Archive for the ‘goalies’ Category

The CLS Fantasy Hockey Guide Part 2: Goalies

September 7, 2009


Please note: These are based on general categories and aren’t by any means scientific. They’re also subject to change

Fantasy Goalies
Quick note: The value of a goalie will depend largely on how many goalie categories there are. If goalie categories are close to half of your league stats, it’s almost impossible to reach. At the same time, there isn’t much that differentiates good goalies from mediocre goalies once you get past the elites.

Elites

1. Roberto Luongo
Arguably the most talented goalie in the league, Luongo is in his prime. He doesn’t face ANY threat from his backup, so if he stays healthy (which is a slight worry) he could see 65-70 GP.
2. Martin Brodeur
His injury plagued 2009-10 season sincerely worries me. That being said, it’s rare to find a goalie as consistent who can bring you quantity in starts as well as quantity in stats.
3. Henrik Lundqvist
King Hank is a rock in net, but I don’t like the changes the Rangers have made to their team. He’s still one of those guys who’s worth an early pick, for sure.
4. Tim Thomas
It looks like Tim Thomas will finally get his due as an elite goaltender this year. After a dominant Vezina season, Thomas is truly entrenched in Boston.
5. Miikka Kiprusoff
Kipper’s gotten some heat over the years and with good reason: he might bring quantity but the quality hasn’t always been there. However, with his workload (and therefore, win opportunities) and a defense that now includes Jay Bouwmeester, Kipper could be good enough to be the #1 fantasy goalie this season.
6. Evgeni Nabokov
While I think Nabby is an overrated goalie in reality, he still plays for one of the best teams in the league and should see a ton of GP. Don’t forget that he’s in a contract year, either.
7. Niklas Backstrom
With a $6 million cap hit, Backstrom has to be the guy in Minnesota. For years I’ve hesitated to draft a Minnesota goalie because they haven’t had a clear starter. Even though Josh Harding is a damn good goalie, Backstrom should see big GP and should still play behind a good D even with Jacques Lemaire in NJ.

Solid workhorse guys

8. Ryan Miller
The jury seems to be out on Miller, but I think he’s a true franchise goalie. As Miller goes, so does Buffalo. He’s a talented goalie in a bad division. That’s a solid recipe for success.
9. Cam Ward
Ward’s career is on a steady climb. He tends to put up some nice numbers. I’m not crazy about their defense, though.
10. Steve Mason
It won’t be a simple “sophomore slump” if Mason declines because his numbers are fudged a bit by an unrealistically quick start. I would feel pretty good about selecting a guy who’s a clear No. 1 in Ken Hitchock’s excellent defensive system.
11. Marc-Andre Fleury
He’s had major injuries two years in a row. Some of the goals he allows are just maddening. Yet, if he plays a full season he could threaten the 40 win mark. And he has Gary Busey teeth. Not bad.

