Kukla's Korner

23 Intently Staring Goalies

Goalies—looking past, up, and forward

The Stanley Cup is about to head out on its Summer tour, so it’s time to take a look at what else is going on. Not that there isn’t hockey to be had, it’s just the emphasis has shifted to the back office, where the deals are already starting to take place.

But first—Martin Brodeur. If anyone had asked back in November if Brodeur was going to be playing past April, the consensus would have been a resounding no. There was even talk that Brodeur just ought to hang them up before he embarrassed himself any further. Shows why he’s playing hokey for a living, and a lot of others aren’t making a living writing about it. Marty, you’re the last man standing on my “Goal Patrol” poster, and you acquitted yourself admirably in the playoffs. Brodeur showed you don’t have to have the proportions of Godzilla while playing 59 minutes on your knees to be an effective goaltender. I hope scouts and coaches are paying attention.

On the other side of the ice, it’s Jonathan Quick. He held the Kings together when they couldn’t buy a goal, and he rightly earned the Conn Smythe trophy for his goaltending in the playoffs. He also showed that he block the high shots, use his goalie stick for something other than a prop, come out and handle the puck, and all the other things that the alleged experts were claiming. At his age, he’s only going to get better, and with Lombardi and Sutter working together, there’s going to be some great hockey in Los Angeles next season.

What this doesn’t mean, however, is that NHL franchises should go out and look for and draft physical clones of Jonathan Quick> there’s a lot to how Quick arrived, and drafting someone who has the same physical and physiological characteristics and approximate playing style isn’t going to automagically produce another Jonathan Quick. His environment and his coaching—Bill Ranford and Ron Hextall—polished his skills. Unless the franchise is willing to invest the time and the right personnel to develop and goaltender, and has a team playing in a style complementary to the goaltender’s style, there’s going to be frustration at all levels of the organization.

Speaking of body types, I had a little time and a spreadsheet, and I looked at the physical characteristics of goaltenders in 1961-62, 1971-72, 1981-82, 1991-92, 2001-02, and 2011-12 seasons. There’s some interesting changes. That said, and knowing that the compared datasets would never pass an F-test, and this was more of a “is there anything interesting going on I should look at further” exercise,  I found:

  1. Yes, goalies are getting taller, in fact the mean moved just a bit over an inch in the past 10 years, and 2 inches in the past 20 years
  2. The outliers on the taller side have moved out further. The outliers from the 70’s through the 90’s were 6ft 4 and 6ft 5. Now they’re 6 ft 7
  3. That said, the shorter goaltenders sort of fell off the charts in the past 10 years (yes, even given the tendency of the shorter goalies to pad their height)
  4. The height is clumping together more tightly. The standard deviation has dropped from 2 inches to 1.7 inches
  5. We’re in the middle of a generational shift. The plot of ages shows a much more pronounced tail. Not a surprise, the big guys are all in their early to mid-20’s

So if I was going to offer a conclusion, I’d say that yes, goalies are getting bigger, and we’re noticing because we’re getting a lot of new goalies, and we’re no longer seeing a large range of goalie heights, especially below 6 ft, in the new crop.

Speaking of tall goalies, the Predators and the Lightning made a trade this week that sent Anders Lindback to Tampa. Lindback should be the answer to a lot of the Lightning’s goalie needs, as neither Roloson nor Garon were getting the job done this past season.

Here’s Tom Jones, from the Tampa Bay Times, thoughts about Lindback:

The Lightning hopes it has found a big-time goaltender. Well, at the very least, he’s big.

After stumbling through last season with goaltending woes, the Lightning sent three draft picks and journeyman goalie Sebastien Caron to Nashville on Friday for 6-foot-6 Swede Anders Lindback.

In other words, if you were waiting for the Lightning to address goaltending this offseason, this is the move.

“We’re now set,’’ general manager Steve Yzerman said.

However, Yzerman stopped short of naming Lindback, 24, the No. 1, saying he would compete with veteran Mathieu Garon.

“We think he has the ability to become a No. 1 goalie soon, but it would be wrong to sit here today and say he’s our No. 1 goalie,’’ Yzerman said. “We think he has really good potential, and we’re going to let him develop at the right pace.’‘

Loaded with picks heading into next week’s draft, the Lightning shipped three — Minnesota’s second-rounder in 2012, Philadelphia’s second-rounder in 2012 and its third-rounder in 2013 — along with Caron to Nashville. The Lightning still owns two first-round picks, Nos. 10 and 19 overall, and one second-rounder, No. 40, and could, per last season’s trade, get a second-rounder, No. 53, from Florida.

In addition to Lindback, the Lightning acquired center Kyle Wilson and a 2012 seventh-round pick.

The Lightning is banking on Lindback being the No. 1 soon, but his track record is unproven. Backing up Pekka Rinne, one of the NHL’s best goalies, he has appeared in only 38 games over two seasons. His record, 16-13-2, is spotty, but his other key numbers, 2.53 goals-against average and .914 save percentage, are impressive.

“I had some great years with Nashville, but I was in a tough spot behind Pekka Rinne,’’ Lindback said. “My dream all my life has been to be a No. 1 goalie in the NHL, and I think I have a great opportunity to be that in Tampa Bay.”

Last season, Lindback went 5-8 with a 2.42 GAA and .912 save percentage in 16 games. He’s a restricted free agent, but the Lightning should be able to sign him to a new deal. He made $875,000 last season.

Lindback first appeared on Yzerman’s radar in Oct. 24, 2010, when he stopped 42 of 45 shots in a 4-3 victory at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.

“The big thing you first notice is his size,’’ he said. “We like the way he moves. I like his athleticism. He reacts well. I think he has good, solid technique and an all-around structure.’‘

More…

Filed in: | 23 Intently Staring Goalies | Permalink
  Tags: anders+lindback, goalies, jonathan+quick, martin+brodeur, nhl

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About 23 Intently Staring Goalies

23 Intently Staring Goalies comes from the 23 close-up photos of goalies that used to line the walls of my office.

On the good side, it kept down interruptions, but it also made sure I had to leave my trash outside my door if I wanted it picked up.

I've been watching and analyzing goaltenders for going on 40 years. Some of that was spent drawing goalies on my grade 8 math homework. Then it was taking my card decks and printouts to Indianapolis Racer games. Luckily, the Internet took off, and by 1991 I was half of the duo that would ultimately become the Plaidworks hockey mailing lists. I wrote "Handicapping the Goalies' for the San Jose Sharks mailing list, and took a lot of photos of goalies in action. I have around 5000 slides of mostly goaltenders in action from 1989 through 2001 from the WHL, IHL and NHL. Since I've gone digital, I've added about 10,000 more images to the library. During summers and when the league went dark, I was reading through multiple SF By area news papers, tracking ice hockey from the 1917 recreational leagues up through the California Seals.

We'll be talking about goalies and goaltending. We'll talk about whats going on now, who's in the system, and when the doldrums hit, I'll haul something out of the big bag of history, or something from the photo archives. We'll talk about who's hot and why, and who's not and what they can do to get back on track. We'll take a look at the trends in scouting goalies, and why a style may work for one team but not another. I'll battle with my dictation software to get it to understand Bryzgalov and Bobrovsky.

It should be interesting--hope you want to come along for the ride!