Welcome to the second installment of this year’s Top 31 goaltenders. I covered all of the introductory/methodology/housekeeping issues during the first portion of the list, which you can find here to bring yourself up to speed. Otherwise, we are going to jump right in. Here goes, goaltenders 20-11…
After escaping the goaltending hell that was Vancouver (who could have thought Florida would be a better landing spot?) Luongo has had a renaissance of sorts back with the organization he got his start with. His game slipped a bit this past year, but he was hardly the only thing that went wrong in Sunrise this past season. I still like Luongo’s game to age well, but playing out his age 38 season, he isn’t as much as a guarantee of reliable performance at this stage.
A lot of discussion about Bishop’s true talent level took place after the Stars inked the Maine alum to a six-year contract this offseason. He will turn thirty-one about a month into the season and that type of contract term is dicey for a goaltender that size. My theory is that the Stars were looking for the stability between the pipes that they sorely lacked with Lehtonen and Niemi this past season, and were willing to over pay. Bishop should be that guy (but not too much more) for the next few seasons, but I have a feeling the end of that contract will look ugly. Bottom line on Bishop, he is a good, but not great goalie about to enter the years where his body control could become an issue. Buyer beware.
The new starting goaltender for the Islanders has been criminally underrated for years (by myself, also), but he should get his chance to shine under the bright lights of Brooklyn? Uniondale? No idea. Either way, his performance over the past few years has warranted a longer look as a starter, even if he is a little older for his first crack at the role (31). I like Greiss’s technical discipline and quiet movements in net. For a young Islanders team, he should bring some needed stability between the pipes. My biggest concern is workload for the German born goaltender, as he has never played more than 57 games in a season.
- Scott Darling- Carolina Hurricanes (last year’s rank: N/R)
Another new starter, Darling is a lot like the last few Rangers’ backups to branch out to a new organization. He has been a tremendous backup to Corey Crawford in Chicago the past few seasons (stealing the job from Antti Raanta, of all people) and is getting his first crack at the starting gig for Carolina at age 28. Another tall tender, at 6’ 6”, he is extremely athletic, but his LD sv% (low danger) over the past few years has lagged far behind his HD and MD percentages. This tells me there may be some concentration/focus issues on the more routine plays, but the skill set is definitely there for a quality starting goaltender.
- Antti Raanta- Arizona Coyotes (last year’s rank: N/R)
Another year, another protégé of Benoit Allaire striking out to find a starting role beyond the shadow of Henrik Lundqvist. Raanta had two brilliant seasons in New York and found himself shipped out to the desert with Derek Stepan at the Draft this offseason. Like Darling, he will be taking the reigns for the first time at age 28, but will have a quality partner in Louis Domingue, should he falter. I really like Raanta’s calm, smooth game and I believe he will find success with the ‘Yotes.
- Martin Jones- San Jose Sharks (last year’s rank: 13)
Jones is a bit of a frustrating case. His performance in San Jose has been consistently league average since taking over the crease there in 2015. However, I believe there is a lot more talent in the twenty-seven-year-old Vancouver native. He has the talent to be a top 10 goaltender in this league and refuses to bring himself to that level. Hopefully, something clicks and he fully realizes his ability, but even if he doesn’t, he is still talented enough to backstop a contender, he just won’t live up to that shiny new six-year deal.
- Frederik Andersen- Toronto Maple Leafs (last year’s rank: 17)
Andersen has made consistent strides in improving his technique and adjusting to the NHL game. His first year as the starter for a young Leafs team got off to a very rocky start, but he made adjustments and was able to finish the year strong. I like his calm net presence for a young team, and while he may not make the headlines and highlight reels like some of his teammates, his stability and consistency (which I believe he has established) should be very beneficial for an organization on the rise.
- Marc-Andre Fleury- Vegas Golden Knights (last year’s rank: 12)
Fleury created some very positive press for himself this offseason, first graciously stepping aside to allow Matt Murray to take the starting job for the Penguins by allowing himself to be selected in the Expansion Draft by Vegas. Then, on his way out of town, went ahead and donated a playground to the Boys & Girls Club in Pittsburgh. Good guy credentials in tow, the move to Vegas is a good opportunity for Fleury to get a fresh start with no one looking over his shoulder. Granted, his team is going to be atrociously bad, but I guess at least there are casinos?
- Devan Dubnyk- Minnesota Wild (last year’s rank: 11)
Dubnyk was a tale of two analyses last season. On the surface, he had a shiny .923 save percentage and a very reasonable 2.25 GAA. If you dig a little deeper, though, his advanced statistics had the underlying performance at roughly league average. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but I still like Dubnyk to be a quality performer this season, even if he settles in as the nice, consistent option, rather than the guy stealing games at this stage of his career. That said, the Wild are going to need him to be a big performer this year if they are going to make any noise in the playoffs.
When you get to this point in the rankings, “rough year” becomes a bit relative. This is exactly what happened to Rask last season. His underlying stats slipped across the board, which could be a product of a pretty brutal roster construction model in Boston, or it could be the beginning of a slow decline for a guy who’s style puts an awful lot of strain on his hips. I would put my money on the former, but the dip in performance can’t be ignored. Don’t be surprised to see Rask bounce back into the top 10 for next season.
As you can see, this section is a bit odd in that it was a mix of newly minted starters combined with vets who have slipped a bit from their former glory. The Top 10 is on deck, make sure you stop by next week to see the final segment and don’t forget to sound off about the rankings in the comments below. Enjoy your weekend, everyone!"Justin's 6th Annual Top 31 Goaltenders List (20-11)",