Wednesday, March 29, 2006

What if the Leafs had the Eddie of old (or even just an average NHL goalie?)

As of this morning (29/03/06) 67 goalies have played 10 games or more this NHL season. Add J.S. Aubin to the list and the sample size hits 68.

The Mean (average) save percentage among these goalies is .898

The Median (middle of the list) save percentage among these goalies is .896

Cue the soft dissolve and squiggly lines and let’s pretend the Leafs had bought-out Belfour and retained the services of a goalie who was able to put up a save percentage squarely in the middle of the league – let’s say a nice round .897. (For those of you keeping score at home, this would put either Marty Turco or Vesa Toskala between the pipes for the blue and white, or if you want to be even more realistic, bump the save percentage up to .898 and you’d get Curtis Joseph).

The outcome?

Seven fewer goals against.

Surprised? I sure am.

In his 49 appearances this season, Belfour gave up 159 goals on 1476 shots for a save percentage of .892. That puts Belfour 45th out of the 68 goalies in my sample. Clearly, Belfour’s results are not good enough, but is this the reason the Leafs are on the outside of the playoffs looking in?

If you improve the Leaf’s save percentage in the 49 games Belfour played to the middle of the pack rating of .897, the Leafs would have given up 152 goals on 1476 shots – that’s just seven fewer goals than the 159 that squeaked, trickled, and blew by Belfour. Put another way, that’s 0.16 of a goal a game or one fewer goal against every 6.25 games.

Obviously the stats can’t take into consideration the psychological impact of back-breaking weak goals, nor does it address Belfour’s horrible performance in the shoot-out. But this quick and dirty analysis certainly made me re-think how much of this season’s futility could be blamed on Belfour.

That said, paying Belfour millions to deliver these results and then paying him millions more to go away is a whole other matter...


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