Armchair GM: The Price is Right (For a Backup)

I know I’ve already written a piece on backup goaltenders, and while the analytical results of that are relatively unchanged, the landscape of the league and who might actually be on the trade block has. While it is possible to pick up a backup goalie through free agency – both Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth are UFA – it’s becoming increasingly expensive to do so, and Nill tends to be the kind of GM that counts his pennies.

As I’ve said before, I think it’s unlikely that Lehtonen will be moved this summer, as his stock is very low, and Nill knows he would have to take a hefty hit on any trade with Kari involved, either by getting someone of equal or lesser performance back (think Mike Smith), or eat lots of salary to get someone better (think Craig Anderson). But the Stars are ripe with proven players as well as prospects trying to crack a crowded roster, and that makes trading for a backup a very likely scenario.

There are three main names that keep popping up in trade rumors: Robin Lehner, Eddie Lack, and Cam Talbot.

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Long Read: When Relief is Spelled G-O-A-L-I-E

We, and by “we” I mean the Dallas Stars media, the fans, and of course, us here over at the Bearded Ladies, have spent a gross amount of time bemoaning our backup goaltending situation, and not without good cause. There was over a year between starting wins for our back up goalies, which is unheard of. Was. Was unheard of, because the Dallas Stars did it. And now people have heard. Of that. Happening.

But there is another job for the backup goalie, and I feel like this one gets less fanfare: to come in and try to save the game when the starter is hemorrhaging goals.

I pulled the “In Relief” numbers because I wanted to prove that coaches used the goalie swap not only to replace a goalie on a bad night, but more frequently to send a signal to the rest of the team that their defense needed to step up and actually suppress some shots. I first noticed this trend while looking at Shots Against Per 60 Minutes for Enroth versus Lehtonen in one of the last games of the season. It was a day and night difference.

But of course, you can’t test a theory on just four games, so I pulled the last 4 years (2011-12 season until current) of “Goalie In Relief” game data for 8 teams. In the West, we have Dallas, LA, Chicago, and Minnesota, and in the East we have Columbus, Boston, New York (Rangers), and Montreal. This sample was chosen by my twitter followers without knowledge of the goal of the project, and therefore I consider it rather random. I removed all instances I could find of goalies being replaced mid-game due to injury, giving me 146 games worth of data points.

Separating Goaltending from Shot Suppression

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Armchair GM: The Backup Goalie Situation (Again)

Well, folks, our year is pretty much done, so with no post-season hockey in sight, it’s time for Stars fans to do what we always do: look to next year.

You know when media outside of Dallas are talking about Dallas’ goaltending, it has gone past issue and straight into catastrophe. Kari is taking most of the blame for the goaltending woes, and as the starter, he definitely deserves a fair chunk of it, but the Stars have had a string of disappointing back up goalies as well. In fact, until Enroth’s win on 4/4 against Nashville, a backup hadn’t won a game they started for the Stars in over a year.

Much talk has been about trading Kari, but the truth of the matter is that he has a 5.9m contract, and that’s difficult to trade on a good year. Trying to move him in the off season this year would be like trying to sell stock in Barnes & Nobles – you’re not going to get a return anywhere close to the price you paid for it.

But with Enroth going UFA after this season, we do have a good chance to affect our back up situation going forward. And this year there are an intriguing mix of young up and comers and veteran goaltenders to look at.

First, let’s set the bar: The following chart is most of the guys who are not likely to get traded this season. Cross them off your wish list, they aren’t going to settle for being a back up, and no one, not even the Stars with their acres of cap space, can afford two $6m/yr goalies.

4.7 Backup Goalies - No Move

The Save % numbers are all 5v5 and span 3 seasons of data (2012-current). I chose to highlight Score Adjusted Sv% (a weighted Sv% of high, med, and low danger shots) and High Danger Sv% (shots from the slot and low slot, aka shots from right in front of the net – as defined here), because those are the two numbers  that are the most replicable by goalies over time.

This chart is sorted, however, by Weighted Wins per 60 minutes. Weighted Wins is a ranking I came up with to better level set the competition. The formula closely follows how teams earn points, as goaltending can frequently ‘steal’ wins or be key factors in losses (not that Stars fans know anything about that). The formula is as follows:

Weighted wins/60 = ((Total Wins*2  + Total OT Losses – Total Losses*0.5)/Time On Ice)*60.

Wins get 2 points just like the league, because good, consistent goaltending gives a team more wins.

OT Losses get 1 point, just like the league, because without the goalie keeping the game close (Stars vs the Red Wings is the exception that proves the rule, ok), there would be no chance for overtime.

