James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Fleury of Dissent

Thursday, April 18, 2013

(Note: if you’d like an in-depth look at the emotional impact of the Bruins playing the first major sports game in Boston since the Boston Marathon explosions, check out Pro Hockey Talk’s coverage. We’ll stick to more nuts and bolts fantasy stuff in this case.)


If you’re the nostalgic (and in some cases, stubborn) type, then three of Wednesday’s games probably made you feel a rare sense of comfort during a season where it seems like some of the “rules” have been playing out the window.


That nostalgic bent conveniently starts with goalies (with the Columbus Blue Jackets - Anaheim Ducks game neatly holding the major exceptions). I’ll make this story longer in a second, but simply put, the goalies who tend to sport high ratings in video games and praise in the eyes of often-lazier pundits* actually lived up to the hype.


Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not like at least two-thirds of these guys cannot bring it with respectable regularity (pauses for Meatloaf references), but they’ve spawned plenty of critics, too.





More than Jarome Iginla, it seems like Miikka Kiprusoff has been a symbol of the Calgary Flames’ lengthy reluctance to accept reality (which finally gave way late this season). While Iginla’s charm and resume make it easier to stomach his hefty salary, Kiprusoff’s 2013 season probably clinches him as a poor investment for many.


Just look at his putrid numbers this year: 22 games played, 7-13-2 record, .877 save percentage and 3.53 GAA with zero shutouts.


Every now and then, it’s nice to find numbers that everyone merely willing to read them will admit are awful. Traditionalists (and win-craving fantasy owners) can blast that horrendous record. Meanwhile, that save percentage will leave many statheads’ mouths agape.


While he allowed an embarrassing Johan Franzen goal to keep things from being totally perfect, Kiprusoff was the reason (along with two goals from Steve Begin!!!!**) that a hilariously over-matched Flames team beat the Detroit Red Wings last night.


There are rumors that Wednesday might be his last game with the Flames and/or in the NHL. It’s hard to imagine the Finnish workhorse topping that with the horrendous season he’s produced.





Anyone who’s excessively surprised by the Buffalo Sabres’ drive to hover around the East playoff bubble after looking dead earlier this season probably hasn’t followed the ebbs and flows of this team in recent seasons. Including this campaign, Buffalo has stampeded its way back to relevance for at least the last three years, although it’s likely that the only time it will have worked out was in 2010-11.


(As noted mathematician Meatloaf might agree, one out of three ain’t good.)


Honestly, I have trouble knowing what to make of Ryan Miller. His silver medal + Vezina campaign in 2009-10 was sensational, but it seems like the exception rather than the rule.


Here's his save percentage in the last five seasons:

2008-09 (59 GP): .918
2009-10 (69 GP): .929
2010-11 (66 GP): .916
2011-12 (61 GP): .916

This season (37 GP): .915


And just for kicks, his career (497 GP): .915


That’s a solid mark, but is that the kind of production you expect from a $6 million guy? That’s for Sabres management to furrow their brows about, but more and more, it seems obvious to me that his draft position is being inflated by that amazing year.


Even if you think his mediocre team drags him down - and I agree, to at least some extent - context doesn’t matter in fantasy results. Gauging which goalies might benefit from superior teammates and which ones might suffer based on lousy ones is certainly a big part of the game ... even if predicting that can definitely be a difficult task.


Actually, the goalie “nature vs. nurture” argument brings us to Wednesday’s other solid performer...





Remember that bit about how Kiprusoff’s numbers are so clearly awful that people who spout out “compete level” on a regular basis can finally agree with people who prattle on about “regression to the mean”? Well, that love fest can probably be broken up merely by uttering the name Marc-Andre Fleury.


Pundits see the Stanley Cup ring, No.1 overall draft pick status, cool name and acrobatic saves and say “elite goalie.” Stat-centric folks look at a rather undistinguished career .910 save percentage and think “hyped yet average.”


Generally, I might lean toward the latter with MAF, but I’ll say this: it’s hard to kick the sensation that he has a nice “ceiling.” For me, it’s the season where he lost in the Stanley Cup finals that indicated that he can be a difference-maker:


Fleury in 2007-08


Regular season: 19-10-2 with a .921 save percentage and 2.33 GAA in 35 GP

Playoffs: 14-5 with a .933 save percentage and 1.97 GAA in 20 GP


Yes, it’s just one season - especially since he was limited to 35 games in the regular version - but at least that provides an argument that he hasn’t ALWAYS been a passenger with Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin & Co. during every moment of success.


He had a nice win on Wednesday, giving him above average numbers that look especially good to fantasy owners: 22-6-0 with a .917 save percentage and 2.32 GAA.


In other words, we can agree to disagree about “The Flower,” but does it require such venomous arguments?


Anyway, let’s move on to Fleury’s new teammates and more after the jump.


* - Clearly the arbiter of all things hockey, right? RIGHT?


** - I try to avoid using exclamation points out of fear of my old journalism professors, but two goals by Begin - in 2013 - are about as worthy of that rare punctuation as anything in fantasy hockey.


continue story »
James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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