Risky but interesting

12. Marty Turco
Turco is, admittedly, a pretty big risk considering how awful his 2008-09 season was. That being said, he’s playing behind a Stars team with stunning forward depth and even with an improved backup (Alex Auld) he has every opportunity to have a stellar contract year.
13. Cristobal Huet
I don’t like Huet, personally, but he’s in a great situation in Chicago. The team has great offensive and defensive depth and talent, which could very well improve substantially next season. If Huet sucks next year, he cannot blame anyone but himself.
14. Jonas Hiller
Hiller wowed the hockey world last year by usurping Giguere and leading the Ducks to a shocking opening series win over the San Jose Sharks, but there are some worries too. He’s only done it for one season. He’s losing vaunted goalie coach Francois Allaire. Giguere could get the starting job back. The Ducks sacrificed a two-headed defensive monster by trading Pronger and are now a team that should be far more offensive minded.
Yet, all that being said, it’s hard not to like Jonas Hiller.
15. Ray Emery
Few players will see the wild range in rankings as much as Ray Emery. The crazy bug eater was booted out of goalie-poor Ottawa for reasons we may never fully understand and no NHL team was willing to gamble on him that summer. That being said, Emery has shown flashes of brilliance and will play on a loaded Flyers team which features (in my opinion) the best trio of defensemen in the Eastern Conference. Not bad for a guy who had to play in Russia last season.
16. Chris Osgood
As Osgood loves to remind everyone in his smarmy way, he often hits the Snooze Button during the regular season. Without a decent backup since Ty Conklin left for St. Louis, perhaps Osgood can take advantage of his ridiculously loaded team and with 30-plus by default.
17. Pekka Rinne
While Steve Mason received all the Calder trophy hype, Rinne generated a nearly identical campaign in Nashville. The problem is that Rinne is on a weak team in a division that keeps getting tougher (and let’s not forget the seemingly annual tradition of a Predators backup usurping the starter).
The Granny Panties Division
aka not-so-sexy goalies
18. Tomas Vokoun
Mired in Nashville/Florida obscurity, Vokoun has quietly been a top-1o goalie for years now. Yet aside from sheer saves and save percentage, Vokoun isn’t placed in a great situation to put up good numbers this year. That doesn’t mean he’s an all-around bad choice, though, especially as a second goalie. If only he could play on a decent team for once …
19. Chris Mason
Steady but unspectacular, Mason helped the Blues make the playoffs before they seemed ready last season. You have to worry if he’s a true starter with Ty Conklin in town, but he’s an OK pick as long as you don’t reach for him.

Blah

20. Jon Quick
The Kings play a nice defensive system and Quick seems to have a semi-strong hold on the starting job. Still, meh.
21. Ilya Bryzgalov
Solid goalie in a terrible nightmare of a situation. Stay away from any Phoenix Coyotes not named Shane Doan.
22. Kari Lehtonen
We’re officially getting into the “do you really want this guy?” area of the goalie ranks. While Lehtonen is a genuine talent, he is a legitimate injury concern and plays on a consistently inferior Thrashers team. Meh.
23. Nikolai Khabibulin
It’s pretty clear to me that the Bulin Wall is only built in contract years. Of course, at his age, it’s understandable if the bricks start to fall.
The “Check Back Laters”
unranked for a reason
Mike Smith
Is he healthy?
Simeon Varlamov (and, I guess, Jose Theodore)
Is it wrong to wonder if Varlamov is ready for a full-time goalie job? Is it wrong to wonder if Theodore had a two-year deal with the devil when he won the Hart trophy?
Carey Price/Jaroslav Halak
Price could be a semi-decent pick, but many believe that Halak is the better goalie. Or at least deserves a near-even split. I wouldn’t want to invest in that mess in Montreal, either way.
Vesa Toskala/Jonas “The Monster” Gustavson
This actually could be a slightly underrated pairing. The Leafs loaded up on defense this off-season and also acquired goaltending guru Francois Allaire. Don’t be surprised if the Toronto starter ends up being a solid mid-season pickup.
Dwayne Roloson/Martin Biron
These guys are not much better than 1Bs in the league and they’re playing on a team that is probably satisfied with watching John Tavares (and, later, some lottery balls) this season. Stay away.
Craig Anderson/Peter Budaj
Anderson’s a solid goalie, but the Avalanche suffer from a severe lack of talent. Don’t do it.
Pascal Leclaire/Brian Elliot
Is it even worth having one of these guys as your third goalie? My instinct is to say “no,” unless Ottawa finds a way to translate the awkward Heatley energy into wins.

Clear Backups worth a gander (or FA pickup later on)

Ty Conklin
Will probably go too quickly to be a sleeper pick.
Scott Clemmensen
Not sold on him overall, but he could get some starts.
Josh Harding
One of the best backups in the NHL
Alex Auld
Probably not worth drafting, but keep an eye on him if Turco falters.
Dan Ellis
Another decent backup, though his fantasy value is questionable.
Brent Johnson
Could be worth a pickup in free agency since MAF’s injury is a perennial occurrence.
Brian Boucher
If Emery’s bug eating tendencies cause problems, Boucher could play behind the Pronger-Timonen-Coburn trio.
Manny Fernandez
If a team signs him, Fernandez could still have a little juice left.
Manny Legace
There are worse goalies out there.
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Martin Brodeur should pass the Olympic torch in 2010

August 27, 2009

When Martin Brodeur passed Patrick Roy for the all-time record in goaltending wins, the NHL Network began running a gushing special feature about Brodeur’s illustrious career. One of the special’s primary focuses was Roy’s refusal to share goaltending starts with Brodeur in ’98, a frustrating experience for the then-budding superstar.

