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Fantasy Pool Look: The importance of goaltending

Sergei Bobrovsky was signed as a free agent out of Russia by Philadelphia and won his first NHL game 3-2 in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

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Sergei Bobrovsky was signed as a free agent out of Russia by Philadelphia and won his first NHL game 3-2 in Pittsburgh. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

In your average rotisserie league, if you’re not set between the pipes after the draft, you’re in a lot of trouble. If you want the waiver wire to bail you out, you had better be quick and aggressive.

In one of my keeper leagues, I have Carey Price and Semyon Varlamov between the pipes – both good, young netminders with high upside. But for this year alone? They’re too iffy for me. So I used my first draft pick on Michael Leighton. With the three of them, I thought I would be fine in net. That was, until Leighton’s back injury took him out of the lineup for a month (or more). No problem, I went to the wire two weeks before the season kicked off and placed a bid on Philadelphia upstart Sergei Bobrovsky. Surprisingly, I lost out – I was outbid pretty badly, actually. So I scoured the wire again the following week. The pickings, of course, were slim.

And that’s how it is in most roto leagues. The bones are picked clean when the season begins and the best you can hope for is a backup or minor league goaltender to emerge by November. Can you act now? Sure, but at this point you would be rolling the dice trying to figure out which of the 20 or 30 candidates will become the next Steve Mason, Leighton, or Craig Anderson.

One of the other owners in my keeper league did not keep an active goaltender (which is probably a mistake), though he did keep promising future star Jacob Markstrom (Florida), who is starting the season in the American League. This fantasy GM also drafted after me, meaning the two most appealing goaltenders were already taken. So he drafted Nikolai Khabibulin and Chris Mason. And J-S Giguere. And Antero Niittymaki.

Lots of dice-rolling there. Goaltending by committee? Yes, he’s hoping two of those guys will not only log minutes, but stay healthy. He’s already up two wins and a shutout (Giguere and Khabibulin), but not one of his netminders is a certainty for the long haul, so to add to his stable he plucked Dwayne Roloson (N.Y. Islanders) and Cedrick Desjardins (Tampa Bay) off the wire. Eight goaltenders. I’m sure he’ll drop four of them by the end of the month, but he’s doing all he can right now to increase the odds of finding the next Anderson.

So where does that leave yours truly? Take a chance on the backups who are left, a list that includes Johan Hedberg (New Jersey), Mathieu Garon (Columbus), Andrew Raycroft (Dallas), Jason LaBarbera (Phoenix), Brent Johnson (Pittsburgh), Martin Biron (N.Y. Rangers), Patrick Lalime (Buffalo) or one of the two young goalies in Edmonton (Devan Dubnyk, Jeff Deslauriers). In all of those cases, an injury is needed to put one of them in the spotlight. In my mind, the most injury-prone starters (that belong to one of the above teams), in order, are:

1. Kari Lehtonen, Dallas
2. Nikolai Khabibulin, Edmonton

Now you can see why I wanted Bobrovsky so much – not only is that position in Philadelphia far from being settled, but he has pretty good upside and I also own the injured starter in question (Leighton). But I digress. Lehtonen gets hurt a lot, but I’m not a fan of Raycroft. I don’t see any upside and it wouldn’t shock me if another goalie came in from the pipeline (Richard Bachman or Brent Krahn) and took over from Raycroft.

An appealing situation is the one in Edmonton. Khabibulin is a guy who not only will get hurt at some point, but he is also under threat of jail time. (OK, not appealing for Mr. Khabibulin…or Oilers fans so much, but in the fantasy world it’s appealing if you need his backup). However, you then run into a stumbling block: Deslauriers has been the No. 2 guy for the past year, but Dubnyk had a fantastic final few starts to end 2009-10. I also think Dubnyk has more upside, so I solved the problem by plucking both off the wire.

It’s not an ideal situation having Price and Dubnyk as my two goaltenders while Deslauriers sits on my bench and Varlamov and Leighton sit on my IR. This is why I stress that you can’t leave the draft with uncertainty at the goaltending position. Now I’m stuck in a spot where I need to address my goaltending via trade (or hope something happens soon in Edmonton).

The vultures are already circling.

Darryl Dobbs’ Fantasy Pool Look is an in-depth presentation of player trends, injuries and much more as it pertains to rotisserie pool leagues. Get the edge in your league - check out the latest scoop every Tuesday and Saturday. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the first of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.

Do you have a question about fantasy hockey? Send it to the Fantasy Mailbag.

Want more fantasy insider information or to contact The Dobber? Check out dobberhockey.com
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