It’s over! After months of eager reader anticipation (as I imagine it, at least) the hockey pool is finished and I can share results.
Enough suspense. I won! I dominated the regular season, and was fortunate enough to win the three playoff rounds and be crowned champion. In this piece I will describe some of the action, and my analysis of it.
This did not go exactly as expected. A wrench was thrown into my delicately arranged plans: I had to travel for work directly through the draft. Uncannily, although perhaps not surprisingly, this is the same scenario I was in the year before. So what to do?
René, being the wonderful and glorious man that he is, offered to draft on my behalf. The league commissioner also extended such an offer, but I can’t help but associate any commissioners with the ever shifty tsar of the NHL, Gary Bettman.
I ordered by my rankings, but had to set my simulation engine aside, except for running some test drafts to try to perfect the order. I also included a rudimentary algorithm, instructing René on when to follow the list and where he should deviate.
Here are the results:
|4||Ryan Kesler||C, RW|
|5||Pavel Datsyuk||C, LW|
|8||Alexander Steen||C, LW|
|10||Brandon Dubinsky||C, LW|
|11||Bobby Ryan||LW, RW|
|14||Drew Stafford||LW, RW|
|15||Evgeny Kuznetsov||C, LW|
I picked Pavel Datsyuk high in my rankings, despite him being injured at the time. I was confident that I would do well enough in the regular season that I could wait a while until he healed, and then hopefully he would be as good as new (or as good as a 37 year old could reasonably expect to be).
Justin Faulk was particularly underrated. My numbers had him way higher, but I purposely asked René to wait on him, anticipating he would survive a few rounds.
After Brandon Dubinsky, René took charge and filled out my roster, and did so very well. Did you notice Evgeny Kuznetsov at the bottom? What a steal!
Except, I promptly cleared him out of my lineup in my post-draft clean-up.
The wicked hot streak
I started the season by winning. And then winning again. And then again and again. 11-1, 9-1, 7-2, 8-3. After four weeks, I could have comfortably taken a week off and still been in first. And it didn’t end there. All in all, I won my first 15 matchups.
A lot went well for me at that point. Tomas Plekanec and P.K. Subban were picking up big numbers during Montreal’s great start. Henrik Lundqvist and Brian Elliot (when he played) were solid in net. Bobby Ryan and Jarome Iginla were turning back the clock from the bottom of my line-up. This win streak put me so far up in the standings that I could comfortably cruise to the playoffs and still win the first seed. I (mostly) didn’t have to do desperate moves to win match-ups. I was able to leave players on the injured reserve (IR) even when they weren’t injured, to hog players and see how well they played after recovery.
The goalie problem
My most persistent problem was goaltending. Specifically, getting enough starts. Lundqvist was a rock, but Elliot split goaltending duties in St. Louis with Jake Allen. There was one week where I had to pick up Jimmy Howard and then Cam Ward to try to get my third start. After that I picked up Antti Niemi and dropped Elliot, getting myself that second starter. In hindsight I should have kept Elliot one way or another.
Later I tried to upgrade from Niemi to Sergei Bobrovsky, who had started poorly but then improved immensely. Of course, he got injured right away, resulting in my picking up Curtis McElhinney (yes, really) to get a third goalie start, and then bringing back Niemi right after. If I ever have a heart attack, it will probably follow some rough goalie luck.
I eventually added Cam Talbot, who played well this year. Overall my goalie numbers were bad, but not crushing.
We all lose some
For a long time I was further ahead of second place than second was from last. That gave me the freedom to play patiently. But even I knew it would end. Good luck is dangerous, when it balances out with bad.
Most of us regard good luck as our right, and bad luck as a betrayal of that right.
The Canadiens crashed, Bobby Ryan went cold, and a slew of injuries brought my team down to earth. Justin Faulk, Alex Steen, P.K. Subban, and Michael Del Zotto all missed lots of time. Near the end of my winning streak I could see it coming, with the last four wins on the streak coming by close scores of 5-4, 6-4, 6-3, and 6-4. After that I lost four of my next five match-ups, including an 8-1 drubbing at the hands of last year’s champion. It felt like anybody could beat me, and that my 1st place seed would be worthless.
Luckily, things improved. Subban, Steen, and Faulk all eventually came back. I shuffled my line-up a bit. Then I won my last two match-ups, and my three playoff rounds.
The finals was particularly tense, and couldn’t be closer. We both made substantial line-up changes to fit the schedule, both before and during the week. The categories themselves were mostly one sided, with each of us winning five. The tie breaker? Head-to-head results…in which we split our match-ups 1-1 with category totals of 10-10-4. The second tie breaker? Regular season record. All of those match-up wins matter.
- Weighing categories by predictability. I consistently dominated face-offs, hits, and blocks, making it hard for me to lose match-ups. Likewise I did very well in shots on goal, assists, and powerplay points.
