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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

A Little More Bang For Your Buck - Fantasy Hockey "Sleepers" (Goalie)


I figured I should probably wrap this up...the season's almost here, fantasy drafts are going faster than Lohan's dignity, and we haven't got to the enigmatic part of the game: goalies.  How the hell do you evaluate goalies in fantasy hockey?  Do you have a dartboard?

In fact, the dartboard method might actually work, provided you have a particular group of goalies for your first tier dartboard and a particular group for your second.  You see, I'm of the school that says that goaltending statistics vary such a great deal from year to year that it is simply not worth doing two things: a.) drafting a goalie in the 1st round, and b.) organizing your cheat sheet beyond identifying "solid" goalies (nearly guaranteed 30-40 wins, sub-2.75 GAA, and .905+ save percentage) and "high upside" goalies.  As I've mentioned before, basically every year you have one or two goalies that are on the waiver wire that emerge to post top-5 numbers (Jimmy Howard, Tuukka Rask, and Antti Niemi last year, Steve Mason in 2008-09, and if you go far back enough, the soon-to-be-butt-of-Swiss-cheese-related-jokes Cristobal Huet).  Note that some of these guys were available even late in the year, when fantasy championships are won or lost.  It's simply not worth passing up a scarcer point-per-game wing for the kind of production you will be able to find later.

If you do choose to take a goalie early, or even if you wait awhile, pay more attention to situation than anything else.  Martin Brodeur has been a great goalie for so long in part because of a marriage of playing style and a general manager that tailors the team to that playing style.  Brodeur is a great goaltender, but even he would have had trouble if the Devils had made the kind of tactical switch the Wild pulled last year.  Brodeur is draftable because he has a good situation (this is not a good situation), but he's drafted too high to be reasonable.  Here's my list of goalies that will help you without taking your valuable early picks...


Goalies

Marty Turco - Chicago Blackhawks
Average draft position: 83rd pick
Could easily match the production of: Marc-Andre Fleury (41st pick) and Tuukka Rask (39th pick)

Turco very likely triggers some fantasy players' gag reflexes, as he's been toxic the last couple of years.  Fact of the matter is, the quality of the Dallas defense has gone south (pun maybe intended, if funny), and it took around a year for Turco to adjust to it.  Last season was actually solid for Marty; while his 2.72 GAA seemed high, he posted his highest save percentage since his glory years (.913).  It suggests to me that, given the right situation, he still has some gas left in the tank.  The Blackhawks give him that ideal situation, and having parted ways with Antti Niemi the 'Hawks will hand Turco the keys.  The 'Hawks are still good despite their offseason subtractions, so don't hesitate on this guy.
2010-11 prediction: 70 games, 39 wins, 2.45 GAA, .912 SV%, 5 SHO

Antti Niemi - San Jose Sharks
Average draft position: 107th pick
Could easily match the production of: Niklas Backstrom (74th pick) and Jonathan Quick (67th pick)

Niemi moves into a highly favorable situation with a regular-season stalwart in the Sharks.  Evgeni Nabokov might not have won many playoff fantasy pools, but he was a stud for the fantasy regular season.  Niemi slides in to Nabokov's butt-warm seat and will catch a lot of those same juicy stats.  A lot of people are concerned about the presence of Antero Niittymaki, but Nitty has always been more effective as the 40 of a 60-40 split. Fair warning: Niemi will not duplicate last year's astronomical stats.  I guarantee he sees at least 45 starts (barring injury) and will give you serviceable numbers; his upside, though, could be a poor man's Nabokov.
2010-11 prediction: 50 games, 31 wins, 2.39 GAA, .909 SV%, 4 SHO

Dan Ellis/Mike Smith - Tampa Bay Lightning
Average draft positions: 158th and Not drafted, respectively
Could easily match the production of: Two Antti Niemi's (107th pick)

Like how I stacked onto the previous one?  It might seem antithetical to call Niemi a sleeper and then use him to describe the production of time-share goalies in the next paragraph, but I have a sneaking suspicion that the Lightning are going to exceed expectations defensively for the first time since some drunken, crazy-eyed goalie took them to the Cup a while ago.  Guy Boucher's system is built on busy forwards and stay-at-home defensemen, which will play nicely into their personnel.  The Lightning forwards have the talent to control and hold the puck for prolonged periods of time, which will keep shots down.  In addition, Ellis and Smith are both guys that have always performed better as part-timers, and the rumor is that they are enjoying a cooperative partnership in the Tampa net.  I'm going out on a limb here, but the bubbling bromance has a shot at working in a way not seen since the Manny and Timmy Show, which was really just the sequel to Fernando Rolo (<< "Between the Pipes?" haha...oh...kind of sick, now that I think about it).
2010-11 prediction: 40 games, 25 wins, 2.33 GAA, .906 SV%, 3 SHO apiece

So ends the hopefully sage advice.  The BN group will be part of our own league this year, with a few friends, so don't be surprised to see us using the blog to gloat about our spectacular teams.  The best part will be watching our resident Flyers homers (Weagz and Forsberg's Foot) fight over Darroll Powe, who looks like a fictional character.

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