Friday, December 31, 2010
Tuesday, December 28, 2010
Tuesday, December 14, 2010
When you want to know what people really think, and not just what they say they think, it is usually better to focus on actions than words. That's why I think there is some value in looking at the size of the paycheques of goalies around the league. As with any numerical ranking, it's often good to bring in some outside knowledge to inform the rankings (insane longterm deals, home-town discounts, ELC/RFA/UFA years, salary inflation, to name but a few things that have an impact), but at the end of the day nobody pays anybody millions of dollars a year without expecting significant performance in return. And on the flip side, a general manager can go on for as long as he wants about how the goalie on his winning team is underrated and mentally tough and makes the big saves and is a great teammate, but when he refuses to open the purse strings come free agency time that is a stronger indication that his objective viewpoint is something altogether different.
Using Hockey Zone Plus and Cap Geek, I was able to put together career salary histories for most of the experienced starting goalies since 1990, and then applied a factor to adjust for the league average goalie salary in each season.
Here are the total adjusted earnings figures:
1. Patrick Roy, $76,550,000
2. Dominik Hasek, $55,510,000
3. Ed Belfour, $54,840,000
4. Martin Brodeur, $51,000,000
5. Mike Richter, $49,830,000
6. Curtis Joseph, $49,000,000
7. Tom Barrasso, $36,720,000
8. Nik Khabibulin, $35,340,000
9. Olaf Kolzig, $33,200,000
10. Sean Burke, $32,560,000
11. Jose Theodore, $27,410,000
12. Roberto Luongo, $27,280,000
13. J.S. Giguere, $25,430,000
14. Felix Potvin, $24,520,000
15. Kirk McLean, $24,400,000
16. Bill Ranford, $23,450,000
17. Chris Osgood, $22,940,000
18. Evgeni Nabokov, $21,320,000
19. Marty Turco, $20,920,000
20. Miikka Kiprusoff, $20,350,000
Contract timing and the adjustment factors make it unlikely that this list would come out with a perfect ranking, but it still comes out surprisingly well, especially when you look at tiers rather than specific rankings. The top four are correct, although admittedly very few people would put them in that order. Mike Richter shows one of the flaws of this method, that a goalie who was entrenched for a long time on a large market team with a spend-happy GM is likely to get paid disproportionately to everyone else. It's not too hard to make the argument that Joseph's repeated free agency paydays from several different franchises are more impressive than Richter cashing in on the '94 Stanley Cup run.
Barrasso, Khabibulin, Kolzig and Burke were a solid group of goalies that make up the next tier. Jose Theodore is the surprising leader of the the younger group of goalies, although this is the last year he will be ranked ahead of Roberto Luongo. Luongo projects to end up in Joseph/Richter territory by the end of his lifetime contract in Vancouver, and quite possibly higher depending on your assumptions of salary inflation.
The other interesting guy to point out is #17 on the list. If Chris Osgood was really the #2 goalie of the last decade, as some claim, then he needs to immediately sue his agent for gross malpractice. I think the reality is that, in the vote done with their owners' dollars, the league's general managers just weren't all that impressed by Osgood.
Here's a measure of peak effectiveness, each goalie's best 5 consecutive years in adjusted salary:
1. Dominik Hasek, $29,650,000
2. Patrick Roy, $29,271,000
3. Curtis Joseph, $25,297,000
4. Mike Richter, $23,424,000
5. Ed Belfour, $21,884,000
6. Nik Khabibulin, $21,726,000
7. Martin Brodeur, $21,103,000
8. Olaf Kolzig, $20,926,000
9. Roberto Luongo, $20,651,000
10. Tom Barrasso, $20,328,000
11. Jose Theodore, $18,719,000
12. Marty Turco, $16,580,000
13. Miikka Kiprusoff, $16,201,000
14. J.S. Giguere, $15,915,000
15. Kirk McLean, $15,888,000
16. Evgeni Nabokov, $15,793,000
17. Bill Ranford, $14,604,000
18. Henrik Lundqvist, $14,484,000
19. Tomas Vokoun, $13,705,000
20. Sean Burke, $13,536,000
This time Hasek beats out Roy for the top spot, with the two of them both well clear of the field. I think it's safe to say that Nikolai Khabibulin has had some pretty good representation over the years, while Brodeur likely left a good chunk of change on the table because he preferred to play in New Jersey. A few current goalies are slowly creeping up this list, in a couple of years Henrik Lundqvist will be just outside of the top 10.
