Tuesday, January 3, 2012

40 Year Old Goalies

There was a discussion in the comments to a post over at Arctic Ice Hockey a couple of weeks ago about whether Tampa's goaltending (current team mark: .896) will regress back towards league average over the rest of the season. Over time goalie save percentages will nearly always move towards a goalie's career average. At the moment, Mathieu Garon is playing at close to his established level (.907 this season, .904 career) while Dwayne Roloson's seasonal rate is well below his career mark (.883 and .909 respectively). It looks like it is reasonable to expect major improvement from Roloson, which should boost Tampa's numbers the rest of the way.

However, while I am confident that Tampa's team save percentage will continue to move upwards towards league average, I do not believe this will be because Roloson's numbers will get a whole lot better. It will instead occur as the team shifts more playing time to Garon, who started 11 games to Roloson's two during the month of December, or perhaps through bringing in another goaltender if GM Steve Yzerman decides to address his team's crease situation. Roloson's numbers will probably improve, if nothing else playing in more of a backup role against weaker opponents may help slightly, but the reasonable expectation is that at 42 years old he is simply too old to expect him to produce anything north of .900.

Looking at the career records of goalies in the save percentage era past the age of 40, it is impressive how much the top two on the list stick out both in terms of quantity and quality of performance:

Hasek: 3366 shots, .914
Roloson: 3602 shots, .907
Everyone else: 4899 shots, .891

Hasek and Roloson each have two of the top four seasons among the 40+ crowd. Other than them, Ed Belfour is the only one who managed to keep his starting job past the age of 40, although his numbers were much lower. Everyone else had numbers that were below league average, in most cases well below.

1. Hasek, 2005-06: 43 GP, .925
2. Roloson, 2010-11: 54 GP, .914
3. Hasek, 2006-07: 56 GP, .913
4. Roloson, 2009-10: 50 PG, .907
5. Joseph, 2007-08: 9 GP, .906
6. Belfour, 2006-07: 58 GP, .902
7. Hasek, 2007-08: 41 GP, .902
8. Burke, 2006-07: 23 GP, .901
9. Belfour, 2005-06: 49 GP, .892
10. Roloson, 2011-12: 17 GP, .882
11. Joseph, 2008-09: 21 GP, .869
12. Esposito, 1983-84: 18 GP, .859

Based on those comparables, a good bet on Roloson's current save percentage talent is probably in the .895-.900 range, although with perhaps 15-20 starts remaining Roli's actual performance could still vary quite widely.

Assuming Garon keeps up his current level of performance and keeps getting the majority of the starts, Tampa's save percentage will probably improve by something like .010 the rest of the way. For example, if Garon keeps his .907 through the end of the season while Roloson plays at .895 and the shot split between them moves from the current 57/43 to 67/33, the Lightning should end up with a save percentage of .903 over their last 50 games. That's still well below league average, which is why the team should certainly consider making a move if they want to make a stronger playoff push this season. History suggests their current goaltending will be unable to perform at a league average level, which will make it difficult for the Lightning to catch up in the standings.


Robert Vollman said...

Can you get save percentage estimates on other 40+ goalies like Worsley, Plante, Johnston and Bower?

They all kept their starting jobs for years after age 40, and were great.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Johnston wasn't really that great after age 40. He was below-average, and he fell off a cliff at the age of 42 (like we may be seeing with Roloson):

1975-76 (40): 38 GP, .872
1976-77 (41): 38 GP, .882
1977-78 (42): 16 GP, .852

For context, league average was .889-.891 over this period.

As for Worsley, Plante and Bower, while they did have some good seasons past 40, I'm not sure how relevant that is. It's kind of interesting they all did it right around the time of expansion, when there were major team effects, there may not have been a strong pool of good goalies, they had a large experience advantage compared to guys who got squeezed for years by the O6 numbers game, etc.

I think that their strong numbers past age 40 do indicate that they were very talented netminders, to be sure, I'm just saying that I suspect their environment probably helped extend their careers to an extent that we certainly wouldn't find in today's hypercompetitive goalie environment. That's why I expect the last four decades are probably much more relevant in terms of predicting goalie performance going forward.

Anonymous said...

I know he wasn't over 40, but to what extent would you call Chris Osgood's poor regular-season performance the last several seasons the result of aging?

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

Aging definitely played a major role in Osgood's final three seasons. As often as I do criticize him here, Ozzie could usually be counted on to put up pretty average numbers at least. He only once had a save percentage more than .004 below league average in his whole career, until his age 36-38 seasons where he came in at .021, .023 and .010 below the average mark as he lost a step and the game pretty much passed him by.

Matt said...

In a match-up between father time and regression to the mean, I'll take father time.

After a certain point it doesn't matter what your career average is, you're done.

Anonymous said...

650 wins and counting you fucking virgin.

Anonymous said...

Well, Roloson didn't really improve a ton to end the season. Just a little, which makes me wonder if he'll retire. It's a shame he never got to the Cup.
I'll never forget the mind-blowing year he had in the 2006 playoffs. Some of those point-blank saves at *very* key times in games were just ridiculous. I think the one I'll remember the most is the spectacular glove save in overtime against one of the Sharks (I think it was Cheechoo). That kept the Oilers from going down 3-0 in the series, and then they came back and won 4 straight.
Also, his performance last year in the playoffs for Tampa was unreal, considering his age. But at some point, the body does give up. He'll always be considered a clutch goalie. His playoff numbers are very solid by themselves, but when you take into account some of the difficult shots he faced in those playoffs and actually *watch* the games, you realize how great of a leader he was, and just how much he did to carry the load and keep his team in the games.
I'll say Roloson is one of the better goalies the league has seen in the last 20 years, especially in the playoffs. But luck wasn't on his side when it came to injuries, and he never did win the Stanley Cup. I would have loved to see him hoist it. What a competitor.

Host Pay Per Head said...

40 years??? wow I've gotta say that it looks less to me, I think that I am a little too old if you know what I mean haha