Ranking Goalies By Wins

Jonathan Willis
March 19 2009 10:58AM

Brodeur

With Martin Brodeur setting the all-time record for wins, the question of whether he is one of the greats or the greatest goaltender of all time has come to the fore of late. I’m not going to answer that question because frankly I don’t think we have a decent statistical measure to compare goaltenders of different generations, and I haven’t spent the last eighty years watching all of the contenders.

Tom Awad of Puck Prospectus is using a complex statistical measure called GVT to rank goaltenders down through history, but leaving aside whether or not his measure is especially effective, I wanted to note one paragraph that he wrote in his article:

When analyzing a goaltender using GVT, the primary contribution of the goaltender is to block shots; wins, shutouts and similar statistics receive no weighting, nor should they. To those who insist on ranking goaltenders by Wins, Shutouts or Stanley Cups, I answer this: Hasek, 389 wins, 1 Stanley Cup (as a #1 goalie); Osgood, 386 wins, 2 Stanley Cups. Nothing against Osgood, but are these really equivalent goaltenders?

There’s a tendency in sports to judge players by championships; Dominik Hasek, for all of his achievements, was often criticized prior to 2002 because people said, “sure, he’s a great goaltender – but he’s never proven he can win it all.”

It’s a garbage argument.

On a 23-man roster, how much impact does one player, even the starting goaltender, have on the results of his team? Olli Jokinen, for example, has yet to appear in a playoff game – is that because he’s a loser or because he’s spent his career playing for the Islanders and Panthers? Roberto Luongo has been a full-time NHL goaltender for eight seasons and during that span he’s never had a save percentage lower than .914. Despite that, he has appeared in the playoffs only once – is it because he lacks the fundamental character to win, or because he has played for lousy teams? I think the answer is obvious.

So congratulations to Martin Brodeur for his 552 wins; it’s an incredible mark and in part a result of being an exceptional goaltender. At the same time, it’s more a result of playing for a consistently good New Jersey team for the bulk of his career; there’s no way he would have reached that mark if he’d spent his career with the Islanders or Panthers.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, 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 Bruthah
March 19 2009, 11:13AM
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Question is JDub.... was the team good because of him, or was he good because of the team?

my head hurts

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#2 baggedmilk
March 19 2009, 11:16AM
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That's incredibly lame Willis. The reason most people in the West don't recognize that Brodeur is one of the best all time is because we don't see him often. You can't discount the fact that throughout his career his equipment didn't balloon up, much like Roy's did in the early 90s.

Yes he's playing on a consitently great team in NJ, but then that same argument would mean that Chris Osgood should be creeping up on that record too. He spent the better chunk of his career with Detroit, but he's no where close to the wins total.

Aside from this year, Brodeur has rarely been hurt and that I believe can be attributed to his conditioning and game preparation. Here's some stats for you Willis. In the past two years (not counting this year, and since Luongo has been with Vancouver) Brodeur and Luongo have had very similar shots against totals while in average Brodeur still has a better save percentage.

Brodeur also beats Luongo in practically all statistical catagories including wins, and shut outs. In fact Luongo and Brodeur have let in the exact same amount of goals in those two seasons even though Brodeur got more shots.

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#3 Deep Oil
March 19 2009, 11:21AM
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Martin Brodeur is currently ONE of the best goaltenders, based on NHL rules, he used a crutch to surpass the next GM of the Montreal Canadiens - Sir Patrick. Partick Roy has 131 ties to his record. Source - hockeydb - http://www.hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=4688

Roy did not have the NHL parity format of overtime wins to keep poor performing teams in the playoff race till March.

Given a 50% basis (win - loss), Marty has to win 66 more games to bring out the scissors and cut the net for ebay revenue.

Better tell Mr. Denis Brodeur to put his camera away until late next season. Sorry Pops - this aint no record without the asterisk - with the help from league office.

This slow race to the playoffs will not be reviewed by the league as parity breeds revenue.... how about 3 points for a regulation win, 2 points for an overtime win, and 1 point for an overtime win. By not rewarding the tie at any point (ot or shootout loser gets nothing), you will have teams making the offensive to win in regulation. No points for losers.

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#4 Jonathan Willis
March 19 2009, 11:27AM
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@ baggedmilk:

Oh, I think Brodeur's one of the best to be sure - I never argued otherwise. I just don't think that in general wins record is an accurate indication of a goaltender's ability - it's too dependent on team.

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#5 cambosmash
March 19 2009, 11:29AM
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NJ didn't make Brodeur good. Even though they were great defensively they were awful offensively until this season. Something like 290 of his 500 wins were 1 goal games (check that number, just something I heard) which means he had to play under intense pressure constantly. His team usually didn't give him a whole lot of cushion to work with.

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#6 baggedmilk
March 19 2009, 11:31AM
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Deep Oil wrote:

Roy did not have the NHL parity format of overtime wins to keep poor performing teams in the playoff race till March.

