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BREAKING NEWS: Ondrej Pavelec is not an elite goalie

Statistically speaking, the Winnipeg Jets netminder is having a terrible season. However, the sad reality is that his career stats haven't been much better. At the end of the day, he just isn't close to being an elite goalie despite the big ticket contract.

With stats like these, I'd hang my head too...
With stats like these, I'd hang my head too...
Bruce Bennett

Just kidding, this isn't breaking news. Unless you haven't been following us here at AIH for the past year, that is. If you check out the comments section of this article where we discussed his 5-year contract extension with the Winnipeg Jets last summer, you would have seen that most of us were quite leery of throwing $3.9 million per season at Ondrej Pavelec.

Sadly, he has done nothing to quell our fears. If anything, he's made them worse. I know he's not an elite goalie, but now I'm not even sure if he's an average goalie, starter or not.

Ondrej Pavelec has yet to prove that the 5-year, $19.5 million contract that Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff signed him to was a good one. In fact, his numbers this season wouldn't even get him a backup job on very many teams, as his save percentage of 0.897 and his GAA of 2.93 are both outside of the top-50 among all goalies who've dressed this season (55th for both GAA and SV%).

Has he simply struggled in his 20 appearances this season? Of course he has. And perhaps it isn't fair to read too much into such a small sample size.

Unfortunately, if you were to look at Ondrej's career numbers, it's difficult to justify that his play can or will get better. And with him pulling in the 16th-highest amount of money against the cap among all goaltenders, suffice it to say that the Jets are not getting a very good return on their investment.

Ondrej Pavelec

#31 / Goalie / Winnipeg Jets



Aug 31, 1987

12-13 WPG 20 8 11 1 55 533 2.93 .897 0
11-12 WPG 68 29 28 9 191 2036 2.91 .906 4
10-11 ATL 58 21 23 9 147 1705 2.73 .914 4
09-10 ATL 42 14 18 7 127 1353 3.29 .906 2
08-09 ATL 12 3 7 0 36 301 3.61 .880 0
07-08 ATL 7 3 3 0 18 190 3.11 .905 0
Total WPG/ATL 207
78 90
574 6118
2.98 .906 10

His career numbers are listed above, and they just aren't very good. The highest save percentage he posted in one year was in the 2010-11 season with the Atlanta Thrashers, where he posted a decent 0.914 SV%, but his career save percentage is a rather pedestrian 0.906. The 0.906 he posted last season in his contract year was good enough for 35th in the league among goalies who started 25 or more games. Did Chevy look not look at these numbers before he backed up the money truck?

Can the Winnipeg Jets, as they are currently constructed, win when their goalie averages roughly three goals against per game and lets in pretty much one out of every 10 shots throughout his career? Well, the Jets are averaging 2.54 goals per game this season. The math is simple.

5v5 Save Percentage GP GA SV SV%
2012-13 (WPG) 20 38 414 0.916
2011-12 (WPG) 68 136 1508 0.917
2010-11 (ATL) 58 101 1293 0.928
2009-10 (ATL) 42 98 966 0.908
2008-09 (ATL) 12 25 221 0.898
2007-08 (ATL) 7 10 139 0.933

It has been suggested that Pavelec is a pretty good goalie at 5-on-5. Well, the numbers don't really back up that claim. The chart above shows his save percentage while at even strength, and the 0.916 he has this season places him 27th in the league among goalies who've played in 5 or more games. It's okay, but it certainly isn't great. His best season in 10-11, where he posted a 0.928 5v5 save percentage, would only be 15th-best this season.

4v5 Save Percentage GP GA SV SV%
2012-13 (WPG) 20 16 56 0.778
2011-12 (WPG) 68 48 300 0.862
2010-11 (ATL) 58 39 224 0.852
2009-10 (ATL) 42 26 229 0.898
2008-09 (ATL) 12 11 40 0.784
2007-08 (ATL) 7 8 23 0.742

Sadly, special teams aren't any better. In fact, they're way worse. While short-handed, Ondrej Pavelec has been one of the worst goalies in the league for the past two-and-a-half seasons. The 16 goals he's given up on the PK is tied for the 3rd-highest highest amount in the league (Jimmy Howard has allowed 18), and his 0.778 SV% places him 68th out of 76 goalies that have put pads on this season. That's embarrassingly low.

And yes, it's a small sample size for this season. But the 0.862 he posted last season placed him 40th out of all goalies that started at least 10 games. And the 0.852 the year before was good enough for 53rd. What has happened since 2009-10, when his 0.898 SV% was good for 10th in the league? Because I haven't seen that goalie.

You know the old saying "Your best penalty-killer needs to be your goalie?" Well, it's no wonder that the Jets and their 73.5% penalty kill is last in the league.

5v4 Save Percentage GP GA SV SV%
2012-13 (WPG) 20 1 9 0.900
2011-12 (WPG) 68 7 37 0.841
2010-11 (ATL) 58 7 41 0.854
2009-10 (ATL) 42 3 31 0.912
2008-09 (ATL) 12 3 17 0.880
2007-08 (ATL) 7 0 10 1.000

It's hard to really fault goalies that allow shorthanded goals, as the bulk of the shots that are put on net are likely breakaways or odd-man rushes. Still, it's a killer when the PP allows a goal, and your goalie needs to make a big save every now and again to sustain momentum.

Now, the Pavelec apologists will suggest that the Jets' team defense in front of him forces him to face way more difficult saves than any other goalie in the league. Well, this piece here about shot quality shows that Pavelec faces less shots from within 10 feet than many other goalies, so the Jets defense actually does a decent job forcing shots from a distance.

While I won't stick up for our defense completely, as it is pretty weak as currently constructed with Ron Hainsey playing major minutes, we are hardly the only team with struggles defensively. The Toronto Maple Leafs, for example, are currently featuring a defense with Korbinian Holzer, Mike Kostka, Mark Fraser and Carl Gunnarsson in their top-6, yet both James Reimer and Ben Scrivens have matching save percentages of 0.923. It's no wonder they are currently in a playoff position and the Jets aren't.

I really wish I didn't have to write this piece. I really wish that I could help stick up for our starting goalie. But I just can't. I've seen too many momentum-killing goals sail by Pavelec that he should have stopped; his trend of letting in one soft goal per game is currently running strong. It is also now apparent that the book on Ondrej is out, titled "High Glove" (in stores everywhere!), and I've lost count how many goals have been put top shelf over Pavelec's leaky glove hand. But it was another three last night.

I do realize that this Winnipeg Jets team has a lot of holes in it, and it will be another few years before we see Mark Scheifele, Jacob Trouba, Adam Lowry, Ryan Olsen, Scott Kosmachuk and the rest of our draft picks see any NHL ice-time. And when that happens, we should still have a solid core to build around with Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian, Dustin Byfuglien, Alexander Burmistrov, Blake Wheeler, Andrew Ladd, Tobias Enstrom and others. But what scares me is that we will still have Ondrej Pavelec under contract too, as the Jets will be on the hook with him for the next four years. Though I'm not sure where his ceiling is and there is a chance he can get better, it's becoming more and more likely that Ondrej Pavelec is simply a below-average goalie getting paid next-to-elite money.