# Northwest Division Goaltenders Vs. Average

Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009 08:44AM

What kind of player is a league-average goaltender? How do goaltenders in the Northwest Division stack up?

Traditionally, any goaltender with a save percentage above .900 is regarded as a decent goaltender. However, given that so few goaltenders ever land below that mark, it seemed safe to assume that the “average goaltender” posted a better save percentage than that number.

One method to figure out what an average goaltender posts in terms of save percentage would be to go through them all and average the results. Fortunately, there’s an easier way. Last year, NHL teams scored 7006 goals on 74302 shots (not counting the shootout). Of those, 227 were empty-net goals; so we deduct 227 from both the goals and shot totals (since for a shot to be counted, it can’t be blocked and needs to be inside the crease, obviously the ratio of empty net shots to empty net goals is 1:1). Then we run our math:

• 1 – 6779 / 74075 = .90849 = .908 SV% (*math corrected as per comments below)

Some notes about our average number. Obviously, each NHL team has two goaltenders, and in most cases the more successful goaltender plays the vast majority of the games. This should result in a top-heavy curve; in other words, most starters should be right above this mark, since the effect of the starters on the average is much greater than the effect of the backups.

In any case, using this number, how do Northwest Division goaltenders fare? Let’s have a look:

• Josh Harding: .929
• Craig Anderson: .924
• Niklas Backstrom: .923
• Roberto Luongo: .920
• Nikolai Khabibulin: .919
• AVERAGE: .908
• Miikka Kiprusoff: .903
• Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers: .901
• Peter Budaj: .899
• Andrew Raycroft: .892
• Curtis McElhinney: .889
• Cory Schneider: .877

Now unfortunately I have no way to compensate for the relative strengths of these players teams; I’d guess that Harding and Backstrom would both find themselves lower on this chart if they hadn’t spent last season in Minnesota, but with Jacques Lemaire gone we should get a better read on both of them next season.

It’s also nice to see Nikolai Khabibulin where he is on this list; granted, this has been his strongest season in the last half-dozen years, but he certainly provided better-than-average goaltending last season, although he’s still probably only the third-best goaltender in the Northwest (unless Craig Anderson is for real). The most interesting player in any save percentage comparison remains Miikka Kiprusoff, a player some people were floating as a Vezina candidate based on his win totals. Here’s the thing: even a middling goaltender will post pretty win totals if he plays 70 games on a very good team. Kiprusoff has a massive contract, lousy totals, and is the biggest question mark about the Calgary Flames at this point in time.

Unsurprisingly, 3 of the 4 young/developing goaltenders (JDD/McElhinney/Schneider) posted sub-average results, and of course Colorado’s goaltending tandem was awful last season as well.

The final point I will make is simply this: a player below the average mark, or just barely above it, has almost no value to an NHL team. Alex Auld, to use the most recent example, played 43 games and posted a .911 SV% on a lousy Ottawa team last season. He was just dealt to the Dallas Stars for a 6th round pick. He’s played 183 NHL games over his career, with a career save percentage of .905; the mind-boggling thing is that he was originally a second-round draft pick. With forwards and defenseman, a decent career (which Auld has had) increases value, particularly a) coming off a strong season and b) being in their prime (Auld is 28). Auld was viewed as more valuable by NHL teams as a 17-year old wild card than he is as a seasoned goaltender in his prime coming off a strong season – and that tells me that NHL teams should rethink their approach to goaltending prospects.

Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.

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#51 Hemmertime
July 09 2009, 11:40AM

@ Curious: Do you mean Dany Sabourin? Dudes a bum who would only play AHL - no projected upside.

I can see your point, goalies do tend to take the longest. But in my opinion its still better to have potential playing in the minors than an old player just there to fill a hole for our AHL team. You can also use the theory that goalie is the most important position, so better to take a chance getting a star goalie then a player if the goalie ranks higher than him on your draft list.

#52 Dominoiler
July 09 2009, 11:41AM

Roloson SP 0.915%

Or am I going to bitch slapped with the Ryan Smyth esque.. 'We dont talk about non-oilers that could have still been oilers if...'

