You read our draft kit preview on Monday and said to yourself that this is the year that you will create a fantasy hockey league (and if you didn't read it, go there now and read it: Draft Kit Preview - you can find the full draft kit schedule there as well). So now that you've decided that you're going to do this, what is the first thing you have to do? Read this article and then go to Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey and create your league!
One of the first decisions that you'll have to make upon league creation is what type of league you would like to be in and how and when you'd like to draft. The Yahoo! standard leagues are head-to-head live standard drafts. Head-to-head leagues pit you against one other manager in the league each week where you will then compete against them in each stat category. Each category that you win or lose counts towards your record in the league standings. Live standard drafts provide one pick per round in a snake draft (reverse draft) using the Yahoo! online draft tool. Other popular variations of leagues include rotisserie: teams are ranked in each stat category and given points corresponding to these rankings; and points only: assigned point values per stat tracked. Other popular variations of drafts include the live auction draft: bid fantasy dollars on players using the Yahoo! online draft tool; and the offline draft: league drafts offline in whatever manner they see fit and input the results. Whatever you decide to use is up to you, but note that whatever you choose will dramatically shape the game style of the league that you are creating.
Troy's Take: I have always preferred head-to-head leagues over rotisserie or points leagues. Head-to-head leagues, in my opinion, represent the most real life version of the leagues. Each matchup is against one other manager and at the end of the day, the best team doesn't always win. You are always at the mercy of whoever you are against and whatever momentum their team has - just the same as teams in real sports. This also tightens the field, keeping the game competitive by keeping marginal teams in the race throughout the year and keeping their managers involved in the league. In addition, head-to-head leagues, by their nature of pitting you directly against another manager, provide the most competition and rivalry among league managers keeping the league fresh and exciting. Rotisserie and points only leagues don't provide that same league dynamic that I look for in my leagues, but if you want the best team to win, then those are the leagues for you. I just find that the results are often decided far before the year is over, thus providing little excitement at what should be the most exciting time of the year heading into the playoff run.
When it comes to draft type, I have always preferred the offline draft. Offline drafts have the benefit of ensuring that all participants are in the same room together. This really brings a league together I find and allows everyone to feel comfortable trash talking and sending other managers that they may not know as well trade offers. In essence, it usually brings together a more fun and entertaining league. Sometimes, situations arise that will not allow for an offline draft such as geographic proximity, but wherever possible I always suggest an offline draft.
In regards to the standard vs. auction drafts, I have always liked auction drafts. I understand that they can be scary to those who are participating in them for the first time as you never know how much to bid for any player, but that's the beauty in them as well. The market will set the price, you just have to recognize it. What I love about auction drafts is that again, it will most closely mimic real life free agency. Each manager works within a salary cap and puts to the ice the best team they can assemble. Players sign with the manager who will spend the most money to gain their services. And each manager has the opportunity to each player, you just have to be willing to pay the price. Once you move to an auction draft, you'll be wishing you never did snake drafts to begin with. The control is all yours in an auction draft.
Once you've decided on the league and draft types, you can either hit finish and create your league or continue to further customize it into the league of your dreams. Obviously you know in what direction I'll be pushing you... If you finish and create the league, you will be participating in a league with Yahoo! default settings. Twelve managed teams; no maximum acquisitions per year; two centers, two left wings, two right wings, four defensemen, two goalies, and one injured reserve on the rosters; and goals, assists, plus/minus, penalty minutes, powerplay points, shots, wins, goals against average, save percentage, and shutouts as stat categories. Boring... Where's your sense of adventure? Hit the customize settings link and continue on this journey with me to the best league ever.
There are many rules settings. There are basic settings to help set up your league such as how many teams can be in your league, when the league starts, where un-drafted players go upon the completion of the draft, if there will be divisions in your league, how playoff seeding will be calculated, whether or not there will be playoff reseeding, when playoffs will take place, and whether eliminated teams will be locked from making transactions. These are all very important settings to review, but they won't make too much of a difference in how people ultimately play the game. The interesting settings are determining who can be cut from your roster, how many goalie starts a manager must have per week, how many acquisitions you are allowed per week and per year, what waiver mode and type you will use, how long players will be on waivers, when roster changes will be in effect, when the trade deadline is, who reviews trades, how long do people have to review trades, and whether or not draft pick trading will be allowed. These are the nuts of bolts of your league and knowing these settings inside and out will a) produce the best resulting and most fun league, and b) provide a distinct advantage to you throughout the year over other managers who may not pay as much attention to these settings.
