I’m here today to raise awareness about a very serious condition afflicting dynasty hockey owners. It’s called “Zero-Advantage Center Hoarding Affliction” (or — ZACHA).
You can hardly look at a fantasy hockey league these days without seeing signs of the damage wrought by this contagious scourge. Roster after roster has benches filled with Center-only players, and fantasy lineups go night after night with empty slots for D-men and wingers, all while active centermen are in a bench logjam.
We’ve all had the following conversation with loved ones, gently trying to show them the error of their ways.
You: “Look, you understand Kyle Turris is not really helping your team, right?”
Your friend: “Turris is a good 50-55 point player. I can’t just drop him for a mediocre D.”
You: “You need to take a deep breath and think about position eligibility. All these Center-only guys are a problem.”
Your friend: “Problem? I’m not the one with the problem, YOU have the problem! I can drop Jordan Staal any time I want to. I just don’t happen to want to right now.”
You: “Please think of next year’s roster, and the next year’s. Do you really want to throw away all your flexibility? Think of the prospects. Isn’t anybody going to think about the prospects?”
Your friend “Leave me alone. You’re not my mother.”
Every year, so many people succumb to the temptation of filling their roster with players who provide no flexibility. This disease can manifest in a couple of ways.
I had a scorching case of the ZACHA last year. In a very competitive redraft auction, I was aiming for value. The format allowed for 2C, 2LW, 2RW, 4D, 2 UTIL, and 2G starting. I got Crosby, Matthews, Getzlaf, and Jeff Carter, all C-only options. As I got to the end of the auction, I realized what I had done. While I had captured these four players at prices better than their stat-projected values, I had also completely hamstrung my roster for the year. (To be fair, in the latter two cases I was just bidding up others and got stuck “winning.”) Playing my best lineup on a full schedule night, I would have all my utility spots filled. That meant that if I wanted to give my lineup a boost in, say, blocks or shots over the weekend by moving an extra specialist into a utility spot, I’d have to bench one of my top players to do so.
I had top-heavy winger depth but lousy D — it was clear what positions I needed to upgrade. Particularly painful was a situation that came up in the first month of the season. I added Sean Couturier before we all found he was SEAN COUTURIER. However hot he was early, he was a C-only player and I was painfully aware that I needed help at other positions. Had I have been able to keep him in my lineup, I’m convinced I would have gone from a borderline playoff team to a championship contender in that league.
I view my post-draft task, particularly when I have had the opportunity to pursue the “studs n’ scrubs” auction strategy, as continually streaming and looking for big long-term upgrades on the weaker players on the roster. Ideally, you get yourself to a position where you don’t need to find two left wingers, or 3 defensemen. Instead, if you can spread your weak spots across positions or roster some LW/RW, C/LW and C/RW players, you can take advantage of breakthrough players at any position and shuffle around your other players to make room.
A second form of the syndrome is specific to dynasty leagues. If you play in a dynasty league with a separate prospect system, many of the most-hyped, most talented future stars will be centers. If too much of your team strength is at Center, it will become difficult to roster, start, and maybe even trade pretty good Cs as they come up from the minors. When Jerperi Kotkaniemi and Robert Thomas suddenly show up on your roster, they might have no place to go. Worse, some young players (Dylan Larkin, Brayden Point) get wing eligibility for a while and then drift to C-only territory as they establish themselves.
Do you know someone with ZACHA? . If you think the cure boils down to “prefer positional flexibility,” you’re basically right. But in dynasty, you still need to give the elite guys like McDavids, Crosbys and Seguins their due regardless of position limitations. The best prescription to guard against an inflexibile roster is to try to avoid the middle tier of C-only players and balance the strength of your roster across positions and with players who have some possibility of long-term positional flexibility. This is what we mean by “zero-advantage.” Only settle for the very best at the Center spot. We can end this roster plague in our lifetimes. You can help.