Monday, May 28, 2007

Brodeur's Save Percentage

The main evidence that Martin Brodeur is a team creation is his save percentage record. Save percentage measures how good a goalie is at stopping the puck. Studies have shown that save percentage is not affected by how many or how few shots a goalie faces. The only hidden factor affecting save percentage is the quality of shots faced. As I have demonstrated repeatedly, shot quality measures have all overwhelming shown that Brodeur is hardly disadvantaged in that area.

Let's look at his record in terms of league ranking. I only included goalies who played in at least half the games in that season, i.e. starting goalies only.

Brodeur's Save Percentage Ranks:

1994: 4th
1995: 17th
1996: 8th
1997: 2nd
1998: 5th
1999: 17th
2000: 12th
2001: 16th
2002: 19th
2003: 13th
2004: 10th
2006: 10th
2007: 2nd

Not only has he never led, he has only been in the top 5 among starting goalies four times, and in the top 10 7 times in 13 full seasons. Nearly half the time, Brodeur has finished outside of the top 10 in save percentage, including 4 times when he ranked 16th or lower.

Looking at those numbers, you wouldn't immediately guess that he has led the league in wins in 8 of the last 9 seasons. How did that happen? Do the wins overrule save percentage and shown it to be flawed? Of course not. Brodeur plays more games than anyone else, so he gets more opportunities to win. His team has also played a consistently successful style that contributes greatly to his performance.

Brodeur is a solid goalie, and at times, such as through much of this year, he has been great. But his career as a whole is clearly not elite. These stats also seem to point to the conclusion that 2007 was a bit of a fluke. It will be interesting to see whether he can repeat this year's success or whether he will revert to the 10th-15th ranked performance he delivered for the 6 seasons prior.


Anonymous said...

I am not on the Brodeur bandwagon by any means, but he is far better than average, as far as NHL goaltenders go. You hit the nail on the head: He has played more games than anyone else. The difference between a stellar and below average goal tender in the NHL is one goal a game. that equates to making roughly 4-5% more saves.

Think about that, the difference between a great NHLer and an average one is (about) 1 successful play a game. Now over the course of a season the fatigue that comes with playing 70+ games can certainly rob someone of some of their focus and explosiveness. To maintain a save percentage that was about league average in your worst year, over a nearly 20 year career is impressive. Think of the three hardest saves Martin Brodeur makes in a week of play, if he doesn't make them, he's average. But he does, and he isn't.

Anonymous said...

There are also a few other holes in the theory:

1. Stats lie. Look back at the 2005 Superbowl. The Seahawks statistically stomped the crap out of the Steelers. The Steelers won.

2. Hockey IS a team sport and what is conveniently left out of any Devils argument is the amount of goals they scored. They were second only to Detroit in the 90's and up until the lockout 2nd or 3rd. So, you can't come out and talk about defence all of the time, when the Devils, for most of Marty's career, controlled play in the offensive end as well.

3. In most team sports, this logic can be applied. How about Joe Montana gets drafted by the Tampa Bay Bucs? Emmitt Smith a lifelong Saint?

4. Also, the Brodeur stat most forgotten: His GAA lowers the MORE shots he faces.(Which explains the post lockout/Stevens/Neidermayer decrease in GAA) So one could argue that the Devils team defense HURT his chances for a better GAA, not helped.

5. Finally, and also conveniently left out...rule changes. Not one of your "underrateds" has ever had a rule changed to specifically stop them. The trapezoid might just as well be called the Brodeur zone. For a league interested in picking up scoring, they sure went out of their way to stop Marty from slinging that puck out of his own end to a rushing forward. Imagine how a team would have to plan line changes around Brodeur if he could sling it to an open forward across the redline on a sloppy change.

As far as your underrateds...the selection of Cujo is nothing short of laughable. The Toronto teams in front of him were Stanley Cup contenders, he just wasn't good enough to finish for them. In fact, if memory serves, Joseph was so bad leading up to the 2002 Olympics, he was displaced by Marty and won the gold. For your "team" theory to hold true, Joseph would have shined in the 2002 games rather than to lose his spot to a back-up. Why is Hasek on the list? His resume says anything other than underrated. On some of the younger guys the jury is still out. Arturs Irbe??? One hit wonder.

Anonymous said...

Cy Young must have been a fraud too.

Anonymous said...

Taking to the ice 60, 65, 70, 75 times a season and having success much of the time as a goaltender is impressive in and of itself. I think that the save percentage stat is not the best form of statistical analysis for a goalie who plays a heck of a lot more games than nearly all other goalies in the league.

Think about it. Goalies who play maybe 50-55 times a season have more time to prepare, rest, watch film, do research on shooters, and perhaps most importantly (I would think), mentally shut it down here and there. Marty does not have that luxury.

I think some of your other arguments are far more convincing than this one. I would be more interested to read an analysis of the stats of the goalies who played a similar number of minutes as Brodeur each season, and then also see how that reflected in their playoff stats... assuming they appeared in the postseason. If I have time, I might just do it myself.