The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
by Ian Gooding on 09/14/11 at 10:00 PM ET
In my previous preview of the top goalies, I had mentioned Tim Thomas, Roberto Luongo, Henrik Lundqvist, Pekka Rinne, and Ryan Miller as my top five options. Upon reflection and much debate, I discovered many other names that could be considered top 5 (or at least top 10). Many goalies are drafted in the early rounds of fantasy drafts, since top-notch starting goalies can be impossible to find on the waiver wire once the season starts. To help you find the right goalie(s), I have provided ten more goaltending options that could legitimately fall into the category of the NHL’s better starting goalies. And I promise that there will be no commercials while you read this.
If I included Price on this list at this time last season, many of you would have called me crazy. In fact, many called the Canadiens crazy for holding onto the once-shaky Price and trading the red-hot Jaroslav Halak. Nothing against Halak, but Price has to be considered the higher-ranked goalie now. Price finished third in the NHL last season with eight shutouts (one ahead of Halak), while tying Luongo for a league-leading 38 wins. The on-ice and off-ice problems that once saddled the part-time rodeo competitor and Williams Lake, BC, minor hockey product (the same minor hockey system that provided yours truly) now seem to be a thing of the past.
No team during this year’s offseason seemed to covet a player more than the Flyers coveted Bryzgalov. In fact, the Flyers were willing to renovate their entire franchise in order to obtain a proven goalie – perhaps their first in years. It’s a win-win, since Bryzgalov’s fantasy value increases with the trade to Philly. He will no longer be responsible for turning an underdog team into an overachieving one, so at the very least his numbers should remain the same from his last two seasons in Phoenix. Sergei Bobrovsky will be in a position to learn from the fellow Russian, but his fantasy value this season will take a sharp hit.
Vokoun’s situation is very similar to Bryzgalov’s: his stock rises now that he has signed with a stronger team. It seemed as though Vokoun faced a thousand shots a game while he played for the Panthers, something he won’t have to worry about as much in Washington. The presence of last season’s young starter Michal Neuvirth could cut into his starts somewhat, so Neuvirth may be worth handcuffing in the later rounds if you choose to go with Vokoun in the early rounds. Still, Vokoun deserves a nice uptick in value based on the projected increase in wins alone.
Some will argue with me, but I believe that Ward deserves a spot here based on his saves total alone. Ward handled more rubber than an employee at a tire plant last season, stopping a league-leading 2191 pucks while playing in a league-leading 74 games. Ward also tied for third with 37 wins to go with a decent .923 SV%. The Hurricanes may not be anyone’s pick to win the Stanley Cup, and they may play in a run-and-gun division that slaughters goals-against averages. However, don’t be surprised if Ward starts 70+ games again this season, providing 30+ wins and close to 2000 saves.
Fleury is one of those goalies who looks shaky for a few weeks and then redeems himself with a hot stretch for another few weeks. So which Fleury will we see this season? His stats eventually seem to even out over a season, so the end product is a goalie that is arguably in the top 10. However, the Penguins will lean on their goalie even further if in fact Sidney Crosby misses time again this season. Fleury has posted at least 35 wins in four of the last five seasons, so another 35 wins this season is not out of the question.
I’m not surprised that Crawford’s situation played out the way it did last season. For two consecutive seasons, the Blackhawks have handed the starting gig to a rookie goalie (Crawford, Antti Niemi) over a proven vet (Marty Turco, Cristobal Huet) at midseason. This time, though, the starting job is Crawford’s to keep. Turco is out of the picture, but Crawford will have either rookie Alexander Salak or journeyman Ray Emery looking over his shoulder. In 57 games, Crawford led all rookie goalies with 33 wins last season. On a Hawks team looking to rebound from a so-so 2010-11 season, Crawford should be in line for more success this season.
Quick is a workhorse goalie whose workload was cut from 72 games in 2009-10 to 61 games last season, thanks to the emergence of Jonathan Bernier. Quick’s numbers last season (35 W, 2.24 GAA, 6 SO) were more than enough to keep his starting job, but the looming presence of top prospect Bernier means that Quick will be on as short a leash as any goalie on this list. For that reason, Quick’s draft-day value will suffer slightly. His owners might want to consider drafting Bernier as a handcuff in the later rounds in case things go sideways.
Niemi has been a starting goalie for a playoff contender for two consecutive seasons – but for different teams. After coming out of nowhere and leading the Hawks to a Stanley Cup, Niemi had to battle fellow Finn Antero Niittymaki for the starting job for the Fins. Niemi might not be on the short list of Vezina Trophy candidates, but his numbers over the past two seasons have been rock solid (62-26-11, 2.36 GAA, 13 SO). The fact that he plays for a strong team alone easily earns him a place in this group.
Howard has racked up back-to-back 37 win seasons playing for a team that will guarantee wins year after year. Unfortunately, his ratios (2.79 GAA, .908 SV%) were about as healthy for your fantasy team as an empty-calorie meal. His ratios could very well improve this season, but there’s no reason to be in a rush to draft Howard. There’s absolutely no way he’ll lose his starting job (unless you believe in the power of Ty Conklin), but you may want to target a second goalie with better ratios minus the win totals if you decide to draft Howard.
If this were a music awards show, Brodeur would be the lifetime achievement award recipient this season. He has been so good for so long, but is he still a top-10 goalie option? After an epic fail first half last season, Brodeur managed to salvage something for his fantasy owners while the Devils made a last-ditch attempt at the playoffs. There is no easy answer as to where to draft Brodeur this season. Those who believe he is still one of the best will point to his strong second half last season. Those who believe that his day has passed will cite the fact that he has only had one elite season in his past three (remember that he played only 31 games due to injury in 2008-09). His name alone will get him drafted early – just don’t be the guy that reaches.
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Tags: antti+niemi, cam+ward, carey+price, corey+crawford, fantasy+hockey, ilya+bryzgalov, jimmy+howard, jonathan+quick, marc-andre+fleury, martin+brodeur, the+goods, tomas+vokoun
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About The Goods on Fantasy Hockey
My name is Ian Gooding, and this is The Goods on Fantasy Hockey. Given my ability to understand numbers, write sentences, and follow hockey, it’s not a surprise to those who know me that I became a fantasy hockey writer. I started writing about fantasy hockey in 2006 for fantasyhockey.com and became the site’s content editor in 2007. Looking to expand my audience, I joined Kukla’s Korner in the summer of 2011 to create the site’s first fantasy hockey blog.
A few times each week, I’ll provide an article called “Pick Six” where I will write about six players that should either be in your fantasy team’s starting lineup or bench for the upcoming game. As well, I’ll provide the fantasy takes on important hockey developments. You can also email me your questions or comments to email@example.com, or follow me on Twitter.