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Top 20 Players By Goals Versus Threshold

Recently I have written several sabermetrics and hockey posts about Tom Awad’s goals versus threshold system.  I have explained the offensive, defensive goaltending and shootout portions of the system.  I have also listed the top players in each of these portions of the system and discussed some of the more sabermetrically interesting player cases.

Although not mentioned in Tom Awad’s writings on the puck prospectus system, when the results are tabulated by Gabe Desjardins at behind the net, he includes a defensive portion for goalies which I reject.

Here are the top 20 players in 2009/10 by goals versus threshold neglecting goaltenders defensive portions.  It is merely the sume of the totals from the earlier described portions:

2009/10 Top Players By Goals Versus Threshold
Goals Versus Threshold
1Ryan MillerBuf


2Evgeni NabokovSJS


3Alexander OvechkinWas


4Sidney CrosbyPit


5Tomas VokounFlo


6Henrik LundqvistNYR


7Ilya BryzgalovPho


8Jimmy HowardDet


9Henrik SedinVan


10Tuukka RaskBos


11Nicklas BackstromWas


12Jaroslav HalakMon


13Duncan KeithChi


14Craig AndersonCol


15Mike GreenWas


16Alexander SeminWas


17Zach PariseNJD


18Steve StamkosTBL


19Daniel SedinVan


20Miikka KiprusoffCal


The first observation of this system is that it preferentially selects goaltenders.  Half of the players on this list are goalies.  This may show the reality that goaltenders are the most important players in the NHL, but it also shows that it is unsatisfactory to select MVPs by the goals versus threshold system as it will inevitably select a goalie.

Defencemen are most under-represented on the list.  Only two defencemen are on the list in Duncan Keith and Mike Green.  Defencemen are more important than this.  They are hard to select because it is hard to quantify the defensive value of a player and this underestimates most defenceman’s value.

The forwards on this list are essentially chosen for offensive value, because defensive value is hard to quantify. 

Some conclusions from this exercise are that Alexander Ovechkin was the most valuable forward in the NHL last season, with Sidney Crosby being a reasonable other choice.  I think the choice of Ovechkin is a good one.  Ryan Miller is also selected as the best goalie in the league, which also seems accurate.  Many might be surprised to see Evgeni Nabokov as second overall in this system.  While he had a good season last year, much better than many will admit to now that he is a KHL goalie, I do not think he was this good.  His numbers make him look better than he is because of San Jose’s defence which limited the shot quality he faced.  Similarly, Tomas Vokoun is underrated because the poor Florida defence allows high shot quality against.  I would question the choice of Miller as NHL MVP from this statistic as it is biased to select goaltenders.  As far as defencemen, I think it is correct to pick Duncan Keith as the best in the league.

I think the goals versus threshold system is most limited by its lack of ability to quantify defensive play.  The over-abundance of goaltenders at the top is another topic for further discussion.  Due to the lack of defencemen in the top 20, I think it is worth looking at a top 20 defencemen ranking in the future.

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Bossy_Rules's avatar

I don’t think the number of goalies in the list is inaccurate.  Goalies have an outsize influence on the quality of their team.  The reason is somewhat complicated but it has a lot to do with the fact that 1 goalie plays the entire game.  The difference between a completely average goalie and an elite goalie, as measured in goal differential (which for goalies is just goals allowed but we’re comparing them to skaters) is larger than the difference between an average skater and an elite skater.  Its really even bigger than the list implies because there is a larger number of skaters which increases the talent spread between the elites and the average.  The 10 goalies on the list represent about 33% of the leagues starting goalies while the 10 skaters on the list are a much smaller percentage of all regular skaters.

Posted by Bossy_Rules on 09/17/10 at 08:22 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

There is some truth to that opinion.  Goaltenders are often the most important player on the ice.  It is entirely possible that 10 of the tewnty players who were worth the most goals to their team last year could be goalies.

That said, is it reasonable to look at these numbers and say that the Hart Trophy winner should have been Ryan Miller, with Evgeni Nabokov and Alexander Ovechkin as nominees?  I would argue no.  Following this line of logic, a goaltender should have won the MVP (almost) every season in NHL season.

That is not so say that a goalie cannot be MVP, but he must have a bigger lead in a stat like this to be the MVP in my book. 

I think my reasoning has to do with not being convinced entirely in the accuracy of this statistical system.  Have we overvalued goaltending and underrated the importance of the defence in front of it in preventing goals (we definitely have undervalued the defence of the best defensive players)?  Have we underrated the offence of players who truly drive their team’s offence (the Ovechkins and Crosbys of the world by assuming each goal/ assist is equal - when the reality is they create more goals and assists then their linemates, who inflate their totals by playing alongside them)?

In the end, when I watched hockey last year, I was satisfied that the three players nominated for the Hart Trophy (and also Duncan Keith) were at least as valuable as Ryan Miller and this system does not show it.  Was I wrong?  Were the NHL voters also wrong?  Or is it not reasonable to count goalies as highly as this system shows?

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 09/17/10 at 09:21 PM ET

Bossy_Rules's avatar

I agree it shouldn’t decide the Hart trophy.  I also don’t think goaltending in general is more important than defensive play or offensive play.  But like I said its one guy doing ALL the goaltending so that guy has a disproportionate influence.

Those are good questions about whether the offensive contributions of dominant guys like Ovechkin and Crosby are undervalued by GVT and whether goalies on good defensive teams are getting too much credit from GVT.  Another post topic perhaps?

Just an aside on the overall importance of goaltending vs defensive and offensive play.  In my analysis there are 2 factors that determine the importance of goaltending in any given sport and given league. 

The first is the variance in the ability of teams to create scoring chances and shots and the variance in skill to capitalize on scoring chances.  In a league/sport where all the teams are able to generate about the same number of scoring chances and where all the teams have roughly equal skill in capitalizing on scoring chances, the goaltending will be more important.  The greater the spread in the abilities of different teams to generate scoring chances and in the ability to finish scoring chances the less important goaltending is. 

The second factor is the portion of scoring chances on which the goalie can make a difference.  In a sport where the vast majority of chances are either a goal or not a goal regardless of the goaltender, goaltending is less important.  The larger the portion of chances where some goalies will prevent a goal but others won’t, the more important goaltending is.

Posted by Bossy_Rules on 09/17/10 at 09:51 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

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