Canada fell short of a gold medal that year, but then came back in 2002 to take the top prize with Brodeur in net. Yet, in 2006, Team Canada was unable to even threaten for a medal.

Now, obviously, Brodeur wasn’t the #1 problem for a team that couldn’t score to save its life.

Still, it makes you wonder if Canada – the only country with enough elite goalies that they will inevitably be forced to leave potential Hall of Famers behind – would benefit more from starting a guy who’s never been given the opportunity to win a gold medal.

Besides, Brodeur’s unreal workhorse streak is now in danger of becoming a thing of the past after his bicep injury last season. Does he need to risk one of his final prime years for a second gold medal? No, not in my opinion.

If I were Steve Yzerman, I would go with Roberto Luongo. Imagine the kind of backing Bobby Lou would receive, not only representing Canada but also the hometown Vancouver Canucks? It’s almost a cosmic occurrence. (Of course, it would be an unreal amount of pressure, but this is what he’s always wanted … right?)

Luongo’s gone all these years playing for terrible teams in Long Island and Florida plus a good-but-not-elite club in Vancouver. This could be his chance to cement his legacy as one of the truly great goalies of his generation.

He’s younger, in his prime and hungrier than Brodeur.*

Even if Luongo is unavailable, Syrupland would have oh-so-many great options. They could go with the money goaltending of J.S. Giguere. Get a puck mover like Marty Turco. Maybe go with a young phenom such as Steve Mason, Cam Ward or even Marc Andre Fleury. Just about every other nation would kill for guys who won’t even be reserves for Canada.

Then again, if the Canadians decide to make the same lazy types of decisions that they made in 2002, that would be absolutely fine with me. My country needs all the help it can get.

* – Go ahead, make a token fat joke. Shame on you.

Kari Lehtonen, master of the irrelevant

March 17, 2009

When it comes to largely anonymous Finnish goaltenders, Kari Lehtonen holds a high place in my heart. And like most of my hockey preferences, the reasoning is pretty stupid: he had a small part in my fantasy hockey team winning a championship.

Let me take you waaaay back to the 2003-04 season. Team Pants was an unstoppable juggernaut locomotive of a team, but their idiot GM (me) dropped Rick Dipietro under the assumption Ricky D would be injured for the rest of that season. Which turned out to be something like a 1-2 week injury. Yikes.

Reeling from the possibility of losing because of my own stupidity, I noticed that Lehtonen, the object of much praise from fantasy guru Chris Nichols, had just been called up by the Thrashers. Since I’m a fantasy hockey Lemming, I followed Nichols’ advice and snatched Lehtonen off the waiver wire.

Lehtonen was one of the main reasons my team was able to win a fake, meaningless title that nonetheless felt great, going 4-0 with an obscene 1.25 GAA, an absurd 95.3 save percentage and a shutout.


KL will never be forgotten after that effort, but playing on a shitty Southeast division team means that Lehtonen is like an old friend whose body odor and tasteless humor keep him from remaining in the rotation. He’s always been on the radar, but just never quite worth the risk.

Fast forward to this season and once again, the Atlanta Thrashers are just about eliminated from the playoffs and Lehtonen is once again among the hottest goalies in the NHL. He is on a five game winning streak with two shutouts and allowed only one goal on 49 shots against the Washington Capitals tonight. Looking for an under-the-radar stud? Lehtonen might be your man.

