Tim Thomas



Ed. Note: This is the fourth and final instalment in a series in which we’ve looked at different aspects of the NHL game and how to value them appropriately in your fantasy league scoring, with the objective of creating scoring systems that reflect real life value as closely as possible. Click here for previous entries: The Power Game; A Case for the Defence; Special Agents.


As a certain segment of Vancouver Canucks fans would be more than happy to point out, goaltending is the most important position in hockey. A lights-out stopper can make a bad team competitive, a good team great and a great team unbeatable. A leaky tender, well... at the risk of dredging up painful memories for some of you, let’s just say it’s tough to win when your goalie’s had the air let out of his tires.


In the world of fantasy hockey, placing just the right value on the masked men requires as much finesse as it takes to slip one past Tim Thomas. Choose your categories unwisely, and you risk throwing off the balance of your league. ­I recall my first season as a commissioner of a points-based league, when seven of the top ten fantasy players at year’s end were goalies. Oops!


But have no fear – my lesson was learned, and I’m ready to share some guidelines for effectively valuing goalies in your fantasy league.


Roto Categories

The first step in a roto (category-based) league is to decide how many goaltending categories you want. You must walk a fine line as you seek to reward the critical contribution of the elite goalie, without going overboard and over-inflating the value of the masked men. On a typical fantasy roster, goalies only account for about 10-20% of the roster slots, so you don’t want 50% of your team’s fantasy value tied up in 10-20% of your players.


Take into account how many skater categories you’ve got, and then determine how many goalie categories are appropriate. In my primary keeper league, we’ve got 11 skater categories and 5 for the goalies. Generally, having goalies represent about 25-33% of your scoring seems about right, given the crucial contribution made by the stoppers.


Once you’ve figured out how many categories you need, you can start choosing which ones to utilize. Here are some pros and cons of the most common categories offered by many online fantasy sites.


The Go-To Categories: Wins, GAA, SV%, SO

Wins, goals against average, save percentage and shutouts are the most common goaltending stats cited when measuring the performance of a goalie, and they all work well as categories in fantasy leagues. Some may argue that wins, GAA and shutouts reflect the strength of the team more than they do the talent of the goalie, but it’s almost impossible to eliminate the team factor from goalie stats. Even SV%, which seems like an individual stat, has a hidden team component, as a strong defensive team allows few Grade A scoring chances against its goaltender – giving him a better chance of racking up a high SV%. Whatever stats you choose to add to your goaltending mix, there’s probably no getting around the fact that a goalie on a top team is going to be more valuable than one on a weak team, even if the latter player is more technically skilled. That being said, these four stats (W, GAA, SV% and SO) would be my go-to stats in any league, supplemented by one or two other categories to bring in added dimensions.


Games or Minutes Played

The rationale for including goalie starts or minutes played is that a workhorse has more value than one that plays less often. A .925 save percentage is more impressive if it’s achieved over the course of 70 games than 50 games. This type of stat also counteracts a popular strategy in head-to-head leagues, in which goalies are often benched late in the week if they’ve put up an outstanding GAA and SV% earlier in the week, thereby avoiding the possibility of these numbers being weakened by a poor game at the end of the week. Don’t get me wrong - I’d use that strategy myself if my league settings made it advantageous to do so. But I’m always aiming for realism in my scoring; and in real life, Marc-Andre Fleury doesn’t get benched on Saturday because his numbers were too good earlier in the week!


The downside to games or minutes played as a scoring category is that it doesn’t reflect the performance of the goalie in any way. Early this season, Steve Mason led the league in games and minutes played – and we all know what a train wreck he’s been the quality of play he provided in those minutes. Do we really want Steve Mason ranking at the top of any category this season? This is a major flaw in any fantasy stat that rewards ice time regardless of performance.



If you’re looking to reward the workhorse, saves is a better way to do it than games or minutes played. Like those categories, saves are linked (at least partially) to minutes played. It’s not a direct correlation, because the defensive strength of the team does factor in, but generally the league’s saves leaders are among the leaders in minutes played as well. The advantage of using saves is that you’re incorporating performance as well, not just ice time. If I’m looking for one category to complement the Big 4, this would be my choice more often than not.


Goals Against

Some fantasy sites offer goals against as an option. In a points-based league, this could be incorporated into a scoring formula, which you can’t do with GAA. That’s a nice alternative to traditional goalie scoring formulas that focus just on wins and shutouts. But in a roto or head-to-head league, goals against is redundant if you’re already counting GAA.


Shootout Stats

In a previous article, we considered the role that shootouts might play for fantasy skaters. If you’re going to bring the gimmick into the equation for your snipers, you should probably do it for goalies too. The categories at your disposal include shootout goals against (ShGA), shootout saves (ShSV) and shootout save percentage (ShSV%). Of these three, I’d lean towards ShSV%, as the other two stats will be skewed towards goalies whose teams play more shootouts. Going with save percentage levels the playing field and gives you a truer indication of each goalie’s performance.


