April 4, 2015

by steve laidlaw

Lehtonen's shocking fantasy value, Calcutta auction as a way to spice up your office playoff pool and more...




Yesterday’s discussion of the loser point led to an interesting suggestion from a reader: make all overtime/shootout wins worth one point and overtime/shootout losses worth none. That certainly would certainly incentivize teams to go for the win in regulation, especially late in the season if fighting for a playoff spot. We could see some desperation scenarios with teams pulling goalies really early, Patrick Roy style.


That gets me thinking about a recent Junior A playoff game that took place in my hometown. Late in a tie game the out-of-town coach decided to pull his goalie and go for the win in regulation while his team had the opponents hemmed into their own zone. This is one heck of a David strategy.


If you are unfamiliar with the term “David strategy” it relates to the story of David and Goliath. David strategies are thus strategies that teams/coaches can employ when they are at a talent deficit to try and give their team a better chance. These are often high variance strategies that pay off big when they succeed but fail miserably when they don’t. They make sense when you are at a talent deficit though because if the strategy fails well then you’ve just achieved a predictable outcome.


We see this all the time in the NHL. The whole concept of suffocating offense and turning the game into a neutral zone battle is to suppress scoring chances and increase variance. If you play a wide-open style then both teams get more chances and the one with more talent will more frequently win just based on the law of averages. Suppress chances and you increase variance.


In the story about the Junior A game the coach decided that he was probably going to lose if he kept going at 5-on-5 so he tried to increase his odds of a quick goal by going 6-on-5. It backfired and the team lost 5-3 on two empty-net goals.


I remarked that this seemed like the actions of a coach who was trying to get fired. Not so. The coach also owns the team. This was a man with ultimate job security so he had no incentive to play safe. He went for the gusto and lost. Mad respect, yo.


How this story relates to the suggestion above is that by incentivizing wins in regulation you could increase the employment of David strategies like pulling the goalie early or simply committing to a more aggressive offensive attack late in regulation when a chance opens up.


I don’t actually like the idea of making an overtime/shootout win worth just one point. Ultimately you’ve devalued a win, which I’m against. It’s an interesting notion though.


Another suggestion I’m seeing thrown around a bunch as the “simple solution” is to make every game worth three points. Regulation wins would be worth three and overtime/shootout wins become worth two, while overtime/shootout losses are worth one. I agree that it’s simple but it doesn’t take away the incentive (points) that comes from getting a game to overtime/shootout. And in this system you’ve still devalued a win, which again, I don’t see why you’d bother.


Keep in mind, all these suggestions are better than what we have now. I just like solution the best. Every win is the same and every loss is the same. Why make it complicated?




Crazy game between the Stars and Blues last night. At one point they scored four goals in 49 seconds, an NHL record. What’s really interesting is that despite 12 goals going up on the board, not one was scored on the power play. Funny how that works.


Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin combined for six points basically crushing the dream of seeing Jiri Hudler finish in the top five of league scoring. That’s okay, he’ll still finish top 10 almost guaranteed.


Meanwhile, Trevor Daley took a big old deuce on his remaining fantasy owners with a minus-five rating.


Horrible night for Kari Lehtonen. Let one in? More like let six in, am I right?


Interesting note, for as bad as Lehtonen’s season has been he’s still got a winning record, which is a testament to the Stars’ high-flying offense. Lehtonen is tied for seventh in wins and shutouts. In points only leagues he’s been a top-10 goalie, easily. Crazy how league settings can change value that wildly.




Hat-trick for Jaden Schwartz last night. With Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko out of the lineup Schwartz is really stepping up to keep the Blues in the hunt for the Central Division crown.


After last night the Predators, Blues and Blackhawks are all within one point of one another with four games remaining each. The Predators hold a one point lead. And that’s not even the wildest thing about that division, this is.




The Brian Gionta run of excellence continues. He’s now up to 12 points in his last 10 games. If you had the foresight to grab this guy before head-to-head playoffs began I want you to buy me a lottery ticket.


Rasmus Ristolainen notched three assists last night. That brings him up to seven points in his last four games. I don’t even need excuses to talk about this kid but when one comes up I’m not going to miss out on the chance. Granted those seven points amount to 35% of his total output this season but I’m still a big fan of Ristolainen’s game. I think he’s going to be gold in rotisserie leagues and he could get there soon if the Sabres are able to flip a switch and start being competitive next season.


Personally, I don’t see how they get there next year. Even if they land McDavid it’s still going to take some time. Crosby didn’t push the Penguins to the playoffs right away. They’ll probably sign Antti Niemi this summer and bumble their way to a 25th place finish. But they won’t be historically bad, which means Ristolainen might be operating in a situation with enough support to put up some real numbers.




No Andrei Markov for the Canadiens last night as he was getting some rest for the playoffs. Just another reminder of why extending head-to-head playoffs this deep into the season can be a real mistake.




