Sunday, June 15, 2008

Nabokov didn't deserve the Vezina

The Globe and Mail's James Mirtle discussed the Vezina selection here, and pointed to this quality of shot statistical breakdown from San Francisco's Gabe Desjardin. Very interesting, although I think you have to weigh entire season including the stretch run in order to draw any conclusions.

Nabokov's pre-Christmas save percentage: .916
After Christmas: .903

The average save percentage among goalies that played 27 games or more was .909 this season, almost on par with Nabokov's. The average save percentage among goalies with 30 wins or more was .913.

Brodeur's was .920.

Good on GMs for picking the right winner.

P.J. from Sharkspage's interpretation differs from mine:
Brodeur is a legend who registered a stellar performance, but the strength of conference/division, and the consistent dominance Evgeni Nabokov displayed throughout the year should have put him on another level. Reputation, a lack of exposure, and the paucity of media coverage on the West Coast had as much to do with the Vezina Trophy voting this season as wins, GAA, and save percentage.

The East is the higher scoring conference, Brodeur faced far more shots and made more saves. His save percentage was better enough that, if both he and Nabokov faced 2,000 shots this season, Brodeur would have allowed 20 fewer goals.

He had one of the best seasons of his career behind a blueline corps that may have been New Jersey's weakest during his tenure.

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At 4:23 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger Nick said...

James, how can you disagree with the unbiased reporting from "sharkspage"


At 4:46 p.m., June 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have no stats to back this up, only perception - but Brodeur seemed to have a relatively (for him, anyway) pedestrian playoff run.

Maybe that is coloring the opinions of some as to who was the best choice for the Vezina? The regular season ended so long ago, it's tough to separate out the entire season from the most recent impressions of a player.

At 5:20 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger Joe Sander said...

and even then if we do include the post season Nabby looked very average at times (especially against Calgary).

I'm a pretty big Sharks fan and I'm kind of shocked that so many people feel Nabokov was robbed. I don't feel he did anything to justify the frontrunner status a lot of people gave him for this award.

I'm also getting sick of the "East coast favoritism" excuse. If there is such a huge bias how do we explain Joe Thornton winning, and Roberto Luongo being nominated, for the Hart right after they moved out West?

Shouldn't they have received even less attention after moving to the so-called ignored West coast?

At 5:43 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger Mr. Plank said...

Being an avid Sharks supporter, it's difficult for me to remain unbiased in my assessment of the Vezina. For those unfamiliar with the Sharks, most of the scoring chances we give up are down low in the slot. That's just the way our defensive structure is set up. We limit shots on net (second or third in the league this year I believe) but when we do give up an opportunity it's usually a high chance one. This is why Nabokov's save percentage may be a little misleading.

The vote total was so close (seven votes separated the two?)- close enough for me to wonder if Nabby played in the East he might have won the award. There's also the fact that Brodeur had won the award three times up to this year (2008 being his fourth), and that his name may have caused a slight bump in his vote total.

All of that being said, Brodeur had one of the best years of his career. He's a top netminder, and very deserving of the award. I would make the argument that the Sharks play in a tougher conference, but as you pointed out, the East is a higher scoring conference. A very solid point.

It's frustrating as a Sharks fan, and I think that may have a lot to do with how I feel. But in the back of my mind there is this feeling that if Nabokov was in the East, he may have inched out Brodeur in the votes.

Two great goalies who had a helluva year. Brodeur deserves the award and so did Nabokov. The vote total shows that.

Go Sharks.

At 5:53 p.m., June 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Voters might think that Nabokov has never taken Sharks anywhere so his good regular season has to be great to unseat money goalies like Brodeur.

Nabokov is not at the level of Brodeur, Luongo or Kiprusoff even though he might have nice numbers behind regular season juggernaut Sharks.

San Jose kind of got stuck with Nabby and had to trade superior Kiprusoff and better Toskala away.

At 6:10 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger Richard-Steven Williams said...

