Top 20 Western Conference Fantasy Goalies - Part 2
I can't say I'm devastated that the National Hockey League has cancelled all pre-season games through September 30 because of the lockout. Exhibition games in all sports need to be reduced. Many players just go through the motions and most of the action is very vanilla. Watching pre-season competition tends to rank just above watching paint dry, and slightly below watching grass grow, when it comes to my excitement meter.
I'm not really sure whose side I'm on in this battle of the millionaires versus billionaires that we are calling an NHL Lockout. It doesn't make sense that the owners are crying to lower player salaries, when they are the ones writing the checks. Can't they just all agree to pay them less money?
Somehow the players ended up taking a salary cap in 2004-05, but now look to be way ahead. The players share 57% of the revenue, which seems high. Then again, this CBA was agreed to by everyone during the last negotiations.
I suppose like most fans, I am on hockey's side. We just need to see games played sooner rather than later. The writers here at Dobber Hockey are still going to be holding a fantasy draft in the next few weeks. Season or no season. I'm not sure if we are optimistic, or just in complete denial. Either way, we aren't going to let this lockout slow us down.
Here are goalies 15-11 on my Top 20 Western Conference rankings.
15) Devan Dubnyk - Edmonton Oilers
Dubnyk hasn't quite established himself as a legitimate number one yet in Edmonton, but he is getting close. Expect Khabibulin to still get a handful of starts. He posted a solid .914 save percentage in 2011-12, but was only able to notch 20 wins. Part of that is obviously the growing pains this young Oiler team is enduring. They seem close to turning a corner as they proved they can certainly be explosive offensively. The problem for Dubnyk is the Oilers are terrible on the defensive side of things.
The Oilers ranked 23rd last year in goals against, and they haven't done anything in the offseason to indicate that things are going to get better in that area. They also lead the league in giveaways. It's scary to think Edmonton was ranked third on the power play in 2011-12, but still managed to finish 14th in the West and 29th overall in the standings. That's just how bad they were defensively. If they do win more games this year, chances are you will see a lot of 4-3 and 5-4 box scores. Good for the Oilers, but not necessarily for Dubnyk and a lot of the goalie categories.
14) Semyon Varlamov - Colorado Avalanche
The Avalanche are an interesting team at the moment. They could be on the cusp of being really good, or really bad. The young talent they have is not anywhere near what the Oilers can boast, but their youngsters seemed to be a little more mature and ready to make an impact.
Varlamov was able to stay pretty healthy last year and ended up more than doubling his previous career high in starts. After a somewhat rocky November, he really settled in and had a pretty solid campaign. He set a career high in shutouts and has never finished with a save percentage below .909. If the Avalanche can stay in the playoff race and Varlamov can stay healthy, he could be a steal.
13) Brian Elliott - St. Louis Blues
Elliott had the highest save percentage amongst Western Conference goalies in 2011-12, and ranked second with nine shutouts. The problem is it's going to be hard for him to duplicate that performance. Elliott has never had numbers anywhere close to what he posted last year, and until then he had never finished with a save percentage greater than .909.
He also has Jaroslav Halak to worry about who had a very strong campaign also. Halak has shown much more consistency throughout his career than Elliott. Expect Ken Hitchcock to lean more on Halak, unless somehow Elliott can once again put together a shockingly good run.
Elliott also looked like he was starting to fade as the playoffs went on last year. His save percentage slipped a full 36 points in the post-season, and he gave up 13 goals in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Los Angeles Kings.
12) Niklas Backstrom - Minnesota Wild
Although Backstrom has been solid, he is no longer the goalie he was a few years ago. He hasn't been able to equal his totals from 2008-09 in shutouts, GAA, and save percentage in the three seasons since. The Wild seem to be dying for Josh Harding to overtake him for the starting job, but injuries and Backstrom's steady play have prevented him from claiming it just yet.
One thing Backstrom has going for him is the spending spree the Wild went on this summer. The additions of Ryan Suter and Zach Parise should, if nothing else, make Minnesota more competitive in 2012-13 and help Backstrom's win totals in the process.
The team defense of the Wild is pretty solid, as they ranked second overall in blocked shots last season. What would benefit Backstrom greatly is if Minnesota stopped taking so many penalties. They were shorthanded on 285 different occasions last year, which was ninth most in the league.
11) Jonas Hiller - Anaheim Ducks
Hiller is a great option simply due to the fact that there is no legitimate back up in Anaheim. His 73 starts in 2011-12 were tops in the West and his Vertigo problems seem to be well behind him. The issue with Hiller last year was that he finished in the bottom half of the conference in GAA and save percentage. Some of that can be attributed to the Ducks as a group, who just got off to a terrible start as a whole this year.
Hiller wasn't getting much help when you consider that three of the Ducks starting six defenseman combined for a minus-47 rating. Hopefully coach Bruce Boudreau's suddenly defensive-minded coaching system will have a better result in year two of his reign.
I like the Ducks to be a real bounce back team this year in the standings as well. If they play up to their potential then Hiller would be a great fit between the pipes for your squad in 2012-13.
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