But, there does need to be a penalty for regulation losses, as bad goaltenders will have worse records. Because bad defense is more likely to adversely affect the outcome of a game than good defense is to win a game, I’ve weighted losses less than wins. So we only subtract half a point per loss.

Since not every goaltender has played the same amount we convert this weighting into a time based rate, and voila – Weighted Wins per 60.

Unsurprisingly you’re seeing excellent Weighted Win numbers from goaltenders who recently received big contracts (Bishop, Crawford, MAF). Rask remains top of the heap with the best Adj Sv% and HD Sv%.

So knowing what we’re looking for, we can take a look at the other goalies available via free agency or trades. I had to pull out some players the Stars just won’t be able to afford, like Hiller, Mason, and Niemi (all over $4m/year), and also several UFA who will likely start bidding wars, like Ramo and Neuvirth (current salaries 2.9m and 2.6m, respectively). Both Bernier and Holtby are RFA this summer, and it’s hard to imagine they won’t receive qualifying offers from their current teams.

4.7 Backup Goalies - All

Again, this list is sorted by Weighted Wins, and is 3 seasons worth of data (when applicable. Obviously, some of these guys are rookies). I trimmed off anyone who’s High Danger Sv% was less than 81%, as again, that’s a very telling stat: the average Adjusted Sv% of that group is 91.4%, 1.6% lower than the group you see here. That took off some current backups like Tokarksi and Gibson, and cut off others who are going UFA this season like Anders “Been There Done That” Lindback or Dan “It Happened Once In A Dream” Ellis.

Unfortunately, many of these goalies are not very likely to be on the trading block, or are likely to be resigned by their current team. I mean, can you really see Ottawa giving up on the Hamburglar after all they’ve been through this year?

So to pare it down further, let’s look at the realistic options for signings or trades.

4.7 Backup Goalies - Reality

Starting at the bottom of this group, you’ll notice that the lowest 7 goalies have all been affected by teams who are consistently in the bottom of the NHL in points. Lieuwen and Hackett are both inexperienced goalies currently in the Buffalo system, so their numbers are bound to improve, but aren’t a good choice for a team like Dallas who needs consistency from a backup now. LaBarbera is currently playing for Anaheim’s AHL affiliate, and throughout the last three years has only managed to rack up 27 NHL games, even though he’s one of the oldest guys on the list at 35, so we can cross him out, too.

Khudobin, Reimer, and Scrivens have all posted similar Weighted Wins, and each plays for a team currently in the McEichel race. They are all making similar money with a year left on their contracts, and have plenty of experience. The big difference between all three of them is Reimer’s much better High Danger Sv%. Khudobin faces 6.86 High Danger Shots per 60 minutes, Scrivens faces 6.59, but Reimer faces 8.32 per 60, and is still posting the better Sv%.

Both Calvin Pickard and Philipp Grubauer are RFAs, which means their current teams would have to decline extending a qualifying offer before they can go into free agency, but both are currently playing in the AHL. They are relatively untested with only 16 and 20 NHL games respectively. I would expect them to stick with their current clubs.

Greiss has stellar 3yr numbers, and a 9-6-3 record with the Penguins, but his weighted wins are troubling, given that he has the highest OT Loss % of any goalie listed with over 30 games. If he were signed by the Stars for 1.5m or less, I wouldn’t complain, but he hasn’t yet dealt with a defense as shaky as Dallas’s has been.

The most interesting choices on this chart are closer to the top. Dubnyk is obviously the Cinderella story of the 14/15 season, and even though he’s been bounced around a lot, his 3 year numbers are very respectable. With how low his salary is currently, and how much of the workload he’s been shouldering for Minnesota, it’s not hard to imagine he’s due for a huge pay raise – and do the Stars really want to give him that? If Minnesota makes it past the 1st round of the playoffs, and they might this year, I could see him bringing in a $3 million contract easily, even if it is just for one or two years.

Raanta and Emery seem to be benefiting from their time with the Blackhawks, as each have started trending in the wrong direction, despite their solid 3yr numbers. Raanta is currently playing in the AHL, having lost his backup job to Scott Darling. Emery is a bargain, and hasn’t posted the numbers like Dubnyk to deserve a huge payday, but he’s also 32, and would just be another stop-gap measure while the Stars try to find a long term solution.

