Boasting unparalleled flexibility, athleticism, and lateral movement, Jonathan Quick has launched himself into the record books as the greatest goaltender of his generation. With two Stanley Cups, a Conn Smythe Trophy, a William Jennings Trophy and an Olympic Silver medal to his name, Quick has made the most of his five year tenure in the NHL.
After being voted the best NHL player by the ESPY’s in 2012 Jonathan Quick was being lauded as a truly elite goaltender. But what if that wasn’t the case? Simply put, Jonathan Quick is not as good as we all think he is.
After posting a 940.3 even strength save percentage in the 2012-2013 season, Anderson regressed to a 924.6 the following year. Anderson dropped from 2nd to 31st and the Senators fell from a playoff spot with him. The ability to avoid regression, to consistently put up above average numbers, is a demonstrable talent; that is what makes a goaltender elite.
To discover which goaltenders are truly elite we will look at a variety of metrics. For the purposes of this article even-strength save percentage (EsSv%) will be the metric used to compare goaltenders. This is because even strength save percentage is the most unbiased metric available for goaltenders.
For example, if Goalie A played for the team that lead the league in shorthanded time, it is expected that he will allow more goals than Goalie B, who played for the team who lead the league in power play minutes. This is a result of goalies having a higher save percentage on the power play (relative to even-strength) and a lower save percentage on the penalty kill. By eliminating these two situations team effects (contributing factors to a goaltender’s success caused by the team they play for) are minimized.
By taking a look at seven goaltenders, all with a minimum of five hundred minutes played per season, across a period of four years; we will discover which of these goaltenders are elite, which are average, and which are above average.
When goaltending is concerned there is nothing more important that stopping the puck. As a result a goaltenders save percentage is the most statistic when considering a goaltenders talent. Looking at even strength save percentages over the past four years, here is where our goalies stack up.
|2010-2011 EsSV%||2011-2012 EsSV%||2012-2013 EsSv%||2013-2014 EsSv%||4 Year Average EsSv%|
From the above table there are numerous things that can be perceived.
- Goalie B and Goalie E are both elite goaltenders. They are posting a well above average save percentage, and they are doing it consistently.
- Goalie G is very sporadic, however outside of the 2010-2011 season, he has not been very good. He has fell from just below league average to the level of a replacement goaltender.
- Goalies A, C, F, are all slightly above average but they aren’t consistent year to year. While good goaltenders, they are certainly not elite.
- Goalie D is an interesting case, and is clearly a very good goaltender. In two of the past four years, he posts an above average save percentage, and both are somewhat similar, only deviating by 2.5%. However in 2011-2012 he posts an abnormally high 932.6% even strength save percentage, suggesting he had an incredible year, or that the bounces seemed to go his way. If he was an elite goaltender we would expect to see this trend of excellent years continue, however the regression bug bites yet again and we see his save percentage plummet to an abysmal 906.8%.
As you may have guessed Jonathan Quick is Goalie D. Goalie A is the backup goaltender for the Los Angeles Kings (Jonathan Bernier from 2010-2012, and Martin Jones for the 2013-2014 season) Goalie B is Tukka Rask, Goalie C Corey Crawford, Goalie E is Henrik Lundqvist, Goalie F is Antti Niemi and Goalie G is Ondrej Pavelec.
So what can we gather from this information now that we know who is who? We see that Tukka Rask and Hernrik Lundqvist are truly in a class of their own. Both Corey Crawford and Antti Niemi, goalies who are commonly disregarded as mediocre due to the style of their play (Niemi) or their seemingly dreadful glove hand (Crawford) are in fact above average goalies. Interestingly the Los Angeles backup tenders seem to do better than Quick. Over four years they edge him out by 4.3% and post remarkably high save percentages relative to other backup goaltenders.
Knowing then that it is not Jonathan Quick’s ability to stop the puck that makes so many consider him an elite goaltender, what is it? In one word: style. Jonathan Quick is everything the old-school hockey fan wants to see in a goaltender. He stops the puck slightly more than your average goalie, he can make near impossible looking saves, and he relies on his athleticism to save him from dangerous situations.
While Henrik Lundqvist has earned his elite status by playing incredibly technical and positional goaltending, Jonathan Quick has earned his name by making diving saves as he lunges from the top of the blue paint to the far post. Quick keeps fans on the edge of their seat, and leaves memories of spectacular saves that are ingrained into their memories far more than a Lundqvist pad save as he sits deep in crease.
Jonathan Quick is an incredible athlete, one that can be enormously engaging to watch, yet Jonathan Quick lacks the consistency of an elite goaltender. Though with two trophies, a silver medal, and a couple Stanley Cups to his name, being above average has certainly been good enough.