2013-14 Season in Review: Marc-Andre Fleury

Justin K. Aller

Love him or hate him, it's time to take a look back at the 2013-14 season for Penguins franchise goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.

Age: 29 (November 28, 1984)

Contract Status: Signed through 2014-15; $5,000,000; Limited No-Movement and No-Trade Clauses

Buyout Status: Eligible for compliance buyout

2013-14 Stats

GP

W

L

OT

Shootout

64 (2)

39 (2)

18 (12)

5 (22)

6-2; 5 GA / 23 SV

GAA

Sv%

5-on-5 GAA

5-on-5 Sv%

Shutouts

2.37 (16)

.915 (23)

2.21 (26)

.919 (34)

5 (4)

(Numbers in parentheses indicate descending rank among the 51 regular NHL goalies with 25+ GP


The Headcase

Marc-Andre Fleury has been the Pittsburgh Penguins franchise goaltender since shortly after being drafted #1 overall in 2003. He has a long history of ups and downs. He struggled early on when he was thrust into the spotlight before he was really ready simply because of how dire the team's need for goaltending was. However, he earned an extension on a bridge contract and repaid the team by taking them to their first taste of playoff action and then having a career year as he led them to the Cup Finals.

They rewarded Fleury's career year with a 7-year extension, which at the time made him the 11th highest paid goaltender in the league. He earned his paycheck the next year, leading the Pens to their first Stanley Cup championship since Mario Lemieux was in his prime. However, they have been unable to get back to that point since then, causing many people to complain about Fleury being overpaid, despite the fact that over the past 2 seasons with new contracts kicking in he has fallen to 14th highest paid goaltender in the league.

The headcase aspect comes in due to the Jekyll and Hyde progression that his career has taken in recent years. When he is on his game he is spectacular, and he is indeed one of the most athletically talented goaltenders in the league. But when he is off his game the results can be quite exasperating. This has become particularly apparent when it comes to the playoffs.

Dr. Jekyll in the Regular Season, Mr. Hyde in the Playoffs

Fleury has been relatively consistent during the regular season, no other goalie has more regular season Wins than Fleury over the past 6 seasons. And he has been particularly effective over the past 4 seasons, being slightly above average and one of the most consistent starters in the league. He is not elite by any stretch of the imagination, and he isn't likely to be making a push for Vezina anytime soon, but amongst the 2nd tier of above average starters he is capable of being better than any one of them. Of course, based on his fluctuating play, he can also be worse than any one of them.

That is particularly evident in the post-season, when Fleury turns into a completely different person. It wasn't so bad for the first couple seasons post-Cup, in 2009-10 and 2010-11 he wasn't stellar but he also wasn't awful. He had his moments, a couple of times where he managed to come up big and steal the game, but in the end it got to be too much and he had a number of monumental collapses. And then in 2011-12 he completely blew up, losing a number of massive blowouts for an upset loss to their rivals. And it all came to a head in 2012-13 when he got replaced after a particularly poor performance against the 1st round opponent.

But he came back this year with a renewed desire to prove himself. He got a new goaltending coach and even saw a psychologist over the summer in order to help fix the problems he had been having. And it certainly seems to have worked, after a 4th consecutive regular season with nearly identical numbers he went into the playoffs as a wild card. He had a few bad games that brought on flashbacks of past performance, but he also had a number of excellent performances and in the end put up the best post-season numbers he has had since his career year in 2008. It may not have been enough to completely alleviate the concern about his future, but it did manage to bring out a few more people that are willing to give him another chance to prove himself next season.

GIF of the Year

It isn't my favorite save, I am actually more partial to his behind the back catch or the corkscrew spin he saved off his head, but it was voted as a fan favorite this year. And it was an amazing save, robbing a point blank shot from Erik Karlsson, arguably the top offensive D in the entire league. Of course if you want more gifs, our resident Fleury supporter Bencia has a ton handy to share.

Preseason expectations

Expectations came in two camps, either you expected him to have a bounce back year and put up an excellent performance, or you expected an early flame out and utter disappointment. In the summer there were already a number of people that wanted to make Tomas Vokoun the starter and Fleury the backup, and his early pre-season performance did nothing to alleviate their fears. Even worse was when Vokoun went out on IR and the fans were worried about Fleury being unable to hold on with an untested backup Jeff Zatkoff behind him. But most of all people felt that the real test wouldn't come until the playoffs.

Verdict

If you were expecting Fleury to be awful and need replaced by a new starter over the summer, then his regular season performance should have certainly exceeded expectations. If you expected him to play like he did over the previous 3 seasons, then he certainly was able to hit that benchmark. His regular season numbers were about what we have come to expect from a slightly above average 2nd tier starter, he did a good job of maintaining the status quo stats-wise while once again being one of the winningest goaltenders in the league. And if you toss in the league leading Man Games Lost and how many times the team was playing with a large portion of AHL call-ups he may indeed have even exceeded expectations.

However, the playoffs were where most people had their biggest concern. I don't think anybody expected a repeat of his career high performance in 2008, but a number of people commented on how all they needed was for Fleury to be at least average. He certainly hit that mark, doing better than most people felt he would. And for those that expected an epic flame out like he had in 2012 and 2013 they should have been more than pleased by his bounce back performance this year. Of course in the end it is results that matter, and a 2nd round loss after leading 3-1 is certainly going to sting, particularly if you blame Fleury for the one or two bad games he had in the series.

***

Feel free to vote in the poll below to grade Marc-Andre Fleury’s season on a scale from 1 to 10. Vote based on your expectations for him coming into the season -- i.e. 1 being "he was incredibly disappointing and I want him out now", 10 being "he was outstanding even beyond my craziest expectations".

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