Chad Johnson and Jake Allen are probably the most intriguing prospects on the board. Johnson is 28 and posted a great year with the Bruins before being traded to the Islanders where he went a disappointing 8-8-1 (a record Stars fans would kill for – 17 more points would have us safely in the playoffs). Then, at the trade deadline, he was sent to Buffalo for a “playing better than expected” Neuvirth in a trade that solidified the Sabres commitment to tanking. Johnson hasn’t yet played a game for Buffalo as he’s been out with a lower body injury since March 6th. With a year left on his contract, and very few other goaltending prospects, Buffalo may be forced to make him or Lindback their #1 next year. Still, the Sabres could use some bottom 6 scorers (Garbutt) or an offensive Dman (Daley) to help flesh out their McEichel driven offense next year.

Jake Allen is an RFA, so there’s a very real chance the Blues extend him an offer. That said, Brian Elliot is still their number one, and this has caused some friction on the team, as Allen is hungry for starts. If Allen becomes available, I think the Stars would be crazy not to throw their hat in the ring to try to sign him.

As an Armchair GM, you have to give a little bit of the benefit of the doubt to guys like Jhonas “Currently Doing That” Enroth, who came from Buffalo as a starter and gave Dallas their first two backup starting wins in over a year. He also remains perfect in relief when Kari is pulled, though frequently the damage is already too much for the Stars to earn the win.

So who do we sign? Well, If I were to pick up a UFA, I would probably go Greiss (sorry Jhonas, don’t kill me) or Allen, if the Blues won’t put a ring on it. Neither are likely to break $2-2.5m/yr on the open market. Also, they’re in a good age range to really make a push at a starting job if they can put up the play to support it.

If we’re making a trade, you know my favorite refrain is Reimer for Sceviour (or even better, Garbutt), but Chad Johnson is certainly a notable option. However, Reimer is more used to working with a loosey-goosey defense, and he still puts up good numbers. Add in the offense of the Stars, and he would have a lot more wins under his belt.

The goalie market is going to be a hot one this offseason, so cross your fingers and pick up those lucky pennies, because lord knows the Stars need the help.

 

Note: All numbers come from War-on-ice, and all salary data comes from NHLnumbers.com.

Getting to Know Jhou, Getting to Know All About Jhou

My alternative title was HOLY CRAP WE BOUGHT A GOALIE, but everyone’s pretty over Frozen jokes by now.  Yes, in case you missed it while you were mysteriously away from the internet for the last two days, Jim Nill traded Lindback and a conditional 2016 3rd pick to the Buffalo Sabres for Jhonas Enroth.

Yes, that goalie that beat him just this past Sunday.

If you’re like me, you have paid very little attention to Buffalo this year, with good reason. They’re pretty terrible. However, Enroth happened to be the hidden diamond amongst all the detritus: in December, Buffalo went on a win streak that was almost entirely spearheaded by his efforts in net.

Enroth is a 26 yr old 5’10”, 165 lb Stockholm native. Yes, you probably can take him. He was a 2nd round pick for the Sabres in 2006, and also plays with the Swedish national team, helping them win Silver in Sochi. This year, he earned the starting goaltending position on the Sabres.

While there is some speculation that he’s going to be challenging Kari for the starting spot on the Stars, I doubt that will be the case, at least not until he proves himself a competent back up. Lindy Ruff is a big fan of Enroth, though, so we’ll see how it goes.

2.12 Kari v Enroth Stats 5v5

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Dallas Has a Goaltending Situation Pt 2: The Stat-ening

Update: I had accidentally included some empty net goals in the 3rd period numbers, which are now corrected.

Yesterday on twitter, Merrin was discussing our goaltending woes (and the “more shots = less goals” phenomenon), and this excellent observation was brought up:

I’m not a big fan of the “eye test”, as it can lead to incorrect conclusions (see: panicking about the number of turnovers a player has), so I felt compelled to actually check and see if this was true, since we have stats that track this.

Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to compile as much data as I would like since it’s difficult to get period by period stats. What I’ve got here is the last 14 games Kari played this season and the last 14 games Kari played last season*. We’ve only gone into OT scenarios 9 times this season (including games that went to shootouts), so I’ve matched that with the last 9 OT games from last season. I did not include games where Kari didn’t play the entirety.

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Do You Wanna Buy a Backup? (It Doesn’t Have To Be a Backup.)

Friends, it is becoming increasingly clear that we have a goaltending situation in Dallas. Our backup has been questionable from the beginning of the season, with that position jockeying between two goaltenders better suited to starting in the AHL. While I adore me some Kari Lehtonen, he looks nothing like the Kari of last season. Lindy admitted earlier this month that Kari has been playing injured, and there doesn’t seem to be enough confidence in our backup position to let him sit and rest.

