Friday, December 3, 2010

The Swedes Have It Right

Do you want to know who is leading the Swedish elite league in goaltender wins this season? I don't know, and as far as I can tell there's no way to find out on their official website. They simply omit wins as a stat category.

If you want to sort Swedish goalies by statistics, you can only sort them by save percentage, GAA, total shots against and total saves against. That's it. They apparently don't seem to care that they aren't providing us with the crucial information that lets us know whether league-leader Victor Fasth is a "martyr goaltender" pointlessly racking up numbers on a bad team, or whether #2 ranked Alexander Salak really knows how to make the big saves in the clutch. How are us North Americans supposed to make snap judgments about these goalies' characters and their ability to perform under pressure when they are leaving out the crucial information of how good their teammates are?

It's quite possible there is some other way to find out which Swedish goalie has the most wins, but I just like the fact that they obviously don't consider that to be of any importance, given that they don't even bother to show the numbers.

Same thing with the International Ice Hockey Federation. Go to their website, and you won't find win/loss records either. Not only that, but like the other European sites their default sort is by save percentage (so much so that the link you have to click on to see goalie numbers is called "Goalkeepers (SVS%)", as shown here at the site for the 2010 Olympics). In contrast most North American sites will rank by GAA first, and even the NHL's own stats summary page for goalies ranks them by wins.

The only reason anybody gives any weight at all to goalie wins is because of the long tradition of tracking them and the related myths told by generations of hockey people and broadcasters. Europe probably doesn't have the same tradition, or else perhaps somewhere along the line somebody decided to speak up and point out how stupid it was to track team results at the individual level. Either way, good for them. Given that they don't care about wins and losses, how do you think Swedish and Finnish coaches are evaluating their young goalie prospects? No doubt they are using almost exclusively save percentage, and with the recent European goalie invasion it's pretty hard to argue with the results.

5 comments:

ozo said...

It's true that in the Finnish SM-Liiga, goalie wins are never mentioned. The weird thing is that the Finnish media was following Miikka Kiprusoffs wins total quite closely a few years ago when he had the chance to break the record for wins in one season. It's also not at all the only time Finnish media has mentioned goalie wins in the NHL. I guess this is because the NHL itself puts a lot of weight on wins.

Nanodummy said...

I think the Wins stat is valuable for one reason:

When two goalies have comparable stats, save in the W/L column, one can start crediting some of the "winning" goalies stats to a team that clears rebounds, denies scoring chances and keeps GAA low because the other teams aren't scoring, and inversely give credit to the good goalie on a bad team.

Certainly this isn't universally true, but it's a signpost to performance at least.

Anonymous said...

@ Nano: If 2 goalies on 2 different teams have similar stats but different win percentages, then I think the most likely answer is the team with the higher win percentage scores more goals then the other.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

I agree, it's most likely goal support. Could also be luck, clutch scoring, shootout performance, effective late game coaching, a bigger home-ice advantage, more/less time on the PK, or a variety of other factors out of a goalie's control.

We shouldn't just assume that goalies on bad teams must be really good just because their teams lose a lot, and that they are actually better than similar goalies on better teams. That's the same mistake as giving goalies too much credit for wins, just in reverse.

Anonymous said...

Completely OT, but I just realized now that 'Center Shift' on HF was you (when you changed your name). That's neat to me because I always thought he was a fantastic poster, but I had no idea that it was you all along, and I've been an avid fan and reader of this blog for a long time. Anyways, keep up the great work.