Goaltenders with and without Ken Hitchcock

Cam Charron
July 17 2012 01:26PM

 

 

This has been cooking for quite some time, but I'm finally getting around to posting a little bit of data I've collected. In an effort to better understand goaltenders, I've compiled even strength save percentage numbers from NHL.com and have begun filing through them.

Jonathan Willis wrote a post about Dave Tippett and Ilya Bryzgalov over at Cult of Hockey where he concluded that a lot of goalies were prone to fluctuations in save percentage and that coaches can't really control a goaltender's save percentage. I was interested, because I'd been looking a bit at Ken Hitchcock's work.

We know the story: Ken Hitchcock comes to St. Louis and instantly, Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott play like all-stars. Elliott, who had put up save percentages of .909 and .893 in two prior years benefits from Hitchcock's defensive system and posts a .940. Jaroslav Halak goes from a .910 a year ago to .924 thanks to Hitch's defensive system, one that secured his Blues the third William Jennings' Trophy of his career.

The previous winners under Hitchcock? Ed Belfour and Roman Turek in 1998, and Roman Cechmanek with Robert Esche in 2003. He also led Columbus to their only playoff spot and, since leaving his post behind the Columbus Blue Jackets' bench, Steve Mason has put up awful numbers after winning the Calder Trophy in 2009, the only time the Jackets made the playoffs.

Now, one thing that people fail to spot at first is that Brian Elliott actually had a .949 save percentage at even strength in seven games before Davis Payne was even hired in St. Louis. Not that it makes a tremendous difference sample size-wise, but I think it does show that some goaltender performance can be random.

The Hitchcock Effect

Hitchcock has coached every year in the NHL since even strength shot data was recorded by the NHL starting in 1998. Here is how his goaltenders fared in each of these years:

EV SV+ is an adjusted save percentage indicator measured against NHL EVSV%, which is the combined save percentage of all NHL goaltenders. For the purposes of EV SV+, a .900 is exactly league average.

Team Year Faced Saves EV SV% NHL EVSV% EVSV%+
DAL 1998 1418 1306 0.921 0.915 0.907
DAL 1999 1451 1331 0.917 0.916 0.902
DAL 2000 1719 1585 0.922 0.912 0.911
DAL 2001 1571 1443 0.919 0.914 0.905
DAL 2002 1678 1539 0.917 0.916 0.901
PHI 2003 1589 1485 0.935 0.918 0.918
PHI 2004 1344 1244 0.926 0.922 0.904
PHI 2006 1643 1498 0.912 0.915 0.897
CBJ 2007 1510 1384 0.917 0.917 0.900
CBJ 2008 1676 1539 0.918 0.920 0.899
CBJ 2009 1719 1576 0.917 0.919 0.898
CBJ 2010 1975 1797 0.910 0.919 0.890
STL 2012 1785 1680 0.941 0.921 0.922
             
Total ALL 21078 19407 0.921 0.917 0.904

All of Hitchcock starting goaltenders combined end up at above NHL average. Half years are all recorded here because the NHL doesn't split up its data, but it should be fine for us for these purposes.

But split up, what does that make them? For instance, Roman Cechmanek had an EV SV+ of .920 with Hitchcock, but .912 without, despite an awesome 2001 campaign where he had an all-star appearance and a Vezina nomination. That didn't come because of Hitchcock.

I totalled up every goaltender that played time with and without the Blues bench boss. The numbers vary slightly from the chart because I used starters numbers above. I didn't include goaltenders like Fredrik Norrena who didn't play a season without Hitchcock. For multiple years to determine NHL EVSV%, I totaled up every goalie's season and calculated the number of saves an average goaltender would have made that season and divided that total by the total shots faced.

Here are the goalies with Hitchcock:

Goalie Team Year Faced Saves EV SV% NHL EVSV% EVSV%+
Antero Niittymaki PHI 04-06 951 869 0.914 0.915 0.898
Brian Elliott STL 12 806 762 0.945 0.921 0.927
Ed Belfour DAL 98-02 5609 5156 0.919 0.914 0.905
Jaroslav Halak STL 12 979 918 0.938 0.921 0.918
Jeff Hackett PHI 04 546 499 0.914 0.922 0.892
Manny Fernandez DAL 98-00 518 477 0.921 0.913 0.909
Mathieu Garon CBJ 10 666 605 0.908 0.919 0.888
Neil Little PHI 04 7 6 0.857 0.929 0.823
Pascal Leclaire CBJ 07-09 1689 1545 0.915 0.918 0.896
Robert Esche PHI 03-06 1975 1825 0.924 0.918 0.906
Roman Cechmanek PHI 03 1097 1028 0.937 0.918 0.920
Roman Turek DAL 98-99 772 696 0.902 0.915 0.885
Steve Mason CBJ 09-10 2575 2363 0.918 0.919 0.898
Wade Dubielewicz CBJ 09 66 59 0.894 0.920 0.872