- Picking predictable skaters over unpredictable goalies. Goaltending is crucial, yet you can’t guarantee it. For every elite goalie who played up to expectations, there was another who was injured or inconsistent.
- Trusting the models and picking veterans. Players like Bergeron, Kesler, Datsyuk, Dubinsky, and Iginla could see their legs give out on them at any time (sorry guys). But, it’s not going to happen to them all at once, and they’ve played well for a long time, so we have more certainty on their play than we do for rookies.
- Investing in the draft and not relying on any kind of trading efficiency. The league only had four trades all year.
Where to go from here
Frankly, I’m not sure what to do next. There are so many ways I could improve my analytics:
- Per-game models, incorporating the opponent. This way I could optimize my line-up for any given roster, and it would prepare me much better for the playoffs, when temporary roster moves can make a huge difference.
- Optimize the relative counts of forwards, defencemen, and goalies. I should have stuck with Brian Elliot and been willing to pick-up a temporary goalie when he didn’t get starts.
- Directly model goalies, or find a source. Save percentage is going to be hard to predict, but wins and goals against average should have a much more persistent team effect.
- Build an age curve for predictions on young players.
I’m not sure if I’ll do any of that, or instead play casually and put my efforts elsewhere. We’ll see. It was fun while it lasted!
|1||Player 1||Win||11 - 1|
|2||Player 2||Win||9 - 1|
|3||Player 3||Win||7 - 2|
|4||Player 4||Win||8 - 3|
|5||Player 5||Win||6 - 3|
|6||Player 6||Win||9 - 3|
|7||Player 7||Win||9 - 3|
|8||Player 8||Win||7 - 2|
|9||Player 9||Win||8 - 4|
|10||Player 10||Win||7 - 3|
|11||Player 11||Win||8 - 3|
|12||Player 1||Win||5 - 4|
|13||Player 2||Win||6 - 4|
|14||Player 3||Win||6 - 3|
|15||Player 4||Win||6 - 4|
|16||Player 5||Loss||4 - 7|
|17||Player 6||Win||8 - 3|
|18||Player 7||Loss||4 - 5|
|19||Player 8||Loss||1 - 8|
|20||Player 9||Loss||4 - 6|
|21||Player 10||Win||6 - 4|
|22||Player 11||Win||6 - 5|
|Quarters||Player 9||Win||6 – 4|
|Semis||Player 11||Win||7 – 4|
|Finals||Player 5||Win||5 – 5|
|Bring Back Gilmour||9-13-3||16-8-1||14-11-0||7-3-15||14-10-1||24-1-0||18-6-1||19-5-1||8-11-6||13-12-0||14-11-0||7-3-15|
|Bring Back Gilmour||236||439||224||7||2564||4515||1468||1137||59||2.60||0.912||7|
My relative rank by category:
|Bring Back Gilmour||7||2||2||2||2||1||1||1||7||11||10||8|
|Sept 26||Drew Stafford||Michael Del Zotto|
|Sept 26||Evgeny Kuznetsov||Mikko Koivu||Kuznetsov ended up having an amazing season|
|Sept 26||Andrej Sekera||Cody Franson||Sekera had a decent season|
|Oct 4||Cody Franson||Erik Johnson|
|Oct 5||Jarome Iginla|
|Oct 22||Mikko Koivu||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins|
|Oct 27||Jack Johnson||Jimmy Howard||Here I become desperate for goalie starts|
|Oct 31||Jimmy Howard||Cam Ward|
|Nov 2||Cam Ward||Francois Beauchemin|
|Nov 6||Brian Elliot||Antti Niemi|
|Dec 6||Ryan Nugent-Hopkins|
|Dec 8||Antti Niemi||Sergei Bobrovsky||Bobrovsky came off the injured reserve|
|Dec 10||Curtis McElhinney||…and promptly went back on it|
|Dec 11||Curtis McElhinney||Antti Niemi||…leaving his backup as my only guaranteed start|
|Jan 15||Alex Goligoski|
|Feb 20||Jarome Iginla||Kyle Palmieri|
|Feb 20||Alex Goligoski||Michael Stone|
|Feb 21||Michael Del Zotto||Injured for the season|
|Feb 21||Mikkel Boedker|
|Mar 4||Mikkel Boedker||Cam Talbot||Talbot actually put up great numbers for me|
|Mar 23||Antti Niemi|
|Mar 24||Brandon Dubinsky||Brayden Schenn|
|Mar 29||Michael Stone||Injured for the season|
|Apr 3||Bobby Ryan||Scott Hartnell|
|Apr 7||Sergei Bobrovsky||Dmitry Orlov||Got another defenceman|
|Apr 7||Kyle Palmieri||Frans Nielson||Purely a tactical move by schedule and categories|
|Apr 8||Tomas Plekanec||Ryan Murray||Desperately trying to get more hits|
|Apr 8||Justin Faulk||Josh Georges||Very desperate for hits|