Ranking the fantasy goalies…for next season

March 25, 2010

Buffalo Sabres G Ryan Miller is easily the best fantasy goalie heading into next year's fantasy drafts. He is well worthy of a top ten pick.

With fewer than 10 games left in the NHL regular season — aka the fantasy hockey season — it’s still a little early to plan for the 2010-11 campaign.

A lot can change in the offseason.

But for those of us in keeper formats, it’s never too early to start Draft 1 of the goalie cheat sheet:

1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo Sabres (37 wins, 2.20, .929, 5 shutouts). This season, Miller was the class of his position. His track record is also something to bank on. In each of his four seasons as a full-time starter, he has won at least 34 games. His save percentage and GAA have improved in each of the last three seasons. And he does not turn 30 until this summer.

For the record, the only non-goalies I would draft ahead of Miller are (in this order): Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos and Mike Green. And maybe — maybe — Zach Parise.

2. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey Devils (40 wins, 2.34, .914, 7 shutouts). It’s a boring choice, I recognize, but sometimes Sam Adams Lager is the best beer at the bar. To be fair, some signs point to a statistical slippage. He turns 38 in May; his win totals, GAA and save percentage were better in 2006-07 and 2007-08. But when you compare his numbers to those of the other goalies in contention for No. 2, he remains the wisest choice for your second-round investment.

He is, in other words, the Mariano Rivera of NHL goalies: Slipping, but still one of the top three options — and the single safest option — any way you slice it.

Yes, Brodeur was outperformed this season by Ilya Bryzgalov and Miikka Kiprusoff, and to a lesser extent Tomas Vokoun. But if I’m taking bets for 2010-11, I’ll still take Brodeur. Bryzgalov might be a one-season wonder, while Kiprusoff and Vokoun have tortured fantasy owners for years with their in-season inconsistency.

3. Evgeni Nabokov, San Jose Sharks (38 wins, 2.43, .921, 2 shutouts). Nabokov, who turns 35  in July, is like a younger version of Brodeur. His GAA and save percentage both improved this season, and his win total still has a chance to eclipse last year’s (41). So why have I ranked him below Brodeur? Mainly because Nabokov’s shutouts slipped to a paltry two. That is a handicap, especially in week-to-week leagues.

I also cannot shake the specter of Nabokov’s two career lapses: the 2002-03 and 2005-06 campaigns. Yes, it’s arguable — given how terrific he has been in the last three seasons — that Nabokov’s “down” seasons are over. But Brodeur does not have down seasons. And he always posts his share of shutouts.

Next time: Goalies No. 4 – No. 6.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons

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Bruins sans Savard, Penguins sans Gonchar, anybody seen Hartnell?

October 24, 2009
Bruins C Dennis Wideman is back, and teammate Derek Morris has reaped the fantasy benefits.

Bruins D Dennis Wideman is back, and teammate Derek Morris has reaped the fantasy benefits.

Quick: Which Bruin has scored the most in C Marc Savard’s (foot) absence? LW Steve Begin, who tallied the game-winner Wednesday in Boston’s 3-2 win vs. Nashville and scored the game-tying goal in Thursday’s 4-3 shootout loss at Philadelphia. Perhaps this isn’t too surprising. Begin seldom skated with Savard anyway; he doesn’t have to adjust to the loss of a gifted pivot.

The other Bruin scoring in Savard’s absence is D Derek Morris, who notched an assist Wednesday and one goal and one helper Thursday. But the Morris streak probably has more to do with the return of D Dennis Wideman (shoulder). Though Wideman did not score in these last two games, he was +1 in each contest and he consumed around 20:00 minutes of ice time. Don’t be surprised if Wideman finally cracks the scoring log when the Bruins visit Ottawa tonight at 7 pm EST.

Last night was the Penguins first game without D Sergei Gonchar (wrist), who like Savard is out four-to-six weeks. The box score didn’t look too different (two goals for Crosby, two assists for Malkin, one helper for Goligoski), except Goligoski played a whopping 26:22 — well above his 21:39 average. Interestingly, it was Crosby who also got a bump in minutes, logging 25:50 (he averages 21:08). We shall see if these playing-time patterns continue tonight with the Penguins hosting the Devils at 7:30 pm EST. Though the Penguins prevailed 3-2 last night against the Panthers, they did fall behind 2-0 in the first and did not score until Crosby’s power play goal in the third.

Some links and quickies before we go:

  • Has anyone seen Flyers LW Scott Hartnell? In his last three games he has not scored, he has no penalty minutes, only four shots on goal, and a -2. The former first-round pick, lest we forget, was a stallion last season, scoring 30 goals and amassing 210 shots on goal and 143 PIMs. In other words: This is a guy you want to trade for.
  • Very quietly, Yahoo! granted Blackhawks C/RW Patrick Sharp the RW eligibility he so richly deserves. What’s funny is that in ESPN formats, Sharp is only eligible at LW.
  • Speaking of Yahoo!, there are some great nuggets in Scott Pianowski’s Red-Light District column from yesterday. My favorite tidbit: His advice to take a shot with Devils RW Nicklas Bergfors (former first-round pick, 20 shots on goal in his last five games including an eight-shot effort Oct. 17).
  • Another Saturday, another great day to consume Sean Allen’s Forecaster. The following teams are playing only twice next week: Kings, Flyers, Flames, Thrashers, and Lightning.
  • The tough questions: Given they are only playing twice, do you bench your mighty Flyers (Carter, Richards, Pronger, Carle), your white-hot Lightning (Malone, Stamkos, St. Louis), your five Kings (Brown, Doughty, Smyth, Kopitar, Williams), your lone Thrasher (Kovalchuk), your solitary Flame (Iginla)?
  • My tough answers: In head-to-head leagues where you are forced to set your lineup Monday, bench all of the above except Kovalchuk, Kopitar, Smyth, Stamkos, Carter, and…amazingly…Malone. The only forwards worth playing in two-game weeks are the ones with hat-trick potential. Otherwise, you are better off rolling with someone like Islanders LW Matt Moulson, who plays four times next week. Moulson is nowhere near (say) Iginla as a player, but he is likely to outproduce him next week since he’s playing four times and Iginla is playing twice.

photo courtesy Wikimedia Commons