Tomas Vokoun: Elite or No?
In the Hockey Statistical Analysis world Tomas Vokoun is an interesting case study because depending on how he gets evaluated he either shows up as an very good goalie or in some cases a true elite goalie in the NHL. Most ways we evaluate goalies has to do with save percentages. We either look at overall save percentage or even strength save percentage or even even strength game tied save percentage. Under all of these scenarios Vokoun excels to various degrees. A recent Behind the Net Hockey Blog post asked several hockey statistic analysts to discuss “elite goalies” and Tomas Vokoun’s name came up frequently. What is dumbfounding to me is Vokoun’s record because his won-loss record (79-80-25) is notably worse over the past 3 seasons than his backups (32-22-8). That can’t be a sign of an elite goalie, even if his backups have been relatively good (i.e. Craig Anderson). One may postulate it is due to facing tougher competition as backup goalies often get the to play against weaker teams or one may postulate it is just due to bad luck. Or maybe, he just isn’t a great goalie.
Since shots totals and shooting/save percentage is often affected by game score I’ll focus on 5v5 even strength game tied statistics to balance everything out. Over the last 3 seasons (2007-08 to 2009-10) there are 35 goalies with 1500 or more 5v5 game tied minutes. Of these goalies, Tomas Vokoun ranks 8th in 5v5 game tied save percentage which may not be elite, but still very good. Jonas Hiller tops the list with a .942 save % with Vokoun at .933 and Chris Osgood trails the list with a .906 save %. So, Vokoun looks pretty good.
But, Tomas Vokoun ranks just 23rd in goals against average which isn’t great and probably average at best. Those who are in love with fenwick numbers will note that Vokoun has the second highest fenwick against of any goalies with 1500+ 5v5 tied minutes and he gives up so many goals because Florida gives up so many shots and scoring chances. Of course, I believe that not all shots against are equal and shot totals can be influenced by style of play as much as talent. If you don’t believe style of play affects shot totals and scoring chances, ask yourself why there are score effects on shot/corsi totals? The answer is depending on the score, teams play differently. But teams play differently when the score is tied as well. Some teams play a defense first style, even when game is tied, and others play a more wide open offensive style. Florida, without any true elite offensive stars, probably plays more of a defensive game which would naturally lead to more shots against, but not necessarily more quality scoring chances against.
So yes, Florida gives up a lot of shots, but how good is Tomas Vokoun’s competition really. He does play in the weakest division in the NHL and yet he can’t produce a good won-loss record. Just looking at Vokoun’s opposition, his opponents rank dead last in goals for per 20 minutes so compared to other goalies he is playing against relatively weak opponents offensively. His oppositions GF% (goals for / goals for + against) is also fourth worst so overall so he plays against very weak opposition in terms of scoring goals and stopping goals. For those who prefer Fenwick, his opposition has a FF% (fenwick for / fenwick for + against) of .499, good for 27th among the 35 goalies. So his opposition isn’t good and his performance in goals against average isn’t good either. That isn’t a good combination if you want to be considered an elite level goalie.
How about a direct comparison with his backups. In 2007-08 his goals against average per 20 minutes was significantly worse than Craig Anderson’s (0.949 for Vokoun, 0.538 for Anderson) while Anderson’s opponents had a slightly better goals for per 20 minutes (0.678 vs 0.671). In 2008-09 Vokoun had a much better season giving up 0.697 goals per 20 minutes compared to Anderson’s 0.896 though Anderson played against slightly better offensive competition. In 2009-10 Vokoun had a much better goals against than Clemmensen (0.621 vs 1.058) but played against weaker competition as well (OppGF20 of .714 vs 0.743 for Clemmensen’s opponents). Generally speaking Tomas Vokoun had a very weak 2007-08 season but much better 2008-09 and 2009-10 seasons even though he always seemed to play against weaker offensive opponents.
In terms of my Hockey Analysis Ratings, Tomas Vokoun ranked 16th out of 35 goalies in 2007-10 HARD and 18th in 2007-10 HARD+ rankings. Middle of the pack. The seasonal breakdown positioned him 35th of 38 in HARD+ for goalies with 500+ minutes in 2007-08, 19th of 35 in 2008-09, and 6th of 37 in 2009-10. So far this season he is closer to the bottom again.
Is Tomas Vokoun an elite goalie, or even great goalie? Probably not. He just posts good save percentages because his team gives up a lot of shots, but not necessarily quality scoring chances, and he plays against weak offensive competition.