If anybody knows how to get in on John Ferguson Jr.'s hockey pool next season, please pass along directions.
If his real-world strategies are any indication, any decent fantasy GM would stand to make a killing.
While Isiah Thomas, general manager of the New York Knicks, has been blasted by pundits throughout the NBA for putting together a roster full of shoot-first players who are more concerned with their own stats than securing a playoff berth, Ferguson has no such problems.
Thomas might be a great fantasy GM, is the criticism, but he is a failure in the real world.
However, if this just-completed hockey campaign is any indication, perhaps he could teach Ferguson a thing or two about assembling a roster.
Ferguson is the anti-Thomas -- a GM so concerned with bringing along young talent, building a strong blueline and filling gaps with hardworking role players that he ignores the pillars of team building.
Fantasy hockey is nothing like running an NHL club, obviously, but these strategies are basic enough that ignoring them indicates either pure stubbornness, a hefty dose of stupidity or a simple inability to address team needs.
It goes like this:
- You need a few players who like to shoot, and score, often, even if this means sacrificing a little defense.
- You build your team out from between the pipes.
It may be admirable of the Leafs' boss to continue giving Nik Antropov and Alex Ponikarovsky the chance to skate with Mats Sundin, but there is a reason these guys aren't drafted in fantasy hockey.
Ferguson's second tier is no better: Darcy Tucker is a hardnosed grinder expected to lead the team in power-play goals; Kyle Wellwood is slick and skilled, but will always look for a pass first.
In fact, the Leafs top offensive threats behind Sundin are probably Tomas Kaberle and Bryan McCabe.
If you look at the roster of every team still playing, you'll find at least two or more true offensive talents on their forward lines.
And then, of course, there's goaltending. The net is not another hole to be filled. It's the sun around which the rest of your team orbits.
Unfortuneately for Ferguson, it's not as simple as taking Martin Brodeur or Miikka Kiprussof in the first round of a fantasy draft.
But even his "trash" -- ex-Leaf goalie Eddie Belfour -- became the Florida Panthers' treasure, as Belfour outdid Andrew Raycroft in every stat except for wins.
A fantasy GM would look at Raycroft's .894 save percentage and 2.99 GAA and hit the waiver wire. If the Leafs have a hope of a playoff berth in 2008, Ferguson has to do the same thing.