You know whats funny, the other day I was arguing that Tomas Vokoun at least deserved a vote in the Vezina nominations, afterall of goalies that played over 60 games only Brodeur and Bryzgalov (who did equally well without mention) posted better save percentages both 92% respectively with Vokoun posting 91.9%. Nabokov posted a much lesser 91% save percentage but won considerably more games (46 to Vokoun's 30 and Bryzgalov's 28) however whilst you can't account for the shots faced Vokoun and Bryzgalov turned up night in and night out offering poor teams a chance to win, surely that is worth something. If you ask me the save percentage is the most telling statistic for goalies and Nabokov clearly didn't have to do as much as Vokoun and Bryzgalov to win games. Its a shame these guys who stick their necks out when everything else around them is failling don't get at least honourable mentions.

At 6:24 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

It's frustrating as a Sharks fan, and I think that may have a lot to do with how I feel. But in the back of my mind there is this feeling that if Nabokov was in the East, he may have inched out Brodeur in the votes.

There are 30 voters for this award, 15 in the Western Conference and 15 in the East.

I'm not sure where this perceived inequity comes from when it comes to the Vezina.

At 6:29 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger PJ Swenson said...

Thanks for the vote of confidence Nick.

Save percentage is one consideration for the Vezina, but it is by no means the only one. As it happens, Nabokov lead Brodeur in most of the other major categories, wins, goals against average, shutouts, world championship gold medals, career power play goals.

When I referenced Gabe Desjardin's second half statistics, I wanted to know his interpretation of the quality of shots against. No one is going to dispute the number of shots Brodeur faced, but it was a team effort in San Jose to limit shots against. That would probably be another argument in Brodeur's favor, but the results would be interesting. San Jose piled up shots on goal this season from the perimeter. Saying Brodeur locked down games when his team was being outshot and Nabokov didn't is somewhat misleading. The Sharks defense the first quarter of the year also was the definition of rocky. To wit, Sandis Ozolinsh was the stabilizing force and one of the standouts after the first quarter of play.

About the Eastern Conference being the higher scoring conference, that has nothing to do with the fact that the top 4 teams play in the West. Detroit, Dallas, San Jose, and Anaheim. The Sharks had to play 20 games against that competition. Montreal and Ottawa, a respective 1 and 2 in overall league scoring, scored a total of 6 goals on 50 shots in back to back home games in San Jose. Nabokov had a .880 save percentage, but both games were won by San Jose. New Jersey faced Ottawa and Montreal 6 times, putting 181 shots on Brodeur. He allowed 16 goals for a .911 save percentage, but lost 5 of the 6 games (with one 4-0 shutout win). These are probably two checkmarks in Brodeur's corner, but it is hardly as cut and dry as many make it out to be, and says a little about the sole focus on save percentage.

Another major factor overlooked, Martin Brodeur had a veteran backup in Kevin Weekes. Evgeni Nabokov had no saftey net with rookies Dimitri Patzold and Thomas Greiss alternating on the bench until Brian Boucher was brought in at the trade deadline. After Patzold was blown out in a 3 goal third period, with 2 of the goals coming on defensive turnovers inside his blueline, Ron Wilson effectively demoted him to roster Siberia. Allegedly he was there on the bench, but he was seldom seen. This differs from the roster Sasquatch, Brad Norton. Who was always scratched on the lineup card, and who I might have seen once all year in practice. Thomas Greiss gave up a late game tying goal in Anaheim, and showed rookie jitters giving up the game winner in OT. No more starts in goal for either of them. The fact that Nabokov was in net for the duration should be another consideration outside of save percentage.

At 6:35 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger PJ Swenson said...

Should have said 2008 WC gold medals, feel free to flame me.

And when I say in it for the duration, both goaltenders were in net for an obscene amount of the season. Nabokov was in it for the duration by neccessity, as Ron Wilson had zero confidence in Patzold or Greiss.

Nabokov had to stay in net a number of times when other coaches may have long pulled him. A 7-1 blowout to Buffalo early in the season was a good example. Might have been the worst Sharks loss of the year.

At 6:37 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

When I referenced Gabe Desjardin's second half statistics, I wanted to know his interpretation of the quality of shots against.

Me too. I'd asked him about getting those numbers, but apparently it's rather involved and he wasn't going to be able to produce them quickly.

I don't know that they'd be enough to justify how poor Nabokov was statistically over the final 42 games he played.

At 7:19 p.m., June 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Osgood and Hasek had really low save percentages. Why didn't they get votes for a joint Vezina?