Just one caveat, the adjustment is likely over-correcting for post-lockout goalies. With a maximum salary level, with more goaltending talent around the league and with restricted free agents getting paid big dollars earlier than ever before, there is no longer the huge salary disparity between the top veterans and the newcomers that was seen in the late '90s.
Wednesday, December 8, 2010
The 1994-95 NHL regular season was very unusual. A lengthy lockout shortened the schedule to just 48 games per team, and to make the scheduling work every team only played against opponents within their own conference. The condensed schedule also gave teams fewer off-days, meaning they had less of an opportunity to catch up with the goings-on around the rest of the league.
The short season made it tough for all awards voters to identify the league's best, but it had to have been especially difficult for the league's general managers required to vote on the 1995 Vezina. Many of them would not have seen much at all of the other conference, and likely would only have seen the best goalies in their own division 3-4 times. Based on this I expect that 1994-95 was probably the season where GMs were most likely to rely on statistics when filling out their award ballots.
If that's true, then looking at the voting results should give some insight on how general managers rate goalies based on their performance numbers (the full Vezina ranking can be found here). How did they fare? In my opinion, not very well. Most of them voted for Dominik Hasek, but that shouldn't have been a very difficult choice at all given that Hasek was the defending Vezina winner and led the league in GAA, shutouts and of course save percentage, where he crushed the field by .013. The other rankings were less clear, and some of the choices left something to be desired.
In particular, there were three voters that seem to have completely failed the test, the trio of league decision-makers who rated Mike Vernon as the best goalie in the league.
Compare the stats:
Vernon: 19-6-4, 2.52, .893, 1 SO
Hasek: 19-14-7, 2.11, .930, 5 SO
I really hope those were Western Conference GMs who just saw Vernon really good against their own teams and didn't feel comfortable ranking Eastern goalies that they hadn't seen play. Even in that event they still made a very poor decision, but it would have been completely embarrassing for them if they actually looked at everyone's numbers and decided that Vernon had the best season based on wins and losses.
Detroit had a terrific team as usual that season, with a defensive unit led by Nicklas Lidstrom, Paul Coffey, Slava Fetisov and Vladimir Konstantinov, plus their usual strong group of forwards. Backup Chris Osgood actually had better numbers than Vernon (14-5-0, 2.26, .917). On the other hand, when Hasek wasn't in net Buffalo's goaltending numbers were 3-5-0, 3.86, .864.
Any given shot was 67% more likely to go in against Vernon than against Hasek. Vernon allowed 3.21 goals per 30 shots against compared to Hasek's 2.10. If you were to swap Vernon's goal support in Detroit with Buffalo's goalscoring during Hasek's first 30 games of the season (excluding one short relief appearance), it would have had a dramatic effect on the records of both goalies. Vernon would have had a losing record at 11-15-4, while Hasek would have improved to a spectacular 22-3-5. And that's based on raw goals against without even taking into account the fact that Vernon faced nearly 7 fewer shots against per game.
It wasn't even remotely close, that's the point I'm trying to make.
Looking at the Vezina votes overall, they ended up being split around a number of goalies, which was perhaps to be expected given the peculiar circumstances. In addition to Hasek and Vernon five other goalies received at least one first place vote, only two of whom ended up in the top 10 in save percentage, and 15 goalies ended up with at least one vote. No other season has ever seen more different goalies get named on Vezina ballots than 1994-95.
If you remove Hasek from the sample, since he was so obviously the best goalie that even a voter who never saw him play and was just going by traditional numbers like GAA or shutouts should still have been able to figure out that the Dominator was the most deserving, here are the correlations between the Vezina voting and other statistics among all other goalies with 20+ games played that season:
Win Percentage: .589
Save Percentage: .290
That makes it seem pretty apparent that most early '90s NHL general managers rated goalies based on wins and the strength of the defence in front of them. That's scary stuff, and is yet another reminder that we should be cautious when using historical Vezina voting results to rank goalies.
Friday, December 3, 2010
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.