The NHL announced the finalists for the Vezina Trophy on Monday, and one of Martin Brodeur (NJ), Ilya Bryzgalov (PHO) or Ryan Miller (BUF) will be awarded the hardware on June 23rd at the Palms Hotel in Las Vegas. Having goaltenders of this caliber on your fantasy team(s) must be pure joy.
Somehow (and this is becoming a well-known fact in my leagues), my teams are not fortunate when it comes to drafting goalies; I either pass on picking one when they start to trend or the trending starts just after I make a pick and, by the time my next pick rolls around, I’m so pissed off that the guys I wanted are gone that I just say, “screw it” and go after another top-pair defenseman. By the time I get around to actually snagging a goalie, it’s usually down to backups with potential.
Do you need a stud goalie (or two) on your roster to win your league? Let me tell you a story; I call it, “A Tale of Two Teams”…
As I had no goalie keepers from last season, I tried to change things up a bit in my keeper league this year, picking up Cristobal Huet in the first round and Semyon Varlamov in the third. I then grabbed Antti Niemi, as Huet insurance, from free agency at the start of the season. As the season wore on I picked up Atlanta’s Johan Hedberg for a while before settling on Predator Dan Ellis as my 4th goalie. In the last week of the season I added Jonathan Bernier when he got the call-up for the Kings (for the wins, sure, but I want to see what happens in LA with him – and Niemi’s no slouch either – and maybe he’ll be held over as a keeper next year).
Having the Chicago tandem worked out nicely, as did Varlamov, even though he was sharing the duties in Washington. After losing the first week, my team went on a 13 game streak before I started fiddling with the roster and screwed things up. I just had to tinker, didn’t I? Anyway, the team took top seed and finished 3rd overall in the playoffs.
With the 16 team Dynasty league, starting with a clean sheet of ice in its inaugural season, you’d assume I would go for an established goalie at some point for stability, right? You might, buuuut nooooooooo…after taking Ovechkin with the 2nd overall pick and trading up to pick Jeff Carter at #13, I wait until the 10th round to select ——- *drumroll* ——- Jonathan Bernier. Some goalies still available at that time – Giguere, Rask, and Khabibulin – were all taken before my next show of brilliance, taking Vancouver prospect Cory Schneider in the 16th. Rounding out my goalies after the 30 round dispersal draft were none other than Kings’ backup Erik Ersberg and Pens prospect John Curry. Whether I liked it or not, I was immediately building for the future in net, so Chet Pickard (NAS), Jordan Pearce (DET), Mattias Modig (ANA) and Brent Krahn (DAL) were added during the 25 round minor league, or ‘prospects’, draft.
Once the season started, I found out quickly that I was going to need some help in net; my skaters weren’t going to carry me. I traded Schneider and Matt Stajan for Dwayne Roloson (yeah, I know, but he played a lot more games than were anticipated) and top MTL defensive prospect PK Subban. The next day I sent Mike Knuble packing in exchange for Dan Ellis. My active goalie corps was now Roloson, Ellis and Ersberg, but it was better than it was two days before. Yippee.
At some point during the season I added PHO backup Jason LaBarbera, a guy I had watched play a couple of games for the Trenton Titans of the ECHL when they visited the Boardwalk Bullies in Atlantic City. I liked the guy, and surely Bryzgalov couldn’t pull a Brodeur and start 75 games during the year (I was right, he couldn’t – it was only 69). He got 8 wins in his 13 starts and who knows how many relief appearances with a healthy .928 SV% and a very respectable 2.13 GAA.
As far fetched as it might sound, those guys helped win the championship this year, but it didn’t happen without careful benchings for Roloson. No offense to anyone, but it is the Islanders we’re talking about here. Hell, I made the mistake of playing him on the last day of the season against the Penguins and it cost me the save% category when he allowed 6 goals on 37 shots (.838). Luckily his 5.60 GAA didn’t hurt me, too.
The Bernier call-up was a nice bonus in this league, too.
So, all things considered, you really don’t need a Vezina-type goalie to win your league, but it sure would make things a little easier.
** Tangent Man — Keith Filling… a fantasy and NHL hockey junkie who has a lot to say about the reality of life experiences, Scotch, hockey, music and the bane of being addicted to a fantasy game. Read more of his work over at his “Off on a Tangent” blog.