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Oilers at the Deadline: The Goalie Anomaly

The below post is from a guest contributor, Ric, who will be providing some great additional posts over the next few weeks.

Nikolai Khabibulin, after spending most of last year on IR, returned from the off-season healthier than he had been in years, and with potential prison time pushed to next year’s off-season, he looked ready to deliver on this year’s $3.75 million dollar paycheck.

What do you do with a thirty-eight year old, apparently good for 50-60 games, ring wearing three and three quarter million dollar goalie on a team that won’t make the playoffs this year or next?

The set-up

You spotlight him, give him fifteen or so of the first twenty, show everyone that he is good to go and back to form.

To insure coverage upon the inevitable, you embrace unorthodoxy and keep on the roster three goalies to start the season.

The pitch

Then you trade him.

It would have been beautiful.

If only it went down.

38 year old Oiler = oxymoron.

Losing was part of the plan, investing in a future filled with success was our dream.

Throw the rooks to the wolves and let the wolves decide was the mantra.

Except, it would seem, in the goalmouth.

One of the original three was sent down without starting a game (Deslauriers); another has out played the vet (Dubnyk), and the call up when Kaby was hurt won both the games he played (Gerber).

The ages of two of the players (consider Gerber an anomaly inside an anomaly, more on this later) mentioned above – combined – don’t add up to 38 (all numbers approximate).

Yet Kaby has garnered a number one’s share of games, and with every game he plays, his trade value – sadly, unfortunately, inconsolably – declines.

Consider the numbers

Heads up: All stats from nhl.com as of February 12, but before the noon game, per 60 is time on ice production broken down into sixty minutes – in other words, a feeble attempt to compensate for ice time.

Comparison players were not chosen by median or average and, except for Tim, were not league leaders by category selected.

The benchmarks were chosen by personal bias.

Peer performance

Games Started Wins Wins per 60 Cap Hit (Millions)
Tim Thomas 38 26 0.664 $5.0
Roberto Luongo 41 26 0.637 $5.33
Miikka Kiprusoff 48 24 0.507 $5.83
Dwayne Roloson 33 14 0.438 $2.5
Devan Dubnyk 18 6 0.306 $0.8
Nikolai Khabibulin 34 8 0.245 $3.75
Martin Gerber 2 2 1.000 $0.5

Defining the skill and value of a goalie will never be accomplished by the table above; hockey is a team game.

But the cost per win number is a little unsettling. And it makes one wonder all the more: why is he here?

Goals Goals per 60
Martin Gerber 3 1.50
Tim Thomas 75 1.92
Roberto Luongo 91 2.23
Dwayne Roloson 84 2.63
Miikka Kiprusoff 128 2.70
Devan Dubnyk 54 2.76
Nikolai Khabibulin 113 3.46

Another number that is heavily influence by the team that surrounds them, but a disturbing trend is starting to emerge, once Martin “Small sample stat skewer” Gerber is disregarded.

Shots Shots per 60 Shots per Goal
Martin Gerber 60 30.00 20.00
Tim Thomas 1280 32.69 17.07
Roberto Luongo 1235 30.26 13.57
Devan Dubnyk 637 32.50 11.80
Dwayne Roloson 988 30.89 11.76
Miikka Kiprusoff 1310 27.66 10.23
Nikolai Khabibulin 1036 31.69 9.17

After the fluff and puff that so often comprises the first couple of courses, here is the meat. There is no where to run, and few excuses left, when it comes to the number of shots faced versus the number of goals scored.

It is in these numbers that we witness an “Albatrossing”.

Yes, there is an element of team here, highlighted in the number of shots faced by Kiprusoff; the outstanding efforts by Flamers in front – three, four less shots faced a night – save a goal every five games.

But that is extraneous; the chart above is more revealing than a cell phone photo from Brett Favre.

Opening the Kimono

Shots per goal are the nasty underbelly of goalie performance, the equivalent of a dog rolling over under the pressure of stern, firm questioning.

It says that Khabibulin is worth 80% of Roloson and half of Thomas.

It says that Kaby is playing below his pay grade, and that, given a couple more years, he is not likely to get better but worse.

It also says that we need to quit including Gerber.

Are we sure?

But Edmonton’s penalty kill of really, really, really sucks, is a common refrain. So, to be clear, here are the splits:

Even Strength Goals per 60 Shots per 60 Shots per Goal
Martin Gerber 1.00 21.00 21.00
Tim Thomas 1.33 25.36 19.10
Roberto Luongo 1.64 22.88 13.94
Dwayne Roloson 1.88 22.92 12.22
Devan Dubnyk 1.94 23.11 11.92
Miikka Kiprusoff 1.86 19.41 10.44
Nikolai Khabibulin 2.36 23.03 9.78
Penalty Kill Goals per 60 Shots per 60 Shots per Goal
Martin Gerber 0.50 4.50 9.00
Tim Thomas 0.54 4.49 8.38
Roberto Luongo 0.56 4.41 7.83
Dwayne Roloson 0.66 4.72 7.19
Devan Dubnyk 0.82 5.87 7.19
Miikka Kiprusoff 0.72 4.62 6.44
Nikolai Khabibulin 1.04 4.44 4.26

Sadly, Kaby is not what he once was.

The party line

There is a belief that a young team needs a strong presence in goal. The prevailing ethos goes along the lines of: With a strong netminder, the mistakes that kids naturally make are mitigated somewhat.

It is base on the premise that a rock in goal protects the psychic fragility of the young players in front of them.

But what merit does that belief possess when your number one gives up a goal per game – and another half goal on special teams – over the league leader?

What you want to happen

Generally speaking, the betting line on the over/under is driven higher by the general public (squares).

The squares like to hold their ticket and hope; it is not cold hearted money that drives them (the sharps), but the thrill of playing the game.

They put their money down based on what they would like to see, and scoring points beats the hell out of a bad, poorly played, low scoring game.

So, generally speaking, they bet the over.

Perversely, unfortunately, and uncomfortably, the same thing happens at the deadline.

The focus tends toward what to add – what prospects/draft choices can we line up (sellers), what holes can we fill for the run (buyers) – not what to dump.

Divestment not acquisition

We certainly are not looking to rush out and get that last piece for the playoffs, not that we would get such returns from tossing Kaby to the curb.

But if we find a desperate team – and they would have to desperate – offering a third rounder in 2015, we take it.

We have to.

For the fans, for the team, but most of all, for the kids.

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