Saturday, April 21, 2007

Brodeur and the Olympics - Part 2: Team Selection

The 2002 Olympic team goaltender selection was a more difficult proposition, as there were a number of deserving candidates, including returnees Roy, Brodeur, and Joseph, as well as Ed Belfour, Sean Burke, and young guns Jose Theodore and Roberto Luongo.

There is, however, little doubt that Patrick Roy was again in position to be named the starter. He had played well in Nagano, and had solidly outplayed Brodeur in the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals, where he was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy and picked up his fourth Stanley Cup ring. He was in form during the 2001-02 season as well, which would end with him being named as a 1st team All-Star. If he had chosen to play, it is likely that he would have been the clear-cut starter, and played in the majority of the games, if not all of them.

However, Roy complicated the selection process by withdrawing from the team. That left Joseph and Brodeur as the front-runners. The problem was that both of them were in the midst of off-years in 2002. So was Ed Belfour, another candidate for the job. The best Canadian goalies at the time were youngsters Theodore, Luongo, and veteran Sean Burke. Here is a summary of the statistics for the contenders in the interval between Nagano and Salt Lake City (1999-2002), as well as how they performed in the 2001 and 2002 seasons:

Roy: .917 save % (.913 in 2001 (playoffs: .934), .925 in 2002)
Theodore: .917 save % (.909 in 2001 (playoffs: DNQ), .931 in 2002)
Burke: .916 save % (.922 in 2001 (playoffs: DNQ), .920 in 2002)
Luongo: .915 save % (.920 in 2001 (playoffs: DNQ), .915 in 2002)
Joseph: .912 save % (.915 in 2001 (playoffs: .927), .906 in 2002)
Belfour: .908 save % (.905 in 2001 (playoffs: .910), .895 in 2002)
Brodeur: .907 save % (.906 in 2001 (playoffs: .897), .906 in 2002)

The selectors, however, preferred experience over youth, and chose not to select Luongo or Theodore. They also passed surprisingly over Sean Burke, despite his excellent numbers and international experience. One thing that likely hurt those three goalies were that they played for weak teams, and did not qualify for the playoffs in 2001. They also did not have the opportunity to pile up lots of attention-getting wins and shutouts.

The goaltending choice therefore came down to experience and reputation, rather than recent form. Even though they were at the bottom of the table in actual performance, Belfour and Brodeur were named to the squad, along with Curtis Joseph. It looked like Belfour would be the third goalie, with the starter to be either Brodeur or Cujo. Most observers believed that Joseph's greater experience, longer history with Team Canada, and better early season form would lead to him being tabbed as Canada's main man.

From a statistical perspective, Brodeur was not deserving to be named to Team Canada 2002. He had not performed particularly well between Nagano and Salt Lake, and he wasn't having an outstanding year in 2002 either. Several younger Canadian goalies were having better years, but Gretzky and company decided to go with the "names". Even after Roy's withdrawal, though, Brodeur still looked like he would be in tough for winning the starting job.


Anonymous said...

dude, roy withdrew because he was told by the coach that he wouldnt guarantee that roy would start, sounds like a sore loser to me. on top of that, joseph was with toronto at the time, and the coach of canada happened to be the head coach of the maple leafs. despite this, joseph was quickly yanked, and the rest is history

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