How frustrated is Michael Ryder? Playing for a team going nowhere the dude has been a healthy scratch in all but five games since the All-Star break. Just demoralizing. And why? Arguably because of bad luck as much as anything. His shooting percentage has slipped below 10% (to 6.7%) for just the second season of his career and the last time he was only at 9.4%.


Now, we can’t simply dismiss the impact of shot quality here. It takes getting to the tough areas to sustain a good shooting percentage and when we see a precipitous drop in a player’s later years it’s a good indication he’s losing the ability to get to those high quality spots. Just to reinforce that this probably has more to do with a drop in skill than in luck check out Ryder’s on-ice shooting percentage, which sits above average at 9.1%. When you include the fact that he himself was not scoring at an average rate just underscores how much has slipped. That’s how a guy who scored at a 60-point rate two years ago winds up a healthy scratch on a drowning team. It’ll be interesting to see if someone gives him a shot this summer. Seems like he’s cooked.




It’s been a tough season for Matt Duchene but just in case you’ve forgotten the man has burners:





I was listening to a podcast yesterday discussing the growing trend of Calcutta auction pools for the NCAA March Madness tournament. This struck me as an exciting way to do a pool. It certainly hits home with my infatuation over auction formats. If you aren’t familiar with Calcutta pools (and if I’m being honest I’m not entirely) you can check out this Wiki entry on the subject but I’ll give a rudimentary explanation here.


Basically every team in the tournament is sold off in an auction and all the money collected from the auction becomes the prize pool. Every win your team(s) gets earns you a greater percentage of the prize pool or you can arrange it so that the owner of the team that wins gets a certain percentage and the runner up gets a lesser percentage or whatever breakdown you wish. My latter example with just the top two teams paying out would be the simplest system but making things more complicated also makes them more fun because math gets involved.


If you aren’t up on your college hoops this year Kentucky was a HEAVY favourite to win it all so much so that in these Calcutta pools Kentucky was going for two to three times the amount of the next favourite team. In other words the money spent on Kentucky made up a huge proportion of the prize pool. If you are playing in a more complicated pool where say the prize for picking the winner is only a 30% payout people bidding on Kentucky need to make sure they don’t overspend the pot where the money they bid on Kentucky winds up being more than 30% of the prize pool.


Where this gets really interesting is how the prize pool increases in size with each team that gets auctioned off and more certainty falls into place regarding the size of the prize pool since there are fewer teams left and therefore a better estimate of the ultimate prize pool can be gauged. Like I said, more math, and potentially more fun.


I bring this up because you could do a Calcutta pool for the NHL playoffs. Maybe that’s a way to spice up your office pool this season. I’ll offer this suggested breakdown:


Stanley Cup Champion = 40% of the prize pool

Stanley Cup Runner Up = 20% of the prize pool

(2) Conference Finalists = 10% of the prize pool each

(4) Conference Semi-Finalists = 5% of the prize pool each

(8) Teams Eliminated in Round One = 0% of the prize pool


The beauty is that this is a free-market system. People can bid up as high as they choose. Maybe that sort of freedom is unfit for the workplace because it could get out of hand with the sums getting thrown around. You might have to try this out with your friends instead. Even with your friends it has the potential to get out of control if there are income disparities. I don’t really know. As I said, I’ve never tried this before.


What I like about it is you don’t necessarily need to put a cap on the number of individuals participating and the individuals participating don’t necessarily have to know anything about sports. They just need to understand the game theory behind an auction system and they can make their choices as they wish. It also offers the possibility for individuals to form groups in order to win a bid and buy the team of their choice. The possibilities are limited by the number of individuals you invite and the imagination of said individuals. Or you can put more rules in place. Maybe you put some kind of budget system. I just think that this is a cool idea.


Let me know what you think and if you’ve ever tried something like this before.




Pavel Datsyuk is good to go today.




The Flames have called up top prospect Sam Bennett. It’ll be interesting to see if he’s just getting called up for the experience or if they want to give him a shot. Seems like a precarious situation to throw a youngster into but the Flames have been unafraid of giving youngsters big roles all season so why stop now.




Andrej Sekera is done for the rest of the regular season.




Intriguing report from Sportnet’s Chris Johnston suggesting that teams are pushing for the Blues to bring Vladimir Sobotka back for their playoff run because it would open him up for unrestricted free agency this summer.




Interesting little tidbit from NHL.com’s Pete Jensen on David Savard’s breakout season.




As always some tasty nuggets in Elliotte Friedman’s latest 30 Thoughts:


10. Players who’ve scored 30 goals at age 20 in the 21st century: Alexander Ovechkin, Steven Stamkos, Ilya Kovalchuk, Jonathan Toews, Evgeni Malkin, Anze Kopitar, Patrice Bergeron, Marian Gaborik, Evander Kane… and Sean Monahan.




You can follow me @SteveLaidlaw


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