In the background of the mammoth Shea Weber offer sheet, intelligent contract extensions, and optimistic reports out of prospect camp, remains the most burning question for #Flyers fans: What will we see from Ilya Bryzgalov next season? Most fans struggle with doubts of Bryzgalov's aptitude each and every game. Cathartic jokes are made. I get hammered. It is the orange and black elephant in the room. The netminder's status is hands down the most important question going forward, should the season survive a potential lockout. The Flyers' defense is banged up. Coach Peter Laviolette has a system to adapt and a handful of skaters to lean on to improve the defense. There is only one legitimate NHL goaltender on the roster. No one doubts Bryzgalov's potential ability to succeed, but will he put it together this year?
As with any question, it is important to frame it. I needed to look at how NHL goaltenders have been performing recently, compared against what can reasonably be expected from them given their community of peers. I needed to see how Bryzgalov was doing in relation to his peers and how his peers were doing against each other. For this, I looked up the average/mean save percentage (SV%) in the NHL. This helps see what level Bryzgalov needs to raise his performance to in order to restore his status as a dominating goaltender, by exceeding the average SV% by a significant degree. That level of success that stands reasonably over the average SV% will change each season as the SV% differs from season to season. Lately, it has been rising.
Here are the SV% statistics.
|5 yrs ago||4 yrs ago||3 yrs ago||2 yrs ago||Last year||League SV%|
Moreover, I wanted to see how common "down years" are for goaltenders within a five year span. The reason for choosing five years stems from not wanting to get too close to the post lockout years, where the league was still adapting to the new hockey environment and certain players of old (including goaltenders) found themselves ill-equipped for the post lockout hockey environment. It was a period of adjustment. I tried to select goaltenders that were clear starters with high workloads (as much as made sense to do) that had seen large volumes of shots, so that the SV% number would be highly reliable, because deviation diminishes from the mean the larger the population. I admit that there can be some debate about the community of peers that I decided to measure Bryzgalov against and I offer a brief explanation at the bottom of certain omissions.
There are also some stats of culture, to show how many goaltenders were performing above the mean and then how often they exceeded the average significantly. Goaltending stats tend not to have a lot of variation over time, so .005 and .01 I selected as benchmarks for significant change. These stats are really designed for you, the reader, because you may find them interesting benchmarks.
The "down years" stat is subjective, but more accurate. It is based on looking at the data against the pedigree of the goaltender and noticing which years were "down" considering the goaltender. I admit there is subjectivity here and arguing with the "Down years" as a subjective statistic is fine. Such is discourse. Part of the problem of having statistics within a culture such as goaltenders, is that goaltenders in general exist in at least two hermeneutical circles. The first being the symbiotic relationship between their teammates performances and their own. Second, the relationship between a netminder's performance within the community of NHL goaltenders. The reason I use the term 'hermeneutical' is to highlight the importance of relating the goaltender as a part of his team. A netminder is poorly understood without both referencing the player as a part of a larger system of talent and philosophically chosen hockey system, and as an individual with a specific skillset that exists independently of the larger system or whole. Experienced fans can recognize these complex situations subjectively and can forge opinions out of an array of information (pedigree of goaltender, talent of team, defensive system, strength of competition) in one fell swoop and almost immediately. There isn't one stat that can capture these complex relationships that fans grasp easily with the right knowledge. So, here is my subjective and fallible judgement on the down years of these goaltenders.
AVG here is the league average of the given year. The netminders are given a +1 for beating the league average that year. Individual mean is the goaltender's average over the last five years.
Here are those statistics:
|Years > AVG||.005 > AVG||.01 > AVG||Down years - Subj||Individual Mean||Down Years < Indv Mean||SV% Below AVG League Mean|
|in last five years|
Bryzgalov's off year was not "normal" comparatively. However, neither was his situation in Philadelphia. 2 out of 5 years being "down" years is uncommon, given the rest of the netminders, who averaged a hair above 1 "down" year out of 5. I desired to see Bryzgalov's down year in Philadelphia as normal. It would give me the ammunition to argue that some of the criticism directed towards Bryzgalov is misplaced and to see last year as a normal variation. Further, it would increase, just a little, the hope I have that the Bryzgalov I saw last year is not the Bryzgalov for the duration of his contract. What I ended up with was small in the way of answers, hoping that the inherent drama in Philadelphia sports is causing Bryzgalov's numbers. What I didn't get is the answer I wanted: That Bryzgalov's down year was normal-- and that I wouldn't see it again this season.
Used Bryzgalov's .921 SV% in his first year in Phoenix rather than the brief .909% over 9 games for Anaheim.
Certain goaltenders were omitted for various reasons and I did not want them for my sample, especially non-starter pedigree (at this point their careers). Omitted: Crawford (number of years), Emery (injuries), Howard (complicated), Bernier (games played), DiPietro (injuries), Anderson (significant team switching), Roloson (twilight of career), Neuvirth (games played), Holtby (games played).
A few goaltenders made it in with less seasons played due to being clear starters.