Visualizing Fantasy Hockey Schedules

I have a new obsession. Fantasy hockey. The slot-machine-like dopamine hit when you get lucky mixed with the numbers-heavy analysis of trying to squeeze the most out of each week has really got me hooked.

So I thought I’d put all this analysis to use by practicing my visual display of quantitative data.

I’m about to go into fantasy hockey playoffs and I’ve been doing a bunch of number crunching, focusing on the schedules of various NHL teams. The idea is that if I pick up half-decent players who play a lot of games in a given week, they’ll score me more points than great players who have a bad schedule.

Two of my great players, Taylor Hall and Dustin Byfuglien, have been dealing with long-term injuries lately, so my only hope at winning is to maximize my games played.

To do that, I need to pick up players from teams who not only play the most games, but also play on quieter “off nights”. Here’s the logic I used.

  • Any day where 20 or more out of the NHL’s 31 teams play is a busy night.
  • Fewer than 20, I call an off night, because chances are, you won’t have too many benched players on those nights.

My favorite podcast, Fantasy Hockey Podcast, does a great job at highlighting the teams with the best and worst schedules each week, but I wanted to know well in advance and I wanted to see all the teams.

So I made this.

Schedule comparison charts- 2019 fantasy hockey playoffs

Starting with my league’s quarterfinals (March 4-10), I made a chart that breaks down every team’s schedule into off nights and busy nights.

Quarter-Finals

Fantasy hockey schedule analysis- March 4-10. 
ANA has 3 Off nights and 1 busy nights.
CGY has 3 Off nights and 1 busy nights.
FLA has 2 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
BOS has 1 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
DET has 1 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
LAK has 1 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
PIT has 1 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
WSH has 3 Off nights and 0 busy nights.
TOR has 2 Off nights and 1 busy nights.
VGK has 2 Off nights and 1 busy nights.
WPG has 2 Off nights and 1 busy nights.
BUF has 1 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
CAR has 1 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
EDM has 1 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
MIN has 1 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
MTL has 1 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
NJD has 1 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
STL has 1 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
VAN has 1 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
ARZ has 0 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
COL has 0 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
CBJ has 0 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
DAL has 0 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
NYI has 0 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
NYR has 0 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
OTT has 0 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
TBL has 0 Off nights and 3 busy nights.
PHI has 1 Off nights and 1 busy nights.
CHI has 0 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
NSH has 0 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
SJS has 0 Off nights and 2 busy nights.
NHL schedule analysis for March 4 to 10, 2019

As you can see in the chart above, Anaheim (ANA) and Calgary (CGY) have the best schedules, with 3 “off nights” and 1 “busy night” each. I’d better load up on Ducks and Flames!

Actually, sorry Anaheim, but you’re terrible. I’d better load up on Flames.

Teams like Chicago (CHI), Nashville (NAS), and San Jose (SJS) have the worst schedules, with 2 “busy nights” each and no “off nights”. That means that players from Calgary are at least twice as valuable as players from Chicago this week.

One thing that this chart doesn’t take into account is the strength of opponents or back-to-back games. I haven’t checked, but if both of Chicago’s games are against a terrible team like Anaheim who are tired because they’re on the second game in two nights, then maybe I shouldn’t completely write off Chicago players. Or if Calgary is playing only against top-tier teams, then maybe I shouldn’t jump right on them.

Semifinals

I made the same charts for Semifinals as well:

Fantasy hockey schedule analysis- March 11-17. NJD has 4 Off nights and 0 Busy nights.
ANA has 3 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
CBJ has 3 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
DAL has 3 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
EDM has 3 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
NYR has 3 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
PHI has 3 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
TOR has 3 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
ARZ has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
BUF has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
MIN has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
NYI has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
PIT has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
SJS has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
STL has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
COL has 3 Off nights and 0 Busy nights.
VAN has 3 Off nights and 0 Busy nights.
CGY has 2 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
CAR has 2 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
CHI has 2 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
BOS has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
DET has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
FLA has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
MTL has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
NSH has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
OTT has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
TBL has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
WSH has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
WPG has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
VGK has 2 Off nights and 0 Busy nights.
LAK has 0 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
NHL schedule analysis for March 11 to 17, 2019

In the second week of March, my league’s semifinals, the New Jersey Devils (NJD) have the best schedule. Stay away from the LA Kings (LAK)! And the Ducks… even though they have the second-best schedule… because they’re the Ducks.

Finals

And here’s the same chart for the finals.

Fantasy hockey schedule analysis- March 18-24. VAN has 3 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
WSH has 3 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
ARZ has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
CHI has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
TBL has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
WPG has 2 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
CAR has 1 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
COL has 1 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
MTL has 1 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
NYI has 1 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
PHI has 1 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
ANA has 2 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
SJS has 2 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
CBJ has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
LAK has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
MIN has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
OTT has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
TOR has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
VGK has 1 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
BOS has 0 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
CGY has 0 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
DAL has 0 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
DET has 0 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
EDM has 0 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
FLA has 0 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
NSH has 0 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
NJD has 0 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
PIT has 0 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
STL has 0 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
BUF has 1 Off nights and 1 Busy nights.
NYR has 0 Off nights and 2 Busy nights.
NHL schedule analysis for March 18 to 24, 2019

This week, try to stay away from the New York Rangers. The Vancouver Canucks and the Washington Capitals will treat you well.

Final three weeks combined

This felt less-useful for me because there isn’t as stark of a difference between the best and worst schedules, but I also created a chart for the final three weeks combined.

