Fantasy Hockey Preview: Goaltenders

Main article on Fantasy Hockey can be viewed here

Here’s a link to another relevant article on NHL goalies

New York Rangers goalie Henrik "GQ" Lundqvist

A quick run through of the primary factors that determine a goalie’s value

Age

Goaltenders in fantasy hockey are a different beast. Unlike forwards, who generally mature by the time they’re 25, goaltenders usually don’t reach their peak till hit their late 20’s. And unlike forwards, who are usually on the downside of their career by the time they’re 31 or 32, goalies are often still going strong at 35. In general, under-25 goalies haven’t achieved as much consistency as a 30-year old veteran tender, while those too far past 35 may start to experience injury problems.

Team Quality

A contentious category, not only because I’m using predictions of where teams will finish, but because a better goalie will enhance the quality of his team. Nevertheless, teams like Washington and Philadelphia have amassed great records in recent years with average or even below average goaltending, while one of the league’s best – Carolina’s Cam Ward – has arguably been held back by a below average team. All that said, team quality will usually be the single biggest factor in how valuable a goalie is in fantasy hockey.

Expected Games Played

This factor is largely dependent on how good that team’s back-up is. I’ve bumped down a few goalies like Luongo, Quick, Vokoun , and Thomas because each is playing in front of a very talented back-up who deserves far more than 20 starts. (Thomas also happens to be 37, so he could use a lighter work load anyway). Lundqvist and Kiprusoff have been leaned on heavily in recent years, and I expect that to continue. Most other goalies will start 60-65 games, assuming adequate health.

Talent & Consistency

Talent is probably the most subjective category of all. I’m relying in large part on stats and hearsay, as I haven’t seen some of these goalies play very often. However, you get an idea when a goalie finishes high in the Vezina voting year after year. Obviously goalies like Brodeu, Kiprusoff, and Vokoun were once very talented, but I’ve nicked them a bit because they’re no longer in their prime.

Consistency is partly an inherent measure of age, as very young and very old goalies are generally less consistent. A few goalies are known for their inconsistency, like Marc-Andre Fleury, who often has a very poor start to the season. (Marty Turco used to do the same thing – brutal 1st half, incredible second half).

Talent and consistency are a bit of a balancing act too. I noted Halak as inconsistent since he’s had a few incredible stretches (’09 playoffs with Montreal; 2010 Olympics; beginning of 2010 with St. Louis), but has been very average at other times. By contract, I ranked Bryzgalov as having good talent and high consistency because he had a few very good seasons with Phoenix, but I think he benefitted from their extremely defensive structure.

Back-up Threat

Already discussed this in Expected Games Played, there are a few teams out there with great back-ups who could challenge their starter for playing time. I wouldn’t expect any of the top goalies to lose their starting job from poor play, but you never know when someone might miss a week or two with an injury, and by the time they return their back-up is rolling. The starter I’d be most worried about is Quick, as there have been whispers going back to last season of Bernier’s tremendous potential.

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