So, Dave Shoalts has this article in the Globe and Mail. If we leave aside the headline, which he probably didn't write, I still think it is fair to summarize his overall point as the following argument is not true:
There’s a funny thing about the NHL – despite the overwhelming evidence to the contrary, there are still plenty of people who argue that finding a goaltender doesn’t need to be at the top of every general manager’s to-do list.
Put together a great team, they say, and a good but not great goaltender will do. Don’t waste a first-round draft pick on a goaltender. You can get a decent one in a trade any old time.
Surely with a thesis like that he will have "overwhelming evidence" that a team ought to go out and acquire a top-flight goaltender. Let's take a look after the jump.
Shoalt's first piece of evidence - Martin Brodeur is leading the charge back to the playoffs for New Jersey.
Now, leave aside last night's game in Calgary, that wouldn't be fair. Surely Brodeur's other stats show that he is all but single handedly carrying New Jersey into the playoffs. Except his save percentage is 0.891 (except as linked to below, all stats courtesy of NHL.com). Amongst goalies that have played at least 10 games this season (53 goalies), he is the second worst in the league. Only fellow aged wonder Dwayne Roloson has a worse save percentage. Andrew Raycroft has a better save percentage. Even the other goalie in New Jersey, Johan Hedberg, has a better save percentage at .907.
Perhaps Brodeur has been unlucky on the penalty kill and is really killing it at EV? Nope. His .896 EV save percentage does now put him ahead of Alex Auld and Dwayne Roloson and tied with Steve Mason for goalies with 10 games played . Still behind Hedberg at .908.
Why, it is almost as if something else is accounting for New Jersey's turn around from last year. Couldn't be that their shooting percentage has gone to 9.32% from 7.27% last year. Or that they are a good possession team with the 9th best score tied Fenwick percentage. Nope, it is the importance of having an overpaid, aging goaltender on the roster.
First, neither one of these guys is anything other than what the proponents of not spending money and draft picks on goaltending would hold up as the best use of resources on goaltending: middling to low paid goalies acquired without burning high draft picks. Gustavsson is a European free agent signing. Reimer is a 4th round pick, 99th overall. So apparently it is possible to get good goaltending from unlikely sources.
Second, these guys have been no fresh hell overall. Gustavsson's overall save percentage is .908 and .917 at EV. That's not bad, but not exactly a world beater. Reimer's overall save percentage is .900 but his EV save percentage is .935. That's good for a tie for 5th amongst goalies with 10 games played. Certainly a part of the reason Toronto is doing better this season. Although, again, he only has a $1.8 million cap hit (salary info here and below from capgeek.com) and was a 4th round draft pick. Hardly a big allotment of resources, but the results(ish) still are there for Toronto.
Shoalt's third piece of evidence - Ryan Miller now sucks
Why, it is almost as if the point he was trying to prove that spending a lot of money on a goaltender that was good is no assurance that goaltender will be good in the future! Miller has the third highest cap hit amongst goaltenders in the NHL. A contract that was signed after Miller posted a career best save percentage of .918, above his prior career average save percentage (over 7686 shots) was .910. His career save percentage since he signed that contract? .919 - or about league average. One would almost think that it is difficult to predict which goalies are going to perform at a markedly higher level than league average over time, making it a bad idea to allocate lots of cap space to them.
Shoalt's fourth piece of evidence - Montreal had two great goaltenders, but had to trade one away and didn't get enough in return. And now Brian Elliott is awesome anyways.
I don't even really know where to start with this one. First, he seems to think Carey Price and Jaroslav Halak were both potential Hall of Famers after the 2009-10 season. You know, when Halak had 101 games under his belt and Price had 134.
Notwithstanding that Montreal supposedly has this tremendous goaltender in Price, they still suck this year (with Price's save percentage of .913 right around his career average of .916).
And in St. Louis, despite going out and securing this Hall of Fame candidate goaltender in Halak with a contract at a $3.75 million cap hit (16th in the league this season amongst goaltenders), they missed the playoffs last year. This year they are in the playoff picture as of today. Surely, given the importance of securing good goaltending, it must be because their big Hall of Fame candidate goaltender has come through? Er, no. Their career journeyman (9th round pick, 3 teams in six seasons) back up with a cap-hit of $600,000 has been one of the best goaltenders in the league with a .940 save percentage. A player acquired at a low salary without burning high draft picks or player assets.
I haven't even covered the number of other cases Shoalts ignores where teams have spent big on goaltending only to come up with pretty much nothing. (I will just put: Philadelphia and Bryzgalov! Chicago and Cristobal Huet!)
Again, it is almost as if the proposition that Shoalts attempts to disprove, it is very difficult to predict which goaltenders would have great seasons, so teams are better off to allocate few assets to the position, is demonstrated by his own examples.