State of the Crease
by, 07-26-2012 at 15:28 (1994 Views)
Most hockey fans realize that a quality goaltender is an important piece to any success both for actual NHL teams and in fantasy hockey. Stability in net is a key to nearly every team that reaches the elite level of play.
A few friendly conversations with FHC's own Kevin Gesterling had me thinking about how we as fans and as fantasy GMs assess netminders. We all have the same statistics from the same players to judge but come to different conclusions.
Here are mine about specific goaltenders:
1) Craig Anderson is simply a streaky goaltender.
I am not saying Anderson is a bad goalie but he is not a stable goalie. He still approaches the game mentally as the backup he started as, since he cannot sustain his good stretches for more than 15 to 20 games.
During the times that Anderson happens to be on fire, he is nearly unbeatable. There are also the times when he cannot stop a puck the size of a watermelon. The statistics do reflect this when even during the seasons he won over 30 wins; he has posted goals-against-averages of 2.63 GAA (2009-10) and 2.84 GAA (2011-12). Many say that save percentages is a better indicator especially on weaker teams. Anderson had save percentages of .917 (2009-10) and .914 (2011-12).
If he is hot and if depending on where he is at in the life of his hot streak, when playoffs come around he could be than he is fabulous option.
What it means?
Do not value Anderson as a reliable starting option even though he is the current "starter" in Ottawa. He has two talented budding goalies, Robin Lehner and Ben Bishop pushing him. The fact that the Ottawa Senators went out of their way to get Ben Bishop at the 2012 NHL Trade Deadline shows that they are looking for close to NHL-ready goalies. If Anderson really is going to be starter for another three years (as his current contract suggests), than why did they acquire a second goalie that could be ready this upcoming season or certainly in two seasons? Even in a one-year league, he could destroy a weekly matchup in a head-to-head matchup during his deep cold streaks, when he better not be your only legitimate goaltending option.
2) Niklas Backstrom is on the decline. Potential problems in Minnesota's net.
I do have some questions about the Minnesota Wild and if they start with veteran goaltender Backstrom. He came over to the NHL and in his first season in 2006-07 and in 2007-08 he was a key part of their deep playoff runs. However since that time, the Wild have not been back to the playoffs. I am not going to blame him for the Wild's issues which at the time had been on offensive star power and depth. In his last three seasons, he has been pretty much a .500-winning-percentage goalie and last season he only had 19 wins with 18 losses. He has not won 30 games in a single season since his stellar 2008-09.
Ryan Suter helps the defense in front of Backstrom but is he all that much better than Brent Burns was with the Wild? I cannot truly say yet but I do not see it as that much of an upgrade. Of the last three tough seasons for the 34-year-old Finnish goaltender, Burns was there for two of the three.
As for the Wild's other options, Josh Harding has won 15 NHL games in one season and gets injured too often to really capitalize on his talent. Matt Hackett might be the solution but he might not be ready yet.
What it Means?
Do not expect Backstrom to be a reliable starter any more. He might still get wins with a now much improved offense but I worry about his peripherals. The most likely option is a 1A-1B situation in Minnesota like it was last season. Do not believe me? It was not said last year but the 34 starts for Harding and 46 starts for Backstrom say a lot about the state of the net in the State of Hockey.
The best scenario that is somewhat realistic in terms of expectations should be production like a Brain Elliott and Jaroslav Halak tandem.
3) Anders Lindback in Tampa Bay might be overrated.
After Lindback went to the Tampa Bay Lightning, many assume that he will be their starter. I believe he will get his first chance at being the starting goalie but his numbers do not make me a complete believer that he will retain the title.
There is no doubt that Lindback has skill and size on his side. However he does not have all that much experience. Truly the hype is based on one hot streak when Pekka Rinne was hurt. He only started two games last season and they were pretty dismal outings as a whole. Lindback has never had an NHL GAA at 2.40 or below in a single season.
He is still unproven and Dustin Tokarski had a great year in the Lightning's AHL affiliate. Jaroslav Janus has some real NHL upside. Both Tokarski and Janus will likely be pushing Lindback. His job could be in trouble if he struggles early on since GM Steve Yzerman knows that if they can solve the goaltending riddle that the Lightning can be a formidable team.
What it Means?
Lindback should not be a first string option for your fantasy team considering he is unproven. He should ideally not even be your second option in leagues that start two goalies per matchup. He would be a solid third/back-up option depending on your format. He has a lot more risk than many realize.