# Northwest Division Goaltenders Vs. Average

Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009 08:44AM

What kind of player is a league-average goaltender? How do goaltenders in the Northwest Division stack up?

Traditionally, any goaltender with a save percentage above .900 is regarded as a decent goaltender. However, given that so few goaltenders ever land below that mark, it seemed safe to assume that the “average goaltender” posted a better save percentage than that number.

One method to figure out what an average goaltender posts in terms of save percentage would be to go through them all and average the results. Fortunately, there’s an easier way. Last year, NHL teams scored 7006 goals on 74302 shots (not counting the shootout). Of those, 227 were empty-net goals; so we deduct 227 from both the goals and shot totals (since for a shot to be counted, it can’t be blocked and needs to be inside the crease, obviously the ratio of empty net shots to empty net goals is 1:1). Then we run our math:

• 1 – 6779 / 74075 = .90849 = .908 SV% (*math corrected as per comments below)

Some notes about our average number. Obviously, each NHL team has two goaltenders, and in most cases the more successful goaltender plays the vast majority of the games. This should result in a top-heavy curve; in other words, most starters should be right above this mark, since the effect of the starters on the average is much greater than the effect of the backups.

In any case, using this number, how do Northwest Division goaltenders fare? Let’s have a look:

• Josh Harding: .929
• Craig Anderson: .924
• Niklas Backstrom: .923
• Roberto Luongo: .920
• Nikolai Khabibulin: .919
• AVERAGE: .908
• Miikka Kiprusoff: .903
• Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers: .901
• Peter Budaj: .899
• Andrew Raycroft: .892
• Curtis McElhinney: .889
• Cory Schneider: .877

Now unfortunately I have no way to compensate for the relative strengths of these players teams; I’d guess that Harding and Backstrom would both find themselves lower on this chart if they hadn’t spent last season in Minnesota, but with Jacques Lemaire gone we should get a better read on both of them next season.

It’s also nice to see Nikolai Khabibulin where he is on this list; granted, this has been his strongest season in the last half-dozen years, but he certainly provided better-than-average goaltending last season, although he’s still probably only the third-best goaltender in the Northwest (unless Craig Anderson is for real). The most interesting player in any save percentage comparison remains Miikka Kiprusoff, a player some people were floating as a Vezina candidate based on his win totals. Here’s the thing: even a middling goaltender will post pretty win totals if he plays 70 games on a very good team. Kiprusoff has a massive contract, lousy totals, and is the biggest question mark about the Calgary Flames at this point in time.

Unsurprisingly, 3 of the 4 young/developing goaltenders (JDD/McElhinney/Schneider) posted sub-average results, and of course Colorado’s goaltending tandem was awful last season as well.

The final point I will make is simply this: a player below the average mark, or just barely above it, has almost no value to an NHL team. Alex Auld, to use the most recent example, played 43 games and posted a .911 SV% on a lousy Ottawa team last season. He was just dealt to the Dallas Stars for a 6th round pick. He’s played 183 NHL games over his career, with a career save percentage of .905; the mind-boggling thing is that he was originally a second-round draft pick. With forwards and defenseman, a decent career (which Auld has had) increases value, particularly a) coming off a strong season and b) being in their prime (Auld is 28). Auld was viewed as more valuable by NHL teams as a 17-year old wild card than he is as a seasoned goaltender in his prime coming off a strong season – and that tells me that NHL teams should rethink their approach to goaltending prospects.

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 Peter Pan
July 09 2009, 08:46AM

I miss Bill Ranford...sniff

#2 OvenChicken8
July 09 2009, 08:55AM

Backstroms .923 really bothers me. That along with his record against the Oilers that is :(

#3 patty
July 09 2009, 08:57AM

only 23 empty netters league-wide last year? I thought Patrick Stefan was playing in Europe now.

I also am not happy about Backstrom's numbers. Kiprusoff makes ma happy though. Hopefully a steady decline like every other year. I doubt it though, with that D in front of him.

