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Does Goaltending Matter Less Than Ever? & Long Term Contracts

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New Puck Daddy: On how practices change throughout the course of a season 

I’ve been slacking in the doing interviews/current events type posts, so expect to see a couple of those next week. 

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So, I’m not sure goaltending matters in the NHL these days. 

I mean, it matters if you have bad goalies (sorry Dan Ellis, Mike Smith).  But if you’re a good team, it seems like any sort-of-big guy who can do the butterfly and play his angles can become an all-star. 

Preds goalies are suddenly hailed as stars - are they just making the saves they're supposed to behind a good team?

Now, that may sound like lunacy, but let me finish my point - my case is not that goaltending is altogether umimportant, it’s that I think having a great forward or a great defenseman (compared to an average one) is more valuable than having a great goalie (compared to an average one). 

As in, most goaltenders VORP (value over replacement player) doesn’t seem to be all that high.  {Demonstrated by the relative success of guys like James Reimer, Kevin Poulin etc.  They aren’t bad goalies by any means, but they’re certainly not exceptional yet, though they may someday be.  Team plays well in front of them, they don’t give up any freebies….boom.  You’re the next big thing.}

And doesn’t it makes sense?  A lot of the goals we see are created so beautifully nobody could stop them.  Beyond those goals, we don’t see a lot of “oh, so-and-so would’ve stopped that” -type squeakers. 

No, with the development of goaltending style and technique, the growth of the men behind the pads, and the quickness that even the average goalie has, we’ve seen soft goals die a slow death

The “best” goalies in the league, more and more, seem to be behind the best teams.  

It’s why a guy like Niemi can win a Cup – no soft goals, play behind a great team. 

It’s not a knock on anybody, just an observation – basically, that whether you have Luongo in net or Cory Schneider, the way for a goalie to come out looking like roses is for the team to play well (which, incidentally, they tend to do more in front of a goalie they don’t trust).  Then suddenly you’re an all-star candidate (or a starter, right Corey Crawford?)

Thoughts? 

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If a player doesn’t display the obvious passion and crazy desire to be the best like Sidney Crosby, he should never get a contract longer than four or five years. 

Easy there, Stallone.

Teams are so eager these days to land a star player for a low cap hit that they’re making major mistakes.  

It becomes pretty easy to go to lunch instead of the gym when your future is so secure, I would think. 

Here’s my theory: if you manage to get a player for a low cap hit by giving him a billion year deal, you probably lower his worth to what his cap hit is. 

As in, Kovalchuk is playing like a 6 million dollar player (his ballpark cap hit) instead of a 10 million dollar player (his ballpark real salary the next few years) because they’ve given him enough years to show that cap hit. 

In trying to mess with salary cap loopholes, you create a less valuable player – it’s sort of karmic, in a way. 

The only guys you give it to are guys like Crosby or someone who you just KNOW takes being good seriously, like Rod Brind’Amour always did. 

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Y’all should fear my blog post on Monday: we pick up our 11 week old Ragdoll (name: Jiggs) and bring him home for the first time.  Stock up on canned goods, get in the bomb shelter, and be prepare for CUTE OVERLOAD.

Comments

15 Responses to “Does Goaltending Matter Less Than Ever? & Long Term Contracts”
  1. James says:

    While some goalies might flip out, I subscribe to the theory that goaltending talent is deeper now than it has ever been.

    Another factor in success of goalies is a good goaltending coach.

    Mitch Korn in Nashville has been there the whole time that they have had guys from Mike Dunham through Rinne & Lindback today. I wonder how much he influences the success they’ve had developing goalies versus the goalies they draft and the team in front of them.

    Kind of like Leo Mazzone with the Braves when they had those great pitching staffs.

  2. Alan says:

    Interesting insight to the seasonal evolution of practices…makes perfect sense , yet average fan would not have known same I suspect without your pointing this out…thanks. With respect to your goaltender theory, as a Leaf fan, we’ll take any and all means to eke out any wins this season…including continuing to ride Reimer’s streak indefinitely, as long as his success persists, which maybe attributable to his being an unknown quantity and teams not having adequate pre-game scouting reports to date…regardless Leaf Nation is enjoying the current novelty but recognizes that the boys will be on the golf course by the season’s end…c’est la vie in “the center of the hockey universe”!

  3. Hockey Mom says:

    Totally non-hockey related but I cannot wait to see Jiggy pix!

