Sunday, September 14, 2008

The $6.25 Million Man

Evaluating goalies is very important, because you don't want to end up paying superstar dollars to a guy who is an average-level talent. Which is exactly the mistake the Sabres made over the off-season when they resigned Ryan Miller to a 5-year, $31.25 million deal.

Miller has a reputation as one of the league's better goalies, but the perception isn't quite in tune with reality. Since the lockout, Ryan Miller is 5th among all goalies in wins, but tied for 23rd in shutouts, 18th in GAA, and 18th in save percentage.

In the playoffs over the same period, Miller has the most games played and the most wins, but he is just 10th in GAA and 11th in save percentage, as well as tied for 12th in shutouts.

What about his team? The Sabres score a lot of goals, does that mean they often leave their goalie out to dry? Apparently not. Alan Ryder has measured the Sabres to be a better-than-average team in terms of shot quality in each of the last three seasons. According to his marginal goals from goaltending measurement (which includes shot quality), Buffalo's goaltending ranked 17th in 2006, 11th in 2007, and 24th in 2008.

Although they regressed last year, the Sabres have generally been a strong team in front of Miller. With their backup goalies in the net, Buffalo is 38-20-6 over the last three seasons, for a .640 winning percentage. Miller's win percentage? .635.

Ryan Miller has done little in his career to prove that he is anything other than an average starting goalie. The Buffalo Sabres overpaid substantially for his services, probably mostly as a result of his high win totals. Having said that, there is a possibility that the 28-year old Miller could improve over the next 5 years, but he would have to improve quite significantly to earn his hefty paycheque.


Anonymous said...

dude enough with your "the backup played equally well" crap, especially with goalies who play 70+ games a year. its easy for a goalie to play well or even bad for a few games a season, and completely skew their numbers. 5,10,15, even 30 games is not enough games to accurately assess a goalies ability or the teams effect on it.

The Contrarian Goaltender said...

I agree 30 games is not enough games to accurately assess a goalie's ability or the team's effect on it. But, as I pointed out, Miller's Buffalo teammates went 38-20-6 over the last 3 seasons. That's a sample size of 64 games, which is the equivalent of a full season for a typical starting goalie.

Is luck and chance still a factor in the sample? Sure. Backup stats are only meant to provide context, not to definitely evaluate a goalie. I place a lot more weighting on save percentage data and shot quality info than backup stats, and relying on backup stats alone would be a mistake, but I still do think they are useful in trying to help identify if a goalie is better or worse than the team around him.

Anonymous said...

HAHAHAHA This post proves you know shit about goalies and you cant look just at numbers. I knew he was legit back then and now after the Olympics you cant argue otherwise. Just stop making dumb ass posts, your wasting your time, you know nothing about hockey or what it takes to be a goaltender.

Bill said...

Since signing the contract, Miller has gone 66-33-13 (.647), while his backups are a paltry 10-19-5 (.368). I think you'd be hard-pressed to find a bigger spread (.279) between a start and his backup(s) over the same period.

Part of being in management is anticipating peaks and valleys in players' careers. The Sabres saw a player with a great work ethic to go along with good talent, and invested their money in the right place. You have to credit Buffalo's management for getting this one right.

Anonymous said...

Buffalo was forced a tough hand at this time with the direction and ownership and the only way to keep him from eventually walking was giving him a landmark deal. It was not far off from similar contracts of the time, ones I can recall off the top of my head are Kiprusoff, Lundqvist, Ward.

Overpaid? Compared to alot of deals, no, but hindsight's 20/20 and this was a hefty sum at the time. I agree with your blogs on goalies being paid too much, but that's another discussion.

Labelling him "above-average at best" was a bit too eager to discredit him because of some hype surrounding his play at the time.

You got burned on this bold analysis.