Editor’s Note: The statistics in this column are accurate through games played before April 23. While the numbers have shifted a bit, the core point of the column has not. Enjoy.
If you’re reading this, you’ve probably sent or received a trade offer in a regular-season fantasy league. Usually you’ll have your own way of evaluating the trade, such as player rankings, team needs, and projected future production. But what about a playoff fantasy league trade offer?
In my last article How To Plan Your NHL Playoff Pool, I discussed the different types of playoff fantasy leagues. Many of these leagues now offer add/drop options, as well as trades with other league members. In one league, I’ve already received two trade offers, the second of which I’ll evaluate through a process that you can use to assess your trade offers.
The offer was as follows: I would receive Gustav Nyquist and Jaroslav Halak in return for Tomas Plekanec and Marc-Andre Fleury. In other words, this would be a goalie-for-goalie and a forward-for-forward trade.
I could get more in depth as far as projecting each player’s scoring or the perceived strength of each team. But because of the subjectivity involved (at least short term), let’s assume in this example that Nyquist and Plekanec are equals and that Halak and Fleury even out. The differences would be more apparent over an 82-game season. In addition, any team can beat any other team on any given night, even if you think one team has a better chance of going all the way than another.
Instead, I’m going to concentrate on a specific known variable: the minimum number of games each player has left. In other words, how many games from playoff elimination is each player. That’s the added layer of playoff fantasy leagues: your player is only as good as the team they play for.
- Plekanec: 3 games
- Fleury: 1 game
My opponent’s players:
- Nyquist: 3 games
- Halak: 2 games
At first glance, it would appear that I have the edge in this proposed trade. However, it should be noted that each series has not played the same number of games. So to dig deeper, we must examine the probability that each team has of winning each series, based on the number of games the team and its opponent needs to win the series.
- Plekanec: Montreal up 3-1
- Fleury: Pittsburgh down 3-1
- Nyquist: Detroit up 2-1
- Halak: NY Islanders tied 2-2
Let’s also assume that each team has a 50/50 chance of winning each game it plays in. We won’t get into actual Vegas probabilities, simply because of the parity in this year’s playoffs.
- Montreal: 87.5 percent chance of winning its series
- Pittsburgh: 12.5 percent chance of winning its series
- Detroit: 60 percent chance of winning its series
- NY Islanders: 50 percent chance of winning its series
The math for the Isles is simple. However, I should probably show my work for the other teams. For Pittsburgh, who must win all of its remaining games to win the series, multiply 0.5 x 0.5 x 0.5 and you get 0.125 or 12.5 percent. Flip that around for Montreal and you get 1 – 0.125 and you get 87.5 percent.
As for Detroit, it was a little harder to calculate, but I’ll try. They must win 2 games before Tampa Bay wins 3. Add 3 and 2 together (5), then divide 100 by 5 to get 20. Multiply Detroit’s number of wins (2) to get 40, then subtract 100 from 40. Detroit has a 60 percent chance of winning its series. If you have a different method of doing the math, please let me know in the comments below.
Then I’ll average my players’ combined probability of moving on to the second round (Plekanec, Fleury) and get 50 percent. The other team’s players’ combined probability would work out to be 55 percent.
So I should make this deal, right? This offer was made to me on Wednesday morning, when Montreal was up 3-0 and Pittsburgh was only down 2-1. With Montreal and Pittsburgh both losing on Wednesday night, I was ready to really consider this trade, even though the difference is not huge.
However, the other owner, knowing that the players he would acquire both came one game closer to losing their series, pulled the trade offer. Frankly, I don’t blame him. I was actually leaning toward keeping Plekanec anyway, knowing the actual odds of a team losing a series when already up 3-0 (sorry, San Jose Sharks fans). In addition, Fleury was a final-round pick who was actually targeted in both trade offers I received.
Playoff fantasy league trade offers are risky, but this model can be applied not only for trades, but also for possible add/drop decisions that you must make before a player is eliminated. The key to winning in playoff fantasy hockey is to maximize the number of games your players play.