#53 Hemmertime
July 09 2009, 11:56AM

@ Dominoiler: Khabibulin SP 0.919

Gives you freedom to talk lol

#54 Victoria
July 09 2009, 11:56AM

I'm willing to bet Khabibulin wont put up numbers like this once he's actually in the Northwest and playing behind the Oilers.

#55 Ogden Brother
July 09 2009, 11:57AM

Cam wrote:

Ogden Brother wrote: …but I’d have to guess the majority of transactions happen between the draft and the first week or so of FA day. Actually I think that a fair number of trades must happen after FA day because the teams that lost out on the FA’s still need to address roster needs and now know what they need to trade for since the FA’s are all gone.

Last year their were 45 trades between June 18th and July 4th.

Their were only 15 between July 5th and the start of the year.

#56 Curious
July 09 2009, 11:57AM

@ Hemmertime:

Yeah I know he has no projected upside and is nothing more then a career AHL goalie. I guess I am just thinking if you have the 12th pick or whatever Dubynk was that year do you draft him and wait for 6 years, or should you take a forward or a defencemen and hope they will help you sooner. Is it better to have Dubynk or JDD tolling away in the minors or are you better off to just sign one of Clemmenson, Anderson, etc. to be your backup when you need them.

There will be some decent goalies this year without contracts. Maybe this year is an anomily but if goalies play until 40 now, maybe this is a trend.

I dont know if the goalie is the most important position. If you have a solid team, you can get away with a slightly better then average goaltender with some game. Does anyone consider Osgood a top ten goaltender in the league? Yet how many rings does he have? Was Fuhr a top ten goaltender in his prime?

#57 Dominoiler
July 09 2009, 12:11PM

Fuhr was a top ten goalie in his time.. Unless I stand to be corrected..

(championship rings always help provide that status tho too)

#58 Curious
July 09 2009, 12:15PM

To me Fuhr was like Osgood. He made the big save when the team needed him too. He was probably top ten you are right but I dont think he was best by a long shot. Slightly above average

#59 myteammytown
July 09 2009, 12:20PM

@ Victoria:

i blame mact

#60 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 12:36PM

@ Curious: @ Hemmertime:

I'd never burn a first round pick on a goaltender - ever. Goaltenders to my mind are the exception to BPA. Kent's done some good stuff on this - I'll dig up the links.

#61 Curious
July 09 2009, 12:38PM

@ Jonathan Willis:

The more I think about it, the more I think that is bang on. Thanks it will be an interesting read to see what Kent has said.

#62 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 12:51PM

Here are the two most relevant links I can find:

#63 Chris.
July 09 2009, 01:18PM

Hemmertime wrote:

Do you mean Dany Sabourin? Dudes a bum who would only play AHL - no projected upside.

Sabourin is actually a nice comparable to JDD. Take a look at these numbers:

Sabourin is 28yrs old. 6'4" 200lb goalie out of Quebec JDD is 25 yrs old. 6'4" 200lb goalie out of Quebec.

Sabourin was taken in the fourth round after posting sub .900 sv% numbers in Jr. For the first few years he bounced around a bit. In 2004/2005 he played 27 games in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers posting .942 sv%. He was then promoted to Wilkes-Barre where he posted a .921 sv% over 20 games. The following year he had his best professional season playing 49 games with Wilkes-Barre posting a .922 sv%, was named an AHL first team all-star, and won the Aldege Bastien Memorial Award for AHL Goalie of the year. On the strength of this season Sabourin EARNED a look at the NHL level. He's played in 57 career NHL games posting a disappointing .898 sv%.

JDD was taken in the second round. Like Sabourin, he also bounced around a bit for the first few years. He played his best professional hockey in 2007/2008 with the Springfield Falcons posting a .912 SV% over 57 games following up on a strong season the year before with Wilkes-Barre where he posted a .908 sv% over 40 games.

