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Trade Fever: Competitive Limbo & Self-Auditing Your Team

A lot of feedback was generated from the last issue regarding Competitive Limbo, many managers found themselves and their teams in Limbo without direction. This edition of Trade Fever will cater to those teams and provide some self auditing techniques. Being able to self audit your team can give you the leg up when attempting to play the player. Why? Because it gives you the chance to know where you stand, the direction you’re headed in and pin point what your needs are. Not only that but when it comes to trading later on, you can use the same techniques on opposing teams in order to get a better feel of what kind of trades will work for both parties. Being able to get yourself out of competitive limbo will make you a stronger GM and understanding these fundamentals will allow you to be a better player all around. So what are you waiting for?  Get at it!

As seen in the last Trade Fever, Completive Limbo (CL) was described as a type of state given to a fantasy team that lacks a strategic game plan. This team has no direction and no identity. On a competitive spectrum its right smack dab in the middle of “win now” and “rebuild mode”. While most owners loathe the idea of not being able to progress forward in the standings, they don’t do anything to help themselves snap out of it. It’s a big enough challenge to break free from the Limbo and sadly, after so many middle place finishes, these GM’s tend to quit the league. You don’t have to be that guy – help is on its way!

Whether you drafted the team or jumped in as a replacement GM, it is your responsibility to steer the ship to greener pastures. By doing a self-team audit and sticking to a set game plan you’ll have a better idea of where your team stands on the Competitive Spectrum (seen in the figure below). The sooner you realize it and apply it, the faster you can fix it.

So where does your team stand? The following checklist will help determine that.

1. On average (Three years plus) in which tier has your team finished?

A three season scope or more will give you the best results, anything less is a bit harder to examine due to a smaller sample size. Although that’s not to say one or two seasons can’t be done, just know that it will require more than a calculation to see immediate results. In most cases, a detailed approach when breaking your team down helps tremendously. That means looking at streaks, injuries, playoffs and any other aspect that may have impacted your finishes.

2.  Where does your team rank? Top tier, middle tier or bottom tier?

If your team ranked in the middle tier (competitive limbo) skip to number 3.
If your team ranked in the top tier (win now) skip to number 6A.
If your team ranked in the bottom tier (rebuild) skip to number 6B. 
If you’re unsure, follow along and you’ll get a good idea by the end of number6.

3. You now realize that your team is in competitive limbo.  The more seasons spent in limbo, the more draining it gets. Do yourself a favour and shift yourself towards “win now” or “rebuild”. In the figure above, you’ll notice the tags “cusp of win now” and “cusp of rebuild”, these indicators will help you decide where your team is naturally headed based on the average ranking (finishes) from previous seasons.

4. If you see that your team is on the cusp of win now, compare it to the teams in your league that have won championships. Much like NHL teams mimicking Stanley Cup winners, looking at the top teams in your league will help see some patterns and structures that work. Teams in Limbo that are closer to the winning cusp tend to only need minor tweaking such as one or two forward trades - sending out prospects and picks for “win now” players - in order to see themselves alongside the top teams in the league. Also teams on the winning cusp must commit towards winning now and any steps backwards such as trading producing players for prospects and picks will undoubtedly keep you in Limbo for at least another season. Do a push, be risky, make decisions you don’t necessarily want to do (due to preferences of certain players) and focus on what will help your team in the current season. Whether your team is missing depth or specific category players, fill your gaps and compete to win.

5. If you see that your team is on the cusp of rebuild, it’s a bit harder to tell you to compare to bottom teams. Why? Because there is a difference between proper rebuilds and lost causes, who you should really avoid comparing your team to. That said, proper rebuilds are very tough to accomplish and the deeper the league, the harder it gets. Like stated in the last Trade Fever, start off by setting a time line ranging from one to three seasons, anything more will automatically give you a ticket to the lost cause scenario. Prepare to be a bottom feeder for a couple of seasons but know that it will all be worth it in the end. Sticking to your set time line and moulding your team to it is an essential step to accomplishing a successful transition.

6. Rank your priorities – fill your holes! You can mix, match and add more priorities but the four steps given below will cover most of the details for your team:

1. Point System and Categories
2. Use of Positions (F, LW, RW, D, G, UTIL, Bench, IR)
3. Players & Depth
4. Prospects & Picks

6A - If you’re winning now, it’s easy to say that you have a grasp on the scoring categories, although there is always room for improvement! To be top dog you must make everything align in respect to your league’s system such as using max games accordingly in H2H (if you have that setting), or maximizing on games played in order to effectively use your bench in Weekly Rotisseries. It’s always a good idea to take a third party perspective when breaking down and auditing your team. Note that there are many fantasy tools at your disposal that will effectively help you seek out what your team lacks and the areas that might need a little tweaking (look no further than the tools here on hockeypoolgeek). Depth is the key to winning championships and your team must be strong in all of the required positions. If you’re committed to win now, holding on to long term prospects and picks won’t do you any good as their potential is worth nothing to your current team. Use them to upgrade your depth and of course, injuries.  There’s a formula to every league, find it and apply it.

6B - If you’re in rebuild, get your team on the same timeline. Make sure to have active guys on your squad meeting requirements such as games played, filled positions and salary in order to avoid the tanking label. Rebuild depth is just as important as win now depth, meaning if you fill your cupboards with many promising prospects and rookies on the same track, you’re more than likely going to field an impressive team sooner. Put yourself in a situation that makes you feel like a real NHL GM, pick your franchise players and build around them. Come playoff time, look at competing teams and make them offers that include some of your win now players while looking the land the likes of Jordan Eberle, John Tavares, John Carlson & John Bernier. Again, the deeper the league, the harder it is to pull off a proper rebuild. So if you’re in a Head-to-Head 12 team limited keeper, getting the players mentioned above and sitting on them is much easier to do than say rebuilding in a 30 team Dynasty. In deep leagues such as that one, guys like Shawn Matthias, Cody Hodgson, Kevin Shattenkirk & Cory Schneider become pretty attractive. Stressing the need to set a timeline becomes very apparent and as you can see by the two examples above, depending on your league setting, the timeline of rebuild
differs. Find the one that works best for you!


Hopefully after going through that checklist, you’ll be able to self audit your team. Needless to say there are many different ways to achieve success; this is simply one of them. The goal here is easy: to know where your team stands and to lead you in one direction (in either extreme) and stick to it.  Quit running around in circles. Commit to a strategy that works for you and your team. Prioritize your needs and tackle them. Make yourself a game plan from what you learned and follow it. There will be many distractions along the way, but stay the course, and soon enough you’ll be the top dog of the league and you’ll be making your presence felt. Yes, it’s a big challenge, but it’s challenges like these that makes you a stronger GM. Show the league your worth and gain the respected you worked for and deserve.

And that concludes this edition of Trade Fever. Good luck!

GMG signing off

As always, If you have any questions or feedback on what was discussed as well as suggestions for future editions feel free to email me at, by Twitter (@GM_Gates), or by clicking on the contact tab above. Simply direct it to GMGates by making Trade Fever the subject / title.

Published Sat, Dec 11th, 2010