Points-Based Scoring

This article is primarily geared towards category-based leagues (roto and head-to-head), but for those of you in points-based leagues, you’ll want to ensure that goalies are valued fairly in comparison to skaters. There’s a ton of variety in points-based scoring, but I’d aim to have the league’s top goalies on par with a 90-point forward, with an average starting goalie valued similar to a 70-point forward. So, for example, in a straight points league, you could award 2 points for a win and 2 for a shutout. Henrik Lundqvist and Carey Price would have led the league last season with 94 and 92 points respectively, while Corey Crawford (a middle-of-the-pack starter) would’ve clocked in at 74.


However you choose to integrate goaltenders into your league scoring, there’s no doubt that in fantasy – as in real life – your team’s fortunes will rise or fall with the performance of your masked men. So here’s wishing you more Timmy Thomases, and fewer Steve Masons!


What do you think? What are the advantages and drawbacks of these goaltending categories, and which ones do you like to employ? And who’s your favourite fantasy goaltender, past or present?

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Kevin said:

... A couple more comments about my system:

Because goals for skaters are 3 points and goals against for goalies are -3 points, when your skater scores on your goalie, it's all good!

Because shot blocks for skaters are 0.3 points and saves for goalies are 0.3 points, when your skater steals your goalie's save, it's all good!

After months of number crunching when I finalized my system, I noticed these coincidences that the hockey gods had graciously gifted me. The days of our owners cringing as their own skater scores on their own goalie are now a thing of the past.
December 04, 2011
Votes: +0

Kevin said:

... My league is weekly H2H total points. Our goalies earn 3 points for a win. They also earn 0.3 points for each save and lose 3 points for each goal against. This means goalies start losing you points when their save percentage drops below .909. That is, unless he wins the game, which buys him a little leeway.

This means a goalie can earn 15 points for a 40 save shutout or lose 12 points for giving up 5 goals on 15 shots and getting yanked. Most games, goalies will earn lower values like -3 to 6 points. If we're talking about accurately representing value, I'm not sure shutouts really come into play. Sure they are nice, but the goalie already posted knockout stats, why give him even more?

The average useful forward in our system will pick up about 1.5-2.0 points each game. Sidney Crosby will pick up closer to 3.5-4.0 points per game. Players earn 3 points for goals, 1 point for assists, 0.3 for blocks, and 0.1 for shots and hits. However, at season's end, elite goalies are right up there with eliter forwards and the average goalies are on par with average skaters.

So far, matchups have been close each week and the truly hottest players are the most valuable in our league, making me very proud of my system. I would like to have given forwards some way of earning negative points like goalies, but +/- is kind of terrible. What do you guys think?
December 04, 2011
Votes: +0

Wink said:

SO We use the 'Big 4' plus shutouts in our league.
Here's why i LOVE shutouts-
Few things make my heart soar like an opponent who parks his goalie on the bench for a Sunday night game (our daily league runs Mon-Sun matches) to 'protect' his GAA and SV%... just to see him post a shutout and cost himself a point in that category!
November 08, 2011
Votes: +0

angelofharlem (Glen) said:

SO That's a great point about shutouts guys. They are a bit of a wildcard - very tough to predict. Personally, I still like rewarding a guy like Lundqvist who's capable of racking up 10+ shutouts in a season; that's pretty special. But point well taken!
November 06, 2011
Votes: +0

You Know said:

You Know
... First off, excellent article!

I'm personally not a big proponent of SO used as a goalie stat, particularly in a H2H league. With a shutout you're already receiving a W in almost all cases, along with a GAA of 0 and a SV% of 100. Is it necessary to tack on an extra bonus to those already outstanding stats? Plus they tend to fluctuate widely in a season, and often a single shutout can often win a whole category for an entire H2H week.

I prefer W, GAA, SV% and SV as it forces teams to play their goalies throughout the week and normally rewards the team with better aggregate goaltending.

As far as % of goaltending stats, I completely agree. In our league we have 8 skater categories and the previously mentioned 4 goaltender categories which seems like a very good mix, as goaltenders make up one third of the stats so they're valuable but do not determine match-ups completely by themselves like you see in some leagues.
November 06, 2011
Votes: +0

horrorfan said:

Category preferences My preference is W,GAA,SV and SV%. I don't like shutouts because of how few you get over the course of a season, so each one would have a much more significant effect on the standings, both for that category and overall. Since roto is a marathon, I don't want one infrequent category to have that much influence.

Rather, if you include saves, you are rewarding those workhorse goalies that may not get the shutouts, but still have quality performances. In conjunction with SV%, you have to be smart on which goalies you pick, as you need to find the right balance.
November 06, 2011
Votes: +0
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