Wednesday, October 01, 2008

And With The First Overall Pick...

Fantasy hockey is an absolute passion - no, obsession - of mine (more on that later in the week), and I'm an avid consumer of any and all opinions on the topic (much in the way Sarah Palin is an avid consumer of news). Want to debate Shea Weber versus Brent Burns? Go. Have some thoughts on the value of game-winning goals as a scoring category? I'm listening.

Naturally, then, I was interested to see the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's take on the top fantasy forward in the game. Here's how they ranked the top two:
1. Sidney Crosby - No, this isn't because I live in Pittsburgh, this is because he is the best player in the NHL, but just barely. This really depends on how your league is structured. If goals, power play goals and game winning goals mean a lot, then Ovechkin would have to be at the top. But in your basic point and head to head leagues, Crosby has a slight advantage. He consistently racks up over 100 points, usually around 80 assists, is always close to 40 goals and takes a tremendous amount of shots for a playmaker. Not to mention his plus/minus is better and isn't afraid of the rough stuff which contributes to PIM. Ovechkin's value is all in his goal scoring ability. Last year, he scored 65 goals, but the year before that he only scored 46 (yeah, I know, I say "only 46" like its low). Unless he gets injured, Crosby will always have 30+ goals and 80+ assists. Teams are really going to focus on Ovie this year after dominating the way he did last year and I seriously doubt he'll reach the 65 goal plateau again. Crosby, on the other hand, has Geno to help take away some of the defensive focus. If you have the first pick in your draft, use it on the superstar with the easier road to success.

2. Alexander Ovechkin - As I mentioned above, Ovechkin's value is in his goal scoring ability. No one has reached the 60 goal mark since Super Mario did it in 1996 (69 goals). In this era of "defense first" hockey, opposing teams are going to focus on Ovechkin like never before and he doesn't have a lot of help to take that pressure off him. The good news is that no one in the Southeast division, except for the Panthers (and even that's a little questionable), has any shred of defense. So I do expect Ovie to clean up when he plays his own division and will be the favorite to win the Rocket Richard Award (most goals).
Shocking, right?

Now, I disagree with the "best player in the NHL" tag, but it's certainly a valid opinion. Less valid? That that makes Sid the best fantasy forward in the game. Here are a couple of reasons why:
  • Left wings are more valuable than centers due to the lack of depth at the position (obviously, this is only relavent in a league that differentiates among the three forward positions). This is the same reason you draft a stud shortstop before a stud outfielder in fantasy baseball - if you don't know your league rules and ignore positional scarcity, you're making a mistake.
  • Under most fantasy scoring systems, goal scorers are going to be more valuable than playmakers, all things equal. Take ESPN's standard scoring system, for example, and two forwards - one with 60 goals and 40 assists, the other with 40 goals and 60 assists. For every one of those 60 goals, the first forward is getting a goal AND a shot on goal (and for some, a PPG), while the other guy is helping himself out in only one category for each of his 60 assists (both players may be getting a plus for their points as well, but that's a wash). Quite simply, every goal scored helps across the board more than every assist recorded.
  • Crosby has missed 33 games in his three seasons in the League. Ovechkin has missed one.
The above, of course, doesn't even address the silliness of the claims that Crosby "consistently racks up over 100 points" (Ovi has as many 100-point seasons), "is always close to 40 goals" (his totals have been 39, 36 and 24), that he "takes a tremendous amount of shots for a playmaker" (he has never come within 100 shots of Ovi over the course of a season), that he has a better plus/minus (AO was +28 last season, Sid was +18 in admittedly far fewer games) or that "teams are really going to focus on Ovie this year" because "he doesn't have a lot of help to take that pressure off him" (psst... they really focused on him last year, and he has as good a supporting cast as any in the League). Oh, and I'm not buying this as an "era of 'defense first' hockey" either.

But the point is that in most Leagues, Ovechkin is the better pick than Crosby, and most folks outside of the 'Burgh know it.


Anonymous said...

Atleast she could have said she reads the hockey news like any self respecting hockey mom...ahh you cant make this stuff up.

Shawn Luddington said...

