Apr 262012
 

One of the most significant stories of the first round of the playoffs is the early departure of the Vancouver Canucks and the resulting question mark surrounding Roberto Luongo’s future with the Canucks.  With young super prospect Cory Schneider out playing Luongo for arguably the second straight playoff it puts Luongo’s future with the Canucks in doubt.  As of now it seems apparent that Luongo is looking for a new start and the Canucks organization is probably looking more to Schneider than Luongo as their goalie of the future.  There is a lot of speculation about which teams might be interested in Luongo (Tampa, Toronto, Chicago, San Jose, New Jersey are some of the suggested locations) but to me the greater question is, should anyone even be interested in Luongo?

The easiest method to evaluate goalies is their save percentage but because of situational and score effect differences maybe the best save percentage to use is 5v5 close zone start adjusted save percentage.  The following table shows Luongo’s 5v5 close zone start adjusted save percentage over the past 5 seasons along with his rank among goalies who have played at least 1000 minutes of ice time.  I have also included his save percentage and rank among goalies with 3000 minutes over the past 3 years combined.

Year Sv% Rank
2007-08 91.10 17/27
2008-09 92.25 9/26
2009-10 91.57 15/30
2010-11 91.43 17/28
2011-12 91.36 17/31
2009-12 (3yr) 91.45 17/25

As you can see, Luongo is basically a middle of the road goalie and has been consistently a middle of the road goalie for the past 5 years.  Now, for about 10-15 teams, that would be an improvement on their current goaltending situation and for a few teams a significant improvement, but the question becomes, at what cost?  As I am sure everyone reading this is well aware, Luongo has a monster contract.  He is 33 years old and has 10 more years on his contract with a cap hit of $5.333M each year and his actual salary is $6.714M for the next 6 seasons before it begins to tail off.  That is a lot of money and term to commit to an aging (though no signs of declining performance yet) middle of the road goalie who will not likely live up to expectations the near term and will certainly not live up to expectations over the long term.

How this plays out is anyone’s guess.  In my mind, Luongo’s contract is not probably worth trading for, even if Luongo presents a significant improvement over a teams current goaltending situation.  One could argue that acquiring Luongo could put the Leafs and Lightning in a playoff spot, but the long term risk is huge and the ability for Luongo to consistently take a team deep into the playoffs has to be questioned, even in the next few years.  That said, I am sure there will be general managers out there that believe that Luongo is top tier goalie because his actual overall save percentage is pretty good and I am not sure how many of them will adjust for situational and score effects.  The question is, will that even be enough for them to overlook his contract.  I don’t think it will be easy for the Canucks to trade Luongo but I suspect they will find someone will take a chance on him.

(Update:  Read this for why adjusting for zone start is important and how I do the adjustment)

May 042011
 

I am going to combine the Vezina and Hart trophy discussion into one post because the Vezina discussion is going to be fairly short because I actually agree with the nominees.

The three nominees for the Vezina trophy are Roberto Luongo, Tim Thomas and Pekka Rinne.  These are the top 3 goalies in terms of overall save percentage (Thomas first, Rinne second, Luongo third), goals against average (Thomas first, Luongo second and Rinne third) and rank 1, 3 and 4 in my HARD+ 5v5 even strength ratings for goalies with over 2500 5v5 minutes (Thomas first, Rinne third, Luongo fourth).  Incidently, over the past 4 seasons these are the three highest rated goalies for HARD+ for goalies with over 7500 minutes of 5v5 ice time (Thomas first, Luongo second, Rinne third).  These three goalies are probably the top 3 goalies in the NHL today with Thomas leading the pack  Thomas is most deserving of the Vezina trophy this season.

The HART trophy is a little more interesting.  The three nominees are Daniel Sedin, Martin St. Louis and Corey Perry.  Let me address each of these three individually.

Corey Perry – A couple weeks ago I write an article explaining why I didn’t think Corey Perry was as valuable to the Ducks this season as in past seasons.  In short, while Perry put up some great individual numbers and anyone who scores 50 goals in the NHL is doing something right, he accomplished this at the expense of his line mates and his overall team performance.  Of the 116 players with greater than 1000 even strength 5v5 minutes Corey Perry ranked 46th in HARO+ (1.164), 90th in HARD+ (0.852) and just 69th in HART+ (1.008).  Great individual numbers but his teammates performed better when not with him.  Is that indicative of someone deserving the title of “Most Valuable Player”?  I don’t believe so, though I believe there is a great chance he’ll win because he scored 50 goals and put up big numbers down the stretch to help the Ducks make the playoffs.

Martin St. Louis – St. Louis had another great season and I do believe that St. Louis is the most important player for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and has been for many years now.  Overall he ranked 16th in HARO+ (1.335), 36th in HARD+ (1.022) and 14th in HART+ (1.179).  I would not suggest that he is a bad nominee, but there might be better ones.

Daniel Sedin – Of the three nominees, Daniel Sedin is the only one I would consider listing as a top three candidate.  He ranked  a close second (to Nathan Horton) in HARO+ (1.474), ranked 13th in HARD+ (1.135) and ranked fourth in HART+ (1.305).  The only negative against Sedin is that there are many other players who play against better competition.  Sedin’s opposition goals for ratio is just .501 which is well below some others worthy of HART trophy consideration.

Here are a handful of others I would consider worthy of HART trophy consideration:

Jonathan Toews – Toews has the third best HARO+ (1.465), the 17th best HARD+ (1.117) and ranked 5th in HART+ (1.291).  Toews numbers are very close to Daniel Sedin’s but it can be easily argued that Toews played against tougher competition (.509 opposition goals for percentage vs Sedin’s .501) and unlike Sedin, Toews kills penalties too.

David Backes – Backes scored 31 goals and 62 points and led all NHL forwards with a +32 rating (one behidn league leader Chara) and he did this on a weak St. Louis Blues team and like Toews, he also plays when the team is short handed.  If he played with better players his individual stats would likely be much better but because he plays on a weak team his performance largely gets unnoticed.  What is impressive is he accomplished this while having the highest opposition goals for per 20 minutes and goals for percentage.  Backes’ performance puts him 4th in HARO+ (1.449), 9th in HARD+ (1.199) and  second overall in HART+ (1.322).  By all acounts Backes had a great season, even if the goal and point totals don’t quite match the league leaders.

Anze Kopitar – I am not sure if everyone realizes how good of a 2-way player Kopitar is.  He puts up good offensive numbers but he  has also defensively sound and kills penalties.  This past season he ranked 10th in opposition goals for per 20 minutes and ranked 15th in opposition goals for percentage so he is trusted to play against the leagues best players and the results are there to back that up.  This past season Kopitar ranked 5th in HARO+ (1.427), 4th in HARD+ (1.239) and first in HART+ (1.333).

The problem with HART trophy voting is they largely choose players who put up the best individual offensive numbers but in general they neglect to take into account defensive ability and responsibility.  In Toews, Backes and Kopitar we have three quality offensive players who also play solid defensive games against top players in the NHL and are given the responsibility to kill penalties.  The other player I would suggest is worthy of consideration for the HART trophy is Zdeno Chara who was clearly the best defenseman in the NHL this past season as I discussed in yesterdays Norris Trophy post.

So with all that said, I expect that Sedin or Perry will win but my top five HART trophy candidates would be: Daniel Sedin, Jonathan Toews, Zdeno Chara, Anze Kopitar and David Backes and if pushed to make a pick I’d probably choose Sedin ever so slightly over Toews and Chara.