#4 humantorch
July 09 2009, 08:58AM

I like, I REALLY like the pickup of Khabibulin for us, but I still don't quite understand why we didn't pursue Harding, either via trade or offer sheet.

#5 KB
July 09 2009, 08:59AM

Are you serious that there were only 23 empty net goals scored by all teams all season long? I would have thought there would have been more than that. I've never thought about that stat before...seriously surprising.

#6 patty
July 09 2009, 09:01AM

as a side note, the last 4 articles that appeared on all 3 nation sites has been effed for the RSS comments. Some meta tag error. I'm much less sneaky at time wasting when thats broken.

Hopefully Luongo gets hurt again (but healthy in time for olympics) and Raycroft can do what he does best for a while.

#7 Wanye Gretz
July 09 2009, 09:05AM

patty wrote:

as a side note, the last 4 articles that appeared on all 3 nation sites has been effed for the RSS comments. Some meta tag error. I’m much less sneaky at time wasting when thats broken

Hmmm. This has been passed along to the team of World of Warcraft veterans that build and operate the back end of the site.

*starts tap dancing feverishly to distract Nation from yet another technical glitch*

#8 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 09:08AM

The 23 goals number is wrong; sorry everyone. I thought it was strange but didn't think to double-check and it turns out I entered it into Excel wrong.

There were 227 EN goals; meaning that the math becomes:

1- 6779/74075 = .909 SV% = average

#9 DaveS
July 09 2009, 09:10AM

Thank you for using advanced statistics to tell us things we already know.

#10 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 09:14AM

DaveS wrote:

Thank you for using advanced statistics to tell us things we already know.

Advanced stats? If you think these are advanced (simple division) than you've got a pretty limited idea of what we can do with numbers.

And I for one didn't already know that .908 was the league-average save percentage.

#11 dyckster
July 09 2009, 09:15AM

DaveS wrote:

Thank you for using advanced statistics to tell us things we already know.

Why the sarcasm? Some folks may have known this stuff, but how many would take the time to summarize it?

Thanks for the article JW!

#12 Wanye Gretz
July 09 2009, 09:15AM

DaveS wrote:

Thank you for using advanced statistics to tell us things we already know.

Thanks for pointing things out with dickish commentary!

*slap*

#13 bingofuel
July 09 2009, 09:16AM

@ patty:

Can you explain a little more, Patty? What feed reader are you using? and what feed addresses are you subscribed to?

#14 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 09:18AM

Jonathan Willis wrote:

1- 6779/74075 = .909 SV% = average

.908 SV% actually - rounding error, sorry.

#15 Lofty
July 09 2009, 09:21AM

any idea how many games the oil got scored on with the golie pulled? should be a lot since they were down almost every game of the second half.

#16 OvenChicken8
July 09 2009, 09:26AM

Jonathan Willis wrote:

Advanced stats? If you think these are advanced (simple division) than you’ve got a pretty limited idea of what we can do with numbers. And I for one didn’t already know that .908 was the league-average save percentage.

~and to think I thought this was calculus~

#17 Wanye Gretz
July 09 2009, 09:32AM

Jonathan Willis wrote:

If you think these are advanced (simple division) than you’ve got a pretty limited idea of what we can do with numbers.

I have once seen a non linear equation play the basoon at the behest of the number four. Numbers can do amazing things indeed.

#18 Chris.
July 09 2009, 09:35AM

I know this isn't related; and it's only June...

But ESPN, based on the current lineup, has predicted the Oilers will finish 12th in the west ahead of only Minnesota, Phoenix, and Colorado.

They were just throwing this around on the Team... Where do you guys see them finishing... and remember to land in eigth the Oilers have to displace teams like St. Louis, Vancouver, etc.

#19 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 09:36AM

Lofty wrote:

any idea how many games the oil got scored on with the golie pulled? should be a lot since they were down almost every game of the second half.

Surprisingly, according to NHL.com Edmonton scored 9 empty-net goals and allowed only 5.