Brodeur has another 3 years on his contract and will probably play beyond that. Bettman points or not, he's going to kill Roy's record.

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#7 baggedmilk
March 19 2009, 11:36AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

Fair enough. Reading your piece I had a feeling you were discounting just how good Brodeur is.

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#8 Deep Oil
March 19 2009, 11:40AM
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baggedmilk wrote:

Deep Oil wrote: Roy did not have the NHL parity format of overtime wins to keep poor performing teams in the playoff race till March. Brodeur has another 3 years on his contract and will probably play beyond that. Bettman points or not, he’s going to kill Roy’s record.

That is an assumption that he is free from injury and does not lose his spot to Weekes or Clemmensen (LOL) - does the Devils system make every goalie better??? - sarcasm for all that don't know, you can have the party - just have it when it is real, not pretend fantasyland - case in point, why aren't overtime goals awarded to skaters - this is so one sided to goaltenders - goalies do not get the overtime loss - this is having your cake and eating it too.... but then again most goalies are whiners...... the goaltenders union sure blew some smoke up someone's behind on this stat.....

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#9 Jonathan Willis
March 19 2009, 11:45AM
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baggedmilk wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: Fair enough. Reading your piece I had a feeling you were discounting just how good Brodeur is.

Sorry, I didn't mean to give that impression - I think Brodeur's a great goaltender; I just think there are plenty of really good goaltenders out there who are undervalued because of playing for garbage teams.

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#10 baggedmilk
March 19 2009, 11:48AM
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@ Deep Oil:

I can only assume Kelly Hrudey and Glen Healey have something to do with this.

@ Jonathan Willis:

It's ok, fair Willis. It was my one opportunity to find stats and pretend that I know what I'm talking about.

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#11 Ender the Dragon
March 19 2009, 11:50AM
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I agree with what I think the general sentiment is here; that Marty is a great goalie and that you don't need to rely on a poor statistical measure to prove it. Even just looking at save %, Marty has consistantly been there. The only question is why do we celebrate wins for a goalie and not GVT or S%? Jon is right; so many factors determine whether a team wins or loses (roster quality, injuries, coaching, etc.) and while a starting goalie is important to be sure, a great goalie can play in a lot of losses and a mediochre goalie can be carried by a great team. You might extend this same argument to a lot of stats, even skater stats, but 'Wins' really are produced as a team, not as a product of your netminder.

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#12 Ender the Dragon
March 19 2009, 12:00PM
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As far as that goes, even longevity plays a part in 'wins' measurement; how many brilliant goaltenders will receive little or no mention because they played only a few seasons in the NHL?

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#13 Deep Oil
March 19 2009, 12:02PM
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baggedmilk wrote:

@ Deep Oil: I can only assume Kelly Hrudey and Glen Healey have something to do with this. @ Jonathan Willis: It’s ok, fair Willis. It was my one opportunity to find stats and pretend that I know what I’m talking about.

Assumptions make an ass out u and me.

Dont get the relation to CBC Radio Kelly and NHLPA Glenn.

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#14 King Mob
March 19 2009, 12:10PM
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did i just read an article where Jonathan Willis argues AGAINST complex statistical measurements?

what is the world coming too?

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#15 Jason Gregor
March 19 2009, 12:13PM
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Deep Oil wrote:

Roy did not have the NHL parity format of overtime wins to keep poor performing teams in the playoff race till March. Given a 50% basis (win - loss), Marty has to win 66 more games to bring out the scissors and cut the net for ebay revenue.

Brodeur has 27 career shoot out wins( tied with Lundqvist for most, so he is clearly good at them) So that is the EXACT number for him to beat Roy in actual wins is 27. He will have that by next year.

How many wins did Roy get because of his ridiculously large equipment?

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#16 Deep Oil
March 19 2009, 12:24PM
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Jason Gregor wrote:

Deep Oil wrote: Roy did not have the NHL parity format of overtime wins to keep poor performing teams in the playoff race till March. Given a 50% basis (win - loss), Marty has to win 66 more games to bring out the scissors and cut the net for ebay revenue. Brodeur has 27 career shoot out wins( tied with Lundqvist for most, so he is clearly good at them) So that is the EXACT number for him to beat Roy in actual wins is 27. He will have that by next year. How many wins did Roy get because of his ridiculously large equipment?

Too many.

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#17 jeanshorts
March 19 2009, 12:30PM
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Round, and round and round. This is one of those sweet arguments that will never, ever end, because it's all based around personal preference. I'm a Roy guy myself, but I recognize that Brodeur is also one of the greatest.

This is in the same vain as, Ovechkin or Crosby???????? YOU HAVE TO CHOSE ONE AND ONLY ONE!!!!!!!

There is no one correct answer, but bring on the heated debate!

