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Consider Games-Played Variances in Trade Evaluations

If you’re pondering a trade in your fantasy hockey league, be sure to pay attention to any significant disparity in games played by the NHL teams involved. As of February 22, the Flyers have played the most games at 19, while Toronto, Ottawa, and Buffalo have laced ‘em up 18 times each. In contrast, five teams (Hurricanes, Avalanche, Ducks, Sharks, and Kings) have played only 15 games, and the Bruins have taken the ice an NHL-low 14 times.

This means that each player on the Boston roster is 17% more valuable than is an identical player in Philadelphia, because he’ll have five more chances to log points for you. The Bruins have 34 games left, while the Flyers have only 29. If you consider two hypothetical players who each average a point per game, the Bruin can be expected to post 34 more points over the course of the regular season, while his counterpart in Philly will get just 29.

With marginal players, the difference diminishes rapidly; if you’re considering swapping rearguards who register in the vicinity of 0.4 PPG, the anticipated difference is two points, a variation that can be swallowed by a single big night. But if you’re weighing a trade that includes star forwards, be sure to account for the number of games left on each player’s schedule.

By the way, as the season unfolds, the magnitude of a five-game difference in the schedule grows significantly. If you have a player on a team with 21 games left, and you’re getting him in exchange for a player whose team has just 16 games remaining, that same five-game difference in expected value is 31%. A five-point difference over five weeks is more profound than a five-point difference that’s spread over nine weeks, especially in head-to-head leagues. Of course, if you can grab several players with a comparative wealth of games left to play, you’re magnifying your trade advantage.

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