#20 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 09:37AM

Wanye Gretz wrote:

I have once seen a non linear equation play the basoon at the behest of the number four. Numbers can do amazing things indeed.

That's nothing. I once watched a pair of vector calculus equations beat my brain into a bloody pulp with my physics text book.

It's been four years, but I still feel the pain.

#21 Wainwright Dan
July 09 2009, 09:37AM

Off topic, but still funny - an Ottawa/Heatley version of that Hitler/Oiler video that used to circulate http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SnE_cBLPYJI

#22 Downright Fierce
July 09 2009, 09:37AM

Wanye Gretz wrote:

*starts tap dancing feverishly to distract Nation from yet another technical glitch*

*claps mindlessly*

#23 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 09:38AM

Chris. wrote:

I know this isn’t related; and it’s only June… But ESPN, based on the current lineup, has predicted the Oilers will finish 12th in the west ahead of only Minnesota, Phoenix, and Colorado. They were just throwing this around on the Team… Where do you guys see them finishing… and remember to land in eigth the Oilers have to displace teams like St. Louis, Vancouver, etc.

Way too early for this of course, but as it stands I'd say somewhere between 7th and 13th is a reasonable guess.

#24 cm
July 09 2009, 09:41AM

Wanye Gretz wrote:

I have once seen a non linear equation play the basoon at the behest of the number four. Numbers can do amazing things indeed.

Where can I get the stuff your smoking?

#25 Wanye Gretz
July 09 2009, 09:42AM

Downright Fierce wrote:

*claps mindlessly*

*Starts flailing arms and adding high kicks into the routine while staring blankly ahead*

@ Jonathan Willis:

I was the sad enrollee of a few calculus courses myself a few years back. I kept my one calc textbook thinking "if I ever need to scare myself in the future, I will pull this book out and pretend I have a test on it in a week"

#26 Downright Fierce
July 09 2009, 09:45AM

Wanye Gretz wrote:

*Starts flailing arms and adding high kicks into the routine while staring blankly ahead*

*pukes*

... Man, don't overstimulate me like that.

#27 Wanye Gretz
July 09 2009, 09:47AM

@ cm:

PCP laced angel dust? It's available most places downtown. Try Jasper Ave and 105 for the good stuff. Tell Steve that Wanye sent you.

He will know.

#28 Ogden Brother
July 09 2009, 09:47AM

Chris. wrote:

I know this isn’t related; and it’s only June… But ESPN, based on the current lineup, has predicted the Oilers will finish 12th in the west ahead of only Minnesota, Phoenix, and Colorado. They were just throwing this around on the Team… Where do you guys see them finishing… and remember to land in eigth the Oilers have to displace teams like St. Louis, Vancouver, etc.

People also had the team between 3 - 6 this past year.

#29 Wanye Gretz
July 09 2009, 09:48AM

@ Downright Fierce:

Slow news day?

Y'huh so it would seem.

I wish something would happen so we can scurry into action.

*kicks one last time, shoe flies off and accidentally hits passer by directly in the face*

#30 Chris.
July 09 2009, 09:52AM

@ Jonathan Willis:

I find it funny that last year the Oilers were ranked as high as sixth... Now, the essentially the same team with Khabibulin and upgraded coaching; minus only Brodziak and Eric Cole, the Oilers have slipped to twelth... Cole must be one of the most overrated players in the NHL.

#31 Downright Fierce
July 09 2009, 09:53AM

@ Wanye Gretz: PCP=Angel dust

I think "Steve" has been pulling a fast one on you.

Slow news day is right. Maybe Sakic will stun us all with the confession that he's really an alien and he must return home, despite his love for Earth hockey.

#32 Wanye Gretz
July 09 2009, 09:54AM

@ Downright Fierce:

PCP=Angel dust

*walks slowly out of room staring at computer screen in horror*

#33 dyckster
July 09 2009, 09:55AM

Wanye Gretz wrote:

I wish something would happen so we can scurry into action.

