The Impact Of a Goalie

Wonderful job of writing from one of our new guys, Ross McLoughlin

They just had a defense in front of them. Two individuals who questioned the true value of GAAs in hockey were Jeff Klein and Karl-Eric Reif. In their seminal early years, Goals Against Average (“GAA”) was the primary statistic used to measure a goalie’s effectiveness, particularly in hockey. It seemed so simple—if you did not let in many goals, you must be good (and would win a Vezina or Jennings Trophy,

Depending on the era. Nevertheless, some folks found GAA to be a team stat, reflecting such things as a side’s overall defense, rather than one that effectively measured a goalie’s individual ability. In the 1970s, for instance, many would attribute Ken Dryden’s five Vezina Trophies to the Montreal Canadiens’ overall dominance, not because he was doing yeoman work.

Conversely, those same folks would point to Denis Herron and Gilles Meloche, two goalies who labored for the worst teams in NHL history (the Kansas City Scouts and California Golden Seals, respectively). Each often suffered from inordinately high GAAs but, claims work, The Hockey Compendium, the two created a new statistic designed to measure and reward a goalie’s “perseverance.”

Although the NHL had adopted the “save percentage” statistic, this, too, was found wanting, as it overly credited a goaltender who was fortunate enough to face fewer shots. For example, if you have two goaltenders with a .900 save percentage, who deserves the greater credit: one who saved 9 out of 10 shots, or one who saved 45 out of 50?



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