good morning. I wanted to touch base with you as I am the creator of GMGames.org (Sports General Manager simulator games). I liked your blog and would be interested if you would like to blog , contribute content or look at joining some of the team.

    There are several other significant hockey sims out there and coming up. Franchise Hockey Manager 2013 and Web Sim Hockey 2.0

    Let me know your thoughts. I am available at chris@gmgames.org

    Cheers

  4. JardyB10 says:

    On the subject of my message three years ago, our new website is http://www.vhlsim.net/smf. The other two domains are dead, I’m sure.

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