STHS Commissioners: Handling The Off Season. Part 1 – Entry Draft

Shame it never looks like this online

I’ve decided to put all of my STHS knowledge to type through a multi-post series of how to handle the off season. A handy guide for every Fantasy Hockey Commissioner out there to sift through, absorb and if they so choose, integrate into their leagues. The plan is to release the posts in four parts covering; The Draft, Rerates, Free Agency and GM Rewards. Inside those posts I’ll cover a few keys points in detail and provide advice on how to integrate and enhance the league experience.

There are going to be parts of this post that might seem a little abstract in concept, but hang tight, everything will be detailed and explained. If you have any questions, please feel free to comment and if you want to reproduce the blog elsewhere, please have the courtesy of letting me know.

Finally, if you’re on the STHS development team, thank-you for programming this awesome little simulator. Thank-you for taking the FHL concept and improving on it ten-fold. I haven’t had the chance to try version 2, but it looks great.

Without further delay. We start our journey with the first thing every GM on the outside looking in during the playoffs is looking forward to and one of the first things to be handled by every Commissioner during the off season. The Entry Draft.

Buildup to the Draft:

A commissioner always needs to be thinking ahead. The off season can be a very scary place, filled with high expectations and pressure from GMs to jump into the next season as soon as possible. I’ve seen more leagues shut down due to “pissing and moaning” from GMs during the off season that lead to a stressed out Commish pulling the plug than I care to recall. It’s during the playoffs and early off season that Fantasy Hockey Leagues go through hefty GM turnover, they get bored, depressed and agitated by being on the outside looking in. Think of it like this; if you didn’t make the playoffs, would you have a reason to check the website every day during the postseason? No. One of the smartest things a Commish can do is give his GMs something to do when they’re not busy, and generating hype for the Entry Draft is one of the best ways to keep ’em interested.

How?

This may only work in Retro leagues, but let your GMs scout, rank and rate their own prospects. I got into the habit of rating the Entry Draft class by the quarter mark of the season. If the league is playing through the 1992 season, there should be no surprises regarding the quality of the upcoming draft. At the halfway mark I’d release a series of lists of names divided into Skaters and Goaltenders, North American and European, rank them much in the same way the NHL Central Scouting does and release the list like this:

You’ll notice that the list won’t tell the GMs much. Player names, position, the ballpark estimate on a few key stats and estimated potential. (Note: I like to rank by potential and default EX and LD to 25 unless a player is a bit older. When I’m outlining the Rerate process you’ll see why.)

Around the trade deadline I’ll modify the list ever-so-slightly to reveal a few more stats, update the potentials and redo the rankings. From there I begin to encourage the GMs to send in their impressions of how the prospects are going to look once created. And let your GMs influence *how* these players turn out. If a GM rates a Power Forward differently than you do, take a reasonable average between the two. Never stray to far from your master list! Giving GMs a little bit of control over how players turn out from the draft will keep them interested. The more immersed and invested your GMs become, the less likely they are to leave during league downtime or treat their franchises like John Ferguson Jr would.

I also like to keep a cap on the highest any one stat can be rated for a prospect, usually it’s 70 and you’ll see why when we get to the Rerating Potential portion of this series.

Why GMs would want to do this:

Activity bonuses. Activity Points are good for bonus GM Rerate Points, Cash and Reputation. Activity Points, GM Rerate Points and Reputation may be foreign concepts right now; I’ll cover them in a later post about rewarding GMs. If you give GMs a clear benefit for submitting lists the more likely they are to do so.

How to encourage late round gems:

I like to think that under different circumstances players like Alexandre Daigle and Jason Bonsignore would have turned out differently, and in a fantasy hockey league why not give them the opportunity at an NHL career? To prime this in an STHS league I tend to inflate the potential (PO) of a player who was highly regarded but didn’t pan out and keep his core stats at a minimum. The way the Rerate System works (outlined later) the rewards for a high potential will boost his stats over time and if the player performs (likely on the farm club) the performance bonuses will rate the player well enough to let him climb the depth chart.

It’s a longer road, but the potential for payoff is there. This is also why it’s good to encourage a full farm system. The cycle of players can be portrayed realistically and it gives depth and support to the professional club. Veterans who are too low on the depth chart to be regulars on the Pro club can also serve the auxiliary purpose of mentoring youth on the Farm.

In practice the concept works a little backwards to how it actually happens in the NHL; smart GMs will know that you can build a solid franchise from a healthy mix of blue-chip prospects and late bloomers. It can also keep GMs interested during the later draft rounds.

A lot like…

“Off The Board” draft picks:

These irritate the fuck out of me. Most GMs will protest if you choose to get rid of them and keeping them in the league is another way to encourage activity, but be warned, they create horrible imbalance when GMs exploit the system – and it’s easy to exploit.

