Thursday, April 9, 2009

How Not To Pick Vezina Winners

I sincerely hope that the general managers and sportswriters who vote on the end-of-season awards do not think like Rocky Bonanno.

His picks for Vezina nominees: Niklas Backstrom, Evgeni Nabokov, and Miikka Kiprusoff.

In my book that's going 0 for 3, as those three rank 15th, 19th, and 33rd respectively in the latest shot quality neutral save percentage rankings at Hockey Numbers. If you are going to just rank goalies entirely based on wins, at least put somebody like Cam Ward in there who actually has been having a good season.

And then there is this example of impeccable logic:

Honorable mention also goes to Boston's Tim Thomas, but 52 games played doesn't bring him up to snuff.

That's right, Thomas, you should have demanded your team play you more games. Don't you know that there is some magical point at around the 55 game mark that makes you instantly become worthy of Vezina consideration?

Take Evgeni Nabokov, for instance, who has played 59 games this season. It shouldn't even be necessary to explain why 59 games played is so much more valuable than 52, but I'll give it a try for all of you non-NHL.com analysts out there who clearly don't understand goaltending.

Let's compare them through their first 52 games this season:

Nabokov: 36-8-7, 2.41, .911
Thomas: 34-11-7, 2.07, .933

Even though it looks like Thomas was by far the superior goaltender through the first 52 games, by playing more games Nabokov had a much harder workload. I mean, just look at the difference in the number of shots faced this year:

Shots against in 2008-09:
Evgeni Nabokov: 1,622
Tim Thomas: 1,621

Maybe Thomas would have let in his next shot, and then have his teammates score 33 own goals on him, dropping him behind Nabokov in save percentage. We just don't know, and that's why anything a goalie does in only 52 games is completely worthless.

Similarly, in his first 52 games this season Kiprusoff had fewer wins than Thomas did over the same span, as well as a 2.80 GAA and a .906 save percentage. In his extra games played over Thomas, Kipper has gone 12-8-1, 2.91, .895. To match Kiprusoff's season stats, Thomas would have only needed to win 11 out of his last 23 decisions, and put up a 4.78 GAA and an .805 save percentage.

Some of you might think that is pretty good evidence that Thomas has been a lot better than Kiprusoff. You would be wrong. Of course I do concede that the goalie currently leading the league in save percentage might not turn into by far the worst goalie in the history of the NHL over his next 23 games. That is possible, some might even say probable. But it could have happened. All we know is that Kiprusoff did play those extra games and Thomas didn't. Seventy-five is more than 52, and therefore Kipper has been a better goalie this season. End of story.

23 comments:

Christopher said...

hahahaha well done sir. I actually dropped you an email the other day about my kiprusoff outrage with pretty much all espn analysts making him a vezina finalist. They all LOVE nabokov as well.

Statman said...

But Rocky is a "real journalist", posting on nhl.com... he must have some inside information that is not revealed by merely looking at the stats.

:)

AJH said...

Sure use numbers and facts to make your point...Thats not how the NHL operates

Bruce said...

From where I sit Tim Thomas seems like a pretty easy choice.

-- 1st in the league in Sv%
-- 1st in the league in GAA
-- 2nd in the league in Pts%
-- successful team
-- clear #1 over a well-known backup, playing 2/3 of the games with superior numbers across the board
-- paid his dues
-- good guy
-- helluva story

It won't be unanimous by any means, but I'll be pretty surprised if he doesn't get it.

overpass said...

Sure use numbers and facts to make your point...Thats not how the NHL operates

I think the point is that when it comes to awards voting, a lot "hockey people" and journalists do use numbers. You basically have to; very few people see every team play a significant number of games. I don't think there's an NHL journalist out there like Paul Zimmerman of SI who watches and grades every single NFL game.

The problem is not that they use numbers, it's that they don't know how to interpret the numbers. This is especially true for goaltenders.

Rocky Bonanno throws out a lot of stats in this piece, but it doesn't look like he really understands what the stats measure and how they relate to the individual's contribution to winning.

Jonathan said...

I think there is something to be said for starting a lot of games. Every game that Kipper does not start is a game where Calgary is stuck with Curtis McElhinney. Now, Kipper is hardly having a Vezina-calibre season, but his stats are better than his backups across the board. McElhinney's SV% is .889 to Kipper's .903, wich is an exra goal every 71.4 shots. That's two goals every 5 or 6 games. That's pretty huge.

Having a workhorse also means that you don't have to spend any more than $500K on a backup.

Playing in goal for 75 games is also far more difficult than playing 60 games. I'm not sure the stats will bear that out, because the guys who play more games do so because they are capable of playing that kind of schedule without fatiguing themselves. Case is point-- Brodeur can play 75 games because he's a big guy...Ryan Miller will struggle with that kind of schedule because he's got a more fragile body.

My point is not that Kipper deserves any Vezina votes, because he's been extremely lackluster this season. My point is that there's something to be said for playing a lot of games.

Kent W. said...

haha!

Great post.

NHL.com has some of the worst "analysts" around and that's saying something. There was a piece at the half way point of the season on the NW division. The author's pick for the best coach in the division was......Tony Granato.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

From where I sit Tim Thomas seems like a pretty easy choice.

Agreed.

Rocky Bonanno throws out a lot of stats in this piece, but it doesn't look like he really understands what the stats measure and how they relate to the individual's contribution to winning.

