Thursday, February 8, 2007

How Trevor Kidd and Felix Potvin Narrowly Missed the Hall of Fame - Part 2

Read Part 1 on the careers of Kidd, Brodeur and Potvin here.

In the 1994-95 season, all three goalies posted respectable win totals on decent teams. Trevor Kidd finished 8th in the NHL with a .909 save percentage, Felix Potvin one spot behind at .907. Playing again behind the Devils’ stingy defence, Martin Brodeur faced his career low in shots against – a mere 22.7 shots against per game. However he only stopped 90.2% of his shots, barely better than his backup Terreri and well behind Kidd and Potvin. This was good enough for 15th in the league. But that was quickly forgotten in the playoffs, as the Devils shifted their defensive game into overdrive and went on an amazing run. In 20 playoff games, Brodeur had a .932 save percentage as the New Jersey Devils won the Stanley Cup.

This was the break point, where Brodeur’s career took off into perceived superstardom (Hockey Stars Presents even ranked him as the #1 netminder in pro hockey in November 1995, despite Dominik Hasek’s two consecutive years of dominating the NHL with .930 save percentage). However, let us compare the numbers of all three of them in their careers up to this point in time:

Career statistics (after the 1994-95 season):

Trevor Kidd: 76 games, 2.86 GAA, 36-22-12, .899 save %, 26.0 shots/gm, .895 teammate save %

Martin Brodeur: 91 games, 2.45 GAA, 48-23-14, .909 save %, 24.5 shots/gm, .905 teammate save %

Felix Potvin: 154 games, 2.76 GAA, 74-52-24, .909 save %, 29.5 shots/gm, .901 teammate save %

Brodeur had the best traditional stats, but he faced the least shots. He also likely faced the easiest since Mike Vernon and Damian Rhodes were both better than Chris Terreri, yet the Devils’ backups registered a much higher save percentage than the other goalies on the Leafs or Flames. Despite this, Potvin was level with Brodeur in save percentage. Kidd was lagging a little behind the other two, but his team appears to have had the weakest defence and he was coming off of a strong 1994-95 season. It is not at all unreasonable to think that Kidd or Potvin could have done what Brodeur did or better, if they only had been given the opportunity.

The major difference between Kidd and the others was playoff performance, as Brodeur and Potvin both had sparkling starts to their playoff careers:

Career playoff stats after the 1994-95 season:

Kidd: 434 minutes, 3-4, 1 shutout, 3.59 GAA, .856 save%, 25.0 shots/gm

Brodeur: 2425 minutes, 24-14, 4 shutouts, 1.86 GAA, .931 save%, 26.7 shots/gm

Potvin: 2856 minutes, 23-23, 5 shutouts, 2.69 GAA, .909 save%, 29.6 shots/gm

At this point, the careers of Potvin and Brodeur began to diverge. The reason for this was not the relative play of the two goaltenders. In fact, Potvin arguably continued to outperform Brodeur for the next 3 seasons. The reason was the deterioration of the Toronto Maple Leafs and the continued defensive excellence of the New Jersey Devils.

Over the next 3 seasons, the team effects grew greater and greater. Kidd played only 2 playoff games in that span, and Potvin managed only 6. The stats for the period (1995-96 to 1997-98) show Potvin’s heroics under fire, as well as Kidd also putting up decent numbers on a poor team:

1995-96 to 1997-98:

Trevor Kidd: 149 games, 2.60 GAA, 57-65-17, 10 shutouts, .908 save%, 26.0 shots/gm, .898 teammate %

Martin Brodeur: 214 games, 2.05 GAA, 114-61-33, 26 shutouts, .920 save%, 24.7 shots/gm, .904 teammate save %

Felix Potvin: 210 games, 2.92 GAA, 83-95-25, 7 shutouts, .911 save%, 31.6 shots/gm, .891 teammate save %

By 1999, Felix Potvin had been traded from Toronto to the New York Islanders. He would bounce around to the Canucks, Kings, and eventually Bruins, before retiring after the 2004 season. He had a few flashes of brilliance left, particularly in L.A., where he posted a .919 save percentage in 23 games in 2000-01, and played in 71 games with a .907 save percentage in 2001-02. However, this was mostly because of the team effect. Felix faced just 26 shots per game over his L.A. career, and his backup, Jamie Storr, had excellent numbers, including a .922 save percentage in 2001-02. Only at the end of his career did Potvin finally experience the pleasure of playing behind a quality defence. His prime years had been wasted by the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In 1997-98, Trevor Kidd’s career peaked, and he had probably one the most overlooked seasons in recent memory. Playing in 47 games for the Carolina Hurricanes, he posted a .922 save percentage, the 2nd best in the NHL behind only Dominik Hasek. He was so good that Carolina traded his backup, Sean Burke (who was a starter in nearly every other season in his career) to Vancouver. For the season, Kidd’s backups, mostly NHL veterans like Burke, had a mere .882 save percentage, indicating just how poor Carolina’s defence was.

