Apr 13th, 2010
6:55PM UTC

For anyone who's keeping score

A look back at the great goaltending debate of 2009

The Oilers had a lot of things go wrong this year and as much as people like to bring up the cap I’m not convinced that it limited them this year and given that they’re planning to rebuild I’m not sure it limits them next year. However, at the beginning of the season a list was published of the best goalies of the last 3 seasons who were free agents, and what they were signed at. Let’s take a look again.

  1. Martin Biron: 77 wins, .914 SV% (10th) – 1 year, 1.4 million per season
  2. Ty Conklin: 46 wins, .911 SV% (18th) – 2 years, 1.3 million per season
  3. Nikolai Khabibulin: 73 wins, .909 SV% (23rd) – 4 years,  3.75 million per season
  4. Dwayne Roloson: 70 wins, .909 SV% (25th) – 2 years, 2.5 million per season
  5. Mathieu Garon: 47 wins, .908 SV% (26th) – 2 years, 1.2 million per season
  6. Manny Fernandez: 40 wins, .907 SV% (27th) – unsigned
  7. Martin Gerber: 55 wins, .907 SV% (28th) – signed in the KHL
  8. Jason Labarbera: 25 wins, .907 SV% (29th) – 2 years, 1.0 million per season
  9. Manny Legace: 63 wins, .905 SV% (32nd) – 1 year, 0.5 million per season
  10. Olaf Kolzig: 49 wins, .902 SV% (36th) – unsigned
  11. Antero Niittymaki: 36 wins, .902 SV% (37th) – 1 year, .6 million per season
  12. Brent Johnson: 25 wins, .900 SV% (39th) – 1 year, .525 million per season
  13. Joey MacDonald: 17 wins, .900 SV% (40th) – unsigned
  14. Fredrik Norrena: 35 wins, .899 SV% (43rd) – signed in the SEL
  15. Curtis Sanford: 19 wins, .896 SV% (46th) – 1 year, .6 million per season
  16. Andrew Raycroft: 51 wins, .891 SV% (48th) – 1 year, .5 million per season
  17. Curtis Joseph: 26 wins, .889 SV% (49th) – unsigned

(Courtesy Copper ‘N Blue)

Notable exclusions from this list on the free agent market were Craig Anderson and… that’s about it.

So let’s cut out the goalies who didn’t play in the NHL this year and look at how many games the remainder played, won, and what was their SV%:

  • Martin Biron:  29GP, 9W, 0.896
  • Ty Conklin: 26GP, 10W, 0.921
  • Nikolai Khabibulin: 18GP, 7W, 0.909
  • Dwayne Roloson: 50GP, 23W, 0.907
  • Mathieu Garon: 35GP, 12W, 0.903
  • Jason Labarbera: 17GP, 8W, 0.928SV%
  • Manny Legace: 28GP, 10W, 0.907SV%
  • Antero Niittymaki: 49GP, 21W, 0.909SV%
  • Brent Johnson: 23GP, 10W, 0.906SV%
  • Curtis Sanford: Did not play
  • Andrew Raycroft: 21GP, 9W, 0.911SV%
And, because it’s relevant here:
  • Devan Dubnyk: 19GP, 4W, 0.899SV%
  • Jeff Deslauriers: 48GP, 16W, 0.901SV%
  • Combined Oilers Goaltending: 82GP, 27W, 0.898SV% – 2716SA – $5.075mil
Ok, a few things jump out.  3 of those goalies played more than 30 games, and got .909, .907, .903SV%s.  NHL.com prunes the list to goalies who have played at least 25 games, so let’s adjust for that (I’m sure this is about sample spaces and how SV% need quite a few games to level out).  That leaves:
  1. Ty Conklin: 26GP, 10W, 0.921
  2. Antero Niittymaki: 49GP, 21W, 0.909SV%
  3. Dwayne Roloson: 50GP, 23W, 0.907
  4. Manny Legace: 28GP, 10W, 0.907SV%
  5. Mathieu Garon: 35GP, 12W, 0.903

Now, it’s apparent that Deslauriers is off the mark, but not drastically.  Conklin’s number is likely inflated because he just barely crossed the 25GP mark, and as far as everyone else goes, 0.909-0.903 isn’t a huge difference.  It’s also interesting that Biron didn’t even make the list.  Only two other goalies on the list played the same amount as Deslauriers, and those are Roloson and Nittymaki, and they’re anywhere from 4 years to “old as the hills” older than him.

