I’ve kept a close eye on Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury this season. I like Fleury for a lot of different reasons, and I fully expect he’ll be an average to above average starter for the next decade or so. That said, I don’t know if there’s a more overrated goaltender in the league this season.

With Fleury’s latest loss in the books – a game in which he allowed five goals to the high-flying Washington Capitals – his save percentage on the season has dipped to a mediocre .906. That ranks him 23rd among the 30 NHL starters, below guys like Jose Theodore in Washington of Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, and in the neighborhood of much-maligned starters like Cristobal Huet in Chicago and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers in Edmonton. Even-strength save percentage (which is a better indicator of goalie value, since it renders the difference in penalty-killing units moot) tells a similar story, slotting Fleury 24th of the league’s 30 starting goalies.

Fleury hasn’t looked significantly better than backup Brent Johnson, who has a better save percentage (.912). Johnson was at one time the St. Louis Blues goalie of the future, but poor performances (aside from his one brilliant playoff run) turned him into a journeyman backup, a job he has excelled at for just under three seasons now. The fact that his performance this season rivals that of the highly-touted Fleury is an indicator of how bad Fleury’s season has been.

Of course, what defenders of Fleury like to point out is that he’s won a Stanley Cup as a starting goalie. I don’t put much stock in that either, given that Fleury’s .908 save percentage in the playoffs represented a decidedly average performance. Ironically, he was better (brilliant, actually) in Pittsburgh’s previous run to the Finals (the one they lost), posting a .933 save percentage to lead all playoff goalies in that category.

None of this is to say that Fleury’s a bad goaltender – far from it. He was brilliant in 2007-08, he was good in 2008-09 and at 25 years of age he’s had four decent or better seasons as a starting goaltender. He’s already had a good career and I expect that to continue.

I’m just in constant amazement that a guy like Carey Price – whose last three seasons bear a striking resemblance to Fleury’s (one great, one good, one poor) – gets kicked around in the press while a guy like Fleury is off limits because he has a cup ring. Fleury’s a good goaltender. He’s had a fine career. I’m confident that he will continue to have a fine career.

But he’s been a below-average starter this season.

Comments (18)

  1. I’ve tried to bring up this argument amongst my friends, but the cup ring is treated as the only necessary indicator of a goalie’s talent. It’s frustrating to hear my friends argue that Fleury is a better goalie than Luongo on that basis. Fleury is having a decidedly below-average season that is masked by the team in front of him.

  2. Skeeter: It is frustrating. Fleury’s having a bad year, and that happens to most goalies (with guys like Brodeur and Hasek as the exceptions). He’s a good goaltender but I don’t understand why people are so reluctant to admit that he’s struggled this season.

    I was listening to XM Home Ice, andthey interviewed a Pittsburgh media guy who cast the blame on the defence, the forwards – basically everywhere but Fleury. I don’t get that.

  3. He’s not having a spectacular season, but he doesn’t necessarily need to.
    As long as he makes the ‘BIG’ saves when the time presents itself and keeps the Penguins in the games within striking distance, he’s done his job. I think if you put him on another team, he would need to play at a higher level to succeed, but with the talent that the Penguins have, he doesn’t need to be stealing games. He will have to be better in the playoffs however and step up his game.

  4. I agree that Fleury hasnt been great this year either. It hindsight, he has been streaky during the regular season since breaking in. However he has shown that he is able to carry the Penguins on his back during the play-offs, especially during the last couple of years. He has made major strides since being drafted in 2003. Regular season statistics can be meangingless if a player can elevate his play during the post season, which in the past Marc Andre Fleury has..

  5. where do you get all these images?

  6. I like the other team test.

    If JDD was playing for Pit and Fluery for Edmonton. Would you still think MAF was a great goaltender.

    Its like comparing the VCR and NJD goaltenders. Move the NJD goaltender to VCR. you get a pretty quick answer who is better. Ask Clemenson in FLD.

  7. He was outplayed yesterday. Was not tested often, and when he was, he let it in.

  8. Hey JW,

    What happened to those fantasy hockey updates you used to do? They get axed when you got the pretty new blog here?

    Havingan article in which competant people making semi-intelligent bets on hoekcy players is very injoyable. Honestly, with the moves people are making now… I question the intelligence of most of the GMs in the league. Wish you were still doing them – they were a nice diversion from the actual business of hockey garbage.

  9. @Richard

    What good are those “‘BIG’ saves” when he lets in soft goals at other times?

  10. fluery has always been average,some times great but mostly average.price could of done it with those players last year,i truly believe.

  11. Rickithebear: Not so fast. As stoppers the two aren’t very far apart.

    Sv% since Luongo was traded to VCR:

    Luongo .921, .917, .920, .920
    Brodeur .922, .920, .916, .917

    Not much to choose. To me the tie-breaker is Brodeur’s effectiveness as a sweeper, which is why I hope and expect he’ll get the nod for Team Canada next week.

  12. Bruce:
    Brodeur in the NJD defensive system.
    Luongo in the Vancouver “wink wink” defensive system.

    We really need to rank shooting precentage and save percentage using the NBA style shot chart that reflects quality of shots by probabilrty of scoring.

  13. Jordan: They were my least read posts (significantly less than anything else I wrote) so I figured I might as well stop them since people didn’t seem all that interested.

    I’m debating doing a different weekly piece on fantasy hockey, but I haven’t figured out what format I want to use yet.

  14. Sooooo:

    The Score pays for them, just like they do for other pictures elsewhere on the website.

  15. Jordan:

    I question your intelligence. Its ENjoyed not INjoyed.

  16. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Willis and hockey nutz, Team Sports. Team Sports said: Marc-Andre Fleury's Dream Season Continues | Blog Archive | Hockey … http://bit.ly/b032Km [...]

  17. He’s a “pretty good” goalie. You underestimate the importance of being able win a Stanley Cup. Regular season and playoffs/tournaments differ and some players turn it on while others fail to show up. Get yourself a “pretty good” goalie who will help keep you up there in the regular season but will be be able to take you to the final in the playoffs. Luongo might be “better” but…..

    Overall the majority of goalies are so inconsistent these days.

    Watching any of the Canadian goalies lately should make every Canadian worry about the Olympics. I don’t imagine Brodeur is gonna play many, and after Luongo gets all out of sorts and unfocused just because someone bumps him, we will have to hope Fleury can do it for us.

  18. 2 things I want to point out:

    1. MAF is the epitomy of a big save goaltender, he bears a striking resembelance to that of Grant Furh in his ability to make the saves to either keep his team within a goal, or to preserve a 1 goal lead.

    2. He fits perfectly into the penguins style of play, and it is because of the penguins style of play his save percentage takes a hit. The pens play a high flying counter-attacking game built on blocking a ton of shots and turning those block shots away for odd man rushes. The downside to this system is that when shots do get through they are either screened or the chances are the counter attacks from the opposition. MAF fits this system well because he is a very athletic goaltender who has great lateral movement to defend against the odd man chances and has quick reflexes to help with the screened shots.

    Bottom line is im not saying he is one of the top 5 goalies in the league but overall he is a top 10 goalie and as for fitting into the penguins system you would be hard pressed to find a goalie who compliments the teams style to the degree of which MAF does.

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