Top 20 Western Conference Fantasy Goalies - Part 3
It should be noted that I didn't include Roberto Luongo on my top 20 Western Conference goalie list. Although still under contract with the Vancouver Canucks, I just can't see him spending any substantial time on the ice with the team. The Canucks have made it clear that Cory Schneider is going to be the man between the pipes, and Luongo is going to want to go somewhere where he can be the main guy.
It will be interesting to see how the Luongo situation plays out now that the lockout is well underway. Should it end at some point, how fast will the Canucks be able to move him to another team?
The Toronto Maple Leafs and Florida Panthers still make the most sense as far as destinations go. I'm sure if Luongo had his choice he would love to go back to Florida where he has a home and lives in the offseason. The spotlight there would be pretty dim, as opposed to Toronto, where fans and media will want to know what he is having for breakfast every morning.
Despite what many fans think around here, I don't feel Luongo would automatically make the Leafs into a championship contender. Keep in mind he has yet to capture the Cup in Vancouver with a far superior team than Toronto can boast. Not only that, but the young assets the Leafs will have to part with to pry him away could weaken the team substantially. He could definitely help them get to the playoffs, but anything more could be wishful thinking. I may be one of the few who believe that teams shouldn't rely on a strong goalie to carry them. The Detroit Red Wings have been the most dominant NHL franchise over the last quarter century, and have done it all with only above average goaltending. And no Tim Cheveldae does not count.
Either way expect smart hockey man and Canucks general manager Mike Gillis to take his time, and make sure he gets good value in return from whoever he decides to move Luongo to.
Here are goalies 10-6 on the list.
10) Corey Crawford - Chicago Blackhawks
Crawford started 55 games last year, which was the same total he started in his rookie campaign of 2010-11. His other numbers, however, didn't quite hold up in a similar fashion. His save percentage went from .917 down to .903, and he failed to record a shutout in 2011-12. Crawford wasn't helped by the fact that the Blackhawks weren't all that great defensively last year. The Hawks finished 27th on the penalty kill and just 22nd in goals against per game.
Having Johnny Oduya in the lineup for a full year should help Chicago and Crawford keep pucks out of the net. The Blackhawks have had a great offensive defense corps in the last few seasons, but were missing that one defensive focused blueliner.
Although Crawford struggled against Phoenix in the playoffs, he finished the regular season strong by winning 12 of his last 18 starts.
9) Antti Niemi - San Jose Sharks
You can no longer call Niemi a one hit wonder anymore. He has produced two solid campaigns after helping the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup during his rookie season. Chicago felt he was expendable and that was the Sharks gain. Since arriving in San Jose he has recorded 12 shutouts and posted a .917 save percentage.
Niemi has also proven himself very durable when it comes to games played. He has increased his totals in starts, minutes played, and shots faced, significantly in the three years he has been in the NHL. In fact, the Sharks gave up the eighth most shots in the league in 2011-12, so you know a heavy workload won't be an issue for Niemi.
8) Miikka Kiprusoff - Calgary Flames
Kiprusoff will be 36 in less than a month, so one would think he would show signs of slowing down in the not so distant future. Then again he finished third in the West in 2011-12 in both minutes played and starts. The main reason he isn't higher on the list is that the Flames are really an average team that refuses to rebuild. And the Finnish goalie is why they continue to be in the playoff hunt.
His win totals have dropped in the past three years, and the 35 he had last season tied for the lowest total he has posted since 2003-04, when he played in just 38 games. His save percentage and goals against average are still one of the best in the league though. So he is still a good number one option for your squad, the Flames identity crisis notwithstanding.
7) Jimmy Howard - Detroit Red Wings
With the retirement of Nicklas Lidstrom, and the Red Wings slipping just ever so slightly, Detroit is going to be relying on goaltending more than ever before. Jimmy Howard has already proven himself more than capable for the task. In 2011-12 he ranked fifth in the West when it came to goals against at 2.12, and fourth in shutouts with six.
Detroit is another one of those goalie friendly teams that is very focused on defense. Coach Mike Babcock's system stresses a team concept and his forwards are some of the best two-way players in the game. The Wings also finished seventh overall last year in goals against, which will benefit anyone between the pipes. The departure of Lidstrom hurts them, but not enough to avoid owning Howard.
6) Kari Lehtonen - Dallas Stars
Lehtonen set career highs in save percentage and shutouts in 2011-12, and was the backbone of the Stars last season. Without him Dallas could have easily been challenging Edmonton and Columbus for that first overall pick. The great news for Lehtonen owners is that he has managed to stay fairly healthy since arriving in Big D.
Lehtonen won 11 of his first 12 starts last year, and also had a run were he was victorious in eight of nine starts later in the season. If you factor in the firepower that the team added this offseason which includes Derek Roy, Ray Whitney, and Jaromir Jagr, the Stars are deeper than they have been in years. This should add up to more wins for Lehtonen and potentially a return to the postseason for Dallas.
Feel free to follow me on Twitter at @amato_mike