There comes a point in every long-running keeper league team's history when it's time to call a spade a spade. You're treading water, with no shot at a trophy, not even a shot at top three glory…yet your team is too good to finish in the bottom three and land a good draft pick. Welcome to purgatory. Or as the Calgary Flames call it, normal.
All too often, I see fantasy owners in my various leagues scratch and claw, year after year, to occasionally finish third. Every so often they get to celebrate their second place finish. Yay!
Don't they understand? Second place is just the first-place loser.
You have to be honest with yourself. You have to recognize when your team has no shot of winning this year, next year or the year after. If you can admit that to yourself, then you can start fixing it. Depending on the situation you are in, you could set your sights on two seasons from now. That quick turnaround becomes possible the minute you give up on this year and next. Let it go.
However, a quick turnaround becomes tougher if:
1. It's a full keeper league, as opposed to a limited keeper where you only protect 10 or 12.
2. The league is highly competitive. Every GM knows his or her stuff, lopsided trades are rare and surprising anyone at the draft with a sleeper is impossible.
All leagues are different, but one thing a lot of rebuilding fantasy teams have in common is their propensity to own a lot of players on NHL teams that are also rebuilding. The team at the top of your keeper league today, the one that has been winning for three or four years, probably stocked up on Chicago players back in 2007 or 2008.
In the NHL, a rebuild doesn't always work, of course. We're still waiting for the Islanders and the Oilers to show the fruits of their rebuilds. And is Columbus starting this year, or have they been rebuilding for the last four or five?
Whether or not it works in real life, it pays to rebuild your fantasy squad by using rebuilding NHL teams. Not only do your team's players improve as their teams improve, but there are also more opportunities for youngsters. A future stud could give you fantasy points next year thanks to the fact he’s a member of Columbus, as opposed to three years from now had he been on the Penguins.
WHICH IS THE NEXT TEAM TO START A REBUILD?
As I alluded to in the intro, the Flames have been primed for a rebuild for several years now and indications are that they’re finally about to get started. Here's what to watch for.
1. Jarome Iginla
Iginla has now been traded, so two things will happen. First, it will open up a lot of power play time for the likes of Roman Cervenka and Mikael Backlund (the two picked up an assist each on the PP Wednesday). Sven Bäertschi is likely to be recalled from Abbotsford and would probably get significant ice time. The second thing to watch for are the prospects coming to the Flames. Said prospects will immediately get 'Golden Boy' status. That is to say, they’ll get all the opportunity, ice time and linemates they need to succeed. If you recall, Iginla was the player the Flames received when they made the difficult decision to trade fan favorite Joe Nieuwendyk. They'll do what they can to pass the torch to a new future star. So, Ben Hanowski and Ken Agostino, the red carpet awaits.
2. Miikka Kiprusoff
Kipper is set to make just $1.5 million next season. Will he play it out? Or will he go back to Finland? Will the Flames wait and see? Or will they trade him while they still can? It's looking more and more like the team will push to sign Karri Ramo, who has been dominating the KHL for several years, but the Flames own his rights.
3. Other prospects
Besides Bäertschi, the Flames only have John Gaudreau and perhaps Markus Granlund in their system with any kind of first-line upside. And they are a long ways off. However, a rebuild would certainly shave a couple of years off their arrival date. Longer-term prospect Mark Jankowski may not be as “longer-term” as once thought. When it comes to prospects, everything is expedited, so watch who this team drafts over the next two summers and watch which prospects/young NHLers they acquire.
WHAT ABOUT SAN JOSE?
The other team that may be in need of a rebuild is the San Jose Sharks. After starting the season 7-0-0, they have since gone 7-11-6. As things stand now, they have the fifth-highest team cap hit for 2012-13 and the eighth-highest cap investment for 2013-14. Time they admit a rebuild is needed. That's a lot of money to spend to just squeak into the post-season and get knocked out in the first or second round. And it's not going to get better next season, either.
Naturally, the decision to rebuild in the NHL is much harder than it is in fantasy hockey. In one, you're dealing with hundreds of millions of dollars. In the other, you're dealing with tens of dollars. But if the Sharks decide to get started (they may have already, with the Douglas Murray trade), here is what to look for.
1. Ryane Clowe
On a new team, Clowe could - and should - put this terrible year behind him.
2. Acquired Prospects
If San Jose trades away Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle, Martin Havlat or Joe Pavelski, any prospect they get back will become a Golden Boy. As noted above, this player will get all the opportunities to succeed. But Havlat has two more years on his contract, while the other four have one year left on theirs, so a trade may not happen until next year.
If the Sharks or Flames do decide to go this route, it will mean four or five tough years ahead. Obviously that’s why this is a huge decision. On a somewhat lesser scale, whatever you decide to do, put your game plan on paper and stick to it. The worst thing you can do is rebuild for a year and then get sick of it. Go big or go home!
Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section. Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.