I find it laughable for anybody to suggest that Brodeur struggled last season. Despite being outplayed by Roberto Luongo during the olympics, Brodeur had yet another fantastic NHL season. Brodeur led the NHL in starts, wins and shutouts in 2009.
The holder of virtually every goaltending record, Brodeur should have another fantastic season in 2010-11. The New Jersey Devils have improved their defense by adding hard-hitting Anton Volchenkov and puck-moving Henrik Tallinder. With these additions, the Devils will be a better defensive team and have a better transition game. If the Devils re-sign sniper Ilya Kovalchuk, they should have more than enough goal support for Brodeur.
With veteran goaltender Johan Hedberg serving as Brodeur’s new backup, I’ll place the over/under on Brodeur’s starts at 68 this season. Nevertheless, you can pencil in Brodeur for another 40+ wins and elite numbers across the board.
2. Roberto Luongo – Vancouver Canucks
Luongo is notorious in the fantasy hockey world for his slow starts. In spite of those slow starts, he always finishes strong and has elite fantasy numbers every season.
Luongo should improve upon his already stellar numbers this season, as the Canucks improved their blue line both offensively and defensively with the additions of Keith Ballard and Dan Hamhuis. Ballard provides the physical presence (156 hits) and shot-blocking (201 blocks) the Canucks need to make Luongo’s job easier. Hamhuis has excellent puck skills and is no slouch defensively (148 hits and 95 blocks). The puck skills of Hamhuis and Christian Ehrhoff will make up for the injury to Sami Salo.
Look for Luongo to improve his numbers this season and make the Canucks one of the Stanley Cup favorites.
The Calgary Flames were one of the NHL’s biggest underachievers last season. With the likes of Jay Bouwmeester, Robyn Regehr, Cory Sarich and Steve Staios, the Flames have one of the best defenses in the NHL. It was the offense which failed Kiprusoff and the Flames last season.
A healthy Rene Bourque and a full season with Matt Stajan should bring some oomph to the offense and help carry the Flames to the playoffs.
As always, you can expect Kiprusoff to start 70+ games and have an over/under of 40 wins. He is still an elite fantasy hockey goalie. If the offense decides to show up this season, Kiprusoff’s fantasy numbers will improve.
4. Ryan Miller – Buffalo Sabres
Miller is one of the best goalies in the NHL and will have yet another excellent season; however, I don’t think he will duplicate last season’s numbers. I find it unlikely the Buffalo Sabres will have the same success they had last season. Although I don’t think Miller will win 40 or more games this season, look for his numbers to be similar to 2009-10 Miikka Kiprusoff (35 wins, 2.31 GAA, .920 SV% and 4 shutouts).
5. Henrik Lundqvist – New York Rangers
Although I expect the Rangers to miss the postseason yet again, Lundqvist is a reliable goalie who will provide elite numbers. He is a workhorse much like Brodeur, Kiprusoff and Luongo are. Unfortunately for Lundqvist, the Rangers will only go as far as he carries them on his back. Despite the presence of Marian Gaborik and newly-signed free agent Alexander Frolov, the Rangers are still lacking in offense.
The talented young defense and the play of Lundqvist are the Rangers’ strengths at this time. Look for Lundqvist to post numbers similar to last season.
6. Jimmy Howard – Detroit Red Wings
Howard has the ability to be one of the elite goalies in the NHL today. He did an excellent job last season as he stole the starting job away from a struggling Chris Osgood. Don’t be fooled by Detroit’s early struggle last season: their struggle was the byproduct of injuries and Osgood’s poor play.
Howard can win 40+ games this season and be a Vezina finalist. I would have ranked him higher than sixth; however, uncertainty about how many starts he will receive prevented me from doing so. I would not be surprised to see Osgood start 15-20 games this season. Nevertheless, Howard should win nearly 40 games and have fantastic numbers.
