Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Canadiens goalie situation goes haywire

Remember Carey Price? He was the former fifth overall draft pick who was promoted to starter, relegated to backup and spent a lot of time in the Habs' latest playoff run riding the pine.

Price, now pencilled in as the Habs' starter, is still unsigned. He wants $3 million this year.

If you go to nhlnumbers and do a player comparison it's not as weird of a request as it sounds. $3 million is quite reasonable for a starting goalie in the NHL. Money-wise, it gets you Dwayne Roloson, and is $750,000 cheaper than Nikolai Khabi-boozin. A $3 million cap number would be the 21st highest in the league.

So the question here... is Carey Price a top 20 goalie? Last season he was 29th in goals against average with 2.77 and 19th in save percentage at .912%. If we use save percentage as the most reliable metric to calculate a goalie's worth, he's equal with the equally contract-troubled Antti Niemi. Niemi also had 7 shutouts and won 16 playoff games and that whole thing.

I invented a totally arbitrary goaltender statistic which sets a metric for how good each goaltender stacks up against the rest of his team's goaltender performance, somewhat eliminating the bias of having a player play behind a good team or a bad team. By using this metric, Carey Price was the 40th best goalie in the league. Niemi was 21st. The metric calculates, among other things, saves per 28.72 shots against (the median number of shots for playoff teams) and true winning percentage, which is wins per 60 minutes played versus the wins per 60 stat of the entire team's goalies.

I like Carey Price and I think he definitely has a future, though he wasn't helped after he was given a massive rookie deal and told to live alone on Rue St.-Catharines when he was young and immature, but if the Canadiens are going to spend $3 million on a starting goalie, the better option is Antti Niemi. He has just as much talent, though is older, more mature and more experienced, and will likely cost you the same.

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