Mirtle has a post up dealing with this year’s +/- leaders and laggards, along with some information about their on-ice EV SV%. It’s in the vein of the PDO numbers stuff that I talked about a few days back.
One of his commenters has chimed in with the following:
So now it’s the goalie’s fault the guys in front of him have bad +/-.
Doesn’t Brindamour play in front of the same goalie that Eric Staal (+8) does?
The next worst +/- on the Hurricanes is Whitney at -10. In total, 13 Hurricanes are -1 or better. Maybe Brindamour can’t pivot because of the knee surgery. Either shut it down or retire already.
Kris Draper is what, 58 years old? Maybe age has more to do with his horrible +/- than what Osgood and Conkin are doing. Twelve Red Wings are -1 or better.
Boyes, Bertuzzi, McDonald. All horrible lifetime minuses. Nobody would ever confuse these players with guys who backcheck. Even Turk Broda couldn’t rehabilitate their +/-.
The +/- might not be perfect, but all you have to do is take a glance at a team to thumbnail it a little better. If a guy is double-digit minus on a team of pluses, he blows.
No need to twist it into GF+/- divided by GA+/- X uniform number divided by GAA X Sv percentage.
I don’t necessarily think that it’s the goalie’s fault that the fellows Mirtle refers to have poor +/- but I think that that’s the point he’s making either. I think that what he’s really getting at is that there’s some randomness at play here. At this point of the season, lots of guys have been on the ice for somewhere between 150 and 250 shots against – a very small sample to be sure. We know, from observing goalies, that 200 shots doesn’t tell us very much about a goaltender. Martin Brodeur had a 200 shot stretch in which his ES save percentage was .965 last year; he had a 200 shot stretch in which his ES save percentage was .890. Roberto Luongo had a 200 shot stretch in which his ES save percentage was .980; he had a 200 shot stretch in which his ES save percentage was .885.
The essential dispute is whether those stretches tell us anything at all. It’s sort of a dispute betwen randomness (also referred to as “luck” amongst the staterati) and a hot streak or a guy playing really well. Personally, I’m on the side of the randomness fence – no matter what those guys do, they aren’t going to be .980 ES save percentage goalies in the long haul. Maybe some pucks hit the post, maybe some guys on the other team flubbed their chances; who knows. I don’t really worry that much about it, because I don’t think that you can tell anything from it.
Turning back to the real subject of Mirtle’s post, save percentages behind players, I should mention a quick caveat – Mirtle is citing ES save percentages that he’s found on Desjardins’ site. Gabe doesn’t, as far as I know, strip the ENG. Carolina’s given up 4 ENG this year. Vic Ferrari has Brind’Amour at 25 ESGA, with an .882 on-ice save percentage; Gabe has him at 26 GA with an .853 on-ice save percentage at the moment. Vic’s counting ES, which I assume includes 4 on 4 and Gabe isn’t; I assume that that explains the rest of the discrepancy.
The thing of it is, despite what Mirtle’s commenter is saying about Draper being old and Brind’Amour being unable to pivot because of knee surgery, guys with great ES SV% at the halfway mark fell down by a lot in the second half; guys with terrible ES SV% tended to bounce back. Here’s the top 50 players in the league in terms of on ice save percentage* through the first half last year, along with their second half save percentages. Pay attention to the totals line at the bottom:
.944 through the first half of the season and a perfectly league average .920 thereafter. Here are the worst fifty*, for both the first and second half. Again, pay attention to the totals line at the bottom:
An atrocious .881 through the first half; a hair off league average at .918 thereafter. Did they all make massive improvements? I can’t prove that it didn’t happen but I find it exceedingly hard to believe.
Two groups of players with completely different first halves and virtually identical second halves. I don’t know how anyone can seriously criticize Mirtle’s comments on this topic. I’ve made my views clear that I think that the save percentage stuff is largely randomness at the NHL level. Time will tell but if there’s some sort of a market in which you can make bets based on the percentages behind guys through the first half of the year, I think that we’re starting to pile up the evidence that the smart is against betting on players continuing to post big save percentages over time.
Just as a final aside – I’m sure it’s not news to anyone here but Mirtle’s commenter misses the point citing Bertuzzi, Boyes and McDonald. For one, Bertuzzi and Boyes posted plusses last year. More importantly, there’s more to +/- than just save percentage; the shot ratio goes into it as well as the save percentage. McDonald is currently -12 in 16 games; Bertuzzi is -11 in 26 games and Boyes is -14 in 25 games. You only need to look at their history to see how out of line these +/- numbers and to realize that there must be something out of the ordinary driving the short term results.
*Includes only players who stayed on the same team, kept the same number, were listed at a consistent position in the NHL.com game files and were on the ice for at least 200 ES events in each half.