I’ve added full lists of season-by-season and all-time (since 2007) GAA- leaders here and here respectively. The season-by-season list contains all goalies who played a minimum of 33% of the games during a given season, while the all-time list contains all goalies who played in a minimum of 80 games since 2007. I spent some time in my last post going through the best and worst seasons over the past 5 years, but I wanted to talk a bit about the full leaderboard because I think there are some valuable things to be taken from it.
The first thing that strikes me as interesting is that of the 63 goalies who have played in at least 80 games over the past six years only 23 have prevented more goals than the model predicted an average goaltender would have, given the amount of shots they faced. The list of goalies who are below average includes some reasonably big names who have put together some decent seasons over the past few years but haven’t been consistently great (Mike Smith, Carey Price, Cam Ward, Kari Lehtonen and Ilya Bryzgalov). The list of “overrated” goalies does skew towards those goalies who face more shots on average, but that isn’t the exclusive determining factor. Tim Thomas faced more than 30 shots per game since 2007, but still ranks 3rd on the overall list.
On the flip side, there were a few goalies who made the net-negative group in spite of posting a sub 0.910 Sv% (Brian Boucher, Brian Elliot and Cristobal Huet). All three of these goalies were towards the lower end of the shots against spectrum, with Boucher’s 24.8 SA per game ending up as the 3rd lowest shots against of qualified goalies on the list. Again, facing fewer shots against likely helped these goalies, but it wasn’t the sole factor pushing them up the list-Manny Legace and Chris Osgood both faced less shots on average than Boucher, but ranked 45th and 55th respectively on the GAA- list.
The point of GAA- isn’t to penalize goalies who face a lot of shots, or to reward goalies who face fewer shots, but rather to provide a means to “break ties” when evaluating goaltenders. Both GAA and Sv% are valuable but have their flaws, and I think finding a way to balance the two metrics provides more information than either can individually. Carey Price’s 0.915 Sv% is on par with Jonathan Quick over the last few 5 years, however Quick rates much better on the GAA- scale. Similarly, James Reimer is ahead of several well regarded goalies in Sv% (Quick, Corey Crawford and Martin Brodeur come to mind), but I think most people wouldn’t feel all that comfortable with Reimer going forward (including Dave Nonis apparently).*
The names at the top of the list shouldn’t be surprising if you’ve looked at the season by season list. Tuuuka Rask tops the charts with former teammate Tim Thomas two spots behind in 3rd. Both Corey Schneider and Roberto Luongo make the top 10 in 2nd and 9th respectively. It’ll be interesting to see what Mike Gillis does with Luongo this offseason: this year was only his second year posting a positive GAA- at 0.11 (although the sample size does need to be taken into account), but his 2011-2012 year was solid and should warrant some interest from other teams.
I do question whether we’re seeing some team effects in the data. Both Rask and Thomas had the benefit of playing behind Zdeno Chara and the rest of the Bruins defence, and I have to think that the Rangers shot blocking efforts over the last few years have helped Henrik Lundqvist to a degree. Nevertheless, I don’t think anyone would debate too strongly the merits of any of the goaltenders in the top 10.
At the bottom end of the charts, some disheartening news for Leafs fans, as Jonas Gustavsson, Andrew Raycroft and Vesa Toskala all make appearances in the bottom 10. Also appearing are Flyers “saviour of the month” Steve Mason, and the inexplicably still employed Ondrej Pavelec. Chris Osgood qualifies for the bottom 10 in spite of posting a stellar -0.27 GAA- in 2007-2008. I’d actually be interested to pull a few more years of data to take a closer look at Osgood, who has always been viewed as the poster boy for riding on the back of a good team. Perhaps a project for another day though (or a better internet connection at least).
Lastly, I wanted to talk about Craig Anderson, whose career totals should also be somewhat concerning for Ottawa fans. While Anderson has been lights out for Ottawa since coming over for Brian Elliot, his career numbers (and common sense) seem to question his ability to continue his performance in the coming year. With Robin Lehner waiting in the wings and Daniel Alfredsson’s retirement a strong possibility, trading Anderson for some help up front would likely be a prudent “sell high” move for Bryan Murray. It seems rather unlikely that they’d pursue something like this, but for teams in need of a goalie with parts to spare there could be some value for both sides in asking about Andy.
*As an aside, the newly acquired Jonathan Bernier has a -0.24 career GAA- in 59 games, slightly ahead of Henrik Lundqvist, which puts him as the top goaltender in the 40-80 games played bucket. Going the other way, Ben Scrivens was a 0.13 GAA- player in 32 career games, which essentially put the Leafs up 0.37 goals per game, albeit in a very small sample.