Our ever scrupulous ON writers could go the way of Mr. Ecklund, Hockeybuzz is on fire today! We'd have 1000 posts per blog.

#34 Hoss
July 09 2009, 10:00AM

@ Wainwright Dan:

I always love the new translations of this, Epic!!!

#35 Cam
July 09 2009, 10:04AM

Chris. wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: I find it funny that last year the Oilers were ranked as high as sixth… Now, the essentially the same team with Khabibulin and upgraded coaching; minus only Brodziak and Eric Cole, the Oilers have slipped to twelth… Cole must be one of the most overrated players in the NHL.

Yes, and apparently Pat Quinn/Tom Renney is a downgrade from MacT... :-P

#36 patty
July 09 2009, 10:10AM

Sory for the delay, I was distracted by all the tap dancing and clapping. This is exciting stuff everyone, so buckle up.

I have the 'All Articles' feed: xxx.oilersnation.com/category/oilers-posts/feed/

I'm using Omea Reader 2.2. Here's the errors: Northwest Division Goaltenders Vs. Average: Comment download failed: The 'meta' start tag on line '35' does not match the end tag of 'head'. Line 103, position 3.

Northwest review, part two: Comment download failed: The 'meta' start tag on line '35' does not match the end tag of 'head'. Line 102, position 3.

And they called Mike Gillis a fool: Comment download failed: The 'meta' start tag on line '35' does not match the end tag of 'head'. Line 103, position 3.

Northwest review (US edition): Comment download failed: The 'meta' start tag on line '35' does not match the end tag of 'head'. Line 102, position 3.

I tried looking thru the xml file, but it all looked fine to me. Hopefully your WoW monkeys can help me waste time more effeciently. Thanks!

#37 Ogden Brother
July 09 2009, 10:11AM

Chris. wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: I find it funny that last year the Oilers were ranked as high as sixth… Now, the essentially the same team with Khabibulin and upgraded coaching; minus only Brodziak and Eric Cole, the Oilers have slipped to twelth… Cole must be one of the most overrated players in the NHL.

What have you done for me lately?

#38 dragon
July 09 2009, 10:12AM

Cam wrote:

Chris. wrote: @ Jonathan Willis: I find it funny that last year the Oilers were ranked as high as sixth… Now, the essentially the same team with Khabibulin and upgraded coaching; minus only Brodziak and Eric Cole, the Oilers have slipped to twelth… Cole must be one of the most overrated players in the NHL. Yes, and apparently Pat Quinn/Tom Renney is a downgrade from MacT…

I think they're overcompensating for last year's unjustified optimism: same team ranked 6th finished 11th, go with 12th this year...

#39 Downright Fierce
July 09 2009, 10:13AM

Cam wrote:

Yes, and apparently Pat Quinn/Tom Renney is a downgrade from MacT

To be fair, we have no evidence to the contrary.

#40 Jonathan Willis
July 09 2009, 10:43AM

Chris. wrote:

I find it funny that last year the Oilers were ranked as high as sixth… Now, the essentially the same team with Khabibulin and upgraded coaching; minus only Brodziak and Eric Cole, the Oilers have slipped to twelth… Cole must be one of the most overrated players in the NHL.

The Oilers finished 11th last season. So far, the in/out list looks like this:

OUT: Roloson, Brodziak, Cole IN: O'Sullivan, Khabibulin

Right now, it's fair to expect marginal improvement from the vast majority of the young players, but other than that the oly significant change has been coaching.

If they make another change or two (acquire Heatley, sign a defensive centre) I'll be comfortable projecting them into the playoffs. For now, I'm only comfortable predicting a marginal improvement.

#41 freeze
July 09 2009, 10:53AM

I would rather have very limited expectations of this group as opposed to the challenge-for-division crap of last year.

Aim low enough and you will rarely be disappointed.

