2008-09 NHL Draft Kit: Goalie Rankings
Judging goaltending is a tricky task because so much of what makes a great fantasy goalie depends on a league’s specific statistics. For example, if you’re going solely by wins, you’ll be looking at sure things with starts and a strong team in front of the netminder. However, if you get individual points for each save, a goalie who gets bombarded is a smart pick rather than pure number of wins.
That being said, the following list isn’t a reflection on who is the best goalie in the NHL. Truth be told, you could argue for any number of goalies, but their performance is dependent upon the roster in front of them — in some cases (hello, Rick DiPietro), you’re stuck with a not-too-impressive squad that drags down a goalie’s numbers. This list takes wins and saves into equal consideration for a (hopefully) best-of-both-worlds guideline, all looking at the context of past performance, age, and number of starts they’re likely to get. The one thing that you can always, always, always prioritize is number of starts. Goalies doing a rotation system won’t garner as much fantasy value in any league as an Evgeni Nabokov or Martin Brodeur.
1. Evgeni Nabokov, SJ: Will new Shark coach Todd McLellan ride Nabokov as hard as Ron Wilson did? He should — and probably will. Nabokov is simply one of those goalies that gets better the more he plays, so starting 75+ games again is reasonable. His blueline improved and the team’s young offense hopefully has matured into an even stronger unit. On paper, Nabokov has all of the right things going for him.
2. Martin Brodeur, NJ: It’s hard to peg Brodeur as No. 2 in anything — especially when he’s coming off a Vezina-winning campaign and has numbers arguably equal to or better than Nabokov — but if you compare New Jersey’s and San Jose’s rosters, it’s just sensible to say that San Jose is better. Because of that, Brodeur slips to the second slot on this list.
3. Marty Turco, DAL: With goalie-in-waiting Mike Smith jettisoned to Tampa Bay, Turco and the defensively stingy Dallas Stars should continue to roll. Turco played about two-thirds of the games last season, but that number should increase with Smith gone; Dallas’s strong defense protects Turco from getting worn out from a constant barrage of shots.
4. Henrik Lundqvist, NYR: King Henrik has been in Vezina consideration ever since he broke into the league a few years back. This year’s Ranger team will look significantly different from previous seasons, and there’s no telling whether Coach Tom Renney will be guiding a better or worse offense with Markus Naslund and Nikolai Zherdev in play. The acquisition of Wade Redden doesn’t necessarily help the defensive side of things, but Lundqvist has carried the team when necessary in the past.
5. Roberto Luongo, VAN: Luongo, the iron man of goalies, would be the clear-cut No. 1 here if his team didn’t lack so much offense. Even if Mats Sundin goes to Vancouver, Luongo will still be involved in a lot of 2-1 games. Luongo plays just about every game and stops a ton of shots; the only question mark is how much he’ll help you in the wins column.
6. Marc-Andre Fleury, PIT: Is it too early to anoint the new kid as an elite goalie? Fleury’s post-injury numbers last season certainly looked nice, and he’s got the chops to keep them up. He’s also got a great team in front of him that has bought into Coach Michel Therrien’s defensive scheme. Fleury comes with two question marks: how many games will he play if he’s totally healthy and will the high-ankle sprain from last season affect him at all? Since Ty Conklin’s off to Detroit, the Pens will most likely look to Fleury for 70+ starts.
7. Miikka Kiprusoff, CAL: Consider last year’s Kiprusoff numbers an aberration — Kipper shouldn’t have a GAA over 2.60 (or 2.50, for that matter) this upcoming year. The Flames shifted a few pieces around up front, and there’s no telling if the likes of Todd Bertuzzi and Mike Cammalleri will effectively give Jarome Iginla up-front help. Kiprusoff could be in the same boat as Luongo — that is, lots of saves in a lot of close decisions.
8. Jean-Sebastian Giguere, ANA: With fewer distractions than last season, the Ducks should get off to a smoother start and that means less of a burden on Giguere. It’s hard to argue against his stats or Anaheim’s roster despite the question mark of how much secondary scoring the team will have. The bottom line is that Giguere should put up similar numbers to last year, if not better.
9. Martin Biron, PHA: What a rebound season for the Flyers, and Biron’s first season as a true starter didn’t disappoint. What’s changed? Not too much, though the potential for another prolonged slump is there simply because the Flyers are still in a bit of a transition.
10. Ryan Miller, BUF: Hey, you can’t argue with a guy who’s got his own energy drink commercial, right? Well, it’s not all rosy in Buffalo and a lot of it has to do with the questions up front. Put it this way: Miller’s individual stats should hold steady, but his wins will be dependent more on players like Derek Roy and Drew Stafford rather than his own talent.
11. Niklas Backstrom, MIN: What can you say about Backstrom? He’s the ultimate safe bet for second-tier goalies — his stats are great, but not Vezina-worthy, his team plays a suffocating defensive style, and his offensive support is passable but not overwhelming. Minnesota’s style of play produces consistent (some say robotic) effort from top to bottom, so you’re fairly safe in selecting Backstrom after the bigger names have gone.
12. Chris Osgood, DET: Even though Osgood still looks like a teenager, he’s in his mid-30s — and there’s a reason why Detroit GM Ken Holland picked up Conklin as a safety net. Still, you can’t argue with Osgood’s numbers or the strength of the Detroit roster. There’s a chance that Coach Mike Babcock can ride Osgood for 65+ games, but the more sensible choice is to ease off his workload a little bit and have him share the pipes with Conklin.
13. Carey Price, MON: Considering how good Montreal looks on paper, why is Price ranked so low? It’s more of a cautious outlook. Considering his youth and relative inexperience, it’s not that far-fetched to think that the rigours of a full NHL season might take its physical toll on him. Sure, there’s a chance that Price could play 70 games, but it sounds more reasonable that the Montreal brass will pace out his season to see how he reacts. If you’re willing to take a chance on a young guy (or if you’re in a keeper league), move Price up by ten spots. Otherwise, consider this the Jim Carey caution statement.
14. Tomas Vokoun, FLA: Who’s gonna score in Panther-land? That’s a good question, but Vokoun put up great numbers even though his teammates didn’t. Florida strengthened its defense, which will mean that Vokoun won’t be facing 500+ shots per night again — a good thing in keeping his overall health and sanity, but a bad thing if you got points for each save that he made. Will he win a lot of games? Vokoun is in a similar situation as Kiprusoff or Luongo, just not as good.
15. Cam Ward, CAR: This guy won the Conn Smyth trophy? Really? Ward hasn’t necessarily been a bad goalie since that Cup-winning season, he’s just been terribly inconsistent. Carolina’s record hasn’t accurately reflected the team’s potential (injuries shouldn’t be an excuse, but they definitely factored in last season), but if Ward had just one or two games where he hadn’t let in a soft goal, the Canes would have won the division. A healthy Carolina forward and defense corps will help, but Ward’s got to find his groove if he wants to be recognized as an elite goalie rather than a flash in the pan.
Others to Consider
Jose Theodore, WAS
Ilya Bryzgalov, PHO
Cristobal Huet, CHI (assuming Nikolai Khabibulan is dealt soon)
Manny Fernandez, BOS