  4. Steve C. says:

    I agree with your take on goaltending… they play according to their ability, and a good team only makes them better.

    For example, a great offense scores more goals (i.e. keeps the puck at the other end of the ice longer) and back-checks both which help the goalie. A great defense helps keeps the puck in the offensive zone, allows the goalie to see less shots and get better views of the ones that do get through.

    All these things and more combine to not make the goalie a better player, but to improve their opportunity to succeed.

  5. Cassie says:

    If goaltending isn’t so important anymore (see: Tampa Bay & their second in the Eastern Conference record), then the Lightning’s overall team defense is either better or worse than I thought. :o \

  6. wmsheppa says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing the cats in matching Santa suits next year….

  7. Pat says:

    Not sure I totally agree with your goaltending assessment. Yes goalies are drilled to take good angles but they are also taught to read plays a certain way. They react to situations pretty much the same way everytime. This is how “books” are created (ie on 2-1′s a certain goalie may go into a half butterfly and in doing so he’ll lower his blocker as he slides….shoot blocker top cheese)

    An example of this is Tuukka Rask, had an unbelievable year last year this year he’s struggled. If you look at the majority of the goals he’s let up this year they’re mostly low blocker side against righty shooters (a righty goalies blind spot). Last year Tim Thomas struggled with his five-hole (he had trouble closing his 5 hole mainly because of the torn ligaments in his hip) (can you tell I’m from Boston). Shooters will place their shots consistantly where they know you’re struggling.

    My point is you can’t just be an ok goalie, you need to adapt to what shooters are seeing. If you take your premise from you Jamie Benn article good forwards (and good offenses) will make certain moves or move the puck around the zone in a certain way to emcite a certain reaction from a goalie that exposes their weakness.

    Yes a good defense helps mask a mediocre goalie but if you look at theThomas and Rask examples, Boston is one of the stingiest defenses in the league keeping most of the shots to the perimeter but that doesn’t mean a goalie won’t struggle, it just means that instead of having a GAA closer to 3 in might be closer to 2 because the defense is giving up low percentage shots, but those shots are going to be aimed at the goalies weekness. The difference between an average goalie and a good goalie is that a good goalie adapts his style while an average goalie fails to do so. That’s why you’ll see a goalie come into the league an be a stud for a period and then turn into a seive (Read: Steve Mason)

  8. MattyJ says:

    If I see any cats dressed in people clothes on this blog, I’m never reading it again. Clothes are for dogs.

  9. Pat says:

    1) Sorry for not proof reading, not a fan of a lack of spell check

    2) I’m not trying to say Thomas and Rask are mediocre goalies I think they pretty good I’m just saying their numbers are a bit inflated due to the system they play under (which might have been your original point)

  10. PVeltkamp says:

    JB – looking to get your opinion on the Ron Wilson “put it on the board” situation. Hoped it would be covered in todays blog.
    cheers!

  11. NHL fan says:

    Now that goaltenders are dressed like the Michelin man they make a lot more saves just by good positioning. They are bigger and more athletic. Can anyone imagine Darren Pang getting anywhere near the NHL these days? the great goaltenders can seperate themselves by not giving up soft goal that deflates their team.

  12. andy says:

    a goalie i grew up playing with and against explained it to me once.

    he played echl, europe, and had ahl tryouts, but had trouble when he came home and played beer league. this trouble stems from the fact that pro shooters all read the game fairly similarly, look for, and make, the same plays- so a goalie knows whats coming and can play angles and be positioned a certain way. obviously, he has help in d who know what theyre doing. all he has to worry about are the shots.

    beer league isnt like that. a goalie is forced into reads, because of crap d, that he wouldnt have to make in the pro game. he also has to deal with a pretty big change of pace.

    he said it was easier for him to transition from echl to ahl shooters than from echl to not very good shooters. odd, huh?

    you said it, really – “any sort-of-big guy who can do the butterfly and play his angles”. add in ‘read plays’ and youve got an all star!

  13. Richie says:

    Just to pick up on andy’s point/story bout the former pro goalie struggling in beer league….I have a similar problem in the league I play in. I’m used to facing guys who know what they’re doing and can read their movements, where I struggle (and look stupid to anyone watching) is guys who are so bad they’re completely unpredictable.

    Think about it, some clown almost falls over as he shoots and gets a lucky hook shot top shelf or look like they’re trying to go high and mis-cue five hole catching me reacting to the original shot. Basically my point is, goalies are taught to expect the shooter to make it as difficult as possible and so don’t get caught out on “soft goals” anymore because the guys shooting don’t take bad shots as often.