Now let’s take a look at those teams’ combined stats:

  • St. Louis: 82GP, 40W, 0.912SV% – 2473SA – $4.3mil
  • Tampa Bay: 82GP, 34W, 0.902SV% – 2575SA – $2.8mil
  • New York Islanders: 82GP, 34W, 0.901SV% – 2619SA – $8.4mil
  • Carolina: 82GP, 35W, 0.903SV% – 2574SA – $3.666mil
  • Columbus: 82GP, 32W, 0.900SV% – 2514SA – $2.105mil

So judging by the win and SV% columns, St. Louis cleaned up, though they also had the least SA.

NOTE: There may be some issues with these numbers because of how NHL counts goals.  I’m unsure whether OT goals and SO goals are counted in this measure.

It also bears mentioning that the only teams who got a free-agent goaltender and are actually in the playoffs are Colorado and Philadelphia, and they both backed in. (Ignoring Raycroft, LaBarbera and Danis who each played less than 25 games)

What does all this mean?  If there was a goalie not named Anderson worth spending money on this past offseason, it was Conklin but god knows he’ll never play in Edmonton again.  And while Edmonton obviously did the worst, it did the worst with the only team in the league to play rookies for more than 60 games this season.  Add that to 525 man-games lost and 135 defenceman-games-lost (and 56 Hesky-games lost) and it’s tough to argue about the horribleness of the goaltending relative to what was available.  I think it’s a pretty safe assumption that with half of the injuries Edmonton certainly wouldn’t have gotten first overall pick.

In short, the complaints that people had about the Khabibulin signing and free-agency were blown out of proportion.  Yes, Anderson was a great buy.  Yes, Conklin is actually pretty good.  Yes, Khabibulin cost a decent amount of money.  But when it comes down to it having more cap space wouldn’t have fixed Edmonton’s problems this season, and there’s quite a bit of space free next season.  St. Louis got the best bargain, and they’re also the one of these teams who finished in 17th place overall.  The Islanders got the worst bargain, followed by Edmonton.

No, this isn’t an argument in favour of Khabibulin.  This isn’t even an argument in favour of good cap management.  It’s an argument purely saying that at the end of the day the stats are more or less the same so we just paid a bit more to get that #1 pick, not to mention driving down the prices on their RFA signings this offseason (Gagner, Cogliano, Potulny, Dubnyk, Deslauriers, Pouliot, Brule).  I mean, have you seen Calgary’s cap hit for next season?

Plus, 2 spots on the top 10 saves of the year isn’t bad for a rookie, no matter how dismally the rest of the year went. (Yes, I know they were in the same game. Sidenote: Detroit was on the wrong end of 4 of them? Crazy.)

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2 Responses to “For anyone who's keeping score”

  1. Eetu Huisman says:

    If they had signed Khabibulin to a one-year deal worth 3,75M, I don’t most of the people had had any issues with it, except maybe his history of injury problems. Even if he continues to perform on an acceptable level next year, it is highly unlikely that he would do so until the end of the 2012-13 season.

  2. Gerard says:

    Again, I wasn’t arguing in favour of the Khabibulin signing. There just weren’t other good options. And in retrospect (which is what matters, really) the Khabibulin deal didn’t hurt the team. Even if he had stayed healthy for the entire season the season still would have been flushed due to injury. Maybe not #1 pick flushed, but top 5. The extra cap space wouldn’t have made any difference this season and next season there still would have been a number of big contracts sent out of town or bought out. So the cap hit isn’t going to be affecting next season either, and likely not the one after that (if they’re really planning a scorched-Earth scenario).

    That leaves one season of the Bulin contract potentially affecting the cap. However, by that time the team was expecting Bulin to be playing backup anyway.

    The point is that whether or not you like or liked the signing, if it doesn’t actually limit the team via the cap, using the cap as an argument for why it was a bad signing is moot. Khabibulin’s contract doesn’t affect the team. The only thing that it affects is Katz’s wallet.

    The whole thing was and continues to be blown way out of proportion.

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