It's coming. Can you hear it? The pitt-pitt-patt-patt, pitt-pitt-patt of a familiar drum beat. Men are chanting in unison. It's a strange, silly melody, but what it symbolizes is not. It's coming. Do you feel it in your chest? Circulating outward from your heart like lifeblood. The adrenaline. The excitement. The tension. You can't sit. You can't stand. You can't sleep. It's coming. The very thing we've all waited for since June 16th (or April 12th for many of us) is coming. Hockey is coming. And with the first drop of that dense rubber puck, a brand new season of fantasy hockey (a.k.a. fake hockey, a.k.a. fancy hockey) begins. And every Monday, I, Matt Mowrer, will be here to make your fantasy fantasies come true.
Let me start off by telling you a little about myself. One of the requirements John asked in submitting for this writing position was to, #1, be a New Jersey Devils fan. I am certainly that, and have been since the '88-89 season (Sean Burke's first full season - which is unrelated to my fandom, but a fact nonetheless).
How I became a Devils fan is somewhat odd. I was born and raised in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, a breeding ground for Flyers fans. However, my hero of a dad wanted to be sure his children were good people. So he made a rule: we didn't have to like his team (NY Islanders), but we absolutely could not like the Flyers. He simply couldn't abide the idea of raising abhorrent Flyer fans (sorry for the redundancy there). When I was 9 years old, I chose the Devils as my favorite because I read a book about the legend of the New Jersey Devil monster. It was as simple as that. It's still one of the top 3 best impulsive life choices I've ever made.
Another requirement asked by John, was to have passion. I love the NJ Devils with all my heart, despite these past few inept and uninspired seasons. I credit AAtJ (nee ILWT) as one of the major sources that kept me interested in this team. I am always impressed with not just the number of articles AAtJ posts, but the thoroughness of each. I have learned a lot about the Devils, and hockey in general, through this site. What makes this blog the very best team specific blog on the web, is that the writers don't just make a statement and move on - they make a statement and then back it up with statistics and well thought out analytical opinion. And that is exactly what I aim to do with my weekly fantasy hockey posts.
WHY ALL DEVILS FANS SHOULD PLAY FANTASY HOCKEY
If you've never participated in fantasy hockey, now is the perfect time. The Devils are in a transition period, so it's fair to say that their competitive value will be minimal for at least a couple years. Because of this, you may find it difficult to invest yourself in hockey, which is understandable. That's where fantasy comes in.
Your fake hockey team will likely be an assemblage of players scattered all around the NHL (at least it should be, if you're doing it right). You're going to have guys skating all over the two countries on any given night. You're going to have guys playing on west coast time, guys playing in tropical southern states, guys playing in the cold isolation of Canada, guys on elite teams, and guys on teams that you would just as soon see fold out of the league. You're going to be invested up and down the schedule. The next thing you know, you will find yourself celebrating like Randy Moller when Nick Bjugstad nets a late game-winner against the Calgary Flames. A hockey play that you wouldn't have thought twice about is now suddenly your favorite of the week. This is the joy of fantasy hockey.
WHAT TO EXPECT FROM ME
So, what can you expect from me and this weekly feature? First off, I will be breaking down the top fantasy players at each position over the next three weeks: Top 10 Goalies, Top 20 Defensemen, Top 30 Forwards. Once the actual season starts, my posts will have a fairly consistent and organized rhythm to them (as well as be a bit shorter), seeing as I have a few weekly features planned that will help put your fantasy team in the catbird seat.
Every Monday I am going to award the Three Stars of the fake hockey week for each position (Forwards, Defensemen, Goaltenders). Each player will be rewarded points based on what star they receive (1st Star gets 3 points, 2nd Star gets 2 points, 3rd Star gets 1 point), which I will keep track of throughout the season, so at the end of 2015-16, we can see who was the most valuable fantasy contributor at each position.
Some of you non-fantasy players might be thinking, "Well, wouldn't it just be the guys nominated for the Art Ross, Norris, and Vezina?" The answer is no, my good friend. Not at all. Because this is fantasy hockey. A land where players as good as Ryan Suter and Nicklas Backstrom have far less value than you'd expect and players like Steve Downie and the above mentioned Nick Bjugstad have more. Point being, there is no Corsi or Fenwick in fake hockey. Just your typical box score statistics. And I am here to help you find the guys hidden in those box scores that can end up being the difference between winning and losing. Trust me, there are ways to "money-puck" your way to a fantasy championship. I have done it several times.
This is pretty typical fantasy blog section, but it is for a reason. Your draft is important to your team's success, but managing the waiver wire is where you win championships. Each week I will list a few players that are possibly/likely on the waiver wire in your league that I think are worth an add consideration. I'll expound a bit on why I think they're worth a look and what to expect from them in the short and long term.
I will generally try to keep this exclusively for players that are owned in less than 55% of leagues, but occasionally there might be a guy returning from injury or suspension that could be available. On the other side of the coin, I will then list a few players that I think you might want to waive bye-bye to (high-five to me for the solid wordplay).
DEVILS FANTASY VALUE
This is the section where I'll put our beloved NJ Devils team under a fantasy microscope and tell you who I think is on the fake hockey rise and who is taking the fall. I will probably have a special part of this section to specifically talk about Cory Schneider's performance, because he's generally/sadly the only Devil worth owning on a regular basis. He's very good at real hockey and he's very good in fake hockey. He's always worth a roster spot, despite being on a bottom 5 or 6 team. There are a few Devils (Cammy, Henrique, Elias) who are "fringers" who can ebb and flow their way in and out of fantasy value. I'll let you know when those times are.
One of the things that excites me the most about being a part of this blog is that I have an opportunity to interact with fellow Devils fans, so a section will be dedicated to specific questions from you. Each week, you can send an email (matthewmowrer at gmail dot com, put Fantasy Hockey Mondays in the subject) or Tweet me (@MattMowrerSays) a question about fantasy hockey. Whether it's asking my thoughts on a certain goalie's upcoming matchups, my opinions on how a recent NHL trade/coaching change could affect the value of the teams and players involved, or my approach to certain strategies (and yes, there is definitely strategy in fantasy hockey - I once won a championship by adding Luke Schenn just so I could steal the Hits and PIMs categories in the Finals). I also would love for people to email me trades that they were offered or are considering offering so that I can pick one or two to analyze.
If there are any fantasy hockey feature ideas that you'd find helpful and interesting, please tell me in the comments below (or any other communication channel you choose). This weekly write up is for y'all, so I beg you to participate.
All right. That's it for this week, but before I go I want to say that I am honored to be here and I appreciate the opportunity. This is going to be a lot of fun, and I hope you all will enjoy reading my articles half as much as I will enjoy writing them. Anyway, feel free to leave any thoughts or comments below.
Coming up next week is my breakdown of the top 10 Goalies. Is Cory Schneider one of them? We shall see.