In most standard leagues the goalie categories represent nearly 50% of the weekly scoring. So making the right selection can be crucial to the performance of your team over the season. While there are certainly many different strategies, not having a netminder you can really count on can put you behind the 8-ball.
One obvious option is to take a goalie in the first few rounds. This should ensure that you will at least have one guy that can carry the workload for your squad and put up consistent numbers. If you wait until the later rounds to look at a goalie, chances are you are going to have to get the job done by committee, meaning you will have maybe a couple of lesser starters doing the job of one.
The tricky part is that goalies can be very streaky and recognizing that is not always easy. Take someone like Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer. He would have been a great waiver pickup midway through the 2010-11 season when he burst onto the scene, and nearly led the Leafs to an improbable playoff spot. So in 2011-12 many would have pegged him as a starter for their team. Reimer's numbers took a significant fall though last season and now seems to be somewhat of an enigma.
Or in a more extreme example, let's take a trip down memory lane and remember Jim Carey. No not the actor, but rather the former Washington Capitals goalie who came into the league looking like the next Bernie Parent. And then left just as quickly as he came looking like the next Tommy Soderstrom. Carey looked unbeatable for a while and even won the Vezina in 1996. He was even the backup to Mike Richter on the 1996 US team that won gold at the World Cup of hockey. Even if Carey's NHL stay was brief, it was still fun thinking up nicknames for him like "The Mask" and "The Net Detective".
Here is a look at Western Conference goalies 20-16 in my rankings for the 2012-13 season. And I use that term loosely.
20) Steve Mason - Columbus Blue Jackets
There was no hotter commodity in the goaltending department in 2008-09 than Mason. Now that seems like an eternity ago. His sophomore slump has been going on for three years now and his numbers have been on a steady decline since that phenomenal rookie season. Mason recorded just one shutout in 2011-12 and ranked 32nd in the league when it came to save percentage from shots faced between 30-45 feet. That translates into a lot of bad goals given up.
Now part of the problem is that he plays for Columbus. Poor guy. The addition of Sergei Bobrovsky probably means he will lose a lot of starts, but with that being said he should still be good for between 30-40. The only thing he may have going for him is desperation. It may be now or never for Mason to prove he can still be a starter at this level, so hopefully he uses that as motivation to bounce back. Should only be used as a depth goalie on your squad for spot starts to reach the weekly minimum.
19) Nikolai Khabibulin - Edmonton Oilers
Khabibulin's save percentage and GAA in 2011-12 were his best numbers since he arrived in Edmonton. He has still yet to prove that he can win consistently with the Oilers, however. Now that the young core in Edmonton has been together for a few years, an improvement in the standings shouldn't be far off. While Devan Dubnyk is slowly taking away more and more starts from Khabibulin, I can't see the Oilers having the confidence in Dubnyk to give him 60-plus starts. Meaning Khabibulin should see a decent amount of games in 2012-13.
His veteran presence could be huge for the Oilers if they are in contention for a playoff spot, and best case scenario is that he gets rejuvenated and plays into his early forties like Dwayne Roloson is.
18) Sergei Bobrovsky - Columbus Blue Jackets
I'm not entirely sure why the Flyers gave up on Bobrovsky so quickly. He was pretty steady there, but then again Philadelphia tends to go through goalies faster than a Kim Kardashian marriage. Bobrovsky should get a chance to take the ball and run with it in Columbus, but that will be easier said than done. The Blue Jackets were dead last in 2011-12 in penalty killing and 24th when it came to blocked shots. Those aren't exactly goalie friendly stats.
Combine that with the fact that he has never fully proven he can be a number one goalie, and that should lead to a lot of rotating between Bobrovsky and Mason. Expect the Blue Jackets to just ride the hot hand between the pipes. Columbus did make some solid additions in the offseason, but with the loss of Rick Nash and such a young roster, it is tough to say they will be much improved.
17) Josh Harding - Minnesota Wild
Harding seems like a guy that could be a number one goalie somewhere if he could just stay healthy and got more of an opportunity. His numbers were pretty comparable to starter Niklas Backstrom's in 2011-12, and he finished with a .917 save percentage, which is nothing to sneeze at. Harding also set career highs in wins and shutouts last season, and also played more than he ever has by appearing in 34 games.
Minnesota won 23 games last year by one goal and Harding accounted for ten of those. That's a great sign because it shows he can handle pressure situations late in games. It's fair to say that it may be smart for the Wild to look at trading either Harding or Backstrom to add some more talent to the roster. Until then Harding needs to be monitored because he just isn't getting enough starts to be considered a true number one fantasy netminder.
16) Jonathan Bernier - Los Angeles Kings
Bernier is wasted in Los Angeles from a fantasy perspective. Unlike the Vancouver Canucks and their goaltending situation, the Kings have shown little interest in moving Bernier and seem content to roll with him and Jonathan Quick for the foreseeable future. And it's hard to doubt the team's philosophy after they just won the Stanley Cup.
The goalie from Laval Quebec saw his starts go from 22 in 2010-11, down to just 13 in 2011-12. While he is immensely talented, the emergence of Quick into one of the league's top goalies, has forced Bernier to take a back seat for the time being. One positive he may have going for him is the long season that Quick and the Los Angeles Kings just went through. They may want to give Quick some extra nights off to once again prepare for a long playoff run. That is assuming of course there is a season and it starts on time.
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