You can set your watch to it. Every single season in every single fantasy sport after about a week's worth of games, fantasy experts spend an inordinate amount of their word count telling fantasy owners not to panic.
Part in parcel with that tired advice is the recommendation that you make a trade offer for any player who has given their owner a reason to panic. Why is this advice still being regurgitated? As a fantasy owner, you and your fellow leaguemates have heard it as long as you've been playing.
Is anybody actually going to be fooled by a short-sell offer on Marc-Andre Fleury? Are the owners of Sidney Crosby desperately looking for someone who will take the burden of Sid the Kid's minus-2 off their hands?
The early season "don't panic, buy low" routine is perpetuated by fantasy columnists and message-board denizens with little else to discuss due to a small sampling of stats. Nonetheless, we still do this collective dance every season … and here is how you take advantage of it.
Casing the Joint
Welcome to Grand Theft Roto! This column is a trademark of ESPN.com football and baseball analyst Shawn Peters. Dating back to the TalentedMrRoto.com days, Peters has walked the ethical line and offered sly advice on how to steal your championship through intelligent trading.
So, how exactly do you take advantage of the "don't panic" mantra? I'm glad you asked. With reverse-reverse psychology. Let me explain …
One of the biggest problems with trading is that most owners are tentative to do it at this point in the season. Finding a dance partner is no easier in fantasy sports than it was during your Grade 6 school dance.
However, you can use the fact that everyone is being told to expect, say, a Ryan Whitney owner to panic, and as a Whitney owner, use that to get yourself that early-season trade that addresses your shortcomings.
What do I mean? You need to make it look like you are a panicky Whitney owner who is worried about his zeros across the board after two games. You need to give the perception that you are already convinced that Whitney was your biggest mistake of the draft. You need to make others want to take advantage of you, and the only way they'll do that is, yes, by trading with you.
There are a couple of keys to this working. First off, you have to have a good surplus at the position you are trading from. Using the Whitney example, you need to have loaded up with an extra, roster-worthy defenseman at the end of the draft. Second, you need to pick up another defenseman off the waiver wire right before you start dangling your bait. Remember, it's all about perception, and you need to look like you're desperate to replace your "bust" player. Third and finally, you must have a serious need to address and be drawing from your trading partner's strength. This strategy is pointless if you don't need to balance your lineup and is difficult to execute if your partner doesn't have a backup for what they are giving up.
From the perspective of the other owner, he/she is likely just as sick as we are of the "don't panic, don't sell low" drivel, and has no issues with their personal preseason assessment of Whitney as a top-five defenseman. Yet, he/she will be aware of the fact that "don't panic" is the motto of the second week. As long as you keep your offer reasonable, your dance partner should feel like they are buying from a panicked owner, when in reality, you have made a need-for-need swap. A swap that, for all intents and purposes, is pretty even-keel for value.
Are you ripping off a fellow owner? Pulling a traditional GTR? No. Not really. But you are quickly filling a postdraft need on your team. Fantasy players are ruthless, and won't make a need-for-need swap early in the season unless their need is glaring. They need to feel glorious, as if we just ripped off our trading partner.
So feed their ego. Who cares about them bragging about a perceived trading victory right now? You can rub it in their face at season's end when your team -- which was balanced from Week 2 -- wins the title.
Pulling the Job
You can get this done with just about any player who has put up zeros across the board at this point, or any goalie who has not had a good first game or two. It's better to use players who were between 60 and 120 in preseason rankings, where value can be very relative.
In one of the random leagues I used for experimentation purposes, I have serious issues at defense. I'm rolling out Brian Rafalski, Adrian Aucoin, Shea Weber and Marek Zidlicky. I need to have another No. 2 defenseman in order to get by. Brendan Shanahan hasn't clicked with Scott Gomez or Sean Avery yet, and although I am confident he will, I need help on the blue line. I picked up Filip Kuba, and then dropped him for Chris Campoli to make it look like I've been desperately searching for a defenseman.
Now I send a note to the owner of Mathieu Schneider saying that I am looking for a defenseman, and offer up Shanahan. If my selected target is an astute fantasy player, he should have no issues with bringing Shanny aboard his team. When I've whittled him down to trading me Schneider, he should feel some sense of accomplishment, that he took advantage of me.
I get what I need. He gets what he needs. But the key to getting him to trade with me in the first place was making him think I am running around with my Shanahan on fire.
Another quick example: In the same league I've offered Tomas Vokoun for Sergei Zubov. My potential trade partner should perceive Vokoun as a solid No. 2 goalie despite his weak start, and if he won't give up Zubov, maybe he'll part with an injured Dan Boyle instead. The key here is that we're talking.
So if you've got that weakness in your lineup and a candidate for the reverse-reverse psychology deal, go ahead and send out some offers, plug that hole. Remember, it's all about making your fellow owner feel like they're buying low.
In the tradition of Grand Theft Roto, I encourage you all to send me e-mails noting your own personal GTR's. Shawn Peters has built a small army of GTR cardholders, so let's get him some membership from the hockey world. If you've pulled off a solid GTR of any kind, send me a note and we'll share your brilliant abilities to rip off a fellow owner. Brevity is always appreciated.
I thought for a minute about coming up with my own sign-off for this column, but then thought it appropriate to just "steal" Peters' traditional end line. I guess I'm pulling Grand Theft Tagline. I'm sure he'll understand. So …
Until next week, don't just win your league. Steal it.
Sean Allen is a fantasy hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can email him at Alla_Rino@TalentedMrRoto.com