Ondrej Pavelec is not a good goalie. In fact, he is a below average backup being paid starter money. He has never had a save percentage over .914 in pro hockey over the course of an entire season. But people think he is the team's best player, including Kevin Chevaldayoff, who said "Pavelec is a guy who has had success in this league. It would be too simplistic to just talk about the goalie" on TSN Radio January 13th.
Why do people perceive Ondrej Pavelec as a great goalie?
There are defensemen who do nothing but allow shots to be directed at their net and yet people love them. There are forwards who do the same thing and yet people love them blindly. Why? Because they do something that we perceive as valuable. They block shots! They hit! They fight people! And fans perceive this as important. But it is a detriment to the team because while doing those "important" things they do not have the puck therefore they cannot help their team score. How does this apply to Pavelec being a bad goalie? Simple, the saves he manages to make are spectacular. But he only makes those saves because he is rarely in position to make the easy save. Fans remember his spectacular saves and not the bad goals he lets in.The memorable save becomes the memory and the bad goal doesn't matter anymore.
Yeah, well he gets hung out to dry.
Carey Price has rarely ever played behind a good team. But he has had only two seasons where he was below .910 and that includes his rookie year when he was 20. Pavelec's highest NHL save percentage is .914 that happened in the 2010-2011 season. His career save percentage is .906, which is decidedly below average and he is being paid more than an average goalie. Al Montoya, considered a career backup, makes $601,000 and has better career numbers playing on some of the worst teams around, albeit in a much smaller sample size. The numbers are not looking good for the argument that Pavelec gets hung out to dry.
But he makes a lot of big saves and holds us in games.
He makes a lot of big saves because he is poor at tracking the puck and is out of position to begin with. And all goalies are capable of having good games and winning the odd game for their team. Remember Steve Mason? He isn't doing that well recently in Philadelphia and seems to be returning to the Mason we used to know. How about Brian Boucher? Got lucky for a few games and was an otherwise mainly AHL goalie. Good goalies will be good no matter where they play as coaches have very little influence on goalies' save percentages. All goalies can play well over short stretches, but only the truly good ones can be good over an extended period of time.
So you are saying he is a bad goalie and he will never be good?
In short, yes. In much more detail this isn't the story of a goalie falling off of the cliff; this is the story of a goalie who is only in Winnipeg because of the threat of the KHL and Chevy not wanting to go into the season without a number one goalie. Instead he hitched his horse to a bad goalie with perceived value because he makes spectacular saves in games because he is out of position.
If Pavelec is bad why was Kari Lehtonen traded?
Because his agent Allan Walsh threw a fit about Pavelec having to go to the AHL where he was on his way to posting a .914 save percentage. Thanks, Don Waddell, I thought you new what you were doing. Pavelec was highly thought of for some reason and that led to him being given a chance to establish himself as a NHL goalie after not performing very well in the AHL. And because Waddell decided to trade away Lehtonen to do this, Pavelec became a starting goalie in the NHL and that is what he still is today. Of course he should have never been signed to his current contract but alas you can't turn back the clock.
What about his contract? Is it tradeable?
No, not really because he has been outed as a bad goalie BUT someone always thinks that they can save a player. If there are no takers he can be bought out in the summer using an amnesty buyout that will not count against the cap. Fixing the Pavelec problem is not as hard as one would think.
Can I still cheer for him?
Yes, if only because he is one of the players and he is only one piece of the puzzle, but boo him if it is warranted.
What should I do if someone tries to tell me he is a good goalie?
Walk away from the argument or show them this article by Chris Boyle and walk away. Bad goaltending is not something to fight about.
If you like someone for superficial reasons like, blocked shots, hits, fights, or big saves you should ask yourself "does that help my team keep the puck and score goals". If the answer is no then you should re-evaluate what players you want on your team if you want to win.