Next Season’s Top Goalies: A Rebuttal

Now that the free agent frenzy is over, the dog days of hockey summer have arrived.  So when Sam McCaig of Puck Daddy issued a predicted top 25 goalies for next season, we jumped at the chance to compare our top-25 lists to his.  That said, we didn’t exactly see eye-to-eye, either.

Read On!

Nabby’s Back!

# Sam McCaig Andy Green Harry Hawkings
1 Tim Thomas, Bos Ryan Miller, Buf Pekka Rinne, Nsh
2 Pekka Rinne, Nsh Pekka Rinne, Nsh Henrik Lundqvist, NYR
3 Henrik Lundqvist, NYR Henrik Lundqvist, NYR Tim Thomas, Bos
4 Ryan Miller, Buf Roberto Luongo, Van Roberto Luongo, Van
5 Carey Price, Mtl Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy Carey Price, Mtl
6 Roberto Luongo, Van Tomas Vokoun, Wsh Ryan Miller, Buf
7 M.A. Fleury, Pit Cam Ward, Car Cam Ward, Car
8 Cam Ward, Car Rask/Thomas, Bos Jonathan Quick, LA
9 Ilya Bryzgalov, Phi Evgeni Nabokov, NYI Ilya Bryzgalov, Phi
10 Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy Dwayne Roloson, TB Tomas Vokoun, Wsh
11 Martin Brodeur, NJ M.A. Fleury, Pit Martin Brodeur, NJ
12 Antti Niemi, SJ Niklas Backstrom, Min Antti Niemi, SJ
13 Tomas Vokoun, Wsh Antti Niemi, SJ M.A. Fleury, Pit
14 Jonathan Quick, LA Semyon Varlamov, Col Niklas Backstrom, Min
15 Niklas Backstrom, Min Ilya Bryzgalov, Phi Corey Crawford, Chi
16 Jonas Hiller, Ana Carey Price, Mtl Jaroslav Halak, Stl
17 Jaroslav Halak, StL Kari Lehtonen, Dal Jimmy Howard, Det
18 Corey Crawford, Chi Corey Crawford, Chi Jonas Hiller, Ana
19 Dwayne Roloson, TB Jonathan Quick, LA Miikka Kiprusoff, Cgy
20 Kari Lehtonen, Dal Craig Anderson, Ott Dwayne Roloson, TB
21 Jimmy Howard, Det Jaroslav Halak, StL Craig Anderson, Ott
22 Ondrej Pavelec, Wpg Martin Brodeur, NJ Steve Mason, CBJ
23 Nikolai Khabibulin, Edm James Reimer, Tor James Reimer, Tor
24 Steve Mason, CBJ Ondrej Pavelec, Wpg Ondrej Pavelec, Wpg
25 Craig Anderson, Ott Steve Mason, CBJ Kari Lehtonen, Dal

Andy:  It looked more like Sam put together a list of last season’s goalies than next year’s goalies.  I can’t disagree with his backup list, even if it means Michal Neuvirth is on that list instead of this one.  He’s got a solid list, one that won’t hold too many surprises, and one that plays it safe.  But that’s just not my style. 

I also have to say I’m going out on a limb on several of these goalies.  Judging by Tim Thomas’s last big season in 2008-09 where he won the Vezina and went deep into the playoffs, I predict he will give way to Tuukka Rask for a 50/50 split like in 2009-10, meaning the two-headed monster will be very good, just not top-5.  I am also predicting one last huge season for Miikka Kiprusoff.  I think he’s got enough left in the tank to get the Flames to the playoffs, especially if the Flames’ centers can stay healthy.  Another chance I’m taking is that Evgeni Nabokov will return to form, but if the Red Wings wanted him and Garth Snow really wants him on the Island, I’m thinking he’s going to turn in a stellar year.  It’s just a shame Rick DiPietro won’t be playing, as he’s a top-5 goalie when healthy. I’m also going to say that James Reimer will play very well, I know better than to argue with Brian Burke (or play poker with him.)

The other side of the surprises is how low I rank some of these goalies.  Carey Price had an excellent regular season, but he’s not known for dealing well with pressure, and he’s only 24.  I think he will have a season closer to his career average next season, and if he can survive that, I think he’ll take off again in 2012-13.  Martin Brodeur is over the hill, and Semyon Varlamov really is better than Ilya Bryzgalov.  Just like when I trust Garth Snow to pick a good goalie, I always trust the Philadelphia Flyers not to, so Bryz must be overrated (that, and he had a massive collapse against the Red Wings in the playoffs). 

Harry: (See his full list here)  I made my list as a projection mainly based on both next year’s projected performance while factoring age, potential, and last year’s statistics.  That’s the reason Tim Thomas isnt #1 on my list, even though I expect him to play a full season; no one will ever do what he did again, and he is now 37 years old.  It’s not fair to expect him to be the best goalie in the league again, as the Vezina winner almost never repeats.

As you can see, one of the main places that Andy and I differ is Carey Price and Miikka Kiprusoff.  Andy sees Kipper as a top 5 goalie and Price as a bottom half one; while I see price as a top 5 goalie and Kipper way towards the bottom of the pile.  Price responded brilliantly to incredible pressure last season to the tune of a 2.35 GAA and .923 save percentage, and did it without his top defensive pairing for most of the year (Josh Gorges missed 50 games, Andrei Markov 75).  Kipper, meanwhile, is 12 years older and failed to make the playoffs with a healthy roster the whole season, as well as a team that scored .3 more goals per game than the Canadiens did.  Price played more minutes than Kipper did, too.

To me, Evgeni Nabobov belongs nowhere near this list.  Granted, he was very good in his career when he was with the Sharks, but the Sharks were, and still are, a far superior team to the lowly Islanders.  Nabokov was so bad last year, he got cut from the KHL in Russia.  Do you know how bad you have to be to get cut in the KHL?  Like, Vesa Toskala bad.  I think a guy like Pavelec, playing behind a young and emerging team with no significant holes, is far more likely to have an excellent year than a guy like Nabokov who is over 30 and hasn’t played an NHL game in 17 months.

Have a disagreement?  Tell me on Twitter at @HarryHawkings.