Goalies: [Literally] moving targets

Jonathan Willis
September 16 2008 10:40AM

Of all the various prospects drafted and developed by the thirty NHL teams, I personally think that goaltenders are the most difficult to predict. So much depends on opportunity—getting development time and playing for a team with a spot for the taking.

Let’s look at a pair of goaltenders who were both rather unheralded in their draft year. Goaltender A was passed over twice before being selected as a 20-year old, while Goaltender B was never drafted at all. Here are their professional statistics, up until each got his first NHL opportunity:

Goaltender A (8th round pick as an over-ager, 5’9”, 162 lbs):

Year 1 – AHL – 12-17-6, 3.54 GAA, 0.887 SV% Year 2 – AHL – 20-12-4, 2.27 GAA, 0.917 SV% Year 3 – AHL – 17-14-5, 3.03 GAA, 0.897 SV% Year 4 – IHL – 18-16-4, 3.16 GAA, 0.911 SV%

Goaltender B (undrafted, 5’11, 200lbs):

Year 1 – AHL – 10-11-3, 3.03 GAA, 0.904 SV% Year 2 – AHL – 18-18-4, 3.51 GAA, 0.894 SV% Year 3 – AHL – 8-10-3, 4.01 GAA, 0.888 SV% ECHL – 10-6-2, 2.89 GAA, 0.903 SV% Year 4 – AHL – 23-17-7, 3.04 GAA, 0.903 SV% Year 5 – AHL – 16-14-1, 2.99 GAA, 0.909 SV%

Personally, I don’t think there’s much to choose from between the two. Goalie A is wildly inconsistent, although he had a very nice second season as a professional. Goalie B looks like he has a lower ceiling, although he’s more consistent. It isn’t on this chart, but in the year that Goalie B got his first NHL action, he posted a .917 SV%, so I really don’t see a big difference between these two players, up to this juncture.

Goaltender A is Manny Legace. He got his first NHL action with the 1998–99 Los Angeles Kings, going 2-9-2 and posting a 0.911 SV% on a team where the other two goalies (Jamie Storr and Stephane Fiset) posted a 0.916 SV% and 0.915 SV%, respectively. The other two goalies were close to .500 winning percentage-wise. Legace posted nice numbers with the Manitoba Moose the following season, before emerging as a full-time backup with the Detroit Red Wings. He’s had a nice career and has been a legitimate starter for four seasons now.

Goaltender B is Martin Brochu. He had a couple of very high-end seasons with the Portland Pirates (.917 and .925 SV%) and got two games in with Washington in 1998–99. In 2001–02, the Vancouver Canucks started the season with a tandem of Dan Cloutier and Brochu, and things went sideways in a hurry. Burke had allowed the previous year’s only reliable goaltender, Bob Essensa to go to free agency (although he posted a career ending 0-5-0, .851 SV% season with Buffalo) and Brochu was the second-best option in the system. Brochu posted a 0-3-0 record along with a 4.17 GAA and a .856 SV%. Cloutier also struggled (he finished the year with a .901 SV%, but it was lots uglier early), and Brian Burke picked up Peter Skudra, who helped stabilize the tandem for the remainder of the season. Alex Auld also got into his first game, and looked calm and economical in a 4–2 victory over Dallas.

As for Brochu, he played one more game at the NHL level, with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2003–04, after bouncing around the minor leagues and Europe. The last I can find of him is that he was playing in the LNAH in 2006–07.

The point to all of this (and there is one) is that it’s extremely difficult to look at the numbers and say that so-and-so is going to be an NHL-calibre goaltender. Jeff Deslauriers, who has had a ton of bad luck in his career (bouncing from minor league team to minor league team because the Oilers didn’t have a permanent farm team) has finally got some good (and by the numbers, undeserved) things happening for him because the Oilers seem committed to giving him some NHL time. The real beneficiary of this is Devan Dubnyk, another intriguing prospect who will get an increased workload down in Springfield. Outside of those two, Bryan Pitton and training camp invite Andrew Perugini are both turning pro after successful junior careers.

There really isn’t much to choose from between these four, or at least, not nearly as much as their draft pedigrees (or lack thereof) would seem to indicate. Dubnyk has the size, and his junior record in Kamloops would seem to indicate that he has more to offer as a pro than he has shown to date. Deslauriers looks like he may not have a terribly high ceiling, but given the turmoil in his key developmental years, he could be a late bloomer, while both Pitton and Perugini are coming off nice junior careers and either could surprise as a pro.

—Jonathan Willis is the force behind Copper and Blue, and a frequent OilersNation contributor.

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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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#1 Wanye Gretz
September 16 2008, 11:24AM
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I always think of Ed Belfour when I ponder this sort of argument. He was undrafted, basically walked into Hawks camp without so much as a how do you do and made it rain. Now he is a story that parents and kids tell their undrafted goalie spawn/client.

"Ed Belfour didn't get drafted. You are the next Ed Belfour perhaps."

Perhaps goalies are so hard to predict using numbers because:

1. They mature later than D and Forwards.

2. They are generally all insane

3. They are uh, well I guess I have two points.

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#2 Jonathan
September 16 2008, 11:27AM
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Perhaps goalies are so hard to predict using numbers because: 1. They mature later than D and Forwards. 2. They are generally all insane

Agreed on both points ;)

That aside, we don't have the same level of numbers to look at goalies with - outside of sv% and GAA, which are very general stats there isn't much.