It’s a small sample, but here’s some rather stunning stats for Atlanta’s franchise goalie in the last month and a half of each season versus his normal production:

Career record in March and April: 32-16; Career record in other months: 61-65

March and April (08 – 09): 5-1; Other months: 13-19

March and April (07 – 08): 4-4; Other months: 13-18

March and April (06 – 07): 8-5; Other months: 26-19

March and April (05 – 06): 11-6; Other months: 9-9

March and April (03 – 04): 4-0; Other months: n/a

Again, it is a small sample. But a trend is forming in Hotlanta. Should the Thrashers invest in a high-end hypnotist to convince Kari that every month is March or April?

Mirtle on tandems

February 19, 2009

James Mirtle expanded very nicely on those two “goalies equal running backs” posts from yesterday, something any interested parties should check out:

“By my count, only nine goaltenders will get to 60starts this season, and manyof the better teams in the league have had a lot of success with two netminders sharing the role. Only two of the eight teams on pace for 100 points – San Jose and Calgary – are leaning that heavily on one goalie, and the Bruins lead the NHL in points while employing a tandem of Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez.”

Good stuff, as usual, from Mirtle. We’ll try to keep an eye on that comments section along with posts around the hockey blogosphere on the subject (so e-mail me at jamestobrien@hotmail.com if you run across any other interesting takes).

It’s good to know that we aren’t the only ones who find this trend intriguing.

How goalies are like NFL running backs

February 18, 2009

Common NFL logic is that a typical running back faces a steep decline once he hits the age of 30. The reasoning is twofold: the natural aging process robs them of their speed and the brunt of 250-300 carry seasons wears a RB down.

Lately, though, the latter reason seems to be on the decline because running back platoons are coming in vogue. Perhaps you run one bruiser and one speedster or two similar running backs who never seem tired against beleaguered linebackers and D-linemen.

This reminds me of a recent trend in the NHL. The 2008-09 season might just usher in the two goalie era in hockey. It’s certainly been a rough year for the household name, huge GP goalies. Both Martin Brodeur and Roberto Luongo suffered from possible wear-and-tear related injuries and missed serious time. The Dallas Stars nearly prepared for its first lottery ball in ages during Marty Turco‘s horrifying start to the season and must have missed Mike Smith‘s quality relief appearances. Even guys such as Ryan Miller and Henrik Lundqvist face up-and-down periods (Lundqvist, as you may recall, was pulled from Sunday’s game against the Flyers).
Now, take a look at the successful (or necessary) platoons. Most notably, the Boston Bruins made a stunning jump to the league’s elite on the backs of its contract year 1-A and 1-B. Indeed, while Tim Thomas demands Vezina consideration with All-Star numbers and highlight reel saves, Manny Fernandez quietly produces similar results. While goaltending may count as Detroit’s Achilles heel, Red Wings fans must shudder to think about their chances if Ty Conklin couldn’t clean up Chris Osgood‘s mess.

The most expensive platoon is Chicago’s Bulin Wall/Cristobal Huet combo, but say what you might; the Blackhawks are firmly set in fourth place in the brutal Western Conference. Many considered the Anaheim Ducks to lose their quality rotation when Ilya Bryzgalov was moved, but Jonas Hiller might just be the Ducks’ go-to-goalie as J.S. Giguere suffers through a rough stretch professionally and emotionally. The Florida Panthers benefit from the overachieving duo of Tomas Vokoun and Craig Anderson, although Vokoun is more clearly entrenched as the #1 than a lot of the goalies in this discussion.

So, if this trend were to continue, the Columbus Blue Jackets might be in especially good shape. At this point, Pascal Leclaire’s $3.8 million cap hit looks pretty bad but his year’s been ravaged by injuries. Leclaire could be a nice safety net should Steve Mason suffer a sophomore slump. Most teams would be jealous of the Blue Jackets’ young tandem and its $4.6 million cap hit (and if Leclaire is indeed a lemon they could always put him on waivers).

Editor’s note: Check the next post for a team-by-team look at goaltender tandems.

Team by team look: goalie tandems

February 18, 2009

(continued from the previous post)

For fun, let’s take a team-by-team look to see the two-goalie effect (starting with the East) in the order of playoff seeding.