Well said. Stats are very important for goalie award voting, and always have been. Regrettably the stats that get weighted most heavily are wins and shutouts.

My point is that there's something to be said for playing a lot of games.

I guess there is something to be said for it, sure, but whatever there is to say should be said in the Hart Trophy debate, not the Vezina one. Best goalie is best goalie, and games played shouldn't matter much at all except for in terms of assessing how likely it was that the guy was just lucky.

That is unless I see some more good evidence that fatigue is a major factor. I haven't seen much to support that yet, despite looking very hard for it.

Anonymous said...

whats funny is that despite the article you picked being inexcusably wrong, so is your assertion that the only way to measure them is by using just one statistic.

if there was ever a guy who is underrated, it would be nick backstrom. what does this guy have to due to get some credit? post a .950 save percentage and a 1.5 gaa with 55 wins? year in and out he has outstanding numbers, yet is never anywhere near the top of the voting. instead guys with pretty mediocre numbers like lundqvist and kipprasoff always seems to be given consideration.

playing a lot of games is obviously something that should be given some weight, but only under certain circumstances. if the team does much better with one guy in net, or he clearly plays better than the backup, then sure, give him the nod over a guy with similar numbers. however in the case of guys like kipprasoff, nabakov, and lundqvist, guys who historically have not done much better than the guys behind them, then why should they be given credit for starting more games when in reality they are hardly doing their teams any favors. i got a laugh out of lundqvist, who this past sunday demanded to play an absolutely meaningless game against philly, and when asked why his response was "i wanted to get to 38 wins so i could set a career high".

Statman said...

Re: Lundvist wanting to get his 38th win...

By the same token, perhaps one of the reasons Brodeur has played so many games each season is similar: to accumulate huge career win totals.

Since Brodeur has played so many games per yr, & NJ has usually been near the top of the standings, he's probably played lots of relatively meaningless games in his career.

Of course, for most of Brodeur's career he's had some of the worst 2nd/3rd/4th string goalies playing behind him -- so it definitely is in NJ's best interest to play Brodeur 70+ games per yr, even if he tires a bit & his performance perhaps drops a bit.

You'd think a goalie's performance would drop the more games he plays... hopefully evidence one way or the other can be gathered someday.

Anonymous said...

And there is Statman once against jumping at the bit to bring up Brodeur again. You really must have some kind of issue with the dude. Considering the only times you have anything to say is when there is something about Brodeur, most of which are anti-Brodeur, and even when there isn't you jump at the opportunity to bring him into a conversation, things do not exactly add up when you claim to be "objective".

Statman said...

Anonymous - do you dispute anything that I said about Brodeur?

Read the title of this blog & you'll get a clue as to why Brodeur's name is brought up from time to time. I am only concerned about objective analysis of hockey... if anyone is constantly trying to circumvent objective analysis to stick up for a presumably favourite player/team, it is most obviously you.

I don't follow the Rangers or Lundqvist, but what you said about him seems like a reasonable observation.

Anonymous said...

I still do not get which one it is? You either play the whole "the name of this blog is an exaggerated title designed to get attention" card when it suits you, or you use the whole "the title of the blog is why the site obsessively follows Brodeur" card when you want to bash him.

Statman said...

fuckkkk offf.... what a ridiculous loser of a pest you are

Anonymous said...

Great post toolman, it seems the hypocrite is getting frustrated on constantly being called out on his bs.

Anonymous said...

So long Statman. I do not expect to be hearing anymore of your nonsensical analysis for awhile after that pathetic show you put on regarding Brodeur's goalie equipment. What is even worse is you argued like you knew what you were talking about. Yet you were 150% wrong. Just like you usually are.

Statman said...

Oh, so the posts continue? Sorry, I had a life to attend to.

150% wrong?? wow, mathematically impossible!! haha Somehow fitting that you'd make a dipshit claim like that.

Anonymous said...

Mathematically impossible is the best you can do haha. How about that padding width? haha

Statman said...

Haha... of course, when I said that leg pads were too big I must have been talking about height & not width... only you can read my mind like that. [Having wide leg pads is far more advantageous for a goalie than having tall ones.]

I'm sure you'll find something to rant about with this, too... please tell me you're not older than 15??

Anonymous said...

You clearly were not talking exclusively about pad width when you said

"By padding & equipt I'm referring to everything the goalies wear - leg pads, blockers, gloves, & abdominal & shoulder pads"

and here again

"Brodeur's pads (leg pads, pants, midsection, glove, blocker, everything) are huge"

....

But keeping lying though. I'm sure you meant something else. People as confused as you seem to be almost always say one thing and mean something else. You're a slippery little weasel arent you.

Statman said...

Yes, moron... as I've said several times now, Brodeur's pads ARE huge... all goalies' pads are... compared to the several decades prior to about 1995. I bring up this fact, & you instantly cry foul over your hero Brodeur. You're just way too emotionally invested in him, whereas I could care less whether he (or any goalie) is the best or worst of all time. All I care about is accurate hockey analysis. All you care about is yapping your little mouth off about everything.

As for slippery little weasels... what part of the country do you live in?

Anonymous said...

Statman your a bigger moron to think that Broduer's pads are huge have you seen some of these other goalie's pads they are out of proportion. For example look at Carey Price, Johnaton Quick and all those butterfly goalies have those huge flaps at the top of thier pads

Anonymous said...

Also you idiot go devils forever