Unfortunately for Kidd, Arturs Irbe landed in Carolina the next season, and he went on a season-long hot streak to win the starting job. Trevor Kidd moved on to Florida, but was unlucky enough to get there around the same time as the emergence of Roberto Luongo. As a backup, Kidd posted three straight years of save percentages around .895 behind an awful defence. He was probably playing at a league-average level or better those years, as he had been in the years leading up to them. Luongo was at .915 or better all three seasons, which is evidence of his largely unrecognized brilliance. Kidd had one final NHL stop in Toronto, and today is playing in Europe.

Martin Brodeur is still in the NHL. In the intervening years, he posted relatively unimpressive save percentages, considering New Jersey’s continued defensive prowess. After winning the Cup in 1995, the Devils and Brodeur had a string of postseason disappointments in the late '90's, before winning again in 2000. Brodeur got his name on the Cup one more time in 2003, and was a member of the Olympic-gold-medal-winning Team Canada of 2002. This year, he is having perhaps his best season, and is considered to be the best goalie in the league by the majority of hockey pundits, general managers, and players.

Looking at their career paths and their numbers, it is quite plausible that either Trevor Kidd or Felix Potvin, if they had been selected by the New Jersey Devils in 1990, would have had a Hall of Fame career. They both had more distinguished junior careers than Brodeur, and both of them had the physical abilities to be a top-level NHL goaltender. Both of them were above average goalies in the NHL for an extended period of time. And in contrast to the often weak teams they played on, New Jersey’s strong defensive play created the perfect environment for its goalies to put up outstanding numbers and experience regular season and postseason success. From 1994 to 2004, the Devils won 469 games, scored an average of 2.9 goals per game, and consistently ranked among the top defensive teams in the league. Some of this success is attributable to goaltending, but certainly not the majority of it. A decent NHL starting goalie such as Kidd or Potvin would probably have posted over 300 wins and 50 shutouts in a decade of play in East Rutherford, and there’s a good chance they would have won at least one Stanley Cup.

Potvin retired with 266 wins and 36 shutouts, Kidd with 140 wins and 19 shutouts. Neither won a Stanley Cup, or even played in a Cup final. Since they never had the required team success, neither will be considered for the Hall of Fame. But if the Calgary or New Jersey scouting staffs had differed slightly in their prospect rankings 17 years ago, Brodeur may very well have been sitting on the sidelines today, watching the hockey world celebrate Felix Potvin or Trevor Kidd as one of the best goalies in the world.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Its about time someone said it. Marty is a good goalie, no doubt, but I could win games behind that D. Kidder ALWAYS played behind a Bantam defence, and Potvin most likely had the best Glove Ive ever seen.

But, if it was Potvin winning all those years, I would call him, "That damn Potvin".....

Anonymous said...

That has to be one of the dumbest things I have ever read. So what Brodeur had a defensive team around him. So did every other goalie in the NHL after the Devils won the cup. Yes Potvin was good. No Kidd was not. He sucked on every team he played for. Look at the stats you put up. Fron 95-98 kid faced just over one more shot per game, yet his gaa was .55 higher than Marty's. How can you even make a comparison? Dumb, just dumb.

Anonymous said...

Great article

Anonymous said...

Did you hit your the day you wrote this or were you really high? I despise Brodeur and think he is grossly overrated (still a worthy hall of famer none the less) but to try and compare Trevor Kidd and Felix Potvin to him is laughable at best. Any of the top goalies in Brodeur's heyday (Roy, Hasek,Belfour, Osgood and Joseph)would more than likely had done just as good if not better on those trap teams. You seem not to be able to understand the concept that every great goalie played on a great team for a stretch if not for their entire career. Kidd and Potvin were not great goalies. Potvin wasn't a bad goalie but the bias he has received over the years from the good people of Toronto as well as the impact the dead puck era had on his stats has inflated his legacy tremendously. I can't even think of why you would think Trevor Kidd would even be an after thought for the hall of fame? Trevor Kidd never even made an all star team. Then again you think Billy Smith shouldn't be in the hall so I shouldn't be too suprised at your logic.