For those of you who don’t know what an “Off The Board” draft pick is, it’s when a GM selects a player who wasn’t originally drafted by an NHL club, but rather signed as a free agent and made his name through performance. The NHL is currently filled with examples of very talented players who were overlooked – for whatever reason, in a lot of cases because they took the college route – and have now made a name for themselves as star performers. Such as; Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle, Chris Kunitz and Nicklas Backstrom.

If a GMs is interested in exploiting the system, they’ll stock up on late round draft picks and rattle off a bunch of players no one else even thought about when they pick five times in a row. Usually with an air of smugness around them.

Why?

Because the idea of who can and cannot be drafted becomes very hazy if it’s not outlined very specifically. That’s why I preferred not to include them in my league. You can draft from a very specific list of players who were actually drafted and ranked, everyone else is a free agent.

Off The Board draft picks also make life hell for Commissioners who like to pre-rank prospects and have the ratings done ahead of time.

If you want to establish a specific position on these types of picks, instead of outright banning them, age or the year they signed their first professional contract are two routes to take.

Ways to run the draft:

There are three effective ways to run a draft. Both have their pros and their cons..

1. Forum or Email Draft. (GMs either email their lists or post their picks to a forum)
– Pros: Removes the pressure of everyone needing to be online at the same time. Effectively takes care of the “time zone problem”. Allows for a lot of calculated inter-round trading. Gives the GMs time to seriously consider the players they’re drafting. A lot of work can be done behind the scenes to make the rest of the off season easier, like rerates.

– Cons: They take forever. Sometimes over-trading can occur with eager GMs. The league risks losing a lot of off season momentum if GMs take their time making selections.

2. Live Draft. (Getting everything done in a mass MSN or IRC chat)
– Pros: Gets everything done in a relatively short period of time. Is very exciting for the GMs involved. Generates a lot of shrewd business dealings. Gets everyone together and as a result generates league articles and long winded trade talks. It’s all and all healthy for the league if pulled off correctly.

– Cons: Can sometimes be a logistical nightmare – an unprepared Commish will sink in a Live Draft. As the draft drags on some GMs eventually get moody or pissy. Arranging a convenient time for everyone to meet up can be a pain – this is where you run into the “Time Zone” problem, 6pm in Vancouver is 9pm in Toronto and while the person in YVR can stick around for a few hours the person out East may not. If a GM misses the draft, doesn’t send in a selection list and the Commish is a vindictive prick a team’s future can be destroyed. (Pro Tip: Don’t be a vindictive prick.)

3. NHL Aligned Draft. (Drafting order in your league follows the NHL player selecton order to the letter. EG: If Nashville wins the lottery draft, selects first and it happens to be 2007, they select; Kane, Brennan, Katic, Vaive, Kempe, Kalinski and Phillips. The top five selections will always be: Kane, Van Riemsdyk, Turris, Hickey and Alzner.)
– Pros: Is an easy and quick no BS way to conduct the draft.

– Cons: Completely negates 90% of the purpose for this article. Is hard to pull off in Retro Leagues and any league with less than 30 teams (or the amount of NHL teams in the league for the year played). Generates a lot of junk prospects and a lot of work for the Commish if he’s undertaking manual rerates. A lot of GMs will feel completely removed from the drafting process, which can lead to picks being devalued.

I prefer a combination of the first two. Live Draft the first three (or four) rounds and conduct the rest of the draft on the forums or through email.

Ranking and rating prospects:

I like to keep player ratings as low as possible. Not so low that the difference between Daniel Paille and Sidney Crosby is a handful of Overall (OV) points, but low enough that very few players stick far out from the pack and even fewer players start that way. Chronically high overalls stifle leagues very fast. If a team is full of players who are routinely sitting in the 80’s for Overall (OV) regardless of where they sit on the depth chart it looks bad. If a player like Donald MacLean is created with his Scoring (SC) in the mid 70’s and an OV to match, where does that put Jarome Iginla’s SC and where does that stat go after a few seasons if Iggy performs poorly? If everyone starts rated well, then you’re that much closer to the rating ceiling and that much more likely to hit it.

Keeping overalls low also gives your superstars room to grow. Keep in mind that it’s impossible – or you have to be bat-shit insane – to start with a ratings pack made entirely from scratch. The players you create from the first season forward are going to have a huge impact on the outlook of the league and if you want to maintain control over player ratings, this is where you start.

I’ll cover that in detail during part two of the off season process “Rerates”.

~J

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One Response to STHS Commissioners: Handling The Off Season. Part 1 – Entry Draft

  1. Mike says:

    Hey, these are great STHS articles. I really enjoy reading them, and I hope you get back into it and keep writing more of them. Funny side note, I grew up with Donald MacLean, and I always thought he would make it. He had a hell of a shot, but I’m not sure if discipline, or attitude was the issue. He definitely had the on ice skills to be an long term NHL player.

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