Thursday, September 07, 2017

Back-Up Goalie Questions

The goalie survivor pool is probably my favourite mini-game of the bunch, since I instituted them a couple of seasons ago.  It certainly helps to have a pair of starting goalies, but in Stacey M.'s case, the winner of last season's mini-game, you can certainly get away with a good starter and a very good back-up goalie as well.

We're not all going to get a couple of starting goalies, well, at least not a couple of projected starting goalies, who knows how the start of the season will go, right?  So, if we're at least prepared to not take two goalies in the first two rounds of the draft, like five teams did last season, then you will have to likely be prepared to look at some back-ups down the road.

In doing that, you're going to also have to keep an eye on a handful of teams that do have some back-up goalie questions, heading into training camp.  I would say that there are five teams, currently, that have some back-up goalie questions and some that could swing the other way and catch you off-guard on draft day.

Ottawa Proj Pittsburgh Proj Los Angeles Proj Winnipeg Proj Chicago Proj
Craig Anderson 65 Matt Murray 90 Jonathan Quick 75 Steve Mason 65 Corey Crawford 80
Mike Condon 40 Tristan Jarry 10 Jeff Zatkoff 15 Connor Hellebuyck 30 J-F Berube 15
Andrew Hammond 0 Antti Niemi 10 Darcy Kuemper 0 Michael Hutchinson 10 Anton Forsberg 15

I'm not sure there was any better of an example of a back-up that came through in the clutch, when the number one was down, better than Mike Condon in Ottawa.  Acquired from Montreal earlier in the season, he was huge when Craig Anderson had to leave the team for family reasons and he ended up with a pretty good season of his own.  Of course, Anderson eventually came back and stole the show through the playoff run, but they wouldn't have been there, if it wasn't for Condon.

It doesn't sound like Condon has too much to worry about, but the 2016 season was Andrew Hammond's time to shine and if he can find the form from the season previous, the Senators would have a real battle on their hands, one that may need a trade out of town to sort out, moving one of these keepers to a team that may struggle out of the gates or suffer a major injury of their own.

The Penguins have a very interesting dynamic in behind Matt Murray, as they have been home-growing Tristan Jarry to be a part of this organization and they have also gone out and spent some money in the free agent market, picking up former Stanley Cup winner in Antti Niemi.  Niemi's struggles in Dallas, whether or not you believe it was either him or the team in front of him, has me leaning towards Jarry taking the job, but the safe money would be on Niemi to earn the job, keeping that experience around.

The Kings also added a little bit of NHL experience to their back-up race as well, via the free agent market, as they gave a flyer to former Minnesota keeper, Darcy Kuemper, who will battle with Jeff Zatkoff for that spot on the bench behind Jonathan Quick.  Zatkoff, the incumbent in the position, wasn't great in the spot last season, making 13 appearances and only coming away with 2 wins, while Kuemper fared much better last season with the Wild and could usurp the position through camp.  I have Zatkoff in the spot, but obviously, that could change.

The goaltending situation in Winnipeg should be much clearer with Steve Mason in as the number one, since neither Connor Hellebuyck or Michael Hutchinson couldn't step up and grab the job last season.  Those two will battle it out for the regular back-up spot and the loser may have to pass through waivers to get down to the AHL, which could also open up a chance somewhere else, if the opportunity arises.  I would wait to see how training camp goes before you slot these two in in your rankings.

Finally, it's an open audition for the back-up job in Chicago, as a couple new faces to the organization have the clean shots at the job.  Former Islanders goalie J-F Berube and former Blue Jackets keeper Anton Forsberg will be the two going at it in Blackhawks camp and it's probably going to be a good spot to be in.  The Blackhawks should be quite competitive again this season and a back-up goalie, much like Scott Darling was the guy last year, can be a top 40 goalie in the hockey pool.  This will be an important training camp to watch in this case.
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