1. Boston – Thomas (37 GP)/Fernandez(21 GP): probably won’t remain intact but provides the Bruins with great goaltending

2. Washington – Jose Theodore (37 GP)/Brent Johnson (21 GP): faced a brief tug-o-war but it seems as if Theodore’s the starter now.

3. New Jersey – It’s not THAT crazy to wonder if Brodeur’s 75 GP reign of terror might be a thing of the past considering Scott Clemmensen‘s unexpectedly fantastic run in net. (SC – 39 GP; Kevin Weekes 12 GP; MB 10 GP)

4. Philadelphia – Martin Biron (34 GP)/Antero Niittymaki (24 GP): the Flyers go with goaltending controversies like peanut butter goes with chocolate.

5. Montreal – Carey Price (36 GP)/Jaroslav Halak (24 GP): To paraphrase the great Bill Parcells, don’t get the anointing oils out just yet for “Jesus” Price; neither of the Habs goalies can claim a 91 percent save percentage.

6. Florida – Vokoun (42 GP)/Anderson (23 GP): Both Vokoun and Anderson boast near-93 percent save percentages. Is that the Bouwmeester effect?
7. Buffalo – Miller (49 GP)/Patrick Lalime (12 GP): The first true workhorse (although Clemmensen probably counts and Vokoun’s close too) is on the seventh-best team in the East. Pretty close to a trend, right?

8. New York – Lundqvist (48 GP)/Steve Valiquette (13 GP): It’s pretty insane that the Rangers are a low-scoring, goalie and defense dependent team with all the stupid money Sather throws around. He’s insanely lucky to have a top-10 goalie. Can you believe they’ve dropped to eighth place so quickly?!?

9. Carolina – Cam Ward (45 GP)/Michael Leighton (16 GP): Hard to believe it, but the Hurricanes probably miss the days when they had depth provided by Martin Gerber and (gulp) John Grahame. Ward’s been one of the few bright spots for Carolina this year.

10. Pittsburgh- Marc Andre Fleury (40 GP)/Danny Sabourin[traded] (19 GP): Even with considerable time missed, Fleury managed a relative workhorse ratio. You think the Pens wish they still had Conkblock?

11. Ottawa – Alex Auld (30 GP)/ Gerber (14 GP)/Brian Elliot (14 GP): Do the Senators even have one goalie? Elliot might have a chance to be a 1-B going forward.

12. Toronto –Vesa Toskala (48 GP)/Cujo (12 GP): Rough year for Vesa Tacosalad.

13. Tampa Bay – Mike Smith (41 GP)/a pile of junk (21 GP): How ugly would Tampa Bay’s year be without Smith?

14. Atlanta – Kari Lehtonen (31 GP)/Johan Hedberg (24 GP): Lehtonen still might have potential, but only seven more starts than The Moose? Not good.

15. NY Islanders – Joey McDonald (40 GP)/Yann Danis (14 GP): A throwaway year for the Islanders. Hopefully for the sake of the blogbox Rick Dipietro rebounds in the 2009-10 season.

Western Conference

1. San Jose – Evgeni Nabokov (43 GP)/Brian Boucher (13 GP): Although Nabokov sports workhorse numbers, Boucher kept the Sharks on top during an early season Nabby injury.

2. Detroit – Osgood (31 GP)/Conklin (28 GP): Conklin may never get a real chance to start in the NHL.

3. Calgary – Miikka Kiprusoff (53 GP)/Curtis McElhinney (6 GP): By far the most successful team with a workhorse goalie, but is Kipper going to have anything left for the playoffs?

4. Chicago – Bulin Wall (29 GP)/Huet (29 GP): Two contract year goalies on the same team!

5. Vancouver – Luongo (30 GP)/Curtis Sanford (19 GP): Vancouver Canucks motto: if Luongo’s healthy, he plays every game.

6. Dallas – Turco (53 GP)/Tobias Stephan (7 GP): Dallas should consider trading for a #2 for this reason: if Turco goes down, they’d have to start someone like Stephan. Yikes.

7. Edmonton – Dwayne Roloson (40 GP)/Mathieu Garon [traded] (15 GP): At one point, the Oilers had three goalies, which makes Roloson’s games played pretty surprising.

