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.