Tuuka Rask (who looks like the love child of Cindy Lou Who and the Grinch) was all the rage going into last year’s draft. He took over for an injured Tim Thomas the previous season and went donkey-kong crazy with a 1.97GAA, .931SV%, 5 Shutouts and a 22-12 record (He won 20 games! He should’ve won the Cy Young!) But then Tim Thomas sold his soul and went on to have one of the greatest seasons in the history of the sport. Rask was relegated to *Mr 1 Start a Week and most everyone who drafted him didn’t realize how worthless he was until it was too late. This year there is no Tuuka Rask, but I guarantee at least 1 or 3 Goalies will emerge from pergatory to become a starter. Often it’s a highly touted rookie who replaces an ineffective veteran (Reimer for Jiggy last year). But it can also be due to injury (Scott Clemmenson for Marty Brodeur 3 years ago) or even trade (I don’t have an example off the top of my head – sue me). The point is, every backup in the league has the potential to become a full time starter and knowing who they are will give you a leg (glove? pad?) up on the competition.
Andrew Raycroft (Dal): This is not an endorsement of Andrew Raycroft but rather an indictment on Kari Lehtonen’s ability to stay healthy. He won’t. At some point Raycroft will get starts after Kari ends up pregnant and has to take maternity leave. The only question is, will she miss the minimum 6 weeks or is the whole year gonna be lost before November? My guess is the latter, meaning Raycroft could get upwards of 50 starts. It won’t be anything spectacular (just ask the ’06-’07 Leafs) but just play the matchups and he’d make a nice #3 goalie.
Jonathan Bernier (LA): I feel like I am required to mention Bernier because of the hype around him. Every time JQ has a bad game, no one ever says “hey, its just 1 game Quick will be fine.” It’s always, “at what point do the Kings give Bernier an extended look?” And it’s not completely unwarranted. Weekend at Berniers is probably the best backup in hockey which is why he’s on this list, but don’t go crazy I still think Quick stays healthy and effective.
Scott Clemmensen (Fla): Here is a case of a backup who could just as easily win the starting job due to injury as performance. Sure Florida is going to suck but if Clemmensen can steal the starting job he’ll get some wins and won’t kill your ratios.
Mathieu Garon (TB): Not sure what Tampa Bay was thinking bringing this guy in as their backup. Garon stinks, but Dwayne Roloson’s old Korean War injuries are going to cost him some games (months?) And that’ll mean Garon’s the starter on one of the best teams in the NHL and a potential source for easy Wins. And remember the name Dustin Tokarski, I could see him taking Garon’s job at some point.
Corey Schneider (Van): If I were the Canucks, I’d trade Luongo for some prospects and a backup goalie and go with Schneider. He proved last year (Small Sample warning!) he can handle the NHL with a 16-4 record and ridiculous ratios: 2.23GAA, .929SV%. Of course the Canucks ain’t trading Luongo, but if they do (or he gets hurt) your looking at an elite level goalie.
Anders Lindback (Nsh): Anders the Giant is alot younger than Rinne and probably just as talented. Plus he has his own rap song. At some point he’ll be the starter in Nashville. I doubt it will come this year because Rinne has already proven he can be an elite goalie in the NHL, but if Lean back becomes the man he’ll put up Rinne stats. Nashville churns out goalies like Detroit churns out forwards and Lindback is the next guy in line.
Evgeni Nabokov (NYI): This is my million-to-one shot. Nabakov may not even end up on the Isle, but I still think there is something here ability wise. Montoya and Poulin will probably end up splitting time this year (after DiPietro goes on his year long vacation in October), but I could see a scenario where the Islanders are better than people think and Nabokov ends up the starter due to his “experience”.