Top 20 Eastern Conference Fantasy Goalies - Part 1
In an effort to provide some balance here at dobberhockey, I will follow the lead of my Western counterpart (as well as the Cage Match Tourney) and present my version of the top 20 fantasy goaltenders - Eastern style.
We're not looking at keeper value here, only what kind of return we can expect for the coming season (making a big assumption here). Without further ado, here is the bottom half of the top 20 Eastern Conference fantasy goaltenders (not named Roberto Luongo) as ranked by the Eastern Edge:
20) Scott Clemmensen - Florida Panthers
History says he ought to play in approximately 25 games this year. Although he is in a precarious situation with Theodore as the top dog (or is that cat?) and elite prospect Jacob Markstrom just itching to be an NHL regular. Clemmensen has posted relatively consistent numbers over the last two seasons and can be counted on for 10-12 Wins and a 2.60 goals-against-average.
19) Ben Scrivens - Toronto Maple Leafs
In terms of age, as NHL goaltenders go, 26-year-old Scrivens is just entering what should be his prime years. He earned four victories, a 3.13 goals-against-average and 0.903 save percentage in 12 games for the Maple Leafs last season. His numbers in the AHL were simply spectacular; 22 Wins in 39 games, a 2.04 goals-against-average (lowest in the league) to go along with a 0.926 save percentage. In his previous AHL season, he logged a 2.33 goals-against-average and 0.924 save percentage, so it's not like he was just lucky last year. Scrivens has excelled at every other level he's played at. Will all the drama surrounding goaltending coach Francois Allaire be a distraction in Scrivens development?
18) Mathieu Garon - Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa brought in Garon last year to back-up pre-pensioner Dwayne Roloson and ended up playing in 48 games. This time around, the team has acquired a young buck to be the number one 'tender. Only time will tell whether Garon can supplant the starter a second time in two years. Don't bet the house on Lightning striking twice.
17) Tomas Vokoun - Pittsburgh Penguins
It was only last year that Vokoun signed a one-year sweetheart deal with Washington. He was coming off a decent run as Florida's number one goaltender and was expected to solidify the Capitals crease concerns. That never really materialized and now he's settled for a back-up gig behind the notoriously streaky Marc-Andre Fleury. Vokoun will more than adequately fill in those bad stretches with decent starts on what should be a very good Pittsburgh hockey club.
16) Evgeni Nabokov - New York Islanders
It's hard to fathom that in 2009-10, Nabokov was coming off a three year run of 40-plus Wins with San Jose. Alas, the 2012-13 Islanders are not the same team as those Sharks were. With Al Montoya off to Winnipeg, Nabokov should start more games on an improving club. That said, his ceiling somewhere around 25 Wins, less if Rick DiPietro can stay healthy (please stop laughing). Good news Isles fans, there are only nine more years remaining on DiPietro's 15-year contract. Beauty.
15) Jose Theodore - Florida Panthers
The Panthers may not fare as well this season and the 15-year veteran has little room for poor play with quality back-up Clemmensen and an eager Markstrom ready to pounce. I could easily see the Panthers taking a step back in the standings due to improved divisional rivals Carolina and Washington. Last year's 2.46 goals-against-average was Theodore's best in the last four seasons (2.71, 2.81, 2.87). Don't expect a repeat of last season's numbers, however, he could still hit for 20 Wins if nothing goes awry. We'll likely see his goals-against average rise to somewhere in the neighbourhood of 2.60.
14) Michal Neuvirth - Washington Capitals
This guy can't seem to buy a break. He reels off an unexpected 27 Wins in only 48 games in 2010-11 and the team brings in veteran Tomas Vokoun to handle the netminding chores. Then Braden Holtby gets a chance and posts spectacular playoff numbers last year. Two things that could work in Neuvirth's favour; a new coach in Adam Oates, who has no loyalty to either goaltender and the fact that Neuvirth has 108 NHL regular season matches under his belt versus Holtby's 21 games. This one could go back and forth all season.
13) James Reimer - Toronto Maple Leafs
Last year was supposed to be Reimer's coming out party, but he suffered a concussion after only five games and never really recovered his form. His numbers were borderline awful; a 3.10 goals-against-average and 0.900 save percentage. If we compare those statistics with the previous seasons 2.60 goals-against-average and 0.921 save percentage, you can see why Leaf management was all set to give him a chance to carry the load. At the end of that season, Reimer was even invited to play with Team Canada at the World Championship where he played in four games, posting three Wins, a 2.04 goals-against-average and 0.920 save percentage. He'll likely get first shot at being "the man", but if Scrivens outplays him in camp, then the roles could be reversed.
12) (Ned) Braden Holtby - Washington Capitals
Holtby showed what he was capable of in last year's playoffs, posting an awesome 1.95 goals-against-average and 0.935 save percentage in 14 games. His regular season numbers were nothing to write home about, but they were better than his main competitor for the starting gig for the coming season, Michal Neuvirth. That playoff run has likely earned Holtby first crack at being the main guy, but if he has trouble sustaining the momentum gained from the playoff run, Neuvirth will get a look.
11) Anders Lindback - Tampa Bay Lightning
Lindback is an imposing figure in the crease and has 38 NHL games to his credit over two seasons, but it's also fair to say that the 24-year-old may experience some growing pains in his first season as the de facto starter in Tampa. Suffice to say the team needs to significantly cut their goals-against-average; they finished last season giving up an NHL worst 3.43 goals per game. To help on the defensive side of the ice, the Lightning brought in Matt Carle and Sami Salo, the Finnish version of Elijah Price (from the movie Unbreakable). Even though Garon may poach some starts, my gut tells me Lindback may end up with 30-plus Wins this year, as long as the team succeeds in shoring up their defensive shortcomings.
Stay tuned for the top 10 Eastern Conference Fantasy Goalies next week.
I'll close with an interesting little tidbit I discovered. In his final NHL season, then 41-year-old Adam Oates and Jason Chimera (24) were teammates on the Edmonton Oilers.