To date JDD has posted an NHL sv% of .901 over a 10 game period (HockeyDB.com) Given that JDD's AHL numbers are actually worse than Sabourin's; I have trouble projecting JDD to be any more than a fringe backup type goalie. Sabourin is older than JDD and his NHL carreer is pretty much over. JDD did nothing, IMO, to earn a one way NHL contract. His .901 is only marginally better than Sabourin's .898 and was tabulated over a much smaller number of games. In short, I'd be very surprised if JDD doesn't find himself in the same boat as Sabourin by the time he's 28.

I don't buy into this give him a chance to play theory. Starts in the NHL need to be earned... not freely given. JDD's AHL numbers just aren't strong enough to convince me he'll ever be a legit goalie at the NHL level.

#64 Ogden Brother
July 09 2009, 01:48PM

Chris. wrote:

Hemmertime wrote: Do you mean Dany Sabourin? Dudes a bum who would only play AHL - no projected upside. Sabourin is actually a nice comparable to JDD. Take a look at these numbers: Sabourin is 28yrs old. 6′4″ 200lb goalie out of Quebec JDD is 25 yrs old. 6′4″ 200lb goalie out of Quebec. Sabourin was taken in the fourth round after posting sub .900 sv% numbers in Jr. For the first few years he bounced around a bit. In 2004/2005 he played 27 games in the ECHL with the Wheeling Nailers posting .942 sv%. He was then promoted to Wilkes-Barre where he posted a .921 sv% over 20 games. The following year he had his best professional season playing 49 games with Wilkes-Barre posting a .922 sv%, was named an AHL first team all-star, and won the Aldege Bastien Memorial Award for AHL Goalie of the year. On the strength of this season Sabourin EARNED a look at the NHL level. He’s played in 57 career NHL games posting a disappointing .898 sv%. JDD was taken in the second round. Like Sabourin, he also bounced around a bit for the first few years. He played his best professional hockey in 2007/2008 with the Springfield Falcons posting a .912 SV% over 57 games following up on a strong season the year before with Wilkes-Barre where he posted a .908 sv% over 40 games. To date JDD has posted an NHL sv% of .901 over a 10 game period (HockeyDB.com) Given that JDD’s AHL numbers are actually worse than Sabourin’s; I have trouble projecting JDD to be any more than a fringe backup type goalie. Sabourin is older than JDD and his NHL carreer is pretty much over. JDD did nothing, IMO, to earn a one way NHL contract. His .901 is only marginally better than Sabourin’s .898 and was tabulated over a much smaller number of games. In short, I’d be very surprised if JDD doesn’t find himself in the same boat as Sabourin by the time he’s 28. I don’t buy into this give him a chance to play theory. Starts in the NHL need to be earned… not freely given. JDD’s AHL numbers just aren’t strong enough to convince me he’ll ever be a legit goalie at the NHL level.

Maybe that's why Rollie played 142 straight...

But I thought MacT was crazy???

#65 Ogden Brother
July 09 2009, 02:03PM

Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Curious: @ Hemmertime: I’d never burn a first round pick on a goaltender - ever. Goaltenders to my mind are the exception to BPA. Kent’s done some good stuff on this - I’ll dig up the links.

I don't know, are the success numbers much worse then positional players?

33 taken between 80 - 03

2 Superstars (Luongo/Brodeur)

4 Stars (Fuhr/Kolzig/MAF/Ward)

4 Solid starters (Barrasso/Biron/Dipi/Lehtonen)

+ a handful of back-ups.

The superstar number might be a little low, but 33% for solid NHL'ers+Stars+superstars (equivalent to good top 9 fowards) has to be pretty close to what positional players.

#66 johnnyshaka
July 09 2009, 02:17PM

@Hemmertime

If you are going to use Sabourin as a comparison point why not make it a fair comparison? As a whole, yes, Sabourin's numbers in the AHL look better but he also logged those better numbers as a 24 and 25 year old. Try comparing both JDD and Sab's AHL numbers as 22 and 23 year olds...the comparison looks a little bit different, doesn't it?

