Goalie Strategies

Oct 16th 2009, 7:23pm EDT

By Dave Sullivan

Since this is my first article for a fantasy hockey website I'll start off with a little introduction of who I am. My name is Dave Sullivan, I'm 24 years old and have been a die-hard Penguins fan since I was 5 years old. I have played hockey in recreational leagues and regularly at pick up games for the past 9 years. I started out playing defense, then center, then had a three year stint at goalie, and now I have settled comfortably into left wing. I lived in NY playing ice hockey up until about a year and a half ago until I moved to Virginia, where I now run a hockey outreach program. We provide sticks and equipment and set up games for kids who have never gotten a chance to play hockey before and we do this all without charging. (My brother and a few of my friends have helped out a lot with providing sticks and helping teach the kids). In about 8 months since we started the program, we've gotten about 80 kids involved and I keep getting emails and phone calls about new kids all the time. Along with this program, I send out a newsletter with hockey playing tips and strategies and keep track of personal player stats for kids in the program. It's a fun program and I hope that it grows as the years go on.

I've done fantasy hockey for 8 years running now, and out of the 20 leagues I've been in, I have managed to capture 4 golds, 2 silvers, and 6 bronzes. I have also unfortunately finished 12th out of 12 in 2 of those leagues. But overall, my fantasy hockey sense is usually pretty on point, and in my current dynasty league (14 teams, all players kept), I have finished in 1st, 4th, 3rd and 3rd respectively. The last of the three years were when my dad joined the league and I helped him build a competitive team, which knocked me out in the semi-finals all three years in a row.

I am currently unemployed after an accident at work so I spend my free time looking up hockey info and trying to heal my broken bones. I'll be getting married on November 15th to an amazing girl, who not only supports my hockey obsession, but has caught the fever herself and has started playing hockey and has joined one of my fantasy hockey leagues.

Now onto the good stuff. In this article I'm going to discuss the pros and cons of the different goaltending strategies and ultimately, which one will work best in your situation.

Hoarding:

This strategy is simple. You pick up as many goalies as you can, whether they are the starters or the backups, and you sit on them.

Pros:
- You will be guaranteed to make your goalie starts
- When someone goes down with an injury, other teams will be forced to deal with you just to make starts
- If a starter on another team starts playing poorly, you've locked up the goalie that will win their starting job
- You choose what matchups you want to play, avoid the high scoring, play against the low scoring
- You can wait for the young talent to mature on your team while they ride the bench (more useful for keeper leagues)

Cons:
- Severely limits your starts offensively, lack of depth up front
- In order to get high end goalies, you have to sacrifice talent up front, once again less offensive production
- Too many options, you could start the wrong goalies and start forcing bad decisions for future starts
- Low end goalies don't carry as much trade value, a couple bad starts and you're carrying dead weight
- Most of the time, people who hoard, get stuck with goalies who are past their prime, or still in diapers, leading to inconsistent starts
- You want too high a price for goalies with too low a quality, scaring away potential buyers

Loyalty:

This is when you draft 2 top tier goalies and ride them the whole year with only one back up at the most.

Pros:
- Leaves plenty of space to pick up offensive players
- Having top tier goalies, your numbers wont get brought down by the lower guys
- If you forget to set your team up, your goalies will never be riding the bench

Cons:
- On slow weeks, you might not make your goalie starts
- If either goalie gets injured, you're screwed
- If either goalie goes on a cold streak, you're screwed

The Dynamic Duo:

This is the strategy where you carry a teams starting goalie and their backup, ensuring you get all the teams starts.

Pros:
- You will get every goalie start for that team
- If one goes down to injury, you've already secured the backup
- If one of the goalies gets traded, both could end up as starters
- On a good team, you are guaranteed all of their wins

Cons:
- On teams with a 1a-1b combo, you may need to use both goalie spots to get 1 start
- On a bad team, you are guaranteed all of their losses
- On teams with a definite starter, the backup is pretty much dead weight on your roster
- If one of the goalies gets traded, both could end up backups.

Personally, I like to mix in the dynamic duo combo with both the other strategies. In my 14 team keeper, I use the hoard strategy along with the dynamic duo. Last year, it was Niittymaki and Biron with Rinne and a few other goalies, I managed to put together a 14 week unbeaten streak with the consistency I had in goaltending. The off season pretty much wrecked my team, so to start the year I made a move for Ellis and picked up Pavelec and Deslauriers to fill up my goaltending roster. While on paper the combo may look weak, I'm now guaranteed my goalie starts, and have 2 future starters on my roster. (Not to mention I have Lehtonen on IR). So basically what you need to keep in mind is that your goalies need to work for you. You can't win if you don't make your starts but you can win with goalies who aren't headliners. Big names do not necessarily mean big numbers. A team that struggles from week to week to make its starts is going to put up inconsistent numbers. So a mediocre, yet reliable lineup will help your team to get its foot in the door for a playoff run.

We'll talk more about that in my next article, how to buy cheap and sell high with fantasy goalies. And too, we'll talk about some of the sleepers out there waiting to make your team championship worthy.