Troy's Take: I realize that this is a giant list of settings and yes you do need to look at each one of them; this is the most important part of creating your league. What you decide here will dramatically shape how your league is run. There are many different settings, and all of them should be reviewed carefully, but I will concentrate on what I see to be the most important rule settings. First up, maximum acquisitions. I hate leagues that have no limit on acquisitions. They devalue the importance of the draft and provide incentive to be the most active manager and stream players day to day. I'm sorry, but just because you don't work all day and have all the time in the world to look at your fantasy sports, that doesn't make you the best fantasy hockey manager. Adding and dropping players daily based on games played and matchup (streaming) is a viable strategy, and one that you should take advantage of if your league allows it, but it is not one that I prefer to employ or let managers in my leagues employ. I prefer to force myself and others to do better analysis up-front and ride out the downturns. Make no mistake, acquisitions will be necessary as not all drafted players will be a success, but I prefer to make my leagues trade to make changes or make difficult decisions in using their limited transactions. I usually use about twenty five acquisitions per year (about one a week on average) with no more than two per week to go with unlimited trading. I find this gives managers the flexibility to modify their roster appropriately while not giving much advantage to those who are aggressively active. It forces managers to make smart decisions and do their homework rather than make quick instinctive decisions. Usually those who are the most prepared perform the best in my leagues. That's not to say that a hot pickup sits in free agency though due to the transaction limit, as the managers are quick to determine who is a flash in the pan vs. a legit breakout and act accordingly.
The other setting that I feel strongly about includes the waiver process. Determining the waiver mode as standard or continuous will have a huge impact on your league. In a standard waiver mode (Yahoo! default), players exiting waivers will become free agents and the first manager to add them will get them. Under the continuous waiver mode, all un-owned players will always be on waivers and waivers will transact on certain pre-specified days. As you can probably guess based on my conversation about acquisitions, I prefer the continuous waiver mode with waiver transactions occurring each night. This allows each manager the full day to decide whether or not to place a bid on a player, rather than the first manager to log on always getting what they want. It emphasizes the decision making process and since you will be required to use your waiver position to make an addition, it keeps managers from hoarding their high waiver positions. This keeps the talent in the waiver pool equally accessible to everyone as in theory managers take turns adding to their team. If using the continuous waiver mode, the other change that should be made is to allow roster changes on a daily - today rather than a daily - tomorrow basis. If left on a daily - tomorrow setting (Yahoo! default), the waiver will go through overnight after you make the bid and then you won't be able to use them in your lineup until the day after that. Essentially, it's a two day process to add a player. If you change it to a daily- today setting, managers will be able to use the player on the same day that the waiver processes - the day after the bid.
Once the league rules have been determined, it is time to look at the rosters. Personally, I really like the Yahoo! defaults of two centers, two left wings, two right wings, four defensemen, two goalies, four bench, and 1oneinjured reserve. The other active roster options include wingers (LW/RW), forwards, (C/LW/RW), and utility (C/LW/RW/D). Other inactive roster positions include IR+ and not active. The IR+ allows you to place those pesky day-to-day tags on IR and the N/A allows you to place players who are not on an active NHL roster in an inactive spot. IR, IR+, and N/A do not count towards your active roster. If players are using these roster designations, you will be eligible to make a roster addition without using additional moves. Bench designations count towards your active roster, but do not accumulate stats for your team. The rest of the roster designations pertain to actual positions and accumulate stats for your team.
Troy`s Take: Using specific positions rather than wingers, forwards, or utility positions makes managers make more important decisions when constructing their rosters which I like (there's a theme here, managers should manage and think critically just like general managers do on real teams). I typically add one more center position due to the depth of the position, one more bench to allow one bench spot per position (C/LW/RW/D/G), and an additional injured reserve spot as injuries always pile up. Therefore, my roster sizes are eighteen rather than the Yahoo! default sixteen (IR doesn't count as an active roster spot). Keep in mind that the larger the active roster, the less prone your league is to luck and outlying results as each player rostered has less and less of an impact on the overall value of the team. Increasing roster sizes and going deeper into drafts is an easy way to reward good fantasy managers. I've always found it important to keep the roster size an even number as in standard snake drafts, you don't want the person picking last in the first round to also be picking last in the last round. A couple new additions that Yahoo! added last year include the IR+ and N/A position slots. Neither of them count towards the active roster, allowing you to make a player addition to replace the player you used this designation for. You should pay special attention to your max acquisitions if using the IR+ designation as managers will be making transactions more frequently than they otherwise would due to the common day-to-day designation that players often receive. The N/A designation can be especially important for those in dynasty or keeper leagues or just very deep leagues where high prospect talent is typically owned. Both make the fantasy game more dynamic and are great adds to the Yahoo! fantasy platform even though I don't use them myself.
Finally, once you've determined the roster settings, the last piece to setting up your league within Yahoo! is the scoring. Standard Yahoo! leagues use six scoring categories: goals, assists, plus/minus, penalty minutes, powerplay points, and shots and use four goalkeeping categories: wins, goals against average, save percentage, and shutouts. Most scoring categories can be broken out into goals, assists, and points, such as for the total scoring (even strength + powerplay + shorthanded), powerplay scoring, and shorthanded scoring. Game winning goals, hits, and blocks can be found in deeper, more involved leagues, and shooting percentage and faceoff wins and loses make up the miscellaneous scoring categories. For goalkeeping stats, games started, loses, goals against, shots against, and saves make up the additional stats that aren't Yahoo! defaults.
