Boston University coach Jack Parker is often fond of saying that goalies are so important they should change the name of the sport from "hockey" to "goalie." While that's debatable, especially given the success of the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks behind league-average net play, the axiom certainly applies to fantasy pucks.
So without further ado, let's look at some preliminary goalie rankings for the 2010-2011 fantasy hockey season. I'll start with 1-5 today, and eventually get through every Tom, Dick and Harry that will make a difference this year. Once complete (or as close to complete as I feel), I'll compile them into "tiers" and revisit throughout the year to
get it right revise. Tonight, 1-5:
1. Ryan Miller, Buffalo
2009-10: 41-18-5, 2.22 GAA, .929 save percentage
08-09: 34-18-5, 2.53, .918
07-08: 36-27-3, 2.64, .906
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner is peaking right now. It'll be a tall order to improve upon last year's numbers, but Miller figures get another 70 starts in Buffalo. Playing for a good team and in front of a good defense led by Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers he'll be a fantasy asset in wins, goals against, save percentage, shutouts, pretty much anything you could ever ask for. He's been the picture of health and stands very little chance of losing starts to anyone.
2. Martin Brodeur, New Jersey
2009-10: 45-25-9, 2.24 GAA, .916 save percentage
08-09: 19-9-5, 2.41, .916
07-08: 44-27-4, 2.17, .920
Dynasty leaguers might have made the mistake of writing Brodeur off once and for all after his injury riddled 2008-09 season. And seeing as he missed much of the year due to injury at age 36, it's understandible why they might have done so. That doesn't mean they (alright, I) were right, though. Brodeur gets this elite fantasy status until he either A) retires or B) Shows serious signs of slipping. The other front runners for this spot either have question marks in term of track record or in term of playing time. Brodeur probably won't finish as the second most valuable fantasy goalie, but the safety involved in picking him puts him above the others.
3. Jimmy Howard, Detroit
2009-10: 37-15-3, 2.26, .924
08-09: 0-1-0, 4.07, .857
07-08: 0-2-0, 2.13, .926
A 25-year-old rookie, Howard got a full-time chance in Detroit with Chris Osgood hurt and his exceptional play put an end to the Grand Rapids shuffle he'd been doing for the past two years. The save percentage, goals against and wins are phenomenal for just 53 starts, and it stands to reason the Wings will push Howard closer to 65-70 this year. He'll probably go lower than he should, and bigger names will go before him, but the former Maine Black Bear has real potential to be the most valuable fantasy goalie next year.
2009-10: 35-27-4, 2.38 GAA, .921 save percentage
08-09: 38-25-3, 2.43, .916
07-08: 37-24-10, 2.23, .912
Lundqvist has been a 70-start horse for the past three seasons in New York, and he's posted consistently strong numbers during that time. Still on the right side of 30, there's no reason to think his string of 35-win, sub-2.50 GAA, .915-.920 seasons will stop this season, and he's among the safer picks in the entire draft.
5. Roberto Luongo, Vancouver
2009-10: 40-22-4, 2.57, .913
08-09: 33-13-9, 2.34, .920
07-08: 35-29-6, 2.38, .917
Luongo is the kind of compiler who is going to rack up starts and points for fantasy leaguers, while still leaving Canuck fans wanting more. At 31 he's got mild injury concerns and the fact that his save percentage has slipped recently is also troubling. He still figures (if healthy) to get his share of wins, make a good number of saves and keep the GAA around the mid-2s. He's dropping, but for now retains Top 5 fantasy status. There are cracks in the foundation, but at this point they're mostly cosmetic. Of the top five picks, he has the most room to fall and probably the least room to grow. Another injury or a disappointing season from the Canucks could seriously affect his value. I'd still draft him if he's around past the second round, but I certainly wouldn't reach for Luongo any sooner than those first four names are off the board, and I likely wouldn't take him over many of the boom-or-bust netminders that will make up spots 6-10 on this list.