Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hey Ottawa: Blame the Scoring, Not the Goalie

I don't know why the Ottawa Senators continue to think that their problem is goaltending. Trading Antoine Vermette for Pascal Leclaire and a 2nd round pick is an odd move.

As everyone knows, the Ottawa Senators fell off a cliff somewhere around January 1, 2008. I'm not sure I've ever seen such a dramatic change on a team - if you compare their win/loss record and goal differential before and after New Year's last year, the difference was about the equivalent of this year's Detroit Red Wings turning overnight into the Phoenix Coyotes. In their last 105 games, Ottawa has scored 277 goals and allowed 319, for a goal differential of -42.

The average Eastern Conference team has scored 307 goals and allowed 311 over the same span, meaning that the Sens are slightly worse than average in goal prevention but well below average in goal scoring. Ottawa does need to improve its defensive play, but the big problem seems to be the complete lack of secondary scoring, something that is going to be even worse now without Vermette, the team's highest-scoring second liner both this year and last year.

The Sens' team save percentages over the last 3 years have been .914, .904, and .906. Shot quality numbers have indicated the Sens have allowed slightly more difficult chances than average over that span, which would put the Sens' goaltending around league average. Over the last two seasons, playing on a Ken Hitchcock coached team, Pascal Leclaire has posted a .909. I don't see Leclaire as much of an upgrade over Auld, and why would a team that is going to miss the playoffs anyway not want to give Brian Elliott as much experience as possible?

If you have a team with a well below average offence and OK goaltending, then logic suggests that it might not be the most necessary move to trade your highest-scoring second liner for another team's backup goalie (who only has one good season behind a strong defensive unit to his credit, no less). I give Columbus the clear upper hand in this transaction.


Joe said...

My thoughts exactly, but even more damning is the fact that Ottawa, being a cash and cap strapped team is now going to also be shelling out 3.8 million a year for a backup goalie, who had one good year, in a highly defensive system. Not only did they give away what little bit of depth they had, but the return not only doesn't fix the goaltending situation, but it also serves to handcuff them financially even more, exacerbating the problem of being unable to bring in significant scoring depth.

overpass said...

I was very disappointed to see this trade. I hoped Murray might have learned not to overpay for mediocre goaltending from the Gerber and Emery contracts, and the Sens could finally go with a cheap and reasonably effective pair of goalies, Detroit style.

I guess it was too much to hope for. Old dogs don't learn new tricks, and Murray's stuck in the worst kind of conventional wisdom regarding goalies at this point.

I completely agree with Joe's points above about Ottawa's cap situation and depth, and if the cap goes down they'll be in a bad situation.

Great trade for Columbus, as they unload a big contract that they had no use for and pick up a good all-around forward in Vermette. The only nit to pick is that Vermette won't provide the power play help they need, although he's an excellent penalty killer.

Scott Reynolds said...

This trade is just terrible from Ottawa. Columbus had a player with negative value for them and managed to convince Murray that he should give up one of his better secondary forwards and a pretty good pick. Good on Columbus though. Howson did really well here.

Bruce said...

Scott: I think the pick went to Ottawa.

Anonymous said...

What the hell is the matter with all these GM's? They should know by now that is impossible for a good goalie to play on a strong defensive team. I mean, its so obvious that any goalie putting up good numbers on a good team must be a fraud. The only ones they should want to get are those guys who have never won a thing but posted decent save percentages on horrible teams.