Fantasy hockey schedule analysis- March 4-24. ANA has 8 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
ARZ has 4 Off nights and 7 Busy nights.
NYI has 3 Off nights and 8 Busy nights.
PIT has 3 Off nights and 8 Busy nights.
VAN has 7 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
WSH has 7 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
TOR has 6 Off nights and 4 Busy nights.
CGY has 5 Off nights and 5 Busy nights.
NJD has 5 Off nights and 5 Busy nights.
PHI has 5 Off nights and 5 Busy nights.
WPG has 5 Off nights and 5 Busy nights.
CAR has 4 Off nights and 6 Busy nights.
CBJ has 4 Off nights and 6 Busy nights.
COL has 4 Off nights and 6 Busy nights.
EDM has 4 Off nights and 6 Busy nights.
MIN has 4 Off nights and 6 Busy nights.
DAL has 3 Off nights and 7 Busy nights.
FLA has 3 Off nights and 7 Busy nights.
MTL has 3 Off nights and 7 Busy nights.
STL has 3 Off nights and 7 Busy nights.
TBL has 3 Off nights and 7 Busy nights.
BOS has 2 Off nights and 8 Busy nights.
DET has 2 Off nights and 8 Busy nights.
BUF has 4 Off nights and 5 Busy nights.
CHI has 4 Off nights and 5 Busy nights.
SJS has 4 Off nights and 5 Busy nights.
NYR has 3 Off nights and 6 Busy nights.
LAK has 2 Off nights and 7 Busy nights.
OTT has 2 Off nights and 7 Busy nights.
VGK has 5 Off nights and 3 Busy nights.
NSH has 1 Off nights and 7 Busy nights.
NHL schedule analysis for March 4 to 24, 2019

Once again, Anaheim comes up on top in terms of schedule. I’d still urge you to stay away from them because they’re Anaheim. Stay away from Nashville as well!

What do you think?

Fantasy hockey enthusiasts: Is this useful for you? What might make it more useful? Let me know in the comments!

Friends and family: You probably already knew I was a nerd, but not THIS big of a nerd. I’m sorry you had to find out this way. If you want to unfriend me, I understand.


Appendix: My process

I started by grabbing the NHL schedule in Google Sheets format then doing a bunch of formulas and conditional formatting.

Screenshot of a cluttered spreadsheet
Initial number crunching in Google sheets

I then got to sketching on paper, which helped me figure out what was important (total games, off nights, and busy nights) vs. what was just noise (the actual days of the week of games).

Photograph of a sketch on paper
My sketch was where I figured out that these charts needed to be sorted and simplified.

Then I messed around more in Google Sheets, calculating, sorting, slicing and dicing.

Google sheets spreadsheet showing color-coded schedules taking shape.
Here is where I debated between correlating the games to the days of the week and just showing the numbers.

After that, it was just a matter of playing with the chart configuration and styling.

Google sheets screenshot showing two versions of the same chart, as well as the background calculations
Here is where I decided that I didn’t need as many details on my “combined” chart.

As you can see in the above screenshot, I also used Sheets to generate alt text for my graphics. This means that even vision-impaired users will be able to read this blog post!

If I had more time, I’d shine up the charts by exporting them into Sketch and removing some of the non-essential visual elements. But I don’t!

Check out my latest posts

Liked what you saw here? I blog once a month on tech, User Experience, biking, and more! See some of my most-recent work below.

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The Visual Display of Quantitative Information by Edward Tufte- Book Review

“A little light reading, hey?” the doctor from Pennsylvania asked me on a recent flight. “Do you have to read that for a course or something?”

“No,” I said as I showed him a fascinating chart of Napoleon’s army’s advance to and retreat from Russia, “I’m actually just reading it for fun.”

And despite the fact that the cover looks like required reading for a 1960’s advanced course in Macroeconomics, it WAS fun.

The book

Even the cover is fascinating. The graph on it looks like a meaningless jumble of lines, but it actually contains the entire train schedule of France from 1885. It is so rich in information and so elegant. It’s a thing of beauty.

IMG_2152.JPG

The beautiful cover of the book

The book goes on to highlight many amazing graphs, as well as a few counter-examples, and explains what makes them good or bad.

It all boils down to just a few principles. The ones that stuck with me were:

  • Don’t waste “ink” on unnecessary or distracting “chartjunk”,
  • don’t use a chart when a table will do, and
  • don’t lie.

An example of wasted ink included using internal grid lines, which often reduce the readability of the actual data. This should be avoided.

As for using charts vs. tables, the “magic number” that Tufte gave was 20. If there are fewer than 20 pieces of data, it’s often better to print those values directly in a table than for to abstract them into a chart.

The book contained several examples of charts that lie. The biggest offense was shifting axes for some or all of the data in a chart to make the data seem better or worse than it actually is. Tufte also recommended adjusting monetary values for inflation whenever possible.

Applying these ideas

I work as a UX designer for Solium, an equity compensation software company. What does that mean in English? Many companies reward their employees by giving them ownership through things like stock options and savings plans. Solium makes software that helps those companies keep track of these plans.

We recently released a redesigned interface for these employees (participants). These participants have appreciated the new interface, though there are still a few important questions that it doesn’t fully answer for them. One of which is “When am I going to get my money?” because these equity compensation programs usually have what’s called vesting, where rewards are only released after the recipient has worked for the company for a certain amount of time, usually 1-4 years.

I’m now working on a simple, compact, easy-to-learn chart that shows the vesting schedule for a participant. It may never end up being released in our software, but it’s definitely been a fun exercise exploring different concepts based on what Tufte taught me!

IMG_2154

Some of my sketches for vesting schedule visualizations

For details on these charts, see Visualizing vesting schedules.

Definitely worth a read!

Anyway, The Visual Design of Quantitative Information was a great read. I’d definitely recommend it if you work with data or are curious about how these things work… Or if you want to impress that doctor sitting next to you on a flight.