#67 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 02:29PM

@ Ogden Brother:

Look at some of those names, though. Would you rather have drafted DiPietro or Heatley? Fleury or Staal? Lehtonen or Bouwmeester?

There's another problem too - look at Biron. Buffalo traded him to Philly for a 2nd round pick. Philly let him go for nothing. Now he may be forced to go to Russia because nobody's going to pay him enough as a starter.

These guys, with few exceptions (Brodeur/Luongo) don't hold their value. Auld was cited above as an example, and he's certainly a solid 1A/1B guy, but despite that he dropped in value to a 6th round pick.

Useful goalies like Biron are easy to sign. They're difficult to draft.

#68 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 02:31PM

Or to quote Kent:

- Goalies are very important but have a low utility relative to skaters. There are only a precious few positions for goalies in an organization and they can't differentiate themselves from competitors for the spots, outside of simply being better at stopping the puck. - Having lots of goalies in a system is rather pointless since goaltending isn't additive like scoring. - A goalies development path is often difficult and long. - Goalie supply far outweighs demand. - Outside of the best in the biz, goalies have very little value as trade assets. Goalie prospects are worth even less by several orders of magnitude. - It is very difficult to predict a goalie prospects future success. Current SV% leaders were liberally sprinkled through-out the draft.
#69 Joey Moss
July 09 2009, 02:40PM

Hey JW:

Do you know if this kind of statistical analysis is used by teams to make decisions? I get the impression that even though this quantitative revolution is 50 years late to the game that it will be another 50 years before teams (at least teams like the oilers) might actually include this kind of thinking in the decision making process.

#70 Chris.
July 09 2009, 02:53PM

As a good rule of thumb, to predict if a guy will be a legit NHL goalie: I like to see two or three solid professional AHL/Equivelent seasons at a .920 SV% as the starter.

Let's look at the top three young goalies on Willis' list:

Harding. 04/05 Houston Aero's AHL: 42gm's .930 05/06 " " " : 38gm's .919 06/07 " " " : 38gm's .920

Anderson. 02/03 Norfolk Admirals AHL: 32gm's .923 02/04 " " " : 37gm's .914 06/07 Rochester Americans : 34gm's .919

Backstrom 03/04 Karpat FNL: 43gm's .936 04/05 " " : 47gm's .927 05/06 " " : 51gm's .940

All three of these guys posted rock solid AHL SV%'s. I didn't include Luongo and Khabibulin because they both had very limited semi-pro careers. I was looking for three seasons (preferably consecutive) with 30 starts or more to prove my point.

Now let's look at the goalies who are performing below average.

Kiprusoff 98/99 TPS Turku FNL: 39gm's .936 99/00 Kentucky Throughblades AHL: 46gm's .924 00/01 " " " : 36gm's .926

Budaj 02/03 Hersey Bears AHL: 28gm's .911 03/04 " " " : 46gm's .916 04/05 " " " : 59gm's .919

Raycroft 00/01 Providence Bruins AHL: 26gm's .891 01/02 " " " : 56gm's .916 02/03 " " " : 39gm's .917

Deslauriers 06/07 Wilkes-Barre AHL: 40gm's .908 07/08 Springfield Falcon's AHL: 57gm's .912

Kipper was an elite goalie whose skills have begun to fade. It is not a surprise to me that he put up SV% numbers in the high .920's

I didn't bother breaking down McElhinney and Schneider's numbers because neither of them has had many starts.

JDD's AHL numbers are more comparable to Budaj and Raycroft. (In fact they are a little worse) Based on that, unless there is a sudden/unexpected improvement I doubt he will ever be a much better goalie than the other two.