*runs from room laughing* :)

At 7:20 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger PJ Swenson said...

Nick's comment? That's right, East Coast bias.

Actually I think the more you look into the numbers, Gabe Desjardin's or otherwise, the more you prove some of my arguments wrong, but for completely different reasons.

More info: Martin Brodeur played 3 games against Dallas, Anaheim and San Jose. He allowed 6 goals on 77 shots for a .922 save percentage. More importantly, the Devils won 2 of the 3 games.

Evgeni Nabokov started 17 of the 20 games against Dallas, Anaheim and Detroit. He allowed 51 goals on 422 shots for a .880 save percentage. The Sharks won 7 of those games and lost 10. Again, this is probably another check mark in Brodeur's column, but it solidifies the strength of conference and strength of division argument if you watched the level of play in the games.

At 7:41 p.m., June 15, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can't tell. Are Swenson's arguments serious?

At 8:01 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger AWF said...

As with almost everything you can dig down and find all sorts of meaningful statistics to support a case for all of them.

Brodeur had a losing record and only OK stats against his division: 12-15-3, with a 2.41 GAA, and .907 SP. 1 shut out.

Nabokov had a slight winning record and more consistent stats against his division: 14-9-4, with a 2.08 GAA, and .914 SP. 3 shut outs.

Lundqvist was 6 games over .500 and had the best stats of all against his division:
17-7-4, 1.87 GAA, and .924 SP. 5 shut outs.

So who was the best goalie? Is it the most valuable goalie to his team? The one who has the most "objective" good stats? Probably some combination of both.

At 8:53 p.m., June 15, 2008, Blogger Unknown said...

Wins and losses really aren't a good way to measure goalies. Some of them may be good handling the puck, but I really doubt they have that much control over how many goals their teammates score.

At 1:08 a.m., June 16, 2008, Blogger Mogen David said...

There are 30 voters for this award, 15 in the Western Conference and 15 in the East.

I'm not sure where this perceived inequity comes from when it comes to the Vezina.

Come one James look how the votes break down...
Marty got 15 votes from the East coast GMs and Evgeni got 15 from the West Coast. But wait, Sutter voted for Kipper take one from Nabby. Sather voted for Lundqvist one from Marty. Okay that's 14-14. Damn some one on the West coast defected to Marty. Who was it...

Clearly an East Coast bias.

At 2:51 a.m., June 16, 2008, Blogger Hawerchuk said...

Ok, this is four hours of my life I'll never get back, but I ran the numbers for the full season:

5v5 only:

1st half Save Pct
Brodeur 917 actual vs 912 expect
Nabokov 924 actual vs 918 expect

Season Save Pct
Brodeur 920 actual vs 906 expect
Nabokov 908 actual vs 909 expect

Brodeur improved in the 2nd half; Nabokov got a lot worse.

At 4:27 a.m., June 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow, that's what I call bias. When the GMs of the league call it a fair race for the Vezina and it ends close to a dead heat, the entire blog yells at opposing views: "How can it happen that even one voted for Nabokov!"

As if there was not a single rational argument to make a case for Nabokov.

At 12:24 p.m., June 16, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wins and losses are not good way to measure goalies?

This is how far we have come. Pretty soon somebody will analyze practises and max. VO2 results, too.

Nabokov had a good chance this season because superstar goalies like Kiprusoff, Luongo and Turco had less than great seasons.

Nabokov is a goalie from next level from the top and you can see it by watching his games.

Yes, he finally won something when Russians beat Team Canada at World Championships final but it was far from stellar performance.

There's no bias because Nabby just isn't Vezina worthy goalie. Give San Jose Brodeur, Kiprusoff, Luongo or Lundqvist and Ron Wilson wouldn't have to flash his Canadian passport during press conferences in T.O.

At 1:51 p.m., June 16, 2008, Blogger Freeptop said...

If strength of the division is an argument for which goalie deserved the Vezina more, I think that points more to Brodeur than Nabokov.

The Atlantic Division was the only division from which four teams made the playoffs. Three of those four teams advanced to the Conference Semifinals. Two of those teams advanced to the Conference Finals. And, obviously, one of those teams advanced to the Stanley Cup Final. It's also worth noting that, with the exception of the Penguins, each Atlantic Division team was only eliminated by another team from the Atlantic Division. It's also worth noting that two of the four Vezina finalists came out of this division as well.