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#18 442Junkie
March 19 2009, 12:33PM
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@ Deep Oil: Um, how many full season lockouts did Roy have in his time? Yeah, that's right none. So by your argument Brodeur should have 42 more wins to his credit. I get that number based on the last 10 years of play he has averaged 41.9 wins a season. So you can say all you want about his crutch but he is using it because the league crippled his stats by having a full season missed.

Also Brodeur has 77 ties to his record to the point where Roy retired. Which, given your 50% number makes 38.

Together it means Brodeur should have 79 more wins. Using your formula. Ultimately it works out that the record is Brodeur's. Try as you might to rain on the parade.

I won't argue the half season because it affected Roy too.

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#19 baggedmilk
March 19 2009, 12:35PM
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Deep Oil wrote:

Assumptions make an ass out u and me. Dont get the relation to CBC Radio Kelly and NHLPA Glenn.

Your handle on sarcasm is incredible.

@ jeanshorts:

*has spousal comment in pocket for Brodeur/Roy tie-breaker but is best saved for JSBM as it would be deleted here*

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#20 Jack "FMNF" Bauer
March 19 2009, 01:18PM
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How many ties does Martin have? Funny that little stat got left out. How many shootout wins does Martin have? Those are some stats to look up when considering if Brodeurs record matches that of Roy.

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#21 jayoilfan
March 19 2009, 01:22PM
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Jeanshorts you miss-spelled your question, it should be "Ovechkin Orr Crosby", I think I'll take Orr.

That should rev up some people... ;-)

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#22 Robin Brownlee
March 19 2009, 02:14PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ baggedmilk: Oh, I think Brodeur’s one of the best to be sure - I never argued otherwise. I just don’t think that in general wins record is an accurate indication of a goaltender’s ability - it’s too dependent on team.

Every goaltending stat is dependant on the team. Number of shots, quality of shots, number of second shots (rebounds) are all dictated to some degree by the quality of the team playing in front of the goaltender. Time spent scrambling around under pressure, even when shots aren't recorded, and subequent wear-and-tear and fatigue are also dependent on the quality of the team. You can't single out wins.

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#23 Jonathan Willis
March 19 2009, 02:30PM
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@ Robin Brownlee:

But wouldn't you agree that wins are more dependent on team than statistics like save percentage?

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#24 Jon K
March 19 2009, 06:17PM
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Wins is going to be a more team reliant statistic than any other of a goaltender's, because it obviously relies upon the team's ability to generate offense as well.

When all is said and done though, I'm confident that Brodeur will be remembered as the best. Part of that confidence comes from knowing that Brodeur has many winning seasons ahead of him still. I could see him getting another 200 wins in his career, which is remarkable when you think about it.

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#25 Jon K
March 19 2009, 06:21PM
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Also, while it is extremely early, it's interesting to look at Steve Mason's short career in comparison to Brodeur's. They both came into the league at close to the same age, and so far, Mason has put up remarkably similar numbers in his rookie season to Brodeur's.

He's also the clear Calder candidate, which was the pinnacle of Brodeur's rookie season.

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#26 Stan
March 20 2009, 08:32AM
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But what exactly is GVT? I went to the link and i still couldn't find his explanation?

It has always seemed to me that goalie performance was the hardest thing to measure in hockey. I could've sworn that one day I saw some stat on the blogosphere that looked at goalie save pct vs quality of shots, where it actually broke down goalies by making an attempt at compensating for the difficulty of shots they faced. Have you seen that one, Jonathan?

also, in regards to Brodeur playing on the devils all this time. isn't there another stat i read somewhere that looks at how goalies compare with the other goalies on their team? I mean, nothing against brodeur, but clemmenson looked liked an allstar too, and yet he had never really accomplished all that much in his previous nondevil incarnations.

one more thing, to add a little spice, i have also felt Fuhr was overrated. once again, would love to share with you the blogosphere site where i finally found some statistical back-up for this claim, but alas, i have lost it.

in summary, my most confident claim is simply that it seems too hard to really compare goalies, and therefore, until we can any claims of "who is better than who?" must be happily and humbly acknowledged as very flawed.

btw, i'm loving your blog jonathan--keep up the good work!

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#27 Oilman
March 20 2009, 01:16PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Robin Brownlee: But wouldn’t you agree that wins are more dependent on team than statistics like save percentage?

Not at all - in fact, Brodeur's save percentage is likely hurt by the fact that NJ gives up fewer shots on average. It's much more impressive to have a .910 on a team that allows 24 shots per game, than a .915 on a team that allows 30. Like Robin said, all tending stats are team influenced, not just the wins.

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#28 onehitwonder
March 20 2009, 02:56PM
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@ Jason Gregor: How many wins did Roy get because of his ridiculously large equipment?

I like your show and think you're a hell of a writer, but to start rumors regarding his package, in relation to the ref's love of gay porn in the early 90's.... well that's just inspiring to all of us with our own ridiculously large equipment. Kudos to you sir.

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