7. Ilya Bryzgalov – Phoenix Coyotes
Like the Sabres’ Ryan Miller, I don’t see Bryzgalov getting 40+ wins this season. The Coyotes were a wonderful story last season; however, I don’t see them being among league leaders in wins this year. The Detroit Red Wings will be back to their normal winning ways and the Calgary Flames will fight for a playoff spot this season. The competition in the western conference is too great for the Coyotes to repeat last season’s record.
Look for Bryzgalov to win around 35 games while sporting a GAA around 2.50 this season.
8. Marc-Andre Fleury – Pittsburgh Penguins
The Atlantic division certainly doesn’t lack franchise goalies. The Devils’ Brodeur, Rangers’ Lundqvist and Penguins’ Fleury are all capable of 40-win seasons. Fleury’s save percentage isn’t the most attractive to fantasy owners; however, it is largely the byproduct of the Penguins’ offensive-minded style of play.
Although the loss of free agent Sergei Gonchar hurts the Penguins both offensively and defensively, new additions to the blue line in Paul Martin and Zbynek Michalek should help improve Fleury’s GAA and save percentage. Martin excels in sound positional defensive play and is smart with the puck. However, there are injury concerns about Martin. Martin missed most of last season with injury.
Michalek is a good shot-blocker and should fit in with the Penguins’ transition game. Neither he or Martin can replace Gonchar on the power play, but they can improve Fleury’s numbers a tad.
Barring any serious injuries to Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal, look for Fleury to post numbers similar to last season, but with several more shutouts and a .910+ save percentage.
9. Tomas Vokoun – Florida Panthers
Under ordinary circumstances, Vokoun would be one of the top five goalies in fantasy hockey. Unfortunately for Vokoun, he plays for the Florida Panthers.
Vokoun saw more rubber than a dead possum on a highway last season. Only Craig Anderson (Avalanche), Lundqvist (Rangers) and Miller (Sabres) faced more shots than Vokoun last season.
The Panthers will improve, but slowly. They may be years away from being a playoff team. Vokoun will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer; therefore, there is a chance he could be traded to a playoff contender at the deadline. He’ll post excellent numbers yet again, but don’t expect a high number of wins until he is traded or signs with another team in the future.
10. Semyon Varlamov – Washington Capitals
Varlamov is one of the more talented goalies in the NHL today. Health permitting, Varlamov could lead the NHL in wins this season as the Washington Capitals once again post the NHL’s best record.
The Capitals play in a weak division and are one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL. Varlamov will have the goal support needed to get the wins; however, he must stay healthy in order to do so and improve his GAA and save percentage.
Rask is a spectacular goalie and I have been high on his upside for years; unfortunately, the Bruins still have Tim Thomas on the roster. If you have Thomas or Rask, you may be handcuffed by the two sharing playing time. If I felt certain that Rask would get 60+ starts, he would be one of the highest-ranked goalies on my list.
Jonathan Quick – Los Angeles Kings
With all due respect to Quick, Varlamov is a more talented goalie playing on a much better team. If Varlamov stays healthy, he will put up excellent numbers. Varlamov’s upside kept Quick out of the top ten for now.
Antti Niemi – free agent
Niemi had an excellent season with the Chicago Blackhawks and was a huge part of their playoff success in winning the Stanley Cup; however, the Blackhawks walked away from Niemi in arbitration and made him a free agent. While Chicago is stuck with the overpaid Cristobal Huet and aging Marty Turco, Niemi is free to sign elsewhere.
It would be an excellent move – and an ironic one – if Niemi were to sign with the Philadelphia Flyers, the very team he helped Chicago defeat in the finals. The Flyers have an excellent blue line and a young group of talented forwards on the rise. Niemi could post excellent numbers with the Flyers.
Keep an eye on Niemi and see where he signs this offseason. Although the Flyers would be a good fit, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Niemi sign with the Edmonton Oilers, as Nikolai Khabibulin was convicted of DUI and sentenced to 30 days in prison.