Dobber launched his fantasy hockey website Dobber Hockey back in 2005 and has been providing Puck Daddy with fantasy hockey knowledge since 2009. Steve Laidlaw is the Managing Editor for Dobber Hockey.
There is nothing better than boasting an elite workhorse goalie on your fantasy hockey roster. Knowing that night after night your goalie is not only going to get the start but give you some great numbers creates not only peace of mind but also the ability to tinker elsewhere. You can often ride an elite workhorse to your goalie-starts minimum each week without having to put your stats at risk starting inferior options. Elite workhorses are the tentpoles upon which you can hoist the canvas that is your fantasy roster.
As of January 1, there were seven goaltenders on pace for at least 65 starts:
Depending on when you take your census, Tuukka Rask, Jake Allen and Cory Schneider may also be on pace for 65+ starts. These are the 2016-17 workhorses.
The worry with these guys is burnout. Can they sustain this sort of pace? Will their performance suffer if they do? Let’s look at what other goalies in the situations have done to help us predict what might be in store for our workhorses above.
In the 10 full seasons since the ’05 lockout there have been 79 separate instances where a goaltender was on pace for 65+ starts on January 1, of those 48 (61%) finished with 65 starts or more.
Better still, as you can see from the chart above, only 20% of these goaltenders failed to get to at least 60 starts. So while about 40% of these goalies saw their pace fall off, only half of those decliners fell off by more than a few starts.
Many of the same names kept popping up as workhorses like Martin Brodeur, Miikka Kiprusoff and Roberto Luongo consistently churned out seasons of 65+ starts year after year. However, it’s worth mentioning that having made 65 or more starts in a season before didn’t really impact the likelihood of a goaltender sustaining that pace in any given season. That’s good news for the likes of Bobrovsky, Talbot and Andersen. While we might have questions about the durability of Bobrovsky and Andersen given their track records of injury, having not held up before does not definitively rule out their ability to hold up.
Now that we’ve shown that 80% of goaltenders with a workhorse’s pace have gone on to start at least 60 games, we should feel confident in the ability of this season’s crop to do similarly. But making the starts is only half the battle. How have goaltenders who have started 65+ games faired down the stretch? Have they maintained their elite performance or have they faded?
Since the ’05 lockout there have been 63 different instances where a goaltender started 65 or more games. Of those instances, 29 goaltenders saw their save percentage drop in March and April, while 31 increased and three stayed the same:
On average, goaltenders saw their save percentage drop by .0006 in the months of March and April, a negligible amount. Based on the scatter above, it’s as likely that a goalie who makes 65+ starts will improve in the final weeks of the season as it is that he will decline. Sometimes, these spikes can be huge and sometimes they are negligible.
The recent example of Vezina winner Braden Holtby is informative. Holtby was amazing last season but saw his save percentage drop in the final few weeks. However, he remained an above average goalie. We should expect something similar for the likes of Bobrovsky and Dubnyk who have shredded the league thus far. While we expect some regression in their elite play that does not necessarily mean we expect them to fall off entirely.
The take away is that you should feel confident in your workhorse goaltender. The one outlier is Budaj, who stands a good chance of having Jonathan Quick return in time to spoil his party. Otherwise, if you have any of the other six listed off the hop, there are good odds that these guys will start at least 60 games.
It’s anyone’s guess how things will shake out in March/April, during the fantasy playoffs, but on average, workhorse goalies don’t lose much from their season average. We should instead use more traditional heuristic’s like regression to the mean when projecting what is to come. At this stage of the season these are goalies you should count on.
Steve Laidlaw is the Managing Editor of DobberHockey. Follow him on Twitter @SteveLaidlaw
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