Five Burning Questions Day 2: Ondrej Pavelec's Rebound

WINNIPEG, CANADA - DECEMBER 1: Ondrej Pavelec #31 of the Winnipeg Jets blocks a shot on goal in a game against the Phoenix Coyotes in NHL action at the MTS Centre on December 1, 2011 in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. (Photo by Marianne Helm/Getty Images)

Since the Winnipeg Jets have returned to The Gateway to the West, I have been a man divided. Constantly at odds with myself, I spent the majority of the 2011-12 season mulling over different scenarios through internalization. Burning questions etched themselves in my mind as I struggled to understand whether certain on-ice trends were aberrations or whether they spoke to the overall theme that the year would entail. This offseason, things have not improved. More and more these questions linger as I struggle to answer them the best I can.

This week, we will be highlighting the five most important questions surrounding the Winnipeg Jets as the 2012-13 regular season approaches.

Today I analyze Ondrej Pavelec's tumultuous season.

Enjoy!

Oh, it's you again. What are we talking about today? Ondrej Pavelec? Oh good, I get to make you sound like a moron again. So what do you have to say about the team MVP?

Tread lightly my friend.

Up until early January, I agreed with you on that point as Pavelec carried his team through the early portion of the year, despite a rash of injuries that beleaguered them. The Jets gave up -- on average -- 30.1 shots per game, meaning they were mediocre at limiting their goalies workload. But as the calendar shifted to 2012, Pavelec's monthly SV% tanked faster than Enron's stock index in 2001. A .908 SV% to close the month of January. In February, it decreased to a .903 SV%. By March, a porous .900 SV%. And for good measure, a .873 SV% in the two April games he started.

Abysmal. Porous. Not up to MVP standard. How many other ways can I convey that he just wasn't good?

In thirteen of the sixty-eight games he played, he allowed 5+ goals. Thirteen.

Considering Blake Wheeler finished the season with 60+ points and Evander Kane scored 30 goals, I conclude that both played at closer to MVP caliber than Pavelec.

Okay I get it, your love for Evander Kane burns like a thousand suns. Though I feel you're biased against Pavelec, does he have the ability to be one of the NHL's elite goaltenders? Can he reach MVP status this season?

Signing a 5-year 3.9MM contract extension with the Jets tells me they think he can. Additionally, the Goalie Guild have fawned over his potential, and they understand the idiosyncrasies of professional goalies better than you or I do.

And it's not that Pavelec is a bad goaltender right now either; just that he's inconsistent. While tending goal last year, Pavelec was either brilliant or awful. In 22 of his 68 starts (32%), he allowed more than 4 goals against. Even a mediocre goalie like Jose Theodore, who sported a pedestrian SV% of .917 only allowed nine games of 4+GA, which equated to 17% of his 53 appearances.

If Pavelec can pare down his bad starts to half the number he had in 2011-12, he will easily be thrust into the debate of team MVP and will find himself in the upper echelon of NHL goaltenders, statistically speaking.

Sure, you can point to your precious stats and try to tell me he's subpar. But while you were blogging, I was actually watching the games and I liked what I saw out of him. How many times did his defenseman bail him out? Dustin Byfuglien spent 80% of his shifts circling the opponents blue line!

As mentioned earlier, Winnipeg finished middle of the pack in shots allowed. Carolina, Buffalo, Minnesota and Calgary all finished behind them in this stat, yet each of their starting goaltenders finished with better SV% than Pavelec. Advanced sabre metrics tell us that shot quality is severely over-valued, despite it's minuscule impact on the game.

Furthermore, the usage of Fenwick data tells us more about how a team faired in their own zone than scoring chances and shot quality do. Converse to your thought process, Winnipeg ranked 11th in the NHL with an overall Fenwick rating of 51.05; again better than Carolina, Buffalo, Minnesota and Calgary, who -- to reiterate -- had better SV%'s than the Jets.

Those are some stats for your ass.

Fine... whatever! I still think you're full of shit. Watch one game with me instead of being a fucking computer nerd and I'll show you. How much of his struggles can be attributed to his psyche?

Hard to say as it's not something you can really judge. I suspect that his digression throughout latter part of the season had more to do with his physical preparation than it did with his mental framework.

It's common knowledge that Pavelec doesn't take care of himself on game days. He skips breakfast. He doesn't hydrate. During the Atlanta Thrashers 2010-11 home opener, he frightened those in attendance by collapsing minutes into the game; giving himself a concussion in the process. He was out cold.

When it became apparent that the Jets were in the thick of a playoff race, Claude Noel went for broke and leaned heavily on his starting goaltender to get them there. The results shared above explain how well that worked out. I'm not sure if Pavelec will ever change his routine, but if he did decide to better prepare himself physically, it would do him a world of good.

Makes sense, since we're talking about psyche, how much will his off-sesaon DUI affect him heading into the 2012-13?

As a professional athlete, it shouldn't affect how he carries himself while on the ice. He made a regrettable mistake, suffered the consequences and owned to his poor decision, as displayed in his press release after being convicted.

Via the CBC:

"I’m disappointed in myself for this error in judgment. I’m thankful no one was injured as a result of my actions. I want to sincerely apologize to our fans, the Winnipeg Jets organization, and to my teammates for any embarrassment this has caused. I’m truly sorry for letting you all down."

Doesn't that sound like a young man ready to turn the page?

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