Monday, July 7, 2008

Chicago's Newest High-Priced Goalie

Joining Nikolai Khabibulin ($6.75 million per year) in Chicago is Cristobal Huet ($5.6 million per season) to make the league's highest paid goalie tandem.

I think it is about time to slap Cristobal Huet up on my "underrated" list, especially after Brian Costello of The Hockey News ranked Huet's signing with Chicago as the 10th worst of this free agency. "Huet is not even among the league's top 10 or 15 keepers", he wrote. Of course Costello was probably referring to THN's own list, published in their March 4 issue of this year, which had Huet at #22 in the league, behind such accomplished goaltenders as Martin Gerber, Ty Conklin, and Vesa Toskala. (You can read the list again for entertainment's sake here). Judging from a few threads on HF Boards a lot of fans agreed with Costello, ranking Huet among the worst signings of the day.

The statistics, however, show a quite different picture of Huet. Total save percentage since the lockout:

1. Cristobal Huet, .921
2. Tomas Vokoun, .919
3. Martin Brodeur, .918
4. Henrik Lundqvist, .917
5. Roberto Luongo, .917

Huet is not the best in the league, but I would rank him in the top 10. How Huet at $5.6 million per year can be considered a worse move than Theodore at $4.5 million doesn't make sense to me. For comparison's sake, Theodore's save percentage over the last three years was .895. Over the last three years, Cristobal Huet faced 449 more shots than Theodore, and let in 53 fewer goals. Factor in the expected goals on those extra shots against, and Huet's raw puckstopping performance has been about 100 goals better than Theodore's since the lockout. Now, granted, Theodore had a nice bounce-back season, and was probably even a bit better than Huet last year after considering team factors, but the two of them are only a year apart in age and Huet's much better recent track record makes him a better bet going forward.

Huet had a decent year last year on a Montreal team that allowed a lot of shots, but was traded to make room for prospect Carey Price. In Washington, Huet played behind probably the best defence he has ever played with, and put up the best numbers of his career: 11-2-0, 1.63, .936. Huet is sometimes criticized as not being a big-game goalie, but he is also in the top 10 in playoff save percentage since the lockout.

Huet is one of those goalies that will probably always have his perception lag his statistical performance, just because he is, to use a cliche, solid but not spectacular. In fact he is usually a good deal better than solid, but you don't always get the sense in watching him that you are watching one of the league's best. However, like I always say, at the end of the day the only thing that matters is how many scoring chances did you face and how many pucks went in the net, and on that score Huet does remarkably well.


Anonymous said...

Huet has a better track record than Theodore? I guess that MVP trophy counts for nothing.

davis21wylie said...

I don't think the Huet signing is viewed as bad because of Huet himself so much as the fact that Chicago already had an expensive goalie in Khabibulin. It was seen as a redundant move.

Anonymous said...

Obviously you didn't watch this guy clown it up in that Philly series last season. Good riddance.