Finally, forwards have 12+ spots to shoot for, defensemen have 6+, but there is, at most, room for three goalies on a team. It's a much less forgiving development curve.

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#3 Tony Romo
September 16 2008, 11:58AM
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"It’s a much less forgiving development curve."

That's a good point. I remember coaching a goalie camp one time and thinking "Man, where on earth are all these goalies going to play?" One bad game as a goalie in Bantam and you might be back up the rest of the year.

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#4 Ender the Dragon
September 16 2008, 01:01PM
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I think that luck and circumstance plays a large part too. There's a double standard involved when judging goalies VS judging other players. Tell me if I'm wrong, but a goalie will be remembered for a LONG time for the one shot he let in from the blue line in the second period, depite the fact that he may have posted .960 for the week previous. Why do we so quickly forget all the 5-bell stops the guy made and look to focus on the bad gaffe? Conversely, I suggest most of us quickly forget the forward who fans on a wide open cage in the second period as long as he puts up 2 or 3 points in the same week. I submit further that this double-standard doesn't stop outside the ticket office. As the coach reviews those same players in his mind, tell me he isn't adopting a 'Boys will be boys' mentality with the forward while at the same time looking for any reason why the goalie shouldn't sit the next one out to mull things over. Why is goalie development sporadic? Because situations just aren't as forgiving, and you can blow it all in a very short period of time over the same kind of mistakes that other players can make and get away with.

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#5 Jonathan
September 16 2008, 01:18PM
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Tell me if I’m wrong, but a goalie will be remembered for a LONG time for the one shot he let in from the blue line in the second period, depite the fact that he may have posted .960 for the week previous.

Very, very true. I'll probably get lynched around these parts for this, but Dan Cloutier was a much better goaltender than he ever got credit for. His reputation as a lousy playoff goalie is hinged a ton on that Lidstrom goal- he was injury prone, but not bad otherwise. The year Vancouver lost to Minnesota, for example, fingers pointed at Cloutier when they should have been pointing at Jovanovski and Naslund, both of whom put in some of the worst performances in their own zone that I've ever seen.

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#6 misfit
September 16 2008, 01:28PM
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Legace probably would've gone undrafted as well had he not put together an amazing performance at the WJC as a 19 year old.

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#7 outKast
September 16 2008, 01:44PM
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Party at Hudson's on Whyte when Roloson gets trade. Ceeeellllebrate good times come on!

Step 1. Pick up Dwayne at his house Step 2. Drive said useless goalie to the YEG Step 3. Find the nearest cart and check in all of his baggage Step 4. Make sure American Airlines en route to Philly is on schedule and he doesn't somehow miss his flight Step 5. Drive jubilantly to Hudson's on Whyte Celebrate!

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#8 doritogrande
September 16 2008, 02:36PM
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outKast: You're perpetuating exactly the bad stereotypes that were just brought up.

Where's the party for his play during the cup run? He was a great goalie for the Oilers, and should be celebrated as such.

Besides, he's not going to Philly. He's going to LA so they can legally ice a team this fall. That contract's going to be great for the Kings.

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#9 charlie
September 16 2008, 02:37PM
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I'll never understand why people get on Roli. He was a beauty who took us to the finals, and he's a good backup. Roli plays well when the people in front of him play well. If there are solid D in front of him, and the forwards chip in with a couple goals, Roli can win nearly any game.

Go grab the Don Cherry DVD with the 06 cup run on it. Watch again and again the amazing saves and the "Dwayne Roloson Enterprises Pattented My Goalie Stick is now a Tennis Racket" zone clears and you just might remember how rad of an Oiler he's really been.

This is his last year with the Oil, and who knows? Maybe he'll regain his form with the D he'll have in front of him. Maybe not.

All I'm saying is give the man some credit. When the time comes for Roli and the Oil to part ways I will tip my glass to Dwayne. Until then lets just enjoy watching our team, and the fact that we have two goalies @ 4.5mil, not just one.

Cheers.

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#10 Jonathan
September 16 2008, 02:56PM
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Legace probably would’ve gone undrafted as well had he not put together an amazing performance at the WJC as a 19 year old.

Good old "saw him good".

With regard to Roloson - the guy has been a consumate pro, both during that amazing cup run and also during the hellish 2006-07 where he was the guy who showing up every night.

One bad year as his career nears its end shouldn't be allowed to tarnish his reputation; God knows playing behind the 2006-07 Edmonton Oilers would've aged any of us.

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#11 milli
September 16 2008, 03:00PM
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Yaya, we where all over roli in 06, the guy was a GOD. Anyone, anyone make the argument about the "D" or whatever you want. WATCH THE TAPES!!! HE WAS SPECTACULAR!!!! I will always have the love for roli, but it is Garons time to shine now.

Oh ya, I am a goalie.....so i guess that i'm nuts!!! haha

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#12 Wanye Gretz
September 16 2008, 03:02PM
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Straight up truth Charlie.

Had MAB not blown out Roloson's knee we would still be rebuilding whyte ave - which would have been burned to the ground in the Cup Celebration of 2006.

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#13 B.C.B.
September 16 2008, 03:53PM
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Wanye Gretz said "Had MAB not blown out Roloson’s knee we would still be rebuilding whyte ave - which would have been burned to the ground in the Cup Celebration of 2006."

I hoped I'd never agree with Gretz, but I just did. Here's hoping we will burn it down before I die.

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