Steve Mason could wind up as the starting goalie in Columbus if he continues his excellent play. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)
In roto-style fantasy leagues, goaltending is the most difficult position to recover from if things go poorly.
If you draft a couple of goaltenders who, through the first quarter of the season, are not in the top 10 in any statistical category, it is unlikely you are winning your league. Actually, it is unlikely you are even in the top half of your league. Given there are only 30 starters available, the odds of you finding a replacement on the waiver wire are slim.
If you drafted Miikka Kiprusoff and Marty Turco, for example, you felt safe with that combination in early October, but how are you feeling about it now?
All you can do is hope for an injury to strike a starter and be quick with the waiver moves to grab his backup.
The injuries to Martin Brodeur (elbow) and Roberto Luongo (lower body) have opened things up a little. There are also some interesting situations around the league worth watching – some of the starting jobs out there are not exactly safe.
Let’s take a look.
Safe (i.e. firmly entrenched as the No.1 goaltender):
J-S Giguere (Anaheim), Ryan Miller (Buffalo), Miikka Kiprusoff (Calgary), Marty Turco (Dallas), Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota), Carey Price (Montreal), Henrik Lundqvist (N.Y. Rangers), Martin Biron (Philadelphia), Ilya Bryzgalov (Phoenix), Evgeni Nabokov (San Jose), Mike Smith (Tampa Bay), Vesa Toskala (Toronto) and Jose Theodore (Washington).
Scott Clemmensen has settled in as the New Jersey starter while Brodeur is on the shelf.
Joey MacDonald is the N.Y. Islanders’ netminder while Rick DiPietro is injured.
Dany Sabourin is between the pipes for Pittsburgh while Marc-Andre Fleury is out.
Specific team systems:
Tim Thomas and Manny Fernandez are splitting duties by a 2:1 ratio in Beantown.
In Chicago, Cristobal Huet and Nikolai Khabibulin, thanks to Khabby’s injury, will split duties until Khabibulin is traded.
Peter Budaj will give way to Andrew Raycroft in Colorado when he hits a cold spurt, but on the whole they are entrenched as a 2:1 split.
Chris Osgood and Ty Conklin are splitting duties by a 2:1 ratio in Detroit.
Interesting situations in:
Atlanta, Carolina, Columbus, Edmonton, Florida, Los Angeles, Nashville, Ottawa, St. Louis and Vancouver.
These “interesting situations” are where you can capitalize with a little luck and a quick reaction.
Here’s what to look for in each:
Atlanta – Here you have a franchise goalie who can’t stay healthy and when Kari Lehtonen does play, he has been mediocre, to be kind. You also have a future franchise goalie in Ondrej Pavelec, who has been the best goalie of the three (with Johan Hedberg as the third). It may be a decent risk to pick up Pavelec and stick him on your bench while this plays out.
Carolina – Michael Leighton was pushing Cam Ward for a few weeks, but Ward has since stepped up while Leighton has struggled. Leighton makes a good dark horse, but it is looking more doubtful he’ll replace Ward as the season wears on.
Columbus – Pascal Leclaire’s injury opened the door for Steve Mason and now Leclaire is having trouble getting his job back. Mason’s numbers are stellar and he is worth owning in most formats. As things stand, Mason could own the No.1 job outright soon.
Edmonton – I like Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers here. The problem is, he can’t get into any kind of groove as long as he is sharing time with two other goaltenders. Until Dwayne Roloson or Mathieu Garon is moved, this is not the team to look to for goaltending. When a trade happens, however, watch out – someone will have the chance to start frequently. If you have the bench room, sit on Drouin-Deslauriers.
Florida – Granted, Tomas Vokoun has played 16 games to Craig Anderson’s 10, but unless something changes, this job could be exclusively Anderson’s soon. Look at their records: Vokoun is 5-10-0, while Anderson is 4-1-3. Anderson’s 1.87 GAA also trumps Vokoun’s 3.01.
Los Angeles – Erik Ersberg has pretty much taken over the starting role from Jason LaBarbera. By now, he will have been picked up in most leagues, but if he is still available in your league grab him now.
Nashville – Granted, Dan Ellis has played 20 games and Pekka Rinne has started only four, but the numbers are telling. Ellis has a losing record, whereas Rinne is undefeated. Nashville has a history of the backup stealing the starting role - Ellis stole from Chris Mason last year, who stole from Vokoun the year prior - so Rinne has a great chance of taking over.
Ottawa – Alex Auld has played great hockey, but the goaltending situation in Ottawa is never stable. By now, Martin Gerber will have been dropped in most leagues and it’s probably best to keep it that way.
St. Louis – Chris Mason has been playing great hockey, while Manny Legace has struggled. This may take a couple of months before it gets settled, so it’s best to steer clear of it.
Vancouver – This is obviously Luongo’s job, but while he is injured it is interesting to see the battle between Curtis Sanford and Cory Schneider. Schneider is arguably the top goaltending prospect out there, while the Sanford is one of the better backups in the league. In all likelihood, Luongo will be back before one of them gets hot and strings together consecutive starts – unless Sanford’s injury keeps him out for an extended period - so don’t expect any help here.
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 throughout the season. Also, get the top 300 roto-player rankings on the 1st of every month in THN’s Fantasy section.