With the increasing parity in goaltending quality league-wide, it becomes less a matter of "Does goaltending win games?" and more of "Hard to say, but we sure as hell know it can lose games." In a way, then, it becomes important to at least have a league-average goaltender, a player that will keep you in the fight against the host of other talents and lucky bounces coming your way. Last year, the Thrashers had more than that in the first two-thirds of the year with Ondrej Pavelec, as his stellar performance masked a team that was simply giving up too many shots. In the latter third, some injury troubles caused the Thrashers to lean on Chris Mason, and the results weren't pretty (ironically, they played better defensively as a team, but Mason didn't even play league-average hockey). Heading into this season, we see some familiar faces, but this might not be the end of the world.
As I've done in the previous posts, I want to give you some league averages and ranges for the statistics I'm using. In this case, my ranges are built from goaltenders that played at least 20 games in the respective seasons.
|Statistic||League Average||Range - Low||Range - High|
|GVT gl 2010-11||4.6||-11.9||34.1|
|GVT gl 2009-10||3.7||-17.2||35.3|
|GVT gl 2008-09||3.5||-19.0||37.7|
I like working with 3-years' data on goaltenders so we can get a larger sample size. It's especially important to do in cases where the goalie's played half-seasons or backup roles.
|Age||'10-'11 GP||SA/60||ESSV%||ESSV%-Tm||PKSV%||PKSV%-Tm||GVT||'09-'10 GP||SA/60||ESSV%|
|2010 - Ondrej Pavelec||24||58||31.721||0.92755||0.02728||0.85171||0.03419||12.1||42||35.037||0.90789|
Okay, a quick explanation of some of the measures. I work with even-strength and penalty-kill save percentages because they bring us closer to situations where a goaltender's talent will shine through more clearly. I add to those numbers a comparative to the combined save percentage of the other goalies on the team ("PKSV%-Tm", "ESSV%-Tm"), and in the league ("ESSV%-Lg). A positive number means that they played better than their fellow goaltenders. I also like to include shots-against-per-60-minutes, or SA/60, to give a sense of how much of a game-to-game workload the goalie faced. GVT is handy for measuring how much a goalie contributed to (or detracted from) their team's success, though it helps if your team is successful in the first place. Now, on to Pavelec...
Pavelec had a great coming-out party last year, standing tall despite a downpour of rubber through his 58 games. A wrist injury cut his fantastic year short, but it's safe to say Atlanta would've been nowhere near their 80 points in the standings if he hadn't played the way he did. Brought up to the NHL pretty young (21 years old in 2007-08), he has had a convincing development into an NHL-calibre goaltender; the total save percentage suggests last year was a big surprise, but I think a strong showing the previous year on the penalty kill was a sign of things to come. Still, I'd expect a little bit of regression from last year's save percentage, particularly if our inherited defensive woes don't improve. Concerns about his injury seem to be a non-issue; recently, he has played incredibly well in IIHF competition for Slovakia, and should be healthy and ready to go for Winnipeg in the fall. The only looming concern is his contract, as he will be an RFA after this year and stands to make substantially more money if his development continues. Our cap room will be our friend. Grade: A
* Played for the St. Louis Blues
Mason came into Atlanta after two strong seasons with the St. Louis Blues and settled into a backup role behind Pavelec. When Pavelec went down, Mason stepped in but struggled mightily. At 35 years old, there aren't many years to "get it back," but in the same ways that we could see Pavelec regress, we could see Mason's numbers progress. He played poorly, but I don't believe last year's numbers were truly reflective of his capabilities. He becomes a UFA after this year, and depending on the price and his performance this year he might not be back. Grade: D
That's it. That's what we've got at the NHL level. Last year, as a quick fill, Peter Mannino played a handful of games in relief of Mason, but nothing that you'd confuse with a promising start to a career. He's actually been around the league for a couple of years, mixing in a brief stint with the Islanders as well. Rather than hash out his meager NHL sample, let's have a look at his AHL numbers from this year.
That "AHL RoT SV%" is the save percentage of the goaltenders handling the remaining 40+ games of their season. In other words, Mannino is not the present, past, or future of Winnipeg goaltending. Grade: F
Carrozzi doesn't give any indication of being a solid prospect, or even a liquid one. He doesn't meet league or team quality in the net, and even though he gets the benefit of the doubt being 21, I'm not going to hold my breath. Grade: D-
Pasquale doesn't rock my world, but the fact that he seems to be doing better than his teammates suggests he could develop into an pretty good NHL backup goaltender. Given that Pavelec is going to be a number-one starter, that's not such a bad thing. He could be up with the big club as soon as next year, after Mason's contract expires. Grade: C
Another person might find the late-season injury and poor play of Mason as a concern, but I think any attempt to spend or draft to stem the problem would be money and/or picks poorly spent. Pavelec is a capable NHL netminder, and Mason is better than what he displayed last year. The decision on the length and terms of their contracts will be interesting, but as I see it now, goaltender is not a position to be addressed through the draft or free agency in the offseason. You can convince yourself over and over again that it's a position that can be improved, but in all honesty no upgrade would come at a reasonable price, nor would it drastically change the situation in net for Winnipeg.