Aug
26

Justin’s 5th Annual Preseason Top 30 Goaltenders List (20-11)

August 26, 2016, by

Welcome to our second installment of the 5th Annual Top 30 goaltenders. Today, we will be discussing the 20-11 ranked tenders in the NHL. If you missed last week’s rankings, be sure to check them out here. That post covers rankings 30-21 and all the introductory/housekeeping considerations, so make sure you get up to speed.

Without further adieu, goaltenders 20-11…

  1. Brian Elliott- Calgary Flames (last year’s ranking: N/A)
cbcsports.com- Elliott

cbcsports.com- Elliott

I have always been hesitant to rank Elliott on this list, due to his long-standing status as more of a platoon goalie than a traditional starter. Well, this is his year. He will be the man between the pipes for a young Flames team, and if he can approximate 75% of his value over a 60+ game workload, he should still be league average at worst. I’m not the biggest Elliott believer, but color me intrigued this year.

  1. Sergei Bobrovsky- Columbus Blue Jackets (last year’s ranking: 15)
todaysslapshot.com- Bobrovsky

todaysslapshot.com- Bobrovsky

Bobrovsky has been steadily sliding down this list since his Vezina winning, lockout shorted season. “Bob” plays a style that is heavily reliant on his athleticism, and a combination of undisciplined technique and lower body injuries have conspired to erode his game substantially. At 27, his still has youth on his side, but he needs to start adapting his game to a more mature style, or he will begin to decline quickly. He is still a good bet for this season to rebound, but he is a land mine going forward.

  1. Matt Murray- Pittsburgh Penguins (last year’s ranking: N/A)

Justin K. Aller- Murray

The newly minted Stanley Cup Champion is a curious case. I am always hesitant to anoint goaltenders as high-end in the sample size that Murray has accumulated in his career. However, he has the top prospect pedigree and has shown that he can get hot enough to carry a team through the playoffs. I personally like Murray’s game quite a bit and think he has a very bright future. I do wonder if I have ranked him a little aggressively based on hardware. Time will tell…

  1. Frederik Andersen- Toronto Maple Leafs (last year’s ranking : 24)
usatoday.com- Andersen

usatoday.com- Andersen

The Leafs gambled on Andersen being their goaltender of, at least, the near future when they acquired him from Anaheim and gave him a five year deal. For me, he doesn’t necessarily have the track record to feel confident in a lengthy commitment, but I think he is compensated fairly as a slightly above average goaltender. He might be the most boring goaltender in the NHL to watch, but he is solid and should give a young Toronto roster some stability.

  1. Jake Allen- St. Louis Blues (last year’s ranking: 28)

stltoday.com- Allen

Allen showed enough to the St. Louis brass that they felt confident handing him the keys to crease for this coming season. Allen had a strong tandem partner in Elliott if he faltered, but he is the man now. Allen has all the talent necessary to excel in this role, and has served as an understudy long enough for me to feel confident he seizes it. Allen has a tremendous amount of talent, and I expect him to be very good for the Blues this season.

  1. Semyon Varlamov- Colorado Avalanche (last year’s ranking: 8)

avalanche.nhl.com- Varlamov

I’m going out on a little bit of a limb here for Varlamov after a rough season in Denver. He is still one of the toolsiest goaltenders in the league, who happened to play for a terrible team. His underlying metrics were pretty decent under the circumstances (above average AdjGSAA/60), he just needs to stay disciplined in the face of a mediocre squad. He has come along way in this department since his days in Washington, I just hope he doesn’t regress as he gets hung out to dry with the Avalanche.

  1. Petr Mrazek- Detroit Red Wings (last yeaar’s ranking: N/A)

zimbio.com- Mrazek

Mrazek is another interesting case. He has shown that he can perform under a starter’s workload, but he has had some trouble handling it physically. I think this has been part of the reason Detroit has hung onto Jimmy Howard at his current cap hit (either that, or no one will take it, who’s to know?), but either way, Mrazek’s performance has been rock solid. At age 24, there is still plenty of upside there to develop into an elite level goaltender.

  1. Martin Jones- San Jose Sharks (last year’s ranking: 29)

nhl.com- Jones

What a wild year for Jones. Traded twice in the offseason, then immediately hit with a 65 game workload for the Sharks. The underlying performance was solid, if unspectacular in his first year as a number one, but the postseason showed what he is truly capable of. I expect a big step forward for Jones, personally, if not the Sharks themselves, but he is a very talented young goalie on the rise. He has been ranked very aggressively this offseason by a multitude of outlets due to his SC Final appearance, but I feel like I may be being too aggressive, myself. I love the talent, but it’s important not to get too seduced by hot postseason performances.