Troy's Take: The first thing to think about is what you want the split between scoring and goalkeeping categories to be. A six and four default setup places too much emphasis on goalkeeping in my opinion, especially in a two goaltender league where top goalkeepers are at a premium. Goaltending essentially dictates who wins each week in these leagues and I don't like how unbalanced this is for a league that rosters only two or three goalies out of sixteen rostered players. I typically like to go with a nine and five or an eight and four split in order to give greater importance to the other roster positions so that the best goalie tandem doesn't win the league each time and an equal importance is placed on skaters and goalies.
When constructing my leagues, I like to take out penalty minutes. While there are occasions in real life where penalties can help a team (such as momentum shifting fights), they typically hurt a team and thus I don't believe in rewarding them in fantasy either. I usually replace them with shorthanded points to promote players who play in all situations on the ice and add game winning goals, hits, and blocks to promote clutch players and players who might provide other intangibles that aren't seen in the boxscore. For goaltenders, I like to add saves to compensate for the fact that goals against average and save percentage promote quality starts and wins and saves promote quantity of starts. I like to maintain that balance between quality and quantity . Shutouts contribute to both quality and quantity, but I feel they are a bit redundant as a shutout already has stats embedded in each of the other categories. If I go with a nine and five setup I will leave shutouts in, otherwise I take them out in my eight and four setups.
You can now go ahead and hit finish to create your league. Hopefully you've looked at each setting and made your perfect league. But that doesn't mean that you are now done...
Keepers and Other Settings Outside the System
The last thing to think about is whether of not you want to be able to keep players year over year. This is where Yahoo! currently needs the most development as their settings for keeper management are somewhat lacking. Most of your rules in this regard won't be able to be managed by the Yahoo! system, but you can still do a lot of fun things to customize your league. You will need to decide how many players each team is allowed to keep year over year and what the parameters surrounding them are. In standard snake draft leagues, the amount of keepers should always be even in order to allow equal distribution of picks in the keeper rounds to all managers (i.e., player selecting last in the first round, gets the first pick in the last round of the perceived keeper rounds). You will still need to answer questions such as; can you keep players for the entire course of their career or are their yearly limits to how long you can keep them? Do you make use of the N/A roster positions and allow farm team drafting for deeper dynasty leagues? Do you have to keep players in the round they were originally selected or will all keepers make up the first rounds of the draft? If in an auction league, do the players kept have the same value as they were drafted at or will you increase players costs year over year in order to keep them? Are managers allowed to trade draft funds year over year to replace not being able to trade draft picks? All of these questions will need to be answered in order to add clarity to the league surrounding keepers.
Troy's Take: In my home league, I employ an offline auction league not only because of all the reasons that I have previously explained above, but also because my additional league settings don't allow for conventional drafting through the Yahoo! online tool. We use multi-year contracts in our draft process so that you can further outbid other managers. If you have a one year contract on your team that is expiring at the end of the year and have room in your available keepers, you can resign that player to another contract and pay a pre-specified salary increase depending on how long you resign them for. This keeps most top end talent from being monopolized by a manager for the entirety of their career. At a certain point, the cost increase becomes unbearable and the manager allows the player to reenter the draft. The increases are quite steep, so usually this will take less than five years. Usually, the manager lets the player go when they think they can get them for less in the draft than the pre-set increase. This continues to give every manager access to talent of all levels each year. Unfortunately, this league setup means that we must track a lot of rules and settings outside of Yahoo! and track some results ourselves such as the draft itself. It's not for everybody, but I love it as it really forces you to make decisions such as a general manager might actually do.
At this point, you have now determined the appropriate league type, draft type, league rules, rosters, scoring, keepers, and offline rules to make your league the best it can be. You have also listened as I (sometimes painstakingly slowly) describe what I like to see in a league and why. Hopefully my ramblings and thoughts have provoked you to think critically about how to set up your league and given you inspiration for some of your own ideas and opinions. My leagues are perfect for me, but not everyone is me. Look at each setting critically and decide what is best for you and your league. You can make the league your own in any way imaginable, adding and customizing the setup both within and outside of the system requirements, and how you do this will play an impact in how much you and all of the managers within it enjoy your league. It's now time for you to go to Yahoo! Fantasy Hockey and create your league!
Let me know in the comments how you customize your league and what you like. I'm sure there is lots that you have to offer that I haven't yet thought of or seen and I'd love to learn about all the different league types out there. Also, if you have any questions regarding league setup, I'd be happy to review, talk about, and weigh in on the subject with each of you. Post it all in the comments or you can find me on Twitter. I'm new to the twitterverse, but I'd love to hear your feedback and questions there as well. Follow me on Twitter @HockeyGauntlet for more of my thoughts and all of your fantasy hockey needs. #IsItOctoberYet