How do Goalie Age Part III

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Apr 292010

If you have not yet read Part I and Part II of this series, you should probably do that now so you will better understand Part III.

In this part I wanted to take a look at individual goalies and see how they compare to the average. The following is a list of the 19 goalies I used to create the goalie performance by age average chart that you see in Part II and if you click on their names you will be shown a chart of their performance compared to the average performance.

Chris Osgood
Chris Tererri
Craig Billington
Curtis Joseph
Dominik Hasek
Ed Belfour
Glenn Healy
Jeff Hackett
Jocelyn Thibault
John Vanbiesbrouk
Kirk McLean
Martin Brodeur
Mike Richter
Mike Vernon
Olaf Kolzig
Patrick Roy
Ron Tugnutt
Sean Burke
Tom Barasso

I’ll leave it as an exercise to the reader to go through each of the charts and draw whatever conclusions you can but there appear to be two different charts. The first is a typical curved chart where a goalie improves early in his career and tails off later in his career. There are of course varying degrees of this curve from the extreme like Jeff Hackett to a more moderate curve like Ron Tugnutt. The other type of chart which is quite common is the one where the goalie enters the league at quite a high level and then tails off over time. Again there are varying degrees as to which this tail off occurs from the extreme in Jocelyn Thibault or Kirk McLean to a more casual drop of as with Mike Vernon.

It is generally believed that the two best goalies of the past 20-25 years are Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur. Not as often mentioned is Dominik Hasek and I can only assume that is because he doens’t have the win totals or Stanley Cups of the other two partly because of the teams he played for and partly because he started his career late compared to Roy and Brodeur. But, in the prime of his career he was truly dominating and in my opinion was by far the best goalie in the NHL through the late 1990’s and into the current decade. So, lets take a look at how these three stack up against each other.

Clearly all three have been better than the average of the other 19 goalies, but I was actually a little surprised to see how little better Brodeur has been for much of his career. Four times in Brodeur’s career has he performed below the average of the other 19 goalies at the same age where neither Roy or Hasek ever performed below the group average at any age. The other conclusion one must draw from this chart is simply how good Hasek was, particularly late in his career. Roy had dominating years in his early to mid 20’s but from age 29 on clearly Hasek was the more dominant goalie. As for Brodeur, he has had a few excellent seasons but generally speaking has been a step below the Roy and Hasek at all ages. The only other goalie who could possibly be considered as a similar talent to these three goalies is Ed Belfour who you could argue had a career quite similar to that of Brodeur.

In part IV, which I’ll either post tomorrow or early next week, I’ll take a look at a few current goalies in the middle of their careers to see if we can gain any insight into what phase of their career they are in and what the future might hold for them.

Mar 172009

With Martin Brodeur matching and soon passing Patrick Roy for the most wins by a goalie in the history of the NHL there has been a lot of discussion of who was the best goalie ever. Is it Patrick Roy or is it Martin Brodeur? Out of those two goalies, I think the edge probably still lies with Patrick Roy for a number of reasons that I won’t go into right now. What I want to discuss is Dominik Hasek and how he is probably a better goalie than either Roy or Brodeur.

Hasek is an interesting case and most people will immediately dismiss him because he didn’t win multiple Stanley Cups, and isn’t even close to the leaders in career wins (he is 10th with 389 trailing Roy and Brodeur’s 551). But here is where things we get into the question of how much do we reward players for longevity. Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur were great goalies for a longer time span than Hasek, but there is probably little argument that Hasek was easily the best goalie in the NHL from 1993-94 to 2000-2002. During that 9 year span he won two Hart Trophy’s as the league MVP and six Vezina trophies as the NHL’s best goalie. He led the league in save percentage for 6 straight years from 1993-94 to 1998-99 and in many of those seasons the runner up wasn’t even close.

Dominik Hasek is the all time leader in career save percentage with a .9223 save. Second place is Roberto Luongo at .9188 and Brodeur and Roy are at .9136 and .9102 respectively. But what makes Hasek’s numbers really special is that he did it on some Buffalo teams that were hardly star laden. In 1996-97 he played 67 games and posted a 37-20-10 record witha n outstanding .930 save percentage on a team whose top 10 scorers were Derek Plante, Brian Holzinger, Donald Audette, Michael Peca, Jason Dawe, Dixon Ward, Matthew Barnaby, Garry Galley, Micheal Grosek and Alexei Zhitnik. That is hardly the kind of talent that Brodeur and certainly Roy have played behind.

So the question is, should we penalize Hasek because he started his career late, partly because he is from the Czech Republic and came to North America late (he was 26 when he came to North America) and late in his career he suffered from injuries? I guess the answer is yes, longevity should count for something, but in Hasek’s case he has played 735 games, which puts him 18th on the list of most games played by goalies. I think that is good enough for you to not penalize him very much for longevity.

The last remaining question is, how much should we value career wins and Stanley Cup wins and playoff success in general. Here is where Hasek really trails Roy and Brodeur but is it really fair to Hasek that he didn’t play on some of the all-star laden squads that Roy and Brodeur played on? I say no. He should not be. We should evaluate goalies solely on what they do, not what the teams they play on achieve. Hasek doesn’t have the same playoff team success as either Brodeur or Roy but he has a better playoff save percentage than either Brodeur or Roy. Hasek also has an Olympic gold which he played a major role posting a minuscule 0.98 goals against average and an outstanding .961 save percentage.

I can’t say that Hasek is the best goalie ever because I have a hard time evaluating goalies before I started following hockey in a serious way in the mid 1980’s. But, I will say that Hasek is by far the best goalie I have ever seen. Better than Roy. Better than Brodeur.