 

Rest your pretty heads, darlings, because I have some suggestions for Jim Nill.

 

darling

Scott Darling Chicago Blackhawks

Reasons we love Darling: His ginger beard. His size. His athletic ability. His backstory. His enthusiasm when Merrin met him in the stands at an AHL game. The fact that he genuinely is just so happy to be playing in the NHL, because of the aforementioned backstory. He’s 5-2-0 in his seven games in the NHL with a save % of .937. Plus, he’d probably be pretty cheap.

Reasons it might not work out: We already have a beard.

 

raanta

Antti Raanta Chicago Blackhawks

Reasons we love Raanta: He is FINNISH. His horizontal movement. His athleticism. His enthusiasm. His save % this season is .945 in eight games played. He’s a precious child. Merrin has never met him, but she’s sure he’s great. Carolyn got to see his first ever NHL shutout and if that isn’t a reason to bring a goalie to Dallas I don’t know what is. (Yes, obviously no one would mind stealing either of the Hawks more-than-serviceable backups.)

Reasons it might not work out: There can be only one Finnish goalie.

 

scrivens

Ben Scrivens Edmonton Oilers

Reasons we love Scrivens: Proven that he can take 59 shots in one night and get a shutout. Proven that he can REGULARLY take more than 40 shots a night and still keep his team in the game. Couple that with actual NHL level defense and some more consistent offense and we might have a team. Seems like a good dude. Nickname is The Professor, so clearly he’ll elevate team IQ. Probably can spell “twitter”, “people”, and “banana” correctly on the first try. His wife is a good follow on instagram. His save % with Edm is .893 this year and .916 last season but behind an actual defense in LA he had .931 in 19 games played.

Reasons it might not work out: Might still be in the race for Connor McDavid.

 

reimer

James Reimer Toronto Maple Leafs

Reasons we love Reimer: Needs to leave Toronto for a market that will appreciate him. Needs to give the middle finger to Carlyle. Has a nice face. He has an excellent nickname and I would like to be able to yell OPTIMUS REIMS and actually be cheering for a team I give a shit about. Save percentage behind shitty defense is very respectable. He’s been above .900 in five seasons with the Leafs. THE LEAFS. Is more than just okay. Has the ability to be a #1 if needed.

Reasons it might not work out: Desperately seeking Carlyle’s approval.

 

zatkoff

Jeff Zatkoff Pittsburgh Penguins

Reasons we love Zatkoff: He would be hella cheap. He played really well for the Pens for a while. Was their go-to when all of them got the mumps. That probably won’t happen in Dallas (we’re cleaner down here). Neither of us have ever met him. He probably misses Joe Vitale and Dallas plays Arizona way more often than the WBS Pens do. His save % in 20 games with the Penguins last season was .912.

Reasons it might not work out: Nobody knows who he is.

 

dubnyk

Devan Dubnyk Arizona Coyotes

Reasons we love Dubnyk: Edmonton broke him but Arizona is fixing him and he’s probably going to take over the #1 position from Mike Smith if Mike Smith can’t put out his tire fire. Merrin met him once at a game and he is very tall and also hella polite and didn’t say anything about her Oilers phone case, even though Edm had already broken him and thrown him away at the time. His save % this year is .917, which is back up to the excellent save % (never under .900) before Edm tanked and bit the big fucking one.

Reasons it might not work out: Might have PTSD from his time on the Oilers.

 

jones

Martin Jones Los Angeles Kings

Reasons we love Jones: He’s been touched by the Kings, so is probably pretty good in goal. They’ve won a couple of Stanley Cups, or so I’ve heard. I can’t substantiate because I hate the Kings. I’m asking Carolyn if we know anything else about him. She is shaking her head. I looked at his save % and it is really fucking good, actually: .934 in 19 games last year, and .921 in 8 games this year. Like most of my suggestions so far, he’d be hella cheap.

Reasons it might not work out: He’s on the Kings. Blech.

 

mirtle

James Mirtle Globe and Mail

Reasons we love Mirtle: Is rumored to be lanky. Has a good first name. Great attitude. Very witty on twitter. Has a silky smooth speaking voice. Can probably skate, since he’s Canadian. Told me once on twitter that he’d be willing.

Reasons it might not work out: Might try to tweet game updates from the net.

 

Of these options, Darling is my favorite, both because I love the guy and because we could actually give him a permanent NHL job. Darling might also be the cheapest option, but the most realistic might be Zatkoff or Jones. These are my suggestions, what are yours?