Over the course of the last month my brother has been reading a book by M.I.T. economist Dan Arley entitled "Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces That Shape Our Decisions". From his descriptions of the book it is a cold and creative analysis of why widely accepted market-based ideas don't seem to work in our current world where market-based capitalism doesn't seem to work for many people anymore.
I can't wait to read the book not because I have a fascination with the intricacies of markets, (I have little interest in becoming a tycoon, I just want to be able to pay my bills and my taxes, and maybe find an occasional bargain at the store) but because the title "Predictably Irrational" fits so well with what I go through every fall in regards to my fantasy hockey team.
I know, I'm deep like that.
This season hockey makes little sense to me. Play has gotten faster and seemingly more erratic. Certainly this has been great for the game, but for those of us who have a habit of living and dying with our fantasy (and real) teams there doesn't seem to be anything on which we can hang our hats.
Except maybe the Avalanche leading the Northwest and possibly making the playoffs, which has many an esteemed columnist scrambling for excuses.
Just ten years ago if you wanted a great fantasy hockey team all you had to do was analyze a particular team's defensive system, who was in that system, and whether or not a capable goaltender was behind that system, and act accordingly. Anything beyond that was gravy because the offense was simple: nobody did much scoring.
This season with the rash of injuries to top players as well as important role players, the shocking collapse of the Red Wings and to a lesser extent teams like the up and coming Blues, combined with half the coaches in the league deciding that platooning capable goaltenders is a good idea...well hockey has evolved from a simple equation into a calculus problem from hell.
Surely it is great to see the new generation of players finally getting their shot at the big time en masse, but for those of us who study the game (and aren't directly involved with the NHL) this has left us with plenty of homework.
Simply attempting to gauge the season-long production of upstart players like Ryan O'Reilly and Matt Duschene is enough to make one storm their cabinets for antacid. Not to mention the strange and immediate fantasy influence of players like Matt Moulson, Kyle Okposo, Rich Peverly, Evander Kane, and Nicklas Bergfors.
When I toss in the fact that anyone who puts on a jock next to Alex Ovechkin in the locker room is going to score somewhere between 60 and 10,000 points what I am looking at is the potential of a wholesale shift away from traditional fantasy thinking.
Or maybe I'm just having a bad season.
On draft day I was certain I had a team that would coast. I landed Robbie Luongo and Joe Thornton, both of whom were going to post stratospheric numbers, and buttressed them with the likes of Illy Kovalchuk, Milan Lucic, Johan Franzen, Jason Spezza and sure-fire, 100% guaranteed, puck stopping weapon of the future Jonas Hiller. I even landed great sleepers in later rounds like Alex Goligoski, Mike Knuble, and Derrick Brassard.
The 2009-10 Iron Mullets were rock solid! I had it MADE! I envisioned I would be lighting up my league's message board with insane Gandalf quotes every week:
"YOU SHALL NOT PASS!!!"
Now, a little over a month later, and having seen my team torn to shreds by injury and under performance I have lost all confidence, and possibly my mind. What was last season's groin injury has become this season's torn ACL, or broken finger or foot. Or in the case of Paul Kariya and the rest of the Blues "chronic suckitis".
I've become the Red Light Racicot of fantasy managers, and I know two things:
Peter Budaj is still a bad goalie, and I have become predictably irrational.
Pass the antacid.