By contrast, the Pacific Division saw only three teams make it to the playoffs, and while they did manage to match having only one team eliminated in each round, only the Stars and the Ducks faced each other for an in-division playoff series.

I'm not dismissing the Pacific Division as a weak one, but I do think the Atlantic Division ought to be considered the toughest division in the NHL this past season.

I say all this, but if I'd had a vote, I probably would have voted for Nabokov. I can't imagine any goaltender holding up well when playing that many minutes in that many games over the season, and to do as well as he did doing so? That's remarkable. That said, I don't object to Brodeur winning it, either. A similar argument can be made for him, since, while he didn't play as many minutes, his statistics did hold up a lot better.

At 9:16 p.m., June 16, 2008, Blogger quain said...

Brodeur played more minutes than Nabokov.. and held up better throughout the season.

I think a lot of the Nabokov boosters haven't really spent the requisite time looking at Brodeur's season. He was pretty okay too.

At 12:46 a.m., June 17, 2008, Blogger Mina said...

Speaking as a Sharks fan, the argument of East Coast bias is not Eastern Conference vs. Western Conference. It is East Coast (time zone) vs. West Coast (time zone). There are 8 NHL teams in the Mountain and Pacific time zones and the other 22 are in the Central and Eastern time zones. I sincerely doubt that all of the GMs caught enough games to be able to make an educated decision about which goalie is the best that wasn't mostly based on numbers on paper. And I think that most people are agreeing that those numbers are always the best way to decide this award.

Personally, I just don't like the idea of having the GMs being responsible for awarding important
post season awards. Personally, I would like Doug Wilson to be spending more time making my hockey team better than concerning himself with the save percentage of a goalie the team only sees once a year.

I have to join Mr. Plank in wondering if Nabby lost a close vote because most of his home games were over when most of the GMs living in the East coast were asleep. For us, it's another one of those coming very close and coming up short. (I don't want it to sound like I think that Brodeur didn't deserve the award. But it's hard for me to hear a bunch of people crap all over a goalie that I have a lot of faith in, as I am sure it is difficult for Devils fans as well.)

At 12:55 a.m., June 17, 2008, Blogger Mina said...

Oh, and we had Kiprusoff as our number 1 goalie and he couldn't win the starting job from Toskala, which is why he was the one that got traded.

Goaltending wasn't the biggest problem for the Sharks last season. And, Ron Wilson had to flash his Canadian passport in Toronto because after a while players stop listening if all you do to motivate them is to yell at them.

At 1:09 a.m., June 17, 2008, Blogger Adam C said...

If my GM isn't scouting the West Coast teams because their games are too late at night, I'm going to fire him. These aren't fans. It's their job.

At 4:09 a.m., June 17, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Another major factor overlooked, Martin Brodeur had a veteran backup in Kevin Weekes.

Weekes played about 5 games worth of minutes and gave up about a goal-per-game more behind the same defense. If anything, the struggles of a quality, veteran backup like Weekes behind NJ's terrible defensive core adds to the argument for Brodeur.

At 4:58 p.m., June 17, 2008, Blogger VeryProudofYa said...

I realize JS Jigs was injured to open the year and had a fairly light work load, but he really put up phenomenal numbers.

Second in against, second in save percentage, top ten in wins. and this was with a considerably weaker blue line in front of him than in the previous year. (Schnieder missing time, Niedermayer's retirement antics, Pronger's stomp-happy fun bonanza) And defensive stud Pahlsson missed quite a few games, too.

again, I don't think JS should have won, but he hasn't been getting nearly as much credit as it seems he should be.

Additionally, Nabs wasn't really even close to being the best goalie. The voting, to me, at least, appears to be far closer than it should have been.

At 12:53 p.m., June 19, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There are 30 voters for this award, 15 in the Western Conference and 15 in the East.

I'm not sure where this perceived inequity comes from when it comes to the Vezina.

It's a matter of time zones, not # of votes. Sharks home games typically start at 10pm in the East and 9 in the Midwest. They also played 28 road games on the west coast. Safe to say that over half of the GMs didn't even see Nabby play more than 10 times this year.


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