In reading the always superb Fantasy Guide (available here), I noticed there were nine teams where Dobber had a confidence level of 80% or less of one goalie being “the starter” (I won’t list the specific percentages – you’ll have to buy the Guide to see that). And although there will indeed turn out to be a 1A/1B goalie situation for many of those teams, if history is any indication that won’t be the case for all nine squads, in turn rewarding poolies who chose to own the right netminder.
So I decided to turn this into a poll, where I’ve listed the nine teams with these supposed 1A/1B goalie situations. Your task is to vote for the goalie(s) you think will end up starting 50+ games despite what appears to be, on paper, a goalie share situation. As far as rules, you can vote for as many goalies – or as few – as you want, provided you think each netminder for whom you cast a vote will start 50+ games this coming season. I’ve also included a “none of the above” choice in case you think none of the 18 netminders ends up starting 50+ games in 2019-20. As always, although these polls are meant to be enjoyable, please vote objectively so fellow Dobberites can look to the results to help shape decisions they’ll be making in terms of keepers, on draft day, or as early free agent grabs for 2019-20. With all that out of the way, here are the actual 18 (i.e., nine pairs of) choices, listed alphabetically by team.
BLACKHAWKS (Robin Lehner/Corey Crawford)
Although Crawford appeared in only 39 games last year and tallied just 14 wins, eight of those wins came in 16 starts in the fourth quarter, during which he had a 2.43 GAA and .919 SV%, as his concussion woes looked to be behind him and Chicago was playing great. Yes, Lehner will be motivated to show his gaudy numbers last season – which earned him a Vezina nomination – weren’t just a byproduct of a Barry Trotz/Mitch Korn system and given that he’s on a one year deal; but let’s not forget Crawford’s deal expires this season as well, so he’ll have just as much motivation to play well. On paper this looks like it has the makings of a true 1A/1B situation; but there’s a chance Crawford’s concussion woes could return, as could Lehner’s demons, or one of the two simply runs away with the starting gig.
DEVILS (Cory Schneider/Mackenzie Blackwood)
After zero wins in all of 2018 and a woeful GAA and SV%, Schneider found his game once the calendar flipped, as although he still was largely lacking in wins he had GAAs of 2.28 and 2.59 and SV% of .929 and .917 in the third and fourth quarters, respectively. He’s also signed for $6M through 2021-22. Blackwood, who is only 22 and will be an RFA after this coming season, started very strong but then was the worse of the two netminders during the second half, although Blackwood still had 15 quality starts of 23 games played, versus only 11 of 26 for Schneider. To start the 2019-20 season it’ll probably be Schneider’s net to lose, but between his injuries and inconsistent play, there’s a good chance Blackwood could get to 50 starts.
FLAMES (David Rittich/Cam Talbot)
Last season Rittich had pried away the starting gig in Calgary by the season’s halfway point, thanks to 16 quality starts in 24 games played, with 14 wins. But after a second-half where his SV% was below .900 and he didn’t manage even a 50% quality start rate, it was Mike Smith (more on him below) who Calgary turned to come playoff time. But Smith couldn’t help the Flames emerge from the first round, so the team brought in Cam Talbot on a one year, $2.75M salary despite him being now two seasons removed from his 42 wins 2016-17 campaign in Edmonton. With Rittich also set to make $2.75M this season it has the makings of a shared crease unless one of the two morphs into a dominant starter.
HURRICANES (Peter Mrazek/James Reimer)
After being signed to a five year deal that positioned him as heir apparent to the Florida crease once Roberto Luongo retried, Reimer proceeded to have two poor seasons, leaving the Panthers so eager to get rid of him that they agreed to trade their problem for Carolina’s in a deal which landed Florida Scott Darling, whom Florida then promptly bought out. After the dust settled, Carolina eventually brought back Mrazek, the team’s unsung hero arguably the most significant factor in earning them a playoff spot. But Mrazek couldn’t cut it come playoff time, and Reimer has played well in prior seasons, such that it’s possible either one could grab the reins and become the full-fledged starter. Or it could shake out as expected, with neither one ending up as a true #1.
