Today's fantasy hockey stats and formulas can provide more information than one person can possibly interpret at one time. It's becoming easier every year to get lost in the numbers.
I used to go thru some pretty intense number crunching when trying to predict how well players would perform in the upcoming season. Getting data from previous seasons and computing different averages...looking at trends...evaluating the effects of age and likelyhood of injury...all with the notion that it would lead to the best predictions...which in turn would lead to fantasy hockey glory.
As it turns out, I wasted a lot of time...
Well, truth be told, only about half of that time was wasted. There are certain numbers that you have to look at when you play fantasy hockey. For the sake of simplicity I will say there are THREE number related things you need to look at.
First and foremost, you must have the stats for how your players (keepers) or projected picks have scored in the past using whatever scoring system you are now playing under. Without this, you are likely to keep or draft a player based on his total NHL points, which is not a bad thing, but if he's got some downside, like a Sergei Gonchar-like plus/minus, you could be in for a real shocker when his fantasy performance is not what you expected.
Second, you have look at the players stats over the last 3-5 seasons. In particular, look at the trends in his key categories (whichever ones your scoring system uses) and his games played. Here you are hoping for 1) a lot of games played, 2) consistency in stat totals. If there are injuries that have lowered the games played, you may need to look at per game averages to see how effective the player was.
Third, you need to look at the players age. Players in their mid 20's to early 30's are essentially in their prime. These are the 'salad years'. If the trend has been improving stats each year and a guy is healthy and on a decent team, expect more of the same. Conversely, there are only so many "Teemu Selanne 2010" years out there. Don't draft an older a guy who you predict will have one of these years unless you have some seriously good information on him...like he's your friend or you trained with him in the off season.
I mention these things because I think they are all you need to try and predict how a player will perform in the upcoming season.
Let's face it, the chances of ANYBODY accurately predicting a point total for the top ten players in 2011-12, is pretty slim. In fact, just predicting who those top 10 players will be is next to impossible. Just look at last year...Crosby, Malkin (both with injuries), and Ovechkin were all way below expectations.
So your best bet is to use a simplified approach to get an idea of how you think a player will perform. Look at the things I mentioned above and then follow these next two steps...
1) See where this guys fits within his team. The chances of Jordan Staal leading the Penguins in scoring are pretty low if Malkin stays healthy and Crosby plays even 50% of the teams games. Even if he has a breakout year, he'll probably be the second leading point scorer on the team...at best. A prediction for Staal to score between 40-60 NHL points seems reasonable. This seems like a big range, but if you can put these in terms of your league scoring system, you develop a point range that's something useful to draft from. I would rank players within a team this way. Pick a range of points you think is acceptable, and use those ranges (say +/-10 points, which gives you a 20 point range) for all the players.
2) There are only so many points to be scored. Everybody thinks they have a 50 goal scorer waiting to break out, but last year there was 1. The same can be said for 100 point scorers. It's reasonable to think the upper limit on on 50 goal scorers and 100 point scorers is 5. Sure, there could be more, but unless the refs call the game differently or goalies start letting in more pucks, there's a real good chance there will be 3 or fewer 50 goals scorers and 5 or less 100 point scorers.
I know I haven't given you rankings or even some special formula that you can use to compute success, but I am about to tell you the single biggest and best thing you can do today to help you decide who's worth a roster spot.
Watch the guys play.
15 years ago, it was a lot harder...today...with NHL Network, Versus, NBC and YouTube, there's no excuse for not being able to see how a player performs.
Video (or in person) is the single best tool available because it tells you the most.
No matter how specialized stats get, they can only ever tell you what HAS happened.
Seeing a guy play...using your eyes and making a decision with your brain and/or gut...those are still the best ways to decide/predict if you have a guy worth keeping or picking (drafting or via waivers once the season starts).
Thanks for reading...all 3 of you....