A Clean Slate

“Most decisions aren’t easy decisions when it comes to something like that. We feel that for Pascal, he’s going to get a week off, then another week of practice, and we’ll bring (goaltening consultant) John (Stevenson) back … he’ll get a long break here.

“Brian has shown he can play back-to-back, often his second game on back-to-backs is stronger than his first game. Ultimately, it’s probably easier for Pascal to start fresh, along with everybody else after a big break.

“We just thought another week of preparation will help him tremendously.” ~ Cory Clouston, Slam! Sports

If Leclaire weren’t made of glass, I’d be inclined to say that another week of preparation wouldn’t hurt Leclaire. But it might. Anything can hurt him these days. It’s been a frustrating season for Leclaire and for Senators fans who have been expecting him to play like he did in 2007-08. Sure, on occasion, he’s demonstrated flashes of athleticism and the ability to make the big save. But his penchant for getting hurt has forced me to lump him with a short list of goaltenders whose injuries have frustrated Senators fans over the years.

First there was Damian Rhodes’ mysterious ankle injury that couldn’t be diagnosed. Then there was Dominik Hasek and his adductor injury that he suffered at the 2006 Olympic Games. And who could forget Ray Emery’s wrist surgery that was compounded by his grandiose sense of entitlement that completely derailed the Senators’ 2007-08 campaign?

But how poorly has Leclaire actually been this season?

According to Behind the Net.ca, he has the fourth worst goals versus threshold (GVT) in the league. For all of you baseball fans who frequent this website, GVT is the hockey equivalent to the advanced VORP statistic that indicates a player’s value over replacement player. Simply put, it is a formula that’s used to calculate the value of a player, in goals, above what a replacement player would have contributed. As per its creator, Tom Awad, here is how it is determined mathematically for goaltenders:

A goaltender’s contribution to his team’s efforts to win is attempting to stop the shots that come his way. This is best measured by save percentage, which indicates the proportion of a goaltender’s shots faced that are stopped.

To compare goaltenders to the Threshold, we must compute Threshold save percentage:

SPa = sum (SVg) / sum (SFg)

SPt = SPa – GAAl * GTV

SPa is the league average save %, SPt is the threshold save %, SVg is saves by individual goaltenders, SFg is shots faced by individual goaltenders, GAAl is the league average GAA, and GTV is the goaltending threshold value, here set to 0.04. In practice, what this means is that a threshold goaltender, playing on an average team, will allow 4% more goals than an average goaltender; this translates to about 11 goals a season in a typical year.

A goaltender’s GGVTraw is therefore calculated as the number of saves he made, less the number of saves that a goalie with a Threshold save percentage would have made:

GGVTraw = SV – (SF x SPa)

Where SV is the goaltender’s saves, SF his shots against, and SPa the league Threshold save percentage.

We have to do one last adjustment to the GGVT. In practice, a goaltender’s save percentage is not uniquely due to his own caliber of play: some of it is due to the quality of the shots he faces. We can see this because, historically, the save percentages of #1 and #2 goalies on the same team tend to be about 15% correlated, and because goaltenders who are traded to new teams often see their save percentage change significantly. Therefore, I attribute 75% of the responsibility of stopping a shot to the goaltender and 25% of it to the team’s defense.

GGVT = GGVTraw * GR

Where GR is Goaltender Responsibility, here set to 0.75.

So the next time your girlfriend or boyfriend mentions that Leclaire isn’t very good. Bring up his -6.6 GVT and say, “Did you know that an average goaltender would have reduced the team’s goal differential by 6.6 goals? Oh well, at least he’s more valuable than Devan Dubnyk, Vesa Toskala, and Steve Mason.I guarantee it will get you laid.

Leclaire’s not alone as a player who has to step up his play following the Olympic break. Despite having the third best quality of teammates rating on the Senators, Shannon’s offensive production hasn’t exactly warranted the kind of linemates that he has played with. Interestingly, the quality of competition that Shannon has played against isn’t as highly regarded as some of the Senators other top six forwards. In other words, he’s not producing while not playing against inferior opposition lines and defencemen.(Ed. note: Using the points per 60 minutes threshold is almost like examining a baseball pitcher’s ERA. It’s also interesting to note that Milan Michalek’s production has waned to such an extent that his point production per 60 minutes ranks him between Ryan Shannon and Jonathan Cheechoo. On another note, for a player who has received his share of criticism, Kovalev’s been money for the Senators and leads the team in this statistic.)

Heatley Trade Thought

Hindsight is always 20/20, but the more I think about the Dany Heatley trade, the more I’m angry that Bryan Murray didn’t demand that San Jose’s draft pick be conditional. If Doug Wilson had the stones to demand that Cheechoo’s salary was required to acquiese Heatley’s contract, then Bryan Murray should have been well within his rights to implore Doug Wilson to make that second round pick a conditional first if the Senators were to buy out Cheechoo before his contract expires. It only makes sense right?

Deadline Deals

Ken Warren has compiled a lengthy list of defencemen who may pique the interest of Bryan Murray. From the unobtainable to the bottom of the barrel, Warren’s done his due diligence. I do question the inclusion of Brendan Bell though. Trading for him would be like buying a Heatley Senators jersey. Inexpensive, without purpose and it’s an acquisition that will assuredly get you laughed at by your peers.

One notable omission from Warren’s list however, was Joe Corvo. He was discussed over at Puck Prospectus as a viable alternative for the Senators and their power play.

Affordable players who can play on the power play and penalty kill are few and far between. One of the best options out there is Carolina’s Corvo, who used to play for the Senators and is familiar with the players. He’d likely also come cheaper than Robidas or Sutton.

Corvo has a great shot and scored 22 points on the power play last season. (He has only six this season, as he has battled injury.) Corvo also has playoff experience, having been part of the Senators’ run to the final in 2007 and the Hurricanes’ surprise conference final last season. He is an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, and the Hurricanes are sellers in the market.

If only sabermetrics could take account for players who request a trade from the team that they used to play for. Imagine Ottawa actually dealt for Corvo? Don Brennan would have a field day. It’s not often that a beat writer has a chance to write a player out of town twice. Uh-oh.

Sunday Night’s Game

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention at least one problem with that Canada vs. USA game. I know it’s Pierre McGuire’s civic duty to fellate everything Sidney Crosby, but why Pierre chose to laud Crosby’s attempt to straddle the blueline and remain onside (he didn’t), I’ll never know. Did you see that? If that were a normal man they would have tweaked their groin.

Where once stood a credible commentator, now stands a running joke.

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