Note: If you are not a hockey fan, skip this update. You won't get it. My wife doesn't
Our annual Seattle Fantasy Hockey draft was last Thursday and it was a magnificent success. We did it on-line this year, with myself here on the East Coast, GM Hinds in Australia on an 18-month hiking trip and GM Chekan stuck baby-sitting. We usually do our draft from a pub over beers with group smoke breaks every four rounds to talk about how great we are doing. Unfortunately there was no way to "pause" the Yahoo! draft (despite GM Chekan asking every 15 minutes). Everyone who had research was flustered as it went pretty fast - I blame our dictatorial Commissioner Kevin Tracey (pictured below)
Still, I was able to draft the best team and am locked in for my second championship.
Note: Chris Harvey the Fantasy GM is brash and cocky, unlike the other Chris Harvey, who is humble and pleasant. Also, The Sweet Leafs players must be cool, ideally Canadian or playing for a Canadian-based team, and bonus points for being part of the initial Canadian Olympic invite list. All this essentially excludes teams from the South-East, Los Angeles, San Jose and Phoenix. Exceptions are made for Anaheim, as they play a good tough game, and Florida because two of their players were begging to join my team and promised to deliver PIMs (an important category)
That said, let's look at The Sweet Leafs (The team name being a cross between Black Sabbath's "Sweet Leaf" and, of course, The Toronto Maple Leafs).
Categories are Goals (G), Assists (A), +/-, Penalty Minutes (PIMs) and Power Play Points (PPP). Goalie categories are Wins (W) and Save Percentage (Sv %). For the season, you need 2 Centres, 4 Wings, 3 Defensemen, 2 Utility (Center, Wing or even Defensemen if you suck as a GM) and 2 Goalies. There are 3 open Bench spots as you see fit.
We are allowed to protect up to two players from the prior season; my one protection was the game's elite player, The Pittsburgh Penguins's Evgeni Malkin. The reigning NHL Scoring Champ. The reigning Conn Smythe Trophy Winner. Stanley Cup ring. Great in every category. I expect great things. Here he is doing what he does best
My second center is Jason Spezza - Canadian (Mississauga), Olympian, and plays in the nation's capital, Ottawa. Big Assist guy. Here he is for Team Canada scoring against the evil Russians. Preview of 2010 in Vancouver
Jason will also be one of The Sweet Leafs's leaders, probably an alternate captain, definitely someone who will speak to the press
Last year I had his twin Henrik, this year I look to Daniel to put up his usual 80 points / strong + rating, and unexciting PIMs. Still...playing for Vancouver is a bonus. This pic exemplifies the Sedins - it was the most exciting pic on Google - no crazy celebration, no fighting, no girls, just efficient and reliable
Next is Bobby Ryan. An American (not a bad thing) playing in California. However, he plays on a line with the uber-cool Ryan Getzlaf from Saskatchewan (and whose brother plays in the CFL) and the uber-cool Corey Perry from Peterborough. One of the best lines in the game. I got a little grief from the other jackass GMs ("too early") but, as I said, they are jackasses. This guy will score 40
Next is the Fonz of Hockey...the man...Alex Kovalev. People don't understand him. He is a great fit for The Sweet Leafs, he will be an example for "the kids" and he will be a strong candidate to be the team's captain (past captains have included Chris Pronger and Keith Primeau)
Lastly is Milan Michalek. Talented and still young, he is now free from the oppression of San Jose and is now in the nation's capital with Jason Spezza. I expect all-around good numbers from the native of Jindrichuv Hradec, Czechoslovakia. Here he is with his realtor in Silicon Valley before he was traded
Always a puzzle - when do you draft your first D? And can Lidstrom still put up insane numbers at 37 or 39 or whatever he is? I waited. And I got great guys, no weaknesses at all. First up is the elite PPP quarterback for Les Habs, Andrei Markov. I do feel bad having 3 guys from Team Russia who will be sad after they lose the gold-medal game to Canada in February, but they'll still have the silver
Next up is Kevin Bieksa. I needed PIMs and this guy can deliver. Plus he plays for Vancouver and is from Grimsby, Ontario, home of my last junior team (The Grimsby Peach Kings - yes, "Peach Kings"). And, as you can see, Kevin is popular with the ladies, another characteristic of The Sweet Leafs
Lastly I decided to keep the PIMs coming with the legend, Bryan McCabe. Poor guy, no one ever needed a trade as bad as him from Toronto. He was soooo bad by the end and the fans were just giving it to him. He had a habit his last season of scoring in his own net, falling down in overtime, and taking slap shots that would hit teammates in the neck...it was terrible...
But Bryan is talented, he played for Team Canada in 2006, and he's from St. Catherines, Ontario. And he can fight - win or lose, does not matter. 5 minutes is 5 minutes either way...hang in there, Bryan
Essentially open spots for two talented guys. First up is young Nathan Horton, the perennial under-achiever. But he's only 24 and from up the road in Welland, Ontario. Plus he has extra value as being designated both a "C" and a "W" so he can fill-in at either if an injury happens, God forbid. And he can fight. I expect 30-30-80
Next up is Brandon Dubinsky. He's from Alaska and he plays in NY. Yes, he delivers PIMs and maybe even 50 points, but why was he drafted? Actually, it was an accident. I was thinking about it, but next thing I knew he was on the team. That's ok - but anything less than 100 PIMs will be a disappointment
The Bench (non-Goaltender)
Important early - you need to either waive them soon or if they are off to a good start maybe give them a starting role. One key guy who will start many games for The Sweet Leafs - and may even wear the "C" - is Sean Avery. He needs no introduction
Next up is the under-rated and unknown Marek Zidlicky. Cursed to play for boring Nashville and now boring Minnesota, the guy is money - 40 points in 4 of his 5 seasons and at least 63 PIMs. Plus an above-average PPP guy. Given McCabe and Bieksa will likely be injured at some point, this guy will be very valuable as D on the waiver wire is generally weak (i.e. Craig Rivet is as good as it gets)
They brought me my title and they have doomed me. Last year Carey Price stabbed me in the back many times. This year...greatness...
Mikkaa Kiprusoff was once the 2nd or 3rd best goalie in the world. Since then Calgary has overused him and there are bad people out there who say he sucks. Those people are clowns and that will be proven in 2009-10. And for frick sakes, the guy led the league with 45 wins last year. In fantasy, though, his below-average Sv % can drag you down...not this year...look how focused the man is - especially the second pic, look at his focus
Next, my other starter, the guy who I need to come through to win this title...Ray Emery. One thing I loved about Ray - he never denied when he messed up and always answered questions when he was creating all that turmoil in Ottawa (before he essentially got the boot from the NHL to Russia). I have faith. I mean, the guy is from Hamilton
Lastly, you need a 3rd goalie as no goalie plays all 82 games. I have Vesa Toskala. At one time he took the starting job away from Nabakov in San Jose. As expected, my fellow jackass GMs ridiculed the Vesa pick, but with Beauchemin and Komisarek added, Toronto will be much stronger and so will Vesa's Sv %. My plan is to play him on Saturday nights (Hockey Night in Canada)
The Sweet Leafs will win the 2009-10 Championship