And without:

Goalie Team Year Faced Saves EV SV% NHL EVSV% EVSV%+
Antero Niittymaki TOT 07-11 3912 3568 0.912 0.919 0.893
Brian Elliott TOT 08-11 3132 2863 0.914 0.920 0.893
Ed Belfour TOT 03-07 4579 4211 0.920 0.918 0.902
Jaroslav Halak TOT 07-11 3689 3402 0.922 0.919 0.903
Jeff Hackett TOT 98-03 5232 4807 0.919 0.915 0.904
Manny Fernandez TOT 01-09 6237 5761 0.924 0.917 0.907
Mathieu Garon TOT 01-09, 11-12 5865 5372 0.916 0.918 0.897
Neil Little PHI 02 21 19 0.905 0.914 0.890
Pascal Leclaire TOT 04-06, 10-11 1680 1524 0.907 0.919 0.887
Robert Esche TOT 99-02, 07 3462 3166 0.915 0.915 0.900
Roman Cechmanek TOT 01-02, 04 2994 2779 0.928 0.917 0.912
Roman Turek TOT 00-04 5057 4628 0.915 0.916 0.900
Steve Mason CBJ 11-12 2361 2150 0.911 0.921 0.889
Wade Dubielewicz TOT 04-08, 10 774 720 0.930 0.918 0.913

This is just a jumble of numbers when it isn't totalled up. Niittymaki, Elliot, Belfour, Halak, Fernandez, Leclaire, Cechmanek, Esche and Mason all fare better under Hitchcock. Notably, Roman Turek fares better without. He won a Jennings his first season after departing Hitchcock, and remains the only goaltender to win two consecutive Jennings' Trophies (or pre-1982 Vezina) for the lowest goals against total in the league on different teams.

Manny Fernandez has two Jennings' to his name , winning as a backup in 2007 and 2009 with Minnesota and Boston.

But what's the total? What's the difference between with and without Hitchock? It's unfortunate because a goalie like Belfour played some of his prime years in the days before EV SV% and for a slight while after his Dallas career when he dipped below average. There's probably no clear way of doing this and there may be a few counting errors, but these numbers are close to as accurate as we can get:

Total Faced Saves EV SV% NHL EVSV% EVSV%+
With Hitch 18256 16808 0.921 0.917 0.904
Without 48995 44970 0.918 0.918 0.900

Hitchcock goaltenders had a slightly better save percentage in a slightly weaker goalie pool. Overall, the difference in EV SV+ is .904 to .900. Over the 1500 shots a starter may face in a season, that's a difference of about 4.8 goals.

Is that 0.4% difference statistically significant? On 18,256 shots, random variance gives us a standard error of about 0.2%, so we can be more than 95% confident that the goalies really did play better (and/or face easier shots) when they were with Hitchcock and reasonably confident that that impact would be a couple of tenths of a percent.

It is a small enough effect that some of it could be random chance and some could be Hitchcock playing goalies who were close to their primes. However, random chance probably doesn't explain all of it, and not all of the goalies were in their primes -- Garon played with Hitchcock towards the end of his career, as did Hackett.

It would seem that goalies really do play a little better under Hitchcock, but how much better? We'll see how Elliott plays out his contract with the Blues, but I have a feeling he won't post a .945 over his next 806 shots...

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 Robert Vollman
July 17 2012, 09:00PM
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Did you regress the save percentages to the norm and, if so, by how much?

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#2 Robert Vollman
July 17 2012, 09:02PM
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Also, as coincidence would have it, I just updated my goalie stat spreadsheet with last year's data, so if anyone wants goalie data 1998-99 to Present, voici:

http://www.hockeyabstract.com/testimonials/nhlgoaliestats1998-99to2010-11

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#3 james
July 18 2012, 02:52PM
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I find it hard to compare given that goalies faced 40,000 more shots without hitchcock as their coach.

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