CP's NHL Playoff Pool Primer

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Some say a hot NHL team going into post-season will carry that momentum through the playoffs, and its players will help pool teams rise to the top.

Interesting in theory, but imperfect in practice.

The much-ballyhooed momentum usually means doodly. Last year, the Detroit Red Wings were the hottest team going into post-season, but they were unceremoniously bounced out in the first round. And do you want to draft Ryan Smyth high in your pool this year just because the Islanders have charged into the playoffs.

Go right ahead. Oh, and thanks for your money.

Another plan is to pick from NHL teams with top goaltenders who might steal wins and playoff series, and the position players riding their coat tails will rack up the fantasy points.

Sure, Martin Brodeur might help the Devils advance in the weak Eastern Conference. But can the Flames with Miikka Kiprusoff and Canucks with Roberto Luongo expect to do as well in the more competitive Western Conference?

Our thinking is no.

Other conventional draft plans are to focus on players from the two forecasted finalists, or take players from only one conference.

The problem here is Lady Luck. Armed like Ma Barker with huge upsets, bad bounces and surprise superstars, she can kill your chances after only one round.

That's why some poolies treat the playoffs like the regular season, taking the best players no matter how their teams are expected to fare.

Our suggestion is spread the draft out somewhat, but still to forecast, even if the crystal ball is cracked and cloudy.

Create small groups of teams in descending order of how they might fare in the post-season. Pick from those teams the corresponding must-have players - the obvious stars, the middle-rounder aces and the circled sleepers.

Tier One: Anaheim, Buffalo, New Jersey, San Jose

This group is the Final Four, the top two teams from each conference that, with some luck, will be playing in the semifinals. Four teams offer more flexibility in selecting the best players available. If there's a run on Sabres, for example, take the superstars from the Sharks or Devils first, and then come back to add a decent second-line player or two from the Sabres.

Add extra players or quality sleepers from this group later in a draft. In non-draft pools, pick fairly evenly from each of the four teams but don't fill up spots with fourth-liners and bench warmers.

A good half of your roster comes from Tier One.

Tier Two: Dallas, Detroit, Ottawa, New York Rangers

These are very good teams, ones you think will go at least two rounds. If a Tier One team gets upset, there is insurance in this group to cover your losses.

Once you get the best of the top players from Tier One, start filling in from here. The superstars from these teams will be gone at this point, but no problem - there will be top-five players available. Look for forwards or defencemen on the power play, and even take a chance on a sleeper or two from this group.

Thirty per cent of your roster comes from Tier Two.

Tier Three: Minnesota, Nashville, Pittsburgh, Vancouver

The teams in this group are unlikely to succeed, but you're hedging bets here, just in case.

Grab a few decent players from this group, even two from one team if necessary. Because you have low expectations for this bunch, don't waste a roster spot on a player that isn't on the top two lines or is too risky.

Twenty per cent of your roster comes from Tier Three.

Tier Four: Atlanta, Calgary, New York Islanders, Tampa Bay

You have no faith in any team here, and wouldn't be surprised if they lost four straight. Generally, stay away from players in this group. The exception might be if a scoring forward from these one-round teams might be a better choice for a couple points than a pug from a contender.

Otherwise, no player on your roster comes from Tier Four.


Greg Dennis can be reached at cp.pool(at)hotmail.com.



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