by Johnny Fantasy
Setting up a fantasy hockey league is no easy task if you want to do things right. A lot of leagues just use the default settings, which is unfortunate because those may not be particularly well balanced or do the best job of reflecting real-life hockey value. As a result, a lot of fantasy managers have become accustomed to using a lot of statistical categories that don’t make a lot of sense. While it’s impossible for fantasy to exactly track reality (e.g., I’m not sure fantasy will ever be able to capture the intangibles that make elite two-way players like Jonathan Toews and Patrice Bergeron so valuable in real-life, and thus they will always be a bit undervalued from a fantasy perspective), I always wanted to find a league setup that did the fairest job of approximating reality and that would provide the best experience of managing a hockey team of NHL players. To that end, there are the some basic principles I’ve settled on over the years. Here in part 1, we’ll look at platforms.
The starting point of any league is choosing the platform – the website that will host your league, the most prominent options being Yahoo, ESPN and CBSSports. There are also an ever-growing number of sites offering daily cash fantasy games, such as DraftKings and FanDuel. For the purposes of this blog, we are going to focus on the more traditional, seasonal fantasy site that allow you to set up and run your league, either for free or as a private pool among the participants.
Despite how much I will being complaining about them, Yahoo is my preferred option. They seem to be the most popular site and are the official-NHL partnered fantasy site (not that it really matters), but beyond that they have an intuitive interface, a good deal of options for customizing your league (which has been steadily growing each year) and a good roster of bloggers and journalists providing frequent updates.
ESPN is of course also a fine option. For a while its leagues were more customizable than Yahoo (offering non-specific roster positions such as Forward or Wing (rather than the more specific left wing, right wing or centre) and additional stat category options), but Yahoo has caught up in many respects. What seems to be left for ESPN (over Yahoo) are a few additional stat categories (ice time, shifts, defensemen points, hat tricks, goalie winning percentage, overtime losses), but if you’re looking for a lot of stat categories…
I’ve never actually played in a league on CBSSports, but in fiddling around with the league setup for a bit, I have to say I am impressed with the sheer number of options available. When you have categories like “1st Period Goals” and “Power Play Goals Against While on Ice” as options, I think that you can do pretty much anything you can think of with this format. But, the CBSSports platform seems very much like a place for fantasy hockey nerds to fall down the rabbit hole and go way too far into assigning points for very specific situations. Do we really need to have goals scored in the second period or on a penalty shot be worth something different than a goal generally? Don’t get me wrong, having more options is always be better, but using all of those options doesn’t necessarily lead to a better experience. Although, I can see CBSSports being a good platform for a very in-depth league.
I’d love to take a look at a really well thought out setup on the CBSSports platform to see how it well it works, but as you may have guessed Yahoo gets the edge for me and the rest of our discussion will be based on the Yahoo platform.
 “Nerds down the rabbit hole” he says, fully aware of the irony of his statement.