#42 Ogden Brother
July 09 2009, 10:56AM

Jonathan Willis wrote:

Chris. wrote: I find it funny that last year the Oilers were ranked as high as sixth… Now, the essentially the same team with Khabibulin and upgraded coaching; minus only Brodziak and Eric Cole, the Oilers have slipped to twelth… Cole must be one of the most overrated players in the NHL. The Oilers finished 11th last season. So far, the in/out list looks like this: OUT: Roloson, Brodziak, Cole IN: O’Sullivan, Khabibulin Right now, it’s fair to expect marginal improvement from the vast majority of the young players, but other than that the oly significant change has been coaching. If they make another change or two (acquire Heatley, sign a defensive centre) I’ll be comfortable projecting them into the playoffs. For now, I’m only comfortable predicting a marginal improvement.

I've got to admit that I'm pretty disapointed with Tambs offseason so far, all the talk of toughening up the roster yet all we seen is a potential slight upgrade in nets. Theirs still time, but I'd have to guess the majority of transactions happen between the draft and the first week or so of FA day.

#43 Steve Tambellini
July 09 2009, 11:09AM

Kipper is hugely overrated goalie. I would take Bulin at 3.75 over kipper at 5.83 any day.

Bulin Career- 0.908 save % - last 3 seasons .909.

Kipper - .912 career% - last 3 season 0.909.

Bulin is trending upwards and Kipper is continuing his slide, getting worse progressively over last 5 years. You can keep him for 2 mil more per season.

#44 Hemmertime
July 09 2009, 11:09AM

@ Steve Tambellini: oops

#45 Cam
July 09 2009, 11:10AM

Ogden Brother wrote:

...but I’d have to guess the majority of transactions happen between the draft and the first week or so of FA day.

Actually I think that a fair number of trades must happen after FA day because the teams that lost out on the FA's still need to address roster needs and now know what they need to trade for since the FA's are all gone.

#46 Curious
July 09 2009, 11:10AM

With the seemingly abundance of decent goaltenders around this year and still around as we speak, especially backups can a case be made that a team is better off drafting a forward or defenceman especially in the earlier rounds of the draft? I guess there is the odd exception, but since goalies take longer generally to develop, is a team better off to just sign a free agent versus trying to develop one. Shoudl have the Oilers taken a forward or defencemen in the first round instead of Dubynk for example. You might already have a player instead of a prospect in the minors, who may or may not ever play a game in the NHL.

Interesting.

#47 Hemmertime
July 09 2009, 11:18AM

@ Curious: Always best to take BPA. Best player available - needs change

#48 Asciutto
July 09 2009, 11:20AM

"Now, the essentially the same team with Khabibulin and upgraded coaching"

upgraded coaching? That's a theorem that requires proving.

#49 Chaz
July 09 2009, 11:24AM

*Off topic*

Any plans for a Joe Sakic article today? I know people whine when the articles aren't Oiler-related, but Burnaby Joe is my favorite non-Oiler of all time, and I'd like the ON to be able to show our love for one of the classiest guys ever to lace them up in the NHL. He didn't get a chance to do a farewell tour last year due to the snowblower incident, but maybe that's fitting seeing how low key he is.

Anyways, hats off to a great Canadian player who stuck with one franchise his whole career and has to be one of the most Universally-admired players ever. Congrats Joe.

*Wipes away a tear as he remembers Joe handing the cup to Ray before even lifting it himself. Classy Joe, classy!*

#50 Curious
July 09 2009, 11:30AM

@ Hemmertime:

Maybe. However, maybe trying to develop Golatenders, forwards, and defenceman all at the same time is to big of a task to actually do successfully. Sure you might do a decent job overall, but what if you focused on two of the three and did that tremendously. The third, goaltending, because they take longer to develop anyway, you leave to free agency.

I do realize that you need some goalies in the system for your farm team but maybe you draft them in the later rounds or sign the undrafted gem who appears on the radar when he is 25. Or like this year, you sign Savorin cheap and he is the goalie on the farm. Do you really need to develop the entire team on the farm or is there a better way.

Maybe I am full of it, but it seems to me like taking a goalie in the early rounds seems foolish because he generally is further away from helping you then a forward would be.