Draft talent in the early rounds. Don’t overthink things. Take guys you know are very good at hockey. Let your opponent overpay for someone who broke out playing on a big line or accrued a ton of sexy penalty minutes. Don’t be the GM who spent a second round pick on Scott Hartnell last season; be the one who picked money in the bank with Pavel Datsyuk.
Pay attention to splits. Looking for a great sophomore pick? Damien Brunner had 12 goals and 26 points in 44 games last season and Brandon Saad had 10 goals and 27 points in 46 games. Almost identical numbers, right? Wrong. Brunner had two goals and 10 points over his final 23 games. Saad had seven goals and 23 points over his final 27 games. The splits show one player ended the year with far more momentum. Examining month-tomonth and first half/second half stats can also tell you which guys often start strongly and fade late or vise versa, which is important for selling high and buying low at the right times.
Examine pedigree when selling high or buying low. Wondering whether to trade, or trade for, a breakout player flying out of the gate? Examine his pre-NHL history. Nazem Kadri was a first round pick and big scorer in junior, so his sudden surge of offense in 2012-13 wasn’t actually a fluke. Draft status isn’t always an accurate predictor, but it tells us if scouts projected a given player to be a star all along.
Prey on the weak and desperate. Want to make that blockbuster trade that nets you a huge return for nothing? Target struggling teams partway through the season. Make them feel like their window to make the playoffs is closing, that they have no bargaining power and “have to gamble” to have any shot at winning. You’ll be surprised at what you can get.
Wait on goalies. For every consistent stud like Henrik Lundqvist, there are five Mike Smiths who falter after a great season and five more Sergei Bobrovskys who come out of nowhere to dominate.