  1. Marc-Andre Fleury- Pittsburgh Penguins (last year’s ranking: 16)

usatoday.com- Fleury

Over the past few seasons, Fleury’s performance has varied so widely, he’s been all over this list. As he has entered his 30’s, though, he has really settled in as a well above average goaltender. Although I am surprised that he is still a Penguin after the emergence of Matt Murray, his continued presence in the Pittsburgh crease gives the Pens arguable the best tandem in the entire NHL. Whether he continues to share time for the defending champs or moves on elsewhere, Fleury appears to be very good value for the remainder of his contract.

  1. Devan Dubnyk- Minnesota Wild (last year’s ranking: 17)
1500espn.com- Dubnyk

1500espn.com- Dubnyk

I wasn’t completely sold on Dubnyk’s rebound last year, but after a second straight campaign of very solid production, I think the performance has begun to match the talent. The strange story of the implementation of a new puck tracking technique has taken the former Oiler from almost out of the NHL to consistent Vezina contender. It makes Dubnyk very easy to root for, but his complete stabilization of the Minnesota crease has given him his highest ranking yet on this list.

Well, that’s it for me this week. Make sure to stay tuned next Friday for our final section of the list. Let me know your thoughts on the rankings in the comments below. Enjoy your weekend.

"Justin's 5th Annual Preseason Top 30 Goaltenders List (20-11)", 5 out of 5 based on 2 ratings.
Categories : Goaltending, Offseason

17 comments

  1. Walt says:

    Rating Murray on such a small sample size isn’t fair, but I remember the last time a kid that came on the scene, and won a cup out of nowhere, was a guy named Ken Dryden………..Now, I’m not saying he is another Dryden, but during his cup run, I had memories of the big guy in net for that Montreal team!!!!!!!!!!

    • Dave says:

      Cam Ward came out of nowhere too.

    • Richter1994 says:

      I actually agree Walt. Murray really didn’t have to do much in the SCF because the Pens had the puck all series. If anything Murray kept the Pens from sweeping or winning in 5 games with the bad angles goals he let in on the short side and that awful Ward goal that led to an OT loss for the Pens.

  2. amy says:

    remember Matt Murray came in game 3 of the ranger series and was playing ever since

  3. Leetchie Nut says:

    Jones is ranked waaaaay too low. Behind Fleury? smh

    • Justin says:

      Don’t forget, Fleury has a much longer track record of high-end performance. If Jones take the expected step forward this year, he will rank higher next.

  4. SalMerc says:

    Rating any goalie on their own is a bit risky. You need to calculate in the defense and the willingness of the forwards to back-check. How you can do that, is beyond me. Any of these goalies, given the right circumstances (see both Pitt goalie’s above) can win it all under the right circumstances. The same can be said for some of the outstanding goalies you may have ranked in the top 5. They may be brilliant, but if you send our stick figures to defend in front of them, their GAA will sky rocket.

    I would love to see the GAA for goalies for the last 15 games of the year for teams in contention.

    • Ray says:

      To be fair, the Ranger defense is almost certainly above average in terms of keeping the puck out of the net. They are transitionally poor and this leads to an increased number of shots, but save percentage compensates for that.

      Justin is using a combination of factors however – stats, observation, reputation (the latter may be just to weed out guys who aren’t going to play). It is all about how the data meshes. One doesn’t need numbers for example to have seen that Jones was the better goalie in the SCF.
      [Essentially every goal was impossible to stop.] And while Edmonton had an atrocious defense, observation spotted too many bad goals to suggest that it wasn’t his teammates that kept Talbot out of the Vezina conversation.

      Good job Justin, though I can’t fathom why I haven’t seen Steve Mason’s name – doesn’t really belong in the top ten, though if he isn’t, I really expect to question the replacement.

      I like the way you have a struck a balance with goaltenders like Murray and Jones – giving real credit, but not getting carried away with small samples.

      • Justin says:

        Thanks, Ray. Sal, don’t forget the purpose of the exercise basically has me submitting a list to a GM about recommendations for the pecking order in which to pursue goaltending for one year. It makes the subjective “ranking” a little more practical and tries to eliminate team bias, to the greatest extent possible.

        P.S. Ray, (Spoiler alert!) You will see Mason’s name shortly, and information to justify the ranking.

        • Ray says:

          I don’t think I will agree — but I will wait to see your argument.

