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A Different Take on Goalies

August 21, 2006 | By Mike Chen | comment on this post

Yahoo has been releasing updates to its Big Draft Board (top 50 players) for this upcoming season. One thing that jumps out at me is that Miikka Kiprusoff is No. 2 on the board. Yahoo’s reasoning is that the Kipper was already near the top in all statistical categories for goalies and he may have a little bit more support now that Alex Tanguay is on the squad (for the record, I don’t think adding a player like Tanguay, who’s always been more of a support point-per-game player rather than an initiator, will dramatically change the makeup of the Flames). That’s all well and good, but really, how important is having the best goalie on your fantasy team?

You’ll find anywhere from one to three goalies on fantasy teams, sometimes more depending on the size of the league. To me, the most important thing about getting puck stoppers is that they have the starting role on their team. The big issue with goaltenders is that with greater parity in the league, it’s a lot harder to count on their stats, especially if your team includes wins.

For example, at the start of last season, did anyone think Marty Gerber would be a great fantasy pick? What about Henrik Lundquist or Alex Auld? Now Gerber’s the starter in Ottawa and Cam Ward is coming off a Conn Smyth trophy — will Gerber repeat his great season? Will Ward have a J-S Giguere-like letdown? It’s all possible.

Even Marty Brodeur started off the season badly. With goalies, you’re banking on team success in addition to individual performance. If Jarome Iginla goes down or hits a massive cold streak, suddenly Kiprusoff’s numbers suffer. Would you waste your first pick on a player who’s not in complete control of his destiny?

Me, I’d go for either (a) a forward who can generate offense no matter what he is surrounded by, such as Alex Ovechkin; or (b) a defenseman who racks up massive power play points. If push came to shove, I’d actually probably pick the defenseman first because the number of quality point-producing blueliners is less than the amount of forwards. Then, to address my goalie situation, I’d look for mid-level goaltenders who play on steady teams in my third or fourth round of drafting (depending on how big your league is — my main fantasy league fluctuates between seven and nine teams).

One wrinkle in this goalie mess is the Detroit Red Wings’ situation. Let’s face it, it will take a miracle or massive amounts of duct tape to keep Dominik Hasek’s groin okay all season. You can figure both Hasek and Chris Osgood will get their share of games until Hasek’s eventual injury, then all bets are off. I’m betting that both goalies, Osgood especially, will be overlooked in the initial goalie frenzy. That’s something to consider when addressing your goalie situation.

Similarly, no one knows where Marty Biron will end up and no one knows who will necessarily start in Anaheim or San Jose yet. So drafting goalies from those teams are, to quote a professional wrestling announcer, high-risk maneuvers.

If I take, say, Marc Denis (Tampa) and Gerber (Ottawa) instead of trying to land Kiprusoff, Brodeur, or Lundquist right out of the gate, that could allow me to use my first/second round picks on other positions that don’t come with the inherent risks of goalies.

After all, you never know which team will rocket out of nowhere like Carolina did last season or completely implode like L.A. did — that sort of fluctuation with a team will take the goalie’s stats along for the ride.

For hockey analysis, rants, and random music references, visit Mike Chen’s Hockey Blog.

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