The value of a good starting goalie: a market calculation

Eric T.
October 11 2012 08:11AM

Mike Smith
Raise your hand if you saw this one coming
Photo by Mathew Cerasoli from the United States via Wikimedia Commons

A few days ago, a commenter had this to say:

Teams are allocating more $$ to goaltending than ever before. I'm fairly certain the only way teams have below $4M allocated to goaltending in the future will be if a goalie is on an ELC.

In 08/09, 3 teams had $7+M allocated to goaltending. Next season, 11 teams will have that amount. That's a significant increase in 4 years. In 12/13, there will be approx 15+ teams with $7+M allocated to goaltending. Why? Cause GMs are placing more importance on it, therefore placing more $$ on it. We saw in the last 2 summers that teams have to give goalies big contracts to retain them.

Let's use that as a jumping off point to talk about goalie contracts. I disagree with the claim that teams are spending more on goaltending, but perhaps more importantly, I will question a common assertion in the statistical community that teams should skimp on spending for goalies.

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Why are goalie save percentages rising?

Eric T.
October 09 2012 09:30AM

League average save percentage is on the rise

Save percentages have been increasing sharply in recent years. Some of this is because there have been fewer penalties called, but even just at even strength we see a clear increase in save percentage.

How do we explain this?

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Do some players elevate their game in the playoffs?

Eric T.
October 03 2012 08:03AM

Clutch play is a common source of debate in sports. We've all seen players come up big in big moments, but does that mean they are clutch, that we should expect them to do it again next time?

Variance is a part of life; everyone has good days and bad days, or even good years and bad years. We know intuitively that a single year's worth of games doesn't tell us everything we need to know -- people knew that Nikolai Kulemin was unlikely to repeat as a 30-goal scorer, and hopefully nobody is counting on Max Talbot for 19 goals next year. Yet players like Talbot and Johan Franzen get the clutch label after much fewer than 80 playoff games.

In this article, we will compare players' playoff performances to their career rates and look at whether the results we see in playoff performance are consistent with typical variance or whether the number of people at the extreme high or low ends exceeds what we would expect by simple random chance.

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Assessing performance in all three zones: Zone entry data for the Wild and Flyers

Eric T.
September 18 2012 09:23AM

Flyers gain the zone against the Wild

Previously, we described how tracking zone entries for the Flyers this year at Broad Street Hockey led us to some startling conclusions. There was very strong evidence suggesting that puck possession on a zone entry is quite important, that carrying the puck in generates more than twice as much offense as dumping it in.

More surprisingly, the data also strongly suggested that shot differential was almost entirely determined in the neutral zone. Claude Giroux was more likely than Zac RInaldo to push the puck forwards into the offensive end and more likely to carry the puck in, but shockingly his carry-ins did not generate any more shots than Rinaldo's. In fact, there was no evidence that any Flyer consistently did well or poorly at generating or preventing shots in the attack zones.

While this seemed to be unequivocally true for last year's Flyers, I was hesitant to generalize beyond that for such an unexpected result. So I called for assistance, encouraging readers to try tracking their favorite teams. Several people expressed interest, and I've now received my first significant packet of data -- Bob Spencer has tracked zone entries for the first 50 games of the Wild's 2011-12 season (his analysis of the data can be found here).

In this article, we will compare the 5-on-5 data from the Wild and the Flyers. We will find the following:

  • Like for the Flyers, the Wild players show that the ability to control the neutral zone is a persistent talent.
  • Like for the Flyers, no Wild players can be identified as having an ability to get more shots per offensive zone possession.
  • Unlike for the Flyers, the data for the Wild suggests that there may be players who limit shots in the defensive zone.
  • Overall, the Wild were much less effective in the neutral zone than the Flyers, likely because of both talent and coaching.

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2012-13 Philadelphia Flyers Preview: No Longer With Pronger

Eric T.
August 30 2012 08:24AM

Bryzgalov spent the off-season working on his camouflage so he can hide from the Philadelphia media
photo by Andrey Godyaykin (, via Wikimedia Commons

The Flyers have an amazing ability to lead the league in both long contracts and roster turnover.

Even after trading away Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, and James van Riemsdyk; even after failing to add Ryan Suter, Zach Parise, or Shea Weber on offered 10+ year contracts, the Flyers still have more players signed through 2015-16 than any other team (they have nine; Montreal and Carolina are next with seven).

And yet the Flyers are still not long on roster stability, as they have continually turned over the roster in recent years -- the longest-tenured Flyer is Braydon Coburn, and the longest-tenured player who they drafted is Claude Giroux.

Depite the turnover, the Flyers have been extremely successful. Over the last five years, their worst season was either 88 points and a Wales Trophy in '09-10 or 99 points and a first-round playoff loss in '08-09. Can that continue this year?

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