September 29, 2008

How To Win Your Hockey Pool

The NHL season is nearing which means it is one of the favorite times of the year for hockey fans. It is hockey pool time again folks!

No doubt most poolies are busy studying all of the various guide books and websites, resting their hopes and their pocketbooks on these projections.

The only problem is those projections are based on last year's performance and often mean diddly squat this year. It's like the stock market. You don't want to buy high. Or to reword Wayne Gretzky's famous approach to hockey, you want to go where the poolie points will be, not where they were.

All poolies know that luck has as much to do with pool success as knowledge. But the smartest poolies know that hockey history teaches us how to maximize our luck. Hockey history teaches us where to look.

With that in mind I have several categories identified. If you pick the right player or players from these categories, you should be a contender for your 2008-09 hockey pool championship!

Models of Consistency
Some players you can rely on year in and year out. They are top minute men and rarely miss games. You can almost count on them to score their consistent point totals of the past several seasons. No, you won't hit a home run or look like a genius for taking the right gamble. But if you fill your roster with enough consistent performers, you should find yourself in the thick of the hunt.

Candidates: Sidney Crosby, Alexander Ovechkin, Vincent Lecavalier, Jarome Iginla, Eric Staal, Joe Sakic, Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Dany Heatley, Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza, Daniel Briere, Joe Thornton, Ryan Getzlaf, Marian Hossa.

Every year a few players slip from their point productions of norm. The following year these players tend to slip down poolie draft lists too. Some are probably good to stay away from, but others will undoubtedly rebound. If you can pick up a rebound player with a middle draft pick, you will be rewarded.

Candidates: Patrick Marleau, Slava Kozlov, Mike Cammalleri, Michal Nylander, Simon Gagne, Jonathan Cheechoo, Patrice Bergeron

Good Players On Bad Teams
If you have participated in just a few poolie drafts, you will have noticed how the players from the best teams are generally picked first. But many of these players, especially support players, are going at a premium price. Just because good players plays for a weak offensive team does not mean you should wait to take them. In fact, you'd do pretty well in your pool if you took the top scorer from each of the worst 10 teams in the league. So don't overlook teams like the LA Kings or Atlanta Thrashers.

Candidates: Ilya Kovalchuk, Marc Savard, Anze Kopitar, Olli Jokinen, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Rick Nash, Nathan Horton,

Young Potential
Picking rookies is always a risky gamble, so I prefer to look at young players who have been in the league a couple of years but are still looking to reach their potential. Players like Mike Richards and Mike Green from last season.

Candidates: Steve Stamkos, James Sheppard, Corey Perry, Jordan Staal, Nathan Horton, Nikolai Zherdev, Steve Bernier, Jonathan Toews, Kyle Turris, Mikko Koivu, R.J. Umberger, Andrew Ladd

Players On The Move
Joining a new team is often a rejuvenating spark for veteran players. Perhaps a breakout season is in the works for some of these players.

Candidates: Markus Naslund, Micheal Ryder, Miroslav Satan, Nikolai Zherdev, Vaclav Prospal, Alex Tanguay, Erik Cole, Brendan Morrison

On the flip side, savvy poolies will note the vacancies from those who left have to be filled by someone. Watch for increased ice time possibilities in these situations.

Point Men
Generally speaking, forwards score more than defensemen. But selecting a top defenseman who sees lots of power play time is worth considering. Here's the top PP defensemen:

Candidates: Dion Phaneuf, Sergei Zubov, Sergei Gonchar, Andrei Markov, Tobias Enstrom,
Nicklas Lidstrom, Kimmo Timonen, Brian Campbell

Also note the NHL's top PP scorers amongst forwards from last season: Alexei Kovalev, Evgeni Malkin, Pavel Datsyuk, Alexander Ovechkin, Daniel Briere, Joe Thornton, Henrik Zetterberg, Ryan Getzlaf

By the way, tune in tomorrow when I dedicate my top ten list to ten players I think could have breakout seasons in 2008-09.

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