#71 Chris.
July 09 2009, 02:59PM

All the above info supplied by Hockeydb. Sorry if I made a few typo's. It's not surprising to me that the best semi-pro numbers were posted by Kipper and Backstrom. Based on the numbers it is probably also fair to say that Anderson and Harding are more likely to be starters than JDD. If JDD does ever play 30 NHL games a season, I doubt his SV% will be very much above .900

#72 Ogden Brother
July 09 2009, 03:18PM

Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Ogden Brother: Look at some of those names, though. Would you rather have drafted DiPietro or Heatley? Fleury or Staal? Lehtonen or Bouwmeester? There’s another problem too - look at Biron. Buffalo traded him to Philly for a 2nd round pick. Philly let him go for nothing. Now he may be forced to go to Russia because nobody’s going to pay him enough as a starter. These guys, with few exceptions (Brodeur/Luongo) don’t hold their value. Auld was cited above as an example, and he’s certainly a solid 1A/1B guy, but despite that he dropped in value to a 6th round pick. Useful goalies like Biron are easy to sign. They’re difficult to draft.

Breaking it down to Dipi vs Heatly doesn't really prove anything, you could say the same with Ward vs Steen, Luongo vs Jokenin or even Biron vs Jeff Ware. I would think comparing the success ratios of drafting goalies vs positional players would give us a cleary picture (and 33% getting servicable starting tenders or better has to be pretty close to the % of linding top 9 forwards or better)

The point to goalies trade value is valid, but I think that's a short term trend and that values have gone up and down. After all, it wasn't long ago that Rollie was traded for a 1st+3rd, Toskala for a 1st + 2nd + 4th, Vokoun for 1st+2nd+2nd.

Sure guys like Auld return a 6th rounder, but so do guys like Brodziak.

#73 johnnyshaka
July 09 2009, 03:49PM

Chris. wrote:

As a good rule of thumb, to predict if a guy will be a legit NHL goalie: I like to see two or three solid professional AHL/Equivelent seasons at a .920 SV% as the starter. Let’s look at the top three young goalies on Willis’ list: Harding. 04/05 Houston Aero’s AHL: 42gm’s .930 05/06 ” ” ” : 38gm’s .919 06/07 ” ” ” : 38gm’s .920 Anderson. 02/03 Norfolk Admirals AHL: 32gm’s .923 02/04 ” ” ” : 37gm’s .914 06/07 Rochester Americans : 34gm’s .919 Backstrom 03/04 Karpat FNL: 43gm’s .936 04/05 ” ” : 47gm’s .927 05/06 ” ” : 51gm’s .940 All three of these guys posted rock solid AHL SV%’s. I didn’t include Luongo and Khabibulin because they both had very limited semi-pro careers. I was looking for three seasons (preferably consecutive) with 30 starts or more to prove my point. Now let’s look at the goalies who are performing below average. Kiprusoff 98/99 TPS Turku FNL: 39gm’s .936 99/00 Kentucky Throughblades AHL: 46gm’s .924 00/01 ” ” ” : 36gm’s .926 Budaj 02/03 Hersey Bears AHL: 28gm’s .911 03/04 ” ” ” : 46gm’s .916 04/05 ” ” ” : 59gm’s .919 Raycroft 00/01 Providence Bruins AHL: 26gm’s .891 01/02 ” ” ” : 56gm’s .916 02/03 ” ” ” : 39gm’s .917 Deslauriers 06/07 Wilkes-Barre AHL: 40gm’s .908 07/08 Springfield Falcon’s AHL: 57gm’s .912 Kipper was an elite goalie whose skills have begun to fade. It is not a surprise to me that he put up SV% numbers in the high .920’s I didn’t bother breaking down McElhinney and Schneider’s numbers because neither of them has had many starts. JDD’s AHL numbers are more comparable to Budaj and Raycroft. (In fact they are a little worse) Based on that, unless there is a sudden/unexpected improvement I doubt he will ever be a much better goalie than the other two.

Again, age has to factor into this stuff. A 21 year old putting up .910 in the AHL is not the same as a 26 year old doing the same thing. And I'm curious as to why you are tossing out Anderson's NHL experience in favor of using "nicer" AHL stats...for example, his 50+ games in Florida?

If JDD turns out to be a Calder Cup winner like Raycroft or a 30+ game winner in Budaj I'd be pretty happy.

