Goalie Guild Mailbag #4

Nov 5th 2009, 2:57pm EST

A few days ago, I released an all-new feature and service for fantasy hockey managers, the Fantasy Goalie Flow Chart. This is a simple and effective decision-making tool for your fantasy goaltending needs. The goal with this is to help you make solid decisions on which goalie to start and which to bench for any given game, goalie and situation that might arise over the course of a season.

Cam Ward

Through the comparison of numerous factors, it's my contention that more often than not, this chart will give you more confidence in making these decisions, while also developing a better understanding of your goalies' strengths and weaknesses. Over the last two and a half years, I've discussed a plethora of topics that has hopefully given you a clearer understanding of the nature of goaltending. So this flow chart could be considered a massive recap of everything I've presented since I started covering goalies for Dobber back in March of 2007.

There are many factors included in the flow chart, which is fully explained right here. But first and foremost, please realize that this should not be regarded as any type of mathematical algorithm - it's merely a guide. I don't guarantee accuracy and I don't have any equations or months of testing to substantiate what could be positive or negative results. Sometimes this will be effective and sometimes it won't ... it's really up to you ... and the hands of fate.

The results will therefore vary depending on the goalie in question and the fantasy manager's overall abilities. Obviously every manager will weigh the factors differently, so there's no true or definitive value attached to the individual factors. Some factors are easier to decipher (like records and statistics), while some might take a little more time and effort to gauge (rhythm, confidence and rebound control).

But the ultimate key is to focus on which factors mean the most to you and be confident in the decisions you make. Like many managers often preach on the forums, trust your instincts and don't be afraid to start your elite goalies. You might have a "yes" for nine out of ten positive factors, but a "no" in one negative factor could mean the difference between starting and benching your goalie. It really just depends on the situation.

And yes, I do realize that for many hardcore fantasy managers, especially those that are proficient in their goaltending analysis, this chart may seem somewhat useless at first. But regardless of whether or not it enhances your knowledge, the chart should be regarded as a resource and a guide. Plus there's always at least a few days where you have to rush like a madman to set your lineup in time. And when decisions must be made in haste, the Fantasy Goalie Flow Chart will be available at all times!

I ended up pulling the trigger on the following trade: He sent me Ward and Eric Staal and I sent him Emery and Lecavalier. I went with Ward as a means of him being a security blanket for not losing it during the season. I'm a little worried about Carolina's defense given the number of shots they've surrendered thus far and I realize that Emery at his best is probably a little better than Ward. However, the dependability thing won me over on this one. Nevertheless, I'm curious to hear your thoughts on comparing the two and look forward to seeing it in your mailbag. - Ted

I'd have to think that less than 5% of fantasy hockey teams have been able to escape the clutches of injury. Whether to forwards (like Staal) or goalies (Lehtonen, Luongo), just about everyone has had to make unwanted adjustments to their rosters in the hopes of making up for man games lost.

Obviously the struggles of Ward in October have been well-documented, as the Hurricanes have now lost ten straight games. To me, it can't get much worse for him, so sooner or later, his luck will change. It might take a major overhaul or a new head coach, but Carolina is still going to be fighting for a playoff spot when March rolls around.

In fact, it only takes a few minutes to look at Ward's career to see he's a playoff goalie - meaning he plays much stronger in February, March and April than October, November and December. Although no one expected things to be this bad for the Hurricanes, it's bound to happen to any team in the NHL. Last year the Avalanche was decimated by serious injuries (Sakic, Stastny, etc) and bad goaltending, but with Craig Anderson in net they are the best in the West.

Personally I think that Ward is going to be one of the best and hottest goalies AFTER the Olympics. That's when the focus will really be there and the team in front of him will be playing stronger. I'm not saying that Ward is worthless until then, but compared to Ray Emery and the Flyers, you'll probably have some rough nights in the next few weeks.

But when it comes down to it, I'm much more confident in Ward's abilities than Emery. Although Emery has had a very good October behind a very good Flyers team, the season is extremely long. There have been games where his focus has been top-notch, but games where he's played pretty terribly. I expect it to be a lot like this all season long, up and down games with a good win-loss record. At the end of the day, you'll probably see Emery end up with better statistics for the whole season, but Ward is going to give you a massive boost in the final two months of the season.

Let's take a quick look at where Ward and Emery stand right now as a quick example of what I discussed above.

Emery has a great 7-3-1 record with a 2.42 GAA and .916 save percentage. Not bad, but not elite by any means for a guy that has such a strong team in front of him. The win-loss record is a little mis-leading in my opinion, because there have been games where Emery has played terribly, allowing five goals against, but still squeaking out a win. He has been up and down for most of the season.

Ward is struggling with a 2-8-3 record but his stats, all things considered, are not that terrible. He owns a 2.99 GAA and a .899 save percentage. On a team that has lost ten straight games, anything under a 3.0 GAA is pretty admirable. He's faced 54 more shots than Emery in two extra games, but overall I have much more confidence that Ward will turn things around in the second half of the season and end up with stronger stats (not win-loss) than Emery. Or at the very least, Ward will improve much more from this point moving forward compared to Emery, where he is more likely to stay relatively close to where his stats lie right now.

Be patient with Ward right now. His last game against Florida was much better than the previous three...and remember that sooner or later, Ward's results are going to turn around and he'll once again be a quality fantasy goalie.