TSN (Canada) had a fantasy hockey show and they had Sidney Crosby #1, Jerome Iginla #2 and Ovechkin #3. Being a Canadian I found it to be a little Canadian bias, but again, it all depends on the league. I assume they had Iginla up there due to his PIM potential. Personally I would have OV #1

JP said...

@ Shawn: This post definitely comes with the caveat that the choice between 8 and 87 is highly dependent upon a given league's scoring system (if there was a category for diving, for example, it might change things), but given the most common scoring scenarios, I'd still take Ovi (and, for what it's worth, he was the #1 pick in the Mirtle Blogger Invitational on Saturday).

Premonition said...

I must comment on the statment that Crosby, "isn't afraid of the rough stuff which contributes to PIM." First I will say that he is a great playmaker, and I am a Caps fan, but incinerating that he is a fan of the rough stuff is ridiculous. Crosby had 49 Pim's last year, Danny Briere had 68 and I don't think anyone is calling him tough. Additionally Crosby had something like 50 hits last year while Ovechkin had over 200. And not to drill my point home but Crosby is 21 years old and lives with his boss, really, I mean really?

John Mason said...

You've obviously already said it, JP, but I'll further the "he has no help" bs point. There isn't a Malkin to their Crosby here, but we have way more stars in our system than they do, with Green and Backstrom both having above all-star capabilites, which Pittsburgh simply does not (mostly due to Hossa leaving and Tampa signing the entire NHL).

But it is Pittsburgh, and the only reason that matters is that, if they didn't take Crosby, they'd feel like traitors, and there are very few people who like that feeling.

Anonymous said...

One other thing, something that the Crosbites always seem to miss.

In each of the past three seasons, Ovechkin has notched more than 40 assists each year. Last year, he got 46 assists, which would have put him 17th overall in the league among centers.

So, by drafting him, you're essentially getting the top goal-scorer in the NHL and probably your 3rd center. Then you draft two good centers who can pot 45-55 assists, and you'll have much better balanced scoring than drafting Crosby and then trying to find some top goal-scorers (only 10 guys had 40 or more goals, while 53 guys had 40 or more assists).

Assists are simply easier to come by in fantasy hockey, so the player who can put the puck in the net is more valuable than the player who racks up helpers.

Anonymous said...

All I know is I had #1 pick and I took AO.


1) Hard to believe Palin is reading ALL newspapers. It would be tough to read all the papers from the "57 states", Obama visited during the primaries, right? ; )
2) IF this ranking was done prior to LAST season, then yes Sid would get the slight edge, but how anyone NOW can give any edge over the reigning Ross, Richard, Pearson, Hart winner is ludicrous

Anonymous said...

Goals are worth more than assists in every fantasy league I'm in. Therefore, Ovechkin is more valuable than Crosby. (Plus in most of my leagues a power play goal is worth considerably extra, while a power play assist is not.) But since I'm not picking first or second in any of them, it's all a moot point to me.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the Pittsburgh dude--after what he did last year, teams will focus on stopping Ovie.

Because the 52 goal and 46 goal seasons when he was the only threat on a last place team; yeah, nobody was focussed on trying to stop him then.

wittcap79 said...

Ovie went first in all 3 of the drafts I had...and I didn't even get to pick him. (I did get Nylander in the 21st rd of one though)

Jack Hazard said...

I've gotta say that I'm a little surprised to hear you say, "I don't believe in this 'defense first' stuff." I wonder how many trophies would be named after AO, had he played in the 80s. As for Crosby, I think he might like the "rough stuff," just not while he's wearing skates.

Anonymous said...

If you buy into that defenses will now try to shut A.O. down more than why doesn't the Pittsburgh writer use the same argument with Crosby?
Crosby is that teams playmaker, shut him down and make Satan or some other lesser player try to beat you.
The Pittsburgh writer also mentions the Caps being in the SE will give A.O. more goals. Why not mention that Crosby could get LESS goals and assists playing against the higher quality Atlantic Goalies?
For the 12 games Crosby faces Lundqvist & Brodeur, A.O. faces Mike Smith/Kolzig & Cam Ward.
There are far more reasons to draft A.O. first.

JP said...

@ JJ: I guess I was being a little more short-sighted and/or I'm drinking the Bettman Kool-Aid in thinking that post-lockout we've left "defense first" hockey behind. But there's no question, as you point out, that this ain't the 80s.