ISLANDERS (Semyon Varlamov/Thomas Greiss)
Last season Robin Lehner earned a Vezina nomination after posting 25 wins, a .930 SV%, a 2.13 GAA and six shutouts. But what many seem to have overlooked is Greiss had stats which were arguably as solid, with 23 wins, a .927 SV%, a 2.28 GAA, and five shutouts. Plus, Greiss is in the Trotz/Korn system for a second season. Yes, the team signed Varlamov for more money and long term, and he now also gets to benefit from Trotz/Korn goalie whispering; but Greiss is on the last year of his deal and thus has plenty of motivation to excel, and Varlamov is six seasons removed from his last sub-2.50 GAA campaign. This one could end up an even split if last season in Long Island was any indication, although with all of these factors at play one of the two could become a true #1 for the upstart Islanders.
OILERS (Mikko Koskinen/Mike Smith)
At this point, it sure sounds like new coach Dave Tippett is envisioning a split crease in Edmonton. But this is the same Dave Tippett who has previously been known to not only anoint a #1 goalie but give that netminder a large workload, from Marty Turco in Dallas to Ilya Bryzgalov and Smith in Phoenix. Of course, perhaps he sees things differently now. For sure the team would like nothing more than to see Koskinen grab the ball and run with it since he is younger and signed for an additional season. But the veteran Smith might have one more great season left in him, so perhaps it’s him who grabs ahold of the crease for 2019-20. Or when all is said and done it might be the split that Tippett is suggesting.
PREDATORS (Pekka Rinne/Juuse Saros)
A Vezina winner in 2017-18, Rinne’s stats from 2018-19 were only a small step down, which led to him still holding court as the #1 in Nashville despite turning 36 last November. Rinne also saved his best for the end of last season, whereas Saros had an up and down campaign. Every year pundits predict that Saros will breakthrough and Rinne will cede the crease. Perhaps this is the year it occurs, or just maybe Rinne will continue to defy father time and keep a lock on the #1 job on Music City.
RANGERS (Henrik Lundqvist/Alexander Georgiev)
The numbers for Lundqvist aren’t pretty – four seasons in a row of rising GAA and three of decreasing win totals, although the poor team in front of him of late hasn’t helped matters. With the Blueshirts having undergone a substantial rebuild this offseason they should be vastly improved; the question is whether they choose to continue to let King Henrik, who’ll turn 38 this season, be their #1 or allow Georgiev, who improved with each passing quarter last season, to eat away at Lundqvist’s starts total. Chances are Lundqvist will be the presumed number one but have a shorter leash than ever.
**Editor's Note: Watch out for Igor Shestyorkin creeping up the ranks as well.**
SABRES (Carter Hutton/Linus Ullmark)
After Hutton impressed for several years as a back-up, Buffalo inked him to a three-year deal at $2.75M per season in hopes of getting a bargain price for a starter. But once Hutton was “the guy” he struggled, albeit for a pretty poor team. Ullmark ended up playing a good chunk of 2018-19, sometimes looking great but other times looking terrible. This one might be a goalie share not because both are equally good but rather because neither one has what it takes to be a bona fide starter. Then again, perhaps one of them could surprise and run away with the job, which is something the Buffalo brass likely would be more than happy to have occur.
You can cast your votes by clicking here. As noted above, you can vote for as many or as few players as you think deserve to be chosen. Or you can pick “all of the above” if you think all 19 players will indeed be significantly worse off due to the offseason trades and/or signings that have occurred thus far.
Be sure to come back next week for a special “Bubble Keeper” week edition of my Goldipucks and the Three Skates column. Then in two weeks, I’ll go back to my mailbag, which would’ve normally appeared next week.
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