#74 Antony Ta
July 09 2009, 04:24PM

Here’s the thing: even a middling goaltender will post pretty win totals if he plays 70 games on a very good team. Kiprusoff has a massive contract, lousy totals, and is the biggest question mark about the Calgary Flames at this point in time Read more: http://www.oilersnation.com/2009/07/northwest-division-goaltenders-vs-average/#ixzz0Knt16WYb&C

Case in point: Manny Legace 2005-06

#75 Chris
July 09 2009, 05:19PM

johnnyshaka wrote:

And I’m curious as to why you are tossing out Anderson’s NHL experience in favor of using “nicer” AHL stats…for example, his 50+ games in Florida?

It wasn't intentional. I was trying to find three sequential AHL/SEL/FNL seasons... and wasn't able to in Andersons case.

johnnyshaka wrote:

Again, age has to factor into this stuff. A 21 year old putting up .910 in the AHL is not the same as a 26 year old doing the same thing

JDD was 23 when he went 26-23-5 with a .912 in Springfield. (His best ever season IMO)

At the same age, Kipprusoff went 26-6-6 with TPS Turku with a .936

On the other end of the scale, when Backstrom was 23 he had a tough year in the SEL posting a .897 through 40 games.

Also at 23:

-Harding posted a .920 in Houston

-Anderson a .914 in Norfolk.

-Luongo was an established star in the NHL with .918 sv% with a bad Panther team

-Khabibulin was also an established starter winning 30 games in Phoenix and posting .908

-Budaj had a .919 in Hershey through 59 games

-Raycroft had a .917 through 39 in Providence.

-McElhinney had a .917 through 57 in Omaha

-Schneider a .928 in Manitoba

If anything I'm cherry picking in Deslaurier's favor here... I set 23 as the standard for comparison because it was JDD's absolute best year and not necessarily the best year for these other tenders...

So you wanted an age comparison?

At 23 years of age; JDD'S best professional season; he ranks lower than EVERY SINGLE OTHER GOALIE on Willi's list except Backstrom (who had his worst year as a professional)...

#76 Chris
July 09 2009, 05:26PM

Further to my thoughts. JDD is slow laterally. He often overplays the shooter/has trouble with his angles, and has never posted dominant numbers anywhere but the ECHL. I don't know the guy and I wish him well... but he was a terrible pick at #31st overall and should NEVER have been given a one way contract in the first place. Tambellini should try and slip him down to Springfield where he belongs.

#77 Jonathan Willis
July 10 2009, 12:03AM

Joey Moss wrote:

Hey JW: Do you know if this kind of statistical analysis is used by teams to make decisions? I get the impression that even though this quantitative revolution is 50 years late to the game that it will be another 50 years before teams (at least teams like the oilers) might actually include this kind of thinking in the decision making process.

San Jose seems to do some interesting things, as does Buffalo. Mike Gillis has publicly stated that he uses statistical evaluation, and Mike Smith's analytics company has a bunch of NHL clients.

Honestly though, I have no idea how much stuff is used, except by coaches - there are a bunch of coaches who believe in this stuff, and in many ways they started the conversation.

A lot of the stuff I believe in originates with Ron Wilson.

#78 Ogden Brother
July 10 2009, 08:43AM

Jonathan Willis wrote:

Joey Moss wrote: Hey JW: Do you know if this kind of statistical analysis is used by teams to make decisions? I get the impression that even though this quantitative revolution is 50 years late to the game that it will be another 50 years before teams (at least teams like the oilers) might actually include this kind of thinking in the decision making process. San Jose seems to do some interesting things, as does Buffalo. Mike Gillis has publicly stated that he uses statistical evaluation, and Mike Smith’s analytics company has a bunch of NHL clients. Honestly though, I have no idea how much stuff is used, except by coaches - there are a bunch of coaches who believe in this stuff, and in many ways they started the conversation. A lot of the stuff I believe in originates with Ron Wilson.

They are finally picking it up, baseball has been using statistically analysis for a long time when chosing whom to hit/pitch/field in what situations.