        • Chris A says:

          I bet Justin uses a nifty advanced goalkeeping stat I saw the other day as justification for Mason being so high.

          Basically, this stat ranked Hank as the #1 goalie in the league by a massive margin and Mason was a solid second. If I remember correctly, Hank was rated so highly in this particular stat because he posted a solid save % while facing, by a wide margin, the highest number of shots from danger areas in 15-16. Seeing as Philadelphia’s D was just as poor in their own zone as the Rangers’ D, I imagine Mason also got a “boost” from playing in front of a sieve-like D unit.

          • Ray says:

            OK, forgot Mason was second. However, I disagree that this is a nifty advanced stat. I would criticize it for three reasons.

            1. AFAIK, it has no real track record. A proven stat tells us that certain goalies are under or over appreciated and we subsequently find out that this is true — or perhaps the stat tells us that an off year or a super year by a known commodity is not really out of line.

            2. The premise behind it is questionable. There are maybe a half dozen factors that go into shot difficulty and it focuses on just one of them. Perhaps the other factors even out (but why should they). Perhaps a defense that allows shots from vulnerable locations also allows a disproportionate number of screened shots or unmolested shots, but why.

            In fact, contrast Lundqvist with Fleury. Lundqvist plays deep in the net; Fleury is aggressively cutting down angles. Lundqvist has more time to see the puck from in close whereas skaters can even get behind Fleury. With Hank, it is more important to eliminate screens. With Fleury, it is more important to eliminate penetration. A savvy defender will simply not behave the same way in front of both. This metric will tell us that the same defender is better in front of Fleury.

            3. The results the metric gives simply don’t add up. I don’t have a problem with a metric that says Hank is the best goalie. He may very well be. However, the results essentially say that Hank was an order of magnitude better than anyone else this year. Or putting it simply, Hank is the Wayne Gretzky of goaltenders. And this despite the fact that his save percentage was almost identical to his backup’s — and in fact, this coming after being bested by Talbot and not all that much better than Biron. Three good #2’s, granted, but still. [Yes, he was much better than Biron’s predecessors.] And Hank is 34; there is simply no reason to believe he has stepped it up a notch.

            And indeed, why is Girardi (for example) still playing. Well, AV likes him. Why is that? His job is to keep the puck out of the net and to transition to offense. That he is poor at the latter is so well documented that AV has to be able to see it. So AV must think he can defend. Well, that means that by AV’s subjective opinion, there aren’t so many hard shots. And when the subjective and objective diverge, there is no a priori guide to which is right.

            • Chris A says:

              Oh, I wasn’t trying to say that advanced metric is gospel, but I do enjoy any measure that, rightfully, places Hank head and shoulders above the rest of the league. I’ve watched a lot of hockey in my life, as most of us here have, and Hank is unreal. I’ve never seen a goalie that is this good for this long.

              I can’t refute most of your post, because your logic is sound. I will say this though, it’s dangerous to compare backups directly to their starter. It’s tempting because they have basically the same 18 skaters in front of them. I think the trap is that the backup tends to face inferior competition over the course of a season. Let’s not forget MacKenzie Skapski has played 120 NHL minutes and only given up one goal. Why? Becuase he had two starts against an AHL caliber Sabres team that season. The Skapski example is, of course, an extreme, but I think it’s important to keep that in mind.

              • Ray says:

                The great danger in stats is embracing those that tell you what you want to hear. I don’t dislike the stat because it says that Hank is good – I dislike it because it says he is unbelievably good.

                Skapski is an unfair example because he was shielded. I actually did a rough comparison. The average team that Raanta faced scored nearly 220 goals over the season. The average non-Ranger team scored just above 222 goals. I didn’t weight for hank’s actual foes because it was more work than I wanted to do. So I would conclude that Raanta faced weaker opposition and would have given up an additional goal (total!) had he and Hank faced equal competition. [But he still would have beaten Hank decisively in GAA]

  5. Ray says:

    The expansion draft poses a problem for the Penguins. If they do indeed have tow top tenders, they have to expose one in the draft. Of course, they can effectively protect both by also exposing Crosby or Malkin, but I suspect they won’t go that route.

    • Chris A says:

      Ray, your post compelled me to look at Pitt’s cap friendly page. They have a minor problem. Matt Murray is not expansion draft exempt because this upcoming season will be his third year in pro hockey and Fleury appears to have a NMC in his contract.

      I am so curious to see how Pitt handles that. Imagine if Fleury forces their hand and they have to trade Murray away?

  6. Richter1994 says:

    We know who should be #1, wink, wink.