Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Mike Gillis on Goalies

New Vancouver GM Mike Gillis weighed in not just on his goaltender Roberto Luongo ("the best goaltender in hockey"), but also had the following quote about the importance of goalie play: "Whenever you have a goalie, a lot of people will suggest a goalie is worth 50 to 70 percent of your team utility."

This is a particularly peculiar quote, in that the Canucks and Vancouver observers should be in a good position to not overvalue the importance of a goalie. Their team just missed the playoffs despite having the best goalie in hockey. Sure, Luongo closed the season poorly, but why wasn't Vancouver comfortably in a playoff position by then? At the All-Star break, Luongo had a 2.10 GAA, a .925 save percentage, and 6 shutouts, and Vancouver was still only in a playoff position by a single point. And what about last season, where Luongo played at an extremely high level in the playoffs yet his team was still obliterated by Anaheim?

If a goalie is 70% of the team utility, how did Vancouver lose so many games? Based on that assumption, the only rational conclusion would be that they were by far the worst team in the league other than Luongo, and I don't think either the talent on their roster or their performance stats support that assertion.

Gillis is probably just hyping his team and his players to some degree, but there are some that are portraying his hire as a move towards a more statistical approach to the game. If so, I suggest he start checking his equations, or he might end up making some of the same mistakes Nonis did by expecting that his goalie was going to take him places that were simply unreachable without a much greater input from the rest of the team.

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