    Sorry for rambling/ranting!

  14. Sandwiches1123 says:

    Gotta throw some of my opinion in, sir.

    First, I’m glad you mentioned Cory Schneider because he is the best example of young talent showing up older “better” talent. But he also is a great example of what makes a great goaltender versus a good goaltender. He is best compared, for this definition, to Steve Mason. Steve Mason is a good goaltender: great athleticism and desire to win coupled with ability but he’s missing that development piece. Schneider has those qualities but adds the proper development pieces that make him a great goaltender. Mason and Schneider are two different ages but their paths have also been different and that is where the difference is. Columbus jumped on using Mason as their starter when he blew the league away with 10 shutouts in his rookie campaign. The problem is that goaltenders have two specific career differences from forwards and defencemen. The majority, not all, players tend to hit their peak playing time from about 26 to 32. They are all still affective after the age of 32 but this tends to be where their production slows and leadership skills start to show. Goaltenders need a couple extra years of development and therefore have a peak of 29 to 35. The problem is that the goaltending position places strain on the lower body and causes early retirement or inability to reach peak potential for a sustained period (Rick DiPietro).

    I agree with you overall though JTB: having a great goaltender is not as important as having great forwards and defence. It’s kind of like asking the question: Would you rather have N. Lidstrom or R. Luongo (used these guys for salary comparisons). Personally, I’d take Lidstrom every day over Luongo because Lidstrom can affect where a guy shoots from, allowing a goaltender to control a shot/rebound, and face an easier save. Lidstrom forces guys to take shots from lower percentage areas. Some go in but most don’t. There is your difference.

    I also don’t like goaltender salaries being high. What goaltender’s performance over the last three years (cumulatively) deserves a salary of $7 million +. I can think of one: Ryan Miller – he’s one of the rare exceptions to “Most great goaltenders play behind great teams” theory. But with only one abnormality, I would say the theory has merit. The reason is that goaltenders can be streaky and have long periods of cold (see: Tim Thomas last year when he returned from surgery too quickly). IMHO, goaltenders shouldn’t make more than $5 million per year (and even that is high) with the Miller exception.

    Considering the difference between $5.83 million against the cap (Mikka Kiprusoff) and $3.75 million (J. Halak) is $2.08 million, what do you think? These two are difficult to compare because Halak has a career ahead of him and Kipper is on decline. However, Halak is simply a better deal. He doesn’t give you quite the same dynamic and ability to steal a game like Kipper, but Kipper hasn’t been able to get the Flames out of round 2 of the playoffs since the lockout. $2 million extra in salary probably allows the Flames to keep Cammalleri if they trade Phaneuf as they did. When the reality of dollars sets in, what a team pays there goaltender is what they are willing to give up instead of spending it on affective skaters.

  15. I agree with your general sentiment about goaltending, but I think you took the wrong approach to the debate.

    It’s not so much that it doesn’t matter who you throw in net, as long as they’re reasonably good. It’s that GAA is a team stat, not a goalie’s stat. If soft goals have gone the way of the Walkman, goals allowed are generally a product of the team hanging the goalie out to dry on a play, where the goalie is in a very low-percentage save situation. However, that’s where your Roberto Luongos come in and make the save, while your Antti Niemi’s get beat.

    I look at a guy like Tim Thomas, and I’ve said in the past that he’s in an ideal situation in Boston. Thomas is a flailing, frenetic goalie, who sprawls about the crease, throwing his body at saves on a regular basis. The Bruins’ defense is particularly adept at clearing the puck away from the crease. Thomas gets to act as a third defenseman, essentially, and he knows that Chara, Ference, Seidenberg, et al. will bail him out if he falls out of position. Put Thomas on a team like Anaheim, and his GAA would balloon more than Kyle Wellwood.

    On the other hand, certain goalies will play almost the same, no matter who’s in front of them, because that’s just their M.O. A positional goalie like Pavelec is going to be the same guy in Atlanta as he would be in Detroit, which means that he’ll generally have pretty consistent numbers, but he’ll also probably never be in that perfect storm kind of situation that Thomas is in.

    And then, of course, there are the matters of poise and conditioning — both physical and mental — which can make or break a goalie’s career, no matter how talented he is.

    It’s not that goaltending is not that important anymore. It’s just that it’s incredibly situational.

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