Thursday, October 10, 2013

Appreciating the Brilliance of Dominik Hasek

dominik hasek sabres
I must admit I've never been a big fan of Dominik Hasek. His unconventional, flop-everywhere-and-somehow-have-the-puck-hit-me style always bothered me. Plus, he helped stick the dagger in an overachieving Leafs squad during the 1999 Eastern Conference Final. Worst of all, he had one of the stupidest goalie helmets of all time. I can't forgive the helmet.

But I appreciate the brilliance of Hasek.

Hockey Reference released a few new statistics today that put Hasek's dominance into clearer light. Hockey Reference now tracks SV%+, which is a goalie's save percentage relative to the league save percentage during that season. The higher the number, the better the goalie did relative to the league average (which is represented as 100). Based on SV%+, HR is also calculates Goals Saved Above Average (GSAA), which is the number of goals a goalie prevented given his save percentage and shots faced versus the league average save percentage on the same number of shots. In other words, how many more goals would a team have given up if they had a league average goalie in net.

From the time Hasek took over the starters role in Buffalo in 1993-94 until the Sabres Stanley Cup run season of 1998-99, Hasek led the league in save percentage for six straight years. But he didn't just lead the league, he demolished the competition. He averaged a SV%+ of 139.5. That might not mean much to you, but think of it this way: Dominik Hasek was so dominant during those six seasons that with him in net the Sabres allowed 296 fewer goals than they would have with an average goalie.

In each season Hasek was saving the Sabres close to 50 goals. In terms of wins, that works out to roughly 16 wins a season (Rob Vollman who wrote the excellent Hockey Abstract estimates that every three goals stopped or scored works out to one win in the standings). Hasek alone was turning the Sabres from a lottery team into one to be feared come playoff time. Hasek's importance to the Sabres is even more apparent when you consider the Sabres were a middling offensive team during this time period.

Over that same time period, Patrick Roy, one of the two or three best goalies of all-time, averaged a SV%+ of 115, good enough for roughly 155 goals saved relative to an average keeper. Hasek was almost twice as good as one of the game's absolute best netminders during their late 20s/early 30s.

Over their entire careers, Roy stopped more goals for his teams than Hasek did when comparing both to an average goalie (429.47 to 396.52), but did so over three additional seasons (Hasek did not break into the league until he was 26). When you compare the two on a per-season basis (and excluding their first seasons in which they played a combined six games), Hasek gets a slight edge. Roy saved his teams 24 extra goals a season over what an average netminder would have stopped. That works out to around 7-8 wins a year. In comparison, Hasek was saving his teams approximately 26 additional goals a season, or earning them about 8-9 extra wins than they would have received with a league average netminder.

One win isn't a huge difference, but when you consider Hasek's ridiculous peak during his years with the Sabres, in which he won the Hart Trophy twice and the Vezina Trophy six times (compared to Roy's three Vezina wins), there is an overwhelming case that Hasek is the greatest goalie of all time.

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