8. Columbus – Mason (37 GP)/Leclaire (12 GP): Mason saved the season for Columbus.

9. Anaheim – Giguere (35 GP)/Hiller (30 GP): Hiller’s numbers are mind bogglingly better than Giggy’s.

10. Minnesota – Niklas Backstrom (47 GP)/Josh Harding (13 GP): The NHL’s worst kept secret is that Backstrom is the UFA the Wild are most interested in signing, not Gaborik.

11. Los Angeles – Jonathan Quick (22 GP)/Erik Ersberg (22 GP)/Jason the Barber [traded] (19 GP): Fantasy hockey owners have been trying to solve the “Who’s the Kings’ starting goaltender?” riddle all season long.

12. Nashville – Dan Ellis (32 GP)/Pekka Rinne (30 GP): Goalie platoons are a Predators tradition, stretching back to the days of Vokoun’s inevitable late season injuries.

13. St. Louis – Chris Mason (31 GP)/Manny Legace (29 GP): It’s hard to believe that Legace was on last year’s All-Star team.

14. Coloradao – Peter Budaj (42 GP)/Raycroft (19 GP): The Avs waste a lot of money on defense, which has to be good in front of two mediocre goalies.

15. Phoenix – Bryzgalov (48 GP)/Mikael Tellqvist (14 GP): Considering his inconsistency, Breezy might be better off in a two-goalie system.

So, overall, the workhorse goalie model seems much more successful and prevalent in the West while the East encourages goalie depth. Still, just about every team should see the wisdom of keeping two quality goalies on their rosters. Sure, that concept isn’t new, but it’s more important than ever.

Muy interesante

October 29, 2008


An absolutely fascinating idea featured in Bucci’s column this week:

Also, I like the idea of how once a team gains the offensive zone, the red line becomes the line in play for the defensive team to clear. In other words, the red line becomes the blue line, expanding the offensive zone to half the rink like a basketball court. That could help lubricate the game by creating a larger offensive zone. I’d like to see how that looks in action. It has popped in my mind a couple of times while watching games recently. It might give the game more time and space. Players are so fast and agile today that the game is sometimes clogged. But make no mistake, I love watching nearly every game, and I watch the game with a positive eye.

Since the lockout, the NHL generally has seen an increase in offense and scoring. One of the biggest proponents of that change is the increased emphasis on calling obstruction (hooking, holding, interference etc.) type penalties.

But even so, the league should always look for ways to improve the game.

The key is to do so organically, though. Making goalie pads smaller than couch cushions is more than reasonable. Looking at a comparison between a modern, Roy-inspired goalie and their almost Napoleonic brethren is like studying the difference between the size of Barry Bonds‘ skull before and after BALCO.

Perhaps Battlin’ Billy Smith was always so pissed off because he realized how much easier goalies would have it in a couple decades. Nah, he was just a crusty sonovabitch, small pads or big.

Countless, brave couches lost their lives to help J.S. Giguere win a Stanley Cup and a Conn Smythe during his career.

ANYWAY, I’ve always wavered on making the net bigger – sure, it would help cure the league of some Giguere-itis but it definitely would be on the verge of tampering. (Plus it would really piss off Roberto Luongo).

For a long time, it seemed like converting to International Ice was the elephant in the room – an obvious solution the league ignores because its teams depends so much on gate earnings.

But the idea proposed in Bucci’s column could be the best possible compromise to inject a European flair into a game that can always use more highlight reel and Youtube-worthy moments. Or, if nothing else, an even greater amount of flow and high-level hockey artistry.

Goals per game is the easiest way to measure offense, but for me and I would guess most hockey fans, the most important element of a good hockey game is quality scoring chances. Give me a nail-biting, edge-of-your-seat 2-1 game over a sloppy, penalty ravaged 6-5 game any day of the week. For my money, the idea of “half court hockey” could really allow for the truly skilled players and Poor Man’s Orrs to push the Derian Hatcher dinosaurs out the door that much faster.

And who would be against that, aside from Mrs. Hatcher?