Friday, November 16, 2007

Marty Turco is No Longer an Elite Goaltender

One of the problems with goalie evaluation is that reputations tend to linger far too long. Because of the inherent variability with the goaltending position, as well as the changing dynamics of teams, we need to be careful to jump to conclusions. Good goalies will eventually right the ship, just as the luck will run out for those who are temporarily playing over their heads. However, when presented with sufficient evidence of an improvement or decline in a goalie's game that is independent of team factors, his ranking should be changed, regardless of how many Cups, Vezinas, or anything else he has won or done.

I think the majority of hockey fans would rate Marty Turco as an above average goaltender. The Hockey News put him in the top 5 in the league at his position. In reality, though, he is not. There is some pretty good evidence that something negative happened to Turco's game over the lockout, as the splits are quite startling:

Pre-lockout: 185 GP, 1.91 GAA, .922 save%, 24.4 SA/60

Post-lockout: 148 GP, 2.42 GAA, .904 save%, 25.3 SA/60

A lot of that is the game opening up, and some of it is Dallas getting weaker, but the reality still is that right now Marty Turco is a mediocre goalie. He ranks 23rd in the league this season according to Hockey Numbers' shot-quality neutral save percentage. However, the reputation is still there, bolstered in part by his strong playoff performance last season. It is interesting that Turco was largely underrated earlier in his career because of his playoff struggles, but now is likely overrated because of one good stretch of playoff games last year against a weak offensive team. In addition, even though he is probably the league's best puckhandling goalie, he tends to receive too much credit for that ability, much like Martin Brodeur.