While Pro Hockey Talk doesn’t specialize in fantasy hockey (our Rotoworld cousins do, though), we still think that there are areas where we can help you, the budding imaginary general managers. For that reason, we’re going to discuss different philosophies, strategies and cheat sheets as fantasy drafts begin to increase around North America.
Today’s entry: Goalie tandems vs. workhorse goalies
Drafting a goalie is trickier than most people think. One of the biggest reasons why it’s a tough choice is because the position is often very fluid. Not every netminder can approach Martin Brodeur’s mind blowing consistency; just look at Steve Mason’s about-face in the 2009-10 season for an example of the volatility in net.
Ultimately, it’s all about bang for the buck. If you’re going to draft a goalie early, make sure that person will be likely to keep the starting job and be worth the pick. Much like running backs in the NFL, 1a/1b situations often benefit their teams but hurt fantasy owners. To clear up these problems, I thought I’d give my best guess on which duos are near-equal and which goalies should rack up the games played.
Keep in mind this is subjective and subject to change.
Anaheim: Jonas Hiller is the clear starter.
For years, the Ducks had steady competition whether it was Jonas Hiller, J.S. Giguere or Ilya Bryzgalov playing the role of backup. The good news is that Hiller is the clear starter … the bad news is that their defense is awful.
Atlanta: Chris Mason is likely the starter.
Mason should take on the No. 1 job, but Ondrej Pavelec could make things interesting.
Boston: Tuukka Rask is likely the starter.
Still, Rask is a risky pick. When you have a $5 million backup in Tim Thomas, chances are you might want to give him every chance to reveal is value.
Buffalo: Ryan Miller is the clear starter.
I’m not so sure that Miller will be the best goalie in the NHL again, but if he’s healthy, he should get a ton of starts.
Calgary: Miikka Kiprusoff is the clear starter.
He might not always put up the best numbers, but he should push 70 GP like usual.
Carolina: Cam Ward is the clear starter.
After an injury-racked 09-10 season, Ward could slip under the radar a bit.
Chicago: Marty Turco is the clear starter.
I haven’t heard many good things about Corey Crawford, so Turco is an interesting fantasy choice next season.
Colorado: Craig Anderson is the clear starter.
I would be very surprised if he approached the elite level of his last season, but he’s obviously the No. 1 and is also in a contract year.
Columbus: Steve Mason is the clear starter.
Unless he turns into Sieve Mason again …
Dallas: Kari Lehtonen is the clear starter.
Considering the fact that Lehtonen is so injury prone, Stars fans see the likely proposition of Andrew Raycroft being their starter for a stretch of the season. Yikes.
Detroit: Jimmy Howard is the likely starter.
Both Howard and Chris Osgood are in contract years. Osgood has plenty of championship rings and Howard might decline after a surprising rookie year.
Edmonton: Nikolai Khabibulin is the likely starter, but just stay away.
You have to be in a pretty deep league to even look at the Oilers goalies.
Florida: Tomas Vokoun is the clear starter.
He’s a good choice in leagues that reward quantity of starts (saves) along with the typical categories because he probably won’t earn many wins on a weak Panthers squad.
Los Angeles: Jonathan Quick is the likely starter.
Jonathan Bernier could really push Quick, who logged a bunch of minutes in 09-10. You might be wise to pick up both to hedge your bets.
The rest of the NHL teams’ goalie scenarios can be found after the jump.
Minnesota: Niklas Backstrom is the clear starter.
Josh Harding is widely considered a top backup, but Backstrom is a workhorse.
Montreal: Carey Price is the clear starter
Alex Auld is solid, but this is Price’s team now. Could be a nice, late-round gamble.
Nashville: Pekka Rinne is the clear starter.
I think Rinne is a sneaky steal. The Predators play rock solid D, he won’t have to worry about being usurped by Dan Ellis anymore and he seems like a legitimate talent in net.
New Jersey: Martin Brodeur is the clear starter.
The most consistent goalie in fantasy hockey should be considered useful until proven otherwise.
NY Islanders: Dwayne Roloson is the probable starter.
See: the Edmonton Oilers entry. In other words, just stay away.
NY Rangers: Henrik Lundqvist is the clear starter.
Martin Biron might take a solid amount of Lundqvist’s starts, though. He’s the first capable backup the Swedish star has had in New York.
Ottawa: It’s a bit of a tossup.
You’re probably better off staying away from that not-so-dynamic duo.
Philadelphia: Michael Leighton is the probable starter.
The Flyers could provide some nice goal support and defense in front of whomever their goalie might be. The question is whether or not Leighton will keep the job.
Phoenix: Ilya Bryzgalov is the clear starter.
Like Craig Anderson, it’s hard to imagine Breezy’s encore season matching last year, but the Greed is Good principle of a contract year could be enough incentive to keep him going.
Pittsburgh: Marc-Andre Fleury is the clear starter.
I’ve often been hard on M.A.F. but he could be a worthy pick with the improved defense in front of him.
San Jose: Antti Niemi is the likely starter.
The Sharks defense is a little shaky and they no longer have Evgeni Nabokov as an obvious rock in net. It should be a solid 1a/1b situation between Niemi and Antero Niittymaki.
St. Louis: Jaroslav Halak is the clear starter.
Halak will have every chance to prove himself as a legitimate starter while Ty Conklin is a very solid backup.
Tampa Bay: Dan Ellis is the probable starter.
Ellis has never been a No. 1 and Mike Smith should provide some solid competition. Use caution with this situation.
Toronto: It’s a bit of a toss-up.
The Maple Leafs might improve this year, but I’m not crazy about J.S. Giguere or Jonas Gustavsson.
Vancouver: Roberto Luongo is the clear starter.
He should get a ton of starts on a team that has a great chance to be a contender next season.
Washington: Semyon Varlamov is the probable starter.
The Capitals’ goalie situation is a little murky, but Varlamov could be a nice pick if you don’t snatch him too early.
So that’s my take on the NHL’s goalie situations. Feel free to voice any disagreements with these choices in the comments.